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. That’s one explanation of how “Crash” pulled off a surprise win over “Brokeback Mountain” in 205 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.
In 2007, top Oscar champ “No Country for Old Men” did have an editing nomination, although “True Grit” triple threats Joel and Ethan Coen, under the pseudonym Roderick Jaynes, lost to Christopher Rouse for “The Bourne Ultimatum.” Before that editing bid for “No Country,” the Coens had been recognized by the editors branch with a nomination for “Fargo” in 1996. They lost back then to Walter Murch who cut Best Picture winner “The English Patient.”
All five of this year’s Best Editing nominees — “127 Hours,” “Black Swan,” “The Fighter,” “The King’s Speech” and “The Social Network” — number among the 10 Best Picture contenders. Those Best Picture nominees that did not make the cut with the editors branch are “Inception,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “Toy Story 3,” “True Grit” and “Winter’s Bone.”
Of those five, only “True Grit” landed a directing nod and ranks in second place for most nominations with 10, including Best Actor (Jeff Bridges), Best Supporting Actress (Hailee Steinfeld) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Coens). However, even surprise Best Picture winners 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 nominations for both directing and editing.
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 62 times over 82 years. In its first quarter century, the academy shared the wealth 11 times while during the last 57 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 five years ago when “Crash” director Paul Haggis lost to Ang Lee for “Brokeback Mountain.”
While “Crash” did win the Oscar for editing, only 41 of the 76 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 57 Best Picture winners were also the best edited though just six 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.