Saturday, February 23, 2008


Peter O'Toole has been nominated for the Academy Award for best actor eight times, but has never won. But O'Toole, who at least has a honorary Oscar on his mantle, has nothing on Kevin O'Connell, who tomorrow will enter the Kodak Theater looking to capture the award that has slipped through his grasp during his long career as a sound mixer for the movies. With Transformers, O'Connell is on his 20th nomination without a win. And last I heard, there haven't been a lot of sound mixers who've gotten Oscars for bodies of work. So competitive races are pretty much all the chances that he has.

O'Connell has earned his Oscar invites for movies ranging from Spider-Man and The Rock to Armageddon and Dune. They've been loud (Pearl Harbor) and quiet (Terms of Endearment). With Transformers, he has been been nominated for seven out the past eight years. But all he has to show for it are 20 certificates on his wall for each of the nods he has received. Oh, and the fact that he is probably the most famous sound mixer in the world thanks to his futility. He's been interviewed on national televison several times about his Oscar track record - sometimes to the point where some of his colleagues probably take a bit of offense at the attention O'Connell gets.

Things came to a bit of a head at last year's Oscar ceremony after the sound mixing team from Dreamgirls won the Oscar over O'Connell and his cohorts at Apocalypto. Backstage, the Dreamgirls guys were asked about O'Connell's streak. One of them, Michael Minkler, replying with a combination of sarcasm and pique, said:

''I think Kevin should just like maybe just go away with 19 wins and just call it a record and that would be the end of it. We work really, really hard at what we do, all of us do in our craft. And if we, you know, stumble upon an award like this, you know, if somebody is willing to honor us with something like this, we are so grateful. And I just wonder what Kevin's trying to do out there by trying to get an award by using sympathy. And Kevin's an okay mixer but enough's enough about Kevin.... I just think that maybe he should just take up another line of work.''


Oh, did I mention that O'Connell's mother, the woman who encouraged him to go into the movie business, died in his arms at a local hospital hours after he lost? At that moment, an Oscar was the last thing on his mind, and so were Minkler's comments - he didn't learn about them until a couple of days later. They did cause an uproar, though, and only added to the media whirlwind surrounding O'Connell that Minkler was complaining about. (To be fair, Minkler says he wasn't aware of O'Connell's tragedy when he said what he said and soon after issued an apology, which O'Connell accepted, though it would be a stretch to call them buddies.) But it makes this year's awards all the more compelling. Not because it would be a rematch between O'Connell and Minkler, as the latter is not recognize this year, but just because of the cool story it would be if O'Connell finally got to take something home with him other than the Oscar program and a nice doggie bag from the Governors Ball. Besides, that would be the best way to end the hype around O'Connell once and for all. Have you heard anyone talking about the losing streaks of Susan Lucci or the Boston Red Sox lately?

So I'll be rooting for for Kevin O'Connell just as hard as for anybody else on Sunday night. Even though Transformers was a piece of crap. But it sounded great. And if O'Connell does make the 20th time the charm, he'll be dedicated his Oscar to someone, and it won't be Michael Minkler.

Here is a recent interview with O'Connell on his career and, yeah, that.

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