Oscar 2021: Editing and Best Picture Oscar

Oscar 2021: Editing and the Best Picture Contenders

Editor Alan Baumgarten Aaron Sorkin Editing
Courtesy of Nancy Kirhoffer/Netflix

Four of the five contenders in the editing race this year are newcomers.

Only Alan Baumgarten (“The Trial of Chicago 7”) had previously earned an Oscar nomination, for 2013’s “American Hustle.”

“The Father” landed six nominations including best picture, but to land a win it would need to beat frontrunners “Sound of Metal” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”

Historically, to be considered the Oscar frontrunner for best picture, you need to land picture, director, original or adapted screenplay, editing and acting nominations. There are only two films that check that: “Nomadland” and “Promising Young Woman.”

The ACE Eddies track record for guiding who wins the editor prize on Oscar night stands at 89%. It also is a solid guide to predicting best picture.

In recent years, only “Birdman” had not received an editing nomination but still went on to win best picture.

Winner prediction: “Sound of Metal”
Look out for: “The Trial of Chicago 7”

“Sound of Metal”
Mikkel E.G. Nielsen
(Amazon Studios)

The film landed six Oscar nominations. Nielsen is also nominated for a BAFTA Award for editing. The “Beasts of No Nation” editor used sound to immerse viewers in the film so they could experience what it was like to lose |one’s hearing.

To accomplish that, Nielsen relied on the sound team (also Oscar-nominated) to take viewers on Ruben’s (Riz Ahmed) journey as he experiences loss of hearing.

“The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Alan Baumgarten
This is Baumgarten’s second nomination. The editor had previously collaborated with “Chicago” director Aaron Sorkin on “Molly’s Game.” With Sorkin’s meticulous script —he maps out editing beats — Baumgarten’s job became easier, as he had been provided with a roadmap to cutting the film.

Baumgarten seamlessly weaved the three stories together: the protest, the trial and the tension between Eddie Redmayne’s Tom Hayden and Sacha Baron Cohen’s Abbie Hoffman.

Sorkin had seen a director’s cut of the film before lockdown happened. Finishing touches were put together remotely including Daniel Pemberton’s score and the film’s color timing.

“Promising Young Woman”
Frédéric Thoraval
(Focus Features)

“Promising Young Woman” is effective as a comedy and a thriller, due to Emerald Fennell’s sharp script. Pastel colors in makeup, costume design and production design make viewers feel safe, but as the story gets darker, so does that color palette.

Thoraval’s guidance came from the script and Fennell knowing early on to keep the cut focused on main character Cassie and Carey Mulligan’s terrific performance.

The soundtrack ranges from Paris Hilton’s “Stars Are Blind” to Juice Newton’s ‘80s classic, “Angel of the Morning”–the songs are integral to understanding who Cassie was, and her emotional state.


Yorgos Lamprinos
(Sony Pictures Classics)

This dark horse in the race is one to watch. The movie’s success relies heavily on its editing, and that Lamprinos took the fifth slot is a testament to his work. As Anthony Hopkins (playing Anthony) grapples with the onset of dementia, this masterclass in acting follows the character as his sense of what is real and what isn’t deteriorates.

Lamprinos worked with director Florian Zeller to establish pacing, drawing out some scenes for emotion, or speeding them up, and going from one atmosphere to the next without ever being certain of the change. Subtle differences in Anthony’s apartment distinguished it from Anne’s (Olivia Colman), the cuts were designed with the notion that something is going on but we can’t be sure what.