After several top filmmakers including Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese, Roger Deakins and Quentin Tarantino signed an open letter to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences criticising its decision to present four technical awards during the commercial breaks of the Oscars telecast on February 24, the Academy released a statement on Wednesday night clarifying its plans, reported Deadline.
Earlier this week, the Academy had announced that the awards for Cinematography, Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling and Live Action Short would be presented during commercial breaks. The winners’ speeches will be aired later in the telecast, while the live stream on Oscar.com (available only in American markets) will show the presentation in real time, the Academy said. The decision was taken to limit the duration of the broadcast to three hours.
In a new letter sent to its members and released as a statement, the Academy said 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” and blamed a “chain of misinformation” because of “inaccurate” media coverage for the outrage.
The four chosen categories had been “volunteered by their branches to have their nominees and winners announced by presenters, and included later in the broadcast”, the Academy said. In coming years, four to six categories may be selected in rotation to be presented during the breaks and this year’s categories will be exempted in 2020, it said.
“We sincerely believe you will be pleased with the show, and look forward to celebrating a great year in movies with all Academy members and with the rest of the world,” the Academy concluded.
The decision to exclude cinematography and editing awards from the live telecast had been harshly criticised, with film industry members contending that this amounted to sidelining the technical categories. In an open letter to Academy President John Bailey, about 40 filmmakers and cinematographers urged film body to reconsider its decision.
“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 said. “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.”
The letter concluded by saying, “To quote our colleague Seth Rogen, ‘What better way to celebrate achievements in film than to NOT publicly honor the people whose job it is to literally film things.’”
Directors Damien Chazelle, Seth Rogen, Ang Lee, cinematographers Emmanuel Lubezki, Robert Richardson and filmmakers Tom Cross, William Goldenberg and Mary Jo Markey were among the signatories.
Nominees for Best Cinematography include Lukasz Zal (Cold War), Caleb Deschanel (Never Look Away), Robbie Ryan (The Favourite), Alfonso Cuaron (Roma) and Matthew Libatique (A Star Is Born).
Barry Alexander Brown (Blackkklansman), Yorgos Mavropsaridis (The Favourite), Patrick J Don Vito (Green Book), John Ottman (Bohemian Rhapsody) and Hank Corwin (Vice) will compete for the film editing award.
The nominees for Best Live Action Short are Detainment by Vincent Lambe, Jeremy Comte’s Fauve, Marguerite by Marianne Farley, Mother by Rodrigo Sorogoyen and Guy Nattiv’s Skin.
Ali Abbas’s Swedish fantasy film Border, Josie Rourke’s Mary Queen of Scots, and Vice will compete for the Makeup and Hairstyling prize.
The Oscars ceremony will be held at Los Angeles’s Dolby Theatre on February 24.