Want to know what's in contention for Best Picture? Look to Best Film Editing. No category except Best Director has as much overlap with the top category as of late. Is that how things will turn out this year? Let's take a look…
That aside, the branch is also fond of suspense films, action films and war films. Musicals (if they are big players overall) and films with non-linear narratives tend to have a leg up, too. We don't tend to see film editors racking up nods like we do other disciplines, though. Michael Kahn is the all-time nominations leader with eight. And don't get me wrong – that's a lot of nominations. But compared to “all time” figures in every other crafts category, it's on the low side.
So with that out of the way, what can we bank on this year?
William Goldenberg won this category two years ago for “Argo” (he was double-nominated that year with “Zero Dark Thirty,” his third and fourth career nominations). He is once again cutting an arguable Best Picture frontrunner this year in “The Imitation Game.” Though not a traditional war film or suspense film, both themes are present. Structure is a big note here, though, as the narrative cross-cuts between three different eras.
Lee Smith's snub in 2010 for “Inception” remains one of the most bizarre omissions in this category I have ever witnessed. “Interstellar,” hitting theaters to much fanfare this week, is a chance to make it up to him. A science fiction film, and an action film at times (that may be in the Best Picture race), it would seem logical to predict a third nomination for Smith (after “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” and “The Dark Knight”). But the film doesn't seem to quite have the universal acclaim of many of Nolan's recent efforts. And what about that “Inception” snub again?
Kirk Baxter has earned three nominations in the past six years for David Fincher films – “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “The Social Network” and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” He won for the latter two, with “Dragon Tattoo” being the only non-Best Picture nominee to be nominated in this category since 2008, as well as the first such film to win since 1968! With “Gone Girl,” Baxter has assembled a wickedly suspenseful tale with a clever narrative. I think the film is headed to a Best Picture nomination but even if it's not, Baxter's chances strike me as solid, despite the fact that he didn't work with Angus Wall (with whom he has shared his three previous nominations) this time around.
“Birdman” seems clearly poised for some major nominations, and its neato cinematic trickery in respect can only help in this category. The work may seem invisible, but editors will get it. As such, I'm keen on the chances of Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrione to return to the Dolby for Iñárritu's latest. They were nominated for “Babel” and Mirrione won for “Traffic.”
Tim Squyres, Ang Lee's longtime film editor, has earned nominations for both “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Life of Pi.” This year, he's been tapped by Angelina Jolie to cut “Unbroken.” A film set over a long period of time with war scenes and race scenes, I think Squyres is in good shape, assuming the film delivers from a quality perspective. It remains a mystery in that regard, however, so let's not take anything to the bank. William Goldenberg has also been brought in to do last minute work on the film, it should be noted.