Frustrations in some quarters over the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ plan to present Oscars to eight predominantly craft categories before Sunday’s ABC telecast and then weave edited versions of those winners into the live show might lead to acts of protest that go up all the way to the podium at the Dolby Theatre.
Cinema Audio Society president Karol Urban confirmed Thursday that a plan was in the works for attendees to wear their guild badges upside down during Sunday’s ceremony, and for winners to flip their Oscars when they accept them.
“There is a multitude of different organizations that are working together to find ways to circumvent having their voices clipped,” said Urban, who leads the group that represents sound mixers. “As the Oscars get closer, more and more craft people are showing solidarity. If there’s anything positive that comes out of this very terrible situation this year, it’s that we are becoming more solidified as the day comes closer.”
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Sources told Deadline that murmurings of an action plan began with some members of the Sound community, one of the impacted categories due the preshow treatment, a list that also includes Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Original Score, Production Design and Documentary Short, Animated Short and Live Action Short.
The idea that we hear is “spreading” is that nominees in one or more of those categories would wear their Academy or guild lapel pins upside down in protest of what many say is a slight by not being celebrated live during the ABC telecast. In some instances, winners might hold their Oscar statuettes upside down when they accept them onstage.
“It’s not an organized thing. It’s word of mouth,” a source told Deadline today about the protest plans. “People are talking about wearing their Academy lapel pins upside down, and holding their Oscar statues upside down if they win one. Some will definitely go there, and some won’t. It’s spreading. It’s getting some currency.”
Sources say the idea is spreading to the other left-out crafts. Most are represented by unions, meaning shows of solidarity are certainly possible.
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Earlier this week, the CAS urged the Academy “to use these last remaining days before their 94th Awards ceremony to choose the bold and courageous path of inclusivity by respecting and presenting all categories live.” The Association of Motion Picture Sound joined in the plea, saying that by following through with the pre-tame plan “these categories are marked out as somehow less important ‘second-tier’ skills.”
“We all had faith the Academy would be celebrating all filmmakers,” Urban told Deadline on Thursday. When asked why the pre-taped category plan is bad if the winners will still be shown in the telecast, she replied: “Because what we are going to say is going to be moderated and cut down and limited and we all know, as does another one of the affected categories, Best Editing, how impactful editing can be to a story. It diminishes the category voices. Additionally, I find upsetting it’s not live in front of a full audience of peers. We don’t get to hear that sound of applause of support from the entire community of equal filmmakers. That’s very heartbreaking.”
The Sound community is coming off seeing its Oscar categories go from two to one beginning last year, when the Academy merged Sound Mixing and Sound Editing into an omnibus Sound category. Sound of Metal won the Sound Oscar last year.
This year’s Sound nominees include the teams from Belfast, Dune, No Time to Die, The Power of the Dog and West Side Story.
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The Academy and Oscar producer Will Packer have defended the current plan for the eight categories to be pretaped, saying it was part of a push to speed up the show and increase ratings, which have been faltering over the past few years. But ever since the plan was first revealed in late February, many prominent figures have come out against it, including the likes of Academy Board of Governors member Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro and numerous guild leaders including the American Cinema Editors and from IATSE president Matt Loeb, who called the move “detrimental.”
At least two members of the Academy — four-time Oscar nominee and Coen Brothers collaborator Peter Kurland and frequent Martin Scorsese collaborator Tom Fleischman — have quit the group over the plan.
The 94th annual Oscars airs live coast-to-coast Sunday beginning at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.
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