Oscar Handicap 2018: Sound Effects and Sound Mixing

FilmJerk.com continues its annual Oscar Handicap with two more new (to us) categories we’re tracking, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.

Continuing with our tradition of giving little stories that only tangentially have something to do with the topic at hand, I present this story of something that happened to me at work a few months ago. As long-time readers remember, I am a manager at a movie theatre. My current theatre is one of the better theatres in Los Angeles, and I don’t just say that out of a sense of pride. My theatre is DA BOMB! We do premieres. We do private events for all the major studios and the North American Theatre Owners association. We do live events that are streamed to other theatres around the world. We’re not as famous as the Chinese Theatre or the Cinerama Dome, but if you follow this industry even a little bit, I guarantee you that you’ve seen me and/or seen my theatre on some industry-geared website at least once in the last month.

So a few months ago, it’s opening weekend of one of the movies that is nominated in both these categories, and I get a call on the radio that a guest would like to speak to me about the sound presentation in my main auditorium. It’s a pretty big theatre, seating several hundred people at a time, with a screen footprint bigger than the square footage of many of the gaudy McMansions that have been popular with the semi-rich over the past decade. It’s got a full Dolby Atmos sound system, and Dolby themselves had been out to recalibrate the sound a few days before this film opened, partly in anticipation of this film’s opening. So when I get to the guest, they’re asking me to turn the sound up in the theatre, because he feels the audience is not hearing the intricate sound design that was intended to be heard. And he should know, because he’s one of the guys who designed the sound for the movie. He had brought his wife and his friends to see the movie in this specific auditorium, because this room had a reputation of having one of the best overall presentations in town, in picture and in sound. (I can’t disagree. It really is one of the best in town.) The problem was, I had already had a number of other guest concerns that the sound was too loud already, and I had turned the overall volume down a little bit. So now I have a conundrum… do I turn the volume back up to please this one person at the expense of those who felt compelled enough to get up during the movie to voice a concern (which, truly, most people just do not do), or do I explain that I need to keep the volume where it was at by this point (which, truly, was still pretty damn loud) in the best interests of all my guests at the expense of possibly putting our theatre in jeopardy of losing business from one of the major studios because of a single complaint by an expert in his field?

Well, maybe I’ll finish that story another time. Let’s take a look at the numbers…

The Breakdowns: Sound Editing

The Academy Award for Best Sound Editing is an Academy Award granted yearly to a film exhibiting the finest or most aesthetic sound design or sound editing. Sound editing is the creation of sound effects. Before the 61st Academy Awards, for the movies of 1988, this award was given out sporadically, with some years having no nominees at all, while other years would only have a non-competitive winner announced in advance being given a Special Achievement Award. So for this category, our odds will focus on the last thirty years, when the award has consistently been handed out competitively.

1) As long as this isn’t your movie’s only chance of winning this night, your film has won 29 of the last 30 years (96.7%). Advantage: all films in this category (and, as with the Best Documentary Feature handicap before, we are keeping this in the breakdowns [along with the others where all nominees have the same advantages] to keep the advantages and disadvantages consistent over the years.)
2) If your film is also nominated for Best Sound Mixing, your film has won here 26 of the last 30 years (86.7%). Advantage: all films in this category.
3) If your film was also nominated for a BAFTA award in the Best Sound category, your film has won here 22 of 30 (73.3%) . Advantage: all films in this category.
4) If your film is not the highest grosser amongst these nominees, your film has won here 20 of 30 (66.7%). Advantage: Baby Driver, Blade Runner 2049, Dunkirk, The Shape of Water
5) If there are no first-time nominees in this category on your team, you’ve won here 17 of 30 (56.7%). Advantage: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
6) If your film is not also nominated for Best Picture, you’ve won here 16 of 30 (53.3%). Advantage: Baby Driver, Blade Runner 2049, Star Wars: The Last Jedi
7) If your film won the Best Sound Editing – Sound Effects and Foley in an English Language Feature award from the Motion Picture Sound Editors, you’ve won 15 of 30 (50%). “Advantage”: Blade Runner 2049

By the Numbers: Sound Editing

With two films tied with the highest point total, two more films only two points behind and the rear only four points behind them, this really could be anyone’s race.

Baby Driver (Julian Slater): +1, +2, +3, +4, -5, +6, -7 (141 of 210, 67.14%)
Blade Runner 2049 (Mark Mangini and Theo Green): +1, +2, +3, +4, -5, +6, +7 (141 of 210, 67.14%)
Dunkirk (Richard King and Alex Gibson): +1, +2, +3, +4, -5, -6, -7 (139 of 210, 66.19%)
The Shape of Water (Nathan Robitaille and Nelson Ferreira): +1, +2, +3, +4, -5, -6, -7 (139 of 210, 66.19%)
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Matthew Wood and Ren Klyce): +1, +2, +3, -4, -5, +6, +7 (139 of 210, 64.29%)

The Breakdowns: Sound Mixing

1) If your film was also nominated for a Cinema Audio Society award for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for Motion Pictures, your film has won this award 23 of the 24 years the CAS has been giving out their own awards (95.8%). Advantage: Baby Driver, Dunkirk, The Shape of Water, Star Wars: The Last Jedi
2) If your film was also nominated for a BAFTA award in the Best Sound category, your film has won here 35 of the last 39 years (89.7%) . Advantage: all films in this category.
3) As opposed to Sound Editing, if your film WAS nominated for Best Picture, your film has won in this category 27 of 39 (69.2%). Weird how that works out. Advantage: Dunkirk, The Shape of Water
4) And again opposed to Sound Editing, if a least one of the nominees on your team has not been nominated before in either sound category, your film has won here 26 of 39 (66.7%). Advantage: Baby Driver, The Shape of Water
5) If your film is not the highest grosser amongst these nominees, your film has won here 22 of 39 (56.4%). Advantage: Baby Driver, Blade Runner 2049, Dunkirk, The Shape of Water
6) If your film is primarily considered an action or war film, you’ve won here 21 of 39 (53.8%). Advantage: Baby Driver, Dunkirk
7) If your film is predominately set more than twenty years ago, you’ve won here 21 of 39 (53.8%). Advantage: Dunkirk, The Shape of Water
8) If your film is a musical or is otherwise heavily dependent on music to help tell your story, you’ve won here 8 of 39 (20.5%). “Advantage”: Baby Driver

By the Numbers: Sound Mixing

And unlike Sound Editing, there is a clear consensus on which film has the best chance of winning this award.

Baby Driver (Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin and Mary H. Ellis): +1, +2, -3, +4, +5, +6, -7, +8 (165 of 297, 55.56%)
Blade Runner 2049 (Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill and Mac Ruth): -1, +2, -3, -4, +5, -6, -7, -8 (150 of 297, 50.51%)
Dunkirk (Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker and Gary A.Rizzo): +1, +2, +3, -4, +5, +6, +7, -8 (193 of 297, 64.98%)
The Shape of Water (Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern and Glen Gauthier): +1, +2, +3, +4, +5, -6, +7, -8 (203 of 297, 68.35%)
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Stuart Wilson): +1, +2, -3, -4, -5, -6, -7, -8 (167 of 297, 56.23%)

Thank you for taking the time to check us out.

All articles in this series:

Best Picture of the Year
Best Director
Best Actor and Best Actress
Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress
Best Cinematography
Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Foreign Language Film
Best Animated Feature
Best Production Design
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Best Editing
Best Costume Design
Best Score
Best Sound Effects and Best Sound Mixing
Best Documentary Feature
Best Visual Effects

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