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Check Out This ACE Tribute To Legendary Editor Michael Kahn!

Beaks here...

For the most part, great editing is difficult to celebrate because, at its very best, it is invisible. It's about hiding the seams, therefore allowing viewers to get lost in the thousands of feet of film flickering before them. It's conjuring. And few in the history of motion pictures have cast as seductive a spell as Michael Kahn.

Kahn received a richly deserved LIfetime Achievement Award from the American Cinema Editors society last Saturday, and, according to filmmaker Edgar Wright, the seven-minute montage paying tribute to his half-century career elicited gasps from everyone in attendance. Of course it did. As Steven Spielberg's trusted collaborator since CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, Kahn has literally spliced together some of the most indelible images of the last forty years (he only recently stopped editing on an upright Moviola). He's also teamed with Robert Zemeckis (USED CARS), Richard Donner (THE GOONIES) and the ever-underrated Adrian Lyne (FATAL ATTRACTION). And then there's his early-'70s work on such blacksploitation triumphs as TRUCK TURNER, BLACK BELT JONES, TROUBLE MAN and THE SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR.

Though Kahn's efforts have been recognized many times throughout his career (including Oscars for RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, SCHINDLER'S LIST and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN), it isn't often that us non-professionals pause to consider the staggering breadth of his work. Fortunately, Carsten Kurpanek posted the ACE's montage online today, so please click on the below video and give thanks to one of the greatest film editors of all time.




Tribute to Michael Kahn, A.C.E. from Carsten Kurpanek on Vimeo.

And since there's no USED CARS in that montage...

Readers Talkback
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  • Feb. 21, 2011, 5:54 p.m. CST

    Beaks?! I thought you was daid?

    by Dirk_The_Amoeba


  • Feb. 21, 2011, 6:10 p.m. CST


    by kwisatzhaderach

    What a reel. Automatically makes me want to watch CE3K, Raiders, Poltergeist, Temple of Doom, Schindler's List, Minority Report, Catch Me If You Can, Empire of the Sun...

  • Feb. 21, 2011, 6:10 p.m. CST


    by deelzbub

    My bad, I was looking for Ace Frehley

  • Feb. 21, 2011, 7:40 p.m. CST

    by Cobra--Kai

    "KAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHNNNNNN!!!"<p> "Or do you prefer Michael?"

  • Feb. 21, 2011, 8:02 p.m. CST

    A montage of clips for an editor is a little weird, isn't it?

    by BadMrWonka

    It really only serves to say, "Look how many big movies he's worked on...and they were good, weren't they? Well he edited them!" Because when you chop up clips and shots, you're re-editing everything. It can be a nice little show for a cinematographer, or director, even an actor. But the editor's job is really about the totality of a movie, or at least a scene or sequence. I couldn't find one single collection of more than 2 or 3 shots, that was left untouched from Kahn's original version. Kahn is great, and for sheer numbers of quality output, he doesn't really have an equal...but face facts. There's no real way to have a showcase of an editor's work, unless you have a theater and a few hours at least. I mean, in a lot of instances, the editor can be credited for choosing some shots, maybe choosing from alternate takes, etc. But Spielberg always has final cut, right? And I'm assuming he has final everything, you know what I mean? Still, anything that brings attention to Kahn is a good thing. He's really an incredibly proficient and prolific editor.

  • Feb. 21, 2011, 8:15 p.m. CST

    Beaks: still lurking about?

    by Der Aggravated Piscine

    Over a month since your last article, isn't it? Been on vacation, have we?

  • My Dad loves this film as well, though I mainly remembered it as being one of the several R-rated comedies showing on Encore in my early teens that showed nudity. :P Watching it all these years later, it's pretty funny even if it is over-the-top, though much like 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand,' Zemeckis was most of the time at the mercy of stupid, incompetent crewmen. Plus, good editing is necessary for many of the jokes and the timing in the film. Of course, love what they do regarding Jimmy Carter-it's more subtle than what was done with The Beatles in IWHYH, but it's another moment in Zemeckis' scenes which feature some brush with greatness.

  • Feb. 21, 2011, 9:16 p.m. CST


    by Yotz Von Frelnik

    I say that in a good way.

  • Feb. 21, 2011, 9:26 p.m. CST

    Was I the only one?

    by Darkman

    I remember doing a double take when I saw Kahn's name on the poster for PRINCE OF PERSIA. I know Spielberg can't make a movie *every* year, but...I was really taken aback.

  • This is a very recent video interview with Michael Kahn:

  • Feb. 22, 2011, 12:03 a.m. CST

    I was thinkin the same thing, badmrwonka...

    by Cheif Brody

    ...While watching that fine montage...that we may as well be watching a tribute to Spielberg from the DGA. <p> Kahn is as good as they get, granted...but that is no way to highlight the work of an editor. The best way would have picked his 5 best sequenced SCENES from his long career...and let them play out beginning to end. Any editing of clips from other parts of the movie within a scene is ALTERING his great work...and then it becomes more of a cinematographer...or director's showcase. <p> Kahn didn't set up that awesome shot of the planes screaming in and blowing up the prison camp in Empire of the Sun....nor did he digitally render the T-rex bellowing below the falling banner in Jurassic Park...Spielberg, his cinematographer...and dozens of CGI nerds in a render farm "captured" those images. He just cut them together spectacularly! <p> that entire scene in EOTS as Kahn originally cut it...or show me the whole T-Rex chasing the jeep through the jungle scene from Jurassic Park, and let me watch his cuts...his shot selection, his pacing...the tone HE created in his edit suite...THEN you have paid homage to HIS work. <p> The Fatal Attraction scene was a complete waste...except to say, that he cut between two medium shots of Glenn and Michael back and forth in a diner. Show me the entire scene where he cuts back and forth from the creepy rollercoaster ride to the damn dead rabbit stew reveal. THAT was some fucking editing! <p> That montage really did nothing to showcase what Kahn does at all. Except to give him one helluva resume reel.

  • Feb. 22, 2011, 12:06 a.m. CST

    One correction: Kahn still edits on Moviola

    by Proman1984

    Only Tintin and Pirates 4 are done digitally. Of course, Kahn edited on Avid going back to Twister days.

  • Feb. 22, 2011, 12:19 a.m. CST

    cheif brody you are being a bit harsh there

    by Proman1984

    I agree that having a montage of editor's films seems somewhat weird (what are they gonna do? recut his work? (thankfully the didn't do that here)) but during these types of tributes, the goal is to have a representation of person's entire output. It always happens this way and while it does seem akward and does become a "look at what films I was associated with" it kind of gets the job done. Is it really that weird that it could double as a Spielberg reel or wise versa, after all? I mean think about it. After all, isn't that what you get after a decades long partnership? You gotta take it as it is, I guess, see the tribute through that prism. That said, I think your five scenes idea was a brilliant one. They just don't do things that way and it's too bad. And you can sort of tell they spotlighted certain films with lengthy segments anyway, they just should have went with uninterrapted scenes instead.

  • You don't really know much about editing, do you Beaks?

  • Feb. 22, 2011, 1:29 a.m. CST

    Yes! Some Used Cars love

    by otm shank

    You killed my dog mister.<p> All he wanted was for you to be happy in this car....and now he's DEAD!<p> LOL

  • Feb. 22, 2011, 1:56 a.m. CST are correct.

    by Cheif Brody

    " it kind of gets the job done". <p> The only REAL way to do it, IMO...since you can't really just show entire 5 or 10 minute long scenes, is to showcase "the man"...Intercut some of his scenes, as they did, but have him voicing over it, talking about the movies he spent so much time splicing together. Maybe have him talk about HIS favorite scenes he cut...or how editing has changed. Perhaps ACE approached him and he declined? Or they wanted it to be a surprise? <p> As Beaks pointed out...if he did the work's invisible...seamless and unnoticeable to the eye. You are not even aware the cuts are making you feel more tension or joy than what the camera(s) captured in the performance. <p> It's hard to showcase a job that you're not suppose to notice...but I just got no sense of Michael Kahn, the man, or his un-altered work from that highlight reel. <p> I can say, I hope the folks who put that piece together do the opening montage of the Best Pictures nominees to begin the Oscars in 6 days. They can cut a great highlight reel!

  • Feb. 22, 2011, 8:03 a.m. CST

    An honor, but a better tribute needed

    by BeyondStatic

    Michael Kahn deserves this honor more than anyone I can imagine. This triubute film however leaves a lot to be desired. A nice attempt, but ironically pretty poorly edited. Choppy, at times confusing, and very little emotional arc. Reminds me a lot of what the AMPAS puts together for the Oscars every year. If this is what passes for tribute editing these days, I need to relocate... or get better industry contacts. That's right ACE & Academy, I'm volunteering to make your tribute films better!

  • Feb. 22, 2011, 10:11 a.m. CST

    Kahn is part of dying breed

    by seasider

    of film editors who still cut movies the old fashioned way, with a moviola. A couple of years ago Lucas commented that Kahn could cut a movie on a moviola faster than most editors can using Avid. While that form of editing is going the way of the dinosaur, it is a skill that I hope all aspiring film editors learn.

  • Feb. 22, 2011, 10:24 a.m. CST

    Who edited the editor?

    by BradZuhl

    I agree with badwrwonka. It's great to bring attention to one of the all-time greatest editors but who do you get to cut together (and re-edit) the sequences of one of the all-time greats? Then it becomes more about the shots, than Kahn's editing.