Among the year’s editorial achievements: a metaphysical journey, the economic collapse as black comedy, a massive Catholic Church cover-up, post-apocalyptic adventure, one man’s colonization of Mars and LA’s “reality rap” story.
1. “The Revenant”: Turns out that “Birdman” was merely a dress rehearsal for Alejandro G. Iñárritu and his fellow filmmakers. You couldn’t rely on dialogue to anchor the narrative, and because of the wide lenses and vast landscape, a lot of the camera work was on cranes, which changed the rhythm. They also shot in sequence, figuring it out as they went along and then making discoveries and adjustments. Once again, they started with blocking rehearsals, but there were many more moving pieces to play with for editor Stephen Mirrione. They shot 200 hours of material and went about finding the story, trying to be engaging and immersive and understanding Hugh Glass’ emotional journey. What they came up with beyond mere survival was about co-existence nature. This occurs right from the start with the opening battle, shifting points of view and alternating between realism and the abstract.
2. “The Big Short”: Hank Corwin, who snagged the LA Film Critics Award for best editing, helps make narrative sense of Adam McKay’s dense, complicated black comedy about the 2008 housing collapse and how these unconventional brokers profited from it. Corwin not only had to make the economics understandable but also humanize these eccentric players. Fortunately, he had a lot of great footage, including a wealth of on-set improvisation from Christian Bale and Steve Carell. One of his secret weapons, though, was the use of time-lapse montage to lend cultural context. His choice of rhythm was different for each set of characters and overall he found a way into the narrative that was chaotic, absurd and surreal.
3. “Spotlight”: Tom McArdle’s considerable editing skills elevated this fact-based journo procedural and best picture frontrunner (his fifth collaboration with director Tom McCarthy). The structural complexity required clarity but the restrained narrative could never be dull. At least the investigative objective was clear in proving the systematic cover-up of widespread sexual abuse by the Catholic Church. The challenge was juggling shifting points of view between Michael Keaton’s editor and his three Spotlight reporters played by Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Brian d’Arcy.
4. “Mad Max: Fury Road”: George Miller comes full circle in a surprisingly powerful way, reminding us what was so brilliant about his post-apocalyptic vision in the first place while stepping it up with even greater visual and visceral force. No wonder it’s a best picture Oscar contender. The whole movie is basically a chase in the desert landscape of West Africa with 75 vehicles. Miller’s mandate was to center the frame at all times, because he was going to cut fast and wanted the appearance of seamless, continuous action, with the viewer never confused. manipulating frames to help achieve the effect. And Miller admitted that one of the best decisions was recruiting his wife, Margaret Sixel, to cut “Fury Road.” Although this marked her first action movie, she was rigorous in putting the pieces together with elegance and fluidity.
Read the rest at TOH/Indiewire.