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.”
George Spiro Dibie
Todd A. Dos Reis
John C. Flinn III
David R. Hardberger
Johnny E. Jensen
Stephen M. Katz
Philippe Le Sourd
Karl Walter Lindenlaub
Anthony Dod Mantle
M. David Mullen
Thomas Alger Olgeirsson
Anthony B Richmond
Newton Thomas Sigel
Eric van Haren Noman
Hoyte van Hoytema
Kees van Oostrum
Theo Van De Sande
Mark H. Weingartner
Guillermo del Toro
Alejandro G. Iñárritu
David O. Russell
Nicolas Winding Refn
M Night Shyamalan
Sterling K. Brown
Robert De Niro
Michael C. Hall
Alan Edward Bell
William Brent Bell
Sophie De Rakoff
Mark L Duncan
Jose Antonio Garcia
Mary Jo Markey
Jeffrey A. Okun
Tatiana S. Riegel
Ellen H. Schwartz
Steven J. Scott
Anna B. Sheppard
Terilyn A. Shropshire
D. Brian Spruill
Juli Silver Taracido