Monday, February 9, 2015

Film Editing

There was a technical issue at the A Critical Life offices that severely inhibited film watching, which is to say: I'm way, way behind. Behind watching, and behind writing. If you see me in the next two weeks, you will have accomplished something pretty special.

    Film Editing
  • Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach for American Sniper
  • Sandra Adair for Boyhood
  • Barney Pilling for The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • William Goldenberg for The Imitation Game
  • Tom Cross for Whiplash

There are some decisions I really have to question in American Sniper, and I really don't know upon whose shoulders to lay the blame since I wasn't there when the decisions were made. There's a jump cut less than five minutes in that goes from our protagonist in the narrative present to him as a child. It's a smart cut designed to illustrate that Chris Kyle has always been shooting, always been killing. The immediacy of splicing the two scenes together in the moment when the trigger is pulled is emotionally powerful. There is a lot of very purposeful editing in this film, and I will not argue that it is not well done toward the intended goal. But when the purpose is juxtaposing shooting a brown child caught up in a war with hunting animals, I have to wonder if this is a thing we can truly call "good." "You're gonna make a fine hunter someday," Kyle's father says. What the film tells us with this edit is "Killing savages is just like killing deer." Do we award the technical forces behind propaganda for a job well done?

The professional arc of Boyhood is eminently fascinating to me, and perhaps that's nowhere more relevant than in editing. Over twelve years of working on the same project with all the experience gained during that time, all the opinions on technique adjusted, and all the new tools at one's disposal, Boyhood feels like as cohesive a film as any other. Truly, it's more so than most. The film follows Mason from year to year, exposing small snippets of each for twelve years, and, yet, every transition to the next year feels smooth and clean. We're never opened with a "look how much Mason has grown since we saw him last" shot. Instead the transitions are as unremarkable as waking up on your birthday a year older. 

Barney Pilling reigned a typically sprawling Wes Anderson screenplay into Anderson's tightest film yet. The entire film bursts with an incredibly fitting energy. Much of the editing, I assume due to dialogue, was hard coded into the script, and so I wonder how much of the process to truly ascribe to the editor. Nevertheless, more than any other Anderson film, The Grand Budapest Hotel had a narrative that flowed exuberantly and easily carried the viewer along making it the first film of his that I've enjoyed more than intermittently. To take footage from one of my least favorite directors and edit it down into one of the better films of the year is, in my mind, no small feat.

Where Boyhood took twelve years smoothly and linearly, The Imitation Game took Alan Turing's gradeschool and final years and interspersed them in his efforts during the second world war. It's a small marvel to take all these snippets from these ages and form them into a coherent film, and it's even more so that all these parts inform each other while driving the story forward. The script writes Turing as having Asperger's syndrome which, at times, is intended comedically as he interacts with the rest of the cast. That said, it's clear that Goldenberg took pains to not exploit that aspect of the character beyond illumination. I like to think he succeeded, but as a neurotypical person, I would defer my opinion. As a whole, the film builds a wonderful tension out of a lot of not terribly obvious moving parts, and each scene finds its role quite neatly ties into the film as a whole.

Tom Cross finds himself in the difficult position of making a film about music without making a music video. He succeeds amazingly well in Whiplash at highlighting the music (mixed masterfully by the sound crew) without letting it supercede the narrative. The pace of the film is superb. Cross allows for a lot of lingering shots to narrate emotion, but we find slow scenes burgeoned by fast cuts on tight shots. J.K. Simmons does a superb job here (which I'll get to later), and the editing really turns his performance all the way up. Cross took a film that could have easily been droll and myopically focused and instead churned out one of the year's best films.

All of these editors did a technically fantastic job. It's pretty common for me to look at a field and say one or two or three films simply don't belong. In no way is that the case here; every film has a strong resume. That said, I think The Grand Budapest Hotel has a really strong chance to win, but Boyhood will not go ignored. Adair performs adroitly through a work a dozen years in progress and spins a masterful final product.

Will win: Boyhood
Should win: Boyhood

No comments:

Post a Comment