Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Editing Nominees (82nd Academy Awards)

Film editing is a visual art form in which the artist intentionally goes unnoticed in order to tell a story. In addition, the editor can be a lifeline for the success of the film and its crew. As noted in an interview for a documentary on film editing, Sean Penn has been quoted as saying, "I think great editing skill will protect a director from suicide." Good to know, I guess. With a certain amount of ingenuity and skill, Edwin S. Porter can be credited with the initial appearance of film editing as we know it today. When he started releasing his edited films in 1903, the editing style was rather basic with the technique of a cuts only form of transitioning between parallel sequences. Two notable movies from Porter’s collection of films released in 1903 that have utilized the rudimentary techniques of editing include Life of an American Fireman and The Great Train Robbery.

For the last eighty-two years, the film industry, prominently centered in Los Angeles, California, has been honoring the contributions made by numerous film artists. Particularly, the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have nominated several names of editors and associate filmmakers for their work that has been released during the year of 2009. The nominees are considered leading contributors for the art form over the course of the year. According to Rule 13 of the Academy Awards of Merit for Achievements During 2009, all editing nominees are appointed, confirmed, and finally selected with a single winner by means of the following procedural list. . .
  1. A Reminder List of all eligible motion pictures shall be sent with a nominations ballot to all members of the Film Editors Branch, who shall vote in the order of their preference for not more than five productions.
  2. The five productions receiving the highest number of votes shall become the nominations for final voting for the Film Editing award.
  3. In accordance with Rule Two Paragraph 5, only film editors who hold principal position credit(s) shall be considered eligible for the Film Editing award.
  4. Final voting for the Film Editing award shall be restricted to active and life Academy members.
In rule number three there is a reference to "Rule Two, Paragraph 5" as the legal definition of properly receiving a film credit. Here is that defining paragraph in its entirety. . .
"Eligibility for all awards shall first be determined by credits as they appear on the screen and/or as certified to the Academy by the producing companies, but final determination in any event shall be made by the Academy. The Academy shall not be bound by any contract or agreement relating to the sharing or giving of credit and reserves the right to make its own determination of credit for purposes of Awards consideration."
If all that has been previously stated was perceived by the reader as nothing more than incoherent gibberish, then here is a brief summary that I can offer in non-technical language. To nominate a person or group of people for a specific category, such as film editing, you must be an active member within the sub-branch of the Academy for which you are voting. You are allowed to nominate up to five recipients from a list of eligible contestants who has been legally credited for their work on a film by having their name listed in the screen credits and by the records of the production company who produced the film. Of course, the Academy has the final say on the approval of the credits for each candidate, thus allowing them to produce a list of eligible names from which each voting member can officially nominate another member for an achievement award.

In paragraph four of rule thirteen there is a simplified acknowledgment that all eligible members of the Academy, regardless of their sub-branch, are allowed to vote for one nominee out of the five most popular nominations in order to award a single candidate or team of candidates for their work completed on a film.

This has been a very long-winded way of announcing the following nominees for Best Achievement in Editing for the 82nd annual Academy Awards; also known as the Oscar Awards.

The promotional poster for '' (2009).
Avatar (2009)
EDITORS: James Cameron
John Refoua, A.C.E.
Stephen Rivkin, A.C.E.

Marked as the first film to earn over two billion dollars in ticket sales for an international release (see this news blurb for information) Avatar has been clearly labeled as James Cameron’s ultimate blockbuster film that outperforms the financial success of Titanic (1996). At the time, the film was nominated for the category of Achievement in Film Editing it had just passed the seventh consecutive weekend marked in the first place spot at the domestic box office in the United States. That figure alone is impressive to consider these days when most movies are lucky enough to have any consecutive number of weekends in one of the top five spots of domestic box office earnings. Now the question would be to consider the reason why the film would be nominated for an award for editing. It would be more comprehensively understand and even logical to keep it locked down to the categories of best use of special effects and sound design. I would like to say that the film might be deserving of technical achievement award for the integration of new 3D camera technology. However, after reviewing the recent winners of the Academy’s Scientific & Technical Awards the vast majority of the candidates have earned an accolade for the advancement of 3D technology. Oh, what a surprise it is to hear this news. (Note that I ended that last sentence with a period and not an exclamation point. It should imply my sarcasm for the situation.) I must say that I am a bit cynical about the plausibility that Mr. Popular deserves an award for the best achievement in editing. I have no evil intent toward the two co-editors of the film (Stephen E. Rivkin and John Refoua); because they both have established records that prove of their talent as individuals capable of doing an excellent job. In fact, I have seen several of the films that Mr. Rivkin has personally edited and have thoroughly enjoyed watching each one of them. Is the film really worthy of stomping out the competition in terms of earning the best achievement in film editing for the year of 2009? Special effects, yes. Sound design, yes. Film editing, maybe, but probably not as much. Although it has been reported that Steven Spielberg is comparing his experience of watching this film to the experience he had of watching the original Star Wars film (Episode 4: A New Hope) it would not imply that the editing for this film was the first thing on his mind. Can we say "amazing special effects" are the  key undertone here? Anyone? I doubt he was suggesting the film to be receiving any award recognition for the editing. Or was he? Sorry, guys!

The promotional poster for 'District 9' (2009).
District 9 (2009)
EDITOR: Julian Clarke

It was the science-fiction surprise hit of the late summer season. It almost flew out of nowhere from a “little known” country of South Africa. Have you ever heard of the country? It is the same place where Charlize Theron is from. Observe the odd connection that she is also a recipient of an Oscar award, so it might be a good omen for this film. With a nod to the New Zealander bigwig by the name of Peter Jackson the movie District 9 was financed to be adapted from the short film Alive in Joburg (2005) and evolved into a feature length, science-fiction film that had just about everyone interested in seeing it last summer. The editing for the film was done by a young Canadian by the name of Julian Clarke. At the age of 32 years old, he has already reached the milestone of being nominated for an Oscar award. Congratulations are in order for him. Personally, I would like to see his work for District 9 garner a bit more attention since I consider it to have done a service in producing a great story with little distraction for the viewer. Although the film does contain quite a bit of special effects as would be the nature of any science fiction film (ahem, Avatar), but the film is not as flashy with the special effects which allows enough room left over to tell a quality story (ahem, take note Avatar). This allows an opportunity for the Julian Clarke, the editor, to bring all the pieces together in order to tell a story that will draw the in the audience completely.

The promotional poster for 'The Hurt Locker' (2009).
The Hurt Locker (2009)
EDITORS: Chris Innis
Bob Murawski

Working on an action film could be quite a headache, I would imagine, when the time arrives to piece together the battles sequences that are action intensive scenes with a lot of sound editing to be mixed in with the film editing. The working duo for the editing of The Hurt Locker was the perfect selection for such an intertwining challenge. Both have garnered enough experience with their previous films to work upon an action film. Chris Innis (who is from San Diego, woohoo!) has a couple of film credits to her name working as a sound editor, a few more credits as an assistant film editor, and also an additional list of credits as an ADR voice actress. These three sections of work experience garner enough knowledge for her to be able to handle the audio portion of the film editing that would include all of the sound effects and the musical score. Her partner in the editing bay would be Bob Murawski. I would say he is quite the overachiever as an editor when it comes to big name credits as the Spiderman trilogy as well as several major horror films such as Drag Me to Hell (2009) and Army of Darkness (1992). These films have given him enough experience in cutting together action sequences as well as a large amount of tense moments of blood and guts in order to piece together a wartime film. Having these two editors work in a partnership for The Hurt Locker has conjured up a lethal combination that definitely works in favor of the film’s final cut. I would definitely want to place my vote in favor of this film winning the Oscar award for the best achievement in film editing for the year.

The promotional poster for 'Inglourious Basterds' (2009).
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
EDITOR: Sally Menke

Oh, how much the hardcore movie nerds love to watch the films from Quentin Tarantino so that they can point out the entire list of obscure movie references that he splatters throughout each one. Sometimes his egotism as self-proclaimed movie geeks can be one of the most prominent character flaws that would stand in the way of really connecting with the average movie-watching person. However, with the latest World War II action film Inglourious Basterds he was able to cross a new bridge that squashed any question that his critics may have raised with a hope that his career maybe fading out of existence. He has hit hard, hit fast, and found a new way to entertain the world. The editor for this film is Sally Menke. She has worked with Tarantino on several occasions before this film. Ms. Menke has even been honored with an Oscar nomination for her editorial work on Pulp Fiction (1994). It would be intriguing to see that she is recognized for her work, especially since she has quite a variety of genres and styles credited to her name. There is only one thing about this film that I am afraid will steal away all the attention away from her opportunity in earning any recognition for her work on the film. Ever since it was released to the public, there has been a large amount of attention given to the performance of actor Christoph Waltz. Although befitting to garner attention for a job well done by an actor in a villainous role, it should not steal all of the attention for the film. I have my fingers crossed that Ms. Menke will win an award for the film if not, at least, flies in with a close second place spot.

The promotional poster for 'Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire' (2009).
Precious (2009)
EDITOR: Joe Klotz

This film flew right out of the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival with such ferocity that it pushed Mo'Nique right into the realm of serious acting. Who knew that a comedian holds the talent of playing in a serious acting role? It has been proven before and has been proven yet again. The editor for Precious has been in the profession long enough to work on several projects, including Grace is Gone (2007) starring John Cusack and Choke (2008) starring Sam Rockwell. Both films are worth their while to sit down and watch. He has been flying under the radar for his entire career, which has left some people scratching their heads about his sudden arrival on the scene. I think Mr. Klotz holds a large amount of potential for going somewhere with his career. As far as winning on award for his editing work on Precious would not be a surprise to me. However, his opportunity may be pushed out of the water by the big blue sharks (ahem, Avatar) who are ferociously swimming through the Oscar terrain right now. Within the inner circle of nominees for Precious, it may be a concern that he could be out staged by the fierce head-to-head competition for Best Actress award between Mo'Nique and Gabourey Sidibe in addition to the point that the film has been nominated for the Best Picture of the year. It is a tough situation, but it may garner him a large amount of extra editing work in the near future.
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