On the 12th of February, it was reported that the film academy would be cutting four Oscar categories from the 91st Academy Awards live broadcast.
During the ceremony on the 24th of February, the plan was to present the awards for these four categories – which were for best cinematography, film editing, makeup & hairstyling, and live-action short – off the air, during commercial breaks. This was because they wanted to shorten the show to three hours.
It is important to note that they didn’t plan on getting rid of these categories. The awards still would have been handed out on the night of the ceremony, but the winning speeches would have been edited to remove the winner’s walk from their seats to the stage, and each speech would have been aired separately later on in the telecast (Variety).
There was a lot of discontent on social media from a lot of big names, but also from people like us who understood the importance of these categories in the making of a film. Moreover, The American Society of Cinematography sent an open letter that was signed by hundreds of people, including names like Spike Lee and Quentin Taratino. All this outcry was definitely forms of activism, and it worked. All four categories were handed out live on air, and all the winners rightly got their chance to shine in the spotlight.
Below: social media outrage over planned cuts to the show.
However, this does highlight a growing problem: the under-appreciation of the men and women who help make a film what it is. An extract from the letter written by The American Society of Cinematography reads “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” (Strange, 2019), and this definitely hits the nail on the head.
More specifically, Guillermo del Toro, the Oscar-winning director of The Shape of Water, said “If I may: I would not presume to suggest what categories to cut during the Oscars show but – Cinematography and Editing are at the very heart of our craft. They are not inherited from a theatrical tradition or a literary tradition: they are cinema itself” (Michallon, 2019). I only focus on editing and cinematography in this research as it is the fields I’m studying, I don’t mean to diminish the importance if the other two categories that were in danger of being excluded from the live broadcast.
The problem of under-appreciation for the departments that make up the backbone of film is highlighted even more by the proposals late last year of adding an award for ‘Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film’, essentially ‘a way to reward blockbuster movies otherwise not considered prestigious enough to warrant Oscars on their own’ (Desta, 2019). Going deeper than this explanation, in many people’s eyes it seemed to be a way to pander to mainstream audiences in hopes of increasing the viewing figures for the Oscars.
In fact, all of these incidents were in response to the fall in viewership from the previous Oscars. But this is an important point – it seems as if the intentions are well placed. They want their viewing figures to increase, but went about it in a bad way by insulting the departments that make a film what it is. In their eyes, the audience aren’t interested in cinematography or editing, hair & makeup or live-action shorts.
This links back to under-appreciation. Is the Academy under-appreciating these very valuable departments, or is it normal, everyday people who are under-appreciating these categories? Is it their fault though? Maybe the media outlets and press who are always sensualising the actors and actresses of the screen has the result of credit being taken away from other areas. The fact that actors and actresses get paid much more than other areas, especially in movies like Transformers where the movie is made by the special effects, also goes to show where people put their priorities.
Campea, J. (2019). Oscars Cut Cinematography And Editing From Show. [online] YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6thvrTHacwQ [Accessed 2 Mar. 2019].
Desta, Y. (2019). The Best-Popular-Film Oscar Was an Attempt to Save Ratings, Academy President Confirms. [online] HWD. Available at: https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/11/best-popular-oscar-ratings-john-bailey [Accessed 2 Mar. 2019].
En.wikipedia.org. (2019). Academy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academy_Award_for_Outstanding_Achievement_in_Popular_Film [Accessed 2 Mar. 2019].
Gleiberman, O. (2019). What Are ABC and the Academy Doing to the Oscars? Trying to Cut Cinema Itself Down to Size. [online] Variety. Available at: https://variety.com/2019/film/columns/oscars-abc-academy-commercial-breaks-opinion-1203138468/ [Accessed 2 Mar. 2019].
McNary, D. and McNary, D. (2019). Oscar Categories That Almost Didn’t Make It on TV Get Their Time in Spotlight. [online] Variety. Available at: https://variety.com/2019/film/news/oscars-2019-cinematography-editing-make-up-hairstyling-live-action-short-1203144712/ [Accessed 2 Mar. 2019].
Michallon, C. (2019). Here are the four categories that won’t air during the Oscars this year. [online] The Independent. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/oscars-2019-categories-cut-when-tv-cinematography-film-editing-make-up-hair-live-action-short-a8776086.html [Accessed 2 Mar. 2019].
Strange, H. (2019). Academy backtracks on plans to present four Oscars in ad breaks after outcry from stars. [online] The Telegraph. Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/02/16/academy-backtracks-plans-present-four-oscars-ad-breaks-outcry/ [Accessed 2 Mar. 2019].