Oscar Predictions 2014: Editing

Sydney Pollack once likened film editing to sculpting, and he’s (of course) right. The Invisible Art is also like having a 10,000-piece puzzle to solve without knowing exactly what the final image is supposed to look like. You’re creating the puzzle while solving it.

It’s a remarkable skill that blends technical prowess with creative ability and gut-level instinct. This year, the Oscar nominees in this field were able to successfully submerge us into the world of antebellum slavery, 1970s swagger, modern-day violence, 1980s epidemic rebellion and futuristic-feeling isolation.

Read on to learn more about the nominees with my predicted winner in red

Joe Walker, 12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave

Why He Was Nominated

The editing in 12 Years a Slave walked hand in hand in hand with Sean Bobbitt’s photography and Steve McQueen’s direction. The result was a film where no quarter was given to the audience, delivering unflinching sequences that challenged and excited. It’s an example of how knowing the right place to cut, and having the patience for it, can make all the difference.

Why He Might Win

Like McQueen and other members of his team, this is the first broader-scale acclaim for Walker after doing strong work on Shame and Hunger among others. He’s a fresh voice, and his artistry is without question. This film gripped its audience, and it’s clear that Walker played a big role in ensuring that tight emotional hold.

Why He Might Not Win

A quick look at recent winners reveals that there aren’t a lot of editors dealing with long takes, so his work might well be too nuanced to make a mark with voters.

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Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten, American Hustle

American Hustle

Why They Were Nominated

A fractured puzzle, American Hustle and its leaping narrative must have been a lot of fun to put together. Jay Cassidy was first nominated in 2008 for Into the Wild, and the again with Crispin Struthers last year for David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook. I’d love to hear how the editor of Zombieland and Dodgeball joined to make a three-man team to work alongside Russell’s vision. Regardless, the challenge of piecing this story together in a way that cohered and felt meaningful was a difficult one, and these editors certainly rose to the task.

Why They Might Win

The work is stellar, but on the wonky side of things, they just won the ACE (American Cinema Editors) Award (the Eddie!) on the comedy/musical side of the house. Because American Hustle is a comedy. Maybe. That would definitely help them on the push since this award is a guild-led category.

Why They Might Not Win

Again, wonk-ily, the comedy/musical editing award from ACE has never lined up with the Oscar winner in 14 years of pairing. The 15th winner might buck that trend, but the staggering odds don’t help. Plus, Cassidy and Struthers didn’t win for Silver Linings Playbook last year (although they went up against William Goldenberg, which was a great way to lose).

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Christopher Rouse, Captain Phillips

Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips

Why He Was Nominated

Intensity. Rouse has a knack for it, and he’s already won an Oscar (for The Bourne Ultimatum in 2007) for thrilling audiences by creating a great sense of immediacy. He brings that talent yet again to the story of Tom Hanks being attacked by Somali pirates.

Why He Might Win

It’s a hell of an effort, and it’s already scored Rouse the ACE on the drama side. If we’re going by numbers, the ACE for a dramatic feature and the Oscar have lined up 11 times in 14 years. That bodes well. In fact, Rouse has a major chance of winning here.

Why He Might Not Win

The spoiler in the fight is Gravity, which very well might utilize popular appeal and major momentum going into some of the bigger awards to sweep this one away.

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John Mac McMurphy (aka Jean-Marc Vallée) and Martin Pensa, Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club Movie

Why They Were Nominated

Honestly, the film’s editing is solid, but this seems more like an example of a category being swept up into the mix by the popular prestige of the film. Dallas Buyers Club is nominated for 6 awards, including Best Picture, and that reach has pulled in a few other nominations. Just to clarify: Vallée, the movie’s director, is using a pseudonym here. He and Pensa (who isn’t using a pseudonym) are relatively young in the game, so it’s likely we’ll see them back again.

Why They Might Win

If they do, it’ll be because Dallas Buyers Club somehow wins Best Picture and has proven itself to be powerful enough with voters that it emerges victorious in more categories than the top prize. Vallée isn’t up for Best Director, so this would be a way to award him.

Why They Might Not Win

From a technical standpoint, they’re outgunned her significantly. In fact, they weren’t nominated for the ACE Eddies at all. On that front, they replace Her and Saving Mr. Banks. Unless we’re also considering Dallas Buyers Club a comedy. Seriously, the lines get blurred pretty seriously around award season.

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Alfonso Cuaron and Mark Sanger, Gravity

Sandra Bullock in Gravity

Why They Were Nominated

The whole of Gravity was a technical marvel where all elements worked in concert with each other to create a profound, immersive experience. Editing was a large piece of that workforce, and the aftermath was powerful.

Why They Might Win

This is another case of a movie’s popularity sweeping up other awards, but it’s a well-earned nomination because the work here is imposing. Plus, voters will most likely tag Gravity for its technical aspects, even if it doesn’t ultimately win Best Picture or Best Director. If it wins big, it could score on this front as well, and if it doesn’t win big, these kinds of awards might seem like consolations for a movie that a ton of people marveled at.

Why They Might Not Win

They didn’t win the ACE Eddie — although they were nominated — and it’s not often that the ACE winner fails to go on to Oscar glory. Still, I’ve got a feeling that this pulls out the upset victory.

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Who Should Win:

Toss a coin. You know, a five-sided one. All of these nominees are stellar. In fact, if you look at the multitude of varying nominees year to year, you get a vision for how many excellent editors are currently working (and getting recognition at this level). Ultimately, it would be amazing to Walker win for 12 Years a Slave if only to prove that the invisible of The Invisible Art can be celebrated.

Oscar 2014


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