The Oscars' Plan For 'Highlight Reel' Of Certain Awards Sparks Backlash

The 94th Academy Awards telecast this year will not be including eight of the awards on the live show in the same way the rest of them are being presented — and people are very, very upset. Those awards include documentary short, film editing, makeup/hairstyling, original score, production design, animated short, live action short, and sound, and as I mentioned yesterday, this is absolutely wrong. I know the world at large might only care about the big awards, but I'm sorry; below-the-line talent (the people involved in the day to day production), composers, and smaller filmmakers matter. 

The eight awards will still be given, but it won't be on the red carpet or during the pre-show. Instead, the live event will begin an hour earlier, and the eight awards will be recorded, then cut into a highlight reel that will be edited into the show later. The affected nominees were invited to a virtual town hall Zoom call with Academy staff before the announcement was made, according to Deadline. One of the participants explained:

Somebody [from the Academy] shared their screen and a clip was played showing how it might look. And basically, they took the 92nd Academy Awards Documentary Short category, and they edited it down, and more or less what was cut out was the applause after each [nominated] film was named, the applause once the winner was announced, and then there was a shot of the winner getting up from their seat, and then under that shot you hear the beginning of their speech. And then it seemed as though the speech had been truncated by about half, using B-roll cutaways as cover. And then it sort of quickly whisked on to the next category. It was edited in a highlight-reel fashion.

This is unacceptable

The people in these categories are working just as hard as the actors and directors of the big films. They're sometimes working harder. I understand that the Oscars last year had really low ratings, but this is not the way to fix it. As someone who has worked on all sides of this industry, I can feel my face turning red with anger here, but I'm hardly the only one. There has been backlash from the unions and the nominees. 

Best Documentary Short nominee Ben Proudfoot told the site, "Even though I understand the reasoning behind this and I have great empathy for the people that have to make this decision, this isn't it. This is not the answer." Proudfoot also said, "And there's got to be a better way to do what needs to be done, which is to recognize achievement across the board in cinema within three hours, without creating a class system."

The American Cinema Editors Board of Directors put out a statement saying:

We are deeply disappointed by the Academy's decision to alter the way certain categories, including film editing, will be presented in the Oscars® telecast. It sends a message that some creative disciplines are more vital than others. Nothing could be further from the truth and all who make movies know this. As a group of artists wholly dedicated to advancing the art and prestige of film editing, we passionately believe that editing — and all other creative disciplines that are part of the collaborative art of filmmaking – should be treated equally. Our contributions to that collaboration may sometimes appear invisible but they are undeniable. We hope that film editors and other artists affected by this change will be honored and celebrated with the passion, dignity and inclusion they deserve.

Maybe we cut the stupid skits and dance numbers instead

The Motion Picture Editors Guild, IATSE Local 700 made a statement as well:

We understand the Academy's desire to make a more arresting show, but this move renders the 'invisible art' of editing even less visible. The Oscars should be a night to celebrate all of the labor and artistry that combine to bring stories to life on the screen, and we think deserving craftspeople have more than earned their time in the spotlight.

"Bohemian Rhapsody" editor John Ottman, who won in 2019, said on Facebook:

Dear Motion Picture Academy: Your inane plans not only intensely disrespect the crafts of your own members, but the art of film-making itself. More dance numbers and bad jokes aren't going to change your ratings. But a show truly honoring the crucial and intriguing facets of film making just might. As if the entertainment industry weren't seen as vapid enough. Bravo.

I'm finding it really hard to disagree here. Academy, do you think people actually like the stupid skits the hosts put on? No one cares about that. The years of work and craft that goes into every single aspect of filmmaking should be lauded the same way the actors and directors are. No one wants to see presenters read jokes off a teleprompter and attempt to sound spontaneous. Those are the moments I get up to do something else. I want to know who made the things I love, and I want to see them recognized.