Oscar So Not White! Diversity and Inclusivity at the Academy Awards
Diversity, being inclusive, eclectic choices, and the color pink ruled on this host-less 91st Oscars night. Even without a host, this is Hollywood, and if there’s anything the citizens of showbiz capital know how to do, it’s to put on a show. And that they did, on a night when diversity proved it could still try to change the perception from a few years ago when charges of #OscarSoWhite surfaced. Sure, we missed the opening host’s monologue, and having Queen with Adam Lambert perform as an opening number did make it look like we had stumbled into a time-warped Grammys and not the Oscars—but the myriad of presenters and the skits they rendered soon righted the ship, even if it wasn’t always smooth sailing.
The early night Best Supporting wins of Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk) and Mahershala Ali (Green Book) helped set the tone of what was to come—recognition for race-centric subject matter and films that carried social commentary. When Best Adapted Screenplay went to BlacKkKlansman and Best Original Screenplay went to Green Book, this only reenforced this impression of making up for the OscarSoWhite perception. This notion of coming full circle was established as Green Book took home the Best Picture prize at the end of the night. Albeit, this was not without some controvers, with director Spike Lee referring to it as a ‘bad call’.
Inclusivity reigned in other wins as well. Ruth Carter and Hannah Beachler became the first African-American Women to win for Costume Design and Production Design respectively, for their work on Black Panther—which was also honored for Musical Score. Mexico’s Roma won Best Foreign Language Film and gave Alfonso Cuaron the Best Director and Best Cinematography statuettes as well. A feather in the cap for Netflix, who produced this film.
For Best Animated Feature, Spider Man: Into the Spider-Verse took the award, and let’s not forget that the main Spidey in the film is a boy of African-American and Puerto-Rican descent. And a film from India about menstruation—Period. End of Sentence—copped the Best Short Documentary prize (Free Solo, which is a truly wonderful film about professional solo rock climber Alex Honnold won Best Documentary Feature. He climbs without ropes). And of course, there’s Rami Malek taking the Best Actor—while born and raised in the United States, he’s the son of Egyptian immigrants.
Best spontaneous moment would have to go to Spike Lee finally winning his first Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, and jumping into the arms of presenter Samuel L. Jackson. And my nominee for "You Have to Get Them to Host Next Year" would be Melissa McCarthy and Brian Tyree Henry for their outrageous spoofing of The Favourite as they presented the award for Best Costume Design. Her bunny-covered train had to be the Best Staged Moment of this year’s Oscars.
As for our pre-show predictions in the big six categories: We got the Best Supporting Actor and Actress right with Mahershala Ali and Regina King, foresaw the Best Director go to Alfonso Cuaron for Roma, and we loved that Olivia Colman took home the Best Actress Award for The Favourite. But we didn’t see Rami Malek for Best Actor (I had picked Christian Bale), nor think Green Book would take home the Best Picture. We also predicted "Shallow" would take the Best Song, and that it would be the one opportunity for Lady Gaga to get to the podium—right on both counts.
Our prediction for Spider-Verse was also correct. But having not seen Green Book’s win, we are now surprised by how viciously the win has been received by some quarters. Calling it ‘enjoyable but forgettable’ is probably the kindest thing being said by these writers. And for many, it was a case of One Step Forward, Two Steps Back—proof that even when trying to be more inclusive and diverse, in the end, the Academy will go and retreat to the familiar and safe.
Be that as it may, our personal highlight was Olivia Colman taking the Best Actress from way left field. Everyone before the show was placing their bets on Glenn Close or Lady Gaga; but we were always rooting for Colman, believing that if we're talking sheer acting film for film, and not looking at storied career or slights in the past, then Colman deserved the Award.
Photos from @officialspikelee and @theacademy