Sound Mixing

The analysis

Loud is good when it comes to the sound categories, but what sets the nominees apart in the mixing race is the skill and diversity the mixers brought to five very different films.

“Spider-Man 2” was notable as one of the rare sequels that exceeds the original in almost every category, and sound mixing is no exception. The mix deftly brings together the sounds of Spidey and Doc Ock duking it out on a train with big sound effects, city noise and dialogue.

Possibly affecting this film’s chances is the presence on the mix team of Kevin O’Connell, who has a record 16 Oscar noms but has never taken home a trophy. O’Connell had a hefty year, also working on the “The Passion of the Christ,” “Spanglish” and “King Arthur.” His last mention was for the original “Spider-Man,” which lost out to “Chicago” (Michael Minkler, Dominic Tavella and David Lee).

Another vet in this category is Skywalker Sound’s Randy Thom, who is on the teams nominated for “The Incredibles” and “The Polar Express,” two very different animated features.

“The Incredibles” most likely has the edge, being one of the undisputed successes of the year. The mix for the film is big and loud, which Oscar voters seem to prefer, but also natural and precise. “Polar Express,” also has its loud moments, but could be hampered by the film’s initial lukewarm reception from critics and Hollywood before a slow but steady stream of ticket buyers turned it into a hit.

Music was essential to “Ray,” which owes much of its crowdpleaser status to judicious use of Ray Charles’ songs. The job successfully pulled off the illusion that star Jamie Foxx was actually performing the tunes, even though the music used was all Charles.

The subtlety of the mix Tom Fleisch-

man and Petur Hliddal created for “The Aviator” is invisible to auds but skillfully executed and so crucial to the movie that it has a good shot at landing the trophy.

The Aviator

Tom Fleischman and Petur Hliddal

Current kudos: BAFTA (nom), Cinema Audio Society (nom), Golden Satellite (nom)

Oscar pedigree: Fleischman, three noms; Hliddal, one nom

Why it’ll win: Blend of period music, aviation sounds and Hughes’ deafness makes for a potent mix.

Why it won’t: Voters seem to prefer mixes to films that are more consistently louder and obvious.

The Incredibles

Randy Thom, Gary A. Rizzo and Doc Kane

Current kudos: None

Oscar pedigree: Thom, seven noms; Kane, two noms

Why it’ll win: Was there a more-loved film this year? The sound was as convincing and as transporting as the visuals.

Why it won’t: No animated picture has ever won a sound Oscar.

The Polar Express

Randy Thom, Tom Johnson, Dennis Sand and William B. Kaplan

Current kudos: None

Oscar pedigree: Thom, seven noms; Kaplan, six noms; Johnson, five noms, two wins; Sands, four noms.

Why it’ll win: Film’s sense of quiet wonder and railroad bombast could land this film on the nice, not naughty, list.

Why it won’t: Focus on film’s animation and B.O. perf may dominate voters’ impressions of the film when it comes time to cast their ballots.

Ray

Scott Millan, Greg Orloff, Bob Beemer and Steve Cantamessa

Current kudos: BAFTA (nom), Cinema Audio Society (nom)

Oscar pedigree: Millan, four noms, two wins; Beemer, three noms, two wins

Why it’ll win: The Academy likes musicals and period pieces and this serves up a seamless blend of those elements.

Why it won’t: Stiff period competition from “The Aviator” and more obvious sound work in other films could leave “Ray” behind.

Spider-Man 2

Kevin O’Connell, Greg P. Russell, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Joseph Geisinger

Current kudos: BAFTA (nom), Golden Satellite (nom)

Oscar pedigree: O’Connell, 16 noms; Russell, nine noms

Why it’ll win: This is right up the Academy’s alley: big battles and dynamic music with tons of detail.

Why it won’t: Sequel status may prompt many to rank it behind the other superhero pic in the mix.

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