Oscars bows to backlash, decision to relegate four awards overturnedby Shruthi Venkatesh February 21 2019, 4:25 pm Estimated Reading Time: 4 mins, 11 secs
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on 15th February (Sunday) reversed its decision to present four awards during the commercial breaks of this year’s Oscar broadcast, due to a backlash that had threatened to engulf an already blunder-plagued Academy Awards.
The academy announced in a statement that at the 91st Academy Awards which is to be held on February 24, all the 24 categories will be shown live. But, the winning speeches for cinematography, film editing, makeup and hairstyling and live-actions would be aired in a shortened, taped segment during the broadcast. “Nine days until the show time, still tweaking the script” the Academy tweeted on Friday.
Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese called the decision 'an insult'.
A host of Hollywood stars, including Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino and Rachel Morrison (the first woman to be nominated for the best cinematography Oscar), have already signed an open letter demanding the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to reverse its decision. Also, The American Society of Cinematographers issued an open-letter to the academy on the 13th, signed by Martin Scorsese, Brad Pitt and others, calling the plans an insult to the cinematic arts.
Reacting to the Academy’s decision, the letter states: “Relegating these essential cinematic crafts to lesser status in this 91st Academy Awards ceremony is nothing less than an insult to those of us who have devoted our lives and passions to our chosen profession … When the recognition of those responsible for the creation of outstanding cinema is being diminished by the very institution whose purpose it is to protect it, then we are no longer upholding the spirit of the Academy’s promise to celebrate film as a collaborative art form.”
It goes on to include a quote from another of the letter’s signatories, actor-director Seth Rogen: “What better way to celebrate achievements in film than to NOT publicly honour the people whose job it is to film things.”
Actor Russell Crowe called it “a fundamentally stupid decision … just too fucking dumb for words”; while Exorcist director William Friedkin described it as “an insult to award two of the most essential qualities of film-making”.
Roma director Alfonso Cuarón, who is personally nominated for best cinematography as well as best director, best original screenplay and best picture, pointedly wrote on Twitter that: “No one single film has ever existed without CINEMAtography and without editing”, while Guillermo del Toro, winner of the best director Oscar in 2018 for The Shape of Water, wrote: “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.”
Gareth Ellis-Unwin, an Oscar-winner for best picture for The King’s Speech and head of film and animation for the skills charity Screen Skills, said he would not vote in the final round of Oscar voting as a protest. He adds, “It is a damaging move not to recognise some of the roles that are critical to the filmmaking process. Cinematography, editing and make-up and hair are vital … If we want to continue to recruit new talent into the industry, it is important to showcase all the opportunities available and not just the starry ones.”
The Academy on Wednesday defended the decision and blamed “a chain of misinformation” on the backlash. Following the record-low ratings to last year’s broadcast; the Academy has made a three-hour telecast a priority. ABC, which airs the Oscars, is planning to premiere a sneak-peak of a new drama series after the Oscar telecast, which regularly ranks as the most-watched non-NFL broadcast of the year.
The Hindustan Times reports that Kevin Hart was announced as this year’s Oscar host only to withdraw days later when many took issue with his old homophobic tweets and the comedian initially “chose to pass on the apology.” Hart finally apologized as he resigned, leaving the Oscars host-less for only the fifth time in its 91-year history. And after first planning to limit the best song nominee performances, the academy confirmed that all songs will indeed be performed.
Veteran makeup artist Lois Burwell, who is on the film academy’s board of governors called the efforts to change the Oscars as - an “evolving process.” “With anything creative, you start in one place and then there’s the journey to where you end up,” said Burwell. “And sometimes you have to do things that don’t work in order to find out what does work. So there’s always a kind of awkwardness about someone going, ‘Oh no, that was a mistake.’ But a mistake is something you learn from and build upon.”