2019 Oscars Look: Best Film Editing

1

Welcome to our annual Oscar Look series, formally known as “Oscar Circuit” – our deep dive look into each and every category that will be presented at the upcoming Academy Awards.  Each writer of AwardsCircuit.com will tackle a different category, offering up their own perspectives on those specific races.  If you miss a piece, click on the tag titled Oscar Look 2018. You can also see the official Oscar Predictions for that particular race by clicking on the link here or at the bottom of each article.  Make sure to include your own predicted winners in the comment section too!

And the Nominees are:

  • “BlacKkKlansman” – Barry Alexander Brown
  • “Bohemian Rhapsody” – John Ottman
  • “The Favourite” – Yorgos Mavropsaridis
  • “Green Book” – Patrick J. Don Vito
  • “Vice” – Hank Corwin

The Oscar for Best Film Editing enjoyed its inaugural year at the 7th Annual Academy Awards in 1934. The film editor receives this award. A quartet of editors share the all-time record in this category with a trio of trophies each: Ralph Dawson, Daniel Mandell, Michael Kahn, and Thelma Schoonmaker. The two surviving record-holders, Kahn and Schoonmaker, are not nominated this year. Year 2018 marks the first time in over a decade that no editing team is nominated; just five solo craftsmen.

Best Film Editing boasts more shocks and snubs than any other category this year. Current and former Best Picture frontrunners alike all found themselves as bridesmaids, while films like “Vice” and “Green Book” showed shocking strength. Notable absentees include: three time nominee Jay Cassidy, passed over for his work on “A Star Is Born” (nailing perhaps the most brutal cut of the year); Alfonso Cuaron (and co-editor Adam Gough) was denied history with an omission from the category he won in 2013; and the very first superhero movie (an action film!) to be nominated for Best Picture.

The American Cinema Editors (ACE), bestows the corresponding guild award for film editing.  Unlike the Oscars (but like most guilds), ACE splits its film prizes between Drama and Comedy/Musical. This year, longtime Bryan Singer collaborator and pal John Ottman surprised many Oscar watchers by winning the ACE Drama prize, while Yorgos Mavropsaridis turned some heads besting previous ACE winner Hank Corwin and the prohibitive Best Picture frontrunner, “Green Book.”  Over the weekend, Hank Corwin surprised some by winning BAFTA against both ACE winners for “Vice.”  BAFTA has foretold surprising Film Editing wins the last decade, from “Whiplash” or “Hacksaw Ridge;” is “Vice” to follow?

While the controversial musical biopic is probably the safe bet, I expect this category to keep us watching with bated breath on February 25th (unless the award is presented during a Bush’s Baked Beans ad).

Let’s take a closer look at the nominees…

“BlacKkKlansman,” dir. Spike Lee

Nominee: Barry Alexander Brown
Oscar Scene: Klan induction / Black Student Union

Longtime Spike Lee collaborator Barry Alexander Brown enjoys his second overall Oscar nomination, but first as a film editor in over 30 years of cutting film. Unsurprisingly, Brown’s nomination comes on the coattails of Lee’s first film to break into the Best Picture lineup.

Brown’s editing is flashy and deliberate, echoing back-and-forth transitions that are present in the script, such as the aforementioned Klan induction / Black Student Union scene. Were “BlacKkKlansman” a heavier favorite to win Best Picture (or at least Best Director), we would be looking at Brown to tag along for a win. That being said, Best Picture and Best Film Editing have not matched up since “Argo.”

“Bohemian Rhapsody,” dir. Bryan Singer

Nominee: John Ottman
Oscar Scene: Live Aid

John Ottman and Bryan Singer have collaborated since the director started making movies, cutting Singer’s breakout 1995 hit “The Usual Suspects.” Often doubling as the composer for Singer’s films (a craft for which he is much more prolific), editing Singer’s Queen biopic is Ottman’s first Oscar nomination. This is only Ottman’s 12th editor credit (10th feature, and 9th Singer).

The ACE Drama winner isn’t as surefire of an Oscar favorite as one thinks. Indeed, winning at ACE is helpful, but only five of the last ten ACE Drama winners have gone on to win the Oscar. “Bohemian Rhapsody” is mirroring “Hacksaw Ridge”: liked to the horror of some, imbued with a controversial director, and nominated for a sparse but critical  handful of Oscar nods, the majority of which it may well win. BAFTA will guide here, but expect Ottman to mount the deus all the while managing to “forget” to thank his director.

“The Favourite,” dir. Yorgos Lanthimos

Nominee: Yorgos Mavropsaridis
Oscar Scene: The Queen Controls Abigail

“The Favourite” might well be the most underrated major performer in this year’s awards race. It has managed to land essentially everywhere it has needed to (save DGA), lead most shows in nomination tally, and yet has escaped with only 3 major wins so far.

Mercifully, ACE – Comedy/Musical was one of those wins. While ACE – Drama has only repeated five times in ten years, ACE – Comedy/Musical hasn’t won the Oscar for Best Film Editing since 2002. Unless the neuvo Academy comes to bat for the distinctly atypical Oscar contender, we can expect Yorgos Mavropsaridis to remain seated during the ceremony. Not to mention a slow fade to end all slow fades should seal the deal here, but we’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed.

“Green Book,” dir. Peter Farrelly

Nominee: Patrick J. Don Vito
Oscar Scene: Driving though the Deep South

Regardless of your opinion of the film, Patrick J. Don Vito’s Oscar nomination for “Green Book” is the most dubious inclusion of all craft Oscar nominations. A clear coattail nomination typically given to films winning Best Picture, Vito does little in the way to distinguish himself from more impressive feats amongst the multiple snubees (and even of the other nominees).

In what is an absolute rarity in this day and age, Vito has a mere three (!!) nominations for “Green Book” (from San Diego Critics, ACE, and Oscar). He has four career nominations all together.

Nevertheless, discount any nomination from the prohibitive Best Picture favorite at your own peril.

“Vice,” dir. Adam McKay

Nominees: Hank Corwin
Oscar Scene: Fly Fishing

Adam McKay’s “Vice” had one of the best Oscar mornings of all the Best Picture nominees.  Tied for the second most mentions of any film, “Vice” is contending in more races than people think. Obviously, it is the favorite in Best Makeup and Hairstyling; it is in the hunt for Best Actor (still); it could find itself with a win in a muddled Original Screenplay field. And yes, editor Hank Corwin would manage to do what he almost did in 2015: win Best Film Editing.  The recent BAFTA win certainly helps, as BAFTA has overlapped with Oscar five times since 2010.

McKay’s distinctive visual style is aided by his secret weapon: Corwin. The heavy cutting, the flashbacking and flashforwarding, and the juggling of timelines and tones might be enough for voters. It fits the mold of recent winners, where “most” is the surrogate for “best.” But we’ll see how eager they are to vote for something that likely is far from a Best Picture contender.

Will Win: “Vice”
Could Win: “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Should Win: “The Favourite”
Should Have Been Nominated: “A Star Is Born”

WHO DO YOU THINK WILL WIN BEST FILM EDITING? SHARE YOUR PREDICTIONS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW.

Be sure to visit our Official Oscar Predictions Page to see the current rankings of all the nominees.