Argo – Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn
Django Unchained – Wylie Stateman
Life of Pi – Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
Skyfall – Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
Zero Dark Thirty – Paul N.J. Ottosson
When it comes to the Oscars, one of the questions I hear most often is what the heck is the difference between Sound Mixing and Sound Editing? So I figured I would start with explaining their differences first, before diving into the nominees for Best Sound Editing.
The sound mixer is involved with combining everything we hear in the soundscape of a movie – including dialogue, sound effects, and musical score – as well as capturing sound as it is being filmed. The sound editor, on the other hand, creates and orchestrates artificial sounds into the film to enhance the overall effect. So basically, the sound editor does for the ears what visual effects do for the eyes. Savvy? With that behind us, let’s take a look at the nominees.
Argo – This is the second Academy Award nomination for Erik Aadahl and the fifth for Ethan Van der Ryn. Both were nominated for their work together on Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011), while Van der Ryn has previous nominations for Transformers (2007), King Kong (2005), and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) – of which he won the Oscar for the last two.
Django Unchained – This is Wylie Stateman’s sixth nomination. His previous nods include Inglorious Basterds (2009), Wanted (2008), Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), Cliffhanger (1993), and Born on the Fourth of July (1989).
Life of Pi – Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton are your reigning champions in this field, having won just last year for their work on Hugo. This is the second nomination for Stockton and the third for Gearty, who was also nominated for Gangs of New York (2002).
Skyfall – Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers won the Oscar for Sound Editing together for The Bourne Ultimatum (2007). Hallberg’s other nominations include Face/Off (1997) and Braveheart (1995), the latter of which he won his first Oscar for.
Zero Dark Thirty – This is the fourth nomination for Paul N.J. Ottosson, who was nominated for Spider-Man 2 (2004), and pulled off the double win for his work as both a sound mixer and sound editor on The Hurt Locker (2009).
More often than not, this category tends to go with the big, booming, sounds – especially films that contain battles scenes (hell, even Pearl Harbor managed to win an Oscar for Sound Editing). The last eleven winners are Hugo, Inception, The Hurt Locker, The Dark Knight, The Bourne Ultimatum, Letters From Iwo Jima, King Kong, The Incredibles, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and Pearl Harbor. See what I mean? You don’t see films like Dreamgirls, Ray, or Slumdog Millionaire on that list – all of which won Oscars for Sound Mixing in that time. Just mostly big, loud, films.You might think that films nominated for both Mixing and Editing have a better shot at winning, and perhaps winning in both categories. But, in the last ten years, the winner of Sound Mixing has gone on to win Sound Editing only five times. That is somewhat surprising, as you might think the two go hand in hand to produce the excellent sound you hear. This year, only three films cross over in both Mixing and Editing – Argo, Skyfall, and Life of Pi.
It might be interesting to note that out of the five films nominated by Oscar, the Motion Pictures Sound Editors – the guild that singles out excellence in sound editing – honored all but Zero Dark Thirty in their annual awards.
So taking all of the above into account, I’ve been leaning between predicting Life of Pi – which seems to be this year’s Hugo as far as technical achievements are concerned – and Skyfall, which seems to fit the mold of the biggest, loudest film in the bunch. Flip a coin, I guess, for now.
Current Prediction: Life of Pi – Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
Snubbed: I’m honestly not sure there is a snub here, as all five nominees seem worthy of representing the best in sound editing this year. But the most noticeable films absent, in my opinion, would be The Dark Knight Rises and/or The Avengers.