Oscars 2018 Category Breakdown: Best Sound Mixing

So what we do here each year as a warm up for the Oscars is, I break down each of the 24 categories. The idea is to both familiarize everyone with the category and its history. I look at what the major trends are throughout the past bunch of years, how the precursors tend to go, whether they matter or not, that sort of stuff. I look at how the category came to be this year, and just anything else that seems totally pertinent about it. Then I rank each of the nominees and tell you what their likelihood (at this particular moment in time) of winning is.

This is all prelude to my giant Oscar ballot that I’m gonna give you. But I figure, if you have these as the warmup, it’s not as intimidating. You’ll have seen a lot of the pertinent trends here and we’ll all be able to reference these as a sort of cheat sheet. Plus it shows you where my head is at for how I think each of the categories are gonna go, and you can see me working my way up to all the bad decisions I usually make while guessing. Pretty much, with this, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how the category is gonna turn out.

Today is Best Sound Mixing. Which is not Sound Editing. Because you can totally tell those two apart.

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

2017 Dunkirk Baby Driver

Blade Runner 2049

The Shape of Water

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

So to start, just so we’re all clear on this: Mixing is the full sound mix that you hear on the screen and Editing is the compilation of all the sounds that went into it. So all the sound effects and dialogue and music — that’s all Editing. And then the finished product is Mixing.

Also, you have to take both Sound categories as one when you go into it, because as I think we all know by now, my mantra is, “Don’t split the Sound categories, Mike.” Only bad things can happen when you do that. (Like, say, “Oh, Hacksaw Ridge is a war movie, that’ll win Editing, and then La La Land is a musical, so that’ll win Mixing.” And then Hacksaw Ridge wins Mixing and Arrival wins Editing and you look like an asshole. This is a completely hypothetical situation, by the way, and not at all something that happened two years ago.)

But, to start, since this is Mixing, we’ll look at the guild for that, CAS. They’ve given out awards since 1993:

  • 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)
  • 2017 — Dunkirk (won the Oscar)

14/25 all-time. So 56%. Better than a toss-up, but not automatic. Used to be that musicals owned Mixing and war films owned Editing, but lately I’m seeing that a big film will just take both in the right year. I thought this year was the right year, but now I’m not so sure.

We also don’t have a whole lot of help from anywhere else, since BAFTA only has a single Sound category. And BFCA tried a Sound category for like three years and then stopped. So it’s CAS, MPSE (the Sound Editors guild), BAFTA, and then common sense.

Best Sound Mixing

Black Panther

Bohemian Rhapsody

First Man

Roma

A Star Is Born

This is a year where we go back to normal. Which is to say that the Sound categories only matched 4/5. Last year they both matched 5/5, which was the first time ever that’s happened when both categories had five nominees. Now we’re back to 4/5. Not a whole lot of difference, but it does make me feel more uncomfortable about the whole thing, since they feel less likely to split, and feeling uncomfortable in the Sound categories is how you should be.

In terms of this category… no overt surprises. I suspected Roma would get at least one Sound nomination. Not sure I expected two, but also… if I expected one, why wouldn’t I expect two? Black Panther was obviously getting on both if it got on one, and you had to assume both Star Is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody for Mixing. And First Man is the big “sound” film of the year. So not overly shocking. I thought Quiet Place might manage both, since I wasn’t sure which one it was more likely to get on. But yeah, mostly as expected. No real surprises other than that they liked Roma enough to give it a double nomination in the Sound categories.

And in terms of how the category’s gonna go, it’s mostly guesswork. But we have 2/3 of the helpful places at the moment.

  • CAS: Bohemian Rhapsody
  • BAFTA: Bohemian Rhapsody

And MPSE announces tonight, so we’ll at least have some more help there. But I think we’ve got enough to mostly get where we need to go. (I think.)

Rankings:

5. Roma — Roma has absolutely stunning sound design. But it’s hard for me to see it as something they’re gonna take. Look at the last bunch of winners — Dunkirk (war movie), Hacksaw Ridge (war movie), Mad Max (action movie), Whiplash (music), Gravity (space), Les Mis (music), Hugo (I don’t know what you call it, but it makes sense), Inception (action), The Hurt Locker (war)… see what I’m getting at? There’s no showy bits of sound here. So I don’t see how you consider this a serious contender for the win. It doesn’t fit for them at all.

4. Black Panther — It’s definitely one of those with the “most” sound. It definitely has a lot of what they like — music, action… it’s almost the total package. But it doesn’t really fit as a winner. They typically don’t dip too low on this one. That is to say, things that win tend to feel classier, if that makes sense. That’s not to say they won’t go here, I just don’t see it as a particularly likely circumstance. It is a Best Picture nominee, and the last non-Best Picture winner in this category was The Bourne Ultimatum. So there’s that.

3. A Star Is Born — It’s music. Lots of music. BAFTA gave it their Music award, not that that really means anything, but they did. I just feel like if they’re gonna go for the movie with music, it’s not this one, because it doesn’t have as many concert montages, and this one also doesn’t blend a singer’s real voice into the mix. So I think this can happen but likely won’t. Unless somehow this wins a bunch of MPSE awards tonight, I’m not looking at it as anything more than a possible spoiler.

2. First Man — It hasn’t won anything yet. I suspect it’ll win MPSE, setting up the Editing/Mixing split, but that’s tonight. Right now, I can’t consider this anything more than a second choice. That said… easily could happen. I hate having to split the Sound categories, but with this only really having four nominations and having the possibility to not win any, hard to consider this a favorite here. I’m also not certain this even wins Editing. So we’ll see. Also, that “no non-Best Picture nominees since Bourne Ultimatum” is a telling stat. At least Editing has three of those. But yeah, precursors dictate favorites, and this currently has none.

1. Bohemian Rhapsody — It won BAFTA and it won the guild. It’s the number one choice and likely winner. I just watched the movie again yesterday. The music montages are amazing. They sound like real concerts. And then they blend a lot of the band’s music over a lot of it… it’s a great job. It’s not particularly subtle, but it’s Queen. What’s subtle about that band? So it works. This is the favorite. Might not win, but it’s gonna be considered the choice to beat.

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