‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ won the Oscar for Best Editing at the 2019 Academy Awards. This is interesting because the movie contains several scenes that are masterclasses in poor editing. “Right. Now that everybody’s got an acceptable name, let’s get to it.” “Look, we just really need something special…” “…more hits…” “…like Killer Queen.” Let’s examine one of the worst offenders in the film, and break down …why exactly the editing of the scene is so bad. The cuts in this scene are particularly jarring. They stand out to an attentive audience member for 3 reasons: First, many of the cuts are unmotivated. Second, many ignore spatial continuity. And third, the pace is simply too fast. Let’s deal with the easiest of these problems first. If a cut is unmotivated, …another reason you might choose to cut is to create or maintain the pace of a scene, or to build tension. You can see this kind of effect during this scene from The Godfather, …where editor, Walter Murch, in a moment of silence, …chooses to cut back and forth between these two characters. It’s almost like the audience is anxiously looking back and forth between them, waiting to see who will speak. Using pacing to create tension or emotion, however, can’t just be forced upon a scene through the edit. You’ve to work with and complement the performances and cinematography. And in fact, the faster the pace, the more attention must be paid to things like spatial continuity. Errors will simply lead to more difficulty following the action. The pace of this scene is incredible. In this 104-second scene, there are an astounding 60 cuts for an average shot length of 1.8 seconds. To put this into perspective, …this 136-second fight scene from Transformers: The Last Knight …only has 49 cuts and an average shot length of 2.8 seconds. That’s an action sequence from one of the most notoriously hyperactive directors out there. Compare that to the scene of some guys sitting around a table. That’s over 30% faster. Absolutely nothing about this scene justifies or requires this kind of ridiculous pace. The rest of the film is fast-paced, and the pace fits a little bit better for the musical and concert sequences I can see how they were possibly trying to keep the energy level high for the dialogue scenes as well, …but it just doesn’t work. The pacing is the most obvious issue, but it’s far from the only one. Let’s examine some of these cuts in detail and the other two things that make the edits so jarring. The primary thing that motivates most cuts is the revelation of new information. Most important is emotional information. A large majority of the cuts in a dialogue-driven scene are so we can see a character’s face, …as they deliver a line or are reacting to somebody else’s line. New information can also be geographic, to establish the character’s relationship to each other spatially, …or to let the audience see an action that’s taking place. Of course, a shot can contain multiple pieces of new information, …but it’s rarely a good idea to make a cut when that shot reveals no new information at all. Let’s examine what motivates some of the cuts in this scene. “Wow.” “I didn’t know it was fancy dress, Fred.” “I’ve gotta make an impression, darling.” “You look like an angry lizard.” The scene starts off decently. We get a nice shot that starts with Freddie Mercury coming through the doors, and pans into a wide. The second shot gives us a better view of Freddie approaching the table, …and the third allows us to see the delivery of the first line by Brian May. “I didn’t know it was fancy dress, Fred.” Then we cut back to the shot of Freddie to see him showing off the outfit, …and then to a close-up of his emotional reaction to Brian’s line. We probably could have stayed on the line here, but jumping into the close-up isn’t a huge issue. Then we cut to Roger Taylor’s reaction to Brian’s second line, …and then back to Brian’s reaction to Rogers laugh. We cut back to Freddy to see his laugh and the action of him sitting down, …as well as John Reed entering in the background. So far, okay. This isn’t Oscar-worthy editing, but the cuts reveal new information and makes sense. It’s a little bit too fast, but it’s establishing the nervous energy of the band as they wait for the meeting to begin, …but this is where the scene begins to run into some major trouble. Let’s watch. “Very subtle.” “You gonna fly away?” “Can I borrow it for Sunday church?” So here we cut to Brian’s line, …but then we cut back very quickly to see the rest of Freddy sitting down, …and then quickly back to Brian again. We already know Brian is making these wisecracks, so seeing him deliver the line isn’t super important. We already know Freddy is sitting down, so returning to the shot of him sitting down is repetitive information, …and his reaction is still the same as before. Either of these shots would likely be fine to hold on, …but the quick back-and-forth creates the first sense of whiplash, that will only worsen as this scene progresses. On the shot of Brian, we see John Reed pass by. John grabbing the chair interrupts the band’s casual chat. Following that shot, we have two reaction shots back-to-back: One from Brian, and one from Freddy, …where they’re both looking up towards where John Reed’s face would be However, since two shots have passed since we last saw John standing in that position, …the eyeline of these reactions is a little bit awkward. Also, both of these reactions would be happening simultaneously. It looks like the editor tries to make it feel more simultaneous by cutting quickly, but it doesn’t sell. Now we get a shot of Reed that establishes the correct eyeline height, …but his eyeline looks like it is directed at John Deacon and Roger Taylor. But instead of cutting to them, we cut back to Brian for a second reaction shot. We can even fix this fairly easily just by swapping these two shots. Still not great, but it’s a little bit better. After John Reed sits down, the eyeline is again completely ignored. While we’ve just cut from John and Roger, it now looks like he’s looking at Freddie. Then Reed shifts his eyeline over to where John and Roger are sitting, and we cut to… …Freddie. This section flows much better if we just remove some of the complexity. Here’s the original edit: “So this is Queen.” And here’s my simplified cut: “So this is Queen.” Again, it’s not perfect, but if I can smooth things out just by shifting the existing shots around, …there’s no reason an editor with access to all the footage couldn’t have cut a better scene. Let’s look at the next section: “So, this is Queen.” “And you…” “…must be Freddie Mercury.” “You’ve got a gift. You all have.” “So tell me… What makes Queen any different from all the other wannabe rock stars I meet?” After this line, “So this is Queen,” we immediately run into another problem. Reed says, “So this is Queen,” and we cut to a shot of exactly 3/4ths of Queen. It would make way more sense to show all four of them here. There’s not anything that these three are doing that explains specifically cutting to just the three of them. We cut quickly back to Reed, but he’s completely shifted in his seat. The character making this kind of movement off-camera is usually fine, …but less than a second passes between these cuts, so it almost appears as a jump cut. Also, this spatial orientation of where he’s pointing is confusing, coming off of this poorly-chosen wide shot. It would make a ton of sense to break up the pacing here with a longer shot of Freddie, …but instead of holding on Freddie for a longer reaction, we cut back to a completely strange new angle of Reed. This new angle gives us nothing by the way of new emotional or spatial information, …and it just continues to add complexity to a scene that’s already going by too quickly. Then we go back to this awkward wide that includes only three of the band members, …presumably because there’s no wide of all four band members to show all their reactions The editor has to patch together an awkward combination of this wide and this close-up, …which just doesn’t gel at all. The lack of a good wide including all four members of the band, I think, is a core difficulty with this scene, …and it might be a clue that part of the blame here falls on the director or cinematographer …for not getting proper coverage, or just blocking and composing the scene poorly. We continue to get reaction shots that are unnecessary. We’ve already seen this expression on these band members’ faces in shots 22 and 24. We don’t need to see it again, and this would have been a great chance to slow things down. I could continue to work through each cut in this scene, but many of the cuts have these same repeated issues. One key offender sticks out: Here, we cut to a wide shot where Paul magically appears beside John Reed, …not to mention this jump to a super wide shot is completely unmotivated and doesn’t make any sense. It’s usually difficult to judge who’s at fault when it comes to editing. If an editor is given a scene that’s poorly blocked and composed, it’s difficult to fix that in the edit. However, it seems unlikely that cutting this scene in this way and choosing this pace …was the best option the editor had with the scene. This is easily the worst edited scene in the film, …but many of the dialogue scenes have these same issues this scene has. There are plenty of scenes with perfectly functional editing, …although I’d be hard-pressed to find examples of the kind of editing you’d hope would earn an Academy Award. There’s also examples of awkward transitions, or montages that cover periods of touring, …but do a poor job of conveying the necessary feeling. So why did this film win an Academy Award for Best Editing? Just like I mentioned, editing is hard to judge. Good editing should rarely be noticeable. Good editing tells the story effectively. And when a movie is edited well, you usually walk away from it thinking, “That was a great film,” …not, “That editing was good.” So, counter-intuitively, the Oscar sometimes ends up going to films with the most noticeable editing, …which, generally, is not the film with the best editing. There was a lot of turmoil during the production of this film, …so I can understand how this film maybe ended up how it did. It’s easier to pick apart bad editing than it is to edit a scene that’s not shot well, …but an Academy Award for Best Editing for this film is completely undeserved. An editing like this, ultimately, is disrespectful to the audience. It assumes your attention span is so short that your attention has to be held with quick, flashy cuts. Sometimes an editor just needs to step back, slow down, …and trust that an audience member who’s chosen to come see your film is interested and invested in the story. Thanks to Audible for sponsoring this video. Sign up for a 30-day free trial today, and get a free audiobook when you go to audible.com/thomasflight, …or text ‘THOMASFLIGHT’ to 500-500. You’ll get an audiobook and two audible originals each month, so I have some suggestions for you. If you’re interested in learning more about Queen and Freddie Mercury, …and don’t want to subject yourself to hyperactive editing, …you can check out ‘Mercury and Me’ by Jim Hutton. One of my favorite books about business is ‘Anything You Want’ by Derek Sivers. I’ve listened to it again every couple of years, since I first listened to it in 2011. I used the audio book as a way to help keep my priorities and focus on track. Give Audible a try today, …and maybe you’ll find that audiobook that you keep revisiting for the rest of your life. Just go to audible.com/thomasflight, click on the link in the description, or text ‘THOMASFLIGHT’ to 500-500 …to try Audible free for 30 days. Thanks so much for watching. If you enjoyed this video and want to see more of this type of content, hit that ‘SUBSCRIBE’ button, …and go to patreon.com/thomasflight, where you can learn more about how you can support my channel, …and get extra cool stuff while you do. Special ‘thank you’ to my patrons.