Tuesday, June 28, 2016

OVP: Editing (2007)

OVP: Best Film Editing (2007)

The Nominees Were...

Christopher Rouse, The Bourne Ultimatum
Juliette Welfling, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Jay Cassidy, Into the Wild
Roderick Jaynes (aka Joel and Ethan Coen), No Country for Old Men
Dylan Tichenor, There Will Be Blood

My Thoughts: Starting back into the 2007 we get into not only the hardest of the six visual tech categories to discuss, but also the one that will introduce us to all of the nominees we'll largely be discussing over the next (in my mind) month or (based on past precedence) eight months.  All five of these films would go on to be nominated in multiple other categories at this year's Oscars, and will be a cornerstone of our conversation, editing being the category that most associate with the Best PIcture nominees (though this year only two could boast that title).  Let's dive in, shall we?

I'm going to start with The Diving Bell and the Butterfly because it's the picture that you're, through process of elimination, probably figuring out is the haunting image of the Virgin Mary up-top.  The film itself, despite being hailed as relatively groundbreaking at the time, is not often discussed anymore, and I kind of think that that's because it's one of those movies that wasn't that good to begin with.  You can see that in the editing, which is tricky and therefore showier than you'd normally catch (how we slowly learn more about Jean-Do's world), but the film is more a mastery of actual camerawork than of being an actual cohesive film, and frequently we feel like we're exploiting Jean-Do's inner world, rather than actually finding something remarkable going on within it.  I feel like the editing leads up to the tragedy of his stroke in a way that feels obvious and doesn't let us spend enough time getting to know the characters around Jean-Do, just his opinions of them.  All-in-all, the film is too stylishly-edited and should have told a more natural story, letting the cinematography take the lead when it comes to vision.

Into the Wild suffers from a similar problem, since anyone who has read this novel knows essentially how it will end, and the film is too reliant on quick cutaways in its editing to tell its story naturally.  What I really liked about this film was the two lead performances, and I actually genuinely enjoyed this movie (mostly because I love adventuring), but from a filmmaking perspective there's a great deal of work to happen here before we can call out the plaudits as appropriate.  There are convenient, obvious cutaways when the film is trying to strike its own beaten path (the ones that cut back to Chris's parents in particular stand out to me as a bit cloying), and I felt like the film slices too much up the performances of say, someone like Vince Vaughan, because that portion of the script is weaker and the editors don't really know how to incorporate it into Penn's vision.

The same cannot be said for the sturdy work of No Country for Old Men, though in this case they have the advantage of being the directors (anyone else desperate to see what the Coen Brothers do if Roderick Jaynes ever wins that Oscar?).  The story of No Country for Old Men is immaculate, and that's in large part due to judicious editing.  The fact that so few of the main characters share a scene in the film, and the one character that ties them all together isn't the character that you suspect-that's a triumph, and it's tricky because you feel like the characters have, in fact, met.  There's also the great way that we see, say, Woody Harrelson's expository dialogue feel natural to explaining Anton Chigurh and I loved how the establishing shots felt less like "look how pretty" and more like "this is the end of the world."  The editing here is sleek, trim, and almost all necessary-there are no open questions or extra scenes hanging around dragging No Country for Old Men down.

I did not feel the same way about The Bourne Ultimatum, which I just didn't get the appeal of in the way other critics did.  I didn't felt like the editing was slicing toward a common purpose, and the action scenes, while impressive, didn't jive with the rest of the movie.  The problem is more upon the screenplay, admittedly, but we see the same scenes over and over again with little interruption in how the characters are handling what is going on on screen and there's very little enigma about what comes next.  The editors also are in part in charge of the story, and the fact that they are constantly spending more time on the rat-a-tat of dialogue explaining backstory rather than allowing the film to exist on its own shows that the movie perhaps needed to figure out a better way to handle its expository work since this is a sequel and that's necessary but almost always clunky.

The final nomination is There Will Be Blood, a conundrum for an editing award as Paul Thomas Anderson's films never feel all that edited-I mean, they're so long one wonders what exactly was cut out.  Still, There Will Be Blood is a monument of filmmaking, and part of that is dependent on the judicious pace of the film established by Tichenor.  He manages to keep, say, the Eli/Paul question open for most of the film, to the point where you genuinely aren't sure if he will return to that story or not (or even if it's something we imagined), and is so deliberate in the way that we approach Daniel Plainview, where he's both clearly open about most of his intentions toward humanity and yet he is able to shock us, that it cannot be said the film doesn't clearly have a smart man in the cutting room.

Other Precursor Contenders: The Eddie Awards have nominees for both Drama and Comedy/Musical, so nearly all of the Oscar nominees managed to land here.  The one exception would be, in Drama, where The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (a foreign language film, not a favorite of the American Cinema Editors group) was ousted in favor of Best Picture nominee Michael Clayton (The Bourne Ultimatum won the trophy).  Sweeney Todd emerged the favorite over in Best Comedy/Musical, a rare case where the musical portion of that title came into focus, besting Hairspray, Juno, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, and Ratatouille.  The BAFTA Awards went largely in a different direction (though they too gave the trophy to Bourne), picking only Matt Damon's picture and No Country for Old Men in their lineup, giving more love to Michael Clayton, Atonement, and American Gangster.  It seems relatively obvious that Michael Clayton was the sixth place, and I'm kind of flummoxed how the movie couldn't land with Oscar considering it's a pretty showy-looking Best Picture nominee.
Films I Would Have Nominated: Now is where I show a few of my cards in how I'll be treating the 2007 lineup, isn't it?  I am a sucker for tracking shot, and Atonement's has a doozy of one, and I loved some of the ways they handled full-on close-ups, so I would have included that in the list, as well as the masterful work done in David Fincher's forgotten masterpiece Zodiac, where again we see the story of multiple different men (similar to No Country for Old Men) and we watch as one-by-one they falter to the same doomed passion.  Finally, I think it's a miracle when a film like Away from Her can find such a beautiful balance between relatable and yet not too sappy, which is kind of what the film does, and all as we slowly watch Julie Christie's character spiral into dementia.  It's not the kind of movie that typically grabs an editing nomination, but it probably should be.
Oscar's Choice: Oscar, like BAFTA and ACE before it, couldn't get enough of what was (supposed to be) the swan song for the Bourne franchise, picking it over the Best Picture contenders.
My Choice: No Country for Old Men is an easy choice, as it's near perfect and that's in large part due to the editing.  I'd follow that with Blood, Wild, Bourne, and Diving Bell.

Those are my thoughts-what are yours?  Do you feel like I was wrong in discounting Bourne or are you siding with me for the imaginary Roderick Jaynes?  Why do you think Michael Clayton was skipped in this lineup even though he clearly had momentum?  And is there ever going to be a year where this category leans toward films that star women?  Share your thoughts below!

Past Best Film Editing Contests: 2008, 2009, 2010201120122013, 2014

No comments: