Sunday, February 14, 2016


Editing is a category that often goes over my head. It's silly, though, as editing can absolutely make or break a film. Just look at Marcia Lucas' work on the original Star Wars. I tried to take a lot of notes this year in order to smooth the blogging portion of this project, but I don't have a single one on editing. I'm also writing whilst watching a political debate, so I might be prone to dodging anything of import. This might get interesting.

Film Editing:
  • Hank Corwin for The Big Short
  • Margaret Sixel for Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Stephen Mirrione for The Revenant
  • Tom McArdle for Spotlight
  • Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey for Star Wars: The Force Awakens

These guys look about as civil as the GOP debate right now as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz call each other children. Unfortunately for the debate, their morass doesn't have Hank Corwin trimming it down. Early on in The Big Short, he uses a lot of interesting cuts in the middle of dialogue. He's removing information, forcing the viewer to fill in and interject themselves into the film. Similarly he cuts to black throughout the film while, contrastingly, he splices in background info just seconds at a time. He uses a lot of fast cuts and freeze-frame stills to insert pop culture, music videos, commercials, and news reports to regularly set the timeframe. Similarly, the soundtrack is spliced in very interestingly, merging gracefully between genres and songs to set the perfect tone.

Considering how much I love Mad Max: Fury Road, it's amusing that I originally intended against seeing it. I had zero desire to see the film until I read that Men's Rights Activists were boycotting the film. You bet your bottom dollar I spent mine to go see this. Twice. Primary among the reasons I was originally soured to the idea of Fury Road is because action films lately are awful. They draw upon a style known as "Chaos Cinema" which is a vile menagerie of jump cuts and auditory breaks that is designed to disorient and create kinetic energy. Mad Max has its own share of chaos, to be certain, but instead of confusing the viewer into thinking there is action, they actively ease the viewer through the action by framing their shots to center the action. In doing so, the viewer doesn't have to reorient to realize what's happening and the film is eased a long. There's been a fair amount written about the brilliance of this decision. Maybe in 2015, it is brilliant, but it really just stands out as an obvious and basic technique to visually tell a story. Is the current state of filmmaking so decrepit that such a technique warrants the Academy's top prize?

The editing that Stephen Mirrione employs for The Revenant may be obvious, but it's also beautiful. Working with Iñárritu for years has certainly paid off for him, and he flexes artistic narration here that is as obvious as it is beautiful. By splicing in short clips of near still lifes throughout the film he is able to pace the film in a very intentional manner giving us life and death in more poetic terms than the very literal style of the rest of The Revenant. Too, the crew had a tall task to get their film out in time for awards season, so cutting it is quite a feat much less to do so as splendidly as they did.

Any time someone can take a glacially slow story like the journalistic one in Spotlight and grind it down to a film with excitement, they've done a good job. Spotlight shines in several regards with well transitioned scenes and an energetic tone.

It's interesting that in their interview on editing The Force Awakens, Brandon and Markey mostly talk about editing the script rather than the film. It's an interesting wrinkle that I've never thought that to be placed up on the film editors before, but perhaps that's just my ignorance.  Surely, achieving the frenetic pace of The Force Awakens while maintaining coherency without draining the audience is a monumental task, but is updating a four decade old franchise of an oscar?

I love what Mad Max did with subverting the action genre, and I think its process is definitely going to be the most influential going forward. For that and as much as people are talking about it, I'm guessing it will win here. I think, though, that what The Big Short accomplishes in educating the viewer while still telling a coherent and energetic script is a true feat. The editing for that film really stands out and is rather quirky and inventive. For that originality and that I don't really see Fury Road as inventive as it may be influential, I think Hank Corwin should take home the statuette.

Should win: Hank Corwin for The Big Short
Will win: Margaret Sixel for Mad Max: Fury Road

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