Nouse Devours the Oscars Day 12: Film Editing

Which Best Picture nominee will emerge successful for its editing prowess?

Editor’s Note: The Oscars will be presented one week from today and we’re heading into the homestretch of our countdown through the main categories.

mad max film

The Nominees
The Big Short (Hank Corwin)
Mad Max: Fury Road (Margaret Sixel)
The Revenant (Stephen Mirrione)
Spotlight (Tom McArdle)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey)

What does a film editor do really? The unhelpful of answer that it varies from film to film does not provide much. Some directors’ films look the same regardless of the same (see Woody Allen films) some are less scrutinising. But, choosing what’s the best edited film often ends up being a quagmire since we can only see the finished product and not what the editor’s worked with. It’s why awards for editing often seem guilty of awarding the most (ostensibly) edited films and not necessarily the best edited films. So, big action sequences? Multitudinous jump cuts? Lots of thriller-esque composition of shots? There’s a likely Oscar winner.

At cursory glance the editing Oscar often gets tied with the Best Picture award as the “essential” prize for a Best Picture winner to get. But, it’s not really all that necessary, although it helps. In the last ten years only four of the Picture winners won the Oscar for editing. And although our previous Oscar threads show that the Picture nominee tends to triumph over the outlier in categories like visual editing and even sound films without a Picture nominee triumph over Picture nominees easier than you’d think (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Bourne Ultimatum, Black Hawk Down the most recent examples).

In that vein Star Wars is not a complete impossibility as a winner, although I would find its chance of success improbable amidst a field like this. And even though the editing Oscar isn’t an essential prize a win for any of the other nominees would signal some strong support for its Best Picture run. For example, were Spotlight or The Big Short to win here on Oscar night, that would be big indicators of where the top prize is going. As it stands, the former’s sedate – if effective – pseudo journalistic editing might be less flashy than needed with competitors like this. The Big Short’s irreverent, edit-heavy work seems more likely especially as The Big Short emerges as a potential Picture spoiler.

I would be less surprised if one of the more tech-heavy contenders Mad Max or The Revenant emerged successful here. Of course those who are not fond of The Revenant might scoff at its win for an editing prize, but Mirrione’s solemn work here is effective enough to win fans. These two films are heading against each other in so many top prizes and ultimately Mad Max probably will win at least one major technical prize so an editing win for it – easily the most superficially loud tech-heavy of the nominees – seems the most likely, on paper. It’s been the winner of the Editors’ Guild, too and multiple precursor awards for its editing. Could it be an easy win for Mad Max? Possibly.

It’s the sensible prediction.

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