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When Damien Chazelle’s “First Man” fell out of the Best Picture Oscar race, much of its crafts prestige slipped as well. And, after being shut out last weekend from both the MPSE and CAS awards for sound editing and mixing, “First Man”‘s stunning sound work has drifted from favorite to underdog. It’s going to be very hard to beat the rock’n’roll force of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which has all the momentum.
But, regardless of what happens on Sunday, the dramatic and complex sound editing and mixing of “First Man” ranks as one of the best achievements in recent years. The way it authentically recreates Neil Armstrong’s (Ryan Gosling) journey to the moon, from teeth-rattling and dangerous supersonic test flights and documentary-like Houston home life to rocket blasts into space, led by the “La La Land” team of Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou achieved a tactile, visceral impact.
And that’s not all. In keeping with Chazelle’s exploration of the grieving Armstrong’s troubled state of mind, the sound team additionally created an otherworldly vibe inside the capsules. “We wanted to immerse the audience in the experience of the astronauts in these fragile, metal spacecrafts, and build them up into various stages to increase the intensity,” said Lee, who served as sound designer, co-sound editor, and one of the re-recording mixers.
Opening - Neil - Armstrong - Intensity - Something
“With the X-15 opening, we stay with Neil Armstrong and increase the intensity, sometimes morphing it into something surreal and surprising. So…we would add an animal roar or a howl that bursts out of the launch explosions or [elsewhere].”
Those distorted and high-pitched animal sounds included elephants, lions, and stampeding horses. One of the best instances occurred during the X-15’s descent when Armstrong re-enters the earth’s atmosphere, enhanced with the shaking and vibrating noises of the aircraft.
On the mixing side, Lee collaborated with Mary Ellis...
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