As sound in movies has evolved, so has this award, which dates back to 1963.
From that year until 2000, it was adjusted for the sound design of the winning movie, so Best Sound Effects (1963–1967, 1975), Sound Effects Editing (1977, 1981–1999) and Sound Editing (1979, 2000–present).
The sound mixing category is the one that dates back to the early years of the Oscars.
What’s interesting about sound this year is that some of the nominees (notably Transformers 3 and War Horse) have taken advantage of Dolby’s new 7.1 surround sound.
Drive represents a very interesting example of a wide release.
It is essentially a stylish genre movie (LA noir crime drama) with arthouse pedigree (Nic Winding Refn) that stars two hot young actors (Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan) alongside an experienced supporting cast (Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston and Ron Perlman).
Although originally a studio project set up at Universal, it was eventually put into turnaround before being financed independently.
Festival buzz, generally great reviews and a hot young cast meant that the distributor opted for a wide release at 2,886 cinemas.
But on opening weekend in mid-September when it came in third behind The Lion King 3D re-release and Contagion (on its second week of release), people realised it wasn’t connecting as they hoped.
The post-mortem on widely-read industry site Deadline cited the fact that young males are a more unpredictable demographic than they used to be:
“…young guys who used to be Hollywood’s target audience are just not consistently (and indiscriminately) going to the movies anymore. The reason is either financial or too many other entertainment choices. That was the gist of internal conversations inside studios all summer when uncompelling fare like Conan The Barbarian, Fright Night, Cowboys & Aliens, and Green Lantern fell short with young guys. ”It didn’t dawn on us they weren’t coming to the malls,” one perplexed exec told me. Instead, adults did.”
“Some people thought it should have done $20M the first weekend, but they are crazy! Even with the great reviews and Cannes pedigree, it’s still an ‘arts-ploitation’ film. It’s out there in a new genre. It’s really a polarizing film but in a good way. The pacing, music, style, and violence creates heated debate and reaction. The people that love it, really love it and talk about it. But it’s too extreme for many.”
Berney is right – what made Drive such a critical and festival favourite was probably what put off average mainstream audiences.
But only to an extent.
Drive cleverly fused traditional genre elements with considerable artistic flair and obviously the theatrical run didn’t conform to expectations, but why do I get the feeling that this is a film which could have a long shelf life ahead of it?
Not only are Gosling and Mulligan captured in their youthful prime but it is perfect for late night home viewing and also has a killer soundtrack to boot.
So Drive clearly has a fan base, if not one as large as the films financiers had hoped for.
How could the UK distributor (Icon) tap into the Drive love for the home entertainment release?
Previously studios had to pay substitutional sums of money to market research firms so they could track release expectations.
Whilst they still do this, a quick search on Twitter over opening weekend (either through a basic search of the film’s title or relevant hashtag) yields valuable data and insights (although one should be careful to treat it as a sample of the wider audience).
In terms of reactions to Drive we know that Russell Crowe was upset that Ryan Gosling didn’t get an Oscar nomination and that Albert Brooks (@AlbertBrooks) is an absolute master of 140 characters as they are both regular tweeters.
Ryan Gosling didn’t get an Academy nomination? There’s some bullshit right there.
When it comes to home releases of films it is perfect, as it is a very cost effective way of getting the word out about a particular release.
Twitter is particularly powerful as it has a large user base, lots of influential users in the traditional media and messages can be quickly be duplicated and spread (“retweeted”).
Why is this important?
Well, the biggest single challenge any filmmaker faces is getting their work talked about in order to be seen by a larger audience.
This applies to a teenager who has just uploaded his first film to YouTube or the most experienced A-list director.
Like the video made in a bedroom with 4 views, the $100 million film opening on 3,000 locations could always do with a bigger audience.
If you create something good or distinctive, social media can be a powerful ally in building buzz.
Word-of-mouth has always been an elusive but easily recognisable phenomenon in cinema.
Films like Gone With the Wind, The Godfather, Jaws, Star Wars, E.T., Jurassic Park, Titanic, Slumdog Millionaire, Avatar and The King’s Speech all became huge hits because they somehow connected with an audience at the cinema.
Home entertainment sales were a slam dunk because they already had the publicity of being huge hits.
But what about films that initially failed at the box office?
But where it can be really effective in the modern era is for quality films that aren’t obviously ‘commercial’.
A black comedy about UK suicide bombers was never going to break box office records but Four Lions (2010) was a quality film that was loved by those who saw it at cinemas (in fact the UK distributor underestimated demand on the opening weekend).
But when it screened on UK television the actor Riz Ahmed (@rizmc) tweeted along to the broadcast.
@Rizmc star of British film Four Lions will be doing a live commentary on Twitter as Channel 4 airs Four Lions on 9pm on Sunday.
For the UK distribution people this would provide valuable insights if they decided to put out another edition of the film at a later date, either on another disc or via BD-Live (which up to now has been thoroughly useless).
Time is often the best judge for any film and in the case of tweeting along to Drive last night, it not only reminded me of how good it was but the value of seeing it on Blu-ray.
It was one of the first films to be shot with the Arri Alexa digital camera and even Janusz Kaminski (Steven Spielberg’s DP and a die-hard advocate of film) has admitted he was deeply impressed by the imagery put on screen by Newton Thomas Sigel.
The tweetalong reminded me what of how great the film looked and allowed me to spread the word via a very powerful social platform.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (StudioCanal): Tomas Alfredson’s impeccably crafted Cold War thriller finds new resonance in the current era of economic and social crisis. Set in the murky world of British intelligence during the 1970s, retired agent George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is hired to find out the identity of a Soviet double-agent inside ‘the Circus’ (in house name for MI6) and solve a looming crisis. [Read our full review] [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD]
Drive (Icon Home Entertainment): This ultra stylish LA noir not only provides Ryan Gosling with an memorable lead role and cleverly takes a European approach to an American genre film. When an enigmatic stunt driver (Gosling) decides to help out his neighbour (Carey Mulligan) and her family, he finds himself caught up in a dangerous game with a local businessman (Albert Brooks). [Read our full review] [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD]
Alien (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / Normal] Alien 3 (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / Normal] Alien Resurrection (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / 10th Anniversary Edition] Aliens (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / Normal] An Affair to Remember (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / Normal] Ca$h (Metrodome Distribution) [Blu-ray / Normal] Cleopatra (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / Normal] Crazy, Stupid, Love (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / Normal] Eldorado (House of Fear) [Blu-ray / 3D Edition] Four Flies On Grey Velvet (Shameless) [Blu-ray / Normal] Great Barrier Reef (2 Entertain) [Blu-ray / Normal] Highlander: Endgame (Miramax) [Blu-ray / Normal] Rolling Thunder (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / with DVD – Double Play] Samurai Girls (Manga Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal] Star Trek the Next Generation: A Taste of the Next Generation (Paramount Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal] What’s Your Number? (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / Normal] Win Win (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / Normal] Yamada – Way of the Samurai (Showbox Media Group) [Blu-ray / Collector’s Edition]
Crazy, Stupid, Love (Warner Bros.): Romantic comedy about a man (Steve Carell) who breaks up with his wife (Julianne Moore) and then gets dating tips from his womanising neighbour (Ryan Gosling). Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, it co-stars Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon. [Nationwide / 12A]
Drive (Icon): Stylish drama about a nameless Hollywood stuntman (Ryan Gosling) who moonlights as a getaway driver at night and gets drawn into a web of crime involving his neighbour (Carey Mulligan) and a local businessman (Albert Brooks). Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, it co-stars Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman and Oscar Isaac. [Nationwide / 18] [Read our full review here]
Warrior (Lionsgate UK): Drama about two estranged brothers (Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton) in Pittsburgh who end up fighting in a MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) tournament for some much needed cash. Directed by Gavin O’Connor, it was co-stars Nick Nolte and Frank Grillo. [Nationwide / 12A]
Killer Elite (Entertainment): Thriller about a retired SAS soldier (Jason Statham) who goes on a mission to kill three assassins. Directed by Gary McKendry, it co-stars Robert De Niro and Clive Owen. [Nationwide / 15]
Soul Surfer (Walt Disney): Drama based on the true story of teenage surfer Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSophia Robb) who lost her arm in a shark attack and decided to return to the sport. Directed by Sean McNamara, it co-stars Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt and Carrie Underwood. [Nationwide / 12A]
Mademoiselle Chambon (Axiom Films): French drama about a blue collar worker a blue-collar worker (Vincent Lindon,) in a provincial town who is gradually tempted by another woman. Directed by Stephane Brize, it co-stars Sandrine Kiberlain, Aure Atika and Stanislav Ianevski. [Nationwide / 18]
Tucker & Dale Vs Evil (vertigo Films): Horror comedy about two people on vacation at their dilapidated mountain cabin when they get attacked by a group of preppy college kids. Directed by Jason Mather, it stars Eli Craig and Alan Tudyk. [Selected cinemas]
The look on Carey Mulligan’s face at 0.11 is priceless.
Although some cynics may smell a calculated publicity ploy here, it seems to me like he was tired and after doing rounds of press discussing his latest work just got muddled as to where he was and what kind of language he should be using.
Note the obligatory use of the phrase ‘choked on cereal’ or ‘choked on cornflakes’ in any story covering this world-shattering event.
Plus, what exactly can the presenters or broadcaster actually do apart from apologise and move swiftly on?
I know that as we speak there is some poor soul deep within Television Centre filling out a compliance form, which have been enforced on shows since the Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand voicemail affair, which is listed in Wikipedia with the hilariously concise title of “Russell Brand Show prank telephone calls row“.
But let me save them some time and encourage them to fill a blank sheet of paper or empty web form with the following:
Danish director of cool new film swore live on air. Presenters apologised. Move on.
By the way Drive is really good, if a little violent in places, and apparently the violence is a little like… [REDACTED].
This ultra stylish LA noir not only provides Ryan Gosling with an memorable lead role but cleverly takes a European approach to an American genre film.
When an enigmatic stunt driver (Ryan Gosling) decides to help out his neighbour (Carey Mulligan) and her family, he finds himself caught up in a dangerous game with a local businessman (Albert Brooks).
Hollywood driver by day and getaway driver at night, the nameless protagonist finds his spartan existence threatened by his emotions and an increasingly tangled web of criminality.
The opening sequence sets the mood as we hear the Driver explain his code of rules and then assist in a getaway which shows both his mastery of cars and the backstreets of Los Angeles.
Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn shoots the city with a coolly detached European eye: his images are steady, composed and artful, whilst jolts of violence and sparse dialogue make it feel like a modern day update of a Leone western or a Melville crime drama.
However, the decision to rebuild the project as a sleeker, lower cost model has proved inspired as it manages to successfully combine satisfying genre elements within a stylish European exterior.
Attired in a satin jacket, Gosling is borderline iconic in the lead role, channelling the likes of Steve McQueen in Bullit (1968) and Alain Delon in Le Samurai (1967), but also displaying an undercurrent of emotion as he quietly seeks human intimacy.
In a male-dominated crime story Mulligan is given less to do, although she has a tangible screen presence, and in a minor supporting role Christina Hendricks feels almost unrecognisable from Mad Men.
Brooks has the stand out supporting role as a wily crime boss and he’s brilliantly cast against type, injecting the role with just the right blend of geniality and menace, whilst Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman and Oscar Isaac offer solid support.
Refn often opts for enigmatic silence or music, instead of clumsy dialogue to reveal emotions: sequences involving drives, hallways or lifts are expertly handled and the help connect the dazzling visual artifice with a deep emotional core.
The pacing is lean and mean, without a scene being wasted as the narrative plays around with the heist movie form; establishing, overhead shots of LA unusually focus on the cars and there are some genuinely surprising moments sprinkled amongst the genre elements.
Newton Thomas Siegel‘s widescreen cinematography paints a striking vision of LA as a neon-soaked den of crime but also frames the domestic interior and driving sequences in fresh and interesting ways.
The sound design by Lou Bender and Victor Ray Ennis also really sells the action, be it the squeak of Gosling’s driver gloves, the roar of his car engine or the cracking of bone, even though conventional set-pieces are kept to a minimum.
A dramatic car chase stands out not only because it is expertly put together but because in an age of over reliance of green screen trickery, the filming of real cars on actual roads seems to be a dying art.
The soundtrack blends tracks from the likes of Kavinsky, College and Desire with Cliff Martinez‘s pulsating electronic score, creating a rich sonic backdrop which chimes in perfectly with the visuals.
This all provides the best musical backdrop to an LA crime movie since Heat (1995), where Michael Mann recruited Elliot Goldenthal to provide a dramatic score, whilst utilising invaluable contributions from Brian Eno, Michael Brook and Moby.
The film builds on the noble tradition of European directors filming crime movies in California: Point Blank (1967) and Bullit (1968) are obvious touchstones, but there is also a strong American influence of films such as The Driver (1978), To Live and Die in LA (1985) and Manhunter (1986).
This blending of European and American sensibilities is what makes Drive such an intoxicating mix: like the central character, it is stylish creation of few words but has a lasting impact on those who see it.
The question mark that hangs over the film is whether or not US distributor FilmDistrict can get people to go and see it: some may be put off by the flashes of violence but if art house and mainstream audiences keep an open mind, this could be a richly deserved hit.
Drive opens in the UK on September 23rd and in the US on September 16th