Friday, January 26, 2007

SOUND NOMINATIONS

The Motion Picture Sound Editors have posted nominations in their many sound categories. As Past President and Lifetime Board Member of the organization, I know a lot about how they do their nominations. They have the most thorough and inclusive nominations of any group can think of, including the Oscars.

In feature films, there are two ways to be nominated. First there is a ballot sent to all active members of the organization who can write in any film they like that qualifies. The top vote-getters in each category are automatically nominated. However, this purely democratic process means that films that get a big release are much more likely to get more votes, since smaller films will be seen by less people. To make up for this, there is also Blue Ribbon Panel which screens every film that is submitted. The panel then recommends additional nominations to the board.

Several of the categories will end up with as many as 8 nominees. This is because we try to be as inclusive as possible. There are definitely more than 5 films a year that deserve recognition. We also have many categories. The Oscars only present the award to the Supervising Sound Editors. If you look at the credits to a film, you'll see literally dozens of sound editors on any movie. We also recognize Dialogue/ADR editors and Music Editors. We recognize all media, including television, video, and computer entertainment.

I'm extremely excited that this year in the student category, one of my 310 students from last semester, Kevin Klauber, has been nominated for his excellent film BIO-RHYTHMS. (No, I'm not on that Blue Ribbon Panel, and I don't even know who is.) I've been involved with the MPSE for 20 years and I've never seen a 310-level film get nominated before. Advanced and thesis level films, yes, although frankly USC has not had a great track record with the awards. I think the main reason is that so many films at USC films are "talkies," i.e., everyone sitting around talking in close-ups, that the lack of creativity visually means that there's very little opportunity for inventive sound design. Kevin's film is not a traditional narrative, it's an experimental film with no dialogue at all, and therefore encourages creative use of sound. Even the title of the film was made with sound in mind; it's about the natural rhythms all around us. Credit also his partner Freddie Wong, his Foley Artists Victor Lacour and James Owsley, and his mixer, another former student of mine, Jan Pfenninger, who is an Animation major.

I myself was also nominated in one of the television categories for my work on the ABC miniseries THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, starring Dougray Scott, Omar Shariff, and Claire Bloom. The film won't (and shouldn't) win, but I'm very proud of the work I did on it, as it was a tremendous challenge.

In Domestic Feature Sound Effects/Foley Editing, BLOOD DIAMOND*, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS*, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA*, M:I 3, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN*, THE PRESTIGE, SUPERMAN RETURNS, and WORLD TRADE CENTER were nominated.

The four films with asterisks above were also nominated for the Oscar for Sound Editing. The fifth Oscar nominee, APOCALYPTO, was not nominated for the Effects MPSE, but was nominated for both Dialogue Editing and Music Editing, so we're in good agreement on the Oscars.

The MPSE is different from the Academy in the way that they determine "Foreign" films. In the Academy, it's Foreign LANGUAGE film (although their rules are a little screwy; IWO JIMA was not eligible in Foreign because it was a US production, even though it's in Japanese.) In the MPSE, we determine if a film is Foreign based on where the sound editing is done. This category has changed significantly in recent years with the huge amount of work going overseas. You'll see that many otherwise American, English-language films end up in our Foreign category.

In Foreign Sound Editing, BABEL, BLACK DAHLIA, CASINO ROYALE, CHILDREN OF MEN, CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER, LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN, PAN'S LABYRINTH and UNITED 93 were nominated.

I'm also on the Board of Directors of the Cinema Audio Society who have their own awards for Sound Mixing. Sound Editing and Sound Mixing are entirely different crafts. Most people do not do both. Sound Editors find the right sounds, either by recording them or finding them in a library, and edit them into synch with the picture. Re-recording mixers take all of the elements delivered by the many sound editors and blend into the proper perspective with each other.

The CAS nominees for Feature Sound Mixing are: BABEL, BLOOD DIAMOND, DREAMGIRLS, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST. You'll notice a lot of crossover from the editing awards. (DREAMGIRLS was nominated in the MPSE Musicals category.) A mixer can't do a great job without great tracks delivered, and an editor's brilliant work needs an mixer's touch to make it all work. The Oscars nominated APOCALYPTO instead of BABEL for mixing.

Since I'm personally involved with both of these organizations, I'm not going to make predictions on their outcome, only say that there were a lot of great, great sounding films this year, and every nominee is worthy in their own way.
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