Cling. Clang. Crash. Welcome to the category of Best Sound Editing, which awards the creation and integration of artificial sounds into a movie's soundtrack. This distinguishes this category from Best Sound Mixing, which awards the mixing of the film's overall soundtrack.
Due to the emphasis on creating artificial sounds, action films and war films tend to do particularly well here. The branch is also not afraid to give a film a standalone nomination (this decade, that has included “All is Lost,” “Tron: Legacy,” “Drive” and “Unstoppable”). In the not-too-distant past, animated films were also practically annual staples, which is unsurprising given the need to manifest everything you hear in such productions.
The sound branch has its favorite contenders who regularly return. Names like Richard Hymns and Wylie Stateman immediately jump to mind. This is likely the case to a greater extent in Sound Editing than Sound Mixing. But every year also sees new nominees. (Some artists work as both mixers and editors, such as Randy Thom and Christopher Boyes, but it is not terribly common.)
“Interstellar” is probably leading the race this year. This being Christopher Nolan's most recent sci-fi effort, sound will be of the utmost importance. Richard King has already won three Oscars, two for Nolan films (“The Dark Knight” and “Inception,” to go with “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”). We could easily see win number four.
“Fury” hit theaters this weekend. The reception was not overwhelming, but it remains a serious-minded war movie and has garnered respect. Paul N.J. Ottosson has already won three Oscars (two for “The Hurt Locker,” plus “Zero Dark Thirty”). If the film scores anywhere, expect it to be here.
Ethan Van Der Ryn has five nominations and two wins to date, the last two nods shared with his recent collaborator Erik Aadahl. The duo have two films in contention this year. “Godzilla” is a franchise effort filled with expected spectacle. The relatively high esteem in which the film is held, particularly by the standards of American “Godzilla” movies, may help matters in the race for a nomination.
Van Der Ryn and Aadahl are also responsible for “Transformers: Age of Extinction.” Two of this film's predecessors earned nominations in this category, which is unsurprising given that the movies are truly epic displays of sound effects, and this one, like the others, saw immense success at the box office. But will this series eventually wear out its welcome? Critics were not kind.
There are several other franchise efforts – “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” – that I simply doubt will be able to survive after their predecessors failed to score. An exception might be “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” because it is arguably a step up. Will Files and Douglas Murray would be first-time nominees. But still…if “Rise” couldn't get nominated…
In the realm of non-franchise summer movies, Dominic Gibbs sorely deserves his first nomination for “Edge of Tomorrow.” And the combination of water, war sounds and science fiction has the makings of a contender. Will voters remember it, especially as it was a box office disappointment?
“Guardians of the Galaxy” may be the summer blockbuster to watch most closely. Once again, we have innumerable effects at play (akin to an animated film, almost). Matthew Wood is a two-time nominee and Christopher Boyes is a giant in the sound community, with four wins and 14 nominations to date. That won't hurt matters. All told, this may be our safest summer bet.
Though let's also remember what happened before summer. The animal and water-based sounds of “Noah” could be precisely what this branch wishes to reward. A large below-the-line push on behalf of the film may help usher Craig Henighan to his first nomination.
Another biblical epic will be coming our way in December, however: “Exodus: Gods and Kings.” Expect this to be loud. Oliver Tarney is fresh off his first nomination for “Captain Phillips,” and he'll be trying to make it back-to-back. I wouldn't rule him out.
Realistically, however, the December blockbuster that seems most likely to show up here is “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.” The Middle Earth saga has actually seen mixed success here (only “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” and “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” have scored), but this effort should feature everything that was on display in “Smaug” and then some. Jason Canovas would be a first-time nominee.
A wildcard in the race, not just in this category but overall, is Clint Eastwood's “American Sniper.” It's been a while since an Eastwood directorial effort really took off with the Academy, but if this film scores anywhere, it may well be here, given the emphasis on modern warfare. It's not yet clear who is responsible on the sound crew, however. We haven't seen much of the film, either.
Another possibility, if it begins to rack up the nods, is Angelina Jolie's “Unbroken.” By my estimate, this could score anywhere from zero to eight crafts nominations depending on the strength of its reception. At this stage, it's largely still a mystery, but Becky Sullivan may well be in contention for her first nomination.
As noted at the outset, animated films were a staple in this category for a decade (2001-2010) but it's now been four years since “Toy Story 3” was nominated. Could that trend be bucked this year? “Big Hero 6” (sound editing courtesy of the heretofore unnominated Shannon Mills) is likely to feature the most typical soundscape for a berth in this category. But how will the movie be received? “The LEGO Movie” (Wayne Pashley) is the most beloved animated film of the year, but are the sound effects really that good compared to other animated features? And “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is sorely deserving (Michael Silvers and the legendary Randy Thom). But can it really score where its predecessor came up short? I'm a little doubtful, but we'll see.
What are your thoughts? Who are you rooting for? Drop a line below!