The LAMB Devours the Oscars 2018: Sound Mixing and Editing

by Jay Cluitt · February 28, 2018 · Featured, LAMB Devours the Oscars · 1 Comment

Every day until the Oscars ceremony we’ll be highlighting a different category or movie here on the LAMB! Here’s a link to all the posts written so far:

Today, David Brook from Blueprint: Review is here to look at the nominees for Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing.

Ah Best Sound Mixing and Sound Editing, the two awards most viewers care the least about (other than maybe the live action and documentary shorts). It’s criminal that little love is given to film sound though, because it’s as vital as the visuals (other than in silent cinema of course). I guess it’s hard to judge the ‘best’ sound these days as all mainstream films have slickly produced audio, so I must admit I do find this award a little pointless at times, particularly when nominations and winners tend to only ever be whatever popular blockbusters came out that year as well as whatever special effects heavy films are up for Best Picture. Little thought is usually given for quieter, smaller films that make great use of sound, such as Certain Women which had a subtly beautiful aural atmosphere.

I’ve bunched both the mixing and editing awards together for a couple of reasons. For one, although I am aware of the difference between editing and mixing (in a nutshell, the former is about assembling the audio and the latter is about getting the balance right), it can be hard to separate the two when thinking about the ‘best sound’ of the year. The other reason I’ve grouped them together is that nominees for both categories are exactly the same (in terms of films, not crew members). Below are my thoughts on all nominees:

Baby Driver

I’m torn on this nomination. On one side I’m thrilled that Baby Driver got a nod for its sound editing because it’s a film that is driven (pun intended) by its soundtrack and the way the music blends with the rhythm of the film and its sound effects is fantastic (even though I felt the film as a whole was overrated). However, I actually thought the sound mix let the film down a little. I felt the music was too low in the mix in the action set pieces, which was a crime in a film so dependent on its tunes. Queen’s Brighton Rock track in the finale is particularly lost amongst the carnage of the rest of the sound effects when it should have been blaring out at full volume. Nevertheless, it’s nice to see the Academy actually think about one of the nominees and not just duplicate the same titles cluttering up the rest of the categories, so I am happy to see Baby Driver here and would love to see it win Best Sound Editing, if not Mixing.

Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 is a visual marvel so dazzling I can’t really remember much about how effective the sound was, to be honest (other than the powerful and unusual score). Technically refined to perfection though, the film deserves to take home as many of the technical awards as possible.


As happy as I was to see Baby Driver’s sound editing get some love, Dunkirk is the film I’d like to see win both awards. With very little dialogue (and what’s there is often difficult to make out – Christopher Nolan does enjoy muffling Tom Hardy), the film relies heavily on its soundtrack, and I don’t just mean it’s wonderfully experimental and ultimately emotive Hanz Zimmer score. The thrum of Spitfire engines, the brutal impact of gunfire and the thunder of German bombs are vital to the film’s visceral power. And it’s both the editing and mix that do the leg work in equal measure. The film is very intense, but it’s not a constant barrage of noise – there are frequent moments of silence and when the fire does reign down, it’s terrifyingly loud in contrast. The balance is superb and I believe the film would be crippled significantly had it received a mediocre sound job.

The Shape of Water

I haven’t seen this yet, so can’t comment, but I will say I fully expect it to take home one or both sound awards, purely because it’s the film out of this category that’s most likely to take Best Picture. From the trailers it looks gorgeous, so I imagine a lot of thought and creativity will have gone into the sound design too, particularly as the lead character is a mute.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The Star Wars films have a long history of great sound design and this is no different, but perhaps it’s not pushing any new boundaries like the first couple of films did. There are some memorable moments though, such as that hyperspace sequence which makes great use of silence. As such, I won’t be disappointed if this takes home either of the gongs in question.

Who I think will win: The Shape of Water
Who I want to win: Dunkirk

Films that should have also got nominated:
Certain Women (although this was released in 2016 in the US)
Cars 3 (movies about cars are prime for teeth rattling audio)

What do you think is going to win?