They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?

Below the Line Races, Part One

By J. Don Birnam

February 2, 2017

Who do I need to beat to make sure LMM gets his EGOT?

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The Oscar are just three and a half weeks away, so we'd better get a jump on analyzing the race category by category if we are gonna have any chance of helping your Oscar ballots. We start as usual with the obscure technical races, the sound, song, and makeup categories. Last year, I did pretty well in predicting these - five out of six - over one month out.

Of course, last year you had two movies heavy in tech, The Revenant and Mad Max, though the latter proved to be the most formidable of the two, in a sweep of essentially all the techs except for Cinematography.

So, how do we approach these categories this year? The last two years, as Best Picture was in flux for a few months, these races seemed open, too. This year, Best Picture is arguably a foregone conclusion. So the question becomes: “Will La La Land’s popularity carry it through to all of these on its way to a record setting or tying Oscar tally? I think the answer is yes, but let’s look at it piece by piece.

Thoughts? Comments? Here I am as usual: Twitter and Instagram.


Best Sound Mixing (aka Best Sound).

Sound Mixing is a category that prizes the overall sound of a film, including its score, dialogue, and effects. When a beloved musical is in the mix, it is almost impossible that it loses, particularly if it is up for Best Picture. Get my drift? To give you a sense of what the category rewards, past winners here include Whiplash, Les Miserables, Chicago, and Dreamgirls. Nor is it rare for Best Picture winners with showy sound to triumph here, and we have seen Slumdog Millionaire and The Hurt Locker victorious as well.

For the 89th Oscars, the nominees are Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, La La Land, Rogue Oneand 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. You can discount the last two easily - they did not appear in Sound Editing, and while Whiplash did win like that, it is a relatively rare feat.

In a year without a Best Picture juggernaut in the mix, I’d say Hacksaw Ridge as the “loudest” of the films would have a shot, ending Sound Mixer Kevin O’Connell’s nasty string of 21 nominations in his category without a win - stretching back to 1983 when he mixed the sound for Terms of Endearment. Wow!

Anyway, I fear O'Connell will have to wait his turn again, as the mixers behind La La Land will take it. Remember that Academy voters don’t see names in the “below the line” categories, just movies, so they probably don’t know they’ve snubbed O’Connell 20 times and counting. In second place I’d actually list Arrival, simply because it has more respect- based on categories of nominations - than Mel Gibson’s movie, but it’s close.

Will win: La La Land
Could win: Arrival

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