2016 Best Sound Design Nominees

Sound design is always tricky to discernably remember months later when I’m putting together awards like this and as such this category has long been difficult for me to comfortably pick out.  In the past I’ve just picked out the five loudest action movies of the year and called it a day, but recently I’ve been trying to find some slightly less obvious choices that had quirky little audio challenges all their own.

  • Arrival: Arrival is at it’s heart a big Hollywood movie whose audio track has a lot of the usual stuff you expect from such movies like helicopters flying around and at least one explosion, but what really put it here was a different element which was all the movies own: namely the work put into creating the alien language with all the clicking and whatnot.  I doubt they actually took the time to actually give that language a discernable pattern but it sounds like they at least could have.
  • Darling: Darling is a movie that has a relatively spare amount of dialog in it and not a whole lot in the way of conventional music.  As such it must fill a lot of space with unusual sounds that replicate the protagonist’s state of mind.  Each time there’s a subliminal insert (which there frequently is) there’s a harsh tone that comes in and gives sort of a jump scare and when the film does get gory at one point the sound is appropriately squishy.
  • Doctor Strange: Superhero movies have long been a great showcase of sound design simply because they’re big action movies with explosions going on in every direction.  That’s certainly true of this movie as well but there are added elements that also challenged the sound designers, specifically the various sound effects for the magic powers on display and the special magical realms that Strange goes into.
  • Jackie: Jackie isn’t a very loud movie and it doesn’t have a ton of surround sound elements (that I remember) but it does do a few interesting things that I think are worth noting.  For one thing I was fascinated by certain decisions made in the “Tour of the White House” section where Larrain is emulating the production quality of the original TV special and must use period accurate sound distortions on Portman’s newly recorded dialog.
  • Sully: Obviously the sound theatrics to this movie is centered around the big crash sequence at its center.  For one thing, the way it recreates the sound of those bird impacts from inside the cockpit and the cabin is ominous and interesting.  Then of course there’s the sound of all the radios and the sound of the plane going down.  And of course there’s that sweet sound of the plane hitting the water at the big moment.

And the Golden Stake goes to…