The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is under fire as they continue to stumble their way toward the Oscars ceremony later this month. Professionals from several corners of Hollywood – directors, actors, writers, and more – are speaking out against the Academy’s decision to award the winners of four categories during commercial breaks and then broadcast a truncated recap of those awards later in the telecast.
Oscar winners Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron, Russell Crowe, and organizations like the American Society of Cinematographers have lodged their complaints about the fact that the Oscars won’t give the proper spotlight to essential categories like cinematography and editing during the show.
The winners of Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Live Action Short, and Best Makeup and Hairstyling will be announced in the Dolby Theater during commercial breaks and their acceptance speeches will be edited into the ceremony at a later time. (Academy president John Bailey says those awards will be streamed live online at Oscar.com.) If the plan holds, four different categories will be presented off camera in the 2020 Oscars ceremony, with a different rotation each year.
This is a monumentally dumb decision, made in part to keep the ceremony running shorter than it has in previous years. The decision is being ridiculed by seemingly everyone in the industry outside of those who made the decision inside the Academy, with people like Seth Rogen, Ben Stiller, and more going to bat for the craftspeople who are being treated as “less than” by an organization that’s supposed to care about the art of filmmaking.
Reposting, revised: I would not presume to suggest what categories should occur during commercials on Oscars night, but, please: Cinematography & Editing are at the very heart of our craft. They are not inherited from a theatrical or literary tradition: they are cinema itself.
— Guillermo del Toro (@RealGDT) February 13, 2019
In the history of CINEMA, masterpieces have existed without sound, without color, without a story, without actors and without music. No one single film has ever existed without CINEMAtography and without editing.
— Alfonso Cuaron (@alfonsocuaron) February 12, 2019
What better way to celebrate achievements in film than to not publicly honor the people’s who’s job it is to literally film things.
— Seth Rogen (@Sethrogen) February 12, 2019
Agreed. Not quite sure why the Academy Awards seems to hate the Academy Awards this year. https://t.co/2QkIR4Rwrx
— Josh Gad (@joshgad) February 12, 2019
Cinema tography. https://t.co/B5Pe4ACTM2
— Ben Stiller (@RedHourBen) February 12, 2019
The Academy is removing cinematography, editing and make up from the televised show?
This is just such a fundamentally stupid decision, I’m not even going to be bothered trying to be a smart arse about it.
It’s just too fucking dumb for words.
— Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) February 12, 2019
Gross decision. https://t.co/25M5lQQ1u4
— Brian Koppelman (@briankoppelman) February 11, 2019
Oscar nominee Spike Lee is among the others who have spoken out, with he and BlacKkKlansman editor Barry Alexander Brown telling the L.A. Times:
“Without cinematographers and film editors, I would be lost, wandering in the cinema wilderness.”
The American Society of Cinematographers president Kees van Oostrum issued a statement to the group’s members earlier this week, which read in part:
“After receiving many comments on this matter from ASC members, I think I speak for many of them in declaring this a most unfortunate decision. We consider filmmaking to be a collaborative effort where the responsibilities of the director, cinematographer, editor and other crafts often intersect. This decision could be perceived as a separation and division of this creative process, thus minimizing our fundamental creative contributions. The Academy is an important institution that represents our artistry in the eyes of the world. Since the organization’s inception 91 years ago, the Academy Awards have honored cinematographers’ talent, craft and contributions to the filmmaking process, but we cannot quietly condone this decision without protest.
The Hollywood Reporter says multiple sources told the outlet that the cinematographers branch actually volunteered to be among the categories that will be presented this year during the commercial breaks. Even if that’s true, the Academy is fighting a losing battle in their attempt to boost ratings of the show, and relegating these categories to the commercial breaks is insulting and stands against the purpose of the Oscars in the first place: to honor filmmakers on the world stage.
This year’s upcoming Oscar ceremony has been riddled with blunders since the beginning – and the most embarrassing thing about it is that most of its problems were completely avoidable. First there was the whole “popular Oscar” debacle, which was quickly walked back. Then came the Kevin Hart hosting fiasco, when both the Academy and Hart seemed hilariously ill-prepared to handle a firestorm of questions about Hart’s old tweets. That ended with the actor walking away from the ceremony entirely, and the Oscars will be going without a host for the first time in 30 years. Then there was a brouhaha about only two of the five Best Original Song contenders being performed, which was also eventually walked back; now all five will get their time in the spotlight.
Alfonso Cuaron, whose film Roma is nominated for ten Academy Awards, also recently lamented the competitive environment of awards season in an interview with Deadline:
“This industry has turned everything into something a bit more vicious; or even very much so. The sad thing is it has become almost like a projection of how political campaigns are nowadays. Rather than politicians showing a vision, it’s about throwing dirt to the opponent. So rather than strengthening the values—and I’m not talking moral values, but the artistic merits of a film and the influence it may be having—it’s about trying to push the others down. I find that very sad. And I hope there’s a way—though I’m not sure there is—that it can be regulated by the Academy. I don’t know how.”
If the Academy can’t even get their act together enough to pull together a coherent Oscars ceremony, I have serious doubts they’re going to be able to do anything about regulating the tone of awards season. But good luck with that!
The Oscars will be broadcast on ABC (whose parent company, Disney, doesn’t have any films nominated in any of the four categories that will be presented during the commercials) on February 24, 2019.