Oscars 2014 Category Breakdown: Best Sound Editing

This is a tradition for me. Every year, before the Oscars, I break down every single one of the 24 categories. I do this to familiarize everyone with each category, how it works, what its history is, how it usually turns out, and also as a precursor to my picks article, allowing me to get most of the heavy lifting out of the way beforehand.

How these work is — I go over each category’s history, give you all the previous winners and nominees, then list the current year’s nominees. And then I’ll go over how each of the guilds (if there is a corresponding guild) have went, and how that corresponds to the Oscars (some guilds mean a lot to how a category will play out. Others mean nothing). It’s basically everything you need to know in order to make an informed decision when you make your picks on Oscar night. And then I also rank the nominees at the end in terms of where I see them in terms of their likelihood to win.

Today is Best Sound Editing, the synecdoche of Sound Mixing. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

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 BootPoltergeist
1983 The Right Stuff Return of the Jedi
1984 The River (Special Achievement Award) No Category.
1985 Back to the Future LadyhawkeRambo: First Blood Part II
1986 Aliens Star Trek IB: The Voyage HomeTop Gun
1987 RoboCop (Special Achievement Award) No Category.
1988 Who Framed Roger Rabbit Die HardWillow
1989 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Black RainLethal Weapon 2
1990 The Hunt for Red October FlatlinersTotal Recall
1991 Terminator 2: Judgment Day BackdraftStar Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
1992 Bram Stoker’s Dracula AladdinUnder Siege
1993 Jurassic Park CliffhangerThe Fugitive
1994 Speed Clear and Present DangerForrest Gump
1995 Braveheart Batman ForeverCrimson Tide
1996 The Ghost and the Darkness DaylightEraser
1997 Titanic Face/OffThe Fifth Element
1998 Saving Private Ryan ArmageddonThe Mask of Zorro
1999 The Matrix Fight ClubStar 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 ReportRoad to Perdition
2003 Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World Finding NemoPirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
2004 The Incredibles The Polar ExpressSpider-Man 2
2005 King Kong War of the WorldsMemoirs of a Geisha
2006 Letters from Iwo Jima ApocalyptoBlood Diamond

Flags of Our Fathers

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

2007 The Bourne Ultimatum No Country for Old MenRatatouille

There Will Be Blood


2008 The Dark Knight Iron ManSlumdog Millionaire



2009 The Hurt Locker AvatarInglourious Basterds

Star Trek


2010 Inception Toy Story 3Tron: Legacy

True Grit


2011 Hugo DriveThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

War Horse

2012 TIE:Skyfall

Zero Dark Thirty

ArgoDjango Unchained

Life of Pi

2013 Gravity All Is LostCaptain Phillips

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Lone Survivor

Here are (straight from last year) the winners of the MPSE Golden Reel Awards. The caveats from last year still apply (the MPSE Awards were murky until the past decade or so and that the Oscar category only had three nominees before 2006. So we can really only look at the last six years for any kind of help at all):

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 andClear 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 CowboysU-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 YorkTwo Towers wins the Oscar, beating Road to Perdition and Minority Report. This is the onlyRings 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 MindThe 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 MillionaireThe 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).

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 toToy Story 3 (which loses Sound Mixing to Inception). Inception wins the Oscar (both of them).

2011: SFX + Foley goes to War HorseHugo wins for Music, Super 8 took Dialogue + ADR, and Tintin took Animation. Hugo won the Oscar (both of them).

2012: SFX + Foley went to Skyfall, Life of Pi won Dialogue + ADR and Music (though Les Mis won for Music in a Musical), and Wreck-It Ralph won for Animation. The Oscar was a TIE between Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty.

2013: SFX + Foley went to GravityCaptain Phillips won Dialogue + ADR, The Great Gatsby won Music (Frozen won Music in a Musical), and Epic won for Animation. Gravity won the Oscar.

The major trends I see with MPSE is, when a film wins more than once with them, it’s mostly gonna win the Oscar (happened all but one time, which was Avatar, and I feel like that was a situation where they deliberately didn’t want to vote for it, and loved The Hurt Locker. Plus action films do better in Sound). So that’s one thing to keep in mind when they announce in ten days.

The other thing I always look at, which is how many times a film won both Editing and Mixing:

  • 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
  • 1991, Terminator 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
  • 2011, Hugo
  • 2013, Gravity

Not that often. And typically, I’m seeing a guaranteed winner most of the time, or a big Best Picture contender. (Or both.)

Here are this year’s MPSE nominees, before we go:

The SFX + Foley nominees are: American Sniper, Birdman, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Fury, Guardians of the Galaxy, Interstellar and Unbroken. Your Oscar category is there, sans The Hobbit. Which is interesting, that Guardians managed both Sound branches but not the Oscar category. (This should be the big indicator of where this category is going. One would expect Sniper, Birdman or Interstellar to take it.)

The Dialogue + ADR nominees are: Birdman, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Still Alice, The Theory of Everything, Unbroken and Whiplash. (This could go a couple of different ways. It’ll only matter for the category if Birdman, Unbroken or Whiplash win. And Whiplash only because it shows momentum from both sound branches.)

The Music nominees are: Birdman, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Fault in Our Stars, Gone Girl, Guardians of the Galaxy, Interstellar and Selma. (

The Music in a Musical nominees are: Annie, Get on Up, Into the Woods, Jersey Boys and Whiplash. (This would say a lot if Whiplash beats Into the Woods or Get on Up.)

Animated nominees are: Big Hero 6, The Book of Life, The Boxtrolls, How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Lego Movie. (Gonna be totally honest… based on the category, Big Hero 6 should win this. Or Dragon. Lego Movie really shouldn’t win this, but it might, based on what it’s actually nominated for.)

Rankings will of course be adjusted based on how MPSE turns out, but for now, I think we have enough information to get into the rankings.

Best Sound Editing

American Sniper


The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies



Doesn’t it seem so surprising that The Hobbit actually made it on? Between Apes and Guardians getting all those guild nominations, it’s weird that The Hobbit managed to limp in on this last entry. The thing to take out of this is that they’re just totally over the franchises that ruled the tech categories for years: Transformers and The Hobbit. The end of an era.

Anyway, since four of the five are the same, we’re looking at most of the same thing as Mixing. With a few key changes.


5. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies — When a movie from a franchise that has ruled this category every other time only manages a single nomination for Sound Editing, that’s nothing. When a movie like that only gets a single nomination for Sound Editing, that’s a mercy nomination. Fight Club got a Sound Editing nomination and nothing else. All Is Lost. Drive. It’s a mercy nomination. This won’t win. Nobody thinks this will win. Nobody voted for the last two. They were placeholders. This is your number five, and we’d all be shocked if this won.

4. Unbroken — This was #5 in mixing, and makes it to #4 here purely because The Hobbit isn’t winning. And I’ll discuss this movie’s chances as such: since 2006, when the category expanded to five nominees, does this look like something that would win? Based on its reception, and general perception around town. I think this movie is lucky to be here. Sure, it makes sense as a nominee, given that it’s a war film and is classy and all that, but people didn’t like this. I find it really hard to believe that the majority of people voting are gonna go, “Man, that movie was shit, but boy, was that sound design good!” Therefore, fourth.

3. Birdman — I can’t truly take this seriously as a contender (aside from the fact that it might win Best Picture, of course. And sometimes that’s enough) until it makes some noise in either of the sound guilds. I just need to see it win something. Because I just can’t see them legitimately going for it if they’re thinking about the category. Then again, sometimes they just blindly check stuff off. (Though again, what I said yesterday… they do seem to be cognizant of what makes sense and vote, for the most part, intelligently. Like, The Artist didn’t win for Screenplay, because it’s not really about that screenplay. They didn’t just check shit off.) But, it’s going middle of the pack purely because the other two choices have more of that “winner” feel to them. This could win, and it might move to #1 in the rankings in ten days, but right now, middle of the pack, and we’ll see how I feel when the time comes to vote. Not ruling it out at all, just, keeping it in the conversation, waiting for it to make a play or not.

2. American Sniper — It’s a war movie. Those are all about sound editing. I’d be really surprised if this took both sound categories. I’d also be really surprised if Interstellar won one but not the other. Which means, if this is gonna win this category (and it will win this category. Everyone would be pretty surprised if this movie won Mixing but not Editing), I’d look for something like Whiplash to take Mixing. But either way, I saw this is a major contender in this category (though something’s gnawing at me that says not to give in and vote for this, that this will end up not winning any Oscars whatsoever. Unless they added a category called Best Fake Baby), and still see it as one, because it’s about war. War movies do well here.

1. Interstellar — It’s big, it’s in space, they had to put a lot of sounds together, and Nolan has two wins in the category. I don’t see how this doesn’t win. But, it might not. Can’t say for sure. Keep Birdman and Sniper in the conversation, but this has to be considered a frontrunner. Of course, everything changes with MPSE and CAS, so the frontrunner status might not hold up all the way through to the Oscars.

– – – – – – – – – – –

Tomorrow, we go over Best Costume Design. And all that colorful, frilly shit.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.