In the five years since this category, which was previous known as Best Sound Effects, was bumped up from three to five nominations, it has matched up with the Best Sound Mixing slate for four out of those five slots every year. Except this year. Only Inception and, somewhat more puzzlingly, True Grit managed nominations in both fields this year. Which either goes to show the ever-widening quality gulf between the sort of effects-laden blockbusters that get cited here and the more nuanced work that earns nominations in the other category. Yeah, yeah, Salt, which got nominated for Sound Mixing, is a dozen times worse—and noisier—than any movie nominated here this year. No one said the patterns were infallible. Especially not this year, in our confusing, post-The Hurt Locker era.
We admit we're still reeling from Avatar's shocking, albeit edifying, loss to Kathryn Bigelow's atmospheric shadings, so we're almost tempted to consider the possibility that unthinkable things can continue to happen in this category, like Pixar finally taking a second trophy after four straight losses and a 1-in-7 overall record. Toy Story 3 opens with the series's most overtly action-oriented foley work and ends with a garbage incinerator straight out of Dante's Inferno. As bad as Pixar's luck is in Sound Editing, it's no worse than Tony Scott's, no matter how much metal shrieking he throws at movie theaters' Dolby setups like Italian chefs slinging spaghetti at the kitchen wall. So call it Stoppable. The last and, to date, only time Oscar responded to electronica beats in place of crunching cogs or creaking ships was in 1999 with The Matrix, so don't bet on TRON: Legacy's corny but effective video game ambiance.
No, despite last year's compass-skewing result, we're betting that voters revert back to putting their support behind the action blockbuster most palatable to middlebrows. Because True Grit is a middlebrow action epic for all of about 45 seconds, Inception it is.
Will Win: Inception
Could Win: Toy Story 3
Should Win: TRON: Legacy