Scorsese, Tarantino, Deakins and More Pen Open Letter Blasting Academy’s Awards Exclusion

     February 14, 2019


Tensions continue to run high as we’re now about a week and a half away from one of the most controversial Oscars ceremonies in history. While it’s the latest development—the decision to hand out awards in four categories during commercial breaks and run edited versions of those acceptance speeches later in the show—that’s got folks up in arms, the truth is this Oscars ceremony has been something of a disaster for months now.

First there was the Popular Oscar fiasco, which was announced in the same press release that revealed the telecast would be omitting certain categories from the live broadcast. The Popular Oscar category was subsequently jettisoned, then the Academy chose Kevin Hart to host, and we all know how that publicly exploded. Then word leaked that the telecast would be breaking from tradition and last year’s acting winners had not been invited to present those awards this year. Public shaming led the Academy to change its mind, which also happened when word leaked that they had only invited two of the five Best Original Song nominees to perform—“Shallow” and “All the Stars”. Lady Gaga and/or someone from her camp reportedly pushed the Academy to include all five nominees in the telecast, and they relented.


Image via Universal Pictures

The latest—and loudest—drama concerns the categories that won’t be televised, and a number of directors, cinematographers, and filmmakers have signed an open letter blasting the Academy for the decision. The Academy has released its own statement, basically calling the news and social media coverage of the decision “fake news” and stressing that the non-live categories—cinematography, film editing, hairstyling & makeup, and live-action shot film—will still air in the ceremony.

Which is true, sort of. According to the Academy, they’ll be cutting out the walk to and from the stage for each of these winners, which would account for a total of like 6 minutes from all categories? So methinks they’ll be doing far more editing than that. Moreover, airing these winners later in the broadcast in clip packages underlines them as “also rans” in relation to the other nominees. Does anyone really feel the weight of the Governor’s Awards or Sci-Tech Awards when those clip packages run during the Oscars? Of course not, because the clip package inherently signals that this is “other” in relation to all the other winners that are announced live.

So I don’t buy this whole, “This has been a big misunderstanding” thing. For their part, the filmmakers who signed this open letter—which includes Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee, Damian Chazelle, Seth Rogen, Ang Lee, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Spike Jonze, and Dee Rees—aren’t buying the Academy’s justification.


Image via The Weinstein Company

While it doesn’t sound like the Academy has any plans of budging on this wrong-headed issue, I do commend these filmmakers for speaking out against the decision. Here’s hoping this year’s Oscars changes are a one-and-done. Read their full statement below.

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