Just when you think you have this whole awards season thing figured out, along comes another fork in the road. Tonight’s American Cinema Editors Awards crowned three favorites including American Hustle as Best Edited Feature Film (comedy or musical), Frozen for Animated Feature and 20 Feet From Stardom in the corresponding Feature Documentary category. But when it came to the final award of the evening, presenter Leonardo DiCaprio opened the envelope and announced Captain Phillips which was edited by past Eddie- and Oscar-winner Christopher Rouse. This is the second week in a row where Phillips has pulled off a mini-coup after surprising at the WGA Awards by taking Best Adapted Screenplay. In retrospect that win wasn’t that stunning since Oscar front-runner in the category 12 Years A Slave was ineligible as was another major contender, Philomena. But Friday night at the ACE Eddies Phillips pulled off a major win by besting favorites Slave, and especially Gravity which was co-edited by its DGA winning and Oscar-favored Director Alfonso Cuaron.
Gravity has been the favorite to win this award and several other crafts honors at the Oscars. This slowed a little of its momentum at least for the night. Will the surprise ambush at ACE mean Captain Phillips, another superbly edited nail-biting achievement, suddenly has turned the category into a real race and put a roadblock in the way of a possible Gravity sweep? We do have to remember that it is only editors themselves voting at ACE while the entire Academy membership votes in this category, and all others, for the final Oscar winner. I still think that gives Cuaron’s space drama the upper hand, but who knows? It was the Academy that bypassed both star Tom Hanks and director Paul Greengrass making it a bit of an underdog to the front-runners but it is on something of a roll right now. The Guilds continue to keep upending traditional prognostication and it appears anything goes this year. But Phillips and Rouse were popular winners in the room and if ever there was an editors film it’s this one. Greengrass said this was the sixth film the pair have worked on together and he had high praise for him.
In fact it was a very big night overall for Captain Phillips which also saw the organization giving its prestigious ACE Golden Eddie Filmmaker Of The Year honor to its director Greengrass. It was presented by Hanks. It was also a very big night for Sony Pictures which managed to nab both the drama and comedy/musical wins, the latter for American Hustle. Hustle’s victory over less intense competition in the comedy/musical category was expected and earned David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook editing crew (Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers & Alan Baumgarten) a second consecutive win in this category. It is also nominated at the Oscars. In fact, as any pundit worth their salt knows, if you have serious ambitions to win Best Picture you need at least a nomination for Film Editing. The last Best Picture winner to triumph without one was Ordinary People in 1980. That is just one reason why we listen to what editors tell us. Last year Argo took the dramatic editing ACE award for William Goldenberg and he repeated the feat at the Oscars while the film itself of course went on to win Best Picture. Goldenberg was a presenter at this year’s ACE show and told me before it started that he finds this whole awards season a little bizarre in that there is such a gap between the major Guild banquets and the actual Oscar show. Certainly it is tough to build momentum, and especially tough this year where there seems to be no major consensus in the Best Picture race.
The other two feature film wins for Frozen in animation and 20 Feet From Stardom in documentary make sense as those are both popular favorites and the top grossing films in their respective genres this year. And on the TV side it was clear there is consensus as Breaking Bad just keeps continuing its victory tour this season. It wins everywhere. It had four of the five nominees for commercial one hour series editing and took one home the prize (again) for Skip MacDonald’s work on the “Felina” episode.
As for the show itself it was a late one. The first award wasn’t presented until nearly 9:30 PM. But it was entertaining throughout and the special career achievement awards to veterans Robert C. Jones and Richard Halsey were really heartfelt. What filmographies these two have. It’s an incredible list of great films for both and the clip reels were great (would you expect anything less at an Editors’ awards show?). An amusing Warren Beatty presented to his Bulworth, Heaven Can Wait, Shampoo editor/screenwriter Jones (clearly a man for all seasons – he won an Oscar for co-writing Coming Home and was nominated for editing Bound For Glory, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner and It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World). Among other star name presenters were Hanks, along with Jonah Hill and Leonardo DiCaprio, who arrived directly from a public Q&A session at the Landmark Theatre before a screening of The Wolf Of Wall Street. I moderated that one and barely beat them to the Beverly Hilton ballroom a few minutes before the show began. They were especially excited to be there for Wolf nominee Thelma Schoonmaker and DiCaprio served up a nice special tribute to her (and their mutual collaboration with Martin Scorsese) before announcing the final award of the evening.
The evening’s most dramatic moment came when the winner for Best Edited Miniseries or Motion Picture for Television went to Mary Ann Bernard for Behind The Candelabra. Bernard is actually the pseudonym of the real editor – Steven Soderbergh – whenever he takes an editing credit. Bernard is his mother’s name. He was absent and sent an assistant editor to read a short note that thanked ACE for the honor, explained the meaning of the name and then broke the sad news that his mother had passed away Friday morning.
Although there seems to be one of these guild banquets just about every night at the Hilton (it’s the Art Directors turn on Saturday), the ACE Eddies is always a fun one and the tributes are sincere. Everyone in Hollywood can use a good editor, and everyone in that room Friday was well aware of their extreme importance.