We could do this as fast as Janet Jackson saying “Edit” by swiftly calling another La La Land win. Which, to be clear, we are because it will. Just not in anything resembling a walk. In the not-too-distant past, the film that won best picture would traditionally also win this category, with nearly the same hit-to-miss ratio as best director. But these aren’t your father’s tech categories anymore, thanks to the growing schism between yesterday’s tradition-of-quality filmmaking and today’s prestige-blockbuster product: Spotlight versus Mad Max: Fury Road; 12 Years a Slave versus Gravity; No Country for Old Men versus The Bourne Ultimatum. The picture-editing correlation only happened once in the last six Oscar ceremonies, and arguably residual sympathy for Argo’s Ben Affleck not getting a nomination for best director could have been a factor in that film’s triumph over Life of Pi.
This year boasts another textbook prestige blockbuster in Arrival, and it certainly means something that the film landed an ACE Award for best edited dramatic feature film (where it didn’t compete head to head against La La Land, which took the comedy/musical prize). Arrival’s increasingly experimental temporal slips in the final act are a showstopper, and would give editor Joe Walker sweet revenge for losing to Gravity when he was up for 12 Years a Slave. But not in a year when Oscar is only interested in throwing back. Tom Cross will win for his second (and far less Soviet) Damien Chazelle collaboration, and he may even deserve it for editing dance sequences around Ryan Gosling’s meandering, apathetic dudebro saunter.
Will Win: La La Land
Could Win: Arrival
Should Win: Hell or High Water