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Oscars 2011 Breakdown: Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing & Best Visual Effects

Everybody’s favorite categories, I’m sure.

I thought, last year, I had sound mixing and sound editing down. Turns out — I was wrong. I misinterpreted the explanation I read. Here is, based on my new and improved (read: correct) understanding of the category, the difference between the two: sound editing is the creation of the sound mix, that is — getting all the sounds to put on the soundtrack. So dialogue, ADR, music, sound effects, all of it. Every piece of sound you hear, that’s sound editing. Sound mixing is the taking of all of that sound and layering it onto the soundtrack. So, sound mixers work with what the sound editors give them. So when you see an action scene, you hear the people talking, guns going off, tires screeching, explosions, and “Ready, Steady, Go” on the soundtrack — the sound editors compiled all of those effects. The sound mixer put them all together into what you hear when you watch the film. That’s the difference between the two.

Oh, and we’ll also be talking about Best Visual Effects, which is a self-explanatory category. Especially today. (Read: Best CGI.) Though there’s some interest with that one this year.

We’ll start with the sound categories, specifically Sound Mixing, and finish with Visual Effects. This will be longer than your average article, since I have a lot to say about Sound Mixing and Sound Editing and because no one really knows how to pick them. But trust me, once I get done with you, you’ll be a fucking pro. (Or at least you’ll sound really good talking about it. That’s all you need.)

Year

Best Sound Mixing Winners

Other Nominees

1929-1930

The Big House

1930-1931

Paramount Publix Studio Sound Department

MGM Studio Sound Department

RKO Radio Studio Sound Department

Samuel Goldwyn-United Artists Studio Sound Department

1931-1932

Paramount Publix Studio Sound Department

MGM Studio Sound Department

RKO Studio Sound Department

Walt Disney

Warner Bros.First National Studio Sound Department

1932-1933

A Farewell to Arms

42nd Street

Gold Diggers of 1933

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang

1934

One Night of Love

The Affairs of Cellini

Cleopatra

Flirtation Walk

The Gay Divorcee

Imitation of Life

Viva Villa!

The White Parade

1935

Naughty Marietta

1,000 Dollars a Minute

Bride of Frankenstein

Captain Blood

The Dark Angel

I Dream Too Much

The Lives of a Bengal Lancer

Love Me Forever

Thanks a Million

1936

San Francisco

Banjo on My Knee

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Dodsworth

General Spanky

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

The Texas Rangers

That Girl from Paris

Three Smart Girls

1937

The Hurricane

The Girl Said No

Hitting a New High

In Old Chicago

The Life of Emile Zola

Lost Horizon

Maytime

One Hundred Men and a Girl

Topper

Wells Fargo

1938

The Cowboy and the Lady

Army Girl

Four Daughters

If I Were King

Merrily We Live

Suez

Sweethearts

That Certain Age

Vivacious Lady

You Can’t Take It With You

1939

When Tomorrow Comes

Balalaika

Gone With the Wind

Goodbye, Mr. Chips

The Great Victor Herbert

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Man of Conquest

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Of Mice and Men

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex

The Rains Came

1940

Strike Up the Band

Behind the News

Captain Caution

The Grapes of Wrath

The Howards of Virginia

Kitty Foyle

North West Mounted Police

Our Town

The Sea Hawk

Spring Parade

Too Many Husbands

1941

That Hamilton Woman

Appointment for Love

Ball of Fire

The Chocolate Soldier

Citizen Kane

The Devil Pays Off

How Gree Was My Valley

The Men in Her Life

Sergeant York

Skylark

Topper Returns

1942

Yankee Doodle Dandy

Arabian Nights

Bambi

Flying Tigers

Friendly Enemies

The Gold Rush

Mrs. Miniver

Once Upon a Honeymoon

The Pride of the Yankees

Road to Morocco

This Above All

You Were Never Lovelier

1943

This Land is Mine

Hangmen Also Die!

In Old Oklahoma

Madame Curie

The North Star

Phantom of the Opera

Riding High

Sahara

Saludos Amigos

So This Is Washington

The Song of Bernadette

This Is the Army

1944

Wilson

Brazil

Casanova Brown

Cover Girl

Doublt Indemnity

His Butler’s Sister

Hollywood Canteen

It Happened Tomorrow

Kismet

Music in Manhattan

Voice in the Wind

1945

The Bells of St. Mary’s

Flame of Barbary Coast

Lady on a Train

Leave Her to Heaven

Rhapsody in Blue

A Song to Remember

The Southerner

They Were Expendable

The Three Caballeros

Three Is a Family

The Unseen

Wonder Man

1946

The Jolson Story

The Best Years of Our Lives

It’s a Wonderful Life

1947

The Bishop’s Wife

Green Dolphin Street

T-Men

1948

The Snake Pit

Johnny Belinda

Moonrise

1949

Twelve O’Clock High

Once More, My Darling

Sands of Iwo Jima

1950

All About Eve

Cinderella

Louisa

Our Very Own

Trio

1951

The Great Caruso

Bright Victory

I Want You

A Streetcar Named Desire

Two Tickets to Broadway

1952

The Sound Barrier

Hans Christian Andersen

The Card

The Quiet Man

With a Song in My Heart

1953

From Here to Eternity

Calamity Jane

Knights of the Round Table

The Mississippi Gambler

The War of the Worlds

1954

The Glenn Miller Story

Brigadoon

The Caine Mutiny

Rear Window

Susan Slept Here

1955

Oklahoma!

Love is a Many-Splendored Thing

Love Me or Leave Me

Mister Roberts

Not as a Stranger

1956

The King and I

The Brave One

The Eddy Duchin Story

Friendly Persuasion

The Ten Commandments

1957

Sayonara

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

Les Girls

Pal Joey

Witness for the Prosecution

1958

South Pacific

I Want to Live!

A Time to Love and a Time to Die

Vertigo

The Young Lions

1959

Ben-Hur

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Libel

The Nun’s Story

Porgy and Bess

1960

The Alamo

The Apartment

Cimarron

Pepe

Sunrise at Campobello

1961

West Side Story

The Children’s Hour

Flower Drum Song

The Guns of Navarone

The Parent Trap

1962

Lawrence of Arabia

Bon Voyage!

The Music Man

That Touch of Mink

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

1963

How the west Was Won

Bye Bye Birdie

Captain Newman, M.D.

Cleopatra

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

1964

My Fair Lady

Becket

Father Goose

Mary Poppins

The Unsinkable Molly Brown

1965

The Sound of Music

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Doctor Zhivago

The Great Race

Shenandoah

1966

Grand Prix

Gambit

Hawaii

The Sand Pebbles

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

1967

In the Heat of the Night

Camelot

The Dirty Dozen

Doctor Dolittle

Thoroughly Modern Millie

1968

Oliver!

Bullitt

Finian’s Rainbow

Funny Girl

Star!

1969

Hello, Dolly!

Anne of the Thousand Days

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Gaily, Gaily

Marooned

1970

Patton

Airport

Ryan’s Daughter

Tora! Tora! Tora!

Woodstock

1971

Fiddler on the Roof

Diamonds are Forever

The French Connection

Kotch

Mary, Queen of Scots

1972

Cabaret

Butterflies are Free

The Candidate

The Godfather

The Poseidon Adventure

1973

The Exorcist

The Day of the Dolphin

The Paper Chase

Paper Moon

The Sting

1974

Earthquake

Chinatown

The Conversation

The Towering Inferno

Young Frankenstein

1975

Jaws

Bite the Bullet

Funny Lady

The Hindenburg

The Wind and the Lion

1976

All the President’s Men

King Kong

Rocky

Silver Streak

A Star is Born

1977

Star Wars

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

The Deep

Sorcerer

The Turning Point

1978

The Deer Hunter

The Buddy Holly Story

Days of Heaven

Hooper

Superman

1979

Apocalypse Now

The Electric Horseman

Meteor

1941

The Rose

1980

The Empire Strikes Back

Altered States

Coal Miner’s Daughter

Fame

Raging Bull

1981

Raiders of the Lost Ark

On Golden Pond

Outland

Pennies from Heaven

Reds

1982

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Das Boot

Gandhi

Tootsie

Tron

1983

The Right Stuff

Never Cr Wolf

Return of the Jedi

Terms of Endearment

WarGames

1984

Amadeus

2010

Dune

A Passage to India

The River

1985

Out of Africa

Back to the Future

A Chorus Line

Ladyhawke

Silverado

1986

Platoon

Aliens

Heartbreak Ridge

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Top Gun

1987

The Last Emperor

Empire of the Sun

Lethal Weapon

RoboCop

The Witches of Eastwick

1988

Bird

Die Hard

Gorillas in the Mist

Mississippi Burning

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

1989

Glory

The Abyss

Black Rain

Born on the Fourth of July

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

1990

Dances with Wolves

Days of Thunder

Dick Tracy

The Hunt for Red October

Total Recall

1991

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Backdraft

Beauty and the Beast

JFK

The Silence of the Lambs

1992

The Last of the Mohicans

Aladdin

A Few Good Men

Under Siege

Unforgiven

1993

Jurassic Park

Cliffhanger

The Fugitive

Geronimo: An American Legend

Schindler’s List

1994

Speed

Clear and Present Danger

Forrest Gump

Legends of the Fall

The Shawshank Redemption

1995

Apollo 13

Batman Forever

Braveheart

Crimson Tide

Waterworld

1996

The English Patient

Evita

Independence Day

The Rock

Twister

1997

Titanic

Air Force One

Con Air

Contact

L.A. Confidential

1998

Saving Private Ryan

Armageddon

The Mask of Zorro

Shakespeare in Love

The Thin Red Line

1999

The Matrix

The Green Mile

The Insider

The Mummy

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

2000

Gladiator

Cast Away

The Patriot

The Perfect Storm

U-571

2001

Black Hawk Down

Amélie

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Moulin Rouge!

Pearl Harbor

2002

Chicago

Gangs of New York

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Road to Perdition

Spider-Man

2003

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

The Last Samurai

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

Seabiscuit

2004

Ray

The Aviator

The Incredibles

The Polar Express

Spider-Man 2

2005

King Kong

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Memoirs of a Geisha

Walk the Line

War of the Worlds

2006

Dreamgirls

Apocalypto

Blood Diamond

Flags of Our Fathers

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

2007

The Bourne Ultimatum

3:10 to Yuma

No Country for Old Men

Ratatouille

Transformers

2008

Slumdog Millionaire

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight

Wall-E

Wanted

2009

The Hurt Locker

Avatar

Inglourious Basterds

Star Trek

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

2010

Inception

The King’s Speech

Salt

The Social Network

True Grit

As you can see — musicals and films with a heavy music component tend to win this category. Because layering songs onto a soundtrack is what sound mixing is all about. Of course, the big and loud films also win here. Or rather — not so much big and loud, but — complex sound design. Since if big and loud always won, Transformers would have won twice already.

But just looking at the past 10-15 years — Slumdog is music (and sweep factor, but the music being mixed in is why it won. Sweep factor doesn’t account for why it lost Sound Editing), as are Dreamgirls, Ray, and Chicago. And if you look at the rest — Inception is a complex sound film, Hurt Locker is sweep factor (almost everyone expected Avatar to take that one), Bourne is complex sound film, and also I think they wanted to show their support (since it won both sound categories and Editing), King Kong, I think, is big and loud and there was the ape noises and stuff, Return of the King is sweep factor, Black Hawk Down is a complex sound film, as is The Matrix, and Gladiator — I guess also kind of complex. Against the other nominees, anyway.

It’s pretty clear what generally wins these. Being big and loud is not always the recipe for this.

This year’s nominees:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Hugo

Moneyball

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

War Horse

Before I get into the rankings, let’s just look at what the Cinema Audio Society has awarded and how that affects the Oscars (if at all. I doubt it’s at all. These guilds are not a very big part of the voting Academy at all).

The guild started handing out awards in 1993. They were difference from the Oscars the first two years, then went on a run from 1995 to 2000 where they synched up. 2001, they gave it to Fellowship, and the Oscar went to Black Hawk. Dare I say that the Academy got it right. 2002, Academy went musical, CAS went Road to Perdition. Again, they may have gotten it right (though it’s close). 2003, CAS went Master and Commander, and were the sweep not on, it might have won. 2004, CAS went Aviator, Academy went musical. CAS got it right. 2005, CAS went musical (of course they did), Academy went Kong. 2006 was the same, 2007, CAS went No Country, Academy went Bourne. Hmm. Interesting. 2008 and 2009 were the same, and 2010, CAS went True Grit, and Academy most decidedly did not.

So really what we’ve learned is, no matter what CAS does, if there’s a musical involved, you probably want to go with the musical for the Oscars. But there’s no musical this year. So that’s out.

The other thing I found out, which you may or may not find helpful (I for one find it extremely helpful, and I’ll explain why afterward): Since CAS started handing out awards (1994), never has a film not been nominated for CAS (not won, nominated) and won the Oscar for Best Sound Mixing. Never. And the only two Oscar nominees for Sound Mixing that were also nominated for CAS this year were Hugo and Moneyball. You know what that tells me (even without any kind of thought on the matter)? That Dragon Tattoo, Transformers and War Horse have no shot in this category. Why? Because it’s never happened, that a film wasn’t nominated for CAS and won the Oscar. And the other reason I’m so confident in discounting it is because everyone is figuring Hugo to win the award. And most people would consider most of those other nominees a relative to major shock, if it won. (Maybe not War Horse, but you get what I mean.) CAS also gave this year’s award to Hugo. So that should also tell you something.

So here are the rankings, as I see them:

5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Has to be. Because you’re dealing with the entire voting Academy, most of whom probably have no idea what this category is actually about. This is one of, if not the strongest nominee in the bunch, and yet, I know it probably won’t win. The reason for that is — take an older actor, one who doesn’t really know about sound design. They’re filling out their ballot and looking at the films. What are they most likely to vote for? Not this. They don’t like this film because of all the sex. You can tell the Academy doesn’t love this film because it didn’t get a Best Picture nomination. They liked it in all the guilds, but when everyone voted, this film did not make it on. That tells me that people won’t vote for this because they don’t like sex. It has nothing to do with the sound design. It could win, because after all, it’s Best Sound Mixing, we don’t know, but for me, I have to assume this is #5 because I can picture exactly what most people will think when filling out their ballots.

4. Transformers: Dark of the Moon. I’m actually kind of surprised this franchise hasn’t won before. The sound design of all the robots changing and how well that’s been done should have been enough to at least give this a statue. But apparently they don’t like voting for this. So I’ll leave it at #4. It probably won’t win, knowing their predisposition against these films (this franchise has never won an Oscar. Which sounds terrible out of context).

3. War Horse. This is actually a pretty strong contender (though I’m now second-guessing putting Moneyball fourth…), I think. The horse noises and war scenes — yeah, actually, I think this has less of a chance than Moneyball does. I do think Hugo and Moneyball might be the favorites. I’m probably wrong, though. Anything seems to have a shot. I don’t see a runaway winner here, unless it’s Hugo. This can win, but the real sound design here, outside of the horse noises, is in the third act. Could win, but I don’t know — depends on the film’s support.

2. Moneyball. Most people consider this the best sound job in the bunch. Plus, again, never has a film not been nominated by CAS and won the Oscar. Which, statistically, says that this film is one of the top two contenders for this award. I really liked this sound design. I don’t know how much support this is gonna have over Hugo, though. That seems to have the entire Sound Branch (editors and mixers) behind it. This will be hard-pressed to beat it.

1. Hugo. It won CAS, which helps, and clearly is supported by the entire Sound Branch. Plus given it’s overall support (11 nominations means something), this should take this award pretty easily. The only real question is whether or not it takes both awards. Which I’ll get to shortly. Either way, this is your (overwhelming, seemingly) favorite to take this award.

BEST SOUND EDITING

Year

Best Sound Editing Winners

Other Nominees

1963

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

A Gathering of Eagles

1964

Goldfinger

The Lively Set

1965

The Great Race

Von Ryan’s Express

1966

Grand Prix

Fantastic Voyage

1967

The Dirty Dozen

In the Heat of the Night

1968

No Award Given.

No Category.

1969

No Award Given.

No Category.

1970

No Award Given.

No Category.

1971

No Award Given.

No Category.

1972

No Award Given.

No Category.

1973

No Award Given.

No Category.

1974

No Award Given.

No Category.

1975

The Hindenburg (Special Achievement Award)

No Category.

1976

No Award Given.

No Category.

1977

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Special Achievement Award)

Star Wars (Special Achievement Award)

No Category.

1978

No Award Given

No Category.

1979

The Black Stallion (Special Achievement Award)

No Category.

1980

No Award Given.

No Category.

1981

Raiders of the Lost Ark (Special Achievement Award)

No Category.

1982

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Das Boot

Poltergeist

1983

The Right Stuff

Return of the Jedi

1984

The River (Special Achievement Award)

No Category.

1985

Back to the Future

Ladyhawke

Rambo: First Blood Part II

1986

Aliens

Star Trek IB: The Voyage Home

Top Gun

1987

RoboCop (Special Achievement Award)

No Category.

1988

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Die Hard

Willow

1989

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Black Rain

Lethal Weapon 2

1990

The Hunt for Red October

Flatliners

Total Recall

1991

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Backdraft

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

1992

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Aladdin

Under Siege

1993

Jurassic Park

Cliffhanger

The Fugitive

1994

Speed

Clear and Present Danger

Forrest Gump

1995

Braveheart

Batman Forever

Crimson Tide

1996

The Ghost and the Darkness

Daylight

Eraser

1997

Titanic

Face/Off

The Fifth Element

1998

Saving Private Ryan

Armageddon

The Mask of Zorro

1999

The Matrix

Fight Club

Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

2000

U-571

Space Cowboys

2001

Pearl Harbor

Monsters, Inc.

2002

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Minority Report

Road to Perdition

2003

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Finding Nemo

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

2004

The Incredibles

The Polar Express

Spider-Man 2

2005

King Kong

War of the Worlds

Memoirs of a Geisha

2006

Letters from Iwo Jima

Apocalypto

Blood Diamond

Flags of Our Fathers

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

2007

The Bourne Ultimatum

No Country for Old Men

Ratatouille

There Will Be Blood

Transformers

2008

The Dark Knight

Iron Man

Slumdog Millionaire

Wall-E

Wanted

2009

The Hurt Locker

Avatar

Inglourious Basterds

Star Trek

Up

2010

Inception

Toy Story 3

Tron: Legacy

True Grit

Unstoppable

Okay, now this category is more interesting. This is all the sound in the film. Every piece of sound effect, music and dialogue in the movie. As you can see, what typically wins here are the action movies. Inception, Dark Knight, Bourne, Letters from Iwo Jima, Kong, Incredibles, Master and Commander, Two Towers (big battle scene), Pearl Harbor, U-571, The Matrix — all action or war movies. (I left out Hurt Locker because it feels like sweep factor. It still fits, but to me, it’s questionable. I’ll further explain this in a minute.)

With that in mind, the nominees this year are:

Drive

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Hugo

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

War Horse

By the way, no one is shocked that The Artist wasn’t nominated in either of these categories, right?

Just checking.

Now, let me give you some in-depth history. I say in-depth because — I went way deeper into this than I needed to. Like I said, when I’m done, you’ll be a pro.

I looked back over the last 20 years (1991 to present) of the Sound Editing category. That is, the Oscar category for Sound Editing and the Motion Picture Sound Editors Awards. There are many caveats here, since, really, only maybe the last five or so years are even remotely helpful. But like I said — pro.

The first thing to note is that MPSE only gave out two (for our purposes. There was an Animation award and a Music award, which both started in the late 90s) awards until 2000. They were for Sound Effects and Foley (which I’ll abbreviate SFX + Foley as I go over them) and for Dialogue and ADR.

Also of note: until 2006, the Oscar category for Sound Editing only had three nominees (and for some inexplicable reason, only two in 2000 and 2001), and for most of the time between 1991 and 2006, the Oscar category didn’t even match up to what won MPSE. So we’ll go over them quickly.

1991: MPSE: SFX + Foley goes to Barton Fink. Their Dialogue + ADR goes to Robin Hood: Prince of ThievesTerminator 2: Judgment Day wins the Oscar for Sound Editing, beating Backdraft and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. So, MPSE has nothing to do with the Oscars, and the obvious choice wins.

1992 – Under Siege wins MPSE SFX + Foley and Alien 3 wins Dialgoue + ADR. Bram Stoker’s Dracula wins the Oscar over Under Siege and Aladdin. No comment on any of that.

1993 – MPSE: Jurassic Park wins SFX + Foley and Schindler’s List wins Dialogue + ADR. Jurassic Park wins the Oscar over Cliffhanger and the Fugitive. Pretty obvious choice.

1994 – MPSE: Speed wins SFX + Foley, Forrest Gump wins Dialogue and ADR. Oscar: Speed beats Gump and Clear and Present Danger. This is somewhat telling. The action film beats the Oscar film with war scenes.

1995 – MPSE: Braveheart and Crimson Tide tie for SFX + Foley, and Crimson Tide wins for Dialogue + ADR. Braveheart takes the Oscar over Crimson Tide and Batman Forever. Oscar movie with many battle scenes wins over action/sub movie. Understandable.

1996 – We ignore this one since it’s totally random. You can go look it up, but trust me, it’s irrelevant.

1997 – Titanic wins the Oscar and both MPSE categories.

1998 – Saving Private Ryan wins the Oscar and both MPSE categories.

1999 – The Matrix wins the Oscar and wins MPSE SFX + Foley while American Beauty wins MPSE Dialogue + ADR. Pretty obvious The Matrix would win the Oscar.

2000 – MPSE gives SFX + Foley to Gladiator and Dialogue + ADR to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The Oscar category consists only of two nominees: U-571 and Space Cowboys. U-571 obviously wins.

2001 – MPSE gives their SFX + Foley award to Black Hawk Down and A Beautiful Mind wins Dialogue + ADR. The Oscar category consists only of Pearl Harbor and Monsters, Inc. Clearly Pearl Harbor wins.

2002 – MPSE gives SFX + Foley to Road to Perdition (a spirited choice) and their Dialogue + ADR to Gangs of New York. Two Towers wins the Oscar, beating Road to Perdition and Minority Report. This is the only Rings film to win this category. You know why? Big ass fucking battle scene.

2003 – MPSE gives SFX + Foley to Master and Commander and Dialogue + ADR to Pirates of the Caribbean. In the Oscar category, Master and Commander beats Pirates and Finding Nemo (which won MPSE for Animation).

2004 – MPSE SFX + Foley goes to The Aviator, and Dialogue + ADR goes to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The Incredibles wins the Oscar, beating The Polar Express and Spider-Man 2. Weird category.

2005 – MPSE SFX + Foley goes to War of the Worlds and Dialogue and ADR goes to Memoirs of a Geisha. King Kong wins the Oscar, beating War of the Worlds and Geisha. I guess they must have really liked the film. (Or that Andy Serkis thing was a big clincher.)

Okay, now we’ve reached 2006. Now there are five nominees at the Oscars.

2006 – Letters from Iwo Jima wins both MPSE awards and the Oscar.

2007 – The Bourne Ultimatum wins both MPSE awards and the Oscar.

In 2008, MPSE introduces many of the awards we see now. They get much more specific.

2008: MPSE: Music in a Feature Film goes to The Dark Knight. SFX + Foley goes to Dark Knight. Dialogue + ADR goes to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. And Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue and ADR (essentially, Sound Mixing) goes to Slumdog Millionaire. The Dark Knight wins the Sound Editing Oscar (Slumdog wins Sound Mixing).

2009: MPSE: Avatar wins for Music in a Feature Film and SFX + Foley. Dialogue + ADR goes to Inglourious Basterds. (If you’ve noticed, the Dialogue + ADR award tends to go to well-written films.) Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue and ADR (Sound Mixing, basically, again) goes to District 9 (un-nominated for Sound at the Oscars). The Oscar goes to The Hurt Locker (which clearly points to people not wanting to vote for Avatar).

And 2010: MPSE: Music in a Feature Film and SFX + Foley go to Inception. Dialogue + ADR goes to The Social Network. (See what I mean about Dialogue + ADR?) Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue and ADR goes to Toy Story 3 (which loses Sound Mixing to Inception). Inception wins the Oscar (both of them).

So, what trends do we see? Well, first off, since 2006, the film that wins more than one award at MPSE is clearly going to win the Oscar, unless the Academy does not want to vote for it. (Avatar is the only one.) Also, action films tend to beat “Oscar” films. So if your film has lots of action, it can win this. (Of course, this year, the action film is an “Oscar” film. But I consider the quotations to mean, “serious contender for Best Picture.”)

Now, this year at MPSE, War Horse took SFX + Foley, Hugo took Music in a Feature Film, Super 8 took that long ass one with everything in it (basically, Sound Mixing…big help, since it’s not nominated at all this year), and Tintin took Animation (not nominated either).

Basically, what this all means to me? War Horse and Hugo are your favorites here. And since they lean toward action films, I say War Horse, despite not really being action, will probably win out. However, since the Sound Branch is mixers and editors, and the mixers didn’t nominate War Horse, maybe that means Hugo wins. Like I said, it’s those two.

I basically gave away my rankings, but whatever. Here they are:

5) Transformers: Dark of the Moon. I don’t know why. Maybe this is the category they’re more likely to win. But based on what else has won this, it seems unlikely. Blockbusters don’t do well here (these kinds of blockbusters, anyway).

4) Drive. Simply because it’s not that kind of action movie, and you knew from the start this movie’s destiny was to be entirely slighted by the Oscars. Trust me, this will not win this. In fact, I’d say Transformers has more of a shot. I know some people will think this has a shot, but I know it doesn’t. That’s just how it goes with films like this. They get shut out entirely. However, the reason I rank it above Transformers is because it’s kind of an action movie, is well-liked, and might get some votes based purely on that.

3) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Because they don’t like the film. (I’m speaking for the majority.) They don’t like the film, and what will they consider the sound design here? They didn’t even nominate Reznor’s score, so clearly they’re over that. It’s probably strong enough to win, but they won’t vote for it. I’d be shocked if they voted for this. (Remember, everyone votes here, not just the sound branches.)

2) War Horse. Horse noises, war scenes — it fits best alongside the winners. It has the war scenes. Plus, I don’t know if Hugo is gonna win both. I’m feeling like this might win this category and Hugo will win the other one. That’s how I’m feeling like it’s gonna go down. (It’s not like we know, anyway.)

1) Hugo. I should have put this at #2, but it could win. It doesn’t really fit the model of this category. At all, really. So, actually, maybe I should put this at #2. War Horse better fits in with the list of winners than this does. Not gonna deny the sound is great, but actually, yeah — I only put this as a favorite because I think they love the film and will probably give it those extra awards. It could easily win both. But again, I just see those action films winning here more, so I really think that even though the Sound Branch as a whole loves Hugo (won CAS and won Music in a Feature Film at MPSE), I feel like they know what constitutes Sound Editing (and doesn’t the Academy give out those pamphlets that explain what the categories are when you vote?), so if people truly are going to put some thought into it (scary thought), War Horse seems like the obvious winner in this category. So, really, it’s Hugo and War Horse. They’re like a joint #1 and #2. War Horse fits in better with the history (Hugo actually doesn’t fit in at all), but Hugo has more widespread support. So those are your favorites here.

Told you that you’d be a pro.

Now, for true boss status — you’re now a pro, but this is how you achieve true boss status:

I looked over the last thirty years of Sound Editing and Sound Mixing Oscar winners (1981 to present). And I wrote down all the times a film won both Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. They were:

  • 1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark (Not really, since the Editing award was a special achievement, but that just means they didn’t have a category that year. It would have won if there were other nominees.)
  • 1982, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
  • 1983, The Right Stuff
  • 1991Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  • 1993, Jurassic Park
  • 1994, Speed
  • 1997, Titanic
  • 1998, Saving Private Ryan
  • 1999, The Matrix
  • 2005, King Kong
  • 2007, The Bourne Ultimatum
  • 2009, The Hurt Locker
  • 2010, Inception

13 times in 30 years. Otherwise, they split. And most of them were action or war films (or Spielberg films). To me, Hugo doesn’t fit in there at all. However, you could make the argument that over the last six years, films have been sweeping both categories more, and that they were all films the Academy liked a lot (specifically Bourne. That beat some heavily favored competition there). So it’s very possible to make that argument for Hugo winning both awards. Although, to me, when I see the films in recent years that won both, I see action/loud, action, war, action. It makes sense to me that they’d win both. Even Slumdog didn’t win both. And that film won everything. (Though Dark Knight did beat it. War Horse is not exactly Dark Knight. But again, there they differentiated between music and action. Which is why I continue to think War Horse will win Editing and Hugo will win Mixing.)

That’s how you become a baller. Backing up your shit with information like that. Of course, it helps if you’re right, then you really look like a badass. But this is stuff that’ll make you look really good in front of your friends.

So anyway, I’m predicting a split this year. It just seems like the obvious (from a historical perspective, maybe not so much from what’s been happening this year) thing to happen.

Although, knowing my luck, I’ll be right about the categories splitting, and Hugo will win this one and Moneyball will win Sound Mixing.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Year

Best Visual Effects Winners

Other Nominees

1927-1928

Wings

The Jazz Singer

The Private Life of Helen of Troy

1938

Spawn of the North (Special Achievement Award)

No Category.

1939

The Rains Came

Gone With the Wind

Only Angels Have Wings

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex

Topper Takes a Trip

Union Pacific

The Wizard of Oz

1940

The Thief of Bagdad

The Blue Bird

Boom Town

The Boys from Syracuse

Dr. Cyclops

Foreign Correspondent

The Invisible Man Returns

The Long Voyage Home

One Million B.C.

Rebecca

The Sea Haw

Swiss Family Robinson

typhoon

Women in War

1941

I Wanted Wings

Aloma of the South Seas

Flight Command

The Invisible Woman

The Sea Wolf

That Hamilton Woman

Topper Returns

A Yank in the R.A.F.

1942

Reap the Wild Wind

The Black Swan

Desperate Journey

Flying Tigers

Invisible Agent

The Jungle Book

Mrs. Miniver

The Navy Comes Through

One of Our Aircraft is Missing

The Pride of the Yankees

1943

Crash Dive

Air Force

Bombardier

The North Star

So Proudly We Hail!

Stand for Action

1944

Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo

The Adventures of Mark Train

Days of Glory

Secret Command

Since You Went Away

The Story of Dr. Wassell

Wilson

1945

Wonder Man

Captain Eddie

Spellbound

They Were Expendable

A Thousand and One Nights

1946

Blithe Spirit

A Stolen Life

1947

Green Dolphin Street

Unconquered

1948

Portrait of Jennie

Deep Waters

1949

Mighty Joe Young

Tulsa

1950

Destination Moon

Samson and Delilah

1951

When Worlds Collide

No other nominees.

1952

Plymouth Adventure

No other nominees.

1953

The War of the Worlds

No other nominees.

1954

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Hell and High Water

Them!

1955

The Bridges at Toko-Ri

The Dam Busters

The Rains of Ranchipur

1956

The Ten Commandments

Forbidden Planet

1957

The Enemy Below

The Spirit of St. Louis

1958

Tom Thumb

Torpedo Run

1959

Ben-Hur

Journey to the Center of the Earth

1960

The Time Machine

The Last Voyage

1961

The Guns of Navarone

The Absent-Minded Professor

1962

The Longest Day

Mutiny on the Bounty

1963

Cleopatra

The Birds

1964

Mary Poppins

7 Faces of Dr. Lao

1965

Thunderball

The Greatest Story Ever Told

1966

Fantastic Voyage

Hawaii

1967

Doctor Dolittle

Tobruk

1968

2001: A Space Odyssey

Ice Station Zebra

1969

Marooned

Krakatoa, East of Java

1970

Tora! Tora! Tora!

Patton

1971

Bedknobs and Broomsticks

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth

1972

The Poseidon Adventure (Special Achievement Award)

No Category.

1973

No Award Given.

No Category.

1974

Earthquake (Special Achievement Award)

No Category.

1975

The Hindenburg (Special Achievement Award)

No Category.

1976

King Kong (Special Achievement Award)

Logan’s Run (Special Achievement Award)

No Category.

1977

Star Wars

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

1978

Superman (Special Achievement Award)

No Category.

1979

Alien

The Black Hole

Moonraker

1941

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

1980

The Empire Strikes Back

No Category.

1981

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Dragonslayer

1982

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Blade Runner

Poltergeist

1983

Return of the Jedi (Special Achievement Award)

No Category.

1984

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Ghostbusters

2010

1985

Cocoon

Return to Oz

Young Sherlock Holmes

1986

Aliens

Little Shop of Horrors

Poltergeist II: The Other Side

1987

Innerspace

Predator

1988

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Die Hard

Willow

1989

The Abyss

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Back to the Future Part II

1990

Total Recall (Special Achievement Award)

No Category.

1991

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Backdraft

Hook

1992

Death Becomes Her

Alien 3

Batman Begins

1993

Jurassic Park

Cliffhanger

The Nightmare Before Christmas

1994

Forrest Gump

The Mask

True Lies

1995

Babe

Apollo 13

1996

Independence Day

Dragonheart

Twister

1997

Titanic

The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Starship Troopers

1998

What Dreams May Come

Armageddon

Mighty Joe Young

1999

The Matrix

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Stuart Little

2000

Gladiator

Hollow Man

The Perfect Storm

2001

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence

Pearl Harbor

2002

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Spider-Man

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

2003

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

2004

Spider-Man 2

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

I, Robot

2005

King Kong

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

War of the Worlds

2006

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Poseidon

Superman Returns

2007

The Golden Compass

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Transformers

2008

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight

Iron Man

2009

Avatar

District 9

Star Trek

2010

Inception

Alice in Wonderland

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

Hereafter

Iron Man 2

This is simple and self-explanatory, this category. Typically the obvious choice wins (except in 2007).

This year, the nominees are:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Hugo

Real Steel

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Rankings should be easy enough (except for the top two)…

5. Real Steel. The nomination is the reward here. I didn’t think it was gonna happen. But I’m glad it did. Still, though, they won’t vote for this. The only way this wins is in a Golden Compass-type upset, and even that only happened because they didn’t want to vote for Transformers (and there were only three nominees). This won’t win.

4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. You could make that stupid “honor the franchise” argument, but judging by how many nominations this didn’t get — that’s not happening. This is clearly only a #4 here. The effects were great, but no one will vote for this over the obvious two choices. You could make a case that it’s a #3 over Transformers, and I’ll accept that, but to me, neither has a shot at it, so it doesn’t really matter anyway. Actually, this probably is a #3. But again, anything before 2 doesn’t matter.

3. Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Hasn’t won yet. They typically don’t like sequels, especially in strong categories like this one. Don’t see it happening at all.

2. Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I know this won Visual Effects Society too, but I put it at #2 because Hugo also won Visual Effects Society and because that film could get some extra wins because they like it. I know everyone considers this the film that should win, but — do we count 3D as part of the effects? I think voters will. And if that’s the case, this film won’t win. And until this film does win, I’m considering Hugo the top choice. Because that 3D was better than anything this film did. It was.

1. Hugo. It won Visual Effects Society along with Apes, is clearly gonna walk away with a bunch of Oscars (and possibly even Best Picture and Best Director, but let’s not get crazy just yet, it’s just a possibility), and to voters who don’t really know anything about effects, the 3D on this film was jaw-dropping. This, to me, is their way of embracing 3D, and saying to people, “This is how it’s done.” I really don’t see how this loses, to be honest with you. It very well could, and I know there are a bunch of people who nut at the mention of Apes, but I still say this is your favorite and I still say this is gonna win. Not that Apes isn’t deserving, but — there seem to be too many factors going for this for it not to win. Either way, though, any one of these five would probably be an okay choice.

One thing I’d also like to point out, because I feel this is the optimal place to do it: going back to 1970, whenever a Best Picture nominee is also nominated in the Best Visual Effects category (since), it has always won.

  • 2010, Inception
  • 2009, Avatar (which beat fellow Best Picture nomine District 9)
  • 2008, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (beat Dark Knight)
  • 2001-2003, all three Lord of the Rings films
  • 2000, Gladiator
  • 1997, Titanic
  • 1995, Babe (beat fellow Best Picture nominee Apollo 13)
  • 1994, Forrest Gump
  • 1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • 1977, Star Wars

I went back to 1970 even though Star Wars was basically the first instance of modern special effects simply to make a point. The last time a Best Picture nominee lost this category was in 1970, when Tora! Tora! Tora! beat Patton. (And if you want to go back to the category’s inception, it’s only happened 5 more times before that, and all were between 1939 and 1945.) So I’m saying, even though people love Rise of the Planet of the Apes — a higher profile film, if in the category, almost always (and basically, always) wins this award. Why? Because voters don’t look at their ballots. They mark what stands out. And most of the Academy probably hasn’t even seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes. So Hugo will win this. There’s like a 90% chance Hugo will win this. Take Apes at your own risk. That’s all I’m saying. By all means, vote for the upset. My only real goal here is to tell you the likelihood of it happening.

– – – – – – – – – – –

So that’s these categories. Tomorrow we round it up with the stuff nobody cares about, and I throw in another article for fun. Toodles.

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One response

  1. Going back to when you mentioned Jurassic Park, it was nominated for 3 Oscars, all for these 3 categories. And it won all three awards (Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects).

    December 29, 2013 at 5:50 am

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