OSCAR COUNTDOWN: Best Editing

Zero Dark ThirtyThroughout Oscar season, Film Misery will be offering almost daily breakdowns of the categories in the Oscar race. Today we continue with the Best Editing category.

Best Editing

The Nominees:
William Goldenberg, Argo
Tim Squyres, Life of Pi
Michael Kahn, Lincoln
Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers, Silver Linings Playbook
Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg, Zero Dark Thirty

Argo

When it comes to this category, the rule of thumb tends to be that you should root for the movie most likely to win Best Picture. But how true is that rule? Going back through the list of Best Editing Oscar winners of the past two decades, only eleven of those twenty films actually went on to win Best Picture. The remaining nine Best Editing winners tend to be their year’s most elaborately edited nominee, whether it be an intense action movie (The Matrix and The Bourne Ultimatum) or a sprawling, multifaceted epic (Traffic and The Aviator). So sometimes this race can be a bit of a coin-toss.

A far more reliable precursor to how the Oscars will swing in this category is the American Cinema Editors’ Guild Awards; sixteen of the last twenty Oscar winners snagged an “Eddie” beforehand, all but suggesting a DGA-style overlap between both voting bodies of film editors. But since the Eddie awards have yet to be announced (they will be on February 16), we currently only have historical precedent and gut instincts to guide us.

Making things more difficult, all five of these Oscar nominees still have a slight chance of winning the Best Picture Oscar later in the evening and, with no veritable “most elaborately edited” picture to spoil things (blockbusters like Skyfall and The Dark Knight Rises got shut out), I’m going to base my predictions on each film’s overall Oscar momentum. Unfortunately, this likely dashes what hopes Zero Dark Thirty has of winning anything. A taut and breakneck-pace procedural spanning the better part of a decade, it’s the most deserving nominee, but whatever momentum it had has essentially petered out. Besides, it’s far likelier the Academy will want to award co-nominee William Goldenberg for a different film. More on that in a bit.

Life of Pi and Silver Linings Playbook face an uphill battle as well; while both have a very small chance of winning the top prize, the Editing Award often goes to a movie that has a fighting chance in both the technical and the major awards. Pi is likely to be the darling in the technical categories, and Playbook’s fights would be more easily won in the acting categories. Neither has the cross-over value to be strong contenders here.

Lincoln 1With the most overall nominations, many are still saying Lincoln has a chance of winning Best Picture, and it’s definitely got a chance here. Michael Kahn, arguably the most famous movie editor working today (sorry, Thelma), is both an Oscar and an Eddie favorite. But judging from the guild awards of the past few weeks, it’s hard to deny how much better Argo’s chances seem of taking it all. The narrative of this prize is hard to resist as well; Goldenberg has been nominated three other times (including this year for Zero Dark) and is chiefly responsible for some of Argo’s most gripping moments. What’s more, if it is indeed the case that the top prize is Argo’s to lose, the lack of a directing nomination means the Academy will want to give its Best Picture winner at least a few more statuettes.

Look to the Eddie Awards next weekend before cementing your own predicted winner, but until then, expect to hear Mr. Goldenberg’s name three times during the Oscar telecast: once when his name’s announced as a nominee for Argo, and again for Zero Dark, and one last time when he is summoned to the Dolby Theater stage.

Predicted Winner: William Goldenberg, Argo
Preferred Winner: Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg, Zero Dark Thirty
Write-In Vote: Leslie Jones and Peter McNulty, The Master

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