Can ‘Lincoln’ win Best Picture without editing Oscar nomination?

Only nine movies have won Best Picture without at least being nominated for the editing Academy Award since it was introduced in 1934. The last of these was “Ordinary People” in 1980. 

While “Lincoln is currently in first place to win Best Picture, none of our 25 experts predicting Best Editing expect this biopic helmed by Steven Spielberg to win that award. Rather, most of them expect either “Zero Dark Thirty” or “Argo” to prevail. “Lincoln” lies in third place because enough of our experts have ranked it in their top five for editing. Will the editors branch of the academy do the same? 

Even surprise Best Picture champs such as “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.

Best Picture wins by “Crash” over “Brokeback Mountain” in 2005 and “The Departed” over PGA and SAG champ “Little Miss Sunshine” in 2006 were in the cards as those also-rans had been snubbed in the editing race.

Last year, Spielberg directed Best Picture nominee “War Horse.” However, it along with four other Best Picture contenders —  “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” “The Help,” “Midnight in Paris,” “The Tree of Life” — did not make the cut for Best Editing. 

Only four of the Best Picture nominees — eventual winner “The Artist” as well as “The Descendants,” “Hugo” and “Moneyball” — contended for Best Editing. The fifth editing nominee was the team of Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall who prevailed for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” The pair had also won in 2010 for “The Social Network.”

War Horse” was edited by Michael Kahn who did the same for “Lincoln.” He won his record-tying three Oscars for working with Spielberg on “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981), “Schindler’s List” (1993) and “Saving Private Ryan” (1998). Three of his other four nods — “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977), “Empire of the Sun” (1987) and “Munich” (2005) — came for other collaborations with Spielberg; the other was for “Fatal Attraction” (1987). If he reaps a bid for “Lincoln,” he will break the tie for most nominations (7) he holds with Barbara McLean, William H. Reynolds and Thelma Schoonmaker

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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 64 times over 84 years. In its first quarter century, the academy shared the wealth 11 times while during the last 59 years, there have been only nine occasions when the year’s Best Director did not helm the Best Picture. However, three of those 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 78 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 59 Best Picture winners were also the best edited with six of the last 10 top films winning both awards.

However, 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.

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