Oscars Predictions: Best Sound – Can ‘Mank’ and ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’ Dominate the Aural Races?

Clayton Davis
·12 min read

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UPDATED: Dec. 31, 2020

This category has typically favored blockbusters. In 2006, the Academy split this with a defined five nominees for sound mixing and sound editing. They have now merged it once again, which hasn’t happened since 1962. It’ll be interesting to see if this closely aligns to the best picture race or if the branch members will look elsewhere. Netflix looks to have the goods to dominate this space. 15-time nominee and two-time winner Randy Thom worked on George Clooney’s “The Midnight Sky” and is five years removed from his last nomination for “The Revenant.” The sound team from “Mank” share a collective 18 Oscar nominations between them all and could be an easy check-off, even if the film falters. “The Trial of the Chicago 7” has many of the most recent Oscar-nominees (including “Baby Driver” and the best picture winner “Birdman”), with no Academy Award wins among them yet. As the love for “Sound of Metal” grows, the likelihood in this space gets closer. Lots of more time left.


  1. "The Midnight Sky" (Netflix)
    Randy Thom, Dan Hiland, Todd Beckett, Danny Hambrook

    Thom - 15 nominations, 2 wins (1983's "The Right Stuff" and 2004's "The Incredibles")
    Hiland - Never nominated
    Beckett - Never nominated
    Hambrook - Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: George Clooney
    SYNOPSIS: This post-apocalyptic tale follows Augustine, a lonely scientist in the Arctic, as he races to stop Sully and her fellow astronauts from returning home to a mysterious global catastrophe.
    STARRING: George Clooney, Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Kyle Chandler, Demián Bichir, Tiffany Boone, Caoilinn Springall

  2. "Mank" (Netflix)
    Ren Klyce, Jeremy Molod, David Parker, Nathan Nance, Drew Kunin

    Klyce - 7 nominations (most recently for 2017's "Star Wars: The Last Jedi")
    Molod - Never nominated
    Parker - 9 nominations, 2 wins (1996's "The English Patient" and 2007's "The Bourne Ultamatium")
    Nance - Never nominated
    Kunin - 2 nominations (2012's "Life of Pi" and 2015's "Bridge of Spies")

    DIRECTOR: David Fincher
    SYNOPSIS: 1930s Hollywood is re-evaluated through the eyes of scathing social critic and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he races to finish the screenplay of Citizen Kane for Orson Welles.
    STARRING: Tom Burke, Lily Collins, Joseph Cross, Charles Dance, Monika Gossman, Ferdinand Kingsley, Jamie McShane, Tuppence Middleton, Toby Leonard Moore, Gary Oldman, Tom Pelphrey, Amanda Seyfried, Sam Troughton

  3. "The Trial of the Chicago 7" (Netflix)
    Renee Tondelli, Dan Kenyon, Julian Slater, Michael Babcock, Thomas Varga

    Tondelli - 1 nomination (2016's "Deepwater Horizon")
    Kenyon - Never nominated
    Slater - 2 nominations (2017's "Baby Driver" in sound mixing and sound editing)
    Babcock - Never nominated
    Varga - 1 nomination (2014's "Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance"))

    DIRECTOR: Aaron Sorkin
    SYNOPSIS: The story of 7 people on trial stemming from various charges surrounding the uprising at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.
    STARRING: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Keaton, Frank Langella, John Carroll Lynch, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, Alex Sharp, Jeremy Strong

  4. "News of the World" (Universal Pictures)
    John Pritchett, Mike Prestwood Smith, William Miller, Oliver Tarney, Michael Fentum

    Pritchett - 2 nominations (2002's "Road to Perdition" and 2005's "Memoirs of a Geisha")
    Smith - 1 nomination (2013's "Captain Phillips")
    Miller - Never nominated
    Tarney - 3 nominations (2013's "Captain Phillips," 2015's "The Martian" and 2019's "1917")
    Fentum - Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Paul Greengrass
    SYNOPSIS: A Civil War veteran agrees to deliver a girl, taken by the Kiowa people years ago, to her aunt and uncle, against her will. They travel hundreds of miles and face grave dangers as they search for a place that either can call home.
    STARRING: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Elizabeth Marvel, Mare Winningham, Michael Angelo Covino, Ray McKinnon

  5. "Sound of Metal" (Amazon Studios)
    Phillip Bladh, Nicolas Becker, Jaime Baksht, Michelle Couttolenc, Carlos Cortés, Carolina Santana

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Darius Marder
    SYNOPSIS: A heavy-metal drummer's life is thrown into freefall when he begins to lose his hearing.
    STARRING: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci, Mathieu Almaric, Lauren Ridloff


  1. "The Prom" (Netflix)
    Gary Megregian, David Giammarco, Mark Paterson, Steven A. Morrow

    Megregian - Never nominated
    Giammarco - 3 nominations (2007's "3:10 to Yuma," 2011's "Moneyball" and 2019's "Ford v Ferrari")
    Paterson - 1 nomination, 1 win (2013's "Les Misérables")
    Morrow - 3 nominations (2016's "La La Land," 2018's "A Star is Born" and 2019's "Ford v Ferrari")
    DIRECTOR: Ryan Murphy
    SYNOPSIS: A troupe of hilariously self-obsessed theater stars swarm into a small conservative Indiana town in support of a high school girl who wants to take her girlfriend to the prom.
    STARRING: Meryl Streep, Jo Ellen Pellman, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Ariana DeBose, Kerry Washington, Keegan-Michael Key, Andrew Rannells. Tracey Ullman

  2. "Nomadland" (Searchlight Pictures)
    Sergio Diaz, Zach Seivers, M. Wolf Snyder

    Diaz- 1 nomination (2018's "Roma")
    Seivers - Never nominated
    Snyder - Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Chloé Zhao
    SYNOPSIS: After losing everything in the Great Recession, an old woman embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad.
    STARRING: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May, Swankie, Bob Wells

  3. "Tenet" (Warner Bros.)
    Richard King, Mark Larry, Kevin O'Connell, Gary A. Rizzo

    King - 6 nominations, 4 wins (2003's "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World," 2008's "The Dark Knight," 2010's "Inception" and 2017's "Dunkirk")
    Larry - Never nominated
    O'Connell - 21 nominations, 1 win (2016's "Hacksaw Ridge")
    Rizzo - 5 nominations, 2 wins (2010's "Inception" and 2017's "Dunkirk")
    DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan
    SYNOPSIS: Armed with only one word, Tenet, and fighting for the survival of the entire world, a Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time.
    STARRING: John David Washington, Elizabeth Debicki, Robert Pattinson, Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh

  4. "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" (Netflix)
    Skip Lievsay, Paul Urmson, Dane Lonsdale

    Lievsay - 8 nominations, 1 win (2013's "Gravity")
    Urmson - Never nominated
    Lonsdale - Never nominated
    DIRECTOR: George C. Wolfe
    SYNOPSIS: Chicago, 1927. A recording session. Tensions rise between Ma Rainey, her ambitious horn player and the white management determined to control the uncontrollable "Mother of the Blues". Based on Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson's play.
    STARRING: Chadwick Boseman, Dusan Brown, Jonny Coyne, Viola Davis, Colman Domingo, Taylour Paige, Michael Potts, Jeremy Shamos, Glynn Turman

  5. "Wonder Woman 1984" (HBO MaxWarner Bros.)
    Peter J. Devlin, Richard King, Jimmy Boyle, Gary A. Rizzo, Gilbert Lake

    Devlin - 5 nominations (most recently for 2018's "Black Panther")
    King - 6 nominations, 4 wins (2003's "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World," 2008's "The Dark Knight," 2010's "Inception" and 2017's "Dunkirk")
    Boyle - Never nominated
    Rizzo - 5 nominations, 2 wins (2010's "Inception" and 2017's "Dunkirk")
    Lake - Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Patty Jenkins
    SYNOPSIS: Rewind to the 1980s as Wonder Woman's next big screen adventure finds her facing two all-new foes: Max Lord and The Cheetah.
    STARRING: Gal Gadot, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen


  1. "The Invisible Man" (Universal Pictures)
    Paul "Salty" Brincat, Will Files, P.K. Hooker

    Brincat - 1 nomination (1998's "The Thin Red Line")
    Files - Never nominated
    Hooker - Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Leigh Whannell
    SYNOPSIS: When Cecilia's abusive ex takes his own life and leaves her his fortune, she suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of coincidences turn lethal, Cecilia works to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see.
    STARRING: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Harriet Dyer, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Storm Reid, Michael Dorman

  2. "The United States vs. Billie Holiday" (Hulu)†††
    Josh Berger, Robert Hein

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Lee Daniels
    SYNOPSIS: Follows Holiday during her career as she is targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics with an undercover sting operation led by black Federal Agent Jimmy Fletcher, with whom she had a tumultuous affair.
    STARRING: Andra Day, Trevante Rhodes, Natasha Lyonne, Garrett Hedlund, Rob Morgan, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Tyler James Williams

  3. "Judas and the Black Messiah" (Warner Bros.)
    Marlowe Taylor, Rich Bologna, Skip Lievsay

    Taylor - Never nominated
    Bologna - Never nominated
    Lievsay - 8 nominations, 1 win (2013's "Gravity")

    DIRECTOR: Shaka King
    SYNOPSIS: The story of Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, and his fateful betrayal by FBI informant William O'Neal.
    STARRING: Lakeith Stanfield, Daniel Kaluuya, Dominique Fishback, Jesse Plemons, Martin Sheen, Dominique Thorne, Algee Smith, Lil Rel Howery, Jermaine Fowler

  4. "One Night in Miami" (Amazon Studios)
    Paul Ledford, Andy Hay, Bryan Parker, Xiao'ou Olivia Zhang, Duncan McRae

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Regina King
    SYNOPSIS: A fictional account of one incredible night in 1964, where four icons of activism, sports and music – Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke – gathered, discussing their roles in the civil rights movement and cultural upheaval of the ’60s.
    STARRING: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom, Jr., Joaquina Kalukango, Nicolette Robinson

  5. "Greyhound" (Apple TV Plus)
    Odin Benitez, Jason King, Christian P. Minkler, Michael Minkler, Jeff Sawyer

    Benitez - Never nominated
    King - Never nominated
    C. Minkler - 1 nomination (2019's "Once Upon a Time in...Hollywood")
    M. Minkler - 12 nominations, 3 wins (2001's "Black Hawk Down," 2002's "Chicago" and 2006's "Dreamgirls")

    DIRECTOR: Aaron Schneider
    SYNOPSIS: Several months after the U.S. entry into World War II, an inexperienced U.S. Navy commander must lead an Allied convoy being stalked by a German submarine wolf pack.
    STARRING:Tom Hanks, Elisabeth Shue, Stephen Graham, Matt Helm, Rob Morgan, Travis Quentin

  6. "Da 5 Bloods" (Netflix)
    Philip Stockton, Paul Hsu, José Antonio García

    Stockton - 2 nominations, 1 win (2011's "Hugo")
    Hsu - Never nominated
    Garcia - 2 nominations (2012's "Argo" and 2018's "Roma")

    DIRECTOR: Spike Lee
    SYNOPSIS: Four African American vets battle the forces of man and nature when they return to Vietnam seeking the remains of their fallen squad leader and the gold fortune he helped them hide.
    STARRING: Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Jonathan Majors, Chadwick Boseman, Isiah Witlock, Jr,, Norm Lewis

  7. "Soul" (Pixar)
    Coya Elliott, David Parker, Justin Pearson, Jonathon Stevens

    Elliott - Never nominated
    Parker - 9 nominations, 2 wins (1996's "The English Patient" and 2007's "The Bourne Ultimatum")
    Pearson - Never nominated
    Stevens - Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Pete Docter, Kemp Powers
    SYNOPSIS: A musician who has lost his passion for music is transported out of his body and must find his way back with the help of an infant soul learning about herself.
    STARRING: Jamie Foxx, Angela Bassett, Daveed Diggs, Quest Love, Phylicia Rashad, Tina Fey, Graham Norton

  8. "The Outpost" (Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment)
    Emil Evtimov, Kris Casavant, Gord Hillier, Robert Fernandez, Ryan Nowak

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Rod Lurie
    SYNOPSIS: A small team of U.S. soldiers battle against hundreds of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.
    STARRING: Scott Eastwood, Orlando Bloom, Caleb Landry Jones

  9. "Cherry" (Apple TV Plus)
    Mark Binder, Donald Flick, Michael Gilbert

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
    SYNOPSIS: An Army medic suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder becomes a serial bank robber after an addiction to drugs puts him in debt.
    STARRING: Tom Holland, Ciara Bravo, Kelli Berglund, Thomas Lennon

  10. "Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga" (Netflix)†††
    Tim Chau, Clayton Weber, John Midgley, Paul Massey, David Giammarco

    Chau - Never nominated
    Weber - Never nominated
    Midgley - 3 nominations, 1 win (2011's "Hugo")
    Massey - 9 nominations, 1 win (2018's "Bohemian Rhapsody")
    Giammarco - 3 nominations (2007's "3:10 to Yuma," 2011's "Moneyball" and 2019's "Ford v Ferrari")

    DIRECTOR: David Dobkin
    SYNOPSIS: When aspiring musicians Lars (Will Ferrell) and Sigrit (Rachel McAdams) are given the opportunity of a lifetime to represent their country at the world's biggest song competition, they finally have a chance to prove that any dream worth having is a dream worth fighting for.
    STARRING: Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Pierce Brosnan, Dan Stevens, Mikael Persbrandt, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Graham Norton, Melissanthi Mahut, Demi Lovato

† = no release date scheduled / could be delayed / may not be eligible
†† = could be campaigned in lead or supporting categories / original or adapted screenplay categories
††† = official eligible nominees not yet determined by AMPAS

About best sound category:
The Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars, is Hollywood’s most prestigious artistic award in the film industry. This category’s history is a bit more complex to track since it’s been through many inceptions of the history of AMPAS. When it was split between sound mixing and sound editing, there are different record holders. Classic sound engineer Thomas T. Moulton and Greg P. Russell have the most nominations at 16, although the former netted five Oscars over his career. The latter has the record for most nominations and no win. Moulton has the most win record shared with Douglas Shearer and Fred Hynes, though they garnered 15 and 7 nominations. Richard King and Ben Burtt have the most wins for sound editing, with Alan Robert Murray having the most noms with 10.

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