When it comes to behind the scenes contributions to movies, I have two regular fascinations: costume design and editing. I love costume design for easy to define reasons: it augments movie stars, it's visually interesting, it can define characters. Editing is fascinating for far more mysterious reasons. For one thing, we can't really see the results. It's like a phantom craft. I mean we see the cuts in a movie but we don't know what was cut, when or how the rhythm and emotion of the scene shifted based on the decisions made. We only see the end result. For all we know a movie that seems merely OK to us may have the best editing of the year. They say movies are often made in the editing room, so if an editor takes terrible raw materials and pulls an OK movie from it we will only recognize the OK movie, not the worth of the rescue job. By contrast, an editor could theoretically have astonishing raw materials and deflate a performance or botch a key sequence and we could still end up with a very good movie and we'd think: that movie has good editing! It's a mysterious craft. I'm sure even the editors on film B don't really know what the editors on film A accomplished.
You know what else is mysterious? The nominations from the Editor's Guild
Best Edited Feature Film (Dramatic)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Angus Wall & Kirk Baxter
The Dark Knight Lee Smith
Frost/Nixon Mike Hill & Dan Hanley
Milk Elliot Graham
Slumdog Millionaire Chris Dickens
I'm so confused right now. I swear that I saw 113 movies in 2008 and I'm beginning to think that I imagined 108 of them. Did I? Are these the only 5 movies that came out in 2008? It sure seems like it. Who knew that movie theaters were so empty all year? I specifically remember being in movie theaters and in all kinds of places and weather, too. Am I losing my mind?
Question for discussion: Iron Man vs. Batman. The Dark Knight definitely has more kick overall but weren't Iron Man's action sequences more coherent... and isn't that a function of editing? Editing outside of Bourne films, I mean. I'm curious to hear thoughts in this regard as I draft up some awards pages.
Best Edited Feature Film (Comedy or Musical)
In Bruges Jon Gregory
Mamma Mia! Lesley Walker
Tropic Thunder Greg Hayden
Vicky Cristina Barcelona Alisa Lepselter
WALL-E Stephen Schaffer
Here's where the real mysteries kick in. How does Mamma Mia! get a "best editing" citation. Maybe Leslie was working with footage even worse than what we saw onscreen and if so, I'm tempted to send flowers. Or maybe a case of Ibuprofen. From where I sat Mamma Mia!'s nonsensical image pileups which I can only assume were tributes to music video storytelling styles of the 80s didn't scream "award worthy!" It's the easiest target and I don't mean to single Walker out. I'm sure she's (he's?) lovely. In fact, Walker has worked on some great movies in the past and even survived multiple outings with troubled production prone Terry Gilliam. So maybe Walker doesn't need flowers or medicine. Maybe Lesley Walker is as tough as Sigourney Weaver in "Ripley" mode. So Walker probably won't mind me saying how I think it's batshit crazy to leave out Burn After Reading if you have a whole best editing in a comedy category, you know?