75 Best Edited Films of All Time
February 3, 2015 11:16 PM   Subscribe

According to Editors Guild Magazine. [scroll down to see the article; just the list here; via Hitfix]
posted by MoonOrb (71 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
so basically, the 75 best films of all time
posted by philip-random at 11:20 PM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I rather like that Sherlock, Jr. and Speed are tied.
posted by brundlefly at 11:48 PM on February 3, 2015


At first glance it would appear that this list would require the modifier American to make any sense, but they've included a token few "foreign" films like A Clockwork Orange (40) and Man With A Movie Camera (51!).

So to restate what philip-random said, this is a list of favourite movies, as chosen by American editors, many of whom probably worked on a number of the films in question. Which doesn't make it useless, but it's a strong qualifier considering what's been left out.

(Why not put "Hollywood" in the title, scrub the handful of outliers and make everybody happy? Because it's a list, and lists are designed to cause eye twitching and internet tussles.)
posted by Chichibio at 12:10 AM on February 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


Ooooooooooooooook I worked as an editor for a long time and if "The Pawnbroker" isn't on here I'm gonna be pissed.
posted by nathancaswell at 1:10 AM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


OMG YOU GUYS THE FUCKING FUGITIVE AND NOT THE PAWNBROKER
posted by nathancaswell at 1:11 AM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also, fucking Inception? Seriously?
posted by nathancaswell at 1:13 AM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


how the fuck is Rashoman 60?
posted by nathancaswell at 1:16 AM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


The fact that Speed is on here and Die Hard isn't is perplexing
posted by nathancaswell at 1:17 AM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Also, for the record, Last Year at Marienbad is way more impressive than Breathless.

I'm gonna stop now.
posted by nathancaswell at 1:20 AM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is a pretty useless list. Yes, a lot of the movies on this list are pretty stellar, but the "best edited of all time"??? No.

The Cutting Edge: The Magic Of Movie Editing. It's a documentary. It's 1h40m long. Watch it. Then see if you actually agree with much of what is on this list.
posted by hippybear at 1:26 AM on February 4, 2015 [20 favorites]


MetaFilter: designed to cause eye twitching and internet tussles
posted by Doleful Creature at 1:31 AM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


yo, also, The Clock.
posted by nathancaswell at 1:33 AM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Name a single memorable cut in Titanic.
posted by nathancaswell at 1:36 AM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you include Black Hawk Down, there's no reason to include The Bourne Whatever.
posted by nathancaswell at 1:37 AM on February 4, 2015


Name a single memorable cut in Titanic.

Some of the best editing is the editing that you don't realize or remember.
posted by hippybear at 1:39 AM on February 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


(Not saying that Titanic is really well edited... I haven't watched it recently enough to really be able to judge.)
posted by hippybear at 1:40 AM on February 4, 2015


Some of the best editing is the editing that you don't realize or remember.

Literally thousands of Hollywood films, from The Great Train Robbery on, demonstrate this style of editing. Picking Titanic seems entirely arbitrary. I can think of 10 cuts in Terminator 2 that are more subtle and clever than anything in Titanic. Nearly any rom-com ever made demonstrates this "invisible" style of editing. Not impressed.
posted by nathancaswell at 1:49 AM on February 4, 2015


The fact that Black Hawk Down is on this list while Breaking The Waves is not should tell you all you need to know. And, arguably, the presence of Breathless negates the need for either. And Breathless itself should be negated by the presence of Abel Gance's Napoleon which is missing in action You might as well put fucking Highlander on here if you're gonna single out Black Hawk Down.
posted by nathancaswell at 1:58 AM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sometimes it's not about the invisible editing thing. Sometimes it's about having that one moment linger just a tiny bit longer, or shorter.

Anyway, T2 and Titanic used basically the same editing team.
posted by hippybear at 2:00 AM on February 4, 2015


Highlander did have some memorable edits....
posted by hippybear at 2:01 AM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Moulin Rouge! earned its exclamation mark with its editing.
posted by fairmettle at 2:25 AM on February 4, 2015


Interesting to see so many women on the list (compared to a list, let's say, for best-directed). I don't understand the hatred for the list. Yes, best edited is often favorite film, because of the great editing. There are a few I don't understand (Titanic, for example), but some of these are legendary for the editing. High Noon was said to be a complete mess until the editing. Raging Bull brought a new standard to editing fight scenes. Star Wars was so seamlessly edited, it seemed as though the soundtrack was written first and the movie flowed to follow it.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:45 AM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is a really dumb question, but how do you disentangle the editing from the direction? What specific skills am I watching out for in these films, to appreciate the editing?
posted by dontjumplarry at 2:50 AM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


BTW, if you want to talk about great editing then look at documentaries. Sometimes they have to tell a story from hundreds of hours of footage that wasn't even shot to tell a story.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:26 AM on February 4, 2015


Speaking of eye-twitching, Moulin Rouge? I found that film irritating and unwatchable in the extreme. Raging Bull? Hell yes.
posted by kinnakeet at 3:28 AM on February 4, 2015


Highlander did have some memorable edits....

Don't you mean, memorable cuts...
posted by dis_integration at 3:56 AM on February 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


Interesting to see so many women on the list (compared to a list, let's say, for best-directed).

For many years, film editing had been explicitly seen as a woman's job.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:57 AM on February 4, 2015


Ah, they included Rope. Very nice.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 4:17 AM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I enjoy the list, even though I disagree with many of the choices. I appreciate the fact that people are talking about editing at all - it's an underrated profession. The best editing is often invisible.

- The listmakers should have done more to choose an array of films which display the different qualities of different editing styles. It's a mistake to focus mostly on famous, beloved, Great Films. It can be difficult to appreciate the editing of a Great Film, because for many viewers the qualities of that film will be "crystallized" into something other than an off-the-cuff reaction.
- For example, I would cite Ghost World as being a brilliant example of film editing, in large part because it shows off how to take a small movie about people talking and to turn it into a story with real flow and rhythm. No big flashy cuts or what-have-you.
- Morvern Callar is a lesser-known film with excellent, excellent editing. They make it look easy.
- Don't Look Now is a grievous omission. It is one of those rare films where its most-referenced scenes really were built in the editing room - see how Out of Sight apes the love scene, see how Hostel apes the pursuit of the cloaked figure, and so on. Generally speaking, Nicolas Roeg movies often display world-class editing. Hell, The Witches is a better example of world-class film editing than many of the entries on this list.
- The Manchurian Candidate should be on the list. Maybe even Ronin. John Frankenheimer was a beast. His style came from Playhouse 90, but evolved to incorporate new technologies...it's fascinating to think about how 60% of Ronin was shot on Steadicam, the camera movements semi-improvised to work around the actors, and then the editing team was able to staple everything together on top of Elia Cmiral's underrated score.
- William Friedkin is a contemporary director who understands the power of editing. I think I recall of a rant of his, in which somebody had asked him his primary influences, and he just cited a bunch of composers.
- John Ottman is an excellent editor/composer. The Usual Suspects is a brilliantly edited film, complete with a score where the pieces line up perfectly with the sequences, without needing further, well, editing.
- Rope should not be on there. Yes, of course there are hidden cuts in the movie. That's interesting, but it's ridiculous to claim that the flow of Rope comes from the skill made in those cuts, let alone that this represents one of the greatest editing jobs of all time. Rope is one of the few movies where the flow really does come almost entirely from the director, who has coordinated the actors' blocking, the camera blocking, the set design, etc.
- A better example of stunt editing would be Annie Hall, which at one point had contained a subplot about a murder. Did you miss the murder subplot? No? Thank the editors. Of course, the listmakers were smart enough to include it on the list, so that's fine.
- It's my understanding that the original Nightmare On Elm Street had been largely assembled in the editing room. IIRC, they had run out of money while shooting it. Again, a nice round of applause for your fine friends in the editing room.
- Red Eye is an underrated flick with excellent editing.
- Gordon Stainforth, assistant editor on The Shining, used to be a frequent poster on alt.movies.kubrick. He told interesting stories.
- Inception deserves its place on the list. Saw it again recently on a plane. I was struck by how well the story unfolds, with as much clarity as possible. Nolan's a funny character, because he relies so heavily on ellipsis, and he would rather sacrifice story points in order to preserve story flow: consider the moment in The Dark Knight when the Joker leaves the party after throwing Rachel out of the window. Nolan didn't see the point in including such a scene, because it would have interrupted the flow without adding new, vital information about the story. This can backfire, of course: The Dark Knight Rises memorably omits how Bruce Wayne was able to get from Central Asia to Gotham City, and people mostly weren't on-board with that decision.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:31 AM on February 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


Goodfellas at #15? Oh hell no. Goodfellas does not belong anywhere near a list of best edited movies, let alone at #15. And Goodfellas is one of my favorite movies ever, but not for its editing.

And I'll tell you why: one single cut. When Paulie is talking to the restaurant owner and Henry about bringing Henry into the business, there's a shot where Paulie has a cigar in his hand. Cut to a different angle (no time skip, the dialogue is continuous) and Paulie's cigar is suddenly in his mouth. It's such a glaring error it breaks me out of my absorption into the world of the movie every time.

And it might be argued that except for that one error, the movie is brilliantly edited. Perhaps that's true, but the error is so blatant it makes it hard for me to even evaluate any other editing in that movie. To paraphrase Horowitz, one bad cut nullifies four hundred good ones.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:35 AM on February 4, 2015


Is great editing basically like salt in food? As in, you can tell when it's not there, or when it's overdone, but when it's done well it's invisible?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:37 AM on February 4, 2015


Miller's Crossing is an interesting choice. I would have chosen Fargo, Blood Simple, or The Big Lebowski.

Fargo is an example of how invisible excellent editing can be. It's also funny to explain that "Roderick Jaynes" had been nominated for Best Editing, even though "he" is really just a pseudonym for the Coens. The first time that a fictional person has been nominated for an Academy Award, I think?

Blood Simple is an example not only of how to stitch together a low-budget story into something terrific, but it's also an example of how one's senses mature. When the Coens remastered the movie, they also reedited it. It's one of the few Director's Cuts that is shorter than the original film.

The Big Lebowski is interesting from an editing perspective, because it's a comedy which alternates between sequences of people talking, some action, some very strange action, and some hallucinatory sequences - all while following a somewhat aimless-seeming character who is not in control of the story around him. The Coens make it look easy.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:40 AM on February 4, 2015


Glad to see Annie Hall in there since it was basically created by the editor from a mess of footage that Allen was almost ready to give up on.
posted by octothorpe at 4:46 AM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I realize that "b-b-b-b-b-but they left out ____________!" is a mug's game. But F for Fake by Orson Welles should be here. He practically invents an entirely new language of editing in that film.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:58 AM on February 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


Is great editing basically like salt in food? As in, you can tell when it's not there, or when it's overdone, but when it's done well it's invisible?

My two cents is that great editing is usually more likely to be invisible than bad editing. But, there are ways to have great editing that is also attention-grabbing. It depends, it depends. It's much closer to the heart of the profession to gracefully assemble footage into something which tells the story with the proper ebb and flow. I think people harp on the invisibility of editing because they want to move people away from the idea that great editing is about wowing the audience with the editing, especially if people are really just talking about one or two sensational sequences within a movie which otherwise is not a great example of film editing, e.g. it feels longer than it is, individual sections sort of seem noticeably rushed or sluggish relative to other sections, spatial relationships are unclear, the timeline is confusing, etc.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:05 AM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


So great editing is perhaps closer to great conducting?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:16 AM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


When Paulie is talking to the restaurant owner and Henry about bringing Henry into the business, there's a shot where Paulie has a cigar in his hand. Cut to a different angle (no time skip, the dialogue is continuous) and Paulie's cigar is suddenly in his mouth. It's such a glaring error it breaks me out of my absorption into the world of the movie every time.

Oh boy do you not want to read this web page. Turns out the movie's really terrible — but you just haven't realized it yet because you haven't noticed all the goofs!
posted by Mothlight at 5:17 AM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Goodfellas at #15? Oh hell no.

Eponysterical, Devils Advocate, but I'll bite.

This film was designed around acting rather than image. In many dialog scene the actors ad-lib within pre-established boundaries and two cameras try to capture enough coverage so that the editor can produce a coherent scene. In that shooting style you are bound to have some scenes where there are slight continuity mistakes and sound problems (on the dvd extras of Raging Bull, Schoonmaker talks in some detail about how much work had to be done in sound editing to reconstruct lines that werent said in that scene just on order for the scene to make sense). This style of shooting leads to some great acting. Check out the "Funny how ?" scene and watch the reaction of the background characters who werent in on the gag.

The cigar error is bad. When I started reading your post I knew what you would be referring to, because it does stand out. But that is bound to happen with this shooting style. So the edit decision here is, "do we keep this great scene with a bad continuity error - or just chuck the scene out ?" I'd argue the decision made was the correct one.
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 5:21 AM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


There's only so much you can tell about the work an editor did by looking at the final cut. Sure, you can look at pacing and rhythm and so on, but without some insider knowledge, you can't tell when an editor created something brilliant from pedestrian footage.
posted by Ickster at 5:23 AM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


My own proposal for great editing is Jackie Brown. A very difficult story to tell on screen which Tarantino does with aplomb.

I personally think this was Tarantino showing the critics who wrote him off as a show-off fanboy that he could make a conventional film just as well as anyone else. Job done, Tarantino then made films that he wanted to watch and slipped into irrelevant self-indulgence.

And is it facile to observe that a lot of films on the list are very long ? The Godfather II has its charms but it takes its sweet time.

Also, any list about editing that doesn't include The Pawnbroker damns itself instantly (see above). This excellent book gives a thorough background to that editing process - "When The Shooting Stops" by Robert Rosenblum

posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 5:35 AM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Bicycle Thief & Stalker or GTFO
posted by Chrischris at 5:41 AM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Another point for Devils Advocate : during the famous tracking long shot that follows Henry and Karen down through the basement and kitchen and into the best table in the club, at one point Henry clips a table with his hip.

So that shot, renowned in modern cinema history for its power and virtuosity, that shot is shit now, is it ?
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 5:42 AM on February 4, 2015


Another point for Devils Advocate : during the famous tracking long shot

I'm a little slow waking up, because I just spent way too long trying to remember when such a shot occurs in The Devil's Advocate.
posted by Iridic at 5:52 AM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Sidenote: The Devil's Advocate is a fun movie which makes a weird factual error when it tries to pretend that Gainesville, Florida is this tiny little town in the boonies.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:55 AM on February 4, 2015


during the famous tracking long shot that follows Henry and Karen down through the basement and kitchen and into the best table in the club, at one point Henry clips a table with his hip.

So that shot, renowned in modern cinema history for its power and virtuosity, that shot is shit now, is it ?


No, because that's something that plausibly happens within the context of the movie. It doesn't take anything away from it as long as it's reasonable that Henry Hill might clip the table. Not just Ray Liotta clipping the table in a way that would be completely unrealistic for Henry Hill, because it's not unrealistic for that character. It may not particularly add anything to the movie for Hill to clip the table, but it doesn't jar me out of the world of the movie.

But unless you're going to argue that Goodfellas is secretly high fantasy and Paulie is a wizard, a cigar should not be magically and instantaneously teleported from Paulie's hand to his mouth.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:39 AM on February 4, 2015


Having gone to high school in Gainesville, it might not be tiny little but it is most definitely surrounded by the booniest of boonies.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:40 AM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


But unless you're going to argue that Goodfellas is secretly high fantasy and Paulie is a wizard, a cigar should not be magically and instantaneously teleported from Paulie's hand to his mouth.

It's been years since I've seen Goodfellas, so I can't speak to just how jarring this cigar "mistake" is, but generally speaking, outside of the most jarring examples, the right thing for an editor to do is to allow a "bad edit" if it's in the service of improving something more important (like actors' performances, emotional arc, pace of the scene, etc.)

Obviously there's a cost-benefit calculation to be made, and obviously there are often alternate solutions, but if there's a stark choice between a brilliant pair of performances that introduces a slight continuity error, and a middling pair of performances that cuts perfectly smoothly, the editor should advocate for the better performance, despite the choice making them look bad.

(I mean, if this cigar thing is as obvious as you say, then it's not like it was an oversight. The editor and director saw that cut hundreds of times, and decided it was the best bad option.)
posted by nobody at 7:03 AM on February 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


But F for Fake by Orson Welles should be here.

It should be #1. Not even on the list? Next.
posted by trunk muffins at 7:28 AM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Something like the cigar thing is mostly likely the fault of the director and/or the continuity person on the set during filming and not the editor. Now I guess that they'd fix it with CGI but in 1990, there wasn't much that the editor could do.

Lots of great movies have little continuity errors like that, you can't fixate on them if you want to enjoy films.
posted by octothorpe at 7:32 AM on February 4, 2015


It's been years since I've seen Goodfellas, so I can't speak to just how jarring this cigar "mistake" is

Let me put it this way: the first time I saw the movie was on VHS tape. When I saw that, my initial thought was that there must have been some sort of glitch in the tape, that a fraction of a second of the movie was missing. I rewound and went back over that bit, and only after a few times — and noticing that the dialogue was uncut across that cut — did I realize it had to be the editing.

And I'm not a person who's particularly sensitive to continuity errors. Above, mothlight cautions me not to read the IMDB "Goofs" page for Goodfellas, but in fact I have read it, and not only did I not notice any of the other continuity errors, I wouldn't even notice them after I read about them. I mean, if I read that page and immediately went and watched the movie and specifically looked for those errors, I'd see them, but if I read that page then happened to watch the movie a month later, I would have forgotten about it and still wouldn't notice inconsistent drink levels in glasses between shots, or whatever.

(On preview in response to octothorpe: I generally don't notice little continuity errors. The cigar thing jumped out at me and was not a "little" one, at least to me. Believe me, if it were possible for me to choose not to fixate on the cigar thing [insert Freud joke here], I would, as Goodfellas is one of my all-time favorite movies in spite of that.)

I mean, if this cigar thing is as obvious as you say, then it's not like it was an oversight. The editor and director saw that cut hundreds of times, and decided it was the best bad option.

Yeah, without seeing all the takes the editor had to choose from, it's impossible to know if this was the least bad option, and maybe it was, and I take your point about strong performances possibly outweighing continuity errors. But I'd still argue it ought to disqualify the movie from any mention of "great editing." When we don't know what options the editor had to choose from the "this might have been the least bad option" could apply to any seemingly-bad edit in an otherwise well-edited movie, or frankly, to an entire movie that appears to be badly edited. If we allow that argument, then for all we know Bride of the Monster might be a brilliantly edited movie, especially given that Ed Wood was known for shooting only one take per scene; the editor had so very little to work with, after all.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:57 AM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Some of the best editing is the editing that you don't realize or remember.

I wouldn't say this for all cinema, but certainly for the vast bulk of the more traditional stuff that we get exposed to -- if you're noticing the editing, somebody's not doing their job. Either the writer for making a hash of things early on, the director for not getting his coverage during production, or the editor for not making the best of what he's got or worse, being a prima donna and drawing our attention away from the drama of the moment to show us how clever they are.

This is a really dumb question, but how do you disentangle the editing from the direction? What specific skills am I watching out for in these films, to appreciate the editing?

Good question. Some of the best CUTS ever are in the original scripts. And vice versa as per ...

Annie Hall, which at one point had contained a subplot about a murder. Did you miss the murder subplot? No? Thank the editors.

It's not what you're seeing up their on screen, it's what you're not -- that's the very best editing.
posted by philip-random at 8:42 AM on February 4, 2015


Scorsese and Jon Favreau talk about living with technical errors in order to preserve performances. The interview is worth watching in its entirety and comes from Favreau's excellent Dinner For Five series.
posted by bstreep at 9:03 AM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is a really dumb question, but how do you disentangle the editing from the direction?

I'm not an editor, but the one time I did editing on a personal project, I was fascinated by the effect a deleted instant or well-timed transition could have. It's the difference between plodding / distracting and popping / immersive.

Editing tightens up shot footage, trimming to improve the timing and coherence of scenes, reining in scenes that go overlong.

What's the end effect? Well, people have argued that Star Wars was a great movie because of the collaboration between George Lucas (director) and Marcia Lucas (editor). According to accounts of their process, she would push back against him, and this back and forth made the movie stronger.

George Lucas + Marcia Lucas = Star Wars, Return of the Jedi

George Lucas - Marcia Lucas = Phantom Menace
posted by zippy at 9:05 AM on February 4, 2015


I am strictly a consumer of film, so I don't know much about how they're made, and I have the same issue with disentangling editing and direction.

It did bring to mind this analysis of neorealism, though, where the same film was edited by two completely different directors, and how simply cutting the same source material differently in post-production changed the entire feel of the movie.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:30 AM on February 4, 2015


Stitcherbeast:
Inception deserves its place on the list. Saw it again recently on a plane. I was struck by how well the story unfolds, with as much clarity as possible.
Wholeheartedly agree. I remember hoping it would win some editing awards at the time it came out.

People, it's not easy to crosscut between five different locations with five different objective goals running at five different rates of time with each dream having cascading effects on the dreams below them, have those crosscuts all unify in a cohesive story rhythm, emphasize thematic congruence, AND be a broadly-pitched high budget film that doesn't abandon an average passive cinema-goer into permanent confusion.
posted by whittaker at 9:36 AM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Star Wars (Ep 4) is a great example of a film saved by editing. Go back and watch the original version of the "Great, kid! Don't get cocky" scene and pay attention to how little is actually going on and how little of the battle you actually see. In your mind you think that you're seeing this great fight between Tie Fighters and Luke and Han in the Falcon but if you look at the individual shots, there isn't really much to see.
posted by octothorpe at 9:36 AM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I agree that this list is pretty much "best movie boilerplate" but I was glad to see The Limey and Out of Sight both got mentioned. The "locked in the trunk" and "time out" sequences in Out of Sight are not only beautifully cut but also sexy as hell.
posted by wabbittwax at 9:53 AM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


a cigar should not be magically and instantaneously teleported from Paulie's hand to his mouth

True, but there's really only a pretty tiny sliver of the audience who are going to notice and then there's a smaller subset of that sliver who are going to care. It's a reasonable claim to say "this continuity goof ruined the film for people who get hung up on continuity goofs" but it's not a reasonable claim that it ruined the film for any audience.

And, really, no one can make a film that won't randomly piss off small subsets of the audience. There are people who will write a film off because the soundtrack contains a certain artist or a certain instrument, there are people who will write it off because they know the city it was filmed in and the street in that scene doesn't actually connect with the street in this scene as the film suggests. There are people who will write off a film because they don't like the color of the lead's clothes.

Yes, continuity goofs (and other goofs) should be kept to a minimum where possible, but given that, in the end, pretty much every film will have a few (just go to the goofs pages on IMDB), it's really ridiculous to say that a film like Goodfellas can be simply written off on the strength of one.
posted by yoink at 10:19 AM on February 4, 2015


Yeah, count me as someone who tends to notice continuity errors but doesn't really care.

One of my favorite pieces of editing is this scene from Del Toro's Mimic. Most people don't seem to see what's so special about it, but I just love it. SPOILERS, by the way.
posted by brundlefly at 10:45 AM on February 4, 2015


On the main list they use a still from 'JFK', which is interesting. I may have mixed feelings about Oliver Stone, but I must say he does like to feature nice flashy montages. Which maybe doesn't work for someone who thinks editing should always try to look invisible. But I like it, sometimes it's one of the best things about his films.
posted by ovvl at 10:51 AM on February 4, 2015


Seconding "The Cutting Edge" documentary and recommending "The Story of Film: An Odyssey" by Mark Cousins.
posted by omar.a at 11:20 AM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


By chance I'm in the middle of reading In the Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch. His rule of thumb is that a decent pace for editing a movie is eight cuts a day. Each cut only takes a few seconds to execute. The rest of the day is spent deciding what cuts to make. Good reminder to me that it ain't just stringing shots together in order.
posted by Flexagon at 11:40 AM on February 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


but it's not a reasonable claim that it ruined the film for any audience.

it's really ridiculous to say that a film like Goodfellas can be simply written off on the strength of one.

Well, then it's a good thing neither I nor anyone else in this thread are making such claims.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:41 AM on February 4, 2015


Ah, they included Rope. Very nice.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 7:17 AM on February 4 [+] [!]


Rope should never have made the list since it really wasn't "edited" in the traditional sense. Hitchcock designed the film so that he could do a single shot that would use all the film in the camera. (about 9 minutes worth). The actors, sets, and scenery were all blocked to the camera's movements and the film's length.
posted by Gungho at 12:21 PM on February 4, 2015


Cut to a different angle (no time skip, the dialogue is continuous) and Paulie's cigar is suddenly in his mouth.

But, what did the editor have to work with? I've heard the phrase "not releasable" or "not a movie" about films, expensive films, that just could not be sat through by anyone. So there are directors that have well planned shoots and essentially all the footage shot is strung together and it's done and good/great. Then there are a huge middle ground of films that had a pile of footage and it's sent to the editor and the film is created. If a few scenes are missing sometime you read about re-shoots.

Tech is changing this as all the footage is viewable and cutable on a laptop as the shooting progresses. But back when a editing a film started with a wall of cans of rather random footage, wow the persistence and methodical efforts of those editors is almost unimaginable in out 7second online world!
posted by sammyo at 12:25 PM on February 4, 2015


Harder to put together, but I'd like to see a list of the best editing on tv.

For my editing, the best editing on television at the moment is on Banshee. Non-linear editing, single scenes playing out from both the beginning and the middle in tandem intercut, use of jump cuts to greatly compress or distort or expand time... they're doing some really cool stuff over there.

Banshee: it's not just jaw-dropping violence. (Although it is also most assuredly that.)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:49 PM on February 4, 2015


So there are directors that have well planned shoots and essentially all the footage shot is strung together and it's done and good/great.

I know you meant this as hyperbole, but just wanted to point out that apart from a film like Rope this is literally never the case, even in hyperbolic form. And that's not just because there are always some problems to solve, and not just because the actual performances always reveal things about the material that the director couldn't possibly have anticipated, but -- at an even more fundamental level -- in a standard, well-planned shoot almost every moment of almost every dialog scene is covered multiple times, each with the camera set up in a different position (and then, of course, on top of that there are multiple takes from each camera position, each giving you performances that would affect the overall arc of the scene in different ways). So there really is no just-edit-it-like-it-was-shot, string-out-the-footage-and-you're-done scenario, no matter how well-planned the shoot is, and no matter how hyper-competent everyone on set is.
posted by nobody at 2:03 PM on February 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


So there really is no just-edit-it-like-it-was-shot, string-out-the-footage-and-you're-done scenario, no matter how well-planned the shoot is, and no matter how hyper-competent everyone on set is.

Oh yeah. And especially not these days, when editors — most notably on "loose" comedies like Judd Apatow-style films — are liberally using split screens and compositing tricks to retime performances, merge elements of multiple takes in a single shot, and even Frankenstein up new facial expressions or eyelines when the ones in the original footage don't quite fit their needs. Editing is more invisible and more elaborate than ever. A movie like Birdman, which is designed (like Rope) to look as if it wasn't edited at all, was a big enough editing job that it has two credited editors.
posted by Mothlight at 3:25 PM on February 4, 2015


I was pleased to see in a linked article that Grand Budapest Hotel just won an Eddie award for editing. Watching it on blu ray a few weeks ago I came to the conclusion that it's essentially perfect (which doesn't preclude anyone liking it, but it's perfectly what it is). What clinched it for me was after the older Zero says he doesn't want to speak about Agatha, the image lingers a few seconds too long on the shot of her riding along on a bicycle, a juxtaposition that tells one a tremendous amount about their relationship and sows the seeds of melancholy and potential tragedy, just through the inclusion of about a hundred frames of a happy young woman riding a bicycle. The film's editing is the key to its perfection, I think.
posted by Grangousier at 4:24 PM on February 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


However, George Lucas + L8wrtr = Far more watchable prequels

If you have the chance and can find them, L8wrtr (a fan editor) has done some amazing work on tightening up the prequels. You can really see the difference L8wrtr's editing makes to the pace, story and feel of the three films despite not having the best material to work with.
posted by guy72277 at 12:12 AM on February 6, 2015


I propose that the best editors would also make the best time travelers, because they already know how to manipulate the past, present and future for the best results.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 11:08 AM on February 8, 2015


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