Sure, have been plenty of movies throughout history without sound. But this is 2019 and we can have all the sound we want. From scores to songs to editing to mixing, we breakdown and make predictions for this year’s batch of sound and song Oscars.
Best Original Score
Charlie Brigden: Here we go again. This year, the Academy gives us a surprisingly strong category, with five scores that probably won’t make anyone too disappointed about whoever takes the statue, and it feels refreshingly unpredictable. There are also some curious omissions — Jonny Greenwood’s You Were Never Really Here and Justin Hurwitz’s First Man are two notables — but the scores that are nominated are a reflection of the diversity the Academy has tried to inject, to some controversy. At the moment, it looks like a three-way tie between Terence Blanchard (BlacKkKlansman), Nicholas Britell (If Beale Street Could Talk), and Ludwig Göransson (Black Panther). Alexandre Desplat already has two Oscars (he just won his second last year with The Shape of Water), and while Isle of Dogs has a fine score, I don’t think it’s particularly memorable, especially amongst the needle drops from older Japanese scores in the film. Marc Shaiman’s Mary Poppins Returns is a lovely score but it feels a bit slight, which is a common occurrence with musical scores, and personally, I think they should have their own category.
The trio of Blanchard, Britell, and Göransson is incredibly strong for multiple reasons, mainly from being excellent scores for critically acclaimed films. Blanchard’s BlacKkKlansman has the intertextual appeal, delving into Hollywood’s musical history as well as accompanying Spike Lee’s most successful film in years. Britell’s If Beale Street Could Talk is as good as if not better than Moonlight, which itself was unfairly beaten by La La Land, and while Barry Jenkins’ film hasn’t been as prominent, the reviews have been spectacular. Similarly, like its film, Göransson’s Black Panther score has received plaudits for its unique African sounds and just won a Grammy. Oscar’s “popular” category was seen as a way to award movies like the Marvel hit, which would undoubtedly cause some controversy if given Best Picture, but with that plan now nixed, the best way to reward such a groundbreaking blockbuster may well be to honor Göransson’s talent in the Original Score category.
What should win: Black Panther
What will win: Black Panther
Best Original Song
Julia Teti: Best Original Song is a category that has remained reliably consistent throughout the last few months. A Star Is Born’s anthem, “Shallow,” is poised to win the category. It is the most identifiable song, with a performance set for the Oscar broadcast that has fans and audiences waiting with bated breath for Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper (sans Jackson Maine verve) to serenade audiences in the Dolby Theatre and at home. Gaga and her co-songwriters Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, and Andrew Wyatt have won the Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice, and quasi-BAFTA (Best Original Music) for the category. Each time Gaga is on stage, it is, deservedly so, a tidal wave of emotion, a crowning achievement for the singer who hoped to be an actress.
But Black Panther’s “All the Stars” is more than just an anthem. The Marvel movie has a soundtrack with popular contemporary artists, one of whom is Kendrick Lamar, whose collaboration with Sounwave, Antony Tiffith, and SZA accentuates the film’s ending. “All the Stars” received a Grammy nomination for song of the year and has garnered a number of nominations from the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Awards. Despite the song and film’s collective power, the Oscar will likely elude Black Panther in this particular category. Considering their past wins this awards cycle, the collaborators behind “Shallow” will likely walk away with this one.
What should win: “All the Stars” Sounwave, Kendrick Lamar, Anthony Tiffith, and SZA
What will win: “Shallow” Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, and Andrew Wyatt
Meg Shields: I get the impression that a lot of folks don’t really give a shit about the sound categories. And I have to admit, before I dug into this category for last year’s predictions, I didn’t really care either. But ever since I started paying attention to editing and mixing, my experience as an audience member has only improved. So, give ’em a shot! Tell your friends! Decry detractors who’d malign this extremely important piece of the cinematic puzzle!
If the difference between the two sound categories doesn’t make sense to you, here’s the same handy metaphor I used last year: sound mixers are like conductors and sound editors are like composers. Generally speaking, a sound mixer is in charge of how you hear a movie. A sound editor is in charge of what you hear in a movie: assembling the sound effects, the ADR, the foley, the dialogue, the score, and everything in between. It’s their job to bring together the aural elements necessary to sell you on a cinematic world. For all intents and purposes, Best Sound Editing has been doing double time as a “Biggest Action/Sci-Fi/War Film” category. And holy smokes this is such a noisy year. Which is just how the Academy likes it, as far as sound categories are concerned.
Bohemian Rhapsody’s two ADR/Dialogue awards from the Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE) probably won’t improve its chances because music-driven films don’t tend to win this award. They just don’t. All to say, Black Panther, A Quiet Place, and First Man are the traditional front runners of this category. A Quiet Place won the big MPSE award for Effects/Foley, which bodes well, despite Best Sound Editing being its only nomination. While A Quiet Place’s soundscapes are loud and noteworthy, First Man’s tactile gravitas and cacophonous spin sequence should win out. Having La La Land’s supervising sound editor’s Mildred Iatrou and Ai-Ling Lee doesn’t hurt either.
What should win: A Quiet Place
What will win: First Man
Meg Shields: Best Sound Mixing is concerned with how an audience hears a film. How aural elements are emphasized, toned down, layered, or cut out altogether. This was a big year for the ever-versatile Dolby Atmos system, repped by A Star is Born, Roma, and Black Panther. Meanwhile, First Man and Bohemian Rhapsody took advantage of all the boom and bombast IMAX has to offer.
Also, remember how I said musically-inclined films rarely win sound editing awards? Well good news: they tend to do very well as far as sound mixing is concerned. There are only two films on the docket that fit the song and dance bill this year: Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star is Born. While the Academy is a known sucker for “live music,” their overall snubbing of A Star is Born makes a win unlikely, if well-deserved. Because 2019 appears to be giving 2018 a run for its money in terms of being just the worst, Bohemian Rhapsody is the pony to watch. That it scooped up the BAFTA sound award and the Cinema Audio Society award don’t hurt its chances. It’s a very, very safe bet.
Also, while I have your attention, where the fuck is Mission: Impossible – Fallout? There were more than enough panning motorcycle screeches, helicopter crashes, and broken bathroom tiles to merit a sound nod and then some. MI: 6 is basically a Buster Keaton fever dream with kick-ass sound effects instead of a player piano. Shame Academy, shame.
What should win: A Star Is Born
What will win: Bohemian Rhapsody
To read our breakdowns and analysis of every one of this year’s categories, follow the links below:
- Skip to The Final Ballot
- Best Picture and Best Director
- The Other Best Pictures
- The Acting Awards
- The Writing Awards
- The Sound and Song Awards
- The Technical Awards