Nominations voting is from January 11–16, 2024, with official Oscar nominations announced on January 23, 2024. Final voting is February 22–27, 2024. And finally, the 96th Oscars telecast will be broadcast on Sunday, March 10, and air live on ABC at 8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT. We update predictions throughout awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2024 Oscar picks.
The State of the Race
“Oppenheimer” (Universal) with its massive atomic blast and other range of subatomic and cosmic sounds, is the early favorite. But “Barbie” (Warner Bros.), “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One” (Paramount), “John Wick: Chapter 4” (Lionsgate), and “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” (Sony) are the other current frontrunners.
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In addition, “Dune: Part Two” (Warner Bros.) will go for its second Oscar while contending with “The Creator” (20th Century), “The Color Purple” (Warner Bros.), “The Little Mermaid” (Disney), “Killers of the Flower Moon” (Apple TV+/Paramount), “The Killer” (Netflix), “Maestro” (Netflix), “Napoleon” (Apple TV+/Sony Pictures), and “Beau Is Afraid” (A24).
For “Oppenheimer,” Christopher Nolan once again tapped his Oscar-winning supervising sound editor/sound designer Richard King (“Dunkirk,” “Inception,” “The Dark Knight,” “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”) to lead the expansive sound design for the biopic thriller about J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy), the “father of the atomic bomb.” This included the Trinity test explosion, which sounded like “an enormous cosmic door slamming,” as well as the subatomic particles and waves and cosmic black hole, all manipulated by natural sound effects. Also on the team were Oscar-winning music and sound effects mixer Kevin O’Connell (“Hacksaw Ridge”) and dialogue mixer Gary Rizzo (“Dunkirk,” “Inception”).
Greta Gerwig’s blockbuster “Barbie” achieved a unique artificial sound for the plastic Barbie Land, led by Oscar-nominated supervising sound editor/re-recording mixer Ai-Ling Lee (“First Man,” “La La Land”), sound designer/supervising sound editor Dan Kenyon, and O’Connell. A sense of imitated reality was achieved using vocal sounds, toys, and musical instruments. Sonically, it was like classic Disney animation meets a ’50s Hollywood musical.
“Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One,” from producer-star Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie, contained a more intimate visceral sound approach for Ethan Hunt’s (Cruise) high-octane adventure to thwart a global AI threat. Led by supervising sound editor James Mather and re-recording mixers Chris Burdon and Mark Taylor (Oscar winners for “Top Gun: Maverick”), the highlights include the brutal alley fight in Venice between Hunt and Pom Klementieff’s French assassin, Paris, the wild car chase in Rome, where Ethan and Grace (Haley Atwell) are up against a giant Hummer in a tiny Fiat, and the kitchen scene during the final train wreck, when the Orient Express falls off a broken bridge one carriage at a time. Every sound was isolated and experienced.
Chad Stahelski’s “John Wick: Chapter 4” achieved a new level of physical stunt action choreography for Wick’s (Keanu Reeves) ultimate death-defying survival adventure against the High Table. The sound design for the tour de force “gun-fu” set pieces also upped it game with gunshots, explosions, physical blows, breathing, falls, and other effects. Led by Oscar-nominated supervising sound editor Mark Stoeckinger (“Unstoppable,” “Star Trek,” “Face-Off”) and re-recording mixers Casey Genton and Andrew Koyama (the Oscar-nominated “Lone Survivor”), the highlights include the glass panel room shootout at the Osaka Continental, the kitchen fight scene, the Arc de Triomphe car chase, and the final duel at the Sacré-Coeur Basilica.
Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” introduces several new mind-bending dimensions for Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) to explore, offering greater sound design opportunities, each with its own sonic signatures. These include Gwen’s (Hailee Steinfeld) watercolor world, a hybrid of Mumbai and Manhattan called Mumbattan, and Nueva York and Spider-Society HQ. The returning team was led by sound designers Alec Rubay and Kip Smedley and supervising sound editor Geoffrey Rubay. However, the mix was so dynamic that it initially caused audio issues with the dialogue in the opening scene because a few theaters didn’t have the volume set correctly.
Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune: Part Two” builds on its unique soundscape to evoke desert power on Arrakis that alternates between documentary and surreal. King takes over as sound designer/supervising sound editor and collaborates with returning Oscar-winning re-recording mixers Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett. They will add to their 3,200 acoustic sounds as raw elements from the real world recorded with mics in real acoustic spaces. But in addition to the oceanic-inspired dunes, the whale-like sandworms, the loud, commanding Voice associated with the Bene Gesserit sisterhood. and the insect-like ornithopters, there will be the new sounds of battle with Paul (Timothée Chalamet) leading the nomadic Fremen into their holy war.
As for the rest: Gareth Edwards’ “The Creator,” a sci-fi actioner about a war between humanity and AI, contains an unsettling soundscape of gunfire, explosions, robotics, and the atmosphere of Southeast Asia, led by supervising sound editors Erik Aadahl (the Oscar-nominated “A Quiet Place”) and Ethan Van Der Ryn (the Oscar-winning “King Kong” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”). “The Color Purple,” adapted from the Broadway stage musical, leans on magical realism, which should spill over into the soundscape led by Oscar-nominated supervising sound editor Renee Tondelli (“Deepwater Horizon”), supervising sound editor Julian Slater (“Baby Driver”), and Oscar-winning dialogue/music mixer Paul Massey (“Bohemian Rhapsody”). It re-imagines Alice Walker’s celebrated story of Celie (portrayed as a youth by “The Little Mermaid” star Halle Bailey and as an adult by Fantasia Barrino) and her lifelong struggles during the early 20th century South.
Rob Marshall’s live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid” leaned on its Broadway musical DNA, especially for the two showstoppers: the predominantly animated “Under the Sea” and Ursula’s (Melissa McCarthy) “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” The team was led by Tondelli, Oscar-winning production sound mixer Simon Hayes (“Les Misérables”), and re-recording mixers Gilbert Lake and Mike Prestwood Smith (Oscar-nominated “News of the World” and “Captain Phillips”). Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” about the Oklahoma serial murders in the Osage Nation during the 1920s, committed after oil was discovered on tribal land, captures the cultural heritage of the Osage people. This is part of the soundscape’s strategy of contrasting beauty and destruction, led by Oscar-winning supervising sound editor Philip Stocktock (“Hugo”), Oscar-winning production sound mixer Mark Ulano (“Titanic”), and Oscar-winning re-recording mixer Tom Fleishman (“Hugo”).
David Fincher’s “The Killer” explores the existential crisis of Michael Fassbender’s assassin when he suddenly questions his nihilistic worldview. The minimalistic noir vibe should translate to the soundscape as well, led by the director’s sound designer/supervising sound editor/sound mixer Ren Klyce (a nine-time Oscar nominee, including “The Social Network” and “Fight Club”). Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro” offers a soundscape that balances music and romance in this complex love story between legendary conductor/composer Leonard Bernstein (Cooper) and actress wife Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan), spanning more than 30 years. King is the sound designer/supervising sound editor, and Oscar nominee Steven Morrow (“Ford v Ferrari,” “A Star Is Born,” “La La Land”) is the production sound mixer.
Ridley Scott’s “Napoleon” navigates Napoleon Bonaparte’s (Joaquin Phoenix) rapid rise to power from military leader to Emperor, fueled by his obsessive love for his wife, Joséphine (Vanessa Kirby). The emphasis on the soundscape, led by Oscar-nominated sound designer/supervising sound editor James Harrison (“No Time to Die”) and re-recording mixers Massey and William Miller (Oscar-nominated “News of the World”), should be the six epic battles. Ari Aster’s Oedipal odyssey, “Beau Is Afraid,” starring Phoenix as the paranoid man-child, contains four acts in completely different worlds, including a shape-shifting play within the film. These all demand their own distinct soundscapes, led by supervising sound editor/re-recording mixer Paul Hsu and Oscar-nominated recording sound mixer Claude La Haye (“Arrival”).
Potential nominees are listed in alphabetical order; no film will be deemed a frontrunner until we have seen it.
“John Wick: Chapter 4”
“Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One”
“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”
“Beau Is Afraid”
“Dune: Part Two”
“Killers of the Flower Moon”
“The Color Purple”
“The Little Mermaid”
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