2015 Best Sound Design Nominees

This is the ninth Golden Stakes and thus the ninth time I’ve had to write a sort of disclaimer that I don’t know what I’m talking about in this category.  I don’t spend much time listening for sound mixes and sound effects when I go to movies and don’t even own a surround sound system for when I’m doing home viewing.  So take these with a grain of salt because they aren’t terribly well informed choices.

  • Creed: Creating a quality punching sound effect is a fine art and when it goes wrong (as it did for many a low budget kung fu movie) it can be quite the distraction, but when it’s done right it can be pretty intense.  The boxing scenes here are personified by some really loud and painful sounding blows as well as some well-chosen drops in the soundtrack after someone has been hit particularly hard.
  • The Hateful Eight: This might actually be one of the relatively quiet nominees in this category, in part because Quentin Tarantino likes to have a sort of quiet/loud/quiet dynamic to his films.  Here the name of the game is atmosphere.  The sound of the windy storm outside the film’s cabin setting is a constant presence on the film’s soundtrack and so are the various creaks on the wood floors.  The gunshots sound pretty great too.
  • Love & Mercy: Love & Mercy is certainly the lowest budget of the movies here but its music setting gives it a lot to do.   The most obvious audio showcase are the “Pet Sounds” and “Smile” recording sessions where we hear famous songs getting put together piece by piece.  But this nomination isn’t just for the music, it’s also because there are scenes where we get into Brian Wilson’s head and hear his mental illness manifest itself in aural ways like a dinner scene where he suddenly starts hearing every clank of a fork on every plate.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road: Explosions dude, explosions.  Also sounds of cars revving up and crashing into each other… and exploding.  Chains rattling as people fight one another, gunshots ringing out, gas igniting and exploding.  Workers drumming on the back of amplifier cars while a dude stands in front playing a guitar/slash flamethrower… then said car crashing into a cliff and exploding.  A lot of stuff in this movie to show off an audio system with.
  • The Revenant: This is one of those movies that would be almost unwatchable if all the sound effects were taken out.  Would the film’s central bear attack sound like if the bear didn’t have its slobbery heavy breathing?  Would that opening battle scene have worked as well if it didn’t sound like arrows and gun shots were coming from all directions?  What would the marching through the snow have been without that distinct crunch on the ground.

And the Golden Stake Goes To…