Editing

The analysis

The editing category closely mirrors the best picture race, with the exception of “Sideways”; crime thriller “Collateral” joins “Ray,” “Million Dollar Baby,” “The Aviator” and “Finding Neverland” for the final five.

Posing a serious challenge, as it is in all 11 categories it’s nominated for, is “The Aviator.” It is hard to take your eyes off the screen during this 2½-hour epic, in a genre that Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences members seem to thoroughly enjoy, the biopic. Scorsese’s longtime editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, successfully strings together the colorful story of Howard Hughes at an intense, exhilarating pace.

Another Miramax pic, “Finding Neverland,” successfully brings to life the work of Scottish author J.M. Barrie in an interesting way. This has a lot to do with editor Matt Chesse’s ability to edit subtly together the understated performances of Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet with the highly emotional story that creates an intensity unique to this pic.

It must have been easy for “Ray” director Taylor Hackford to see the story in the life of Ray Charles, whose history plays out like a daytime soap. However, fitting that life into a single film and making the singing sequences work dramatically was a challenging task. Veteran editor Paul Hirsch will be hoping to go two for two in Oscar races, having won on his sole previous nom for the original “Star Wars.”

More than a simple boxing movie, “Million Dollar Baby” is a delicate three-character drama that should get serious consideration from the Academy. Editor Joel Cox, whose collaborations with director Clint Eastwood extend back to 1990’s “White Hunter, Black Heart,” makes every fight, and scene for that matter, simple and quick but emotional. The cuts are sudden and matter of fact, but far from simplistic, which makes this seemingly restrained pic distinct and full of emotion. Cox, like Hirsch, is going for his second win on his second nom, having won for Eastwood’s “Unforgiven.”

Then there is “Collateral,” the gritty but mesmerizing journey through the streets of nighttime Los Angeles. Editors Jim Miller and Paul Rubell keep the tension high as the cabbie played by Jamie Foxx is tested by hijacking hitman Tom Cruise in a thrilling, nonstop narrative interplay between good and evil that should earn plenty of admiration in the Academy.

The Aviator

Thelma Schoonmaker

Current kudos: ACE (nom), BAFTA (nom), Golden Satellites (nom)

Oscar pedigree: “Gangs of New York” (nom), “Goodfellas” (nom), “Raging Bull” (win), “Woodstock” (nom)

Why it’ll win: Besides her work on the ground, Schoonmaker’s most superb work is in scenes set in the air, an area her fellow nominees did not enter.

Why it won’t: Even if it turns out to be a big night for “The Aviator,” this specialty category could be overlooked.

Collateral

Jim Miller and Paul Rubell

Current kudos: ACE (nom), BAFTA (nom), Golden Satellites (win)

Oscar pedigree: Rubell — “The Insider” (nom)

Why it’ll win: The pic was well-liked, but with Michael Mann edged out of the helmer race a win here would let the Academy show its appreciation for this taught thriller.

Why it won’t: It may not have the legs to go up against two of the most prestigious, critically acclaimed pics of the year.

Finding Neverland

Matt Chesse

Current kudos: ACE (nom) Oscar pedigree: None

Why it’ll win: In a film that could easily have been overly sentimental and sloppy, the editing was key to the emotional restraint and mix of reality and fantasy that earned this film seven noms.

Why it won’t: With director Marc Forster not getting a nom, this film may be too far down the list to make the top spot.

Million Dollar Baby

Joel Cox

Current kudos: ACE (nom)

Oscar pedigree: “Unforgiven” (win)

Why it’ll win: The Academy likes the team of Clint Eastwood and Cox, having rewarded them both the last time an Eastwood pic rolled to victory.

Why it won’t: “The Aviator” is gathering momentum and could launch a landslide come Feb. 27 that will leave this “Baby” out in the cold.

Ray

Paul Hirsch

Current kudos: ACE (nom)

Oscar pedigree: “Star Wars” (win)

Why it’ll win: The singing sequences were authentic, entertaining and a real editing achievement that will be hard for the Academy to ignore.

Why it won’t: Conventional structure may not siphon enough votes from the heavyweight contenders.

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