In the end, Oscar watchers and industry members all seemed relieved that all the categories were handed out on air, reversing the Academy’s original plan to present some categories during commercials.
Recipients of the Academy Awards for cinematography, editing, make-up and hairstyling, and live-action shorts all got their time in the spotlight on Sunday night’s Oscar broadcast.
Alfonso Cuaron won for cinematography for “Roma”; John Ottman won editing for “Bohemian Rhapsody”; “Skin,” directed by Guy Nattiv, won for live action short and Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia Dehaney took the make-up and hairstyling trophy for “Vice,” only to be played off the stage when their speech went on too long.
Those four awards categories were left in Oscar limbo when on Feb. 11, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the decision to curtail four Oscar presentations from the live telecast. The goal — keep the broadcast at its planned three-hour length — but a firestorm of protest erupted and AMPAS relented four days later. Although the Academy tried to explain that winners would still be televised, but in edited form, the outcry was loud and clear.
Tyler Perry addressed the controversy head-on in presenting the cinematography award.
“Community,” he said. “We often use that word to describe who we are and what connects all of us involved in the different elements that bring a film from an idea in the writer’s mind to its premiere on the big screen. Each person, each craft, each discipline is essential to that process. Deep down, we know that. We always have and, in the end, this truly collaborative community comes together on a night like this to celebrate this past year and to look forward to the next. It is a true honor for me to present this next award live on camera, not during the commercial break — thank you, Academy.”
Cuaron, who was nominated for five Oscars for “Roma” and won three, said in his acceptance speech, “Thank you so much. This is an amazing honor. Thank you, Academy. To create a single frame of film, as you well know, requires the work of a lot of people, very hard work. So I want to thank Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira before anybody else. The amazing cast and crew, Gabriela Rodríguez and Nicolás Celis as producers, Participant and Netflix, Technicolor and Arri.”
He then alluded to iconic directors Billy Wilder, Ernst Lubitsch and his usual D.P. Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, who won Oscars for “Gravity,” “Birdman” and “The Revenant,” but was not available during the filming of “Roma.”
“If this film was created by my own memories, the film was crafted through the memories of what this great master of cinematography has given to us,” Cuaron said. “It is well-known that in Billy Wilder’s office there was a sign that said ‘What would Lubitsch have done?” And for me, it was what would ‘Chivo Lubezki would have done?’ So this is for you, too, Chivo. And thank you very much, Mexico.”
Cuaron had joined in the protest soon after the Academy’s decision was announced on Feb. 11, saying, “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 American Society of Cinematography issued a blistering open letter on Feb. 12 that was signed by hundreds, including Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, Roger Deakins, Damien Chazelle, Ang Lee, Martin Scorsese and George Clooney.
Officers of the Academy responded in an explanatory letter on Feb. 13, asserting that the four categories were “volunteered” by their branches to have their nominees and winners announced by presenters, and included later in the broadcast with the time spent walking to the stage and off being edited out. The letter also attempted to shift the blame from the Academy.
“Unfortunately, as the result of inaccurate reporting and social media posts, there has been a chain of misinformation that has understandably upset many Academy members,” it said.
That assertion was seen by many as high-handed and only fanned the flames of resentment about the exclusions. It also gave journalists another news peg to portray the handling of the situation as another misstep by the Academy.
On Feb. 14, ASC President Van Oostrum and three other ASC members — Hoyte van Hoytema, Rachel Morrison and Lubezki — met with Dawn Hudson, CEO of the Academy, and Academy president and cinematographer John Bailey.
AMPAS reversed the decision on Feb. 15 with the simple statement: “The Academy has heard the feedback from its membership regarding the Oscar presentation of four awards – Cinematography, Film Editing, Live Action Short, and Makeup and Hairstyling. All Academy Awards will be presented without edits, in our traditional format. We look forward to Oscar Sunday, February 24.”
Van Oostrom’s response: “We thank you for your show of respect for the hard-working members of the film community, whose dedication and exceptional talents deserve the public recognition this reversal now allows them to enjoy. The honor offered by the Academy Awards is vital to validating the claim that everyone contributing to the making of a motion picture is an artist.”