Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sound Editing and Sound Mixing

Last night and today I caught The Hobbit and Whiplash, the last two films for the sound engineering categories, which are both up for only one of the categories - editing and mixing respectively. Otherwise, four movies occupy eight nominations between the two awards categories. How will The Hobbit fare against a space epic? Will a song about a musician be better than the war film? Maybe I'll just copy past last years post on The HobbitGravityInside Llewyn Davis, and Lone Survivor. I suppose I won't copy the post wholesale, but, much like last year, I am going to write these two categories as one post due to the overlap.

    Sound Editing:
  • Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman for American Sniper
  • Martin Hernández and Aaron Glascock for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Brent Burge and Jason Canovas for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  • Richard King for Interstellar
  • Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro for Unbroken

    Sound Mixing:
  • John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin for American Sniper
  • Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten for Interstellar
  • Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee for Unbroken
  • Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley for Whiplash

American Sniper. can I find anything good to say about you? Not here, no. Military films are fantastic foundations for sound engineers to work on. Unfortuately for American Sniper, everything it did well in sound, Unbroken did better. Please go fade into irrellevance now.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) shows up here and deservedly so. The sounds woven into this film through the corridors and stages and rooftops of a theater are visceral and unmuted. This film has a lot of things that give it exactly the feel it needs ,and the work of the sound artists is right up there.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is only up for sound editing, and I panned its predecessor last year. Maybe coming into the film with the relief that the series is finally over gave me some pleasure watching its death rattle, but I found real enjoyment in the audio that was crafted for this film. Is I'll tell you right now, it isn't the best thing on this list, but the sound engineers, particularly the editors, deserve some real credit for all six films in this series. As an aside, I'm going to say this now because this is the only time I get to talk about Peter Jackson's Middle Earth sextilogy. Much has been made of the exorbitant length of The Hobbit trilogy which I find almost amusing in contrast to the hunger for The Lord of the Rings films' extended editions. You can now watch a fan-made "Tolkein Edit" that brings the three films down to just over half their original total length. I haven't seen it yet as I wanted to wait until after seeing The Battle of the Five Armies and will honestly probably wait until after the Academy Awards due to this blog. You should go ahead though. It can't be a worse interpretation than the originals.

Interstellar was really beautiful in a lot of ways and both parts of the sound crew did a spectacular job to give the film an impossibly grounded feel for a space epic. The locales the characters inhabit simply come to life with sound. The alien feels earthly and the terrestrial feels profound. As I said on visual effects: go see this one in theaters if you have a chance. The work here isn't on the level of Gravity last year, but it might just be enough to steal the show.

Unbroken has the hugely emotive palatte from which to draw that all war films do, and it doesn't disappoint. Its audio is raw and beautifully woven. Several scenes stand very strongly on audio alone. It's by no means the best sounding war film I've ever seen, but it's a solid exhibit taking a step past American Sniper at every opportunity.

Whiplash was a very loud surprise to me. I sat down thinking this was the only award it is up for and got up having finished watching a film that was nominated for, among other things, supporting actor and best picture.  The main character is a drummer, and the sound of that instrument is wholly immersive and always just a touch above everything else. Much like war films, films about musicians really, really lend themselves to sound mixing, and the crew on Whiplash pushed it into some truly beautiful territory.

There are a some strong contenders for sound editing. Unbroken is a solid entry, but I think the originality in Interstellar will push it over the top. As far as mixing goes I really believe in Whiplash. It's a sonically gorgeous film and absolutely deserves the award.

Sound Editing
Will win: who knows, maybe Interstellar maybe not
Should win: Interstellar

Sound Mixing:
Will win: Whiplash
Should win: Whiplash

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