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The American Cinema Editors, Second Major Guild to Ring In, Offers Few Clues on Best Picture Frontrunner

The suspense with Oscars 2018 continues with the American Cinema Editors naming their favorites of the year. Were there any significant surprises? Probably the biggest was the non-nomination of Call Me By Your Name in the Drama category, though even that isn’t surprising. Spotlight won without an Eddie, but it did have that crucial SAG ensemble nomination, which Call Me By Your Name also does not have. Other than than that, we have three films that have captured the major guilds so far:

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (missing just the NBR Top Ten)
Lady Bird (no director nomination at Globes)
Get Out (also no director nomination at Globes)

Those would appear, at least for the moment, like your Best Picture frontrunners. The Big Sick and Mudbound are the other two SAG ensemble nominated films but neither made the cut with the editors.

We’ll see Three Billboards competing against Get Out and Lady Bird in the Comedy category, which could be illuminating. If any of those three films beats Baby Driver (which is the best editing in any film this year) that will show significant strength and popularity. If none of these wins and Baby Driver does, we’re stuck back in the middle.

In the Drama category, many will say it’s down to Dunkirk vs. Blade Runner 2049 (Joe Walker would be looking at his third Oscar nomination), but I actually think it’s down to Shape of Water vs. Dunkirk. If you watch The Shape of Water again you will notice the editing, which is quite fantastic. On the other hand, Dunkirk probably has this in a walk. The editing stands out in the complex Christopher Nolan war epic because it must thread three different storylines happening all at once. Lee Smith has been nominated twice by the Academy, for The Dark Knight and for Master and Commander. A win here would make sense.

Sidney Wolinsky, who edited The Shape of Water, has no Oscar nominations from the Academy editors but a whole boatload of them from ACE, with six nominations (TV) and two wins, twice winning for The Sopranos. They know him in ACE. Maybe that means something, maybe it doesn’t — but it’s worth pointing out.

Molly’s Game showing up at the Eddies shows the film is compelling and popular, at least where the editors are concerned. Because this is such a weird year, where so much of the heat of the race seemed to be condensed in the “Comedy” category, it opened up a slot in Drama — a slot that could have been taken by Darkest Hour, Phantom Thread, The Florida Project, or even Call Me By Your Name. Molly’s Game showing up there is, I’d say, fairly significant, and could point to some kind of shift for Jessica Chastain to get in, or even Molly’s Game to show up other places in the nominations — who knows, maybe even a surprise Best Picture nomination.

And then we have our champ of champs, Michael Kahn, who has long worked with Steven Spielberg and edited The Post. Seven Oscar nominations, going all the way back to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, with three wins (Raiders, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan). It’s hard to imagine Kahn not getting in there for The Post, but we’ll have to see where the rest of it goes in terms of guild nominations.

If the Oscars were really about pure craft, rather than wins being attached to a popular Best Picture contender, Baby Driver would have this one in the bag. Cut famously in real time and to the rhythm of the soundtrack, it is so carefully constructed it’s jaw-dropping. Anyone can tell that just by looking at it. Sure, the best editing is often the kind that doesn’t call attention to itself, but it’s impossible to watch Baby Driver and not notice the brilliant way it’s been sliced and diced and held together so beautifully. We know the Oscars aren’t as much about individual achievement in the various categories because the entire Academy votes on those chosen by the individual branches. But heck, even actors should be able to notice Baby Driver’s brilliant editing. Can it become one of the few films to win without a Best Picture nomination? Hard to say.

The one lone female nominee, Tatiana S. Riegel, noticed here for her great work in I, Tonya, would be looking at her first Oscar nomination if she earned a nomination. By and large, Best Editing matches Best Picture pretty well, in terms of nominations and wins. But nonetheless, it’s always nice to see a woman make the cut. Also looking at his potentially (and more likely) first Oscar nomination is Lady Bird’s editor, Nick Houy, nominated by ACE for the first time.

Finally, Gregory Plotkin seems to have momentum for Get Out, which could win Best Picture, Best Editing, and Screenplay, in keeping with previous years — or, who knows, it might win the whole thing. What to keep an eye out for with these awards is really what wins the “Comedy” category, not because of what might win editing at the Oscars, necessarily, but what has consensus heat to win Best Picture.