Sunday, February 15, 2009

Oscar Trends - A Predictable Category

Quick- what do these movies have in common?

Body and Soul (1947); Champion (1949); Rocky (1976) and Raging Bull (1980). If you answered that they’re all films with boxing as the main subject, you’re right, of course. But the other answer is that they’ve all won Oscars for Best Editing.

Apparently, the Academy members believe that great editing can be summed up in boxing films with their quick cuts back and forth between the antagonists. I’m not critical of the editing in these films; indeed the editing of Body and Soul and Raging Bull is magnificent. Also, it should be pointed out that not every boxing film wins Best Editing, as was the case with Million Dollar Baby (2004), which lost this award in favor of The Aviator, not a surprise, given the dramatic flight sequences (as well as the spectacular crashes) or Cinderella Man (2005) which was passed over in this award in favor of Crash, a bit of a surprise. So it’s not all the time, but it’s clear that if you make a successful boxing movie, you’ll snag a Best Editing nomination and probably win.

It also helps when you have a great car chase as in Bullitt (1968) or The French Connection (1971), which both – you guessed it - won the Best Editing Oscar. Again, a superb job of editing on these films and richly deserved wins, but it does point out how the members love the fast action of a boxing ring or a car chase when it comes to this award.

So I can say with pretty good certainty, as I write this one week before this year’s awards are handed out, that The Dark Knight will win the statue this year for Best Editing. It’s really the only film nominated in this category that has big action scenes, so I’d be surprised if it lost. It will also win as the voters will try and make up for the film not being nominated as Best Picture. This snub is becoming a too predictable trend, as the Oscars – despite their so-called changes – get all serious at awards time and go for the noble, sincere films, while the beautifully crafted entertainment pictures get snubbed. This is similar to the Bourne films of the past few years (especially the first-rate The Bourne Supremacy of 2006). Last year, the Academy handed out the Best Editing award to The Bourne Ultimatum (along with awards for Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing) not only for its brillliantly edited action scenes, but in my mind, also for the omissions over the past years for the technical work in the previous two Bourne films.

While you’re on your own for the other Oscars, you can rest assured that the Best Editing will go to The Dark Knight. (I’m also thinking that it will win a few others such as Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing; I’d love to see Wally Pfister’s terrific cinematography be honored as well but I’m not that confident in this category).

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