Why Hollywood editors still feel insulted by this year’s Oscars

A bunch of Oscars trophies positioned on a red table
Oscar statuettes backstage at the 86th annual Academy Awards.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Breathing new life into a controversy that dogged the motion picture academy in the run-up to this year’s Oscars, American Cinema Editors released a video statement on Monday blasting the organization for leaving editing and other vital filmmaking crafts “on the cutting-room floor” at this year’s ceremony.

”We feel cheated, insulted and angry by the way our art was deemed superfluous in favor of bloated performances and spectacle,” said the 1,000-plus member organization in its statement, criticizing the academy’s handling of eight crafts and short-film awards that were handed out off-air in the hour before the telecast began.

Nearly a month after the Oscars, emotions are still running high among many academy members over the academy’s much-maligned decision to hand out eight less starry awards — film editing, makeup and hairstyling, original score, production design, and sound, as well as the three short-film categories — before the live show began. The winners’ speeches were later edited into the broadcast in truncated form in an effort to trim the often bloated telecast to under three hours.


The ratings-seeking gambit — which was blasted as an offense to cinema by some of the industry’s most prominent figures ahead of the show — ultimately failed, with seemingly minimal time saved in comparison to traditional presentations and the show clocking in a 3 hours and 40 minutes.

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In its video statement, which was posted to its website, ACE urged the academy’s leadership — which is desperate to boost the show’s sagging ratings — to change course and find a way to treat all honorees with equal respect going forward.

“ACE calls on production designers, set decorators, costume designers, composers, makeup/hair stylists, short-film creators, sound artists and all creative disciplines to join us in demanding fairness and inclusiveness,” the group said. “Give us a voice in this process. Let us work together to find a solution that truly honors filmmaking and assure this never happens again.”

The academy’s board of governors is set to hold a post-mortem meeting on this year’s show, which was derailed when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock over a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. The academy declined to confirm the timing and substance of the next meeting. Still reeling from the fallout of that shocking moment — which ultimately led Smith to resign the group and earned him an official ban from all academy events for 10 years — the 54-member board now needs to reckon with a lingering controversy that has bitterly divided its own membership.

In the weeks leading up to the Oscars, the academy’s decision to hand out the eight categories off-air sparked fierce criticism from various guilds, industry organizations and nominees including Jane Campion, Steven Spielberg, Denis Villeneuve and Guillermo del Toro. In an open letter, 70 prominent film professionals, including James Cameron, John Williams and former academy governor Kathleen Kennedy, blasted the plan, saying it would do “irreparable damage” to the Oscars’ reputation by treating some of film’s most vital craftspeople as “second-class citizens.”

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On the night of the Oscars, co-hosts Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes tried to defuse any lingering tension over the changes among the crowd gathered in the Dolby Theatre with a joke, and most in attendance seemed willing to let it go for the moment. But with the very meaning of the Oscars in question, the issue continues to spark strong feelings among many academy members.

The academy has been under pressure to reverse a steep ratings slide in recent years for a telecast that bills itself as Hollywood’s biggest night. This year’s show drew an average of 16.6 million viewers, up about 60% from last year’s pandemic-dampened show. Still, while the bump in viewership was a relief to the academy and ABC, which airs the telecast, this year’s Oscars still ranks as the second-lowest-rated ever.