It isn’t often that an Academy governor publicly criticizes the Academy itself, but that happened today when music-branch governor Laura Karpman issued a statement condemning the Academy’s plan to drop the music-score Oscar presentation from the live telecast on March 27.
The statement, issued this morning on all her social media accounts, reads: “I am shocked that the officers of the Academy denied the Board of Governors the opportunity to vote and participate in the decision to exclude the music branch in the live broadcast.
“This is literally a wound in the heart of the music community,” she continued. “Thank you to the many members of the music branch who have spoken out. I hear you loud and clear. I stand with you.”
Karpman, a governor of the 402-member music branch since 2016, declined any further comment. But her stance is widely supported within, and outside, the music branch (which consists of composers, songwriters and music editors).
Karpman — composer of “Lovecraft Country,” “What If?” and the upcoming feature “The Marvels” — is a multiple Emmy winner and co-founder of the Alliance for Women Film Composers. As the first female governor in the history of the branch, she is credited with helping to diversify the group by adding dozens of women and people of color during her nearly six years in the position.
Fellow governors Charles Bernstein and Lesley Barber could not be reached for comment on Karpman’s statement. But insiders confirm Karpman’s assertion that the plan to drop eight categories from the live broadcast was presented as a “fait accompli” and that the board was essentially told it had no choice or vote in the matter.
Also excluded are the categories of film editing, sound, production design, makeup and hairstyling, documentary short, live-action short and animated short.
Academy executives have insisted that all eight will be seen on the broadcast via taped and edited segments from the presentations (happening in the hour before the start of the live show), but members of the music branch are privately expressing skepticism that these will be more than a minute or two in length, diminishing their importance to the filmmaking art.
Oscar-winning editor and composer John Ottman (“Bohemian Rhapsody”) issued his own statement in the form of a sarcastic letter to the Academy that referred to Academy president David Rubin’s hope for “audience entertainment and engagement through comedy, musical numbers, film clip packages and movie tributes.”
Ottman wrote: “Your inane plans not only intensely disrespect the crafts of your own members, but the art of filmmaking itself. More dance numbers and bad jokes aren’t going to change your ratings. But a show truly honoring the crucial and intriguing facets of filmmaking just might. As if the entertainment industry weren’t seen as vapid enough. Bravo.”
Said Oscar-nominated composer John Debney (“The Passion of the Christ”): “The unique and diverse voices of dedicated composers and brilliant craft colleagues bring the heart and soul of films to life. The Academy seems myopic in its desire for ratings while wars wage and the public could care less. I would encourage my Academy colleagues to consider caring less about the popularity contest and instead refocus on the craft. Editors and our other colleagues deserve a little recognition for their tireless contributions to the art form.”
Talk of a “boycott” of the ceremony by branch members, and even nominees, is controversial. Emmy-winning composer Bear McCreary (“Outlander”) put it this way: “In my opinion, nominees in affected categories should not boycott the ceremony. Their absence only makes it easier for the Academy to trim down those segments and make a convincing argument that these categories should remain permanently off the live broadcast. Go. Look hot. Give a glorious speech, [one] that will be remembered by everyone in attendance. Post cell phone footage of your whole speech online,” he advised.
“The issue is not that the speeches will be truncated, it’s that they will be broadcast after everyone knows the result already,” McCreary added. “The audience won’t enjoy the communal elation and suspense of watching someone win an award in real time for these categories. People can watch the Super Bowl or the Olympics an hour after they’re over, but audiences want to take part in collective jubilation and excitement. The results of these categories will be all over social media before the broadcast. It does imply a hierarchy, and puts these trades at the bottom of it.”
Some insiders, given the Academy’s stance that the decision to air only 15 of the 23 categories on the live telecast will not be reversed, are accepting of the situation and hoping for the best. But others felt insulted and, in some cases, incensed by the unbending attitude of the producers, officers and awards committee that made the decision without consulting the leaders of the affected branches themselves.
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