Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese Rip Film Academy for Cutting Awards From Oscars

Oscar Statue (Credit: Deposit Photos)

Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Dee Rees and dozens of other filmmakers are urging the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to do the right thing and reconsider its decision to move four awards from the Oscars broadcast to commercial breaks.

On Monday, the Academy said the winners for cinematography, film editing, makeup and hairstyling, and live action short would be announced during commercials, in an effort to shorten the broadcast. Edited versions of the winning speeches will be aired later in the show.

The move angered some industry insiders, who began flooding social media with complaints about the changes. Then came an open letter Wednesday from dozens of filmmakers and cinematographers — including many Oscar winners — calling the move “an insult” to industry professionals.

“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,” the letter stated.

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The Academy immediately responded with a letter of its own, defending the move.

“As the Academy’s officers, we’d like to assure you that no award category at the 91st Oscars ceremony will be presented in a manner that depicts the achievements of its nominees and winners as less than any others,” the organization said in a statement Wednesday night.

“Unfortunately, as the result of inaccurate reporting and social media posts, there has been a chain of misinformation that has understandably upset many Academy members,” the letter added.

Academy leaders went on to say all 24 awards will be handed out on stage during the Oscars, and the four affected categories were volunteered by their branches to have their nominees and winners announced by presenters, and included later in the broadcast. Academy brass said the time spent walking to the stage and off, will be edited out of the broadcast.

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Back in August, the Academy said it would be revamping the Oscars amid sinking TV ratings.  Last year 26.5 million viewers watched, marking an all-time low, according to Nielsen. As an example of the show’s ratings decline, 43.7 million viewers watched in 2014. However, the number of Americans tuning in has continued to dip every year since then.

Among the changes announced last summer were shortening the broadcast to three hours, adding a new “popular film” category geared toward more crowd-pleasing movies, and shifting the date of the broadcast a few weeks earlier in the year. 

A month later, the Academy scrapped the popular film category amid criticism.

Monday’s announcement offering specifics on how the show would be shortened caused more anger in Hollywood. The controversy continued Thursday with Roma director Alfonso Cuarón, George Clooney, Kerry Washington and other high-profile actors adding their signatures to the letter urging the Academy to change its mind.

The 91st Oscars will be held in Hollywood on Sunday, February 24, 2019.

Below is the open letter to the Academy in its entirety, including the names of actors and directors who signed it Thursday.

An Open Letter to The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and The Producers of the 91st Annual Academy Awards Broadcast:

On Monday, February 11, 2019, John Bailey, President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, announced that this year’s Oscar presentations for Best Cinematography — along with Film Editing, Live Action Short and Makeup and Hairstyling — will not be broadcast live, but rather presented during a commercial break. This decision was made to reduce the length of the show from four hours to three. The vocal response from our peers and the immediate backlash from industry leaders over the Academy’s decision makes it clear that it’s not too late to have this decision reversed.

The Academy was founded in 1927 to recognize and uphold excellence in the cinematic arts, inspire imagination and help connect the world through the universal medium of motion pictures. Unfortunately, we have drifted from this mission in our pursuit of presenting entertainment rather than in presenting a celebration of our art form and the people behind it.

Relegating these essential cinematic crafts to lesser status in this 91 st Academy Awards ceremony is nothing less than an insult to those of us who have devoted our lives and passions to our chosen profession.

The show’s director, Glenn Weiss, has stated that he will determine what “emotionally resonant” moments from the four winners’ speeches will be selected to air later in the broadcast. The show will cut any additional comment from presenters, as well as any recitation of the nominees as they see fit.

Since its inception, the Academy Awards telecast has been altered over time to keep the format fresh, but never by sacrificing the integrity of the Academy’s original mission. 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. To quote our colleague Seth Rogan, “What better way to celebrate achievements in film than to NOT publicly honor the people whose job it is to literally film things.”

Signed,

Cinematographers
Thomas Ackerman
Javier Aguirresarobe
Fernando Argüelles
Paul Atkins
Gary Baum
Bojan Bazelli
Dion Beebe
Bill Bennett
Gabriel Beristain
Oliver Bokelberg
Russell Boyd
Natasha Braier
Vance Burberry
Antonio Calvache
Rodney Charters
Christopher Chomyn
James Chressanthis
T.C. Christensen
Jack Cooperman
Dean Cundey
David Darby
Roger Deakins
Frankie DeMarco
Peter Deming
Jim Denault
Caleb Deschanel
George Spiro Dibie
Billy Dickson
Mark Doering-Powell
Todd A. Dos Reis
Stuart Dryburgh
Bert Dunk
John Dykstra
Robert Elswit
John C. Flinn III
Mauro Fiore
Markus Förderer
Ron Fortunato
Greig Fraser
Jonathan Freeman
Alex Funke
Steve Gainer
Dana Gonzales
Nathaniel Goodman
David Greene
Alexander Gruszynski
David R. Hardberger
Gregg Heschong
Tom Houghton
Paul Hughen
Shane Hurlbut
Peter James
Johnny E. Jensen
Matthew Jensen
Tor Johansen
Shelly Johnson
Janusz Kaminski
Adam Kane
Stephen M. Katz
Darius Khondji
David Klein
Ellen Kuras
Joseph Labisi
Ed Lachman
Jacek Laskus
Patti Lee
Robert Legato
John Leonetti
Philippe Le Sourd
Peter Levy
Karl Walter Lindenlaub
Jimmy Lindsey
Emmanuel Lubezki
Glen Macpherson
Paul Maibaum
Constantine Makris
Denis Maloney
Anthony Dod Mantle
Clark Mathis
Michael McDonough
Erik Messerschmidt
Anastas Michos
Gregory Middleton
Charles Minsky
Seamus McGarvey
Robert Mclachlan
Suki Medencevic
Chris Menges
Dan Mindel
George Mooradian
Reed Morano
Polly Morgan
Rachel Morrison
Peter Moss
David Moxness
M. David Mullen
Guillermo Navarro
James Neihouse
Michael Negrin
John Newby
Sam Nicholson
Crescenzo Notarile
Jules O’Loughlin
Thomas Alger Olgeirsson
Phedon Papamichael
Andrij Parekh
Daniel Pearl
Dave Perkal
Wally Pfister
Rodrigo Prieto
Robert Primes
Frank Prinzi
Christopher Probst
Robert Richardson
Anthony B Richmond
Antonio Riestra
Pete Romano
Martin Ruhe
Paul Ryan
Alik Sakharov
Mikael Salomon
Linus Sandgren
Germano Saracco
Paul Sarossy
Tobias Schliessler
John Seale
Ben Seresin
Steven Shaw
Lawrence Sher
Newton Thomas Sigel
John Simmons
Vittorio Storaro
Gavin Struthers
Tim Suhrstedt
Attila Szalay
Mario Tosi
Salvatore Totino
Kristy Tully
Eric van Haren Noman
Hoyte van Hoytema
Kees van Oostrum
Theo Van De Sande
Checco Varese
Mark Vargo
Roy Wagner
Colin Watkinson
Michael Weaver
Mark H. Weingartner
Jo Willems
Kenneth Zunder

Directors
Darren Aronofsky
Brad Bird
Danny Boyle
Damien Chazelle
George Clooney
Joel Coen
Brady Corbet
Alfonso Cuaron
Guillermo del Toro
Steve Faigenbaum
Rick Famuyiwa
Rodrigo Garcia
Drew Goddard
James Gray
Luca Guadagnino
Sam Hargrave
Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Spike Jonze
Nicole Holofcener
Ron Howard
Karyn Kusama
Yorgos Lanthimos
Ang Lee
Spike Lee
Will Lovelace
Kevin Macdonald
Dennis Maguire
Michael Mann
Rob Marshall
Sam Mendes
Christopher McQuarrie
Christopher Nolan
Pawel Pawlikoski
Alexander Payne
Mark Pellington
Michael Polish
Sam Raimi
Jason Reitman
David O. Russell
Dee Rees
Nicolas Winding Refn
Seth Rogen
Joe Russo
Marjane Satrapi
Julian Schnabel
Martin Scorsese
M Night Shyamalan
Dylan Southern
Quentin Tarantino
Fernando Trueba
Denis Villeneuve
Chris Weitz
Joss Whedon
Edgar Wright
Joe Wright

Actors
Kathy Baker
Elizabeth Banks
Kate Bosworth
Zach Braff
Sterling K. Brown
Sandra Bullock
Rose Byrne
Bobby Cannavale
Max Casella
Jessica Chastain
Robert De Niro
Peter Dinklage
Ann Dowd
Elle Fanning
Paul Giamatti
Bill Hader
Michael C. Hall
Jon Hamm
Catherine Keener
Barry Keoghan
Riley Keough
Jude Law
Virginia Madsen
Frances McDormand
Max Minghella
Rosamond Pike
Brad Pitt
Jason Segel
Chloe Sevigny
Tye Sheridan
Emma Stone
Jason Sudeikis
Ulrich Thomsen
Kerry Washington
Olivia Wilde

Filmmakers
Jacques Audiard
Collen Atwood
Kym Barrett
Thomas Barron
Alan Baumgarten
Alan Edward Bell
William Brent Bell
Erin Benach
Avril Beukes
Consolata Boyle
Maryann Brandon
Alexandra Byrne
Eugenio Caballero
Milena Canonero
Hank Corwin
Scott Dale
Sophie De Rakoff
Chris Dickens
Matthew Duclos
Bob Ducsay
Mark L Duncan
Seth Emmons
Louie Escobar
Lou Eyrich
Dante Ferretti
Eric Fletcher
Glenn Fremantle
Jose Antonio Garcia
Dana Glauberman
William Goldenberg
Affonso Goncalves
Adam Gough
Jon Gregory
Clay Griffith
David Gropman
Mark Helfrich
Dorian Harris
Michael Hatzer
Rick Heinrichs
David Heyman
Amy Hobby
Frieder Hochheim
Jay Holben
Nichole Huenergardt
Rob Hummel
Chris Innis
Alan Ipakchian
Joanna Johnston
Frank Kay
Debbie Kennard
Douglas Kirkland
Jon Kilik
Anne Kuljian
Michael Legato
Devin Mann
Michael Mansouri
Mary Jo Markey
Joi McMillon
Ellen Mirojnick
Stephen Mirrione
Bob Murawski
Jeffrey A. Okun
John Ottman
Ellen Page
Michael Pizzuto
Sandy Powell
Fred Raskin
Tatiana S. Riegel
Amy Robinson
Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir
Mayes Rubeo
Nat Sanders
Pietro Scalia
Steve Schklair
Ellen H. Schwartz
Alexander Schwarz
Steven J. Scott
Anna B. Sheppard
Terilyn A. Shropshire
Lee Smith
Joan Sobel
Stefan Sonnenfeld
D. Brian Spruill
Mick Strawn
Juli Silver Taracido
Matthew Tomlinson
Michael Tronick
Plummy Tucker
Mark Ulano
Martin Walsh
Gary Wattson
Billy Weber
Julie Weiss
Hughes Winborne
Janty Yates

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