Since The Artist’s ubiquity is even growing tedious for those who kneel at its grayscale altar, let’s just stick to the facts: In all of Oscar history, only nine films have won Best Picture without an editing nod, and in the last 31 years, no Best Picture winner has been left out of the editing category. So, yes, this year’s intertitled frontrunner will compete here too, marking a first-time nomination for editor Anne-Sophie Bion (director Michel Hazanavicius is also credited as co-editor). Standing in the way will be fellow female splicer Thelma Schoonmaker, a bona fide Oscar treasure who’ll land her seventh career nomination—and possible fourth win—for cutting yet another contender for bestie Martin Scorsese. The third sure thing in this category certainly seems to be The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, whose wickedly sharp work from last year’s winners, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall (The Social Network), will yield its most deserving nomination.
Beyond that, the field gets tricky. A knee-jerk candidate would be War Horse’s Michael Kahn, the most nominated editor ever and, to boot, the recipient of the 2011 Lifetime Career Achievement Award from the American Cinema Editors. Can he lose? A hunch says yes, given that Spielberg’s dusty weepie hasn’t quite galloped ahead as expected, and the editing race is one where it could prove most vulnerable. Likely to take its place is Drive and the crackerjack cuts by Matthew Newman, a recurring Nic Refn collaborator who, like Bion, would be a first-time nominee. As for the final slot, The Tree of Life couldn’t look like more of a no-brainer if it led with a poster broadcasting its ceaselessly diverse and staggeringly interwoven pieces (oh, wait…). However, since so many editing nominations have historically focused on pacing, and Terrence Malick’s magnum opus has elicited ample ennui complaints, give bid number five to Moneyball, an especially nimble sports film catering to a category that favors them.