Oscars 2017: Can ‘La La Land’ Win in the Best Sound Editing Category?
By: Carson Blackwelder
Not only has La La Land made history by tying the record for the most Oscar nominations ever, but it also has the honor of being the first-ever musical nominated in the best sound editing category. With breaking boundaries for the genre, Damien Chazelle’s song-and-dance masterpiece could also become the first musical to actually win the trophy in this little-known category. Let’s do a deep dive and try to figure out how the Academy will react to La La Land in regards to this specific race.
As mentioned above, La La Land is breaking new ground for musicals in the best sound editing category and is up against Arrival, Deepwater Horizon, Hacksaw Ridge, and Sully. That being said, it’s also keeping with the trend of musicals being nominated in the best sound mixing category. While no musical has ever been nominated for best sound editing, five of the 10 best picture-winning musicals were nominated for and ultimately won for best sound mixing. This win will be pertinent if the Ryan Gosling– and Emma Stone-led movie will emerge as the most-awarded film in Oscar history. Additionally, La La Land has the distinction of having the first female duo to be nominated in the category with Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan.
When looking at the history of these two technical categories, they’ve changed quite a few times throughout the years — but let’s focus on the best sound editing category. What ultimately became known as the best sound editing category originated at the Academy Awards ceremony in 1964 and has been called best sound effects and best sound effects editing throughout the years. For the first few years of the category there were only two nominees. Then, for about a decade and a half, they skipped the award — only bringing it back four times for “special achievement” reasons. Once the category was back in action there were still only a few nominees and a few more “special achievement” moments mixed in. It wasn’t until the ceremony in 2007 that we saw the standard five nominees each year.
If you’re wondering what the big difference between sound editing and sound mixing is exactly, you’re not alone. Deadline describes both sound editors and sound mixers with the befitting musical term of conductors, with the sound editors creating the sounds and sound mixers taking those sounds and finding the best way to balance them. Variety, on the other hand, takes and even simpler approach and looks at them in purely alphabetical terms, noting that “E” comes before “M” and therefore sound editing comes before sound mixing in the filmmaking process. Easy, huh?
The general consensus when it comes to how the Academy awards films with trophies in these two categories is that the Oscar for sound editing usually goes to a movie with lots of action, bullets, explosions — with some of the wins in the 21st century being Pearl Harbor, The Dark Knight, The Hurt Locker, American Sniper, and Mad Max: Fury Road. As for the Oscar for sound mixing, that honor typically goes to musical or music-heavy films — with some of the wins since the turn of the millennium being Chicago, Ray, Dreamgirls, Les Misérables, and Whiplash. While there’s more of a distinction between best sound editing and best sound mixing, trophies for both of these categories have overlapped eight times since the 2000 ceremony.
When considering how the Academy will lean this year, let’s start off by noting that The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg, per his most recent Oscars forecast, believes that La La Land is the frontrunner. If no musical has ever even been nominated in the category, it speaks leaps and bounds that it’s even in consideration for the trophy. If the Academy loves the L.A.-set musical so much to make it the first in the genre to be up for the award, maybe they’re itching to have it continue to make history with a win.
We don’t have to wait much longer until we find out just how well La La Land performs at the 89th Academy Awards as they take place on February 26. So just sit back, relax, and wait patiently to see if this charm-oozing musical will be able to do the unthinkable and win in the best sound editing category on its march into the history books.