Oscars Lowdown 2014: Best Sound Mixing - In space, everyone can hear 'Gravity'
In the lead-up to the 86th annual Academy Awards on March 2, HitFix will be bringing you the lowdown on all 24 Oscar categories with multiple entries each day. Take a few notes and bone up on the competition as we give you the edge in your office Oscar pool!
Back when it was simply named Best Sound (and when its sister award, Best Sound Editing, had only three nominees), Best Sound Mixing was seen as the more prestigious of the two prizes -- though still, many people are unsure as to what the difference between them is. By usually compiling heavily overlapping fields, the Academy rarely helps to establish the distinction, and so it is this year: four of this year's Best Sound Mixing nominees are also up for Best Sound Editing, and in another Academy tradition, they're all action fare of some sort. The fifth is a music-based film, though not of the type (or volume) that more routinely features in this race. Meanwhile, two sound mixers are up for two films apiece.
The nominees are...
"Captain Phillips" (Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro)
Paul Greengrass's films are always robust on the sound front, and "The Bourne Ultimatum" was a semi-surprise winner in both categories in 2007. The "Captain Phillips" team includes Chris Munro, a former winner for "Black Hawk Down" who also scored an additional nod for "Gravity." His probably his own biggest competition, too: "Phillips" is a layered sonic showcase, starting stealthily, with the metallic clatter of the Maersk Alabama, and the surrounding whoosh of the ocean echoing in viewers' ears, before ramping up to its panicky, gunshot-laden finale. In most other years, that'd be enough for the win, but in most other years, it wouldn't be up against...
"Gravity" (Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro)
Alfonso Cuarón's space blockbuster happens to be the film on which both this year's double nominees in the category converge: not just Munro, but six-time nominee Skip Lievsay, also up for "Inside Llewyn Davis." In giving "Gravity" the win, then, many voters probably won't be aware that they're killing several birds with one stone. There are, after all, more compelling reasons to vote for "Gravity," beginning with its rather mesmerizing sound mix, which plays cleverly on the muted sonic reality of outer space, while escalating at points to a claustrophobic headspace roar. There's fine work throughout this category, but none that works quite as inventively with perspective or inner/outer balance. (Check out our interview with Skip Lievsay here.)
"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" (Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson)
It was something of a surprise to see the second part of Peter Jackson's latest Middle Earth trilogy show up in the sound race -- though all three "Lord of the Rings" film were nominated in this category, last year's "An Unexpected Journey" was not, and I assumed its Oscar fortunes would be a case of diminishing returns. (After all, the production designers and makeup artists couldn't be roused this year.) Still, "Smaug" is the more action-heavy chapter, so there's some logic to its appearance here. It's not exactly innovative, but it's a typically dense, rumbling soundscape from Jackson's regular, expert team: Boyes, Hedges and Semanick previously won this category for "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" and "King Kong." It'd be something of a shock to see them up on stage again, but it'll be interesting to see how the third film fares.
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
1996 | Crime | RSummary: Jerry, a small-town Minnesota car salesman is bursting at the seams with debt... but he's got a plan. He's going to hire two thugs to kidnap his wife in a scheme to collect a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. It's going to be a snap and nobody's going to get hurt... until people start ...Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by. It has deep soul, a wicked sense of humor, and Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Pam Grier, and Robert Forster.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
2013 | Thriller | RSummary: Based on the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) a Miami bodybuilder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict, Christian bodybuilder Paul Doyle (D...Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
2007 | Comedy | PGSummary: Newlyweds Nick (Ice Cube) and Suzanne (Long) decide to move to the suburbs to provide a better life for their two kids. But their idea of a dream home is disturbed by a contractor (McGinley) with a bizarre approach to business.Director: Steve Carr
Cast: John C. McGinley, Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen
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