Oscar 2012: Cinematography and Film Editing
By Tom Houseman
January 22, 2012
Of the “below the line” categories, meaning the various artistic and technical categories that don't involve writing, acting, or directing (unless you count art directing as a kind of directing) the two that are by far the most important for the Oscar race are Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing. Anyone who follows the Oscar race closely knows the old adage that a movie can't win Best Picture without at least being nominated for Best Film Editing. And as strange as it sounds, it's true; over the last three decades there have been as many Best Picture winners directed by Uwe Boll as there have been Best Picture winners not nominated for their Film Editing.
Of course, there are always films that have the ability to break such trends, and this year both The Descendants and The Help could be the first since Terms of Endearment to pull it off. But disregarding that unlikely scenario, we should focus largely on the Best Picture contenders to fill out these two categories. Last year - a year with twice as many Best Picture nominees as usual, of course - every nominee for Film Editing and Cinematography also showed up in Best Picture. Best Cinematography is more likely to go rogue than Best Film Editing (remember in 2006 when the cinematographers decided they were really into magicians, nominating both The Prestige and The Illusionist?), but with both categories it is important to remember that any Best Picture nominee could slip in.
So of course, as with pretty much every category this year, we are going to start with The Artist and Hugo. The cinematographers love beautiful, artistic movies, and I suspect that even if neither of these films were in the hunt for Best Picture they would both be serious contenders here. As for Best Film Editing, well, both films are grand in scope and scale, which always impresses the editors. I would be a shock if either of these films was missing from either category. Like with all guilds, the ASC and the ACE are very important indicators of what will show up at the Oscars, and both of them nominated Hugo and The Artist, making the sailing even smoother.
The Help and The Descendants will have a much harder time, however. While The Descendants does have all those picturesque shots of Hawaii, neither film is standing on the strength of its filmmaking. The Descendants is clearly the most popular film Payne has made, which means that it may have better luck than Sideways, which was ignored by both categories. Could it make into either category? Yes, especially with the help of an ACE Eddie nomination, but it's a long shot. As for The Help, unless the actors are suddenly allowed to vote on these nominees, its chances of getting into either category are very slim, especially since it was overlooked by both major guilds.
War Horse, on the other hand, will be very competitive in both categories, even without the help of one of the guilds. War films do very well here because, as we've already established, epic films are almost as popular here as films about magicians. Between the prestige of cinematographer Janusz Kaminski and editor Michel Kahn, the War Horse crew is used to getting Oscar nominations. War Horse has been overlooked by a number of guilds so far, including the ASC, but there are usually one or two films that get ignored by the ASC and still sneak into the Oscars. I wouldn't call War Horse a safe bet in either category, but it is certainly in the running.