Tuesday, March 19, 2019
  • Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019
Decision To Present 4 Oscars During Commercial Breaks Draws Criticism
Kees van Oostrum, ASC, president of the American Society of Cinematographers
  • LOS ANGELES
  • --

Ironically just two days after John Bailey, ASC, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, extolled the artistry of DPs, presenting the marquee American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Award for feature achievement to Lukasz Zal, PSC for Cold War (it was accepted by his camera operator, Ernest Wilczynski), the film academy announced on Monday (2/11) that the Oscars for excellence in four categories--cinematography, film editing, makeup and hairstyling, and live action short--will be presented during the commercial breaks of this year’s ceremony. Winning speeches will air later in the broadcast and will also be live-streamed on Oscar.com and the academy’s social accounts.

Now emerging today was considerable industry criticism of the decision to present these four live honors off-air in an attempt to shorten the length of the Academy Awards telecast.

ASC president Kees van Oostrum, for example, issued an open letter to ASC rank-and-file which read in part, “After receiving many comments on this matter from ASC members, I think I speak for many of them in declaring this a most unfortunate decision. We consider filmmaking to be a collaborative effort where the responsibilities of the director, cinematographer, editor and other crafts often intersect. This decision could be perceived as a separation and division of this creative process, thus minimizing our fundamental creative contributions.

“The Academy is an important institution that represents our artistry in the eyes of the world,” continued van Oostrum. “Since the organization’s inception 91 years ago, the Academy Awards have honored cinematographers’ talent, craft and contributions to the filmmaking  process, but we cannot quietly condone this decision without protest.

Among other prominent industry artists objecting to the Academy decision was Alfonso Cuaron whose Roma is currently nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Production Design, Screenplay, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. Cuaron himself is a nominee as a director, producer (Best Picture), writer and cinematographer for Roma. He tweeted in response to the film academy decision. “In the history of CINEMA, masterpieces have existed without sound, without color, without a story, without actors and without music. No one single film has ever existed without CINEMAtography and without editing.”

Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, a three-time Oscar winning cinematographer--for Cuaron’s Gravity and Alejandro G. Inarritu’s Birdman and The Revenant--posted on his Instagram account, ““Cinematography and editing are probably the ‘elementary particles,’ the primordial components of cinema. It’s an unfortunate decision.” (Lubezki also directs commercials and branded content via Park Pictures.)

And Reed Morano, who first established herself as a DP before successfully becoming a director--as Emmy and DGA Awards for The Handmaid’s Tale would attest--also criticized the exclusion of key categories from the live broadcast. She tweeted, “WHEN RATINGS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE THING YOU’RE CELEBRATING. OF COURSE THE REVENUE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE ART! (THAT MAKES THE REVENUE) SO THE EASIEST THING TO DO IS JUST FOLD INTO LINE INSTEAD OF STANDING UP FOR THE ART YOU YOURSELF CREATE. JUST ANOTHER DAY IN HOLLYWOOD, FOLKS.”

Morano made her feature directorial debut in 2015 with Meadowland, which she also shot, earning a best cinematography honor at the Independent Spirit Awards.

The plan to hand out certain Oscars during commercials to attain a three-hour telecast runtime was announced in August 2018. In future years, plans call for another four to six rotating categories to be cut from the broadcast.

The 91st Oscars will be held on Sunday, February 24, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, Calif.,and will be televised live on the ABC Television Network.  The Oscars also will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.

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