2019 Tribeca Film Festival movie review: ‘Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound’

April 29, 2019

by Carla Hay

Making Waves
“Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound” interviewee Walter Murch re-recording mixing of “Apocalypse Now” (Photo by W.S. Murch)

“Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound”

Directed by Midge Costin

World premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 29, 2019.

“Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound” is the type of documentary that is best seen in a movie theater, where the film’s impressive sound editing and sound mixing can be best appreciated.  It’s also the kind of documentary that some might consider too technical for their tastes, but it’s a must-see for cinephiles, film students or anyone who cares to find out more about the history of sound in film.

The movie does a quick run-through of the transition between silent films and “talkies” to get to the heart of the film—the movies and filmmakers who’ve had the most influence on today’s cinematic experiences. Like a classroom presentation at a film school, “Making Waves” takes a somewhat academic approach in describing the different components of sound in cinema. And that’s probably because “Make Waves” director Midge Costin is an Oscar-nominated sound editor who’s also a professor of sound at USC Film School. The movie divides the discussion intro three categories: voice, sound effects and music. In the voice category are production recording, dialogue editing and ADR (automated dialog replacement). In the sound effects category are SFX, Foley and ambience.

“Making Waves” also interviews many of the top filmmakers in the industry, including Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Christopher Nolan, Alfonso Cuarón, Sofia Coppola, Ang Lee, Ryan Coogler, Robert Redford, David Lynch and Barbra Streisand. Sound designers/editors interviewed in the documentary Walter Murch (a longtime collaborator with Francis Ford Coppola), Ben Burtt (a favorite of George Lucas), Bobbi Banks (“The Fate of the Furious,” “Straight Outta Compton”), Anna Behlmer (“Moulin Rouge!”, 2009’s “Star Trek”) and Gary Rydstrom, who’s worked on numerous Steven Spielberg movies.

The documentary takes the position that sound in cinema really began to hit its stride in the 1970s, with movies like “The Godfather” and “Star Wars.” There are several movies that are singled out for their pioneering sound. The 1976 version  of “A Star Is Born” is credited with being the first to fully utilize stereo effects in sound editing. Streisand, who starred in the movie and was one of the film’s producers, tells a story in “Making Waves” about how she had to pay $1 million of her own money for the sound, and Warner Bros. Pictures ended up being so impressed with the movie’s sound quality that the movie studio ended up covering the $1 million cost.

Coppola’s 1979 masterpiece “Apocalypse Now” pioneered surround sound, while 1995’s “Toy Story” is considered a breakthrough animated film for sound. Other movies whose sound is given a spotlight in “Making Waves” include “Jurassic Park,” “Argo,” “Top Gun,” “Selma,” “Inception,” “Ordinary People,” “Brokeback Mountain” and “A River Runs Through It.” As for music in movies, the Beatles are credited with being pioneers on screen, as well as being major influences on filmmakers who were fans of the band. “Making Waves” also has interviews with famous composers such as Hans Zimmer and Ludwig Goransson, who gives a demonstration of how he crafted his Oscar-winning score for “Black Panther.”

Although a few of the people interviewed in “Making Waves” come across as bit dull, “Making Waves” is still worth seeing for the way it gives valuable history lessons in cinema. Just don’t watch this movie on a phone or a computer, or you’ll be missing out on the full sound experience of the movie and the reason why this documentary exists.

UPDATE: “Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound” opens in New York City and Los Angeles on October 25, 2019. The movie expands to more cities in the U.S. and Canada, beginning November 1, 2019.

2019 Academy Awards: performers and presenters announced

February 11, 2019

by Carla Hay

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga
Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga at the 76th Annual Golden Globe Awards on January 6, 2019. (Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced several entertainers who will be performers and presenters at the 91st Annual Academy Awards ceremony, which will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. ABC will have the U.S. telecast of the show, which will not have a host. As previously reported, comedian/actor Kevin Hart was going to host the show, but he backed out after the show’s producers demanded that he make a public apology for homophobic remarks that he made several years ago. After getting a  firestorm of backlash for the homophobic remarks, Hart later made several public apologies but remained adamant that he would still not host the Oscars this year.

The celebrities who will be on stage at the Oscars this year are several of those whose songs are nominated for Best Original Song. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper will perform their duet “Shallow” from their movie remake of “A Star Is Born.” Jennifer Hudson will perform “I’ll Fight” from the Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary “RBG.” David Rawlings and Gillian Welch will team up for the duet “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” from the Western film “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.” It has not yet been announced who will perform “The Place Where Lost Things Go” from the Disney musical sequel “Mary Poppins Returns.”** It also hasn’t been announced yet if Kendrick Lamar and SZA will take the stage for “All the Stars” from the superhero flick “Black Panther.”

Gustavo Dudamel and the L.A. Philharmonic do the music for the “In Memoriam” segment, which spotlights notable people in the film industry who have died in the year since the previous Oscar ceremony.

Meanwhile, the following celebrities have been announced as presenters at the ceremony: Whoopi Goldberg (who has hosted the Oscars twice in the past), Awkwafina, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Tina Fey, Jennifer Lopez, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Amandla Stenberg, Tessa Thompson Constance Wu, Javier Bardem, Angela Bassett, Chadwick Boseman, Emilia Clarke, Laura Dern, Samuel L. Jackson, Stephan James, Keegan-Michael Key, KiKi Layne, James McAvoy, Melissa McCarthy, Jason Momoa and Sarah Paulson. Goldberg and Bardem are previous Oscar winners.

Other previous Oscar winners taking the stage will be Gary Oldman, Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Allison Janney, who won the actor and actress prizes at the 2018 Academy Awards.

Donna Gigliotti (who won an Oscar for Best Picture for 1998’s “Shakespeare in Love) and Emmy-winning director Glenn Weiss are the producers of the 2019 Academy Awards. This will be the first time that Gigliotti is producing the Oscar ceremony. Weiss has directed several major award shows, including the Oscars and the Tonys. He will direct the Oscar ceremony again in 2019.

**February 18, 2019 UPDATE: Bette Midler will perform “The Place Where Los Things Go,” the Oscar-nominated song from “Mary Poppins Returns.” British rock band Queen, whose official biopic is the Oscar-nominated film “Bohemian Rhapsody,” will also perform on the show with lead singer Adam Lambert. It has not been revealed which song(s) Queen will perform at the Oscars.

February 19, 2019 UPDATE: These presenters have been added to the Oscar telecast: Elsie Fisher, Danai Gurira, Brian Tyree Henry, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Keaton, Helen Mirren, John Mulaney, Tyler Perry, Pharrell Williams, Krysten Ritter, Paul Rudd and Michelle Yeoh.

February 21, 2019 UPDATE: These celebrities will present the Best Picture nominees: José Andrés, Dana Carvey, Queen Latifah, Congressman John Lewis, Diego Luna, Tom Morello, Mike Myers, Trevor Noah, Amandla Stenberg, Barbra Streisand and Serena Williams.