The film editing precursors this season have had more cutting and zig-zagging than that scene in Bohemian Rhapsody. Sound of Metal and The Trial of the Chicago 7 tied at Critics Choice. Then Sound of Metal won BAFTA. Then Trial won ACE. So, who wins in this scenario and why?
Many have likened Sound of Metal‘s path to 2014’s Whiplash and understandably so. Not simply because of the music-driven nature of the films but their similar precursor path. Whiplash was bested at ACE by #2 Best Picture contender Boyhood but it BAFTA in its back pocket on its way to Oscar. It also has a sound win from BAFTA after being snubbed for wins by both sound guilds: Cinema Audio Society, where it wasn’t even nominated, and Motion Picture Sound Editors, where it lost all three of its nominations…just like Sound of Metal did.
In fact, it’s the sound nominations (or, nomination, as it is this year) that probably hold the key to this category. While the Academy merged sound editing and sound mixing back into a single category after 38 years of being split, we can still look to those two sound guild precursors: the Cinema Audio Society (CAS) and the Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE). CAS (sound mixing) went for Sound of Metal while the MPSE gave one of its wins (dialogue/ADR) to Trial. But only Sound of Metal is Oscar-nominated for its sound. It’s reasonable to think that had the category remained split that Trial probably would have gotten in but that remains a hypothetical. Film Editing and Sound so very often go hand in hand in terms of paired nominations and the success in winning one or both: Ford v Ferrari won film editing and sound editing last year and Bohemian Rhapsody won all three two years ago.
Let’s take a look at films that only won Film Editing since the inception of the category and what that tells us.
1934: Eskimo (a lone nominee)
1940: North West Mounted Police
1942: The Pride of the Yankees (Best Picture nominee)
1943: Air Force
1947: Body and Soul
2011: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter won previous year for The Social Network)
It’s been 10 years since the last occurrence and in that case, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo also had sound nominations on top of Wall and Baxter having just won the year before. Statistically, The Trial of the Chicago 7 winning only editing is a longer shot than the film being completely snubbed altogether. So unless you think it’s winning Original Screenplay and is creating a surprise path to Best Picture (which some people do, more power to them), this should go to Sound of Metal.
As the conversation has almost solely surrounded these two films, it’s unfortunate that so often the concept and craft of film editing gets lost on the average Academy voter. Most often equals best and voters want to see the editing. The Father and Nomadland, two very deserving nominees here, create their worlds through an almost cloak of invisibility that is respected but rarely recognized. Script structure is often confused with film editing too, and a film like The Father, which utilizes very specific structure and editing to immerse the viewer into the world of and experience of dementia in simple and subtle ways, would be a welcome winner and show a true understanding of this category and of the craft film editing. Nomadland, as the current frontrunner for Best Picture is automatically in a slightly better position. It’s also one of director Chloé Zhao’s four Oscar nominations. Directors have won for editing their own films before (like the Coen Brothers and their editing alter ego Roderick Jaynes) but I don’t know if I trust AMPAS to go for it here unless there’s a sweep for the film.
For Promising Young Woman, another superb example of film editing, its path is bleak at best. It just lost the ACE Eddie to a non-Best Picture nominated film (Palm Springs, a hyper-edited feature whose editing is a crucial element of the film), making it the first to do since 1983’s The Right Stuff lost the ACE to War Games. Interestingly enough, The Right Stuff ended up winning the film editing Oscar and War Games wasn’t even nominated.
The 93rd Oscars will be held on April 25 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood and the Union Station in Los Angeles.
Here are my ranked final Oscar predictions in Film Editing.
1. Sound of Metal (Amazon Studios) – ACE (drama), BAFTA, BFCA
Mikkel E. G. Nielsen
2. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix) – ACE (drama), BAFTA, BFCA
3. Nomadland (Searchlight Pictures) – ACE (drama), BAFTA, BFCA
4. The Father (Sony Pictures Classics) – BAFTA
5. Promising Young Woman (Focus Features) – ACE (comedy), BAFTA