The LAMB Devours the Oscars: Best Film Editing

by Rachel · February 12, 2012 · LAMB Devours the Oscars · 5 Comments
Editor’s note: Welcome to the nineteenth of a 32-part series dissecting the 84th Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Every day leading up to the Oscars, a new post written by a different LAMB will be published, each covering a different category of the Oscars. To read any other posts regarding this event, please click the tag following the post. Thank you, and enjoy!

By Ryan at The Matinee

I said it last year, I’ll say it again his year: Editing is Storytelling. It is more than dropping scenes that don’t work and bringing the film down to time. It is the feel and flow of any film, the very moment where it all comes together and finds its voice and narrative. It can find unexpected nuance, sharpen entire performances, and sometimes save an entire film.
The art of great editing can express a lot of different things in a film, and all of those different things have been honoured this year. Whether it’s striking the balance between humour and sorrow, giving witty dialogue the pace it needs to succeed, or weaving us through a wondrous world of the past, the field for Best Editing at The 84th Oscars is surprisingly tough to call.

At a glance, THE DESCENDANTS might seem like an odd choice in the category, but do recall that the film is filled with a lot of very funny moments. The key to great humour? Timing. That timing is able to serve both the comedic and the dramatic, and draw focus. Finding that balance can often be the difference between a good film and a great one, and Alexander Payne’s editor Kevin Tent seems to understand that balance better than anyone. His fourth Oscar nomination is a nod to subtlety in editing and trusting a long take.

MONEYBALL is a film that lives and dies by its editing. A movie with a script as wordy as this will evoke line deliveries that vary from take to take, and repeatedly finding just the right one is painstaking. Beyond just focusing on the best its actors have to give, the editing in MONYBALL is tantamount to drawing the audience in and allowing them to invest in the managing of a team that spends most of the film losing.  The best sports films usually have great editing, and MONEYBALL is no exception.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO comes with a sexier brand of editing, which should surprise no one since almost every David Fincher film likes to brandish this sword. It’s aggressive, designed to unnerve, and underline the damaged nature of many of the characters involved. Perhaps more than any other nominee, it is the film where the editing is the most noticeable…but noticeable does not equal “good”. Still, what separated this version of the story from its Swedish predecessor was a higher level of technical execution, and its editing is no exception to that.

Of all the films on this list, THE ARTIST might be the one that relies the most on is editing. If it plays things too lackadaisical, the film feels like a syrupy yarn. If it plays to calculated, the film turns into homage. Finding the balance between the two – finding a way to add to the cannon rather than just honour it – is the trick. Further, with this film omitting so many common elements of modern filmmaking (colour, crop, dialogue), the elements it does utilize are forced to deliver that much more. It’s editing is what allows it to strike that balance of charm and wit.

Finally, there’s HUGO which employs every trick THE ARTIST eschews and then some. The film might not be “the adventure” that young Isabelle so dearly wants it to be, but it is a visual feast that is both energetic and romantic. It wants us to remember the magic that came with cinema when it was in its infancy and does so by lovingly surrounding us with shot after shot of elaborate wonder. If THE DESCENDANTS is subtle, and THE DRAGON TATTOO is sexy, then HUGO is showy – and wants us to feel like we too are zipping through that glorious train station and immersing ourselves in a world of classic film. In addition to the film’s overall worthiness, it provides Oscar voters a chance to make Thelma Schoonmaker the most lauded editor in movie history, and I don’t think they’ll be able to resist the bait.

In my opinion it all comes down to a two-horse race between THE ARTIST and HUGO. Both have done something that feels novel, and both honour the legacy of moviemaking in doing so. When it’s all said and done though, I put my money on HUGO to take the prize.

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5 Responses to The LAMB Devours the Oscars: Best Film Editing

  1. EFC says:

    “I said it last year, I’ll say it again his year: Editing is Storytelling.” Absolutely. It’s like Tarantino once said — the final cut of the movie is the last draft of the screenplay. And just like a screenplay, the quality of the editing can make or break a film

    I liked how each film’s editing style was described in relation to the subject matter — Dragon Tattoo’s aggressiveness, Descendants’ timing and subtlety — as well as the potential pitfalls of not finding the right balance. Good stuff!

  2. Interesting some important news you have good. Printing Workflow

  3. Great job Ryan! Editing is one of those areas that I need to learn more about. I usually find myself engrossed in either the story itself or the performances, but reading how you see each of these being uplifted by the editing makes me think more about it.

    What particularly interests me is that when I read reviews of films that I liked and others didn’t, or films that others liked and I didn’t, they almost always talk about the editing. So I feel like I should learn more about it so that I can appreciate some new things more, but maybe not so much that I lose my love for the films that everyone else hates! Hahaha!

  4. Ryan McNeil says:

    @ Never Too Early… Track down a book called “In The Blink of An Eye” by Walter Murch (he’s the man who edited APOCALYPSE NOW and THE ENGLISH PATIENT).

    It explains the subtleties and science of editing very eloquently, and one doesn’t need to be an editor to follow his line of thought.

  5. Thanks Ryan! I’ll definitely check that out.

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