George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Robert de Niro join protest against Oscar award changes

A plan to present some Oscars during commercial breaks has drawn criticism. "People wait their entire lives to receive an Oscar in front of millions," the Cinematographers Guild head said.

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By Reuters

LOS ANGELES — George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Robert de Niro on Thursday joined a growing protest in Hollywood over plans by Oscars organizers to present cinematography, editing and some other awards during commercial breaks at next week's Academy Awards ceremony.

Sandra Bullock, Emma Stone and Jon Hamm also added their names to an open letter signed by directors Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee and Alfonso Cuaron demanding the decision be reversed.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced earlier this week that the Oscars for best cinematography, film editing, short films and makeup/hairstyling would be presented during the commercials in the Feb. 24 telecast. The academy said edited versions of the winner acceptance speeches would be included later in the live broadcast.

The plan is part of an effort to make the Oscar telecast shorter and boost television viewership. A total of 24 Oscars are handed out at the Hollywood ceremony. Organizers have pledged to trim its duration by about 40 minutes to three hours this year.

But the open letter, signed by more than 50 directors, actors and filmmakers, accused the academy of "relegating these essential crafts to lesser status" and insulting the professionals who work in the four areas.

The academy on Wednesday defended the changes, blaming "inaccurate reporting and social media posts" that it said had "understandably upset many Academy members."

Some news reports suggested that the winners of the four Oscars would not be included at all on the Oscars telecast.

In a letter to its 8,000 members, the academy said representatives of the four branches affected had volunteered to take part in the new plan.

"No award category at the 91st Oscars ceremony will be presented in a manner that depicts the achievements of its nominees and winners as less than any others," the academy letter said.

The changes were also attacked on Twitter by the likes of Cuaron, who is Oscar-nominated for both cinematography and directing his best-picture contender, "Roma."

"In the history of CINEMA, masterpieces have existed without sound, without color, without a story, without actors and without music. No one single film has ever existed without CINEMAtography and without editing," the Mexican filmmaker tweeted.

The national president of the International Cinematographers Guild on Thursday also criticized the Academy's planned changes, and said that the way the organizers planned to acknowledge the winners was not the same.

"This decision is extremely disheartening,” the guild's national president Steven Poster said in a statement.

"I immediately reached out to Academy president John Bailey, a member of our own guild, who assured me that all of the nominees would be 'noted' during the broadcast. It's not the same," Poster said.

"This is a collaborative process and this change appears to elevate certain crafts above others. People wait their entire lives to receive an Oscar in front of millions and it is humiliating to have that moment reduced to an afterthought."

The union says it represents more than 8,500 members who work in film, television and commercials.

Phil Helsel contributed.