One of the remaining questions of Oscars 2017 is whether or not the Academy flips for La La Land. Will the steak eaters be blown away? What of the actors and that pesky non-nomination for SAG Ensemble? How many musicals have gotten a sound editing nomination?
The answer is that no musical has ever gotten a sound editing nomination. That would mean they were head over heels, ass over elbow in love with La La Land, right?
Let’s quickly examine the sound editing category. It started in 1963, so it’s relatively new by Oscar standards, since we’re in their 89th year.
From 1963 to 1967, there were just two nominees per category. Then they skipped that award from 1968 to 1974 and the brought it back here and there, once for The Hindenburg and once for Close Encounters of the Third Kind and once for The Black Stallion. And again for Raiders of the Lost Ark – all of these were “special achievements.”
Finally, by the 1982, there was a category, with nominees. It seems to coincide with the rise of Spielbergian Hollywood, effects-driven films that needed a sound editing category all their own.
From 1982 to 1992, only one Best Picture nominee hit the sound editing category and that was E.T the Extraterrestrial. In 1993, The Fugitive landed in that category. Forrest Gump a year later, which won Best Picture and Braveheart the following the year, which won both Sound Editing and Best Picture. Titanic was another to win both the year after that, and Saving Private Ryan, which almost won Best Picture, won sound editing.
In 2006, the category jumped to five nominees and since then, it was easier for films to land in both the Best Picture and sound editing categories.
In looking over the nominees and winners, what seems to drive sound editing is bullets and machinery clicking and loading and firing, or a lot of technical moving parts that have to sound real. Of all of them, the one that stands out the most to me is Slumdog Millionaire, which was a phenom that not only was nominated for a SAG Ensemble, but won it as well, with essentially no known American stars.
So, that seems to back up the idea that if they really really really love La La Land, a film that doesn’t particularly stand out for its technical moving parts but would show up out of pure love alone, I could buy that argument.
The thing about musicals, I would imagine, is that the sound mixing is where it’s at. That’s why no Chicago, or no Moulin Rouge! showed up in sound editing, although both showed up in sound mixing. Think: machines and their moving parts. Or guns or weaponry and their moving parts. American Sniper and Saving Private Ryan are two great examples of this.
I guess, at the end of the day, I would only predict La La Land in this category if I thought it was Slumdog Millionaire or Titanic, which it might be. Otherwise there are a lot of other films that seem more typical of the way they vote.
Thanks to Marshall Flores for research.