A symbolically momentous blunder at the Oscars
The wildest screw-up in Oscars history couldn’t have been more metaphorically momentous for African Americans who last year shamed the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for its lack of diversity.
The crazy finale turned the entertainment world upside down when La La Land, which had mostly white leading actors, mistakenly was announced as Best Picture. It turned out that
Moonlight, with mostly black actors, had won. It was a stunning moment that embodied the #OscarsSoWhite campaign last year against the academy.
The scene of white entertainers handing over the figurine to African Africans was simply surreal.
This year’s Oscars stage was refreshingly diverse. The winners included Viola Davis, best supporting actress for Fences; Mahershala Ali of Moonlight, the first Muslim to win an Oscar for acting; and director Ezra Edelman, whose OJ: Made in America was named best documentary.
African Americans and other minorities aren’t asking for a giveaway. They just want an opportunity to play prominent roles, which gives them the chance to compete for an Oscar. And that they got. African Americans hypnotized moviegoers this year with gripping stories that sent them into a whirlwind of guilt, anger, frustration, sadness and hope.
One of my favorite films — though it didn’t win an Oscar — was Hidden Figures, because the country’s challenges in the 1960s parallel those we face in 2017.
Actresses Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe encapsulated the brilliant mathematical minds trapped in a racially divided nation. These women’s steadfast determination in the NASA space race led viewers into an excruciating transformation of a workplace filled with prejudice to an uplifting finale.
It took one character, Al Harrison (played by Kevin Costner), to end a segregated West Area computers unit of the NASA research center. No one questioned him. No one challenged him.
The life of the brilliant women was a lot more complicated than portrayed in the movie, but viewers get the point.
Many of the movies with leading African-American actors were already underway when the #OscarsSoWhite campaign ramped up, so it’s hard to tell what kind of progress has been accomplished since. But the Oscars stage is an international bully pulpit to speak up, and folks such as actor Gael García Bernal used it to call out the White House plans for a border wall with Mexico.
“As a Mexican, as a Latin American, as a migrant worker, as a human being, I’m against any form of walls that wants to separate us,” García Bernal said.
Ali wins best supporting actor for Moonlight.