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Sunday, February 24th, 2019

2019 Oscars impressions: America got a shorter, more diverse ceremony to enjoy

#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!

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