Best Film Editing

Just yesterday, word spread about a new iPad app that will offer professionals and hobbyists alike around 90% of the tools that an editor would use on a blockbuster movie. It’s an exciting technological development to be sure, but simply having access to a kitchen doesn’t make us all chefs. Francis Ford Coppola talked about editing in mythical terms,  calling it the “essence of cinema” and the “alchemy” that brought everything together. In other words, editing is the magic of movie magic.

Because of that, there’s historically been a clear correlation between the flick that wins Best Picture and the one that wins for Best Editing. Namely, about 2/3rds of all Best Picture winners also snag the editing statue. Although the past two years haven’t seen that trend fulfilled — with wins from The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo editors Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter — there’s a solid chance that Best Picture and Best Editing may be reunited on Sunday.

To become a nominee, work must first pass through the professional gauntlet of the Editing Branch of AMPAS where a few hundred experts nominate their favorites. The 5 with the most votes make it to general voting where any AMPAS member can make their voice heard. Here are this year’s contenders with my prediction in red:

Argo, William Goldenberg

Why He Was Nominated:

Goldenberg is such a vaunted film editor that you’ll see his name on this year’s list twice (although that also means he’s going to lose to himself). He works often with Michael Mann, building a style over the years that finds a precious balance between speed and clarity, and his work here with Ben Affleck’s directing is no different. It’s the clean epitome of “The Invisible Art,” but it’s also as sharp and compelling as the whip smart dialogue that fills each scene.

Why He Might Win:

Beyond the stellar work here and the high profile of the film (not to mention the mathematics), Goldenberg has now earned his third and fourth nominations without a win. Granted, his work on The Insider was bested by The Matrix, and his work on Seabiscuit was beaten by Return of the King, so he’s in good company even without a statue. With Argo, his skill is at the top of his game, and he’s already been recognized by BAFTA (beating himself there as well) and by the American Cinema Editors. With those in his pocket, it’s almost a sure thing that he’ll hear his name called during the ceremony.

Why He Might Not Win:

There’s a small chance that he’ll finally get to step up to the podium under the banner of another film — Zero Dark Thirty — for which he’s nominated alongside Dylan Tichenor (who cut The Town for Affleck). Either way, Goldenberg is winning his first Oscar this weekend.

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Life of Pi, Tim Squyres

Why He Was Nominated:

Everything about Life of Pi is technically proficient. This is the mantra of the past few months. Like Avatar before it, you can love or hate its content, but you cannot deny its breathtaking imagery or someone from the Movie Police will come take you into custody. Squyres, who has worked on all but one of Ang Lee’s films, was a major part of accentuating the lush dynamism of the film. He was first nominated for Crouching Tiger, and here again, he’s able to make sequences sing.

Why He Might Win:

Did you see that scene? Excellent cutting. The members could very well want to award Life of Pi with Editing after voting for Argo for Best Picture.

Why He Might Not Win:

The beauty of it all is hard to deny, but this is a case where the visual effects may outshine the editing and earn all their splendor. Plus, every nominee did fantastic work, but the politics and popularity contest will most likely be the ultimate decider. Keep that in mind for every entry here.

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Lincoln, Michael Kahn

Why He Was Nominated:

When is he not? The man is an editing legend, tied for the most Oscar wins and holding the record for most nominations all by his lonesome. His first was with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and this new nomination for Lincoln won’t nearly be his last. He’s worked alongside Spielberg for three decade and will continue to craft engaging stories with him and with other amazing filmmakers.

Why He Might Win:

His abilities are nearly peerless, and his resonant editing here is about as good as he’s ever been.

Why He Might Not Win:

It’s regrettable that this counts against him, but Kahn is an elder statesman of the craft. He’s more in line for an Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, and the voting members like to reward talent that hasn’t yet had its due. However, Kahn will probably have reason to cheer when his former assistant, Goldenberg, wins.

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Silver Linings Playbook, Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers

Why They Were Nominated:

The editing was the actors’ best friend in Silver Linings. With all four acting categories covered, as well as the Best Picture nomination, not nominating the editing would have been a crime. For the Movie Police. Who I mentioned before.

Why They Might Win:

Like Argo, they took home honors from the ACE Eddie Awards (who split up dramas and comedies). This is also Cassidy’s second nomination, coming off of Into the Wild in 2007.

Why They Might Not Win:

The solid invisible artwork they did might fall prey to being too invisible. It was the actors’ wingman, but like most wingmen, they’ll probably go home alone.

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Zero Dark Thirty, Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg

Why They Were Nominated:

Tichenor and Goldenberg are both outstanding talents. Their collaboration marks a stark achievement in crafting a procedural where each cut had to build into a coherent, gutsy labyrinth, but they also managed a lot of appropriately tense confusion and sequences where the visual poetry was allowed to stand calm and unadulterated.

Why They Might Win:

In addition to everything said about Goldenberg so far, Tichenor was always previously nominated for There Will Be Blood in 2007 without a win and has faced nominee panels for the Eddie several times without taking one home. If the members are keen to give the award to someone who’s only come close before, this is a one-two punch.

Why They Might Not Win:

The sheer momentum of Argo.

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Read more about The Oscars


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