When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revealed their plan on Monday to cut down the Oscars’ running time by banishing four of the 24 categories to commercial breaks, the big guns came out right away: Filmmakers like Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuarón (nominated this year for Roma) attacked the decision as disrespectful and shortsighted. Other colleagues, journalists, and film fans did the same.
On Wednesday, as per The Hollywood Reporter, came the biggest guns: Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and Spike Lee — the latter celebrating his first Best Director and Best Picture Oscar nominations, for BlacKkKlansman — are among the second wave of dissenters. In an open letter, signed by dozens in the industry, they demand the Academy reconsider their decision, which would affect the awards for cinematography, film editing, live action short, and hair and make-up.
“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 reads. “We consider this abbreviation and potential censorship to run contrary to the spirit of the Academy’s mission.”
It goes on to read, “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.”
Along with the aforementioned trio, the signees include other filmmakers such as Damien Chazelle, Cary Joji Fukanaga, Spike Jonze, Ang Lee, Dee Rees, and Seth Rogen.
There are plenty of cinematographers, too, among them such luminaries as Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki (Children of Men, The Revenant), Robert Richardson (The Aviator, Inglourious Basterds), Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049), Rachel Morrison (Black Panther), Janusz Kaminski (pretty much every Spielberg since Schindler’s List) and Caleb Deschanel, the latter nominated this year for Never Look Away.
The Academy’s decision was announced by a cinematography, incidentally — one John Bailey, who said the winners’ speeches would be shown at the end of the ceremony, as well as online. Since the backlash, the Academy has responded with their own open letter, which — as per Deadline — calls out what they describe as “inaccurate reporting and social media posts” that have created “a chain of misinformation that has understandably upset many Academy members.” (For the record, none of Uproxx‘s reporting on the controversy, nor that of most publications, has contradicted any information the Academy has put forth.)
There’s still a week-and-a-half until the ceremony, which airs on February 24. Perhaps the Academy will soon realize that when Martin Scorsese speaks up — as he did in the case of the cancelled cinephilic streaming service FilmStruck, which will be partially reborn as forthcoming Criterion Channel — things tend to change.