“All Quiet On The Western Front”
Viktor Prášil, Frank Kruse, Markus Stemler, Lars Ginzel, and Stefan Korte

I say this knowing I don’t know anything. Why does it feel like war and science fiction movies get nominated for Best Sound at the Academy Awards more often than most? Throw in musicals and you get quite the volume play if you were a betting man.

In terms of All Quiet On The Western Front (2022), the biggest take away I got from the movie is that while it is a war movie and it has fantastic explosions, the story also has a ton of quiet moments. It has the clicking of type writers and the chewing of food, only to be matched with exploding shells and harrowing knife stabs.

In an attached YouTube short below, the sound production crew notes how they didn’t care too much about what was accurate, rather what would be the emotive for the audience. What would draw out the same feelings of dread that the soldiers felt? They note how there are no actual recordings so no one can actually know what the horror echoed like. There are letters telling the tales of terror, so take the subjective approach and create the best product you can.

Oh, success they found. Viktor Prášil, Frank Kruse, Markus Stemler, Lars Ginzel, and Stefan Korte all earned their first Oscar nominations for All Quiet On The Western Front (2022). I personally loved them hearing about how they only destroyed one microphone during the process. They had actors and extras diving all over the place, rolling around in the mud like happy dogs. For them to use those muffled tracks still in the process of editing is so cool.

This is awesome stuff. Credit to Netflix here too for doing these short docs often. Love getting a little bit more behind the scenes!

“Avatar: The Way Of Water”
Julian Howarth, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle, Dick Bernstein, Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, and Michael Hedges

Big battle sequences, always a way to get noticed. Big battle sequences in a science fiction movie, even better.

The crew of sound designers and mixers working on Avatar: The Way Of Water (2022) is massive. Julian Howarth, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle, Dick Bernstein, Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, and Michael Hedges are those that were nominated for the Academy Award. Julian Horwath, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle, and Dick Bernstein have been nominated for four Academy Awards between them.

Christopher Boyes (King Kong (2005), The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (2003), Pearl Harbor (2001) and Titanic (1997)) has won four academy awards.

Gary Summers (Saving Private Ryan (1998), Titanic (1997), Jurassic Park (1993) and Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)) has also won four. Can we walk about Summer’s run? Holy shit. Those four movies he won for were on four straight nominations, and he teamed up with Steven Spielberg and James Cameron. Holy shit. This dude just dominated sound in the 1990s.

Let us not forget Michael Hedges, who won two Academy Awards working with Christopher Boyes on King Kong and The Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King.

So yea, a fuck ton of talent working on Avatar: The Way Of Water.

Six of James Cameron’s movies have gotten at least Oscar nominated in the sound categories. The Way Of Water, Avatar (2009), and The Abyss (1989) got nominated for Academy Awards, while Titanic, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and Aliens (1986) all took home accolades. Cameron is just a machine when it comes to creating audience spectacles that sweep you off your feet. Reading and writing about this movies nominated for sound, it is remarkable how they balance what it should sound like technically versus emotionally. For Cameron, he can do fucking both.

In an article with The Wrap, Julian Howarth talks about how he had to go fucking nuts to accommodate the unique underwater shooting settings. He had to submerge audio speakers that could communicate with the actors. He did this while having microphones underwater that were constantly recording to have ambient sounds if they were ever needed.

“The Batman”
Stuart Wilson, William Files, Douglas Murray, and Andy Nelson

You know why The Batman is here. Yes, it is for that one scene where Matt Reeves reveals the Batmobile and makes you feel like you are facing off against a rabid dog. Sure there are other components to this movie that make it a tone of fun, but let’s get down to brass tax. It is the car. It was always the car.

Two of the four men nominated for the Academy Award have won Oscars before.

Stuart Wilson won in 2019 for 1917 and has been nominated six additional times. He has worked on a lot of big budget productions that deal with a lot of crazy fan bases. Five of his seven total nominations are part of the James Bond, Star Wars and DC comic book universe. The only outlier is his first Oscar nomination in 2011 with Steven Spielberg’s War Horse.

Andy Nelson has been part of the Academy Awards since his first nomination in 1989 for Gorillas In The Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey (1988). Nelson has amassed a record 24 total Academy Award nomination. He is not afraid to double-dip either. This past year Nelson was part of The Batman and Elvis (2022). In 2016 he had Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015) and Bridge Of Spies (2015). A few years prior he won his second Oscar for Sound Mixing on Les Misérables (2012) while also hearing his name in the same category for Lincoln (2012). In 2010 he delved into science fiction with Avatar (2009) and Star Trek (2009). He struck out with both The Last Samurai (2003) and Seabiscuit (2003), but he struck gold with Saving Private Ryan (1998) in 1999. He will take the one Oscar because he beat out another one of his productions, The Thin Red Line (1998).

So Andy Nelson is a giant. Dude has worked with everyone you can possibly imagine.

I imagine it has to be a dream come true for Will Files and Douglas Murray who both earned their first Oscar nominations for The Batman.

Then there is this awesome video put together by Thomas Flight. He points out the fantastic connection between rain and mood, and how the rain in each type of scene is different. It a world that is dreary and filled with nothing but wet, gross, dampness, the sound mixing crew is able to create a vivid world that you can sense. I also really appreciate Flight for giving the dictionary definition of the word “diegetic” because I would have to look that up.

The Batman is great. Watching this YouTube video gave me a new appreciation for it. Making it even better is the connection between the score and the sound. It all works together.

David Lee, Wayne Pashley, Andy Nelson, and Michael Keller

If you are making a movie about Elvis Presley, then you have to nail the sound. That is an absolute necessity. And the one thing that I can say about Elvis is that it is loud. It is very, very loud.

The most fascinating bit about the sound of this movie is how director Baz Luhrman worked with his star Austin Butler and his sound engineers David Lee, Wayne Pashley, Andy Nelson, and Michael Keller to blend the unique sound of the original King of Rock & Roll, and that of Austin Butler.

Wayne Pashley noted in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that they used the same microphone to record every single little bit of sound that Butler recorded post production. The grunts, breathes, singing and murmurs. All of it on the same microphone. I want to know the type of microphone and why.

In the end Luhrman decided to use Butler’s solo performances for for songs from the 1950s and then use some blending for the 1960s and 1970s. Elvis was in his mid 20s when he started performing in the 1950s, so his age lines up for Butler who was in his late 20s when he began embarking on the project.

This is the kind of stuff I need to find more in my YouTube algorithm.

Top Gun: Maverick
Mark Weingarten, James H. Mather, Al Nelson, Chris Burdon, and Mark Taylor

Best Sound is the only Oscar that Top Gun: Maverick (2022) won. I am glad that it got at least one. A five person team made of up Mark Weingarten, James Mather, Al Nelson, Chris Burdon and Mark Taylor all received accolades for their accomplishments. For Burdon, Nelson, and Mather, it is their first Academy Award. For Weingarten and Taylor, it is their second.

I really can’t do much better than the guy who was in charge of it all, so here is Al Nelson talking to Vox.

The start of the movie involves a plane that literally does not exist in the world yet. They started with a blank slate and made something that had me with feeling goosebumps all over. They had to start from scratch and do all the research to make that happen. Now it probably helps that they had all the natural sound from when the actors were legit flying fighter jets. Nelson and company weren’t like kindergartners entering a Harvard law school class.

Looking at all of these movies that were nominated for Best Sound, it really educates you to the fact that we are puppets having our strings pulled by subconscious notes and tones. The layering of different sounds, bringing down the music in moments to highlight more emotional affects. These sound directors, specially in Top Gun: Maverick, are blending the science of sound, with the feeling of it.

I am not a knowledgable soul when it comes to sound design. The reason I locked in Top Gun: Maverick as my favorite was because the emotions it made me feel. The literal whooshing had my doing relentless fist pumps when I was in the theater.

James Mather was quoted in an article by IndieWire:

““We use the word [‘synaptic’] a lot when we get the opportunity,” said supervising sound editor James Mather (who worked on “M:I —Fallout” and this year’s “Dead Reckoning — Part One”). “It’s about the response where people have said they’ve held their breath through sequences watching it at the cinema, and so synaptic means it’s physically affecting the audience. So it’s interesting.”

What Mathers describes is exactly what I felt. I was exhausted after watching Top Gun: Maverick. I was left speechless.


  1. Top Gun: Maverick (OSCAR WINNER)
  2. All Quiet On The Western Front
  3. The Batman
  4. Avatar: The Way Of Water
  5. Elvis

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Summation Of Stanko’s Thoughts On The Five Films Nominated For “Sound” At The 95th Academy Awards

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