The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has reversed a controversial decision regarding the Oscar awards ceremony. Many people in the film industry, including Canadian filmmakers, felt hurt by the initial decision.
The Academy, the organization that runs the Oscar awards ceremony, announced on Feb. 11, 2018 that awards for four categories — Cinematography, Film Editing, Live Action Short, and Makeup and Hairstyling — would be handed out during commercial breaks and not broadcast on live television.
The acceptance and speeches by the winners of these awards would then be edited down and broadcast later in the show. The decision was made to shorten the already more than three-hour-long Oscars ceremony, the Academy said in an email to its members.
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.
— Alfonso Cuaron (@alfonsocuaron) February 12, 2019
After significant backlash, the Academy announced on Friday that it was reversing the decision. “The Academy has heard the feedback from its membership regarding the Oscar presentation of four awards…” read a statement on the Oscars website. “All Academy Awards will be presented without edits, in our traditional format.”
Filmmakers were particularly upset about the removal of the cinematography category.
Evan Prosofsky, a Canadian cinematographer who worked on the short film A Funeral For Lightning and numerous acclaimed music videos, was upset by the Academy’s initial decision.
“I think the Oscars, maybe at their best, [are] a beautiful way for people in the industry to kind of get together and congratulate each other for all the hard work they’ve done,” Prosofsky said in a phone interview. “But I think what [the decision] said is that: We [the Academy] are the people who decide what’s important, you’re not important anymore. That’s what hurt. It would hurt less if it was the public saying we don’t care about cinematography.”
Prosofsky was happy that the decision was reversed.
“The one really inspiring takeaway was how the community banded together,” Prosofsky said. “I mean, within 24 hours, I had five different emails in my inbox from… all these people putting together petitions… my peers and friends all banding together to say, ‘This isn’t okay.’ That was the coolest part for me. Not them actually reversing the decision, but just the outflow of passion from all these filmmakers that said: ‘We’re here, we are important.'”
Jared Raab is a Toronto-based cinematographer and director that has worked on such films as Operation Avalanche and The Dirties. He was not surprised by the Academy’s initial decision.
“I don’t think I’m alone in the industry in viewing the Oscars more as an entertainment program than an actual mark of the achievement within the film industry,” Raab said in a phone interview. “They love to use the brand of being about the artistic form of cinema. They are much more banking on celebrity culture and fanfare to draw in a crowd, and that’s really what the evening is about.”
Raab believes that an awards show is insufficient for actually showing achievement in film.
“A film is a sum of the efforts of the people that are involved in making it, and it is never anything more or less than that,” Raab said. “For singling out a single crew member, or even one film as best picture, is in a way a betrayal of the entire spirit of film-making, which is entirely a collaborative effort.
//Raab’s quote might make for a stronger ending//