'Social Network' Wins Best Edited Award

American Cinema Editors (ACE) tonight announced the winners for the 61st Annual ACE Eddie Awards recognizing outstanding editing in nine categories of film, television and documentaries. Winners were revealed during ACE’s 61st annual black-tie awards ceremony in the International Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Christopher Nolan received the ACE Golden Eddie Filmmaker of the Year Award, while Career Achievement honors were bestowed on veteran film editors Michael Brown, A.C.E. and Michael Kahn, A.C.E. Director Joe Sargeant presented to Brown, with Steven Spielberg presenting to Kahn. The ACE Eddie Awards is considered an integral precursor to the Oscars; no film has won Best Picture at the Oscars without also having received at least a Best Editing nomination since Ordinary People in 1981. Since the ACE membership boasts a very high crossover within its membership of Academy members, it is considered a very accurate bellweather for the eventual Oscar outcome:

NOMINEES FOR 61st ANNUAL ACE EDDIE AWARDS

BEST EDITED FEATURE FILM (DRAMATIC):
The Social Network
Angus Wall, A.C.E. & Kirk Baxter

BEST EDITED FEATURE FILM (COMEDY OR MUSICAL):
Alice in Wonderland
Chris Lebenzon, A.C.E.

BEST EDITED ANIMATED FEATURE FILM:
Toy Story 3
Ken Schretzmann & Lee Unkrich, A.C.E.

BEST EDITED DOCUMENTARY:
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Tom Fulford & Chris King

BEST EDITED HALF-HOUR SERIES FOR TELEVISION:
Modern Family: “Family Portrait”
Jonathan Schwartz

BEST EDITED ONE-HOUR SERIES FOR COMMERCIAL TELEVISION:
The Walking Dead: “Days Gone Bye”
Hunter Via

BEST EDITED ONE-HOUR SERIES FOR NON-COMMERCIAL TELEVISION:
Treme: “Do You Know What it Means”
Kate Sanford, A.C.E. & Alexander Hall

BEST EDITED MINISERIES OR MOTION PICTURE FOR TELEVISION:
Temple Grandin
Leo Trombetta, A.C.E.

BEST EDITED REALITY SERIES:
If You Really Knew Me: “Colusa High”
Rob Goubeau, Jeremy Gantz, Hilary Scratch, Ken Yankee, Mark S. Andrew, A.C.E., Heather Miglin, John Skaare & Paul J. Coyne

  1. I don’t understand how you can make a judgement on best editing. Unless you had intimate knowledge of the raw footage, you’d never know if the editor performed a major miracle or (hyperbole employed to amplify point) just phoned it in. Any thoughts?

    1. There is some truth to what you say. Editing does often involve making the most of footage that may have its problems. But usually with films at this level this is not a major issue. Editing also totally restructure a story that may have had screenplay issues. But again, usually, with films at this level the script is follow to a large degree. But really for any good film it is editing that creates the rhythm and pace of the film as a whole and its individual moments which is equally important in drama as it is in comedy or action or horror or suspense or really any kind of film. Are the moments sharp? Do the gestures feel natural? Do the jokes make you laugh? Does the action hit with a punch? Does the tension build? I am not sure if this is why people actually vote for an editing award, but this above anything is the art and craft of film editing.

    2. I’ve wondered the same thing.

      I wonder whether this is an indication that Exit Through The Gift Shop will win Best Doc. It honestly blew me away and would love me fellow Bristolian to take Gold!

    3. To John B: The argument you expouse about film editing is the same one I have encountered about awards for book editors…how do you know?

      My answer in both cases is, you don’t. I base my judgment on the finished product. I DON’T want to see the raw material, I want to see the finished product. And if the editor(s) does the job as intended, I don’t think about or wonder about it until long after the film is over. As it should be.

  2. Editing is not just making something coherent out of countless hours of raw footage – editing comprises pacing, movement, match-cutting, the way scenes and shots flow together, and on and on. The juxtaposition of imagery as it appears in a film’s final cut is the greatest achievement of film editing. It’s not necessary to have intimate knowledge of the raw footage of Sergei Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin” to see the import of editing to that film, nor how beautifully it was achieved. Eisenstein’s ‘contrapuntal montage’ was derived from a painstaking and decisive juxtaposition of objects and on-screen movements.

    I am reminded of my recent re-viewing of “The Departed.” There’s a great example. It’s like Thelma Schoonmaker cut that film with a straight razor. It’s extraordinarily precise.

    I think the disappointment I’ve seen on this site and elsewhere about “Inception” not receiving an editing nomination is a bit misplaced. While that film was finely edited, the movements between ‘dream levels’ were already delineated in the screenplay. The first 15-ish minutes of “The Departed” is a good comparison…Schoonmaker cuts at just the right moment between disparate spaces and times, it’s very elegant. “Inception”‘s cuts are blander on the whole. It certainly is not a poorly edited film, but I didn’t find that aspect of it all that memorable. I felt the cinematography, action choreography, and visual effects of “Inception” were its most outstanding elements.

  3. Unless you are an editor, director, camera person, or even a producer, it’s virtually impossible to discern whether or not the film was edited well. Yet, the rest of you can see these things if you look closer. When done well, good editing is invisible. Cutting scenes together seamlessly is a great skill and requires scrutinizing even the most minute details. Kudos to Mr Kahn for receiving the lifetime achievement award!!! I’m surprised he didn’t receive this earlier! Does anyone know if it’s true that he still edits on a flatbed???

    1. Michael had made the switch to Avid a long while back and was very comfortable with that
      but Mr S. wanted to continue working on film. So, on his films, they did.
      I’m not sure where they’re at these days.

      (Not speaking for Mr Kahn here, but when you get to a certain age cutting digitally can add
      a few years to your career. When i was a film assistant i was the arm wrestling champ of the studio just cos of the physical aspect of the job – all that rewinding!)

    2. Michael never edited on the flatbed. He cut on a Moviola and viewed the cuts with Steven on the flatbed. They have stopped doing this and moved to the Avid because you can no longer get single stripe sound track anymore in the United States. The big advantage of working on film is that you are seeing the actual image not some digital representation of it. Though they have moved to the Avid I suspect they probably view dailies on film, as God and DeMille intended,like Clint Eastwood, Woody Allen, Sam Rami and Quenten Tarantino. Film is still by far the best method of capturing images. It far surpasses Hi-Def.

  4. Sorry but most of you don’t understand what editing is. As an editor, I can look at something and say if it’s been well edited or not. If the cutting decisions help move the story forward and build emotion, I start from there. ACE is a group of editors – they can easily judge achievement of their fellow editors!

    1. Thanks, Kristin and CJ. Those are of course important facets of editing, and glad you mention them, as I think they’ve led me to an important distinction. I find it’s impossible to draw the line between the editor’s singular contribution, the editor/director collaboration, and the director’s design. I think giving this award on the final product and not based on knowledge of their process, is not a true measure of best editor – but based on what you mentioned, is a measure of best editing, ie final product, which is indeed what the award is called.

  5. A similar question: How do you properly appraise the editor’s contribution to a film on which the director has “final cut” authority (such as Aronofsky, Coens, Fincher, Hooper, Russell et al.)? Unless you are privy to the detailed post-production history of the film, you just don’t know whose decisions are represented by the final product. At both the minute level (a scene or two-shot sequence) and the grand level (the film as a whole), the director has final say. The director may give extremely specific instructions on editing. Moreoevr, the editor may cut a scene (or the whole film) in a certain way only to have the director require a re-cut. How do you decide whether the editor or the director should get credit (or blame) for the editing?

  6. I’m very much enjoying this astute discussion of film editing; esp. jm’s description of good editing. The only way I can judge editing is to ask: Did I stay engaged with the story? Then it was well edited.

    I must half disagree with my comrade Kristin; yes, you can judge the “editing” of the final show, but as John B. and others realized, you can’t necessarily judge an editor. A quarterback with a great team and great coaches may win the superbowl, but the quarterback with a weak team and idiot coaches who got his team to the playoffs, may have done the harder job, and thus be the “more valuable player.” An editor with weak material (or weak actors/directors/producers) has to be more brilliant than an editor with strong material (or strong etc.).

    I would agree that the editors of “Social Network” did excellent jobs, but was there an editor out there with a script not by Sorkin, not directed by Fincher, who maybe had to be more brilliant just to make his show watchable? There JUST — MAY — BE . . . ! And if so, who deserves the title of “best editor”? Can the “best editor” of the year not have the show with the “best editing”?

  7. This is a great comment section (one of the best on deadline). I’ve also noticed that films/TV shows that tend to tell the story in a non-chronological way and/or multiple intertwined stories get more attention for awards consideration when it comes to editing. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easier or harder to tell a story this way (still depends on thousands of variables before and during production), but it certainly draws a little more attention to the editing which in turn seems to draw more awards attention. What do you think of my theory/observations?

    I hope people keep this discussion going.

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