Perhaps the most refreshing Academy Awards show to date, the 2019 Oscars was a celebration of true artistry. With the focus away from trying to get a great host after the dramatic nomination (and then dumping) of comedian Kevin Hart, last night’s award show certainly gave a platform to individuals that had showed up and showed out in their respective roles.
For much of the Academy of Motion Arts’ history, movies, actors, actresses and even production teams made up predominantly of African-Americans were snubbed for much of their work, despite creating conversations on the cultural impact of their movies and roles. The first African-American to win an Oscar was Hattie McDaniel, for her supporting role as Mammy in Gone With The Wind in 1939. It wouldn’t be until 1963 when another African-American would win (Sidney Poitier for lead role in Lilies of the Field), and even longer for more black actors and actresses to be recognized by the Academy for their talented work.
Unfortunately, this trend is apparent with other minority groups; very rarely were Asian, Latino and even Native American actors, actresses and individuals involved in the industry given due credit for their work.
From what was originally dubbed #OscarsSoWhite, it is great to see that the Oscars have made it their mission to properly highlight and celebrate the many individuals of color that have contributed so much to not only Hollywood, but the art of cinema itself.
Two of the many stars of the night were actress Regina King and director Spike Lee, whose wins were both long overdue for their dedicated career. The actress was awarded for her supporting role in If Beale Street Could Talk. Highly praised, King’s performance was extremely well-received and well nominated.
Also long overdue, Spike Lee finally won an Oscar after years of directing culturally relevant movies that highlighted black communities and their ongoing struggles with race relations. His movie, Black KkKlansman, a fast-paced retelling of an undercover sting on the KKK, won for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Mahershala Ali also took home an Oscar for his stellar performance as late musician Donald Shirley in Green Book. The movie also took home the award for Best Picture, despite controversy behind the authenticity of the storyline. Shirley’s family had accused the director of exaggerating the storyline, specifically, the ‘friendship’ between Shirley and his driver, to better fit the slightly white savior-esque narrative.
The 91st Academy Awards was truly a great night for the Mexican film community as well. Continuing the streak for Mexican directors being nominated for Best Director for the past 6 years, and winning for 5 out of those 6 years, Alfonso Cuarón made history last night. The Mexican director won the Oscar for Best Director and Best Cinematography for Roma, the winner of Best Foreign Film. The film, notably a Netflix original, also featured breakout star Yalitza Aparicio, the first indigenous Mexican actress to ever be nominated for Best Actress.
Ruth Carter, costume designer for Black Panther, will go down in history as the first black woman to ever win Best Costume Design- also the first for any Marvel movie. Best Production Design went to Hannah Bleacher for Black Panther as well, making Bleacher the first black woman to be nominated and to win in her category. Both of these insanely creative ladies helped Black Pantherbecome the Marvel movie with the most Academy Awards behind it (3 in total, with 6 total nominations).
Rami Malek was recognized as Best Actor for his role as Freddie Mercury, lead singer of rock band Queen in the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. Despite some controversy over producer Bryan Singer’s involvement in the movie after facing sexual abuse allegations, Bohemian Rhapsody remained a favorite during awards season. Malek was praised for his spot-on impersonation of the iconic bisexual rockstar known for his incredible range and impact on the 80’s music scene. During his acceptance speech, Malek touched on the importance of giving immigrants a chance at telling their own history, repeating a theme at the Oscars about giving people of color the opportunity to create their own stories.
All in all, despite leading into the awards season with controversy, the Oscars remained true to their promise of recognizing well-deserved talent in the industry.