Earlier this week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) revealed the four categories that will be presented off-air during the telecast of its 91st annual Academy Awards ceremony, taking place on Sunday, February 24th, 2019. The move was made in an effort to keep this year's ceremony to a somewhat brisk three hours.
The industry outcry was large and loud, with most attention being paid to the fact that the Cinematography and Editing awards (obviously two of cinema's most vital tools) will be handed out during commercial breaks of this year's program.
If the award show, honoring the best in film achievement, can't find a moment to honor its most creative tool (that is, the camera), then what is the point of the show to begin with? If it's all about movie stars and celebrity, aren't we skipping a chance to honor the men and women who endlessly work behind the camera? Is it not also their night to celebrate and be celebrated?
Academy president John Bailey, himself a cinematographer, has taken quite a bit of flack for this decision, and now, in an open letter presented to the Academy, the resistance has reached a fever pitch.
Signed by some of Hollywood's most notable directors and cinematographers, the letter can be read in full below. And to get a glimpse of the kind of acceptance speech we will be missing out on on this year's telecast, check out Roger Deakin's Best Cinematography win/speech last year for Blade Runner 2049.
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 Rogen, “What better way to celebrate achievements in film than to NOT publicly honor the people whose job it is to literally film things.”
Anthony Dod Mantle
Newton Thomas Sigel
Hoyte van Hoytema
Kees van Oostrum
Cary Joji Fukunaga
Alan Edward Bell
Sophie De Rakoff
Mary Jo Markey
Tatiana S. Riegel
Anna B. Sheppard
Terilyn A. Shropshire