Award Repo: Pietro Scalia

Naturally, most of the snubs and outrages of awards given to undeserving recipients are related to big categories like Best Picture, Best Actor, or Best Album. That's understandable. But hey, it's only fair that people in less showy fields get their share of anti-love too, right? So, travel back in time with me to the 2002 Academy Awards, and let's take a look at our nominees for Best Film Editing:

Jill Bilcock (Moulin Rouge)
Dody Dorn (Memento)
John Gilbert (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring)
Mike Hill, Daniel P. Hanley (A Beautiful Mind)
Pietro Scalia (Black Hawk Down)

Film editing can be a rough category to judge for a casual moviegoer. We can easily form opinions on how the actors did, how good the script was, and if the director put together a cohesive film, but we don't tend to think much about how successful the stitching between scenes was. When editing does strike a chord, it's probably because it was either really, really good, or really, really bad. A Beautiful Mind won Best Picture that year, but nobody thought that was due to masterful editing. Moulin Rouge and Black Hawk Down had their fans, but again, nobody watched those movies and shouted "Wow! Can you believe that editing?!?" When it comes to Lord of the Rings, some editing achievement is actually visible. John Gilbert did a great job of keeping a sweeping epic contained and economical enough to follow. In any other year, I'd happily hand the award to him.

This year, however, there was Memento. Memento is one of the best movies I've ever seen, and one of the biggest reasons it works so well is due to its editing. Dody Dorn was responsible for editing a film in such a way that...

1) The main narrative is told backwards.
2) A separate narrative is told forwards.
3) These narratives must be interwoven into each other.
4) The audience must be confused enough to mirror the main character's chaotic brain condition, but...
5) Should still be able to understand the overall story.

She accomplished all of this with aplomb. Like I said, editing is not a branch of film I think about often, but hers was so outstanding that I had to sit up and take notice. It's shameful that she wasn't recognized for it, and more than that, it's confusing. Taste is subjective, of course, but to me, this was one of the more obvious choices Academy voters have ever had to make, and they goofed it. In the last Award Repo, I took an Oscar away because the performance wasn't good. In this case, I rescind Pietro Scalia's award not because his editing was poor, but because Dody Dorn turned in some of the best work I've ever seen, and deserves the recognition far, far more.


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