The 2019 Oscars have been like Sideshow Bob in that Simpsons episode where he keeps stepping on rakes: Every decision has resulted in a swift whack to their own face. First there was their quickly jettisoned notion of a “Popular Movie” category, widely seen as condescending to popular films like Black Panther (which wound up being nominated for Best Picture anyway). Then there was their disastrous, ultimately fruitless attempts to find a host, resulting in them going with none for the first time in 30 years
Then there have been their attempts to cut the notoriously long ceremony down. First they wanted to snip some, but not all, of the Best Original Song performances; the outcry put a kibosh on that. Now the same thing’s happening to their newly announced decision to not air four of the categories, instead handing out the respective awards during commercial/bathroom breaks.
The decision — revealed by Academy president John Bailey — came Monday night, and it was met with swift and loud disapproval. The categories in question are cinematography, film editing, live action short, and hair and make-up. (Bailey, incidentally, is a longtime cinematographer.) Everyone, especially broadcasting company ABC, wants a show that runs not much longer than three hours. But the attempts to shorten the ceremony have so far been seen as disrespectful and cruel.
(The record for longest show, by the way, is the 2002 Oscars, which ran a whopping four hours and 23 minutes — or, to put it into perspective, almost a half hour longer than Gone with the Wind. The shortest was the first, from 1929: a mere 15 minutes, long before the show was broadcast — before, indeed, there was even broadcast television.)
Nominees, their colleagues, film journalists, and film fans (including us) all expressed their vitriol. “I find it depressing that they are doing this,” said veteran cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, nominated this year for Never Look Away. “Hopefully it won’t be like the part of the show where they play clips from the Sci-Tech awards dinner. That always feels a bit sad, like they didn’t get invited to the real party.
“Cinematography predates writing, directing, editing, music, and sound,” Deschanel added. “Movies started with a guy cranking a camera. A cinematographer!”
As per The Hollywood Reporter, The American Society of Cinematographers sent a letter to its 380 members Tuesday, condemning the decision. “We consider filmmaking to be a collaborative effort where the responsibilities of the director, cinematographer, editor and other crafts often intersect,” wrote group president Kees van Oostrum. “This decision could be perceived as a separation and division of this creative process, thus minimizing our fundamental creative contributions.”
Others voiced their dissent on social media. Those included filmmakers, including Alfonso Cuarón, director of acclaimed multi-nominee Roma.
And it included his brother-in-arms (and last year’s big Oscar winner) Guillermo del Toro.
Other filmmakers lent their support.
As did Rachel Morrison, who last year became the first woman ever nominated for the Best Cinematography Oscar, for Mudbound. (She also lensed Black Panther.)
Speaking of which, the winner of that award last year — the great Roger Deakins, finally fêted for Blade Runner 2049 — resulted in one of the more moving parts of the evening.
Those working in media also took up arms.
Others pointed out favorite moments in cinematography and/or editing.
Others made gallows humor jokes.
And others urged us not to forget history, as we so often do.
(Via Variety and THR)