Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Oscar Watch: Tech Categories-The Aural

Just a few more weeks and it will be time for Oscar nominations to officially be announced, but that doesn't stop me from trying to sift through the fields and come up with something a little bit more concrete in my mind of what to expect to hear called out on February 2nd.

Last week, I kicked off my look at the Tech Categories with detailing all of the Visual aspects entailed (Cinematography, Visual Effects, etc.). Today, it is all about the Aural side of the Tech Categories, or in simpler terms, what you hear, not what you see. We'll take a look at everything from Sound Mixing and Sound Editing, to Original Song and Original Score. We've got a lot of ground to cover, so let's get moving taking a look at Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing all in one swoop.

There has always been a debate amongst Oscar analysts about the genuine differences between Sound Mixing and Sound Editing, some even wonder why it isn't just one category rather than two, because many times the sound mixer for a film also winds up being the film's sound editor as well. Anyways, it's two categories, so that's that.

Really, this is where big blockbusters tend to show up at the Oscars and usually nowhere else. I mean, when you think about it you're not gonna give an award all about the balances between explosions, dialogue, and epic music to a small Indie-film like An Education. Basing it off this criteria, I'd say the clear frontrunner at the moment is James Cameron's Avatar, even though I was personally more impressed with the work in J.J. Abrams Star Trek, which is also in play alongside Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and District 9. Though, I think if any film can spoil Avatar's claim in these categories, it'd be Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, which I still haven't seen, but since it's now on DVD, I might have a shot. This film is the kind of Indie-film that tends to get Oscar recognition in these categories, I mean it's a film about explosions, so just do the math. Only two dark horses stand, Inglorious Ba***rds and Sherlock Holmes, but seriously, this category is pretty much already locked in my opinion.

Moving on to Best Original Song, this category is always one that intrigues me. The music branch of the Academy is odd, there is no other way to put it. They are known for just making some really crazy, bizarre choices in the past, not to mention they are the most popular branch with the Academy to say a song or a score is inelligeble to compete. Taking this to heart, let's dive in.

This year is pretty bland for Best Original Song. The frontrunners are, "Take It All," from Nine and, "Down in New Orleans," from The Princess and the Frog. This is all over some far more intriguing songs from this year, like, "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, " from Ponyo or, "Help Yourself," from Up in the Air which has been ruled inelligeble. Taking the Academy's weirdness in this area, I'd say another song from Nine will probably make the cut, most likely being, "Cinema Italiano." The few deserving spots might go to, "The Weary Kind," from Crazy Heart and, "All is Love," from Where the Wild Things Are, but I wouldn't put my money on either of those to be sure fire contenders. The ballad, "I See You," from Avatar has a legitimate shot, seeing as how big the film is, even though the song is nothing special, and the same goes for the other big song from The Princess and the Frog, "Almost There." O.K. Enough of this bitterness, let's move on to the final category today, Best Original Score.

This is a pretty scant year for Original Scores, but there are enough good ones to make this category one worth rooting for. Michael Giacchino is leading the pack with a potential for two nominations with both Star Trek and Up, but if I had to pick one over the other, I'd pick Up to get the nom, even though his work on Trek was more impressive. Following his footsteps is Alexandre Desplat for any of his three scores: Coco Before Chanel, Fantastic Mr. Fox, or Cheri, but I think Fantastic Mr. Fox is the only one that will get a nom out of his bunch. Moving on into the field, James Horner is Giacchino's biggest threat for Avatar, and Hans Zimmer has quietly snuck into the race for his marvelous score to Sherlock Holmes. The only potential dark horses are Brian Eno for The Lovely Bones, Karen O and the Kids for Where the Wild Things Are, and Randy Newman for The Princess and the Frog, but if any of these get in, it'd be Newman.

So what do I see these categories looking like at the moment? Well, here they are:

Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing (I Think They Will Share the Same Nominees)
Star Trek
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
The Hurt Locker
District 9

Best Original Song
"I See You" from Avatar
"The Weary Kind" from Crazy Heart
"Cinema Italiano" from Nine
"Down In New Orleans" from The Princess and the Frog
"Take It All" from Nine

Best Original Score
Sherlock Holmes
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Star Trek

And that does it for this week. Tune in next week for another exciting edition of Oscar Watch!

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