Oscars 2018: Are we underestimating ‘The Shape of Water’ for Best Sound Mixing?

The Shape of Water” scored 13 Oscar nominations, the most of any film this year, including Best Picture. But for a film where the score composed by Alexandre Desplat is almost its own character, it’s perhaps surprising that we’re not predicting it to win Best Sound Mixing in our racetrack odds. Are we possibly underestimating its chances of pulling off an upset?

Currently “The Shape of Watersits in fifth place with odds of 40/1. The expected winner is arguably the loudest of all the nominees, the World War II film “Dunkirk,” with odds of 2/7. Possibly for that reason, “Dunkirk” is also the front-runner for Best Sound Editing, and it would be the 8th film in 15 years to sweep the sound categories, which we should consider it a strong contender for both.

So why should we take “The Shape of Water” seriously as a threat to upset? Because Best Sound Mixing has a weakness for musicals. True, “Shape of Water” isn’t a musical, per se, but films don’t have to be musicals in the traditional sense to win; a film that features music heavily also tends to take this category.

Five films with a strong musical component have won in the last 14 years, and on four of those occasions stopped the Best Sound Editing winner from sweeping: in 2004 “Ray” blocked “The Incredibles”; in 2008 “Slumdog Millionaire,” with its prominent score and its closing dance number, tripped up the louder “The Dark Knight”; in 2012 “Les Miserables” denied “Skyfall” (which tied for Best Sound Editing with “Zero Dark Thirty”); and in 2014 “Whiplash,” full of the world’s most intense jazz music, stopped another war film, “American Sniper,” from sweeping.

The fifth musical winner during that period was “Dreamgirls” in 2006, but the Sound Editing champ that year was “Letters from Iwo Jima,” which wasn’t nominated for Sound Mixing, so it didn’t have a chance to sweep.

Keep in mind that Desplat is currently expected to win Best Score, so we already think voters will like the sound of the film. In addition, even though the heroine Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is mute, the film does have an unexpected musical fantasy sequence where she performs the song “You’ll Never Know.” That fits “Shape of Water” into the above trend of prominently musical films winning Sound Mixing. This delightful surprise towards the end of the film could easily allow the film to dance off as the winner.

Be sure to check out how our experts rank Oscar contenders in all 24 categories. Use the drop-down menus at the top of each page to see the other categories. Then take a look at the most up-to-date combined odds before you make your Oscar winner predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before winners are announced on March 4.

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