Monday, January 31, 2011

Widescreen Awards: Film Editing

Lee Smith, of Inception, in his editing room

Editing is quite possibly the most difficult aspect of film to judge, particularly from the perspective of a viewer. A good editor can pick up the slack from a bad director, who came into a project with a shaky vision. A bad editor can hack a good director's work unscrupulously. And, it would seem, editors are always at the mercy of the material they're given. If the production crew didn't shoot enough material, the editor will have a difficult time creating a rhythm or even choosing the best shots.

But here are the films that are, in my mind, the most smoothly "edited." Whether that's because of or despite the best or worst efforts of their editors, I will never know.

Angelina Jolie does a whole lot of running, jumping, leaping and tumbling in Salt, but the editing team of Stuart Baird and John Gilroy manage to keep the action sequences coherent. You always have a good idea where Jolie's super spy is going and how she's getting there.

The Social Network sustains a meticulously-crafted rhythm across a continent and its two-hour length. I have to imagine Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall had something to do with that, although with the reportedly OCD David Fincher in the director's chair, you can never be sure.

There are no wasted sequences in Enter the Void, which was edited by Marc Boucrot, with director Gaspar NoƩ doing double duty. Even the lulls in the plot, including one doozy of a trip, contribute to the whole. The editors knows when to look away, when to hold on a shot and how integrate the various special effects into the frame.

Christopher Nolan's new favorite editor Lee Smith (pictured) — they've been working together since 2005's "Batman Begins" — helps the master illusionist keep a lot of balls in the air in Inception. The final "kicks" sequence is as tightly constructed as any film this year.

Juliette Welfling, in her third collaboration with A Prophet director Jacques Audiard, achieves a measured pace across a number of years in the life of an burgeoning mafia kingpin. It's a testament to her skill at pacing and structure that so many great moments stay in your memory long after the 155 minutes are over.

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