#OscarsSoWhite? Not this year!
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which has been extensively criticized in recent years for a lack of racial diversity within its ranks, took major steps to make sure that this year’s Oscars would be as diverse and inclusive as possible, with a record number of people of color presenting and accepting awards. The result was an awards ceremony that was more representative and relevant to not only the American viewing public, but to a global audience as well.
The night started with the Best Supporting Actress award going to Regina King for her role in “If Beale Street Could Talk,” adapted from the novel by noted African-American writer James Baldwin. With the win, King became just the third black actress to have won both an Academy Award and a Primetime Emmy Award.
Following King’s win, two more black women set records. Ruth Carter became the first black woman to win an Oscar for costume design, for her work on “Black Panther,” and Hannah Beachler won for production design on the same film.
“Black Panther” also won the award for Best Original Score and was nominated for Best Picture, Best sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing.
Spike Lee, nominated for the fifth time, won his first Oscar for best adapted screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman.” In his speech, he reminded everyone that the 2020 elections are “just around the corner” and that everyone needs to do everything they can to mobilize and come together to choose “love over hate.”
When introducing “BlacKkKlansman” as one of the nominees for the best film award earlier in the ceremony, Academy Award winning singer and actress Barbara Streisand stressed how the film is based on a true story, saying: “Truth is especially precious today,” getting appreciative applause from the audience.
Her statement was no doubt a reference to the current President and the lack of concern for truth shown by him, his administration, and his followers.
Congressman John Lewis received a long standing ovation when he helped introduce Best Picture nominee and eventual winner “Green Book.”
The film also won for Best Original Screenplay and Mahershala Ali won his second Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in the film.
“The whole story is about love. It’s about loving each other despite our differences,” said director Peter Farrelly, in accepting the Best Picture award.
”Green Book” has faced some criticism for romanticizing the relationship between the real life main characters, and for the story fitting a “white savior” trope.
Also raising eyebrows was the Academy’s head-scratching decision to put Ali in the Best Supporting Actor category and Viggo Mortensen in the Best Actor category, rather than the other way around. (Ali did win in his category; Mortensen did not.)
The Mexican film “Roma” also won many awards, including Best Cinematography, Best Foreign Language film, and Alfonso Cuarón won for Best Director. Cuarón shared a long hug with last year’s winner, Guillermo del Toro, also from Mexico.
Cuarón thanked the Academy for “recognizing a film centered around an immigrant woman – one of the 70 million people around the world without workers’ rights,” and then in Spanish said thank you to his family and to Mexico.
In his acceptance speck for the Best Foreign Language Film award, he also talked about the ”invisible labor of immigrants and women.”
There were also some other groundbreaking moments for gender equity, such as “Period. End of Sentence.” winning for Best Documentary Short Subject.
”I can’t believe a film about menstruation just won an Oscar!” exclaimed Melissa Berton, one of the producers, during her acceptance speech.
Nike also debuted an ad during the telecast that stars Serena Williams, and notes how women are judged more harshly than men for their emotions in sports. Williams also was a presenter at the awards.
Lady Gaga, along with collaborators, won her first Oscar for Best Original Song for “Shallow” from “A Star is Born.”
Also winning multiple awards was “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Rami Malek won for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury, the gay frontman of legendary rock band Queen.
“We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life just unapologetically himself,” Malek said during his acceptance speech. “I am the son of immigrants from Egypt, a first-generation American,” he said to applause. “And part of my story is being written right now. The fact that I’m celebrating him and this story with you tonight is proof that we’re longing for stories like this.”
Kudos to the Academy for doing a better job of nominating and awarding a more diverse array of people who bring films to life, who more accurately represent all of humanity and our interconnected world community. More Oscars like this, please!