Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

Oscars 2013: Best Film Editing

Note: This is my personal ranking, listed in order from best to worst, with #1 being my favorite. Prediction for the actual winner is in orange.








This is a super-important category because it’s so closely correlated to Best Picture. Since 1981, every BP winner has been nominated for Best Editing, and of those 31, 15 editing winners have snagged the top prize as well. But this is bizarr-o year, when it doesn’t matter that all five of the editing nominees are contending for Best Picture, because we have no idea what will win best picture. Crazy stuff.

What I can guarantee is this: Either Zero Dark Thirty or Argo will take home this prize whether or not one of those films wins BP. This is fitting, because not only does this category favor this type of film — frenetic and action-driven, a la past winners Saving Private Ryan and The Bourne Ultimatum — but both of these films are edited by William Goldenberg, previously nominated for The Insider and Seabiscuit. Because editors and directors usually work closely together, it’s also important to note that both of these films’ directors were snubbed. Again: Bizarrr-o Year.

Nervy romantic comedies have never won in this category — sorry, Silver Linings Playbook — and though Tim Squyres has previously been nominated for another work with director Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), it seems unlikely that Life of Pi would take a win here. Voters will prefer to show some love for the highly visual work in the Visual Effects and Cinematography categories.

Huge epics (The Lord of the Rings, Titanic) also tend to do well in this category (sorry ’bout your luck, Hobbit), and Lincoln, while considered an intimate portrait of the 16th President’s final four months in office, is a beautifully calibrated amalgamation of political thriller and presidential biography. The best part? Frequent Spielberg collaborator Michael Kahn (winner for Schindler’s List, Munich, Saving Private Ryan) mentored William Goldenberg for years, so the student may finally surpass the teacher. But if Goldenberg’s dual nomination splits his votes, Kahn could very well earn his fourth Oscar.

So, ZDT or Argo: which will win? Though both tell real, political stories, Argo zeroes in on one element of a larger crisis, allowing for the telling of each hostage’s story. Goldenberg’s biggest challenge was balancing the tone that shifted from humor to Hollywood satire to CIA thriller, and he successfully accomplished this with impeccably smooth, organic transitions.

But I’m of course pulling for Zero Dark Thirty (which Goldenberg co-edited with Dylan Tichenor), because of its clear observational position and absolute preciseness, best exemplified in the final raid sequence of the Abbottabad compound. With over 40 hours of near-pitch-black footage of a group of actors clad in the same uniforms and night-vision goggles, the editors were saddled with the huge challenge of not only staying true to an explicit sequence of events, but also keeping characters and geography clear for the audience. Though ZDT has all but been blacklisted from the BP race, its supporters will still want to show it — and Bigelow — some love, and may very well do so through this category.


5 comments on “Oscars 2013: Best Film Editing

  1. Dean_filmguidedublin
    February 1, 2013

    nice article.


    • Julie
      February 1, 2013

      Thank you! And thanks for stopping by!


  2. A-Ron
    February 1, 2013


  3. amz.rosenberg
    February 4, 2013

    kahn and lincoln should take it!


    • Julie
      February 4, 2013

      I mean, I’m a HUGE Lincoln fan, so I definitely wouldn’t be upset if Kahn took it.


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