Drama Movies Column - News and Reviews 4

Drama Movies Column - News and Reviews 4
"The motion picture is so much more plastic an art than is the drama. Language is an inadequate thing at the best to express emotion. We ask a friend whom we love, 'Are you happy?' and he answers 'Yes', but the word means nothing to us. We know he is by the expression of his face, the light in his eye and the joy in his smile. In other words our eye seeks the truth and finds it. How then, can we hope for an enduring success if we try to develop by rules that may apply to the drama with dependence on the spoken word?"

Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.

actor, producer, co-founder of United Artists, founding member and first president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Because of the latest controversy surrounding the telecast of the Oscars on February 24th, I thought a few words of wisdom from the Academy's first president were in order. Fairbanks envisioned the Academy as primarily an academic and advocacy organization. He floated the idea of selling tickets to the annual Oscar ceremony and using the proceeds to fund research and development projects. Fairbanks was not pleased that a "popularity contest" became the central focus of the Academy's activities.

However, the Oscar telecast is the major showcase for Hollywood's below-the-line talent. It is the moment that editors, set designers, hair and costume departments, and cinematographers are able to grab some of the attention reserved for actors and directors. That, in part, is why the Academy's decision to not televise four award categories this year (cinematography, film editing, makeup and hairstyling, live action short) created such a furor. One of my favorite responses came from "The Last Jedi" cinematographer Steve Yedlin. He quipped, "TV show whose sole purpose is to package for public consumption the celebration of cinema craft announces that celebration of cinema craft is too boring for public consumption."

Immediately, the American Society of Cinematographers fired off an open letter decrying the Academy's decision. Representatives from the ASC met with Academy CEO Dawn Hudson and president John Bailey (an accomplished cinematographer himself) yesterday. Among their arguments was that relegating some awards to commercial breaks denigrated their contributions to film. Many of the reactions on social media made the point that without cinematography and editing, there would be no film. Just a few hours ago, the Academy announced it was withdrawing its plans and all awards will be televised. This is a victory for the many craftspeople who work behind the camera. I will be watching on February 24th, no matter how long the ceremony lasts.

Column posted on 2/15/2019.

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