‘Tis the Season


by Tomm Carroll

Greetings from the middle of Awards Season 2018-2019 — as if you couldn’t tell what month it is from all the e-mail blasts, website banners and For Your Consideration advertisements (including the plethora of them in this issue of CineMontage) from the producers and distributors of this year’s award-hopeful films and shows. In Hollywood, they’re even more ubiquitous than the perennial holiday decorations.

Tomm Carroll. Portrait by Wm. Stetz

Since this is the time of year when the studios unveil most of their high-profile titles, hoping that Oscar and other associations that dole out statuettes will take notice — and take a liking to them — we’ve decided to focus on five year-end releases that span multiple genres, and our members’ work on them.

Our cover story is one of the most anticipated biopics of the season: On the Basis of Sex, which depicts the early days in the legal career of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and her experience breaking the gender barrier. Opening Christmas Day through Focus Features, the film is edited by Michelle Tesoro and directed by Mimi Leder, so it brings an appropriate female perspective to Ginsberg’s biography. “It’s important for [Ginsberg’s character] to communicate to a younger generation about not taking your rights for granted,” Tesoro explains to our writer Debra Kaufman.

Representing the superhero movie is Warner Bros.’ Aquaman, the DC Comics character’s first top-billed role after being introduced to audiences in previous features in the DC cinematic universe. The film, directed by James Wan, opens December 21. Writer Michael Goldman dives deep into the undersea kingdom of Atlantis to talk about the intricate utilization of several styles of music with the film’s music editors, Paul Rabjohns and J.J. George,the latter working mostly on the orchestral score by composer Rupert Gregson-Williams. 

For literary adaptations, there is the eponymous film based on James Baldwin’s novel If Beale Street Could Talk, which had a limited release December 14 via Annapurna Pictures. The eagerly awaited follow-up collaboration between the picture editorial team of Joi McMillon, ACE, and Nat Sanders, ACE, and writer-director Barry Jenkins — whose last film together, Moonlight, won the Best Picture Oscar for 2016 — Beale Street tells the trials and tribulations of a young African-American couple in 1970s Harlem. “Knowing that this is the first American feature film adaptation of James Baldwin’s work left us with some pretty big shoes to fill,” McMillon tells writer Laura Almo in her interview with the editors.

Combining the family film, musical and the sequel genres, Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns alights into cinemas December 19 with — like its classic 1964 namesake — a spoonful of songs and a mash-up of live performance and animation. Director Rob Marshall has assembled a super-cali-synergistic sound crew for the audio elements: sound designers/supervising sound editors Renée Tondelli and Eugene Gearty, supervising music editor Jennifer Dunnington, executive music producer/music supervisor Mike Higham, and re-recording mixers Mike Prestwood Smith andMichael Keller, CAS. Writer Mel Lambert traces the creation of the film’s immersive soundtrack with the team.

And as for the formerly long-lost and/or unfinished blast-from-the-past film, we have the “40 years in the making” debut of Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind. With the participation of picture editor Bob Murawski, ACE and music editor Ellen Segal, the film was finally completed earlier this year, using Welles’ original footage, and hit the international film festival circuit (Venice, Telluride,New York) before dropping on Netflix November 2, concurrent with a theatrical release.

Not only did our writer Peter Tonguette — a Welles scholar who has written a book on the filmmaker and his work — discuss with Murawski and Segal their contributions to bringing this white whale of cinema to contemporary screens, but for an accompanying article, he rounded up several of the original editors who had worked with Welles off and on over the1970s and early 1980s on TOSOTW to query them on their experience cutting with the maestro, who also receives an editing credit on the finished film.

And finally, we celebrate legendary re-recording mixer Lee Dichter, CAS, who received the Editors Guild Fellowship and Service Award at a ceremony in New York in October. Tonguette profiled Dichter for a special tribute book distributed at the award ceremony, and that profile, along with the accompanying testimonials from the mixer’s colleagues (compiled by Edward Landler) that appeared in the book, are reprinted here in their entirety. Coverage of the event is provided by Guild Board member Jeff Burman with photos by Sarah Shatz.

Here’s hoping you survive the Awards — and the Holiday —Season. Happy New Year!