Not every tech category where No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood are facing off will settle in either of their favor. Case in point, and waaay down on the totem pole for most Oscar pool voters, is Best Sound Editing. Because it’s the sister sound award, Best Sound Mixing, that gets the more tasteful shorthand designation of “Best Sound” over on IMDB, we have to assume many will take this award to mean Biggest, Brashest Boomage, even though it’s the other sound category where you’ll find Steven O’Donnell, the Susan Lucci of big, dumb action spectacles, nominated. (What? His name’s Kevin O’Connell? Oops, well there goes the notion that the PR behind his campaign has made him into a household name. We promise to get his name right in a couple days when we get around to his category.) Because There Will Be Blood’s textures are more apt to convey the ominous creaks of wooden oil derricks, and because the most tangible sonic effect is Daniel Day-Lewis’s roar, I doubt it’s much contest for No Country’s terrifying web of gunfire and ricochets. But even No Country’s sonic tour de force might read more as a coup in sound mixing. This is the category where shattering panes of glass, screeching tires, and flying knives tend to stake their claim of the territory, meaning cunning Oscar pool voters might want to use this category as an opportunity to deviate from the “vote for the Best Picture nominee” ethos that will probably decide more categories than usual this year. Pixar won this category three years back with The Incredibles, so Ratatouille may find similar success with the same recipe of sound-from-scratch. Transformers, all heavy-duty kazoos, is the traditionalist’s choice in this field. When in doubt, though, it’s never a bad idea to bet against the adult-contemporary action movie with a relatively strong critical pedigree. So, in the spirit of Speed, The Matrix, and Master and Commander (and, arguably, Saving Private Ryan and Letters from Iwo Jima), we see voters using this award to christen the Jason Bourne series as the great white hope for reasonably intelligent Hollywood actioneers.
Will Win: The Bourne Ultimatum
Should Win: No Country for Old Men