The road to the 2019 Oscars has been the bumpiest of rides, to say the least. It’s yielded one controversy after another, from the ill-fated Best Popular Film category, to the Kevin Hart/host-less mishap, to the Best Song disaster (limiting the performances to Lady Gaga’s “Shallow” and Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s “All the Stars,” but caving to heavy resistance).
This, of course, is part of the unpopular plan to truncate some of the craft categories during the telecast by editing them into montages like the Tony Awards. All in the name of shortening the length of the show to less than three hours and struggling to boost the sagging ratings.
Photo by Carlos Somonte
But what about the prestige? What about the showmanship? This is the Academy Awards, for crying out loud! This is Hollywood, the industry’s party, and the integral below-the-line crafts should be celebrated, not marginalized, by cutting them down and presenting select highlights during the telecast. To many crafts people, this is an outrage, and they’ve responded with a flurry of tweetstorms about what’s gone down and much speculation.
But the producers have yet to decide which select categories will be truncated. It all depends on how much advertising comes in. However, IndieWire has learned that several branches volunteered to be first, with Academy President John Bailey, the esteemed cinematographer, leading the way with his branch. Others include sound editing, sound mixing, and documentaries.
But, as one Oscar nominee noted, “It’s an evolution,” as the Academy struggles with these severe growing pains. “And this can be achieved with great editing. “They’re taking a realistic, pragmatic approach,” added a multiple nominee. “The show is too long and they’re cutting it down in length with shorter acceptance speeches, one or two less musical numbers, montages, and shorter craft presentations. All the branches voted yes, and it will be a revolving process where [the few chosen] crafts will then be immune for several years.”
In terms of the rehearsal editing process (just from the main feed, not from individual camera angles as yet), it’s run very smoothly, according to one member. They cut out the walk-ups, and the pulling out of prepared speeches. The goal is to maximize the emotion of the event, and to include clips, the names of nominees, their reactions, and a condensed version of their speeches to honor the triumph of the victory.
However, the timing of telecast montages is important so they don’t lag too far behind the tweets that will emerge during the commercial breaks when the actual awards are handed out.
And the crucial decision about which crafts to condense could still be fraught with controversy, especially as it relates to potentially ground-breaking diversity victories. Is the Academy really going to shortchange Alfonso Cuarón becoming the first director to win Best Cinematography for his innovative black-and-white work on “Roma”? Or Ruth Carter and Hannah Beachler taking home wins for Best Costume Design and Best Production Design for “Black Panther”? (In fact, Beachler and Carter would both be the first African-Americans honored for their craft.) Or, for that matter, Terence Blanchard winning the Oscar for Best Original Score for “BlacKkklansman”? (He would be the first African-American to win in that category in 30 years.)
Whichever way it goes, this new reality, this evolutionary step for the Oscars, must be viewed and analyzed as a work in progress. And we won’t know exactly what they’ve decided until the telecast on February 24th. But then keeping us in suspense is also part of the plan.