Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of my top three favorite movies of all time. It won four academy awards in 1981, none of which were part of the big five (Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, Actress). It did win for Best Sound Editing though. But, what the hell is sound editing anyway? Easy, a sound editor assembles all the sound you hear in the final picture, which is gathered from both production sound captured the day of shooting (usually dialogue) and Foley/effects captured later. A sound editor then selects the right pieces of sound to accompany the picture (okay, maybe not so easy). With the help of the director, the Sound Editor puts the pieces together to make a good movie great. One of the many unsung heroes of great movies. Here’s the ones that will hopefully get their moment to sing this year.

Zero Dark Thirty – Paul N.J. Ottosson
Zero-Dark-ThirtyWhen it comes to movies of this nature, there is an atmospheric difficulty. Based on a true story and devoid of typical “action” movie clichés, there are very few musical cues that are ramped up for effect. Dialog and appropriate foley (here being defined as the sounds of weapons and war) must mesh perfectly with the ominous silence that precedes a daring, tactical raid. Kind of like true events featured in the film itself.

Argo – Erick Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn
ArgoOpposite only in execution to the previously mentioned film, the sound team behind Argo had the immense task of melding the sounds of a by gone era with the intensity necessary to tell a dramatic war story. Any misstep on the part of the audio runs the risk of pulling the audience out of the moment, and while that statement is true for EVERY movie, it is especially true when dealing with a familiar set up in an unfamiliar setting.

Django Unchained – Wylie Stateman
Django-UnchainedSound, and it’s effects on cinema, have been as much a part of Taratino’s success as a director as his luck with career timing, his writing talent, and the availability of certain high profile actors looking for “indie” projects. Thus, the sound editor on any of his pictures sure have their work cut out for them. Especially when he ventures off into films that deal with specific historical times. Never one for convention, the sounds in this picture capture both the old feel of the south 150+ years ago, and the contemporary hip that slides into every movie Tarantino has directed.

Skyfall – Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
SkyfallTechnically spot on, with guns, explosions, bare knuckle fisticuffs and all things in-between done with the precision of MI6, but for the Oscar, as much as the movie was dazzling, the sound editing seemed somewhat expected for a film in this genre. Nothing special here, but no detractors as well.

Life of Pi – Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
Life-of-PiA tough challenge, for sure, to synch up with what is sure to be an Oscar award winning Visual Effects department, the challenge here was to take the fantastic eye candy and wind it into a marriage with the accompanying audio. Good? Yes. Great? Remains to be seen come ballot time.

PREDICTION:  DJANGO UNCHAINED – outside of a (well deserved) possible supporting actor award for Christoph Waltz, Tarantino’s pictures don’t usually spell instant Oscar. But they still deserve some recognition, and who doesn’t want to put “Academy Award Winning Film” on the sleeve of the blue-ray. The talent behind Wylie Statemans work as well as Oscar politics will be the reasons that this category goes to Django.

Road to the Oscars Series

January 14: Best Visual Effects – Ian Murphy

January 16: Best Sound Editing – Ian Murphy

January 18: Best Sound Mixing – Michael Benedict

January 21: Best Cinematography – Scott Youngbauer

January 23: Best Costume Design – Ian Murphy

January 25: Best Makeup and Hairstyling – Rebecca Susmarski

January 28: Best Film Editing – Dan Schindel

January 30: Best Production Design – Scott Youngbauer

February 1: Best Animated Feature – Carlos Aguilar

February 4: Best Documentary Feature – Dan Schindel

February 6: Best Documentary Short Subject – Dan Schindel

February 7: Best Live Action Short – Carlos Aguilar

February 8: Best Animated Short – Kit Bowen

February 10: Best Foreign Language Film – Carlos Aguilar

February 11: Best Original Score – Adam Spunberg

February 12: Best Original Song – Adam Spunberg

February 13: Best Original Screenplay – Dan Schindel

February 14: Best Adapted Screenplay – Jeremy Martin

February 16: Best Supporting Actor – Angela Stern

February 17: Best Supporting Actress – Hiko Mitsuzuka

February 18: Best Actress – Andrew Payne

February 19: Best Actor – Kit Bowen

February 20: Best Director – Andrew Payne

February 21: Best Picture – Kit Bowen

February 24: 85th Annual Academy Awards