The sound category that more often rewards nuance probably deserves a little bit more consideration than I gave to sound editing (by my estimation an Avatar free spot) a few days ago. That said, scratch everything that isn’t a Best Picture nominee here right from the get-go. Too many scores to settle with this Avatar/Hurt Locker/Basterds three-way dominating all sorts of subheads down-ballot, and neither the Starship reboot nor the Optimus rehash even remotely flipped the template to the extent they’d have needed to in order to register among the three-headed Best Picture hydra. Of those three, Basterds is probably in the most precarious position, despite the roaring majesty of Mélanie Laurent playing a cinematic Carrie to the Nazi Party’s prom night. Ultimately, you have to dock Tarantino’s film a few ballots to take into account the voting demographic that thinks David Bowie ended up on the soundtrack by mistake.
Nope, it’s looking like Best Sound Mixing, like Best Picture, is a battle between the post-analogue revolution and the little action pic that could. Personally, we think there’s little contest between Avatar’s impressively directional but mostly intractable noise and Hurt Locker’s ominous use of dynamics, both spatially and musically speaking. Renner, Mackie, and Geraghty’s nighttime sprint into total, artillery-punctuated darkness alone would merit the award, and it bears mentioning that the Cinema Audio Society is with us in favoring Kathryn Bigelow’s film to James Cameron’s. But Academy members’ taste for nuance only stretches so far in this category. For every English Patient, there’s another King Kong and, this year, Avatar is a little bit of both.
Will Win: Avatar
Should Win: The Hurt Locker