Since there is so much overlap among the feature film categories in this year’s Oscar nominations, and I’ve already seen most of the major films under consideration, I am trying to make more of an effort this year to actually see all the nominees in each category before posting my reactions and predictions. I have divided the twenty-four categories into five groups (sight, sound, stars, stories, and shorts) and will be posting my thoughts as well as bookmaker odds each week or so as I get through them. As always, if I suggest a person or film that should have been nominated instead of one of the nominees, I will state who I would replace on the list.
As I try to fill in the last few remaining spots on my Oscar dance card, it looks like the first set of categories I’ve completed has to do with sound. So, let’s check in on the score, song, and sound categories, shall we?
The nominees are…
Best Original Score
Hans Zimmer for Dunkirk
Jonny Greenwood for Phantom Thread
Alexandre Desplat for The Shape of Water
John Williams for Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Carter Burwell for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
I have to say I don’t think it was a great year for scores. Of course, I often don’t notice the score in a film so I am perhaps not the best one to ask. Still, of the six movies where I thought about the quality of the score while watching, three are on this list. That is not necessarily a good thing, I thought about Dunkirk‘s score mostly because it was so overbearing and Blade Runner 2049‘s score, also by Zimmer, just reminded me of it. The other four scores I actually liked and thought added to their respective films were Greenwood’s and Burwell’s work, recognized here, as well as Daniel Hart’s score for A Ghost Story and Michael Giacchino’s score for War for the Planet of the Apes.
If you want to get a flavor of each nominated score, watch this video:
As for predictions, score is a category where people seem to vote based on the nominated people despite their names not being on the ballot (as far as I know), so you do have to take careers as well as other nominations and wins into account in any choices you make for your Oscar pool. Of the nominees, John Williams has been nominated for an Oscar fifty-one times and won five, Hans Zimmer has been nominated eleven times and won once, Alexandre Desplat has been nominated nine times and won once, Carter Burwell has been nominated once, and Jonny Greenwood is a first-time nominee.
Will Win: Alexandre Desplat for The Shape of Water. The odds-on favorite in this category right now is The Shape of Water. It is hard to know how accurate that prediction will be. I think for the moment it may be due to the sheer number of nominations for the film. Playing against an actual win is the fact that Desplat recently won for Grand Budapest Hotel. If The Shape of Water doesn’t win, I think this Oscar may go to Hans Zimmer for Dunkirk. Dunkirk is a love it or hate it score, but even I have to admit it was fairly creative. Normally, I might say Carter Burwell’s tremendous body of work (notably with the Coen brothers) and lack of nominations would be an asset here, but I think that the controversial nature of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri may preclude him from winning.
Should Win: Jonny Greenwood for Phantom Thread. In my opinion, this is the best score of the five by far. The odds are not in its favor right now, but Greenwood has been shut out from this category before on a technicality regarding pre-existing music and that may work in his favor. Also, many people are just now seeing this film since I don’t think they sent out screeners. My next favorite score is Carter Burwell’s western-flavored score for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. If you are a long-time reader, you may remember I adored his opening theme for Carol.
Should Have Been Nominated: Daniel Hart for A Ghost Story. This is one of my favorite movies from last year and it is a crime it wasn’t nominated for anything. Of course, I must admit that, by its very nature, it doesn’t fit well into many of the traditional Oscar categories; however, music is one that seemed a no-brainer to me. Who should Hart replace? Well, I really think John Williams should be satisfied with only fifty nominations.
I do love a well-placed cello:
Best Original Song
“Mighty River,” Mudbound
“Mystery of Love,” Call Me By Your Name
“Remember Me,” Coco
“Stand Up For Something,” Marshall
“This Is Me,” The Greatest Showman
I am on record multiple times stating that I wish they would do away with this farce of a category altogether, especially the performance numbers during the ceremony, but I include it here for completion’s sake (even though I haven’t seen all these films). Two of the nominees here would produce a second Oscar for their songwriters: “Remember Me” being from the writers of “Let It Go” from Frozen and “This Is Me” being from the authors of last year’s “City of Stars” from La La Land. “Stand Up for Something” is by the team of Diane Warren (nine nominations without a win) and Common (one nomination and win for “Glory” from Selma). Mary J. Blige and Sufjan Stevens are first-time nominees.
Will Win: “Remember Me” from Coco. When in doubt, go with Disney.
Should Win: “Mystery of Love” from Call Me By Your Name. Despite not liking either Sufjan Stevens or Call Me By Your Name very much, I thought “Mystery of Love” fit very well with the film.
Should Have Been Nominated: Honestly, once I learned that “I Get Overwhelmed” from A Ghost Story couldn’t be nominated because of a technicality, I stopped caring about this category.
Best Sound Editing
Blade Runner 2049
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
The two sound categories seem to confuse people a bit, so let me give you a tip: Think “E” for Effects to distinguish them. Of course, sound editing is more than just sound effects, it actually means assembling and/or creating all the sound elements you hear on screen (dialogue, incidental sounds, sound effects, etc.), but you get the idea. Sometimes the two sound categories overlap, as they do this year but, as general rule, the films in the Sound Editing category are usually more effects-driven than other films.
Will Win/Should Win: Dunkirk. As much as I hated the mixing of this film (see below), I think the effects work does deserve to be rewarded. Apparently, so does everyone else. Dunkirk is a heavy favorite over the next in line, Baby Driver.
Should Have Been Nominated: Darkest Hour. I’m no expert to be sure, but I thought Darkest Hour had some very creative sound work. At least, it is the only film besides Dunkirk where I really thought about the sound as I was watching, and so I thought it might sneak in here. I also thought that this might be one spot where Wonder Woman picked up a nomination. I could see replacing any of the above nominees except Dunkirk with either of these films.
Best Sound Mixing
Blade Runner 2049
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
If the “E” in Sound Editing should make you think of “Effects” then the “M” in Sound Mixing should make you think of “Melody” or “Music,” that is, various sounds coming together in a satisfying way. Sound Mixing means balancing all the sound elements assembled for the film by the sound editor along with the score. In essence, the sound mixer decides what and how much of each element the audience hears in the overall soundscape of a film. As Sound Editing nominations are often effects driven, the Sound Mixing category often contains musicals. Some directors are notorious for their difficult-to-understand dialogue and setting levels badly (*cough* Nolan *cough*) and really should not find themselves here.
Will Win: Dunkirk. I just can’t believe this assault on my ears could be rewarded by the academy but I guess life is just not fair.
Should Win: Anything but Dunkirk, but my vote would probably go to Baby Driver for the incredible sound synchronization work done in the film.
Should Have Been Nominated: Anything but Dunkirk. I would have liked to see Darkest Hour or War for the Planet of the Apes here. In fact, I really thought the final installment of the Apes trilogy would be more rewarded by the Academy (it only received one nomination for Visual Effects) as I thought the overall craftsmanship on display throughout the trilogy was extraordinarily high.
Which soundscapes would you like to see take home one of these golden boys?