Of all the Oscar categories this year, this one perhaps best highlights the film genres that most arouse the members of its Academy branch. In a strong lineup, all of Oscar’s favorite bases are covered: one harrow- ing war film, one sci-fi fantasy, one superhero movie, one music-heavy biopic, and one high-octane action extravaganza.
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT
Viktor Prášil, Frank Kruse, Markus Stemler, Lars Ginzel, Stefan Korte
This war movie gains tremendous power from eerie lulls, such as a scene in which the low growl of tanks — then a new weapon of war — cuts through the battlefield mist. The soundtrack highlights “the industrialization and machinery of war,” director Edward Berger said, “and how that experience turned these kids into a lost generation.”
AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER
Julian Howarth, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle, Dick Bernstein, Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Michael Hedges
The sound department on James Cameron’s “Avatar” sequel was equivalent to “a mad scientist lab where you could go to figure out how to do what (Cameron) wanted,” said sound mixer Julian Howarth. His team even made an MP3 of the film’s ocean noises as a lullaby for Sigourney Weaver to fall asleep to.
Stuart Wilson, William Files, Douglas Murray, Andy Nelson
For the broodiest Batman movie ever, the noise emanating from the Caped Crusader’s vehicle matches his mood. His muscle car Batmobile revs with a layered, menacing mix of a 1970s Ford Bronco and a rocket blast. On the creepier end of the decibel meter, a single microphone inside the mask worn by the Riddler captured Paul Dano’s ominous breathing.
David Lee, Wayne Pashley, Andy Nelson, Michael Keller
Re-recording mixer Andy Nelson earned his record-extending 24th nomination and is also in the category for “The Batman.” “Elvis” marks the sixth time he’s been cited for a music-centered film. “The musical is my favorite genre to work in,” he said.
TOP GUN: MAVERICK
Mark Weingarten, James H. Mather, Al Nelson, Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor
In 1987, when there were two sound categories, the original “Top Gun” lost to a war movie (“Platoon”) and a sci-fi action film (“Aliens”). But aviation epics have often encountered very friendly skies in this category, from Oscar winners “Twelve O’Clock High” (1949) to “Dunkirk” (2017).
Three years ago, “Elvis” would have probably won for sound mixing and “Avatar” or “Top Gun” for sound editing. But with those categories now combined, all bets are off — although it’s worth noting that in the two years of the combined categories, the two nominated music-heavy films have lost to bigger, louder movies.