Best Sound Editing
For the category previously called Best Sound Effects and Best Sound Effects Editing, one of these days the Academy will hit upon a name that makes plain what it's meant to celebrate: all the various sounds that you hear over the course of the film, whether they were recorded during the shoot itself, recorded later by a series of Foley artists, or created whole cloth in a studio.
Argo, Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn
Django Unchained, Wylie Stateman
Life of Pi, Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
Skyfall, Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
Zero Dark Thirty, Paul N. J. Ottosson
Should win: The soundscape of a movie is often just as important, and sophisticated, as what you see on screen, and no film made a bigger impact on our ears than Life of Pi. Just listen to the scene above knowing that almost everything you hear, save for actor Suraj Sharma's voice, had to be recorded and/or created later.
Will win: Some years, this category goes to the biggest (or loudest) blockbuster, in which case Skyfall's various gun blasts and martini swizzles win the big prize. Other years, the Best Picture winner takes home the prize in a general sweep, which would likely mean Argo's revolutionary tumult would take home the Oscar. But with 11 nominations, Life of Pi clearly has won over a broad swath of Academy voters already, and, as we mentioned before, the film is a feast of evocative sounds. We like its chances the most.
Best Sound Mixing
As the name for this category suggests, these nominees are responsible for taking all of the sounds assembled by the sound editors — along with the film's score — and blending them together into a cohesive whole. As a practical matter, that means these guys can look at those ginormous mixing consoles and somehow not run screaming.
Argo, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, and Jose Antonio Garcia
Les Misérables, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, and Simon Hayes
Life of Pi, Ron Bartlett, D. M. Hemphill, and Drew Kunin
Lincoln, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom, and Ronald Judkins
Skyfall, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell, and Stuart Wilson
Should win: No disrespect to any of the other nominees, but the folks who managed to integrate the near-constant live singing in Les Misérables (see above) with all the ambient noise and the post-production sound design — and make it all sound seamless — deserve all the accolades they can get.
Will win: Yup, it's Les Miz.