Credit: DreamWorks Studios

Oscar Guide 2013: Best Film Editing

'Argo,' 'Life of Pi,' 'Lincoln,' 'Silver Linings Playbook' and 'Zero Dark Thirty' square off

(Welcome to the Oscar Guide, your chaperone through the Academy’s 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 24, with the Best Picture finale on Friday, February 22.)

Best Film Editing is the technical category most closely linked to Best Picture: the slate is routinely dominated by Best Picture contenders, and it's an oft-repeated stat that no film has won the top prize without an editing nod since "Ordinary People" 32 years ago. That's no random Oscar voodoo. Editing is a narrative-determining craft -- it's often said the editor functions as another screenwriter -- so it stands to reason that the Academy's favorite films figure most into this category. A bad film can be beautifully shot or scored, but it's rarely beautifully edited.

Last year, however, the voters threw away the category's unofficial rulebook by handing the win to David Fincher's thriller "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" -- while a film not nominated for Best Picture has taken the prize on occasion, it was the first film since "Bullitt" in 1968 to win this category and no other. This year, however, promises a less surprising result, in a category ruled by Best Picture frontrunners, and featuring just one first-time nominee.

The nominees are...

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<p>Best Actress winner Maribel Verdu in &quot;Blancanieves.&quot;</p>

Best Actress winner Maribel Verdu in "Blancanieves."

Credit: Cohen Media Group

Snow White adaptation 'Blancanieves' beats 'The Impossible' at Spain's Goya Awards

The true-life tsunami drama takes Best Director and four tech awards

"The Impossible" remains, to my mind, one of this season's biggest lost contenders. With a more focused campaign and an earlier release date, this visceral true-life survival story set against the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami could, I think, have gone over in a big way with Academy voters, reaping a lot more than a lone Best Actress nod for Naomi Watts. Anyway, spilt milk.

As it stands, the Spanish production's biggest night of the season was always set to be its home country's Goya Awards. Even there, however, the local box-office smash wound up ceding top honors to "Blancanieves," Pablo Berger's artful silent take on the Snow White story (yep, another one). The film, which I was charmed by at last year's London Film Festival, was Spain's submission for this year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, but didn't make the Academy's shortlist.   

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Credit: DreamWorks Studios

Roundup: Connecticut continues to bother 'Lincoln'

Also: The global dominance of 'Life of Pi,' and an imaginary Oscar for 'Argo'

In these final days of voting, the last thing you want is headlines like "The Oscar for Best Fabrication," yet the already ailing "Lincoln" got saddled with that in a Maureen Dowd op-ed that was the weekend's most talked-about Oscar piece. Seems this story of a Connecticut congressman taking issue with some artistic license taken by Tony Kushner, essentially switching the 13th Amendment vote of the state's House members, won't go away. Kushner, who had the error pointed out to him at an early stage by one of the film's historical advisors, continues to defend his position, saying, "History doesn’t always organize itself according to the rules of drama." Congressman Joe Courtney continues to push for the error to be amended in the film before it is integrated into school syllabi across the country. What do you think? [New York Times]

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<p>&quot;Life of Pi&quot;&nbsp;may have won the most prizes but &quot;Skyfall&quot;&nbsp;took a key award.</p>

"Life of Pi" may have won the most prizes but "Skyfall" took a key award.

Credit: Sony Pictures

'Skyfall,' 'Life of Pi,' 'Les Mis,' 'Wreck-It Ralph' and 'Game of Thrones' win MPSE Awards

One of the toughest categories to predict just got tougher

With the costumers set to declare on Tuesday, the Motion Picture Sound Editors' 60th annual Golden Reel Awards, announced this evening, were the penultimate industry kudos in advance of next weekend's Oscar showdown. And it was "Life of Pi" that came out the big winner, taking two awards on the night. But 007 had some plans of his own.

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<p>Chris Pratt and Joel&nbsp;Edgerton in &quot;Zero&nbsp;Dark&nbsp;Thirty&quot;</p>

Chris Pratt and Joel Edgerton in "Zero Dark Thirty"

Credit: Sony Pictures

'Argo,' 'Zero Dark Thirty,' 'Sugar Man,' 'Mad Men' and 'Breaking Bad' win WGA Awards

Chalk up another for Ben Affleck's steamroller

Hey, you know that film "Argo?" It won another award. That's right, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has handed the film the prize for Best Adapted Screenplay over heavyweights such as "Lincoln" and "Silver Linings Playbook," and surely no one is shocked by this turn of events, right? I know everyone has been holding out expectation that respect for Tony Kushner might carry him and his brilliant work on through to a win there and at the Oscars, but that's just not been the tone of the season.

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<p>Seamus McGarvey on the set of &quot;Anna Karenina&quot;</p>

Seamus McGarvey on the set of "Anna Karenina"

Credit: Focus Features

Tech Support: Seamus McGarvey on shooting 'Anna Karenina' objectively and subjectively

Joe Wright's DP of choice picked up his second Oscar nomination to date last month

Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey has worked with Joe Wright since a 25-year old Wright made the 1998 short film “The End.” Since then the British filmmaker has become one of his generation’s most notable directors and McGarvey has been along for the ride every step of the way.

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<p>A scene from &quot;Les Mis&eacute;rables&quot;</p>

A scene from "Les Misérables"

Credit: Universal Pictures

'Les Misérables,' 'Brave,' 'Homeland' sound right to Cinema Audio Society

Is it clear sailing to a Best Sound Mixing Oscar for the musical?

Tom Hooper's musical adaptation "Les Misérables" picked up its first industry award win of the season (save the SAG prize to Anne Hathaway) tonight. It won the prize for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for live action motion pictures at the 49th annual Cinema Audio Society Awards. Production mixer Simon Hayes, re-recording mixers Andy Nelson and Mark Peterson, scoring mixer Jonathan Allen, ADR mixer Robert Edwards and foley mixer Pete Smith all shared in the prize, though it's just Hayes, Nelson and Paterson who are included in the film's Oscar nomination for Best Sound Mixing.

Which, speaking of the golden guy, this Best Picture-nominated musical would appear to have the prize all but sewn up now. After winning Best Sound at last weekend's BAFTA Awards and now this, the writing is just on the wall. I had a really good feeling about "Skyfall" at the Oscars, and it could still surprise in both sound categories there, honestly, but the fact is the Academy at large springs for a musical when there's one available: "Chicago," "Ray," "Dreamgirls," etc. And a Best Picture-nominated musical is all the more tempting.

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<p>&quot;Silver Linings Playbook&quot;</p>

"Silver Linings Playbook"

Credit: The Weinstein Company

'Argo,' 'Silver Linings,' 'Brave' and 'Breaking Bad' win ACE Eddie Awards

Affleck's film surges while Pixar prepares its sneak attack

It's been reiterated for months now that "Argo" and "Silver Linings Playbook" are the two films that are well-liked across the board in the Academy and the industry at large. Well, tonight, both films have triumphed at the America Cinema Editors's ACE Eddie Awards in the dramatic and comedic categories.

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<p>Chilean actress Paulina Garcia is the Best Actress favorite for &quot;Gloria.&quot;</p>

Chilean actress Paulina Garcia is the Best Actress favorite for "Gloria."

Credit: Funny Balloons

Romania's 'Child's Pose' takes Golden Bear at Berlin, David Gordon Green gets Best Director

Danis Tanovic takes Grand Jury Prize, 'Gloria' star Paulina Garcia is Best Actress

I saw fewer Competition films than usual at this year's Berlin Film Festival, having drawn much of my viewing schedule around other sections of the vast programme -- after all, with almost 200 feature films jostling for your attention, you simply have to accept that you're going to end up missing a lot of worthwhile stuff. And so it is that I must make the admission that no Berlinale journalist ever wants to make: I haven't seen the winner of the Golden Bear.

I had a feeling that missing Romanian director Calin Peter Netzer's film "Child's Pose," about a wealthy, fiercely driven mother playing the system to wrangle her adult son out of a murder charge, was going to haunt me one way or another -- one of the few Competition films to generate across-the-board critical approval, it seemed at the very least a strong Best Actress contender for Romanian veteran Luminita Gheorghiu. I'd missed the screening to catch up with another Competition buzz title, "Gloria" -- which, as it turned out, won Best Actress instead -- and never found a suitable gap in my diary for the Romanian film. Festival scheduling is like Jenga that way. 

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<p>Thomas Newman at the BAFTA&nbsp;Awards last weekend</p>

Thomas Newman at the BAFTA Awards last weekend

Credit: Jonathan Short/Invision/AP

Tech Support: Thomas Newman on 'Skyfall' and the everyday challenges of a film composer

Could the film be a double winner for music on Oscar night?

Film music composer Thomas Newman landed his 11th Oscar nomination to date last month, for his original contributions to "Skyfall." It's the latest in a long line of Academy mentions both in the song and score categories for two decades for him, but despite the strong showing, he has yet to wrangle one of the trophies for himself.

Last weekend he won his second BAFTA Award to date (on just three nominations from the group throughout his career). And, along with "Skyfall" colleague Roger Deakins, he is putting a little bit of pressure on the presumed frontrunners in his category.

A handful of those Oscar nominations along the way have come for Sam Mendes films, including the director's latest. Mendes likes to showcase Newman's work in his films, being very detailed with his sound mixers about how he wants it to shine, and that was a particular note on "Skyfall." This was, after all, the new chapter of a franchise that has music woven into the fabric of its very identity.

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