Following reports that the Academy had decided to leave out eight categories from the main Oscars event on March 27, nominees and technicians’ guilds have expressed their disappointment.
On Tuesday, US media reported that eight categories, namely Documentary (Short Subject), Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Music (Original Score), Production Design, Short Film (Animated), Short Film (Live Action), and Sound, were to be cut from the live event scheduled to be held at the Dolby Theatre. Instead, they would be announced before the show, with the statements of the winners to be recorded, edited and then merged with the live broadcast.
The step did not go down well with the nominees and their representatives.
One producer told Variety, “It sends a strong message about prioritising of branches and specific filmmakers within the Academy. I think there would be other ways where the Academy could still present these awards live and quicken the pace of the show overall. This specific choice feels a bit lacking in creativity.”
Another nominee called the move “disrespectful.”
The International Cinematographers Guild wrote in its statement that it was “disappointed by the Academy’s decision to exclude so many exceptional artists in other branches from the live broadcast itself.”
The Board of Directors of the American Cinema Editors organisation expressed their resentment, and said in a statement, “It sends a message that some creative disciplines are more vital than others.”
The Academy’s decision to leave out these categories from the live event also irked netizens.
A user wrote, “The Oscars are the only big awards show where artists who make short films are recognised just like big stars. If you remove those categories then it will be like shorts don’t even exist for general people. The Academy should respect all nominees and movie lovers.”
Matthew A Cherry, who won the Oscar for his short film Hair Love, wrote on Twitter, “This is really unfortunate. A big part of what made Hair Love’s Oscar win in 2020 so special was being treated like our category was just as important as all the other ones. Being in a room with peers and being able to give our speech live made our win an even more magical moment.”
Consequently, Academy President David Rubin clarified in a letter addressed to the members of the Academy, later that day, that the winners in the aforementioned categories would not be announced before the ceremony. “Instead, the in-person ceremony at the Dolby Theatre will begin one hour earlier to present eight awards categories before the live telecast starts. Those presentations will then be edited by our creative and production teams and will be folded seamlessly into the live televised show,” Rubin wrote.
The step comes as the Academy pushes to prioritise the television audience “to increase viewer engagement and keep the show vital, kinetic, and relevant,” he explained, adding that the change was undertaken in order to “provide more time and opportunity for audience entertainment and engagement through comedy, musical numbers, film clip packages and movie tributes.”
The viewership of the Oscars has seen a steady decline since 2014. That year’s broadcast was viewed by 43.7 million. In contrast, the last edition, which included Nomadland’s historic win, was viewed by an average of only 10.4 million viewers – a 56% drop.
It is notable that in 2019, the Academy had tried to pull off a similar stunt by cutting out four categories from the live broadcast, namely cinematography, editing, live action short film, and makeup and hairstyling.
However, filmmakers Alfonso Cuaron and Guillermo del Toro, Oscar-winners for their films Roma and The Shape of Water, respectively, and several others called out the Academy’s move. As a result, the curators retracted the proposed step.
It remains to be seen if the Academy will remain firm on its current plan in the face of all the backlash.