This article contains IndieWire’s preliminary Best Sound predictions for the 2023 Oscars. We regularly update our predictions throughout awards season, and republish previous versions (like this one) for readers to track changes in how the Oscar race has changed. For the latest update on the frontrunners for the 95th Academy Awards, see our 2023 Oscars predictions hub.
Nominations voting is from January 12-17, 2023, with official Oscar nominations announced January 24, 2023. Final voting is March 2-7, 2023. And finally, the 95th Oscars telecast will be broadcast on Sunday, March 12 and air live on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET/ 5:00 p.m. PT. We update predictions through awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2023 Oscar picks.
The State of the Race
Wednesday’s impressive sound shortlist demonstrated what a great season it was for sonic sensation and experimentation, with the frontrunning “Top Gun: Maverick” joined by “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “Avatar: The Way of Water,” “Babylon,” “The Batman,” “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” “Elvis,” “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio,” and “Moonage Daydream.” The five Oscar nominees for Best Sound will be determined after the January 15 “bakeoff.”
To show how deep the sonic achievements ran, the list of shortlist omissions includes “Thirteen Lives,” “The Fabelmans,” “Bardo (or False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths),” “The Northman,” “TÁR,” “The Whale,” “Empire of Light,” “RRR,” “Good Night Oppy,” and IndieWire’s pick for the year’s best film sound, “Nope.”
The hyper-real soundscape inside the cockpits of “Top Gun: Maverick” worked brilliantly in tandem with the innovative camera work built around the Sony Rialto Camera Extension System. As always, Tom Cruise’s sound team — James Mather (sound designer/supervising sound editor), Al Nelson (sound designer/supervising sound editor), Gary Summers (re-recording mixer), and Mark Taylor (re-recording mixer) — created a “synaptic” experience, emphasizing breathing and the manipulation of the control stick, while strategically layering in the jet noises, including the sound of air whooshing over the wings and the sonic reflection of the aerobatics.
With “Elvis,” Baz Luhrmann’s go-to sound guru Wayne Pashley (sound designer/supervising sound editor/re-recording mixer) embarked on a great American operatic tragedy distinguishing the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. There’s a complex weave of music and sound effects as the main driving force of the sound design. With a combination of playback recording and live recording, fully restored vintage microphones from each era were used to capture the performance pieces, and to seamlessly integrate new Austin Butler recordings with original Elvis Presley vocals.
For Damien Chazelle’s depiction of Hollywood’s Wild West days in “Babylon,” the sound team of supervising sound editor and re-recording mixer Ai-Ling Lee, supervising sound editor Mildred Iatrou Morgan, production sound mixer Steven Morrow, and re-recording mixer Andy Nelson created just the right amount of controlled chaos. They shattered the sonic clichés associated with the late ’20s with a no-holds-barred roller coaster ride that leaves the viewer breathless. Period-accurate sounds were also recorded, from ’20s cameras whirring to vehicles to worldizing soundtracks on ’20s speakers and amplifiers.
The maximalist sound design for Daniels’ “Everything Everywhere All at Once” contains a few hundred sound effects tracks for the various action-packed multiverses. But the key for the sound team of Brent Kiser (supervising sound editor/re-recording mixer), Andrew Twite (sound designer), and Alexandra Fehrman (re-recording mixer) was sonically conveying the necessary fragments in time, and then leaning on relevant ambient sounds to bridge the universes. The sound of broken glass was important, symbolizing the leakage in Evelyn’s (Michelle Yeoh) mind between universes, or daughter Joy’s (Stephanie Hsu) ability to tune into universes through the sounds of the radio.
“Pinocchio” would be the first stop-motion film nominated for Best Sound; sound designer/supervising sound editor Scott Martin Gershin (“Pacific Rim”), known for creating and massaging bespoke sounds, came up with a very organic signature for the titular character built around the dynamics of wooden pieces. A surprise presence on all four of the craft shortlists — Best Sound, Best Visual Effects, Best Original Score, and Best Makeup and Hairstyling — Edward Berger’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” puts us on the battlefield with Paul (Felix Kammerer), and the sound team of supervising sound editor/sound designer Frank Kruse, co-sound designer Markus Stemler, and re-recording mixer Lars Ginzel created a sonic “war machine” filled with all of the explosive effects, machinery, and muddy conditions associated with The Great War. And Brett Morgen’s David Bowie theme park musical, “Moonage Daydream,” could be the first doc since “Woodstock” to get nominated for sound, thanks to the innovative immersion (especially in IMAX) provided by the sound team of supervising sound and music editor John Warhurst, supervising sound editor Nina Hartstone, and re-recording mixers Paul Massey and David Giammarco.
“Top Gun: Maverick” (Paramount)
“Elvis” (Warner Bros.)
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (Marvel/Disney)
“Avatar: The Way of Water” (20th Century/Disney)
“All Quiet on the Western Front” (Netflix)
“The Batman” (Warner Bros.)
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” (A24)
“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” (Netflix)
“Moonage Daydream” (Neon)