Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

Oscars Predictions 2015: Best Sound Editing

Note: This is my personal ranking, listed in order from best to worst, with #1 being my favorite. Prediction for the actual winner is in orange.

2015 ACADEMY AWARDS PREDICTION:
ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING

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1. BIRDMAN (OR THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)
Martín Hernández & Aaron Glascock

2. INTERSTELLAR
Richard King

3. AMERICAN SNIPER
Alan Robert Murray & Bub Asman

4. UNBROKEN
Becky Sullivan & Andrew Decristofaro

5. THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES
Brent Burge & Jason Canovas

Should’ve been here: Transformers: Age of Extinction (because I need an excuse to watch it)

How the millionth Hobbit movie got in here, we’ll never know. It has the same sound effects as its predecessors – swords clanging, fire-breathing dragons – and is unlikely to stand out to voters. Same with Unbroken, which is lighter on sound than the typical WWII film, though it does showcase a bombing and the quietly-building atmosphere of being lost at sea.

Birdman‘s sound effects are so well integrated into the film – aka not the obvious spacecraft launches or sniper bullets of other films – that its overall affect is much subtler, but superbly done nonetheless. Hernández and Glascock were tasked with creating the soundscape of New York’s – which is very specific in midtown – with the constant sirens and construction, reversing trucks, and kids playing as Sam and Mike chat on the theatre’s roof and Riggan walks down 44th St. or wanders desperately through Times Square. There’s also Birdman’s feathery rustlings, the startlingly real gunshot in the theatre, and the fantasy action-movie sequence, when mayhem ensues and helicopters explode. But it’s the quieter work that’s most impressive: the shifting sounds of water pipelines, fluorescent overhead lights, and city sounds seeping in through the windows as Riggan paces the narrow hallways of the St. James Theatre. It’s seamless, un-showy work – and so doesn’t have much of a chance here.

Interstellar‘s foley artists clearly had the most fun: driving cars through corn stalks and building a sand gun to create the the super-intense sandstorm, stomping on large packs of ice for the tread of footsteps on the icy planet, conceiving a metal shoe to walk around in for the footsteps of TARS the robot, setting up shop in an airplane graveyard to produce the rattling sounds of a spacecraft as it settles and moves around in space. And of course, all of the other obvious sounds of a sci-fi movie like the hugely loud rocket launch a into suddenly silent space. There’s a lot going on here, and much of it is imaginative stuff, but Richard King might not be rewarded simply because the film is older and not at the forefront of voters’ memories.

American Sniper, which buzz has blown up as of late, will probably take this one home. It’s your typical bullets and explosions war soundscape, and it’s all very well done, but is it really better than Interstellar? Likely it doesn’t matter; voters have shorter memories than Julianne Moore in Still Alice. (Ah, bad joke.)

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