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…