The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences wanted everyone to be talking about the Oscars, and in a way it got what it wanted. In a bid to make the famously long Academy Awards telecast a tad tighter, eight award presentations have been cut from the main telecast and will be handed out an hour before ABC starts its broadcast. The Academy assured concerned parties in a letter that the awards will be presented in front of “a full audience in their seats, not seat fillers” — but that seems implausible given that the red-carpet show will be taking place simultaneously. Winners will be given full time to give their thank-yous, then condensed presentations and speeches will be played on the main telecast. However, many feel the impact of these awards will be lessened by their being “spoiled” an hour beforehand.
Steven Spielberg, whose West Side Story is nominated in two of the eight cut categories, spoke to Deadline about the undemocratic optics of the division between Big Event awards and ones the Academy thinks are safe to cut. “I feel that at the Academy Awards there is no above the line, there is no below the line. All of us are on the same line bringing the best of us to tell the best stories we possibly can,” Spielberg said. “And that means for me we should all have a seat at the supper table together live at five.”
Spielberg’s comments echo a letter signed by such luminaries as James Cameron, John Williams, and Guillermo del Toro. Spielberg said he’s not sanguine about this decision getting reversed, despite a similar plan being axed at the 11th hour in 2019. “I hope it’s reversed,” he said, “but I’m not anticipating a reversal, and I am not optimistic about it.” Since the Oscars were invented in part to bust up emerging industry unions, should Spielberg really be surprised that they’re splitting up above- and below-the-line workers? If anything, it’s a return to the ceremony’s roots.