Kicking tradition to the curb, the Academy has controversially decided to eliminate four categories from the live broadcast of the 91st Oscars.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the awards for best cinematography, film editing, live-action short, and makeup and hairstyling will be presented during commercial breaks, not during the broadcast as usual.
The plan to present during commercial breaks was reportedly formulated by the Academy’s board of governors in August, but exactly which categories hadn’t been decided on at the time.
So, now we know. Although the cuts are reportedly meant to shorten the show — 24 awards in three hours — they’ve angered many who describe it as disrespectful.
Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro, who took best picture and best director for The Shape of Water in 2018, said cinematography and editing in particular, are “the very heart of our craft … they are cinema itself.” His film was nominated for both categories last year.
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.
— Guillermo del Toro (@RealGDT) February 12, 2019
Others jumped to criticise the decision, calling it “reprehensible.”
The Oscars get shit for being elitist but they are one of the only awards shows that televises winners in the craft categories. This decision is reprehensible. Shame on the Academy. Shame on ABC. If you don’t love a 3+ hour Oscars, you don’t love the Oscars. https://t.co/zSNOTDHhSQ
— Chris Schleicher (@cschleichsrun) February 11, 2019
Even without a host’s warm-up number & monologue taking up time, they feel they still need to eliminate those from the live broadcast?!? Shameful. Those categories were their only time to shine.
— Jon Forsythe and Vote November 6th (@JonJForsythe) February 12, 2019
Let’s apply @TheAcademy‘s logic, (in relegating 4 categories to commercial breaks) to LAST YEAR’S Oscar ceremony.
Roger Deakins finally wins after 13 losses. He gets a standing ovation.
“I really love my job. I’ve been doing it a long time, as you can see.” pic.twitter.com/mu39FnPJUM
— Rhett Bartlett (@dialmformovies) February 11, 2019
Academy president John Bailey announced the decision to keep the awards rolling in the ad breaks in a membership email on Monday, reports THR.
“Viewing patterns for the Academy Awards are changing quickly in our current multi-media world, and our show must also evolve to successfully continue promoting motion pictures to a worldwide audience,” he wrote.
Bailey said the four categories will be streamed online in partnership with ABC and on Oscar.com and the Academy’s social channels.
He also said the four categories could rotate in years ahead, and that those picked this year will be guaranteed a spot on live TV next year. The speeches of the four ad-break winners may air later in the broadcast, although this could reportedly be edited for time.
The cuts are the latest in a slew of unpopular announcements made by the Academy, including the announcement of the Popular Film category and the possible restriction on performances by Original Song nominees — this has since been walked back, with all nominees said to perform (although Kendrick Lamar and SZA have not confirmed a performance of “All the Stars”).
All that’s outside the turmoil surrounding Kevin Hart’s hosting, with a string of old homophobic tweets from the star leading to his stepping down from the post, and the Academy deciding to go hostless for this year’s ceremony.
Plus, the Academy ruffled feathers in January with rumours of abandoning a longtime presenting tradition. It’s custom to invite the winners of Best Actor and Best Actress to present the award to the following year’s recipients — the same goes for Best Supporting Actress and Actor.
When I Tonya star and Best Supporting Actress recipient Allison Janney voiced her disappointment at not being included in the 2019 ceremony, the Academy seemed to walk back its decision by confirming last year’s winners, including Janney, as presenters.
Last year, Allison Janney, Frances McDormand, Gary Oldman and Sam Rockwell had their names read from an envelope and they took home Oscar gold.
This year, they’ll help make more dreams come true.
We’re thrilled to announce they’ll be presenters at this year’s show. #Oscars
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) February 7, 2019
The 91st Academy Awards will take place on Feb. 24. Whether the Academy walks back its decision on categories in commercial breaks this time remains to be seen.
But surely, cutting major awards, disrespecting industry figures, and generating public backlash just to slash the event’s characteristically long running time isn’t worth it.