Thursday, January 23, 2014

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS - 6 nominations


Actor in a Supporting Role - Barkhad Abdi
Best Picture - Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, and Michael De Luca, Producers
Film Editing - Christopher Rouse
Sound Editing - Oliver Tarney
Sound Mixing - Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith, and Chris Munro
Writing (Adapted Screenplay) - Billy Ray

Let's begin with an explanation of the award for Best Sound, aka, Best Sound Mixing.  Remembering that the award for sound editing is about sound design and how the pre-recorded elements come together in a film, and how it adds to the tone of the production.  Best Sound Mixing is slightly different in that the challenge for the sound mixer is to take all of the sound elements - recorded sound effects, dialogue, music, ambient noise, etc. and put them together, and maybe adding additional effects or manipulations to each thing that is being mixed together.  Don't forget that when a movie is being made, there are several takes of a single scene - think about cutting a portion of one take where a seagull is cawing, and a portion of another take where it's quiet, and having to make sure that the whole sound is heard, all the while mixing the dialogue, music layers, etc. - this is a very meticulous job which is not an easy one.  Here, too, musicals and action films tend to be the winners of this category, because there is just so much to mix.  (For a comparison to the Sound Editing explanation, refer back to my review of All is Lost.)

On to Captain Phillips.

The movie is a powerhouse.  A la Apollo 13, it's an edge of your seat film where Tom Hanks plays the captain of an American cargo ship taken hostage by Somali pirates.  We see the pirates who are poor, desperate, and seemingly terrorized themselves by armed "bosses" in Somalia and understand that the situation is not so simple as we would hope.  We never root for the bad guys (something you already know I hate), but we at least, in our humanity, understand them.

Barkhad Abdi, who is nominated for Actor in a Supporting role, is in his first role in Captain Phillips.  No, I don't mean his first role on screen, on film, on TV, I mean this is a guy who had absolutely no aspirations to be an actor while living in Minnesota, and his first time out, he has been nominated for everything.  His performance is raw and inexpert, but it works perfectly for the role.  Incidentally, he is from Somalia and his family fled to escape the civil war when he was quite young.  He brings the humanity to the pirates, and one can see his struggle between being tough, being a leader, and being scared out of his gourd.

The editing and sound nominations are all well deserved.  As to the challenge of sound mixing in particular, think about all the sounds that waves make, that screaming and loudspeakers and effects and guns, all of this put together in a hodgepodge that has to make sense to the listeners.  Same with the film editing, the action sequences require precision and they get it done.

Referring back to my first post for this blog, though, Captain Phillips in an excellent film who has no business in the Best Picture category.  Don't get me wrong, it's well done, it's heart wrenching, it's exciting, and it explores complex themes.  But if we were getting back to my preference of 5 nominees, Captain Phillips would be an easy one to cut.  It's nothing we haven't seen before - Tom Hanks in a life threatening situation in space (Apollo 13), or Tom Hanks in a life threatening situation at sea (Captain Phillips).  The real Captain Phillips deserves for this story to be told and to be seen by audiences across the country; especially since we love a story with this kind of heroism.  But Best Picture?  I think not.  Still, I loved it and hope you'll enjoy it too!

Haven't seen the film?
Watch the Captain Phillips movie trailer

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