Oscars Predictions: Best Film Editing – Will Chloe Zhao’s Editing Go the Way of ‘1917’ and ‘Roma’?

Clayton Davis
·9 min read

Variety's Awards Circuit is home to the official predictions for the upcoming Oscars from Film Awards Editor Clayton Davis. Following Academy Awards history, buzz, news, reviews and sources, the Oscar predictions are updated regularly with the current year's contenders in all categories. Variety's Awards Circuit Prediction schedule consists of four phases, running all year long: Draft, Pre-Season, Regular Season and Post Season. Eligibility calendar and dates of awards will determine how long each phase lasts and will be displayed next to revision date.

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2021 OSCARS PREDICTIONS:
BEST FILM EDITING

UPDATED: Dec. 28, 2020

AWARDS COMMENTARY:
There’s always a strong correlation between best film editing and best picture. You can argue that sometimes it’s more important than best director as only 10 films have won Oscar’s top prize without an editing nomination, the last being 2014’s “Birdman.” This year, it looks to be more open than usual. Chloé Zhao, who serves as the director, writer, producer and editor on “Nomadland” could be the most nominated female in one ceremony, if all come to fruition. This is probably the most “vulnerable” space for her to find recognition as this branch tends to be very particular, shown by leaving contenders like “1917” and “Roma” off their lineups in the past. “The Trial of the Chicago 7” could be one of the easiest contenders to showcase how the editing improves the experience.

AND THE PREDICTED NOMINEES ARE:

  1. "The Trial of the Chicago 7" (Netflix)
    Alan Baumgarten (editor)

    OSCAR HISTORY: 1 nomination (2013's "American Hustle")

    DIRECTOR: Aaron Sorkin
    SYNOPSIS: The story of 7 people on trial stemming from various charges surrounding the uprising at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.
    STARRING: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Keaton, John Carroll Lynch, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, Alex Sharp, Jeremy Strong

  2. "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" (Netflix)
    Andrew Mondshein (editor)

    OSCAR HISTORY: 1 nomination (1999's "The Sixth Sense")
    -
    DIRECTOR: George C. Wolfe
    SYNOPSIS: Chicago, 1927. A recording session. Tensions rise between Ma Rainey, her ambitious horn player and the white management determined to control the uncontrollable "Mother of the Blues". Based on Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson's play.
    STARRING: Chadwick Boseman, Dusan Brown, Jonny Coyne, Viola Davis, Colman Domingo, Taylour Paige, Michael Potts, Jeremy Shamos, Glynn Turman

  3. "Nomadland" (Searchlight Pictures)
    Chloé Zhao (editor)

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Chloé Zhao
    SYNOPSIS: After losing everything in the Great Recession, an old woman embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad.
    STARRING: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May, Swankie, Bob Wells

  4. "One Night in Miami" (Amazon Studios)
    Tariq Anwar (editor)

    OSCAR HISTORY: 2 nominations (1999's "American Beauty" and 2011's "The King's Speech")

    DIRECTOR: Regina King
    SYNOPSIS: A fictional account of one incredible night in 1964, where four icons of activism, sports and music – Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke – gathered, discussing their roles in the civil rights movement and cultural upheaval of the ’60s.
    STARRING: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom, Jr., Joaquina Kalukango, Nicolette Robinson

  5. "The Father" (Sony Pictures Classics)
    Ben Smithard (director of photography)

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Florian Zeller
    SYNOPSIS: A man refuses all assistance from his daughter as he ages. As he tries to make sense of his changing circumstances, he begins to doubt his loved ones, his own mind and even the fabric of his reality.
    STARRING: Olivia Colman, Mark Gatiss, Anthony Hopkins, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell, Olivia Williams

NEXT IN LINE:

  1. "Mank" (Netflix)
    Kirk Baxter (editor)

    OSCAR HISTORY: 3 nominations, 2 wins (2010's "The Social Network" and 2011's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo")

    DIRECTOR: David Fincher
    SYNOPSIS: 1930s Hollywood is re-evaluated through the eyes of scathing social critic and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he races to finish the screenplay of Citizen Kane for Orson Welles.
    STARRING: Tom Burke, Lily Collins, Joseph Cross, Charles Dance, Monika Gossman, Ferdinand Kingsley, Jamie McShane, Tuppence Middleton, Toby Leonard Moore, Gary Oldman, Tom Pelphrey, Amanda Seyfried, Sam Troughton

  2. "Minari" (A24)
    Henry Yoon (editor)

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Lee Isaac Chung
    SYNOPSIS: A Korean family moves to Arkansas to start a farm in the 1980s.
    STARRING:Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Alan S. Kim, Yuh-jung Youn, Will Patton

  3. "News of the World" (Universal Pictures)
    William Goldenberg (editor)

    OSCAR HISTORY: 5 nominations, 1 win (2012's "Argo")

    DIRECTOR: Paul Greengrass
    SYNOPSIS: A Civil War veteran agrees to deliver a girl, taken by the Kiowa people years ago, to her aunt and uncle, against her will. They travel hundreds of miles and face grave dangers as they search for a place that either can call home.
    STARRING: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Elizabeth Marvel, Mare Winningham, Michael Angelo Covino, Ray McKinnon

  4. "Judas and the Black Messiah" (Warner Bros.)
    Kristan Sprague (editor)

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Shaka King
    SYNOPSIS: The story of Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, and his fateful betrayal by FBI informant William O'Neal.
    STARRING: Lakeith Stanfield, Daniel Kaluuya, Dominique Fishback, Jesse Plemons, Martin Sheen, Dominique Thorne, Algee Smith, Lil Rel Howery, Jermaine Fowler

  5. "Tenet" (Warner Bros.)
    Hoyte van Hoytema (director of photography)

    OSCAR HISTORY: 1 nomination (2017's "Dunkirk")

    DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan
    SYNOPSIS: Armed with only one word, Tenet, and fighting for the survival of the entire world, a Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time.
    STARRING: John David Washington, Elizabeth Debicki, Robert Pattinson, Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh

ALSO IN CONTENTION:

  1. "Promising Young Woman" (Focus Features)
    Frédéric Thoraval (editor)

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Emerald Fennell
    SYNOPSIS: A young woman, traumatized by a tragic event in her past, seeks out vengeance against those who cross her path.
    STARRING: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Laverne Cox, Molly Shannon, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Max Greenfield, Alison Brie, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Connie Britton, Chris Lowell, Adam Brody, Sam Richardson

  2. "The Invisible Man" (Universal Pictures)
    Andy Canny (editor)

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Leigh Whannell
    SYNOPSIS: When Cecilia's abusive ex takes his own life and leaves her his fortune, she suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of coincidences turn lethal, Cecilia works to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see.
    STARRING: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Harriet Dyer, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Storm Reid, Michael Dorman

  3. "The Midnight Sky" (Netflix)
    Stephen Mirrione (editor)

    OSCAR HISTORY: 3 nominations, 1 win (2000's "Traffic")

    DIRECTOR: George Clooney
    SYNOPSIS: This post-apocalyptic tale follows Augustine, a lonely scientist in the Arctic, as he races to stop Sully and her fellow astronauts from returning home to a mysterious global catastrophe.
    STARRING: George Clooney, Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Kyle Chandler, Demián Bichir, Tiffany Boone, Caoilinn Springall

  4. "On the Rocks" (A24/Apple TV Plus)
    Sarah Flack (editor)

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Lee Daniels
    SYNOPSIS: Follows Holiday during her career as she is targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics with an undercover sting operation led by black Federal Agent Jimmy Fletcher, with whom she had a tumultuous affair.
    STARRING: Andra Day, Trevante Rhodes, Natasha Lyonne, Garrett Hedlund, Rob Morgan, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Tyler James Williams

  5. "Da 5 Bloods" (Netflix)
    Adam Gough (editor)

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Spike Lee
    SYNOPSIS: Four African American vets battle the forces of man and nature when they return to Vietnam seeking the remains of their fallen squad leader and the gold fortune he helped them hide.
    STARRING: Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Jonathan Majors, Chadwick Boseman, Isiah Witlock, Jr,, Norm Lewis

  6. "I'm Thinking of Ending Things" (Netflix)
    Robert Frazen (editor)

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Charlie Kaufman
    SYNOPSIS: Full of misgivings, a young woman travels with her new boyfriend to his parents' secluded farm. Upon arriving, she comes to question everything she thought she knew about him, and herself.
    STARRING: Jesse Plemons, Jessie Buckley, David Thewlis, Toni Collette

  7. "Sound of Metal" (Amazon Studios)
    Mikkel E.G. Nielsen (editor)

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Darius Marder
    SYNOPSIS: A heavy-metal drummer's life is thrown into freefall when he begins to lose his hearing.
    STARRING: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci, Mathieu Almaric, Lauren Ridloff

  8. "The United States vs. Billie Holiday" (Hulu)
    Jay Rabinowitz (editor)

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Lee Daniels
    SYNOPSIS: Follows Holiday during her career as she is targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics with an undercover sting operation led by black Federal Agent Jimmy Fletcher, with whom she had a tumultuous affair.
    STARRING: Andra Day, Trevante Rhodes, Natasha Lyonne, Garrett Hedlund, Rob Morgan, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Tyler James Williams

  9. "The Prom" (Netflix)
    Peggy Tachdjian, Danielle Wang (editors)

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
    -
    DIRECTOR: Ryan Murphy
    SYNOPSIS: A troupe of hilariously self-obsessed theater stars swarm into a small conservative Indiana town in support of a high school girl who wants to take her girlfriend to the prom.
    STARRING: Meryl Streep, Jo Ellen Pellman, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Ariana DeBose, Kerry Washington, Keegan-Michael Key, Andrew Rannells. Tracey Ullman

  10. "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm" (Amazon Studios)
    Craig Alpert, Michael Giambra, James Thomas (editors)

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Jason Woliner
    SYNOPSIS: A satire on Trump’s America that follows a Kazakh journalist who’s sent to America to deliver a gift from his government to Vice President Mike Pence. Along the way, his worldview is turned upside down and steadfast beliefs are challenged by his teenage daughter.
    STARRING: Sacha Baron Cohen, Maria Bakalova

† = no release date scheduled / could be delayed / may not be eligible
†† = could be campaigned in lead or supporting categories / original or adapted screenplay categories

About film editing category:
The Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars is Hollywood’s most prestigious artistic award in the film industry. Four people have won this category three times: Ralph Dawson, Daniel Mandell, Michael Kahn and Thelma Schoonmaker. Kahn and Schoonmaker are the most nominated editors in the Academy’s history with eight nominations each. Two editors have received six nominations but never won: Gerry Hambling (who died in 2013) and Frederic Knudtson (who died in 1963). Ten films have won best picture without being nominated for best editing since the category has existed since the seventh ceremony in 1934: “It Happened One Night” (1934), “The Life of Emile Zola” (1937), “Hamlet” (1948), “Marty” (1955), “Tom Jones” (1963), “A Man for All Seasons” (1966), “The Godfather Part II” (1974), “Annie Hall” (1977), “Ordinary People” (1980) and “Birdman” (2014).

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