The Oscars’ Latest Decision Sparks Backlash After Nominees Were “Set Up” in a Zoom Call
Art and Experience:
Many are upset as the Academy tries to prove that they know what’s best.
On Tuesday, the Academy unveiled its plan to cut the winners of Best Editing and seven other categories from this year’s live Oscar broadcast in hopes of reviving their viewership. Their decision was met with shock, disappointment, and outrage from the filmmaking community for valid reasons.
The Queen of Basketball director Ben Proudfoot, who was nominated for Best Documentary Short, stated, “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… 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.”
Proudfoot also took to Twitter, staying:
Our doc short nominee THE QUEEN OF BASKETBALL is about overlooked basketball pioneer Lucy Harris who never got the spotlight she deserved.
Lucy and her family deserve the full Oscars spotlight, don’t you think? https://t.co/oHTwyfCOWz
— Ben Proudfoot (@bgproudfoot) February 23, 2022
Proudfoot wasn’t alone in his response to the Academy’s confounding decision. Our own editor, George Edelman, weighed in alongside other film fans.
Wow it’s almost like the Oscars aren’t really about honoring quality filmmaking and are just about celebrities and PR.
— George Edelman (@GeorgeEdelman) February 22, 2022
This is truly the ultimate insult to the art of filmmaking. Without score, makeup, hair, editing, sound, production design you would have nothing. Why distort the show? ARE YOU REALLY going to Edit Joe Walker and Hank Corwin and Myron Kerstein? #Oscars
— Jazz Tangcay (@jazzt) February 23, 2022
I can’t believe this has to be repeated every year but: PEOPLE WHO DON’T WATCH THE OSCARS WON’T TUNE INTO THE OSCARS NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO! Stop distorting the show for people who actually do watch!
— Jorge Molina (@colormejorge) February 22, 2022
Before the AMPAS made its decision Tuesday, Proudfoot was among dozens of nominees who were invited on to a so-called virtual town hall Zoom call with staff members of the Academy that afternoon. One of the nominees who was on that call revealed to Deadline that the entire meeting was a setup to break the news that eight Oscar categories were to be pre-taped before the ceremony.
According to multiple sources, the call was stunned with silence before flooding mid-level AMPAS officials with so many questions that Academy CEO Dawn Hudson was summoned to the meeting to defend her decision.
The Zoom presentation by the Academy even included visual aids for the nominees of what Oscar producers envisioned for the pre-taped winners, with one participant saying:
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 [when] 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 onto the next category. It was edited in a highlight-reel fashion.
A similar suggestion was mentioned back in 2019 to pre-tape select categories, edit them, and then roll them into the show, but the outcry was too intense and the Academy backtracked.
The Academy has not responded to any request for comment about Tuesday’s Zoom call or the reaction from nominees and members. However, the American Cinema Editors Board of Directors made it clear that they believe a line has been crossed.
— AmericanCinemaEditor (@ACEFilmEditors) February 23, 2022
Everybody—except the Academy—seems to agree. If you’re celebrating cinema as a craft and awarding those who push the boundaries in their respective elements, then why would you cut out the people who make the movie in the first place? Each nominee should be celebrated for their work, not treated like an afterthought that gets edited into the live program.
Excluding Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Original Score, Production Design, Sound, Documentary Short, Animated Short, and Live Action Short from the broadcast reinforce a sense of classism toward certain members of the filmmaking community. Not only is the choice beyond disrespectful to the art, but it shows naivety and incompetence.
People who don’t watch the Oscars won’t tune in just to see their favorite star or film for a glimmer of a second. People who don’t watch the Oscars probably won’t watch it now or ever. Those who love cinema probably won’t be tuning in either given that many of the important categories have just been cut from the lineup. Will the numbers plummet even further this year for the award show? All signs point to yes.