Sunday, October 27, 2013
A greater understanding of editing
A recent article I read on The Onion's AV Club (thanks Scott) underscored something that had occurred to me independently about a week before I read the article:
Editing is one of the key elements of filmmaking, and I don't really know how to tell good from bad.
Okay, I can tell bad when I see it. Everyone can. Bad editing can make a movie seem more shoddy than any other bad element of that movie, even the acting, if it is done poorly enough.
So the thing I really don't know how to tell is good from great. And that's what I'd like to improve.
Toward that end, I'm going to go back and watch a number of winners of the best editing Academy Award with a specific eye toward appreciating what makes their editing so great. I don't know how I'm going to write about this project on the blog, though I would like to check in periodically to discuss my findings. I don't think I can commit to anything so regular as a monthly series -- though it's certainly possible that I will watch more than one of these Oscar winners per month.
The interesting though perhaps unsurprising thing is, many of the winners of the best editing Oscar were also the best picture winners that year. Such as Argo, which is why I'm using it as the art for this post. This tells me that even the members of the Academy don't have a perfect grasp on what distinguishes a good editing job from a great one. Of course, the five nominees themselves are determined by other editors. But from there, one would guess that most Academy members throw their votes toward the movie they're voting for the most in other categories -- which in most cases is the movie that takes the top prize.
So I think it will be interesting to focus on movies that didn't win best picture, but did win the editing Oscar. That's a good way of limiting my choices. In fact, I noticed in perusing the winners that two straight David Fincher movies won best editing -- The Social Network and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo -- without either winning best picture. It was the same editing team for both, as you might expect -- Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall. The fact that you've never heard of these guys tells you how little editing is appreciated outside of the small circles of people who really know about it.
Since The Social Network was the movie I thought of randomly when considering films with great editing, even without consciously remembering it had won the award, that means I do have some instinctive sense of what makes editing great. I'd like to polish that sense into something more confident, though.
I don't know which movie I'll watch first, as some of this relies on opportunity. However, I intend to get started soon.
Consider yourself notified.