Oscar Week: Best Film Editing

When it comes time for the Academy Awards to be handed out, few of the mainstream audiences are putting money down and waiting with bated breath to hear who walks off with the Best Editing statuette. It’s a technical award, and doesn’t quite hold the allure that the top six awards do. Still, it is a mark of quality for the film.

An award since 1934, the winner has often been films that have raked in plenty of other awards. It’s not always shared with Best Picture, but it usually comes out of that category. Seen as a technical feat as much as an artistic feat, editing is important to pacing, story and character. People may not remember all Best Editing winners (like Barbara McLean for Wilson in 1944), but more often than not, it’s known for honoring a major film.

Because of the nature of the challenge of editing, action and event films that don’t win the big awards often walk away with the editing honors. Verna Fields won for Jaws in 1975, and the trio of Paul Hirsch, Marcia Lucas and Richard Chew won for Star Wars in 1977. Even before that, the winners were sometimes just as memorable as the Best Picture winners, evidenced by the wins of Robert J. Kerns for National Velvet in 1945, Elmo Williams and Harry Gerstad for High Noon in 1952 and Cotton Warburton for Mary Poppins in 1964.

And the nominees are…

oscar-edit1.jpgChristopher Rouse for The Bourne Ultimatum

Why Is It Nominated?: Whether you love Paul Greengrass’s frenetic handheld style or not, you must admit that making sense of it all through the editing process is a feat in its own right. Rouse, who also co-edited last year’s United 93, kept the flow going through this high-speed action piece.

Why It Might Win: Rouse isn’t new to the Oscars, although he hasn’t won. He was nominated for United 93, so he carries a degree of reputation. Also, this is the only film in the fray that fits the big-budget action style that this category often honors.

Why It Might Not Win: As much as being the only action film on the list can help the movie win, it can also hold it back. Ultimately, it’s going up against the two Oscar darlings this year (No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood), and that’s a hard sell in anyone’s book.

oscar-edit2.jpgJuliette Welfling for Scaphandre et le papillon, Le (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)

Why Is It Nominated?: In a year with films taking a more introspective tone, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was one of the more innovative ways of keeping things small. The challenge was to make a POV film about a paralyzed man, and Welfling’s editing helped realize that goal.

Why It Might Win: There’s a lot of love out there for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, making it a dangerous dark horse candidate. Where three of the nominees (Into the Wild, No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood) share a similar style, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is unique in the line-up.

Why It Might Not Win: Like a handful of films each year, not everyone has seen this. Plus, it is the only foreign film on the list. This can help the film in terms of larger awards, but often leaves it in the dust for the technical merits.

oscar-edit3.jpgJay Cassidy for Into the Wild

Why Is It Nominated?: Some might say that every nomination for Into the Wild is a result of Sean Penn’s ego, and they might be right. But Jay Cassidy’s editing gave the film flow and style that highlighted the Alaskan wilderness as much as it did the character of Christopher McCandless.

Why It Might Win: Quite frankly, Into the Wild is a beautifully edited film, if not for content than for style. Cassidy approached the scenery like he was painting a picture, which helped the film rise above it’s somewhat conceited director. Additionally, his work on An Inconvenient Truth in 2006 gave him a bit of respect from the industry.

Why It Might Not Win: Let’s face it, Jay Cassidy doesn’t have a great film pedigree. Past credits include Urban Legend, Fright Night Part 2 and Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever. He may not be a hack himself, but he’s worked on a number of hack films.

oscar-edit4.jpgEthan Coen and Joel Coen for No Country for Old Men

Why Is It Nominated?: Because it’s No Country for Old Men, that’s reason enough to earn a nomination. This film is as loved this year as There Will Be Blood. But ultimately, it was the pacing of a film without a soundtrack that made the movie stand-out.

Why It Might Win: Aside from the fact that the Coen brothers are darlings of the industry and especially loved this year, they are seen as a multiple threat in the filmmaking department. As directors/writers/producers/editors of the film, they had a level of understanding that allowed it to be a moseying tale that burst into high-powered gunfights.

Why It Might Not Win: The film shares so many nominations with There Will Be Blood, a stylistically similar and beloved film, that it runs the risk of splitting the vote in many categories. And since the Coens are such favored contenders in other categories, it might lose out in editing.

oscar-edit5.jpgDylan Tichenor for There Will Be Blood

Why Is It Nominated?: Like No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood gobbled up oodles of nominations simply for the love of the film. And like the other slower, more contemplative films, There Will Be Blood had brilliant pacing that is spearheaded by the editing department.

Why It Might Win: Like the other somber nominees, There Will Be Blood was all about pacing. It wasn’t an action movie, but it had its action moments. It wasn’t a comedy, but there were plenty of disturbingly funny parts in the film. And while the movie ran north of 2 1/2 hours, it still drove the audience to the very end.

Why It Might Not Win: Quite simply, the performances of Daniel Day Lewis and Paul Dano, along with the top-end awards that P.T. Anderson is vying for, might leave Dylan Tichenor in the dust. Additionally, it’s hard to award an editing honor to a film that runs as long as this one did.

Who will win?

Christopher Rouse for The Bourne Ultimatum

Action and making sense of handheld insanity is going to win the day for the Best Editing category. Also, while the other films have been raking in the wins for award season, they haven’t been getting the editing nod all that much. No Country for Old Men won the Best Editing award from the Online Film Critics Society, but Rouse took home the BAFTA and some smaller awards from critics organizations. Additionally, with a technical award like this, the editors in the Academy are going to give it some love over the otherwise artsy flicks.

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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