Best Editing Nominees:
Argo, William Goldenberg
Zero Dark Thirty, William Goldenberg/Dylan Tichenor
Lincoln, Michael Kahn
Life of Pi, Tim Squyres
Silver Linings Playbook, Jay Cassidy/Crispin Struthers
When The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo won Best Editing last year it was anomaly. It’s rare that this award will be given to a picture not up for Best Picture and even more rare in this new 10 picture format. But alas, Dragon Tattoo proved that the suspected predicability of Oscar voters can easily take strange detours. However, this year all of the Best Editing nominees are also competing for Best Picture so such a twist can’t occur. Additionally, the five in this category represent the five likeliest to take home Best Picture so any one of these winning here would be something of an expected turn.
The two horses leading the race are driven by the same jockey, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, each edited by William Goldenberg (ZDT is co-edited with Dylan Tichenor). While Argo remains the frontrunner to win the big prize, it has to be seen as an even greater lock for Editing. By weaving multiple storylines that move between broad comedy and tightly-wound suspense, the editing of Argo might well be it greatest asset. In one particularly skillful sequence – just before the movie idea is presented to the CIA – the picture crosscuts horrific images of torture in Iran with the pomp of Hollywood script readings. In other hands this might have felt jarring or ham-fisted, but Goldenberg keeps it well-timed and fitting without any one force growing too great to co-exist with the whole.
Unlike Argo, Zero Dark Thirty tells a journalistic story with realistic precision. There’s no effort to fluff the piece, instead relying on lingering handheld long shots to register the urgency of its desperate characters. For as quickly cut as the film tends to be, there’s an overarching patience to it that should be applauded. However, there’s also a flatness that comes with such a commitment to fictionalizing pure truth. As a constructed piece, the picture often runs overlong and disengages from its through-line. If this one gets the Oscar, it will be because individual set pieces bristle with sharp editing, not because the whole matches the parts.
Silver Linings Playbook feels like pots and pans being banged together as characters literally spin out of control in front of our eyes. The spiraling effect is held together by smart writing and great acting, but also by particularly astute editing choices. The camera has a way of feeling like it’s caught the characters at exactly the place we want them to be because the edit has brought us there. Silver Linings Playbook may not be the kind of film that typically gets honored by the Oscars, but there’s a true uniqueness to the style that could easily get notice. I don’t see this winning, though I wouldn’t be shocked.
Lincoln’s editing takes a backseat to performance, script, and cinematography. Editor Michael Kahn, a three-time winner already, uses carefully designed cuts, often to smaller sizes on similar axises to enhance the dialogue of the characters. Lincoln’s editing is careful and mannered and deserves to be applauded for often remaining unseen. It’s not, however, impressive enough to standout.
Life of Pi will rake in a number of tech categories and has a chance to surprise in Editing as well. Using live action and CGI to weave fantasy with sterile reality the picture comes together with a fluidity that walks dangerously close to silliness. Easily the film could have felt clunky or slow, but instead remains pulsing from beginning to end. Ang Lee and his team should be recognized for keeping such a story alive. I think this award will go to someone else, but I wouldn’t be bowled over if Pi took this too.
WILL WIN: Argo
COULD WIN: Zero Dark Thirty
SHOULD WIN: Silver Linings Playbook