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Bohemian Rhapsody’s Terrible Editing – A Breakdown


‘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.

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Comments
  • The Academy responds to lobbying and box office more than quality. Alot like Washington does with donors and special interest.

  • I think another issue with the editing of this film is that with the amount of cuts they have, along with the said spatial continuity, it ends up overwhelming the viewers' eyes, and therefore, making them feel tired, dissoriented, and needlessly confused, due to the amount of unnecessary information that's being presented all at once.

  • You are talking about one 90 second scene out of an entire movie. Why not break down some of the good editing like the Live Aid scene or the bathroom sink transition into tv van satellite. It's like people who never watched the whole movie think the whole thing has terrible editing based on this one scene that everyone keeps obsessing about.

    You're bitching about a 90 second long scene in a movie that's over 2 hours long bro, and claiming "Bohemian Rhapsody has bad editing", meanwhile you describe good editing techniques over footage of Bohemian Rhapsody doing exactly those techniques. What the fuck are you talking about? See the problem isn't really in this analysis, but it's in the presentation such as your stupid video title which is misleading, and idiots who haven't seen the movie or are complete sheep will somehow translate this into thinking the entire movie is this poorly edited. It's not. It won best editing which is voted on by professional film editors who know more about film editing than you do. John Ottman is an oscar winning Hollywood editor and you're a fucking Youtuber.

  • Sorry, but i have to disagree with your recut. I think the original is better.
    I have not seen the movie,all of what i have seen is what you show here. Yet I feel that the nervousness that shows through the second shot of Brian before the two other men are shown is very well expressed in the shot. Everybody needs to look their best, and he checks on them if they are looking good, which we see even before they are shown.
    I agree with most of the other things you say. The editing is surely flashy, possibly overly so.
    The shot of three members without Brian could be rooted in the story, though. On one hand, the scene seems to be filmed somewhat from his angle (commenting on mercurys choice of dress, looking if the other guys look good), on the other hand: I would, not knowing anything about the history of queen, surmise that this character gets thrown out of the band in the movie.
    These three guys are queen, the take seems to say.

  • This is some Catwoman-level editing. And we all know how that one was received…

  • Seems to me this scene suffers from a lot of problems. Uninteresting cinematography and uninspired screenplay are just as significant to me as the editing. And those three things are probably interconnected. If a scene doesn't have a clear sense of purpose and tone, I imagine it's hard to edit it.

  • I didn't like this movie at all. I wanting Sacha Baron Cohen and the more truthful movie he wanted to make . Cohen looks alot like Freddie and is British . Malek is really good and did good in the role but what could've been..

  • A little knowledge can be dangerous. Your recut does not work very well at all because it fails to deliver what the original did – the original makes the audience increasingly uncomfortable, especially contrasted with the long tracking shot that opens the scene. An audience not familiar with editing will share the feeling of the band, feeling uncomfortable and off-balance, in fact you get this effect if you watch the scene without sound. Knowing something about editing causes you to think it is 'wrong' because it does not conform to basic guidelines. Whether it deserved an Oscar is hard to tell but there is a clear purpose to the editing of this scene.

  • There are no set rules for a good edit. Rules are a trap and it restricts you. The only thing that matters is sticking to the story and the characters in it.
    You cannot question an editors decision unless and until you were in that room.

  • Someone told me that sound editing and film editing are similar. If you don’t notice it whilst watching the film, then it’s good.

  • Probably it won best editing just for the Live Aid scene, but it was mostly because of Malek, he did a really good job.

  • While the editing may have been a mess, the movie itself was like watching a sped up A&E Biography on Queen. It lightly touched on many, many subjects, but never completely told the story. The actors were great but the writing/script/direction was off. This was an R rated story made into a PG film

  • The Oscars are no longer respectable

    Disney scams the whole thing, the judges don't even watch the movie they are selecting. The whole thing lost its touch.

  • No offense to this guy or the matter at hand, or anyone who’s concerned with said matter, but this is thee most pointless video i’ve ever watched on youtube. Like who gives a F. I got an eye for terrible shit, but this wasn’t even on my radar at all. Also not a huge fan of the movie. In fact, what should be criticized is Rami’s Freddie. Watch Fred’s interviews. They melodramatized thee living shit out of em. Thats the worst part of the movie imo

  • Buddy. Get a fucking life. Top movie,. I was at the premiere in Wembley and not one single soul had any issue with editing. Loser!

  • My God, you are as crass as the movie.
    You slag the movie off and then you demonstrate issues by using cartoons and other films.

    What a crock of robotic thunderously boring mono syllabic nonsense, how in hell did you get 49,000 likes?

    Sheet, that's a shipload of drugs you are on.

  • Is it just me or do others feel sick when they're a lot of quick cuts in a scene. Like movie motion sickness

  • This video made me realize that each scene of dialogue on this movie have a rythm. On the Original Scene that he shows, there is a 1-2-1-2-1-1 tempo. I mean, I may be high, but now that whole thing makes sense to me. The movie has a rythm just like a song, and the editing its like an orchestra!

  • I was kinda with you until you showed your simplified take on the scene. You just make it so much more boring and sterile. You removed the motivation for Brian looking at his bandmates. He was looking at what suit guy was looking at and now it's just general him looking around for no reason. I think by analyzing the cuts so deeply you come to the conclusion that there's a "correct" way to edit any given footage, which leads to bland editing. Someone's attention is grabbed by something? Cut to what they're looking at. Someone starts speaking? Cut to a close up of them. The rapid meaningless cuts might not be the "correct" way to edit the scene but it manipulates the audiences attention in deliberate ways.

    Then again I watched the movie without being bothered by the editing. If it took you out of the movie as your watching it then you have good reason to analyze and critic it as you are. Especially if it's supposed to be the best of the year.

  • I was watching Tremors the other day and there's one sequence about halfway through where they're riding horses and galloping.
    And as the one cut starts they're shown galloping away from the camera, and in one corner of the visible scene is a concrete ditch.
    Then they go to the "Getting tossed off the horses", and then they show them running again.
    And you're spatially aware they're running back where they came from. And then you see the ditch coming and your brain clicks and understands.

    It was such good editing in such a lesser known movie, but now that I've started watching all these "Bad editing" stuff I'm way more aware of good editing versus bad editing.
    So yay for you~

  • Hey I think the movie was a wonderful tribute to Freddie…. it is one of my favorite movies of all time!!!! Pure perfection!!!!

  • Rami Malek's performance is great, the movie itself being nominated for the Oscars is ultimate proof that the Oscars are irrelevant shit

  • It's great that this movie draw attention to Freddie, especially the attention of younger people that might have not known about him, but the editing, the storytelling, the dialogue were just mediocre. Malek's performance was the only thing worth praising about this movie. Otherwise it's just a subpar flick.

  • I wanted to watch this film, but when I tried, I couldn't make it far – the editing kept drawing me out of the story. It left me confused and feeling oddly stressed out, even in scenes that didn't call for me feeling that way.

  • I've never seen the film but I think that the editing in that scene is bad because it shows someone speaking and then the other persons reaction, rather than the persons face as the other one is talking. The audience show trust the actors enough to know the voice and tone of a character rather than having to flick between their faces to show reactions.

  • I really don't see what the big deal is that was a good movie and the editing was the way it should be I believe you can't criticize something that you haven't even done yourself

  • Why did this film win awards? I'm as stumped as you.I'm an original Quen fan from 1975 and I suspected it wouldn't be filmed right.I resisted paying to see it and waited until it came on HBO,which I get anyway. I have to concur with much of what the presenter here says and only add,in an age when they can mimic all sorts of phenomina on screen with the use of CGI,you'd think they could get the wigs to look right on a film that must have had a reasonable budget !The dialogue was crap with no rhythm to it ,the clothes were wrong and worst of all,it didn't really convey a sense of the '70s-or for that matter even the 80s .All in all,a confusing mess. Freddie Mercury deserved much better.

  • Not an excuse,but the remaining band members would only agree to give the movie rights if all of them had equal screentime to Freddie

  • I have a neurological disorder called sensory processing disorder, which impacts how my brain processes sound, touch, visuals, etc. My brain can’t process the visual information as fast as I’m seeing it, which can make everything look like a blur. And holy FUCK, I almost passed out during this stupid fucking film, just because of the jump cuts! I shouldn’t be having the equivalent to petite mal seizures during a biopic. Rocketman was really superior in every aspect.

  • If we wanted real good editing, just give it to Rocketman. That movie deserved the hype they wasted on this movie (don’t get me wrong though, I love Queen and their acting in this)

  • I think the movie just won so many oscars because everyone loves queen, everyone loves freddy and it just played well into people’s emotions. The cinematography isn’t that great but I guess everyone’s judgement was clouded from Rami’s pretty good embodiment of Freddy and the exciting scenes such as Live Aid in the end

  • The only case where it is both noticeable and good is that of Edgar Wright. All of his movies are masterclasses in quality editing.

  • It won the award for Best Editing for the same reason every other category wins for their respective movies – BASTARDLY MARKETING, not "actually" being the "best" in their category.

    Fuck fairness.

  • This like the oposite of a movie like dunkirk or whiplash, or the social network which have perfect editing(notice all of these won best editing) this wpuld be like if alex cross won best editing

  • Most "Regular people" do not care. Most people enjoyed the movie and don't have a clue about what what your getting hysterical about.

  • Overall, i found this movie to be okay, the soundtrack is to me the best part of the film and the live aid concert near the end was awesome. But this film has problems like the aforementioned editing so many quick shots!

  • Agree with everything! It just proves how corrupt the industry actually is, if this won the best edit award? Hmmmm, I smell shenanigans!

  • I thought the whole movie was awful. Most the diehard fans who love the movie are kids who knew nothing about Queen beforehand. Movie was inaccurate, poorly edited, and Rami sounded and acted nothing like Fred. Also, the oscars have been rigged for years.

  • im sure other people have said the same thing, but it had a lot to do with three things. One: Brian May seems to be a lot of the focus in that dialouge scene, where you would assume a reaction from fred youd get one of brian. i feel like this is probably because brian was actually on set with them for a portion of the time. Two: bryan singer. of course, knowing that the cast had issues with him and that he was consistently late/didnt show, of course the movie isnt going to look right. you cant expect a movie to work without any direction. lastly, three: the camera crew themselves. joe mazzello, who played john deacon, actually told a story that he'd brought up the fact the shots were weird while filming. he has directed a little bit, and was confused why they wouldnt get specific shots for the AOBTD scene. sorry about being vague on that, i dont really remember the details other than that even the cast themselves noticed.

  • this is why i enjoy director’s who prefer to hold wides and use static shots to shoot scenes. u can legitimately use static shots for scenes that go on for 5+ mins and i won’t have any problem with them. have characters enter and exit the frame without cutting or even following them. take Manchester By the Sea and First Reformed as examples. id say the most popular directors who always get the right reactions and tell their story fluently while also being creative would be Denis Villeneuve and Paul Thomas Anderson. they always work with competent cinematographers and editors to ensure their films maintain their vision.

  • Not buying what you say, dude! I understand your points, but editing is also an art and sometimes it has a personal touch. The film clearly has a fast pacing it is almost frenetical, so the editing is as well. This scene is fast, the tempo is fast and when Reed comes in, he sits down and looks at everyone around so it is not confusing to show shots and reactions of all the members. And also, even if Reed's eye line is on someone you can show anyone else reaction and mostly because is not a conversation.

  • Out of all the Oscars that "Bohemian Rhapsody" won, its win for Best Film Editing was the one that baffled me. I never thought that the editing was anything special.

  • The one thing i do give props is the realism. If you look at the IWTBF scene as an example, they even simulated the 4:3 aspect ratio just like in the actual promo video.

  • This video is unkind, but worse it’s just nonsense. There is a little an editor can do about eyelines. That should be sorted on location.

    Editors, directors and producers have all sorts of reasons for why they cut to certain actors for a reaction. Brain May could be seen as the leader of the group outside of Mercury, thus we need to see how he views the events more than the other 2 musicians. The pacing is fine, without fast editing I’d fear a scene like this could go as flat as those you see in soaps . But of course, without seeing the different edits that were tried I cannot possibly comment.

    It seems to me that it is a waste of time to ham-fistedly critique a moving, successful movie. Word of mouth dragged audiences into cinemas who didn’t seem to be riled by the editing. The movie isn't perfect but then nothing ever is.

    There is so much poorly made dross around that to pick on a very successful, involving film like this is absurd.

  • For me it looks like John Reid wasn't available to be on set the same day as the other ones so they tried to shoot around it. He recorded the scene another day only with the actor playing Brian May. The whole group is only seen together in very few shots (John Reid walking out through the door and an establishing shot of the whole restaurant) It could easily be fixed with a cgi face replacement on John Reid. The other shot of the group with John Reid and Brian may facing the camera, Mercury, Taylor and Deacon sits with their backs towards the camera which is probably 3 stand ins. That's just my 2 cents

  • One can argue this scene was intentionally uncomfortable and disorienting to mirror the feeling of the band. But nah it’s just bad

  • Theory: the real "Queen" members wanted to have an equally distributed screentime in the scenes they were together AND all of them wanted to appear often in the same timespan.

  • I thought Bo Rap had superb editing… and btw The Godfather was actually edited by William Reynolds and Peter Zinner not Walter Murch..!

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