Experts' ears hear big things in small touches

Sound pros spend months and months working on the nitty-gritty of a film’s soundscape, so they appreciate what it takes to make a film audibly work. Variety polled some of the biz’s top sound mixers, supervising sound editors and sound designers on what tracks stood out this year.

Karen Baker Landers
Supervising sound editor on “American Gangster”
“I just saw ‘Hairspray’ on a flight home from Switzerland. I loved it. Musicals are tough, because you want to serve the film and what’s on the screen. You need the dialogue to come across and you’re telling a story through song. I thought the mix was fantastic, I thought the music was great, and I thought the sound effects were well done.”

Per Hallberg
Supervising sound editor on “American Gangster”
“I’m a little tired of the big, loud (films). When I (listen to) a film, my criteria are: Did that fit? Did it work with the movie? When you see a film like ‘Into the Wild,’ it was simple, it was beautiful and (the sound) fit that film so well.”

Christopher Boyes
Sound re-recording mixer on “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”
“‘Michael Clayton.’ I thought it was a great mix. What I liked about it is that they were able to use very subtle sounds, very quietly and have them be effective because the track wasn’t crowded with a whole lot of other thick music or atmospheres.”

Randy Thom
Sound re-recording mixer on “Ratatouille”
“It’s always the unusual things that get my attention. I liked the use of sound in ‘No Country for Old Men.’ It’s a film that uses sound very sparsely, so when a movie like that comes along, it’s like a vacation for the ears in a way.”

Scott Millan
Sound re-recording mixer on “The Bourne Ultimatum”
“Because the story engaged sound so much, I enjoyed ‘August Rush.’ It’s a total fantasy, but sound plays a large role and it’s part of the plot.”

Richard King
Sound designer and supervising sound editor on “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”
“A film that really impressed me soundwise was ‘Zodiac,’ which for some reason isn’t getting much attention. I thought it was a really good movie, and I thought it was a really creative, thoughtful soundtrack.”

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