This season’s sound editing race pits the high-octane thrills of James Mangold’s “Ford v Ferrari” racing biopic against Sam Mendes’ experimental real-time world War I drama, “1917,” and Quentin Tarantino’s love letter to 1969 Tinseltown, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”
In “Ford v Ferrari,” car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) teams up with iconoclastic test driver Ken Miles to build and race the revolutionary Ford GT40 Mark I in the hopes of winning the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966. Sound editor Don Sylvester embarked on a search for vintage cars and found a guy in Ohio who built a Ford GT from scratch using vintage parts. He let them trick it out with microphones and drive it around a track. That became the hero Ford GT. Then he found a ’59 Ferrari in Atlanta, whose owner let them run it through its paces (in Florida, though, because of noise limitations in Atlanta), and that became the hero Ferrari.
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In “1917,” two young British soldiers (played by George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) must deliver a message that warns of an impending ambush in northern France. This ticking clock narrative, putting audiences in the trenches of northern France with continuous cutting, offers an immersive sonic challenge very different from Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk.”
While sound and music are always integral to the movies of Tarantino, this most personal of projects contains a more complex soundscape involving the recreation of vintage TV shows and the iconic rock hits from AM radio station KHJ, the sounds of classic cars, a martial arts fight with Bruce Lee (Mike Moh), and the violent clash with the Manson Family (including a flamethrower).
A more epic, historical soundscape was devised for Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” which zigzags rapidly through the second half of the 20th century, as mob hitman Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) recounts his career with the Philly crime family and friendship with Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). Sheeran therefore stands at the epicenter of business and political upheaval, and the sound design helps punctuate the various episodes.
Another prime contender is “Rocketman,” Dexter Fletcher’s no holds barred musical fantasy about Elton John’s surreal rise to superstardom (starring Taron Egerton). Musical director Giles Martin and sound editor Matthew Collinge created a distinctive wall of sound. Every time a song started, it opened a fantasy world and offered its own emotional context for John’s rock’n’ roll rollercoaster ride.
Other contenders include the creepy sounds of “Joker,” “Parasite,” and “The Lighthouse,” the musical soundscape for Tom Hooper’s screen adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats,” the action-packed sonic thrills of Marvel’s climactic “Avengers: Endgame,” and the final space battles conjured up for “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” the last chapter of the beloved Skywalker saga.
Contenders listed in alphabetical order. No film will be considered a frontrunner until we have seen it.
“Ford v Ferrari”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”
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