Monday, February 18, 2008

The Oscars: Which Editing Is a Cut Above?

EVERY year, when the members of the editing branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sit down to watch movies and choose the five nominees for film editing, they try very hard not to look at what they’re supposed to be looking at.

“When do I notice the editing? When it’s bad,” said Craig McKay, a nominee for “Reds” and “The Silence of the Lambs.” “You sit there and think, ‘Why is the camera on this character’s back at a pivotal moment?’ But if it’s really well done, I just surrender like the rest of the audience.”

The “invisible art,” as many of its practitioners call it, has been an Oscar category since 1934, when Conrad Nervig took home the first editing statue for “Eskimo.” Yet editors acknowledge that even after 70 years assessing excellence in their field sometimes comes down to guesswork. “Everything else — music, cinematography, costumes, design, acting — can be judged at face value,” said Christopher Rouse, a nominee last year for “United 93.” “But when you’re looking at editing, you don’t know what the totality of the material was, and you don’t know the working dynamic between a director and an editor — whether the editor was micromanaged or given free rein. It’s very difficult.”

Continue reading over at the New York Times