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Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro Criticize Oscars for Burning Cinematography

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Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro Criticize Oscars for Burning Cinematography

On Monday, the Academy revealed which categories would be relegated to the commercial breaks during the upcoming Oscar telecast: cinematography, film editing, live-action short, and makeup and hairstyling. Now that it’s official, the backlash has immediately begun rolling in—not only from within the Academy’s ranks, but also from current nominees.

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Alfonso Cuarón, the two-time Oscar winner who is nominated for several Oscars again this year for Roma, made his dissatisfaction known almost immediately. “In the history of CINEMA, masterpieces have existed without sound, without color, without a story, without actors and without music,” he wrote on Twitter Tuesday morning. “No one single film has ever existed without CINEMAtography and without editing.”

His friend and fellow Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro, who won best director last year and whose film The Shape of Water won best picture, also tweeted about the decision. He took a similar tack to Cuarón, noting how intrinsic cinematography and editing are to movies. “If I may: I would not presume to suggest what categories to cut during the Oscars show but – Cinematography and Editing are at the very heart of our craft,” he wrote. “They are not inherited from a theatrical tradition or a literary tradition: they are cinema itself.”

Three-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, a frequent Cuarón collaborator, also chimed in, sharing a screenshot of the report on Instagram and coupling it with this caption: “Cinematography and editing are probably the ‘elementary particles,’ the primordial components of cinema. It’s an unfortunate decision.”

An unnamed member of the Academy’s film-editing branch called the decision “a little demeaning to all of the categories that work on the movies” in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. However, they noted, “they have to do something to shorten the show.”

This decision is just the latest unpopular choice made by the Academy as it pursues a shorter running time, higher ratings, and fresh tactics to draw new viewers to the Oscars. However, this decision has come at the risk of alienating not only past, present, and future nominees, but also devoted viewers who want to celebrate cinema in its totality. The decision also has an edge that is promoting conspiracy theories—as journalist and author Mark Harris pointed out , none of the categories relegated to commercial breaks feature Disney movies as nominees. Disney is the parent company of ABC, which is televising the Oscars and owns the broadcast rights for the ceremony through 2028 . It’s a glum state of affairs for the prestigious ceremony, which is clumsily grappling with mercurial viewing habits.

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Academy President John Bailey —who is himself, ironically, a cinematographer—said the four categories would be streamed live online and on the Academy’s social channels, which is a minimal balm. In addition, according to T.H.R., some Academy members were shown a video proposal of what the new format would look like and it seemed respectful, all things considered.

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