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93rd Annual Oscars Spotlight on Film Editing


For the past five years, the Academy Award winners in the Film Editing category have ranged from Mad Max: Fury Road, Hacksaw Ridge, Dunkirk, Bohemian Rhapsody, to last year’s winner Ford v Ferrari. Most of these winners happen to be big budget spectacle films that contain fast-paced action sequences with the exception of Bohemian Rhapsody

This year’s nominees are lower budget, more independent-style films which have a single writer/director attached for each film. There are several first-time Oscar nominees in the film editing category with the only previous nominee being Editor Alan Baumgarten, ACE for American Hustle. Without the typical action films in the running, it may be a little more unpredictable choosing this year’s winner.

The five nominees for the 93rd Academy Awards for Achievement in  Film Editing are:

Yorgos Lamprinos for The Father
Chloé Zhao
for Nomadland
Frédéric Thoraval for Promising Young Woman
Mikkel E. G. Nielsen for Sound of Metal and
Alan Baumgarten for The Trial of the Chicago 7

Let’s check out the nominees and their chances at achieve this special opportunity for winning an Oscar.

The Father (Sony Classics)

The Father – Editor Yorgos Lamprinos

Based on Florian Zeller’s play also called The Father, Anthony Hopkins plays a man battling with dementia in his old age, placing a heavy burden on his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) as it restricts her from moving. Editor Yorgos Lamprinos emphasizes the dramatic tension between Anthony and his daughter or other characters through the dialogue scenes within the apartment. The pace slowly shapes and flows just enough to push the story forward as Anthony’s condition worsens over time. The editing is so seamless and well-cut within the confined space, we as the audience truly believe Anthony is talking to these imaginary characters up until the end of the film.

Frances McDormand in Nomadland (Searchlight)

Nomadland Editor Chloé Zhao

Chloé Zhao is the only editor on this list that also acts as the director and the writer of the film. Zhao has a natural instinct for picture editing, reminiscing back to her visual inspiration from manga and comics. Nomadland tells the story of Fern (Frances McDormand) who after losing everything, embarks on a journey through the open country as a modern-day nomad working random jobs and meeting others like her. The editing of the film takes a slower approach as it realistically shows Fern struggling to survive, interacting with different personalities, and relocating to various geographic areas. The cutting pace feels slower with longer takes, but picks up when Fern is traveling to multiple areas in her van. The limited space in the van makes it challenging editing the two-shot; it was mostly tight singles which translates into intimacy with the characters.

Promising Young Woman
Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman (Photo: Focus Features)

Promising Young Woman Editor Frédéric Thoraval

Frédéric Thoraval serves as the editor for Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman. By day, Cassie (Carey Mulligan) works at a coffee shop and by night, she seeks revenge for a dead friend by targeting sleazy men that attempt to take advantage of her. The editing plays with different genres from rom-com, thriller, and horror. The audience follows Cassie as she dictates the course of the tone. Each scene may appear calm, but then it slowly builds tension and takes a swift turn. The challenge of the tonal balance is delicately achieved through the blending of genres and unexpected outcomes.   

Sound of Metal
Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal

Sound of Metal – Editor Mikkel E. G. Nielsen

In Darius Marder’s Sound of Metal, Ruben (Riz Ahmed) struggles with extreme hearing loss after years of playing in a rock band. Editor Mikkel E. G. Nielsen joined after the film had been shot. As the movie progresses, Nielsen had to peel the layers back to reveal Ruben’s character and how he is handling the hearing loss. The picture editing is directly tied into the sound as it correlates with the emotion and internal struggles Ruben deals with. Ruben has a hard time sitting still and accepting his hearing loss, which enhances the emotion of the visual editing. The film editing is deeply rooted in Ruben’s perspective and how he views the world without being able to hear.

Trial of the Chicago 7
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix)

The Trial of the Chicago 7 Editor Alan Baumgarten, ACE

Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 presents a very different editing approach from the other four nominees. It follows the trial of seven citizens who were unjustly accused of miscellaneous charges stemming from the events surrounding the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Editor Alan Baumgarten is well known for assembling and editing ensemble films with recent works such as Charlie’s Angels, Zombieland, and a previous Oscar editing nomination for American Hustle. Baumgarten was specifically brought on due to his prior collaboration with Sorkin on Molly’s Game. Within the courtroom, the editing perspective was evenly divided between the seven defendants, the judge, the attorneys, prosecutors, and jury. The tension in the courtroom is elevated through the intercutting of scenes from both the incident in question and the current interactions between the Chicago 7. The level of difficulty in editing an ensemble film comes from massive amounts of footage and deciding when and who to cut to with the insertion of the events occurring outside the court.

All the nominees have similar editing traits with an emphasis on perspective, slow build, gradual pace, dramatic tension, and with a personal intimate connection. Nomadland, Sound of Metal, and The Father heavily concentrate on the inward perspective and character growth of how the audience empathizes and connects to the lead and their situation. Promising Young Woman blends multiple tones to balance Cassie’s inner and outer character transformation which is no easy task. The editing in the The Trial of the Chicago 7 is the most dissimilar with the ensemble components and a focus on exterior events.

If I had an Oscar ballot, these would be my picks:

Will Win: The Trial of the Chicago 7
Could Win: Sound of Metal
Should Win: Promising Young Woman

Although voting for the American Cinema Editors’ ACE EDDIE Awards is already closed, you can read the full nominations here.

Voting is still open for the Academy Awards until April 20, and you can read the full list of ALL nominees in every category here.

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