March 22, 2019

‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Editor Chimes in on His Editing Decisions

Bohemian Rhapsody Editing
Another lesson in how not everything can be “fixed in the edit”.

By all accounts, John Ottman is a good film editor. He’s been in the business for decades working his way up editing films like The Usual Suspects, Superman Returns, and the X-Men series. However, as we wrote about earlier this week, his most recent editing work on Bohemian Rhapsody has stood out as being not-quite reflective of what you’d expect to see in a mainstream blockbuster movie.

In fact, it’s actually stood out as being - well - bad at times. Bad being subjective, so as Youtuber Thomas Flight points out in his video essay breakdown, unmotivated.

And while criticism of Ottman’s work may seem harsh to some, it’s also worth noting that the only reason his work is being put under the spotlight is because… you know… it won an Academy Award for Best Film Editing at the Oscars!

However, as the backlash against the Bohemian Rhapsody editing has grown, Ottman himself has chimed in in defense of his own work.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Ottman states:

“Whenever I see it, I want to put a bag over my head. Because that’s not my aesthetic. If there’s ever an extended version of the film where I can put a couple scenes back, I will recut that scene!”

The biggest reasons for the awkwardly edited scenes - especially the infamous cafe meeting scene - came from pacing concerns, last minute re-edits, and direct result from the chaotic production which saw director Bryan Singer axed with three weeks left in production.

“No matter how good the film was up to that point, if Live Aid didn’t work, the entire film would collapse and be a downer. It had to feel emotionally exhausting, in a good way. It couldn’t feel like it was being cut down. Because the moment you knew it was being cut down, it was no longer experiential.”

Since the virality of the criticism has picked up steam, the Post reports that several other industry editors have come to Ottman’s defense. Speaking up for what they deem actually great editing in the face of almost impossible editing circumstances.

“John saved this film from being a complete and utter mess, which in the hands of a lesser talented editor it would probably have been,” Aaron Yamamoto, an editor whose credits include “Dragonheart,” posted on Facebook.

Whatever the case may be, editing should always be considered a two-way street between the actual production and bringing the best edit out of any situation. If indeed it is the case that Bohemian Rhapsody was a spectacularly messy situation (and from reports, it definitely sounds that way), than perhaps Ottman is absolutely deserving of his Oscar for his heroic work to overcome a disaster.

Or, a final edit is a final edit and should be considered only against what you see on screen. Interested to hear the thoughts of other filmmakers and video editors as to what you think...     

Your Comment


I'm paraphrasing here but Jackie Chan once said something along the lines of "If you don't get the shot because you're tired or it's raining, do you go to every theater and tell the audience that? No, the movie itself has to live forever."
In other words, I don't think it's fair to give an Oscar for editing to this movie just because the editor did a good job salvaging a mess. An award like that should go to a movie that, in a vacuum, showcases exemplary editing that contributes something to the overall art of filmmaking.

March 23, 2019 at 10:43AM

You voted '-1'.

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March 24, 2019 at 12:07PM