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Tuesday, February 21, 2017
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Oscars: How Well Do the Cinema Audio Society Awards Predict the Best Sound Mixing Winner?

'La La Land' (Courtesy: Lionsgate)

‘La La Land’ (Courtesy: Lionsgate)

By: Carson Blackwelder
Managing Editor

La La Land recently took home the top honors at the Cinema Audio Society Awards — but does that mean the best sound mixing Oscar is in the bag? After all, shouldn’t the folks who know make their career in sound mixing be the best ones to determine which film should ultimately go on to win at the subsequent Academy Awards? You might think so, but here’s a dive into why that’s not necessarily so.

The films nominated alongside Damien Chazelle’s modern musical in the best sound mixing category include Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Upon first look, you might recognize that La La Land doesn’t exactly fit in with these other films, as most of them are in the war genre. Hacksaw Ridge is set during World War II, Rogue One depicts a fictional space battle, and 13 Hours focuses on a wave of terrorists attacks in Libya in 2012. Arrival, while it contains militaristic themes and characters, is largely a smart sci-fi film. La La Land, with its tap dancing and moody songs, is a 180-degree turn from its competition.

As for which film will win the best sound mixing Oscar, The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg predicts that the trophy will go to La La Land when is all said and done. This isn’t that tough of a call considering this category tends to favor the genre. Five of the 10 musicals that won best picture — an esteemed group La La Land is likely to join this Sunday — all won in the category. It’s the best sound editing category, on the other hand, that will be harder to win since no musical has ever even been nominated.

Now let’s start looking at how the Cinema Audio Society Awards has tended to predict the winner of the best sound mixing Oscar. The two have co-existed since 1994, the first time both handed out their accolades which means there have been 23 times they’ve overlapped. Of those 23 times, the Cinema Audio Society Awards have recognized the film that eventually went on to win the corresponding Oscar a grand total of 12 times. If you do the math, that puts the rate at which these two organizations agreed on this category at just over 52% — or just a little over half. Even the fact that the Cinema Audio Society Awards are handed out just before Oscar voting ends, it doesn’t seem as though that plays a part in whether or not the Academy chooses the same film to honor.

The films that have been agreed on by the Cinema Audio Society Awards and the Oscars in terms of best sound mixing are: Apollo 13, The English Patient, Titanic, Saving Private Ryan, The Matrix, Gladiator, Dreamgirls, Slumdog Millionaire, The Hurt Locker, Hugo, Les Misérables, and Gravity. The films that won the Oscar without having previously won the corresponding guild award include: Jurassic Park, Speed, Black Hawk Down, Chicago, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Ray, King Kong, The Bourne Ultimatum, Inception, Whiplash, and Mad Max: Fury Road. Films that won the guild award without winning the Oscar include: The Fugitive, Forrest Gump, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Road to Perdition, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, The Aviator, Walk the Line, No Country for Old Men, True Grit, Birdman, and The Revenant.

If there’s one thing to point out here it’s that all of these winning films seem to reflect this year’s collection of the Academy Awards nominees: a few war films with a lot of action, a few sci-fi films with atmosphere to ooze, and even a few musicals thrown in the mix. There was never a year the film that topped the Cinema Audio Society Awards wasn’t at least nominated in the best sound mixing category at the Oscars.

Here’s the most interesting tidbit about this whole relationship between the Cinema Audio Society Awards and the Oscars. In regards to how the Oscars names their nominees, that duty is bestowed upon the Academy’s sound branch to pick the films that will fill the category’s coveted five spots. Between those active and retired, there are 533 members in the sound branch responsible for choosing the nominees while the entire 7,373 members of the entire Academy choose the winner. This means that only a little over 7% of the entire Academy — per data from December 2016 — chooses the nominees while everyone — knowledgeable about sound mixing or not — determines who wins.

We only have a few short days before finding out if La La Land is able to snag the best sound mixing Oscar after winning the top honor at the Cinema Audio Society Awards. Doing so would improve upon the percentage of them mirroring each other but, as we can see from the info above, there’s nearly an equal chance that it doesn’t win. That being said, it’s hard to deny the force that is La La Land — which is tied for having the most Academy Award nominations — and its seemingly unending musical pull.

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