Oscars Making Controversial Change for Tonight's Live Broadcast

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences made many changes for Sunday night's Oscars, but the most controversial move was taking eight categories away from the live broadcast. The eight awards will be presented at the Dolby Theatre during the hour before the live broadcast begins on ABC at 8 p.m. ET, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed on Feb. 22. Despite an outcry from high profile Academy members and even some resigning, the Academy is going ahead with the plans. Jason Momoa and Josh Brolin are presenting the eight awards.

The categories excised from the live show are film editing, original score, documentary short, live-action short, animated short, sound, makeup and hairstyling, and production design. The award presentations will be filmed, then edited into the main broadcast, similar to what the Academy planned for the 91st Oscars in 2019 before enough backlash forced the organization to back down. That proposal was born when another infamous idea came up, the "Popular Film" category, that was abandoned as well.

While the Grammys and Tonys usually present lower-profile categories before the live ceremonies begin, the Oscars have held off on doing that to show respect for all 17 branches. The Oscars also only have 23 categories compared to the Grammys' 83 in 2021. Oscars fans have also loved seeing every aspect of filmmaking honored during the show, not just those that draw glitzy nominees.

The Academy has felt under pressure to make the show more appealing after the 2021 ceremony was the lowest-rated Oscars telecast ever. In Academy President David Rubin's letter to members, he justified the move as a way to pack in more time during the show for "audience entertainment and engagement through comedy, musical numbers, film clip packages and movie tributes." He also assured members of the branches represented by the eight excised categories that all nominees and winners will still be mentioned during the main show.

"To be clear, all the nominees in ALL awards categories will be identified on-air and ALL winners' acceptance speeches will be featured on the live broadcast," Rubin wrote. "Every awarded filmmaker and artist in every category will still have the celebratory 'Oscar moment' they deserve on the stage of the Dolby, facing an enrapt audience. For the audience at home, the show's flow does not change, though it will become tighter and more electric with this new cadence, and the live broadcast should end – yes, with the Best Picture category – at the three-hour mark."

The decision was widely condemned throughout Hollywood. "I disagree with the decision made by the executive committee. I feel very strongly that this is perhaps the most collaborative medium in the world. All of us make movies together; we become a family where one craft is just as indispensable as the next," Steven Spielberg, who is nominated for directing West Side Story, said in a statement to Deadline. "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. And that means for me; we should all have a seat at the supper table together live at 5."

Peter Kurland, a four-time Oscar-nominated sound mixer who worked with Joel and Ethan Coen, told The Hollywood Reporter he was quitting the Academy in protest. Re-recording mixer Tom Fleishman, who has worked with Martin Scorsese, also resigned. Two other Oscar winners told THR they were considering leaving. 

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During a podcast interview, The Eyes of Tammy Faye nominee Jessica Chastain said she plans to skip most of the red carpet to support the film's hairstyling and makeup team. "I will absolutely be present when the makeup category is being called, and if that means I'm not doing press on the red carpet or ABC or whatever it is, then so be it," Chastain said on Next Best Picture.

While these awards won't be presented live, the Academy plans to mention the Oscars Fan Favorite winner, an online poll the organization launched earlier this month. Producer Will Packer also hired Amy Schumer, Regina Hall, and Wanda Sykes to host the show. The ceremony is scheduled for March 27 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.