×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Why Editing Nominations Predict the Best Picture Oscar

Why is this craft is so correlated with the top prize? Hint: It's about the performances.

Gamblers and Academy Award handicappers have long known that Oscar has a “tell”: There’s a strong connection between editing and the best picture winner.

Since editing became an Oscar category in 1934, only nine films have won best picture without at least a nomination for editing; the last was 1980’s “Ordinary People.” Of the 61 films that have won best picture Oscars since 1952, 32 have won the editing statuette as well.

That’s an important tipoff to the Acad’s thinking. There can be as many as 10 best picture nominees, but there are still only five nominees for editing. A best picture nominee without an editing nomination is very unlikely to win.

Yet, editing is known as “the invisible art.” Even people who know the craft often agree with “Nebraska” editor Kevin Tent: “It’s hard to articulate what editors do, but when it’s bad, you’ll know it,” he says. “When it’s good, you’ll never know.”

While the specifics of editors’ techniques may be opaque, their role in creating a complete, satisfying piece isn’t a secret, says Mark Sanger, who co-edited “Gravity.” “The editor needs to provide a canvas that complements all of the other aspects to tie them together. If an audience has engaged deeply enough with a story to nominate it for best picture, then they understand the pages were bound together in the editing.”

Mark Livolsi, who cut “Saving Mr. Banks,” describes editing’s mystique and significance as “the engine under the hood that you don’t necessarily see. But it keeps the car running.”

“When it comes to evaluating those five films for editing, a few things that I would look at would be the special challenges that go into it: Multiple story lines, and how well they go together,” he says. “Whether a film does anything visually that seems extraordinary; when something is long but doesn’t feel long. Ultimately, that’s what editing is: how well you can tell a story.”

Jay Cassidy, who co-edited David O. Russell’s “American Hustle,” says the correlation between editing and best picture comes from a simple fact: “There’s no such thing as a good scene in a bad movie.”

“If filmgoers are moved by the story and emotion in the film then it’s probably well-edited,” Cassidy says. “It’s why editing awards tend to follow best picture awards, and for good reason.

“If the movie works as a piece, you think about it as one thing. If a movie doesn’t work, you’re often left thinking, that was an interesting scene, or that was an interesting moment, but you’re left a little wanting for a whole emotional feeling,” he says.

Editing’s role in how the story is told also points to the connection between crafts, says Thelma Schoonmaker, who cut Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

“I don’t think you can be a great director without knowing editing,” she says. “Most editors would say that you don’t want to see edits. Marty and I don’t feel that way, but that’s valid. In ‘Wolf,’ we’re doing shocking cutting deliberately, because their world is out of control, and wild.”

Yet this close collaboration isn’t recognized enough, says Joe Walker. “I always find it sad that a film that wins best picture doesn’t also win best editing, because they are completely, inextricably, linked.” Walker edited Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave,” his third picture with the director.

“It’s like dividing up the record collection before you’ve gotten divorced. It’s such a happy thing to work with Steve’s material because I can really make an impact. It’s a true collaboration. He sits next to me all day, there’s an emotional involvement in the subject. It’s always, ‘we.’ ”

More Film

  • Nona

    Film Review: 'Nona'

    Twenty years and 12 features down the line, it’s still hard to peg the directorial sensibility of Michael Polish, with or without the presence of brother Mark as frequent co-writer and actor. His output has been all over the place, from early Lynchian quirkfests to the very middle-of-the-road inspirational dramedy “The Astronaut Farmer,” not to [...]

  • Pawel Pawlikowski "Cold War"

    Pawel Pawlikowski's 'Cold War' Wins for Best Film, Director at European Film Awards

    “Cold War,” Pawel Pawlikowski’s black-and-white romance set in the 1950s, scooped the prizes for best film, director and screenplay at the 31st edition of the European Film Awards on Saturday. “Cold War” star Joanna Kulig also won the award for best actress. Marcello Fonte, the star of Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman,” won for best actor. Armando Iannucci’s [...]

  • The Favourite Bohemian Rapsody Star is

    The Best Movie Scenes of 2018

    When we think back on a movie that transported us, we often focus on a great scene — or maybe the greatest scene — in it. It’s natural. Those scenes are more than just defining. They can be the moment that lifts a movie into the stratosphere, that takes it to the higher reaches of [...]

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

    Box Office: 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Soars Toward $35-40 Million Debut

    “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is swinging into theaters on a high note. Sony-Marvel’s latest output is launching to $42 million from 3,813 North American locations in its debut, though other more conservative estimates place that number at $35.5 million. The animated superhero story picked up $12.6 million on Friday, easily leading the pack for the weekend. [...]

  • Ventana Sur : Cinema226 Closes Four

    Cinema226 Announces Four Intl. Co-Productions, Hints at More (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mexico’s Cinema226, run by Marco Antonio Salgado and Sam Guillén, is driving into a raft of Mexico, Argentina and Spain co-productions, playing off the current vibrancy of Mexican film production funding and distribution outlets. Among the projects are titles which have been standouts at Ventana Sur’s Blood Window, the next film by Mexico-based Argentine filmmaker [...]

  • Ventana Sur Debates Gender Parity in

    Ventana Sur Debates Gender’s 50/50 in 2020 for Argentina Film Industry

    BUENOS AIRES — Despite recent gains, namely the equality pledge towards 50/50-2020 signed at the Mar del Plata Film Festival on Nov. 12, producer Magalí Nieva, pointed out that no representative from INCAA was present following the apparent resignation of its vice-president Fernando Juan Lima. “We are left without an interlocutor to discuss gender policies [...]

  • Ventana Sur Rocks with Sales, Mass

    Ventana Sur Rocks with Sales, Mass Attendance, Structural Growth

    BUENOS AIRES — Celebrating its 10th anniversary with a huge hike in attendance to over 4,000 accredited delegates, the 2018 Ventana Sur will go down in history on multiple counts: Sales and pick-ups on movies which combined social comment and entertainment value, increasingly the new foreign-language movie standard; new sections, led by a Proyecta co-production [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content