Sunday, December 06, 2015

December Oscar Predictions: The Aural Categories

We continue on our weeklong look at the Oscars and where they stand before all of the precursors bring them into a bit more focus, and today it's time to discuss the aural categories-the music and sound competitions that invite conversations about which pop stars will be performing during the ceremony and what exactly the difference between mixing and editing is.  Shall we?

Original Score

The first question one should always ask before predicting this category is whether or not John Williams is composing a score this year.  In the past thirty years, Williams has only missed three years where he had an eligible score, and with 49 nominations, is the second-most nominated person ever after Walt Disney.  This year, he oddly enough skipped out on Steven Spielberg's Bridge of Spies, Spielberg's first film not to be composed by Williams since The Color Purple (instead Thomas Newman, another multiply-nominated composer, took the helm), but he conducted Star Wars: The Force Awakens and only a fool would bet against this being his fiftieth.

Joining Williams in the "legendary" category is Ennio Morricone, a five-time Oscar nominee who won the Honorary Award a few years ago, but who has never actually picked up a competitive trophy.  Morricone (who, along with Williams, is my favorite working composer), seems assured a citation for Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight, especially considering his history with westerns.  This category's history of going with men (and Rachel Portman) who have been previously nominated should also bode well for Michael Giacchino and Alexandre Desplat, who both have won Oscars and have Inside Out and The Danish Girl, respectively, to help their cause.  Desplat, who works like a madman, also have Suffragette as an insurance policy.

Other contenders could include James Newton Howard (Concussion), Dario Marianelli (Everest), Howard Shore (Spotlight), Patrick Doyle (Cinderella), and Alan Silvestri (The Walk), though it usually only seems like they go with random previous nominees and their films when there's a shortage of contenders, and Desplat, Giacchino, Williams, Morricone, and Newman are hardly what you'd consider lightweights or newbies.  The better shot may be a first-timer, and there are surely some men like Carter Burwell (Carol) and Harry Gregson-Williams (The Martian) whom it's kind of hard to believe have never been nominated for an Oscar considering their years of scoring.  Ryuichi Sakamoto (The Revenant) is a name that isn't as well known as Burwell's or Gregson-Williams, but don't discount him if the film takes off.  And of course, there's the possibility that AMPAS is feeling sentimental, and goes with either Southpaw or The 33 as a tribute to Oscar-winner James Horner, who died in a plane crash earlier this year.

My Predictions: Bridge of Spies, The Danish Girl, The Hateful Eight, Inside Out, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Original Song

The category that no one can really get a gage upon until we get the qualifier list (and, alongside Best Makeup, is the one most likely to throw in something completely random ala Alone Yet Not Alone).  While it's always a wee bit hard to tell if a film is going to be eligible (this branch gets pretty random in terms of what should be counted), I suspect that Lady Gaga and Diane Warren are the frontrunners for the win for The Hunting Ground, with Gaga being an Academy favorite after her well-reviewed turn last year during The Sound of Music tribute, and Warren being a 7-time Oscar nominee that has never won the statue yet.

Other names in the running include some big-time stars like Sam Smith (Spectre), Wiz Khalifa (Furious 7), and Jessie J (Pitch Perfect 2), though it's questionable whether or not the source materials there will be too much for the Academy to handle (this branch has a history of handing out "Oscar-nominated" to some odd movies, but perhaps even the Music branch has its limits).  If they're feeling really strange, they might even go for Fifty Shades of Grey, as Ellie Goulding's "Love Me Like You Do" was constantly on the radio this past year and appears to be eligible.  A better shot at a big name is Brian Wilson, whose "One Kind of Love" is probably going to be hard for the Academy to pass up and may be Gaga's biggest competition considering the personal nature of the film and Wilson's place as one of the giants of pop music.

You don't have to be a gigantic figure in music, though, to be under consideration.  "I'll See You in My Dreams" and "Cold One" (from Ricki and the Flash) both are signature moments in their films, and considering Blythe Danner and Meryl Streep star in those films, there's a good chance people will have seen them.  And of course there's Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lang, whose "Simple Song #3" gets a two-hour buildup in Youth, which may be hard to ignore considering the film is about a composer.  Of course, these are just the contenders at the moment-surely when the Globes announce their nominees and the shortlist comes out, we're going to discover a host of songs we didn't even realize existed that are eligible this year.  For now, though...

My Predictions: Furious 7, The Hunting Ground, Love & Mercy, Ricki and the Flash, Youth

Sound Mixing

Musicals, Best Pictures, and action-films typically dominate here, so it's pretty easy to see that The Martian, checking two out of three of those boxes, is the best place to start.  Space films are great for the sound categories, and I have trouble imagining this film missing even if the film isn't as big as I'm expecting.  Joining it may well be Creed, a boxing picture (another favorite here) that seems to be peaking at just the right time.

Outside of those two nothing appears to be a slam dunk, though I would suspect that if critics like it (and don't you feel like Disney and Twitter are going to force them to?), Star Wars should be considered a pretty decent shot here (the series is batting .667 right now in the category).  Ex Machina, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Jurassic World are all also contenders if the films are better-received than expected by the Oscars, but I'm guessing they'll have a better shot at Editing if they make it at all.  Mad Max may have the better shot, considering its prestige and the way it's doing with critics (I expect it to be on dozens of year-end lists in the next couple of weeks), but Inside Out could be strong competition considering its likelihood of being on Top 10 lists and the fact that Pixar has a healthy record in the sound categories (though again, better in editing).  It's hard to tell whether 2012 was a fluke or whether or not the Oscars suddenly have a crush on James Bond, as Spectre could make it but it wasn't as well-received as the previous entry so Skyfall could be a one-time thing.

In the Heart of the Sea feels like one of those films that should be considered in the sound categories, and maybe if it makes a splash (I hate myself) it could, but this film has been remarkably silent heading into the holiday season, don't you think?  Straight Outta Compton is not an Academy film in any way, shape, or form, but it's the only serious musical this season and will that make a difference in a category that likes at least one musical to be in the running?  Finally, it would be foolish to discount The Revenant, especially considering we don't have a lot of Best Picture frontrunners in this race and the film is likely to rely heavily on chills brought on by drops in sound.

My Predictions: Creed, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Sound Editing

Here's a little secret about the Oscars-you take the five films you predict for Sound Mixing, and assume all five are in the Top 7 for Editing unless one of them is a musical.  Since I didn't predict a musical, it has to be said that Creed, Mad Max, The Martian, The Revenant, and Star Wars should all be considered toward the top of any predictions here, as the branch has a sharp history of going with an 80% match between the two categories.

What films could do better here?  Effects driven films, particularly ones dealing with transportation or animation.  Inside Out has to have a better shot here considering Pixar's long history with the category that has been a bit jaded since they took their decline in quality a few years back.  The same can be said for In the Heart of the Sea, a gigantic sea voyage that will surely have its share of water-y effects, or The Hateful Eight, which will likely be a sea of gun powder and explosions if past Tarantino films are any indication.  I would think The Avengers, Spectre, and in particular Jurassic World would be a better shot here due to their huge budgets and being the most crash-heavy films of the year, though it may be that the films don't quite have the "newness" required for a nomination.  Finally, you can't entirely throw out Ex Machina-it's difficult to imagine the Oscars seeing the film and not wanting to cite its whirling robots in this category, but will enough people actually catch the movie?

My Predictions: Creed, In the Heart of the Sea, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

And there we are-my guesses at this year's nominees in the sound categories.  We'll finish up early this next week as I take a look at the Best Picture categories, but in the meantime share your thoughts on which films are likely to get nominated and snubbed at the 2015 Oscars!

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