Categories One-by-One: Film Editing

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Re: Categories One-by-One: Film Editing

Postby Sonic Youth » Fri Feb 24, 2012 7:23 pm

Mister Tee wrote:Lots of people are applying the best picture default to The Artist. I'd like to have these people explain to me: did the film's editing stand out for you in any traditional way?


I'll try to explain.

Perhaps the editing doesn't stand out in any traditional (or rather, conventional) way, but it stands out the same way the score stands out: because it's a silent film. And both score and editing provide the narrative thrust more explicitly than it would with a conventional non-action film with sound and spoken dialogue. Regardless of whether the quality is extraordinary or not, this I believe is what will compel voters to choose The Artist for this category.

And the fact that it's the Best Picture favorite helps.
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Re: Categories One-by-One: Film Editing

Postby Mister Tee » Tue Feb 21, 2012 9:01 pm

OscarGuy wrote:The bonus is The Artist does have the ACE prize.

Yeah, but on the cheap...without having to compete with anything real.

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Re: Categories One-by-One: Film Editing

Postby OscarGuy » Tue Feb 21, 2012 8:36 pm

The bonus is The Artist does have the ACE prize.
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Re: Categories One-by-One: Film Editing

Postby Mister Tee » Tue Feb 21, 2012 5:28 pm

This category puzzles me this year, enough that I've gone back and examined a good bit of the history of the award. For my purposes, I've looked back 50 years -- because it's a nice round number, and because it almost perfectly encompasses my time watching the Oscars. (It's in fact off by just one year...meaning this Sunday will be my 50th time watching the Oscars. Happy weird anniversary)

The winners over that 50 year period have made it clear that, for voters, Best Editing largely translates to Most Editing. They like lots of cross-cutting...which has, over time, caused them to vote for movies featuring battle sequences, prize fights, car chases, suspense sequences, visual tricks (animation combined with live action, documentary mixed with fictional footage), and, a more recent trend, multiple story lines/realities or jumbled chronology.

There's a second level involved in the choice, though. Like in most other Oscar categories, voters tend to favor more generally-admired films -- i.e., the best picture nominees. Only 6 of the 50 editing prizes in my survey were given to films excluded from best picture consideration. In fairness, 3 of those 6 have come along in the past 12 years, possibly indicating a loosening of tradition. But it must further be added that all 3 of those winners (The Matrix, Black Hawk Down, The Bourne Ultimatum) came into their evening armed with the ACE award. You have to go back to Who Framed Roger Rabbit? to find an interloper that didn't win the Editors prize first. This, of course, is not good news for the Dragon Tattoo. But I'll get to that in a bit.

You can further break down the 44 remaining editing winners -- 24 times the prize went to the best picture winner; another 20 it went to a losing nominee. In the latter group, you can often easily see why the film would triumph against the gravitational pull of a best picture winner. Mary Poppins had its visual tricks; Z, Jaws, Raiders and Witness had taut suspense throughout; Raging Bull was (to date) the last of the boxing ring choices; Cabaret inaugurated the out-of-time-sequence tradition -- and was followed by Fosse's own All That Jazz, JFK, Traffic, and The Social Network; Star Wars and Saving Private Ryan had razor-cut battle scenes. Pretty much every one of these "exceptions" reinforced the prejudices of the category

But then there are those 24 cases where the best picture winner won the prize, which many look at differently. The roughly 50% synchronicity has led some to consider the editing prize a natural part of the best picture haul -- a default choice, as it were. Is this true? Well, a goodly number of best picture winners had plenty of credentials for winning editing on their own. Lawrence of Arabia and Return of the King had their battles. French Connection had its chase, Rocky its ring sequences. The Deer Hunter had those tautly edited Russian roulette games. Dances with Wolves had a buffalo hunt. Schindler's List had those gruelling run-the-inmates-around-the -camp scenes. Gump had its Forrest-meets-the-Presidents footage. English Patient, Crash and Slumdog had the fractured time sequence, Chicago the integration of fantasy and reality, Titanic different time frames and massive action sequences. (The Last Emperor and, stretching it, even Gandhi had some level of this time displacement, as well) The Departed and The Hurt Locker were loaded with tense moments. I'd say all of these qualified for editing under standard expectation.

But there are a few winners about whom you just have to say, It won because it was the big movie of the night. West Side Story. The Sound of Music. In the Heat of the Night (not that it was bad; just that I didn't see conspicuous editing). Patton. The Sting. Unforgiven.

But really nothing after Unforgiven. Making one wonder if default-to-best-picture used to be an option, but one not exercised as much these days.

Which brings me, at last, to this year's group.

Lots of people are applying the best picture default to The Artist. I'd like to have these people explain to me: did the film's editing stand out for you in any traditional way? The film is certainly professionally edited throughout, but literally the only thing I can think of that traditionally would qualify it for the prize would be that near-end sequence of Peppy driving the car/George flirting with suicide.

Not that I think most of the other candidates have any major claim on the prize, either. Despite its surprise win at ACE, The Descendants, whatever you think of the film, seems far too unflashy to compete. Hugo is certainly well constructed, but except for a few stray scenes -- the train crash, chasing Hugo through the station -- it doesn't scream Editing! Moneyball feels like the strongest of the best picture contenders, with its flashbacks to Beane's early career, and that one heightened game at the end. But enough to claim the prize? I'm dubious.

I think Sabin is right in pinpointing Dragon Tattoo as the strongest challenger under the standard format. But there is that stat I mentioned earlier: it would be one of only two films in 50 years to win the category without a best picture nod or an ACE win. You want to buck those odds?

So, most people have drifted to The Artist. And they may be right. But it feels like a pretty weak front runner. This'll be something of a test of how strong The Artist tide really is. If it wins here -- and places like costumes or screenplay -- then it might be the kind of sweeper Slumdog was (and King's Speech fell short of being). But if it doesn't, the evening might be more interesting than it currently appears.

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Re: Categories One-by-One: Film Editing

Postby Big Magilla » Thu Feb 16, 2012 6:10 am

I agree with BJ on this. There's no reason to deny the Best Picture front-runner.

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Re: Categories One-by-One: Film Editing

Postby Sabin » Wed Feb 15, 2012 11:14 pm

Not sure if I agree with your logic.

The Artist has far more in common with the Oscar winners that lost (The King's Speech, No Country for Old Men, A Beautiful Mind) than the ones that won (The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire, The Departed). Bottom line: the movies that win Best Film Editing look like a series of hard choices were made in the editing bay re: what to keep and what to let go instead of films where it appears that everything that was shot appears on the screen.

The kills The Descendants too.

It's likely between Moneyball, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Hugo. I know what I'm rooting for. That Moneyball got in for Best Film Editing is one of the nicest surprises on Oscar morning. It's a beautifully constructed film that has everything a winner should have: flashbacks, crosscutting, moments of calm, moments of panic...except the subject matter. Not like a Facebook Movie screams out for an Editing win -- let alone anything. It would be the smartest choice for the Academy to make, but unless the ACE goes for it, I'm not putting money on it.

It's between frequent winner Thelma Schoonmaker for Hugo and last year's winners Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Hugo is one of the films where I just have no Earthy idea how it's going to do. It could win more Oscars than The Artist. It could win one or two. However, it's a tightly paced film that jumps around a lot, it has a Best Picture nomination, and there's no reason to believe the Academy will say that Thelma Schoonmaker has too many Oscar wins. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo didn't make the Best Picture cut, but it has four other nominations and, despite grievances that it wasn't a success, it's made twice as much as Hugo.

I'm pretty torn between them. The film with the most editing seems like the likeliest winner, so that to me looks like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
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Categories One-by-One: Film Editing

Postby The Original BJ » Wed Feb 15, 2012 2:11 pm

The editors' somewhat slavish devotion to Best Picture candidates has produced a lineup that, this year, is fairly unexciting. My top choices probably would have been Drive, with its exciting, unique rhythms (which I really thought the editors might go for), and The Tree of Life, for making such a collage of images consistently engrossing. A Separation and Martha Marcy May Marlene would also have made impressive choices as well, not that either of those had much of a shot.

I like The Descendants more than many on this board, though not nearly as much as its critical reputation, but its editing nomination is one of the year's laziest. The cutting is uninspired at best, haphazard at worst, and certainly not deserving of being anywhere near this conversation. Were it not such a strong Best Picture candidate, there's no way it would have placed.

At the other end of the spectrum, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a fairly solid example of the kind of movie that can miss in Best Picture but still get noticed for its editing, simply based on attention-getting cutting. From a craft standpoint, it's really hard to fault Dragon Tattoo, and its skillful weaving of story elements probably makes it the flashiest nominee in this category. But I think some of the main complaints about this movie -- that it's too long, that the first hour takes a while to really get going -- will cost the movie in this category, and I think the better-liked Best Picture candidates will prevent last year's winners from making a return trip to the podium.

Thelma Schoonmaker is clearly an editing legend, and Hugo's celebration of cinematic legends could very well propel her (and her equally notable collaborators) to victory in some of the craft categories. But I can't say the movie screamed editing Oscar like the other Scorsese vehicles for which Schoonmaker has been Oscared. The pacing here is far less energetic, and I think at the end of the day, Hugo's best Oscar bets are in other categories.

Moneyball is probably my pick of these nominees, for so fluidly balancing past and present sequences, and for finding the perfect rhythms for the rat-a-tat dialogue. The film made two subjects about I which I care very little (baseball and math) seem engrossing, and I think the strong pacing is a key reason why. But the film would be a bit of an oddity as an editing winner -- not a strong enough Best Picture candidate to take this prize in a sweep (or even as a consolation, a la Social Network), not ostentatious enough editing-wise to triumph the way something like Black Hawk Down did.

So, I'm going to predict the Best Picture frontrunner takes this prize. The Artist isn't what you'd call dazzlingly cut -- it models its style after the invisible cutting of Classic Hollywood rather than anything groundbreaking -- but it moves along fairly briskly, and gets some good laughs out of its well-timed sight gags. I think, given the lack of a really strong candidate in this field, voters will just pick the movie they like the best.


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