Of all the tech categories, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing may be the toughest to predict, not least of all because many have trouble distinguishing between the two. For this, let’s focus on Sound Editing, which is the selection and assembling of the various recorded tracks – dialogue, effects, and music – before the final mix occurs. The Motion Picture Sound Editors honored “Unbroken” (for Dialogue and ADR), “American Sniper” (Sound Effects and Foley) and “Birdman” (Music), and since 1987, when MPSE first started giving out their Golden Reel Awards, at least one of their winners has repeated at the Academy 16 times:
1988: “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” (Dialogue and ADR)
1990: “The Hunt for Red October” (Dialogue and ADR; tied with “Total Recall”)
1993: “Jurassic Park” (Sound Effects and Foley)
1994: “Speed” (Sound Effects and Foley)
1995: “Braveheart” (Sound Effects and Foley; tied with “Crimson Tide”)
1997: “Titanic” (Dialogue and ADR, Sound Effects and Foley, and Music)
1998: “Saving Private Ryan” (Dialogue and ADR, Sound Effects and Foley)
1999: “The Matrix” (Sound Effects and Foley)
2003: “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” (Sound Effects and Foley)
2006: “Letters from Iwo Jima” (Dialogue and ADR, Sound Effects and Foley)
2007: “The Bourne Ultimatum” (Dialogue and ADR, Sound Effects and Foley)
2008: “The Dark Knight” (Sound Effects and Foley, Music)
2010: “Inception” (Sound Effects and Foley, Music)
2011: “Hugo” (Music)
2012: “Skyfall” (Sound Effects and Foley)
2013: “Gravity” (Sound Effects and Foley)
With the stats out of the way, let’s look at each of this year’s nominees:
Alan Robert Murray, Bub Asman, “American Sniper”
Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman both won Oscars for Clint Eastwood’s previous war film, “Letters from Iwo Jima” (2006), and are back in the battlefield with “American Sniper.” This is the duo’s fifth nomination for their collaborations, having also contended for “Eraser” (1996), “Space Cowboys” (2000), and “Flags of Our Fathers” (2006), and Murray’s seventh overall – the other two for “Ladyhawke” (1985) and “Lethal Weapon 2” (1989). The two look poised to nab their second statuette with odds of 3/10. Those intense battle sequences – with bullets whizzing past and bombs exploding in our ears – helped them win at MPSE, and should help them win on Sunday. Oh, and that $300 million box-office tally doesn’t hurt.
Aaron Glascock, Martin Hernandez, “Birdman”
Aaron Glasock and Martin Hernandez received their first Oscar nominations for their work on “Birdman,” and could win in a sweep for the film. The two had to juggle dialogue, music, and effects delicately as to help create the illusion it was all a part of the same take – especially difficult considering the entire film is made to look as if it’s one continuous shot. Yet even though they’re ranked third with odds of 16/1 – and did win the MPSE Golden Reel for Music Editing – their work is a bit subtler than that of some of the other nominees.
Brent Burge, Jason Canovas, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies“
The Oscar-winning Middle Earth series comes to a close with a sole nomination for “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” for Sound Editors Brent Burge and Jason Canovas. Burge was nominated for his work on the previous Hobbit film, “The Desolation of Smaug” (2013), while Canovas is here for the first time. “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy took home and impressive 17 statuettes – with “The Two Towers” (2002) winning this category – while “The Hobbit” films have so far gone 0-for-6. The desire to reward Peter Jackson‘s impressive achievement seems to have passed, and the film currently sits in last place with odds of 100/1.
Richard King, “Interstellar“
Richard King has won three Oscars for Sound Editing – for “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” (2003), “The Dark Knight” (2008) and “Inception” (2010). He was also nominated for “War of the Worlds” (2005). “Interstellar” finds him once again working with Christopher Nolan, and voters who know of the director’s insistence on using production dialogue tracks only will no doubt be impressed by King’s efforts. This is also – to put it plainly – the sort of film that often wins here, and it’s currently ranked in second place with odds of 11/2. Yet “American Sniper” is also the kind of film that often wins here, and voters seem more inclined to heap accolades upon it than “Interstellar.”
Becky Sullivan, Andrew DeCristofaro, “Unbroken”
The other war film in this race is “Unbroken,” for which Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro received their first nominations. Despite winning at the MPSE for Dialogue and ADR, the two are ranked in fourth place with odds of 100/1. Impressive as their work is, it’s being overshadowed by the bombs and bullets of “American Sniper.” Sullivan and DeCristofaro will no doubt have other chances to compete, but for now, the nomination will have to be their reward.
In case you were wondering, the Best Picture winner has also taken Sound Editing a total of three times:
1995: “Braveheart” (Lon Bender, Per Hallberg)
1997: “Titanic” (Tom Belfort, Christopher Boyes)
2009: “The Hurt Locker” (Paul N.J. Ottosson)
Simply put, this is not the category to look towards if you want to guess what’s winning the top prize. Should “Birdman” win over “American Sniper” or “Interstellar,” however, it may be a sign of things to come.