It’s awards season again. I was checking out the nominations for the 81st Academy Awards – The Oscars – and happy to see a few names jump out at me. One of the fun things I get to do is interview some of the leading editors around the world for many of the articles I write. Of course, as a working editor, I am particularly keen on the Oscar category for best Film Editing and happy to see that 3 out of 5 of the nominees are folks that I have spent some time with doing these interviews.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall) and The Dark Knight (Lee Smith) seemed like obvious choices to me at the time and I invite you to visit my posts for these films. Slumdog Millionaire is more of a surprise. Not because of the film, but because Chris Dickens’ name jumped out at me in an “oh wow!” moment. Chris was the editor on Hot Fuzz, a truly funny, buddy-cop-film parody.
I have cut my share of documentaries and really enjoyed seeing Encounters at the End of the World. It’s a good choice in the Documentary Feature Film category, but for me the nomination holds extra excitement. It was posted in the shop of some industry friends, Alphadogs in Burbank. Furthermore, this also offered a chance for a good story with Brian Hutchings, the film’s colorist.
Aside from my own personal good wishes for the nominees, these films provide some other interesting ingredients. If certain of these films win in their categories, a number of milestones will have been reached. For instance, Avid editing and Pro Tools audio products are well-represented again (as in past years), but a win in the editing category for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button means a milestone for Apple. It will have been the first Oscar winner for editing in which Final Cut Pro was used. This will be as big an event for FCP users as when Walter Murch won for The English Patient in 1996 – the first editing Oscar for a film cut on an NLE – an Avid Media Composer. Another important editing milestone was Thelma Schoonmaker’s 2004 win for The Aviator, which she cut on a Lightworks system.
While we are on the subject of milestones, it’s noteworthy that both The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Slumdog Millionaire picked up Oscar nominations for Cinematography. If either wins, this will be the first such Oscar going to a film that was primarily shot using a digital camera. Benjamin Button relied on the Grass Valley Viper while Slumdog represents the most visible use to date of the Silicon Imaging SI2K digital camera. Furthermore, the latter would also be the first use of digital camera raw technology in an Oscar winner, thus beating RED to those bragging rights! Even without a win, Slumdog Millionaire is still the first Cinematography nominee to claim this distinction.
Although Encounters at the End of the World wasn’t nominated in one of these craft categories, it, too, represents some interesting technological firsts. If it wins, this will be a significant notch in Sony’s belt for the use of XDCAM-HD acquisition. I believe it will also be the first winner that used Apple Color (or its predecessor, Final Touch) as the primary color grading tool.
Until awards night, this is all just fun speculation. We’ll know in a month when the 81st Annual Academy Awards hits the air. Not all can win, but just to be nominated is to be in a very select crowd. In the meantime, I offer each and every nominee a heartfelt congratulations and GOOD LUCK!
EDIT: The Oscars have just been awarded as I write this. “Slumdog Millionaire” held the lead it started at the Golden Globes and the British awards to take 8 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. The Film Editing award went to Chris Dickens, continuing the long string of editing statuettes going to Avid jockeys. This is a well-deserved honor for a very talented editor. In addition, “Slumdog Millionaire” broke new ground by earning the Cinematography honor for a film largely shot with the SI2K digital camera – the first digital cinema camera that can now make this claim. On the documentary front, “Encounters at the End of the World” was beaten by “Man On Wire”, the story of tightrope walker Philippe Petit. In his early career Petit astounded and captivated the world with his daring walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center high above Manhattan right at the time of the towers’ completion.
©2009 Oliver Peters