Best Sound Editing:
One of the broadest categories of the ceremony this year, the Academy Award for Best Sound Editing has thrown attention towards mighty blockbuster spectacles, goosebump-inducing concerts, insular intergalactic travel and even tension-fueled horror. Sergio Diaz‘s work on Roma is the most subtle of the nominations, providing a layered and rich soundscape to accompany Cuarón‘s vision of a living, breathing Mexico City. John Warhurst‘s work on Bohemian Rhapsody notably deserves credit no matter what your opinions on the film are. The massive undertaking of combining Freddy Mercury’s iconic vocals with Rami Malek‘s performance during the musical scenes is nothing short of gigantic, and it’s pretty much agreed it’s the one area in which the film truly excels. Ai-Ling Lee backed up the technical powerhouse that is Damien Chazelle‘s First Man with a terrifyingly bleak and intense look at a lunar soundscape. The opening alone as Ryan Gosling’s Neil Armstrong is bounced off of the atmosphere in the X-15 is enough to work as an audio drama for the ages. Benjamin A. Burtt and Steve Boeddekker managed to match Black Panther‘s spectacle by incorporating the sounds of Wakanda fluidly into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with particular detail going into the reverberation of the vibranium Black Panther suit itself being icing on the cake. Then a film that utilizes sound as a weapon needed some marvelous work in the editing department, and Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl were able to create scares from a pin drop within A Quiet Place. An extremely varied category and one filled with brilliant, often-unspoken-of work from editors who are pivotal in providing a true escapist fantasy.
Prediction: First Man
Best Sound Mixing:
The sound mixing category this year has a generally nice blend of films that recognize its importance, from the terrifying claustrophobia of space in First Man to the euphoric high of a rock concert in A Star is Born (and Bohemian Rhapsody) to the comic book action of Black Panther. But no film is more deserving of the award than the sound mixing crew of Roma, who manage to construct an immersively overwhelming and intimately psychological soundscapes.
While the surround sound effect of Roma is lost to varying degrees on audiences watching through Netflix, the film’s blend of the natural sounds of its protagonist’s world are precisely engineered to come from where she experiences them, and more importantly how she experiences them. The film’s handful of horrifying scenes of violence and stunningly cinematic instances of catharsis would not be half as beautiful without such masterful sound mixing, and choosing any other film to win in its place would be an unforgivable disgrace.
Prediction: A Star is Born
Best Visual Effects:
Over the past few years we seem to have reached an impasse in regard to visual effects. Whereas before the advancements year after year were what made all the difference, technology has progressed so much that now we live in a world where the small details are the finer things. First Man’s nomination comes from a place of begrudging reality; its moments of spectacle are, just as in life, sparse and minimal. In an environment overpopulated by effects, a film like this is designed to remind us of the impact minimalism can have. Of course, then there’s Industrial Light & Magic with three nominations in the category this year to show off just how talented they are. Their work in Ready Player One is the epitome of popcorn insanity, and they did the work of ten studios by just sheer amount of recognizable assets on screen. Avengers: Infinity War goes along a similar route, but thanks to particularly strong motion capture performances from the likes of Josh Brolin as Thanos, the extra dimension to the computer-generated characters may just be able to push them towards the win against the competition. This same level of quality is laced across their work in Solo: A Star Wars Story, combining such nostalgic iconography with new worlds and characters to craft another solid entry from a galaxy far, far away. The dark horse in the category is definitely Christopher Robin however. Initially mocked upon the reveal of its ‘realistic’ depictions of Winnie the Pooh characters, the context of the film strengthens the aesthetic of the wear-and-tear bear from the hundred acre wood and are as charming as the film they reside.
Prediction: Avengers: Infinity War