Steven Spielberg Weighs In On The Oscars’ Decision To Remove Categories From The Broadcast

Steven Spielberg in West Side Story
(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Steven Spielberg has long had a positive relationship with the Academy Awards. Going back to 1978, he has been nominated for 19 Oscars (including both Best Picture and Best Director categories), and the two most recent were announced just a few weeks ago. His latest film, West Side Story, is expected to do quite well at this year's ceremony – though the filmmaker, like many of his colleagues, isn't happy with the recent news that eight of the show's categories are being left out of the network broadcast.

It was announced last month that the awards for Best Animated Short Film, Best Documentary Short Subject, Best Film Editing, Best Live Action Short Film, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Original Score, and Best Production Design and Sound would not be given out during the Oscar telecast, and Steven Spielberg has voiced his disapproval of the decision to Deadline. Seemingly speaking specifically to the technical categories that have been given the axe, the director explained,

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.

Film is a unique artform in that movies can't be created alone. Directors may run the show and guide the vision, but that is accomplished in collaboration with each person involved at every stage of production. Continuing, Steven Spielberg explains that award shows like the Oscars are meant to highlight the complex nature of the craft and elevate everything about it to the same level:

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.

And while Steven Spielberg doesn't directly address the Academy Awards not including the shorts categories during the broadcast, it is worth adding that the Oscars are also meant not to discriminate against medium and highlight the filmmaking accomplished in qualifying works shorter than feature-length.

The sentiment shared by the three-time Academy Award winner very much mirrors what Dune director Denis Villeneuve had to say on the same subject earlier this week. Addressing the cut categories, he likened production to being a part of a football team, and added that the Oscars are an opportunity for the unsung in the industry to get their deserved praise.

Steven Spielberg brought his point home by noting how the experience of watching his movies would be wholly changed without the work of key collaborators who won't be recognized during the on-air Academy Awards this year. Said Spielberg,

When I look back and I think without John Williams, Jaws would wear dentures. With West Side Story, when Tony is singing ‘Tonight’ with Maria, without (Production Designer) Adam Stockhausen he would be singing it on a step-ladder and she would be on the scaffolding, all this on an empty soundstage. Without film editing all my movies would still be in dailies.

The controversial move by the Oscars is an effort by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to trim the length of the show and increase the size of the audience... but we won't know if this will actually be a successful experiment until later this month (award season fiends may remember that the show threatened similar action back in 2019, but they ended up reversing the decision).

The ceremony is scheduled to air on ABC on Sunday, March 27, and you can learn everything you need to know about the show via our quick things guide. And in case you forget who is vying for this year's trophies, you can check our our 2022 Oscar Nominations rundown.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.