Oscars: From 'Boyhood' to 'American Sniper,' Film Editors' Work Ranges From Subtle to Splashy

This year's five Oscar nominees took dramatically different approaches.
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This story first appeared in the Feb. 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

As Academy members ponder their ballots in the film editing category, they face some classic choices, given the range of approaches on display. On one side of the spectrum is Sandra Adair's understated craft on Boyhood — in assembling footage shot over 12 years, she made sure that each section would transition almost imperceptibly into the next as viewers watch Mason grow up before their eyes. On the other end of the spectrum is the tension-building work of Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach in American Sniper — as Bradley Cooper's Chris Kyle peers through his rifle's sight before making life-and-death decisions — and the manic style Tom Cross brought to Whiplash, especially as the film builds to its big musical crescendo.

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The nominees also include William Goldenberg, who balances three time periods while also setting an intimate, cerebral drama against a ticking clock and the backdrop of world events in The Imitation Game, and Barney Pilling, who brings a madcap rhythm to the whimsically imaginative world of The Grand Budapest Hotel.

This year's contest could also be viewed as one between several veterans and a couple of newcomers. Cox, linked to four decades of Eastwood's movies and an Oscar winner for 1992's Unforgiven, is the most seasoned hand (this is co-editor Roach's first nom; he's been with the team for 20 years). Goldenberg previously won an Oscar for 2012's Argo, having scored a double nomination that year. And while this is Adair's first nomination, her record with Richard Linklater includes cutting his Before trilogy.

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Pilling, who got his start in British TV, is relatively new to features, and Budapest is his first film with Wes Anderson. And the $3.1 million indie Whiplash is a real step into the limelight for Cross: It's just his third film as sole editor.

The American Cinema Editors' Eddie Awards on Jan. 30 may offer a clue to where the race is headed. All five Oscar nominees are up for Eddies — four of them in the drama category and Pilling in comedy. In nine of the past 12 years, the Eddie winner for best edited dramatic feature went on to win the Oscar for editing.