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Oscars 2019: Best Editing Predictions

Contrasting tones and themes were editing challenges in frontrunners "Roma," "First Man," and "The Favourite." (Updated 1/10/19.)

(L to R) Marco Graf as Pepe, Daniela Demesa as Sofi, Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marina De Tavira as Sofia, Diego Cortina Autrey as Toño, Carlos Peralta Jacobson as Paco in Roma, written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón. Photo by Carlos Somonte


Photo by Carlos Somonte


This award season the best editing navigated complex mood swings in capturing love and pain in such Oscar frontrunners as “Roma,” “A Star Is Born,” “The Favourite,” “First Man,” and “Green Book.”

“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón’s black-and-white childhood remembrance of things past, establishes a rhythm as well as a cleansing metaphor about life and memory with the flow of water in the opening. Cuarón, who served as editor with co-editor Adam Gough, created a dance with his pacing, making the viewer a voyeur in a family drama filled with daily adventures that ebb and flow in intensity.


Photo by Carlos Somonte

Read More:‘Roma’: Childhood Memories Flowed Like Water in Alfonso Cuarón’s Black-and-White Masterpiece

The director meticulously recreated his childhood through recollections of his family, his house, and his neighborhood in Mexico City during the turbulence of 1970 and ’71. Yet he chose to follow domestic worker Cleo (played by Best Actress contender Yalitza Aparicio) with his roving camera. Her affectionate devotion to the family during its marital crisis overlaps with her own personal problems and social unrest in the city.

“A Star Is Born”

Warner Bros.

In Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, “A Star Is Born,” editor Jay Cassidy deftly balances the bittersweet love story between Cooper’s Jack Maine and Lady Gaga’s Ally with their live performances, providing a backstage seat for both. He introduces us to Jack’s intense world, provides a hint of his substance abuse and loneliness, steps into Ally’s frustration as an aspiring performer/songwriter, and then throws them together during one night of magic in which they both connect emotionally.

The anchor becomes the “Shallow” song that they perform together when Jack drags Ally up on stage with him. It is their anthem about life and love and finding your creative voice.

“The Favourite”

Fox Searchlight

In “The Favourite,” Yorgos Lanthimos turns the period drama on is head with a wicked comedy about a love triangle set in the royal palace of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) at the dawn of the 18th century. The frail and child-like queen struggles to maintain her power, while rival cousins Sarah (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail (Emma Stone) attempt to wield it by currying favor.

But for editor Yorgos Mavropsaridis, the key to balancing the three characters was to stress the existential situation. It began by changing the opening with the arrival of Abigail in her carriage to the more imperative discussion of love between Anne and Sarah.

Mavropsaridis also experimented with the scene in the woods which Abigail finds a natural balm to treat the queen. By making it more nuanced, her scheming plan becomes less obvious.

“First Man”

Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures

With “First Man, ” Damien Chazelle presents a new kind of space adventure, told from the perspective of grieving astronaut Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling), who goes to the moon to say goodbye to his departed daughter. It balances cinema verite moments of the mission with domestic scenes at home, culminating with the “Wizard of Oz” serenity on the moon shot in IMAX.

For editor Tom Cross, it was an opportunity to dramatize the collision between the professional and the personal, in which Armstrong narrowly escapes death on every mission. That juxtaposition is heavily featured in the Gemini 8 section of the film via cross-cutting between immersive mission sections with Mission Control and the domestic home sequences.

However, Armstrong’s cathartic goodbye on the moon, with the insertion of a poignant flashback sequence, was a last-minute editorial decision to provide closure, thanks to the availability of unscripted rehearsal footage spearheaded by Chazelle.

L to R: Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali in GREEN BOOK

“Green Book”

Universal Pictures

Peter Farrelly’s true-life “Green Book” balances comedy and drama in its “Odd Couple” pairing of African-American pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), his driver and bodyguard on their tour of the Deep South in 1962.

For editor Patrick Don Vito, it was a matter of making sure the comedy grew out of the situation rather than appearing as a series of jokes to relieve the tension. By staying on the two-shot in the cars, the takes would often be so complete that he could just let the interplay happen.

But it’s Shirley’s subtle character arc that anchors the dramedy, whether it’s his hilarious introduction to Kentucky Fried Chicken or his stirring breakdown in the rain about his personal and professional isolation.

Predictions are in alphabetical order.

“The Favourite”
“First Man”
“Green Book”
“A Star Is Born”

“Black Panther”
“Bohemian Rhapsody”

Long shots:
“If Beale Street Could Talk”

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