Political awareness characterizes Oscars
During a year of distress in both the political and entertainment worlds, the Oscars were a reminder of the power and hope of Hollywood. A telecast celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Academy Awards on March 4, 2018 harkened the power of nostalgia and showed montages featuring powerful clips from iconic films celebrating the essence of film. However, the show also took an optimistic tone, looking toward a brighter future.
Host Jimmy Kimmel brought his usual charm and sarcasm to the stage. As is now routine, he poked fun at President Donald Trump and the current political climate. However, he also talked about the #MeToo movement and how Hollywood should support the upcoming March for Our Lives, planned by survivors of the Parkland, Florida shooting. Though his opening monologue was interspersed with allusions to current events, Kimmel also used Los Angeles as his stage and took some of the celebrity Oscar attendees to the theater across the street to crash a showing of “A Wrinkle in Time.” It was there that he had Armie Hammer of“Call Me By Your Name” shoot hot dogs out of a canon, Gal Gadot of “Wonder Woman” hand out candy and other actors thank the public for going to the theater. Though this was a cute gesture, it added unnecessary time to the broadcast. The Oscar for best presenters, however, goes to comedians Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph. Their introductions to the best short film award were a much needed comic relief from the general atmosphere of the evening.
One theme was clear throughout the entire broadcast: equality. Many presenters alluded to the fact that Hollywood is changing and will begin to allow greater opportunities for women and minority groups. Actresses Salma Hayek, Ashley Judd and Annabella Sciorra introduced a short video which praised the trailblazers in Hollywood who have spoken out against sexual harassment and created diverse films produced by women and minority groups. This moment was especially poignant as Hayek, Judd and Sciorra spoke out against Harvey Weinstein from personal experience.
Even though the four lead actor awards were won by white actors, some results of the awards show demonstrated that Hollywood is taking baby steps to enter this new age. Jordan Peele, famed Comedy Central alum of “Mad TV” and “Key and Peele,” was the first African-American to ever win the Oscar for best original screenplay, which he won for his satirical horror film “Get Out.” It was a celebratory evening for Latinx people as Mexican director Guillermo del Toro won best director and best picture for his fantastical sci-fi romance “The Shape of Water.”
“Coco,” the Pixar film depicting the Mexican holiday “Dia de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) also won best animated feature and best song for its touching anthem “Remember Me.” Accepting the award for “Coco” were its filmmakers, two of whom are gay, which shows evidence of Hollywood working to create more spaces for LGBTQ filmmakers. In fact, the Chilean film “A Fantastic Woman,” about a transgender woman and her fight against scorn and discrimination, won best foreign film.
The film’s actress, Daniela Vega, was the first transgender woman to ever present at the Oscars. The winner of best original screenplay was “Call Me By Your Name” a beautiful coming-of-age romance between a teenage boy and a graduate student in picturesque Italy.
Though many of these films discussed progressive issues, there was still only one female nominee for best director, which presenter Emma Stone referred to as “four men and Greta Gerwig.” Gerwig, director and writer of the critically acclaimed “Lady Bird” was the first woman nominated in this category in 10 years. The actress who summed up the theme of the evening was best actress winner Frances McDormand (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”). After thanking her family, she put her Oscar statue down and asked all of the female nominees to stand up and be recognized (“Meryl, if you do it, everyone else will”). She asked every person in the Dolby Theater to look around and see that these incredible women, writers, actors, directors and creatives have stories to tell and stories that need financing. She closed off her speech with two words; “inclusion rider.” An inclusion rider is a clause that actors can put in their contracts so that studios can be certain of gender and racial equality when hiring for the film. It is Hollywood’s hope that after the cloud that has passed over the community with both #OscarsSoWhite and the Weinstein mishaps, a new age can commence. This Sunday’s Oscars were a a pretty good first step.