Does American Cinema Editors prize for ‘Boyhood’ predict Oscar win on Sunday?

It’s It’s an oft-echoed sentiment that movies are made in the cutting room, so the Academy Award for Best Film Editing is a cherished trophy indeed. First, some guild award stats: since 1963, the American Cinema Editors have correctly predicted the eventual Oscar winner 36 times (in years when the award has been split between Dramatic and Musical/Comedy Editing, the specific prize given has been noted):

1963: Harold F. Kress, “How the West Was Won”
1964: Cotton Warburton, “Mary Poppins”
1965: William Reynolds, “The Sound of Music”
1968: Frank P. Keller, “Bullitt”
1970: Hugh S. Fowler, “Patton”
1972: David Bretherton, “Cabaret”
1973: William Reynolds, “The Sting”
1975: Verna Fields, “Jaws”
1976: Richard Halsley and Scott Conrad, “Rocky”
1978: Peter Zinner, “The Deer Hunter”
1979: Alan Heim, “All That Jazz”
1980: Thelma Schoonmaker, “Raging Bull”
1981: Michael Kahn, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”
1982: John Bloom, “Gandhi”
1986: Thom Noble, “Witness”
1986: Claire Simpson, “Platoon”
1987: Gabriella Cristiani, “The Last Emperor”
1990: Neil Travis, “Dances with Wolves”
1991: Joe Hutshing and Pietro Scalia, “JFK”
1992: Joel Cox, “Unforgiven”
1993: Michael Kahn, “Schindler’s List”
1994: Arthur Schmidt, “Forrest Gump”
1996: Walter Murch, “The English Patient”
1997: Conrad Buff IV, James Cameron, and Richard A. Harris, “Titanic”
1998: Michael Kahn, “Saving Private Ryan”
1999: Zach Staenberg, “The Matrix” (Dramatic)
2001: Pietro Scalia, “Black Hawk Down” (Dramatic)
2002: Martin Walsh, “Chicago” (Musical/Comedy)
2003: Jamie Selkirk, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (Dramatic)
2004: Thelma Schoonmaker, “The Aviator” (Dramatic)
2005: Hughes Winborne, “Crash” (Dramatic)
2006: Thelma Schoonmaker, “The Departed” (Dramatic, tied with Stephen Mirrione and Douglas Crise, “Babel”)
2007: Christopher Rouse, “The Bourne Ultimatum” (Dramatic)
2008: Chris Dickens, “Slumdog Millionaire” (Dramatic)
2010: Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, “The Social Network” (Dramatic)
2012: William Goldenberg, “Argo” (Dramatic)

UPDATED: Experts’ Oscars predictions in 24 categories

This year the ACE Eddie Awards went to Sandra Adair for “Boyhood” (Dramatic) and Barney Pilling for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (Comedy/Musical). Those victories would appear to make them the Oscar frontrunners, but let’s take a look at all of the 2014 nominees for the Academy Awards and the chances for each of them winning this year.

Joel Cox and Gary Roach, “American Sniper

Joel Cox has edited the majority of director Clint Eastwood’s films since “The Gauntlet” (1977), and their longtime collaboration has granted him an Oscar win for “Unforgiven” (1992) and a nomination for “Million Dollar Baby” (2004). Cox is joined in his bid for “American Sniper” by Gary Roach, who started out as his assistant editor on “Absolute Power” (1997), working his way up to co-editor beginning with “Letters from Iwo Jima” (2006). War movies have been popular in this category before, and the duo created quiet tension during the films many battle sequences and moments at home. If voters want to reward the $300 million box-office hit with a significant prize, this could be a good place to do it. Cox and Roach are currently ranked in third place with odds of 50/1: an ACE Eddie win would’ve boosted those odds significantly.

Sandra Adair, “Boyhood

Another fruitful director/editor collaboration this year is between Sandra Adair and Richard Linklater. Adair has worked with Linklater on all of his films since “Dazed and Confused” (1993), and over half of their professional lives have been spent assembling the massive “Boyhood.” It’s easy to see why Adair is the front-runner to win for her first nomination: after all, she did have to rifle through twelve years of footage, cutting while the film was still being shot in order to help better inform what would be needed before each new year of production began. Yet voters may mistake her work as being more akin to that of a documentarian, a genre they’ve never really embraced in this category, and could overlook Adair in favor of flashier editorial achievements. So while that ACE Eddie win gives her odds of 1/5, there are potential spoilers lurking in the wings. 

See Oscar rankings when Experts’ predictions are combined

Barney Pilling, “The Grand Budapest Hotel

While “Boyhood” took the ACE Eddie for Dramatic Editing, Barney Pilling of “The Grand Budapest Hotel” walked away with the prize for the Comedy/Musical category, and it’s easy to see why: Pilling creates a delicate balancing act of high comedy and deep pathos for the Wes Anderson film, bouncing back-and-forth between moments of wacky fun and tender sadness. Yet while “Budapest” is almost certain to dominate the craft categories, Film Editing seems to be one area where voters want to spread the love. As well, for whatever reason, comedies have always had a tough time winning this award (odd considering how dependent the genre is on timing). This puts the first-time nominee in fourth place with odds of 50/1.

William Goldenberg, “The Imitation Game

William Goldenberg may very well hold the title of Hardest Working Man in Film Editing. “The Imitation Game” was his third feature film credit for 2014, having also cut “Transformers: Age of Extinction” and “Unbroken.” He won his first Oscar for “Argo” (2012) and has also been nominated for “The Insider” (1999), “Seabiscuit” (2003), and “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012). “The Imitation Game” requires the veteran cutter to juggle three different time periods and a fractured narrative, massaging those elements into a cohesive whole for director Morten Tyldum. Yet he’s ranked in last place with odds of 100/1: perhaps the fact that he won so recently hurts his chances. As well, voters may feel a win for Adapted Screenplay is sufficient enough for the film.

Tom Cross, “Whiplash

The rookie in this year’s race – and the closest competition for Sandra Adair and “Boyhood” – is Tom Cross for “Whiplash,” directed by Damien Chazelle. The first-time nominee is ranked in second place with odds of 15/2, due in large part to the film’s stunning finale, a showcase of the kind of fast-paced montage the Academy loves to honor. However, that’s the same logic that caused so many to predict last years ACE victor – Christopher Rouse for “Captain Phillips” – to prevail at the Oscars. That award went to “Gravity,” a Best Picture frontrunner, which as it currently stands, “Boyhood” is more of than “Whiplash.” Yet as history has proven, that’s not necessarily a reason to count out a film’s chances of winning this award.

Related: Experts predict ‘Boyhood’ will win Oscar for Best Film Editing

Let’s take a look at one more significant stat: the Best Picture winner has taken Best Film Editing a total of 34 times:

1939: “Gone with the Wind” (Hal C. Kern, James E. Newcom)
1946: “The Best Years of Our Lives” (Daniel Mandell)
1953: “From Here to Eternity” (William A. Lyon)
1954: “On the Waterfront” (Gene Milford)
1956: “Around the World in 80 Days” (Gene Ruggiero, Paul Weatherwax)
1957: “The Bridge on the River Kwai” (Peter Taylor)
1958: “Gigi” (Adrienne Fazan)
1959: “Ben-Hur” (Ralph E. Winters, John D. Dunning)
1960: “The Apartment” (Daniel Mandell)
1961: “West Side Story” (Thomas Stanford)
1962: “Lawrence of Arabia” (Anne V. Coates)
1965: “The Sound of Music” (William H. Reynolds)
1967: “In the Heat of the Night” (Hal Ashby)
1970: “Patton” (Hugh S. Fowler)
1971: “The French Connection” (Gerald B. Greenberg)
1973: “The Sting” (William H. Reynolds)
1976: “Rocky” (Richard Halsey, Scott Conrad)
1978: “The Deer Hunter” (Peter Zinner)
1982: “Gandhi” (John Bloom)
1986: “Platoon” (Claire Simpson)
1987: “The Last Emperor” (Gabriella Cristiani)
1990: “Dances with Wolves” (Neil Travis)
1992: “Unforgiven” (Joel Cox)
1993: “Schindler’s List” (Michael Kahn)
1994: “Forrest Gump” (Arthur Schmidt)
1996: “The English Patient” (Walter Murch)
1997: “Titanic” (Conrad Buff IV, James Cameron, Richard A. Harris)
2002: “Chicago” (Martin Walsh)
2003: “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (Jamie Selkirk)
2005: “Crash” (Hughes Winborne)
2006: “The Departed” (Thelma Schoonmaker)
2008: “Slumdog Millionaire” (Chris Dickens)
2009: “The Hurt Locker” (Chris Innis and Bob Murawski)
2012: “Argo” (William Goldenberg)

So while it does bode well for a Best Picture contender to win here, it’s not exactly the be-all-end-all. As has been stated several times this season, the last film to win the top prize without a Film Editing nomination was “Ordinary People” (1980). That would appear to put the five films nominated here at an advantage, yet records are made to be broken, and this just might be a year where that happens.

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