a theatre, film & pop culture review
Skyfall is the most obvious choice — that’s not going to win. It’s the big, flashy action movie of the bunch and thanks to director Sam Mendes, famous for his highly conceptual musical revivals (and little known movies like American Beauty, of course) it boasts a highly theatrical sound. Thomas Newman’s score weaves in an out of moped chases through Istanbul, before hopping the Atlantic to London and then back to Turkey and Shanghai. Each of these locales — amidst all the screeching tires, shattering glass, gunfire and explosions — boasts a stylized sound to give them their characteristic feels. This sound team — composed of Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson — boasts 23 noms and 4 wins between them, and considering that Greg P. Russell (Transformers: Dark of the Moon!) has been nominated 16 times and never won, maybe the Academy will feel like showing a little love. If Skyfall does spoil anywhere, it could be here.
Lincoln is the least obvious choice — that’s not going to win. But think about it for a minute: Sound recording didn’t appear until Edison’s phonograph in the mid 1870s, so we have no real idea what it sounded like around the White House in 1865 (were there church bells? Steam trains? Lots of busy traffic noise?). So, working in and around John Williams’s classical-sound score, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins essentially reconstructed what it could have sounded like based on biographical and historical accounts of the time. They went so far as to contact Michelle Obama’s office so that they could visit and record what it sounds like in the White House — primarily, the clock that had been in Lincoln’s office in 1865 and is still there, working, on the same mantlepiece in what is now called the Lincoln Bedroom. They also tracked down the pocket watch Lincoln had on his person when he went to Ford’s Theatre — and wound it up — the first time in a century and a half — and it worked. (Seriously, I know I’m a Lincoln nerd, but how cool is that?) So while many voters may think the talky Lincoln didn’t have much going on aurally beyond dialogue, it more than deserves this nod.
Life of Pi is the Hugo of this year: Its got the whimsy of lifeboats drifting along lulling waves and the action of growling tigers, thundering skies and carnivorous islands — not to mention an entirely charming score by Mychael Danna. Its a seamless weave that creates a singularly magical aural experience. (And it’s the only nominee that, whilst watching, I thought, “Wow, the sound is really good,” so it gets my vote.)
But Argo‘s raw, gritty sound is just as cohesive of time and place — only on the realistic, not the fantastical, end of the spectrum. Often, the editing and mixing awards go hand in hand, and because Argo is set to take home the former, there’s a good chance it’ll squeeze in another win here as well.
Alas and alack, there’s that Tom Hooper-helmed sound explosion, Les Misérables. It doesn’t matter that it’s not even nominated for Sound Editing. It doesn’t matter that it’s not an action movie. It doesn’t even matter that it’s terrible. (It actually doesn’t matter here at all, but I feel the need to constantly reiterate that fact.) It is a musical, and the Academy loves it some musicals: Chicago, Dreamgirls (remember how bad that was?), Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Oklahoma!, The King and I, Naughty Marietta, etc. etc. All of these films snagged the Best Sound award presumably because, well, they have a lot of (musical) sound. Add to it Hooper’s much-raved-about “innovation” of filming the singing live (though it’s actually been done before — see, for example, At Long Last Love and The Commitments), and you’ve an easy race to call. Do You Hear the People Sing? The Academy sure does.