In the days following the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ decision to cut the awarding of four awards — Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup and Hairstyling and Best Live-Action Short — from the live telecast of the 91st annual Academy Awards in an effort to reduce the runtime, a number of filmmakers have publicly come out in defense of the categories being dropped, most notably the cinematography and editing awards. A larger group of high-profile cinematographers, directors and filmmakers have now written an open letter to the president of the Academy, John Bailey, further criticizing the removal of the four awards from the broadcast.
The open letter, signed by more than 40 cinematographers, directors and filmmakers including Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, Damien Chazelle, Spike Lee, Roger Deakins, Emmanuel Lubezki, Rachel Morrison, Ang Lee, Cary Joji Fukunaga and Seth Rogen, claims the Academy is sacrificing the integrity of its original mission by diminishing the recognition of those responsible for outstanding cinema.
The open letter follows social media criticism from Guillermo Del Toro and cinematography frontrunner Alfonso Cuarón who tweeted, “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.”
The entire letter can be read below:
An Open Letter to The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and The Producers of the 91st Annual Academy Awards Broadcast:
On Monday, February 11, 2019, John Bailey, President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, announced that this year’s Oscar presentations for Best Cinematography — along with Film Editing, Live Action Short and Makeup and Hairstyling — will not be broadcast live, but rather presented during a commercial break. This decision was made to reduce the length of the show from four hours to three. The vocal response from our peers and the immediate backlash from industry leaders over the Academy’s decision makes it clear that it’s not too late to have this decision reversed.
The Academy was founded in 1927 to recognize and uphold excellence in the cinematic arts, inspire imagination and help connect the world through the universal medium of motion pictures. Unfortunately, we have drifted from this mission in our pursuit of presenting entertainment rather than in presenting a celebration of our art form and the people behind it.
Relegating these essential cinematic crafts to lesser status in this 91 st 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 show’s director, Glenn Weiss, has stated that he will determine what “emotionally resonant” moments from the four winners’ speeches will be selected to air later in the broadcast. The show will cut any additional comment from presenters, as well as any recitation of the nominees as they see fit.
Since its inception, the Academy Awards telecast has been altered over time to keep the format fresh, but never by sacrificing the integrity of the Academy’s original mission. 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. To quote our colleague Seth Rogen, “What better way to celebrate achievements in film than to NOT publicly honor the people whose job it is to literally film things.”
Dion BeebeBill BennettRoger DeakinsPeter DemingCaleb DeschanelRobert ElswitMauro FioreGreig FraserJanusz KaminskiEllen KurasEd LachmanRobert LegatoEmmanuel LubezkiAnthony Dod MantleSeamus McGarveyChris MengesDan MindelReed MoranoRachel MorrisonGuillermo NavarroPhedon PapamichaelWally PfisterRodrigo PrietoRobert PrimesRobert RichardsonLinus SandgrenJohn SealeNewton Thomas SigelVittorio StoraroJohn TollHoyte van HoytemaKees van OostrumRoy Wagner
Damien ChazelleCary Joji FukunagaSpike JonzeAng LeeSpike LeeDee ReesSeth RogenMartin ScorseseQuentin Tarantino
Kym BarrettJudy BeckerAlan Edward BellErin BenachAvril BeukesConsolata BoyleMaryann BrandonAlexandra ByrneMilena CanoneroChris CorbouldHank CorwinTom CrossNathan CrowleySophie De RakoffChris DickensBob DucsayLou EyrichDante FerrettiPaul FranklinDana GlaubermanWilliam GoldenbergAffonso GoncalvesAdam GoughJon GregoryDorian HarrisJoanna JohnstonPaul LambertMary Jo MarkeyJoi McMillonEllen MirojnickStephen MirrioneBob MurawskiJohn OttmanSandy PowellFred RaskinTatiana S. RiegelElísabet RonaldsdóttirMayes RubeoNat SandersJ.D. SchwalmAnna B. SheppardTerilyn A. Shropshire
Joan SobelMichael TronickMark UlanoMartin WalshDavid WascoBilly WeberJulie WeissMichael WilkinsonHughes WinborneJanty YatesMary Zophres
Leaders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences responded to the open letter on Wednesday, stressing that all 24 awards would be presented on stage, with the acceptance speeches being edited for to take place later on in the broadcast.
The 91st Academy Awards will be broadcast live on Sunday, February 24 at 8 pm ET/PT on ABC.