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The ACE, CAS and Scripter…Oh, my!

February 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Seven days left, folks. It’s the deep breath before the plunge. The last of the ballots are being finalized and pundits are making their final predictions. And while most of the race seems like a done deal, sealed and locked, there’s always the chance of a few upsets around the bend.

Aside from what I already mentioned, another event occurring in this final week is the rush for precursors to get their awards out before last call of the year. This weekend is a hornets nest of accolades being dished out almost faster than I can report them. While the Writers Guild is set to announce tonight, the other major screenplay award declared its winner yesterday evening. The USC Library Scripter, awarded each year to the finest example of adapting a film from another medium, went to Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash and novelist Kaui Hart Hemmings for “The Descendants.” Not at all a surprise, given the quality of the work. Personally I was predicting “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” to take this down. Also, the Scripter has absolutely no affiliation with the Academy or any other guild, so aside from common taste, this win has no impact on the Oscar outcome.

While “The Descendants” winning the Scripter was fairly expected, what was not was it’s simultaneous win with the American Cinema Editors. Forgive me, but this has to be one of the more outrageous and, more or less, absurd victories of the year. Going up against “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “Hugo,” “War Horse” and, for god’s sake, “Moneyball,” the actual winner was the least deserving of any of the dramatic nominees. It’s the only film in which the editing really adds no level of complexity or character. I really have no idea what this group was thinking. In the musical/comedy category, “The Artist” very expectantly took home the prize. Originally, this award seemed like a tight race between said frontrunner and either “Hugo” or “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Yet, with this turn of events, it seems as though “The Artist” has a huge advantage next weekend. Add it to the pile.

The final award issued last night was the Cinema Audio Society, the guild equivalent of the Best Sound Mixing Oscar. As was largely expected, “Hugo” took this award home. This year presented a fairly odd situation, with the CAS and Oscar nominees only lining up 2/5 (only the second time in the CAS’ existence that their opinions differed so radically). However, going with statistics, NEVER since the formation of the CAS has a film won Best Sound Mixing without even being nominated by the guild. That would leave “Moneyball” and “Hugo.” With the latter winning the support from the guild, it has more than confirmed its frontrunner status. In fact a sweep of both sound categories is becoming more and more likely, but we’ll wait on the Motion Picture Sound Editors to announce, tonight.

With the WGA hours away, weighing extremely on the adapted screenplay field, I’ll make a prediction. However, my choice is definitely a lot more wishful thinking than common sense. If “Moneyball” takes this award down, it will reassert itself at the head of the pack (making me one happy pundit), although “The Descendants” is a steep wall to climb and the odds are definitely in its corner. I’ll stick with my favorite horse, though, but whatever wins here, will likely go on to Oscar gold.

Interestingly, while the adapted field will likely be decided tonight, the WGA’s Best Original Screenplay award will have little to no impact on the Oscar’s equivalent, barring any unforeseen upset. “Midnight in Paris” will likely take this award in a walk, but still move on to a dogfight next Sunday. That’s because the film’s stiffest opposition will not even be competing tonight. “The Artist,” which has basically become either the frontrunner or a threat in all of its categories, fell victim to the WGA’s strict eligibility rules. Therefore, even if Woody the Great is the winner tonight, “The Artist” just might be the odds-on favorite in seven days. It will be one of the night’s closest races for sure.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for updates from tonight’s awards, as well as the announcement of the 2nd Annual Edgy nominations. It’s about to get interesting.

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2012 Cinema Audio Society Nominations

January 19, 2012 1 comment

I’m not gonna lie. I always get truly psyched about this particular guild every year. It’s not that I have extensive experience in the field of sound mixing, nor have a particular penchant for the medium (though I certainly enjoy a great 5.1 mix on my home theater system as much as the next person). I suppose I get enthralled by the CAS just because of the massive wrench that they usually throw into the works.

This is no ordinary wrench, though. The CAS often has a tendency to name some completely unexpected sound mixes, ones that were once considered done and out of the race. A person might be immediately inclined to dismiss these nominees and say to themselves, “There’s no way the Academy will go this route.” Yet, that’s the crazy thing about the CAS is that they aren’t just a small part of the race, they really do define it. In the last ten years, the CAS has correctly forecasted at least 4/5 Oscar nominees six times. The other four years, they were 3/5. In the Society’s eighteen year existence, only once has their lineup been as low as a 2/5 matchup, and never less than that. Not a bad record.

The nominees for this year’s Cinema Audio Society are as follows:

“Hanna”

“Hugo”

“Moneyball”

“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”

“Super 8”

When it comes to these nominees, I just have to stop and observe a moment of unadulterated joy for the recognition paid to the sound crew of “Hanna.” In my mind, this is, and has been from 2011’s outset, one of the year’s most intricate and powerful works of audio. After viewing it again on blu ray, my opinion has not changed. Listening to this sound mix on a 5.1 system is like having God in your living room. Fabulous work that, even if it does not go beyond this point, is worthy of it’s moment of glory.

Among the rest of the nominees, the second biggest surprise was the inclusion of “Moneyball.” This might be the most easy to dismiss pick of the bunch, but there’s a lot going on in that mix. Plus, Sorkin dialogue does take a lot of post-production audio to make it work. I can’t say I’m too thrilled to see the fourth “Pirates” movie show up here. I mean, come on. Do we really need to keep awarding this franchise for beating itself to death and taking the audience down with it? And speaking of a film beating itself to death, one such flick that wholly deserved a nomination here and failed was “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” The film itself is nothing to be proud of, but every two years, this franchise astounds us with it’s insanely detailed aural accomplishments and it should have taken the “Pirates” slot.

It’s nice to see “Super 8” pick up some steam, here. I was close to considering it down and out after it got eliminated from the Visual Effects finalists. Yet, there’s some great work happening amongst all that alien ruckus that Oscar should consider. And finally there’s “Hugo,” the one name here that I don’t think anyone was surprised to see. Don’t be shocked if it goes on to pocket the award for both this and the perennial honors in February.

In closing, I leave you with this clip from the film, “Hanna.” While it’s impossible to truly appreciate the sound mix without a high quality, multi-channel playback, this scene, alone deserves all the credit in the world. My advisement: rent or buy this movie on blu ray as soon as possible, and go ahead and buy a home theater system just to watch it on.