Last Updated March 7: Underdog “King Richard” beat the higher profile “Dune” and “The Power of the Dog” for drama film editing honors at the 72nd ACE Eddie Awards on March 5 at the ACE Hotel. Likewise, “Tick Tick Boom” upset the favored “Don’t Look Up” in the film comedy category. In terms of the Oscar race, though, it’s still wide open for “Dune,” “The Power of the Dog,” or “Don’t Look Up” to prevail.
Last Updated February 10: The editing Oscar nominees — “Don’t Look Up” (Netflix), “Dune” (Warner Bros.), “King Richard” (Warner Bros.), “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix), and “Tick Tick Boom” (Netflix) — all employ different rhythmic styles to convey their bizarre worlds and to get inside the heads of their troubled protagonists. For those wondering about editing as a Best Picture predictor, particularly since “Belfast” is not included here, they’ve only overlapped twice since 2012 with “Argo” and “Nomadland.
Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi “Dune” is the favorite for its ambition and complexity. It provided three-time Oscar nominee Joe Walker the challenge of balancing its epic story of politics, religion, and environmentalism with the more personal hero’s journey of would-be messiah Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet). Added to this was the extra narrative layer of Paul’s prophetic dreams and visions of leading the nomadic Freman in a holy war on the desert planet Arrakis. It all came together early on in the pivotal Gom Jabbar scene, in which Paul’s special mental abilities and impulse control are put to a deadly test by the Bene Gesserit Mother Superior (Charlotte Rampling). Walker played with visions but achieved a breakthrough when inserting the medieval chant from Hans Zimmer’s otherworldly score to demonstrate how Paul summons the inner strength to pass the test.
“The Power of the Dog,” Jane Campion’s psychological western about repression, is skillfully edited by Peter Sciberras, who provides escalating tension in exploring Phil’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) sadistic behavior on the other characters: his sensitive brother George (Jesse Plemons), his vulnerable sister-in-law Rose (Kirsten Dunst), and Rose’s tender son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee). It inevitably becomes an ambiguous power play about savagery and affection between Phil and Peter, and Sciberras makes great use of the complex performances, the beautiful landscape, the imposing ranch house, and Jonny Greenwood’s dissonant score.
The apocalyptic absurdity of director Adam McKay’s “Don’t Look Up” was very much in the wheelhouse of three-time Oscar nominee Hank Corwin, allowing another variation of the duo’s jazzy improv style of cutting. However, the fictional story liberated them to find new creative opportunities with their talented ensemble (Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Cate Blanchett, Mark Rylance, Tyler Perry, and Timothée Chalamet). The wacky premise of astronomy professor Randall (DiCaprio) and student Kate (Lawrence) unable to convince the powers that be in D.C. to do something about a comet on its way to destroy Earth gave Corwin multiple layers of chaos and anxiety to work with, both visually and verbally.
Reinaldo Marcus Green’s “King Richard,” the biopic about Richard Williams’ (Will Smith) uncompromising mission to propel daughters Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton) to the top of the tennis profession, required a delicate balancing act from editor Pamela Martin. While the focus is Richard’s obsession and psychological warfare, the Williams family story always looms large. Not surprisingly, the climactic third act tennis match for Venus proved the most challenging and required a lot of calibration. It was like cutting an action movie for the editor, with the suspenseful back and forth of the match and Venus finally making her own decisions, and raising of the stakes for the Williams family.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Tick Tick Boom” required a special rhythm to convey the meta bio-pic story about genius composer Jonathan Larson (Andrew Garfield) telling his story about a failed musical before “Rent.” It’s an experimental musical within a musical, but it needed to be cut at a breathless pace without confusing viewers. Editors Myron Kerstein and Andrew Weisblum succeeded in a nuanced way that made the music feel alive, surreal, and emotional. The past was everything in ’90, while the present took place in ’92, and each dictated a different approach. The highlight was the sublime, fantastical “Sunday” diner scene in tribute to Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece, “Sunday in the Park with George.”
Below are the nominees ranked in order of likelihood to win:
“The Power of the Dog”
“Don’t Look Up”
“Tick Tick Boom”