"A Little Demeaning": Oscar Voters Sigh as Academy Boots Some Winners to Commercial Breaks

While the winners in four categories won't be announced live on the Feb. 24 broadcast, some question why cinematography and film editing had to be affected.

The Academy’s decision to present four of its Oscars during commercial breaks at the 91st Oscars, which ABC will air Feb. 24, didn’t meet with any applause when it was unveiled Monday. Film fans took to Twitter to complain loudly that four categories — cinematography, film editing, live-action shorts and hair and makeup — will be presented during commercial breaks, some using the hashtag #PresentAll24, a reference to the 24 awards on which Academy members began voting Tuesday.

But while a few Academy members were quick to question the move, others, when contacted by The Hollywood Reporter, appeared to accept it with something akin to disappointed resignation.

La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz was among the first to react to the news, tweeting a thumbs-down emoji.

"To hand out these awards in such a flagrantly dismissive manner is unconscionable," Alec Baldwin tweeted. "Cinematography? An afterthought? The Academy keeps sinking lower and lower w these ideas."

And actor-director Seth Rogen tweeted sarcastically, "What better way to celebrate achievements in film than to not publicly honor the people's who's job it is to literally film things."

Guillermo del Toro, director of last year’s best picture Oscar winner, The Shape of Water, tweeted, “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.”

Responding to del Toro on Twitter, Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins commented, "I couldn't agree more. If we are here to celebrate the craft and the medium, it's hard to imagine putting these categories down a tier from the others."

Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki, the Oscar-winning cinematographer of Gravity, Birdman and The Revenant, seconded del Toro's sentiment, posting on his Instagram account, "Cinematography and editing are probably the 'elementary particles,' the primordial components of cinema. It's an unfortunate decision." 

Their colleague, Roma's Alfonso Cuaron, who is nominated this year in the cinematography category, added his voice, tweeting, "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."

Also saying it was “unfortunate that the Academy was forced to do this,” Kees van Oostrum, president of the American Society of Cinematographers and an Academy member himself, noted that it was ironic that John Bailey, the current president of the Academy, is a cinematographer, adding, “but I don’t think he had a choice.” 

Speaking with THR, van Oostrum said, “We see it as an evolution of the times. People aren't committing to long shows like they used to. I think the requirements of a TV show are different than they used to be.” He added that with this change, the awards ceremonies for the individual crafts such as the ASC Awards — which handed out its honors Saturday before a capacity crowd of 1,600 guests — will become more important, and events such as the international cinematography festival Camerimage, held each November in Poland, "will fill a void” in the community.

"I think it's a little demeaning to all of the categories that work on the movies,” said one member of the film editors branch, who declined to be named. But, he acknowledged, “they have to do something to shorten the show.” He added that "I don’t think anyone was wildly happy" at the film editors branch, which nevertheless agreed to go along with the experiment. 

“We knew this was coming. We had meetings about it,” offers Sue Cabral-Ebert, who is a member of the makeup and hairstylists branch and past president of Make-up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild. “It hurts our feelings, no doubt about that, [but] we understand this is on a rotational basis and it has to do more with the timing of the show. They were trying to do everything they can to keep it relevant and short enough so that people don’t tune out.”

Similar to van Oostrum, Cabral-Ebert, who also chairs the MUHSG awards, which will be held this Saturday, added that this change seems to emphasize the importance of guild awards.

In the email sent Monday to Academy members, Bailey explained that in the case of the four categories that won’t be presented live, the winners' speeches will be taped to air later in the broadcast. The presentations will also stream live on Oscar.com and the Academy’s social channels. And the affected categories will rotate from year to year.

Back in August, the board of governors approved the new method of presenting some of the awards in order to cut down on the length of the show, but it was not known until Monday exactly which categories would be affected. Bailey said the executive committees of six of the Academy's 17 branches volunteered to have their respective awards presented under the new system, and that the Academy selected four of them.

He didn’t explain how the four categories were chosen, but In addition to serving as president of the Academy, Bailey sits on the board of governors as a representative of the cinematographers branch. His wife, Carol Littleton, is on the board, representing the film editors. And Lois Burwell, the Academy’s first vp and chair of the awards and events committee, is a governor representing the makeup and hairstyling branch. 

According to several sources, various branches were shown a video demonstration of what the new format will look in advance of Monday’s announcement. It is said to have included most of the presentation for each award, minus the winner's walk to the stage. The goal, they were told, was to include the spirit of each winner's acceptance speech, although the speeches could be edited if they turn into a long list of thank-yous.

Several of those who saw the video demonstration said that it provided a respectful acknowledgment of the affected category and helped to ease their concerns. 

Feb. 12, 11:15 a.m.: Updated with comments from Alfonso Cuaron, Patty Jenkins, Seth Rogen and Alec Baldwin.
Feb. 12, 4.44 p.m. Updated with comment from Sue Cabral-Ebert.