Critics Slam Changes to Oscar Ceremony

Hollywood's behind-the-scenes craftsmen are panning Oscar organizers' plans to introduce alternatives to the annual ritual of reading off the nominees' names, opening the envelope and calling the winner up to the stage.

The telecast's producer, Gil Cates (search), said last week that in some categories, all the nominees will appear onstage as their names are read, with the winner stepping forward to accept.

In other categories, the nominees will be grouped together in a section of the audience, where the presenter will open the envelope.

In an e-mail to Cates, three-time Oscar-winning editor Walter Murch wrote: "To apply some kind of PMI [People magazine index] to the nominees and make this the criterion for whether they get to go onstage or not and speak to the Academy is disgraceful to the Academy and to all of the people who work in film."

Cates claimed the new presentations were designed to give more face time to nominees while allowing winners more time for acceptance speeches by eliminating long treks to the stage.

But Lea Yardum, a publicist for both the American Cinema Editors and the Visual Effects Society, said: "There's a sense of devastation around this. They've worked so hard to get these artists the recognition they richly deserve; for the Academy to even consider taking it away is a true slap in the face."

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