After four years of doing Golden Stakes, I’ve come to realize I probably shouldn’t do this award. I don’t really know much of anything about sound design; I barely understand the difference between sound editing and mixing and to make matters worse I saw a bunch of this year’s action movies on my TV which doesn’t even have surround sound. Even when I did watch the movies in proper aural environments, the sound mix tends not to have been the element I most remember. I mainly still do this out of a sense of tradition. Just bear with me.
- 127 Hours: For a movie that only has one character and takes place almost entirely outdoors, this movie has a really adventurous soundscape. Sound is used to great extent in many key moments of this movie like the boulder’s drop and a fantasy sequence where the canyon floods, but the real standout is the climactic “cutting” scene, in which well timed sounds are used to represent a particularly difficult moment in which Ralston is forced to cut into some nerves.
- Inception: There’s a lot going on in Inception, there are fist fights, gunfights, an driving score, lots of shouting, and some crazy dream effects. Taking all of these elements and making them blend into a sweet mix is not easy, all of that could turn into a complete mess if not for the intervention of people who know what they’re doing.
- The Social Network: The Social Network is largely a movie which shows people talking about computers in dark rooms, but it still has some of the most talked about audio mixing of the year. David Fincher is a believer in aural realism; he isn’t going to have people be the only ones making a sound when they’re standing in a crowded room. He does this subtlety for much of the movie, but it really becomes clear in the much talked about club scene where a pivotal conversation comes this close to being (deliberately) drowned out by music.
- Splice: Splice isn’t a very loud movie, but it does have a unique sound design challenge just the same. In creating Dren, the people involved needed to create a variety of sounds and noises for the monster to make that sound clearly unhuman and creepy while also being kind of cute. I don’t know exactly what they did to create these but it’s pretty cool just the same.
- Tron: Legacy: The only movie this year that I saw in an IMAX theater was Tron: Legacy, and that probably gives it an advantage over the rest of these movies that might be unfair. Certainly this was the most room-shakingly loud movie I saw all year, which is the same experience I had with last year’s IMAX wonder Avatar. In fact I’m told the two movies used the same sound mixer.