When it comes to film editing, dubbed by so many as “the invisible art,” marveling at how rhythmically one shot feeds another is hardly sufficient in predicting an Oscar winner. If it were that simple, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, who linked motorbike zooms to serial-killer string-ups and helped The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo feel like half of its 158 minutes, would take this trophy in a walk. That’s just what the Fincher-backing duo did last year, for their equally riveting chop job on The Social Network. But Fincher’s latest is hardly a contender like his zeitgeist-y Zuckerberg epic, leaving it a tased and tatted victim of the politics of this race. If you’re not a Bourne Ultimatum or a Black Hawk Down or a Matrix, firing more dizzying, whiz-bang splices at the audience than obstacles in a first-person shooter, you’d best be a Best Picture frontrunner.
Which pretty much kills the chances for Moneyball and The Descendants, whose editing, by Christopher Tellefsen and Kevin Tent, respectively, snagged much-presumed noms away from The Tree of Life and War Horse, further complicating the kooky nature of this category. One can gather why Moneyball, in all its nimble pacing and number-crunching and assuredly shifting deal-making, would find its way onto this list, but the inclusion of The Descendants feels like classic Oscar hogwash—a nomination by virtue of awards-season standing. Popular nicknames be damned, this art isn’t so invisible that George Clooney’s jaunt around Hawaii can pass as one of the five greatest cutting-room triumphs of 2011.
Indeed, this field, like many others, comes down to Hugo and The Artist, unequivocally the Oscar-iest Oscar nominees. We three pundits have admittedly had our disagreements about these opponents’ editing hopes, looking to history, tone, and genuine strength of craft to help nudge the needle. In the end, while the silent scene-sewing by Michel Hazanavicius and Anne-Sophie Bion could yield a statuette to match the evening’s most coveted, we feel this is Academy favorite Thelma Schoonmaker’s to lose, bolstering the irony that much of The Artist’s artistry may ultimately get the shaft.
Will Win: Hugo
Could Win: The Artist
Should Win: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo