Do you want to know more about the basics of sound in contemporary moviemaking? Here is an excellent talk titled 40 Years of Sound for Film given by Chris Newman (production sound mixer on such movies as The Godfather and The Silence of the Lambs) and Tom Fleischman (re-recording mixer who received the Academy Award for his work on Martin Scorsese’s Hugo). In the piece, they discuss classics such as The Godfather and McCabe and Mrs. Miller and explain their perspectives on what digital technology has brought to the world of sound. It is an excellent introduction to the current state of sound and can serve as video accompaniment to Moving Images Chapter 3: Sound and Image.
Among the movies suggested for analytical work in the Moving Images Instructor’s Resources, a trio by the Coen Brothers is worth highlighting for investigation in the context of sound: Raising Arizona, O Brother Where Art Thou?, and True Grit.
All three feature the work of renowned sound designer Skip Lievsay and are also rich examples of the distinctive brand of “American Tales” that are at the core of much of the Coen brothers work, in which they have continued to explore and develop deep traditions of regional storytelling featuring distinctive narrative voices and exploring complex themes at the heart of the frontier experience and American culture. They also offer strong links with cross-curricular connections: the short stories of Mark Twain, Bret Harte, Ring Lardner and other darkly comic narrative masters compared and contrasted with Raising Arizona; Homer’s The Odyssey for O Brother, Where Art Thou? (or Preston Sturges’s Sullivan’s Travels, the cinematic source of its title); and the original Portis novel for True Grit; meanwhile, social studies connections also abound in these movies, particularly for O Brother. Depending on classroom context and objectives, other movies from the Coen Brothers’ filmography can be quite worthy of investigation, such as No Country for Old Men and Fargo, but these first three are more appropriate for use in a high school classroom (all are PG-13). Here is an extra for teachers – a worksheet for use with Raising Arizona: Critical Notebook 3c Raising Arizona.
Another recent award-winner with rich classroom applications is Christopher Nolan’s Inception, whose sound teams won the 2010 Oscars for Sound Mixing and Sound Editing. For the first award, three people were there to receive Oscars: Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo and Ed Novick. Why three? Lora Hirschberg is re-recording sound mixer for effects and music, Gary Rizzo is mixer for dialogue and foley effects, and Ed Novick is the production sound mixer. For Inception’s second sound statuette, sound designer Richard King won for editing. Here are interviews with Lora Hirschberg and Ed Novick, and this is a page with many articles for Gary Rizzo on the site Designing Sound; in addition, here are a print interview and a short video about sound design with Richard King.
Excellent resources for interviews, technical information (such as SFX libraries), and more are available at filmsound.org and designing sound.org. Among pages about such respected sound designers like Gary Rydstrom and Randy Thom, there are useful articles for a movie that was featured in an earlier blog post on this site: Wall-E.