Ever since the Oscars introduced an award for editing in 1934, only nine movies have won Best Picture without at least being nominated for the editing Academy Award. The last of these was “Ordinary People” in 1980. Even surprise Best Picture champs like “Gladiator” (2000), “Shakespeare in Love” (1998), “Chariots of Fire” (1981), “The Greatest Show on Earth” (1952), “An American in Paris” (1951), and “Rebecca” (1940) could boast of bids for editing.
That stat is one explanation of how “Crash” pulled off a surprise win over “Brokeback Mountain” in 2005 and why “The Departed” prevailed over PGA and SAG champ “Little Miss Sunshine” in 2006. Neither of those losing Best Picture contenders was in the running for the editing award at the Oscars.
Only four of this year’s Best Editing nominees — “The Artist,” “The Descendants,” “Hugo” and “Moneyball” — number among the nine Best Picture contenders. The fifth editing nominee is the team of Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” The pair won last year for “The Social Network.”
Of that quintet, “Midnight in Paris” reaped bids for Woody Allen‘s directing and writing while “The Help” has three acting nominations (lead Viola Davis and supporting players Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer).
The first film to win Best Picture without even a nod for editing was “It Happened One Night.” That screwball comedy swept the major categories in 1934 while “Eskimo” won the first Oscar for editing. 1934 marked the first year that Oscar voters chose from 12 Best Picture nominees. In 1935, a dozen films were also in the running when “Mutiny on the Bounty” prevailed in the top race; the high seas adventure was also in contention for Best Editing, losing to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The Best Picture race was then pared down to 10 from 1936 to 1943. In those eight years, all the Best Picture champs — with the exception of “The Life of Emile Zola” in 1937 — had at least an editing nomination. Only 1939 Best Picture winner “Gone With the Wind” also won the editing race.
Since the Best Picture category went to five nominees in 1944, seven films have won the top Oscar without an editing nomination: “Hamlet” (1948), “Marty” (1955), “Tom Jones” (1963), “A Man for All Seasons” (1966), “The Godfather, Part II” (1974), “Annie Hall” (1977), and “Ordinary People” (1980).
Of the nine Best Picture winners that went without an editing nomination, seven won Best Director and the other two had nominated helmers. The Best Director category has lined up with best picture 63 times over 83 years. In its first quarter century, the academy shared the wealth 11 times while during the last 58 years, there have been only nine occasions when the year’s Best Director did not helm the Best Picture. However, three of those times occurred in the last decade, including in 2005 when “Crash” director Paul Haggis lost to Ang Lee for “Brokeback Mountain.”
While “Crash” did win the Oscar for editing, only 41 of the 77 editing awards have gone to Best Picture winners. From 1934 to 1952 (the academy’s silver anniversary) these awards lined up only twice. Since then, 39 of the 58 Best Picture winners were also the best edited though just five of the last 10 top films have managed to win both awards.
And in the last decade, only four Best Picture winners — “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003), “The Departed” (2006), “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008) and “The Hurt Locker” (2009) — took home both Best Director and Best Editing.