It’s too bad the guild award that most strongly corresponds with this category—the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ “Golden Reel”—doesn’t get handed out until Feb. 24. Granted, the award is sketchy enough as a prognosticator to not only nominate seemingly as many films as they damn well please (last year it was seven, this year eight—and that’s not even counting their extra set of nominations for what they consider “foreign films,” a group which this year includes such from-distant-lands candidates as The Black Dahlia and Lucky Number Slevin...but NOT Letters from Iwo Jima) but also give their award out fairly sensibly (choosing War of the Worlds instead of Oscar winner King Kong, Road to Perdition instead of Oscar-winner The Two Towers and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon instead of, um, Oscar-winning U-571). Still, it could’ve really helped out this year to know what they preferred, since the Academy’s sound editing branch got a little crazy this year and opened up their category to include five nominees for the first time. Apparently they just simply couldn’t choose between Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. We can (those muffled flashbacks in Flags of Our Fathers are the aural equivalent of Babel’s smug, flatly associative shock cuts), but we’re pretty sure the Academy can’t. Apocalypto is the only nominee that didn’t manage to crack into the exclusive “Golden Reel” club of 16. Since voters at large seem to prefer rewarding sonic environments that emphasize the loudly synthetic over legitimately dynamic work (1999: The Matrix over Fight Club), we’ll say Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest has the edge over Blood Diamond...unless, like us, you think Leo’s accent is from another world.
Should Win: Apocalypto