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Oscars 2017 Category Breakdown: Best Sound Mixing

Every year, as we lead up to the Oscars, I break down each of the 24 categories. I do this to familiarize everyone with the category; what the trends are, how the guilds and stuff help (or don’t), etc. I also do it as a precursor to my giant Oscar ballot. I get most of the heavy lifting out of the way here, so that way when I get to the article, I’m just kind of riffing on how I think it’ll turn out and talking myself into all the bad decisions. It’s like college. And this is the pregame.

How these articles work is — I give you all the previous winners and nominees of each of the categories, then tell you how accurate each of the respective guilds and precursors are in what they vote for versus what wins the Oscar, tell you how each of them voted this year, then give you this year’s category, along with a quick rundown of how we ended up with that category (what was a surprise, etc). After that, I rank each of this year’s nominees in terms of how I see them right now in terms of their likelihood to win. Which is nothing more than my perception (notice that underline, even though you won’t) of how the category seems at the moment based on everything I know and have seen. Which will give you a general sense of the favorites.

Today is Best Sound Mixing. The one that isn’t Sound Editing.

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

2011 Hugo The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Moneyball

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

War Horse

2012 Les Misérables Argo

Life of Pi

Lincoln

Skyfall

2013 Gravity Captain Phillips

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Inside Llewyn Davis

Lone Survivor

2014 Whiplash American Sniper

Birdman

Interstellar

Unbroken

2015 Mad Max: Fury Road Bridge of Spies

The Martian

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

2016 Hacksaw Ridge 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Arrival

La La Land

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Real quick — Sound Editing is the compilation of all the sounds and effects that go into a movie, and Sound Mixing is the full mixing of the sound that you hear in the film. So… gunshots, car engines, the soundtrack, all that stuff… Editing. The blending of all that together — Mixing.

The Sound categories generally have to be taken in conjunction, but for Mixing specifically, the guild to look at is CAS, the Cinema Audio Society. CAS has handed out awards since 1993. Here are all the winners:

  • 1993 – Jurassic Park (won the Oscar)
  • 1994 – Forrest Gump (lost the Oscar to Speed)
  • 1995 —  Apollo 13 (won the Oscar)
  • 1996 – The English Patient (won the Oscar)
  • 1997 – Titanic (won the Oscar)
  • 1998 – Saving Private Ryan (won the Oscar)
  • 1999 – The Matrix (won the Oscar)
  • 2000 – Gladiator (won the Oscar)
  • 2001 – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (lost the Oscar to Black Hawk Down)
  • 2002 – Road to Perdition (lost the Oscar to Chicago)
  • 2003 — Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (lost the Oscar to Return of the King)
  • 2004 – The Aviator (lost the Oscar to Ray)
  • 2005 – Walk the Line (lost the Oscar to King Kong)
  • 2006 – Dreamgirls (won the Oscar)
  • 2007 – No Country for Old Men (lost the Oscar to The Bourne Ultimatum)
  • 2008 – Slumdog Millionaire (won the Oscar)
  • 2009 – The Hurt Locker (won the Oscar)
  • 2010 – True Grit (lost the Oscar to Inception)
  • 2011 – Hugo (won the Oscar)
  • 2012 – Les Misérables (won the Oscar)
  • 2013 — Gravity (won the Oscar)
  • 2014 — Birdman (lost the Oscar to Whiplash)
  • 2015 — The Revenant (lost the Oscar to Mad Max: Fury Road)
  • 2016 — La La Land (lost the Oscar to Hacksaw Ridge)

They’re 13/24 all time, which isn’t great. But they’re over 50%. So that’s good. As you can see, big Best Picture candidates tend to win this along with music-heavy films, but there’s room for other stuff too. A Best Picture nominee has won this category every year for the past nine.

There is no real other precursor for this one, since BAFTA has a single Sound category for everything, and BFCA tried a Sound category for a few years, but they were three and out before they stopped. So you pretty much have CAS, a little bit of BAFTA, a little bit of MPSE, a little bit of common sense, and a lot of Lou Bega.

I’m also gonna get all the later stuff out of the way now, since it’s quick — this is a rare year where Mixing and Editing had the exact same nominees. It’s never happened, ever, with both having five nominees. So, while we could have successfully guessed 4/5 being similar, we likely didn’t have all five being exactly the same. CAS had Wonder Woman on their list instead of Blade Runner, otherwise, exactly the same.

This year, CAS went to Dunkirk. BAFTA’s single Sound category went to Dunkirk.

Meanwhile, MPSE’s Effects + Foley award went to Blade Runner, while their Music award went to Dunkirk.

I think we can safely parse this one, don’t you?

Best Sound Mixing

Baby Driver

Blade Runner 2049

Dunkirk

The Shape of Water

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Rankings:

5. Star Wars: The Last Jedi — Force Awakens got both Sound nominations, but came away empty-handed. Can’t see them voting for this out of nowhere. The other three feel like legitimate candidates and the fourth is a Best Picture frontrunner. No reason to put this over any of those. Plus, zero precursors and zero franchise love so far. Until it wins one, gotta assume the nomination is the reward.

4. The Shape of Water — Putting a film with 13 nominations this low in a category like this always feels like you’re taking your life in your hands, but what can you do? This category is legitimately stacked. Even if it is gonna win Best Picture, they do tend to vote for films like this in categories that make sense, and this one doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Birdman was nominated in both sound categories and didn’t win either, why should this? Plus, if it’s gonna win one, how can you figure which one that’s gonna be? I’m gonna go with my gut, the eye test, and the precursors, and say this is just a nominee here and has no real shot. Don’t put it less than fourth, though, since even if you get caught with your pants down, you don’t wanna be bent over too.

3. Blade Runner 2049 — This feels dicey. BUT… one movie over this is a war film and the other is a film that syncs music and sound pretty seamlessly. While this is a contender, I can’t say I consider it anything more than a dark horse at the moment. Third choice feels right for it.

2. Baby Driver — If it won any precursors, I’d have felt better about its chances. But it hasn’t. So we’re purely going on its reputation of being great on sound. Which it is. Blade Runner at least got an Editing win somewhere in there. But still, no matter how you slice it, one film is the favorite in both Sound categories. So that’s what it is until Oscar night, when you see if any of these can beat it.

1. Dunkirk — It has a CAS win, it won BAFTA for Sound (which is for both categories, but theoretically mainly Mixing), and it won an MPSE Award (if not the big one). Gotta call it the favorite here. Might not win both Sound categories, but it’s certainly looking like the favorite in both. So let’s start with that and then get into the annual tradition of, “Please, dear god, Mike, don’t split the fucking sound categories.” Don’t we all like that?

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One response

  1. lacourseauxetoiles

    Arrival won Best Sound Editing, not Best Sound Mixing (which went to Hacksaw Ridge). While Blade Runner 2049 might win Best Sound Editing, I doubt it has much of a chance here.

    February 25, 2018 at 1:41 pm

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