Best of 2006: Film Editing
Timing is everything, in movies as in life, which is why film editing is one of the most important arts in cinemaperhaps the most important artand yet, editors get precious little respect. The scriptwriters for the Oscars always foist upon the presenters some twee little quip about how a good editor would make the telecast shorter, just as the Cinematography presenters are perennially obligated to make a dumb joke about how the principal job of a director of photography is to make the actors look pretty. In reality, good editors are like ideal gallery docents, smoothly directing you to look at just the right images for just the right amount of time, and in the most suggestive, interesting order.
They are also brilliant trainers, regulating the pace and energy of the film, and they are shrewd, observant psychologists. I'm sure I've mentioned it on this site before, but Tim Squyres, the usual editor of Ang Lee's movies (though not, for whatever reason, on Brokeback) once told a Cornell audience that his first Oscar nomination came, inevitably, for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which was by far the easiest of Lee's films to cut: all the transitions between action and dialogue were right there in the screenplay, and most of the conversations were two-handers... whereas, in something like The Ice Storm or Sense and Sensibility, you've often got four or six or eight actors in a scene, all of them experiencing tremors and doubts and suppressed excitements, or harboring valuable knowledges that other characters don't have. To whom do you cut? Should the excitement of secrecy or the force of repression dominate the scene?
Editors are also poets: they cut expression down to its barest essentials, coordinating the meter of a film to its content and imagery, and hopefully furnishing us with something illuminating and special. These five definitely provided those kinds of experiences for me, but as you'll see from the copious runners-up, there was lots of great editing going around in 2006.
Labels: Best 2006