As a big movie fan, I watched the 88th Academy Awards show last night (as did several million others). I was surprised by some of the winners, but still pleased – for the surprises were, in my layman’s opinion, deserving as well.
Except for two. Last night, I was disappointed at two of the winners.
As with most fans outside the industry, it is the Big Six that interest me most: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Actor. I have a special place in my heart for the writing awards (of course). I form opinions about the Cinematography award and sometimes Costumes, Set Direction, Make-up. But (for the most part) I’m happy to see the variety of talent that each offers in these categories – they are all entrancing.
It is with the more technical awards that my attention drifts and the subtleties allude me. But this year, I had paid attention. I had a favorite. This year, I wanted The Revenant to win Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing.
First of all, let me say that I have no idea what the difference is between these two categories – that shows you my level of expertise. Really, I rarely pay attention to the sound in a picture. As long as I can hear the dialogue and the sound level isn’t breaking my eardrums, I’m pretty happy.
However, from the opening scene in The Revenant, sound becomes a character itself. The brilliant engineers on this film have blocked out all of the modern sounds so that the viewers hear what the characters hear – the lonely tract of a bleak and brutal winter as it was more than a hundred years ago. A landscape that whispers its secrets and threats.
Mad Max – Fury Road took home the statues for both sound awards this year. And when it did, I shook my head. My hope was for subtle and stunning to prevail (as it did with the four awarded performers over the span of the evening). My hope was for depth to overcome flash (as it ultimately did when Best Picture went to the spectacular Spotlight). What is so award-worthy about screaming engines, loud explosions, constant banging and clanking and screaming (both human and mechanical)?
I realize that the sound awards are voted on by sound engineers who judge their peers – people who know what they are hearing and doing. So I’m sure there was something unique about Mad Max that non-technical me missed.
Still, I thought they got this one wrong.
See also Sound Bites.