Can’t hear movie dialogue? It’s not just you.

The video director of the last newspaper I worked for was the first person who admitted to me he and his wife were watching evey movie they viewed at home with the subtitles on.

That was probably a dozen years ago. And I recall thinking “We’re all getting older, soooo… “

But that made me notice how many movies were burying the dialogue in the sound mix, not forcing retakes from mumbling actors, not allowing screenwriters on the set to defend the idea that their words matter.

Then we started hearing what Christopher Nolan was doing with his sound mixes.

I didn’t feel so bad for turning on the subtitles for everything I watch. It helps if I’m quoting dialogue on the review. That’s my excuse, anyway.

I stream three or four movies a day, and I have to stop and rewind more and more of them if I want to get the quoted dialogue right. Watch enough classic films and you notice the difference.

Are directors, often listening to a take through headphones on the set, that clueless about the mumbling and whispering?

Are they too timid to ask for “One more take, LOUDER and more ARTICUCULATED?”

Here’s a good piece from Slashfilm about the state of the problem and the wide range of reasons for it. And no, it’s not because Hollywood is hiring deaf or incompetent sound mixers.

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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