History was made at the 91st Academy Awards. Controversies and backlashes are second nature to the Oscars, but for once there was reason to celebrate, it was a night of many firsts. The ladies called the shots at the biggest movie night in showbiz, as Regina King won the best supporting actress prize for “If Beale Could Talk”, and it set the tone for the evening. Ruth E. Carter became the first African-American woman to win the best costume design for Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’.
Speaking to the press she said, “I dreamed of this night and I prayed for this night honestly…what it would mean not just for me, but for young people coming behind me”.
Carter had company, as production designer Hannah Bleacher, who became the first woman of color to be nominated in the category, went on to win the final prize as well. Their wins will go down in movie history, as no African-American woman has ever won a non-acting Oscar in three decades.
It was also a night for seconds, as Mahershala Ali won his second Academy Award in the supporting actor category for his turn as pianist Don Shirley in Green Book. Ali becomes the only other black performer besides Denzel Washington to have won more than one Academy Award. The actor thanked director Peter Farrelly for “really giving him the space” to work out the complexity of his inter-sectional character Don Shirley (who was black and queer).
#OscarsSoWhite may soon become a thing of the past, as the inclusivity of the winners circle received a shot in the arm, with Spike Lee picking up his first statute for co-writing the BlacKkKlansman. Roma became the first Mexican feature film to win a best foreign film at the Oscars, in the past eight Mexican films have been nominated but never won. The film was shortlisted for best picture as well.
Javier Bardem, who presented the foreign film award took a veiled shot at President Trump and his immigration policies saying “There are no borders or walls that can restrain ingenuity and talent. In any region of any country of any continent, there are always great stories that move us. And tonight we celebrate the excellence and importance of the cultures and languages of different countries.”
The moving black and white drama by Alfoso Cuaron tells the story of a middle class family as narrated through their domestic help Cleo. The film a personal memoir by Cuaron won him the best director prize. He thanked the academy for recognizing a film centered on an indigenous woman one of the 70 million domestic workers in the world without work rights, “As artists, our job is to look where others don’t”, he said. “This responsibility becomes much more important in times when we are being encouraged to look away”.
Rami Malek became the first Arab American to win the best actor award for Bohemian Rhapsody. Malek, who was born to Egyptian immigrant parents in Los Angeles, said in his acceptance speech – “I am the son of immigrants from Egypt, I am a first generation American, this is something I will truly treasure for the rest of my life”.
Olivia Colman, who was not one of the ‘favorites’ in the race for best actress, was stunned and surprised as she was picked as Best Actress for The Favourite. “It’s genuinely quite stressful. This is hilarious. I got an Oscar!” exclaimed Colman, who beat Oscar favorite Glenn Close for the top prize.
The best film prize, however, didn’t strike the right chord, Green Book, which has been called a ‘symphony of lies’ by pianist Donald Shirley’s brother Maurice Shirley was judged best picture. The movie hit the wrong keys for its inaccuracies, racial bigotry and advancing white savior conceit, as it narrated the unlikely friendship between a black classical pianist and his Italian American driver.
Though Green Book had many turning green for obvious reasons, overall it was indeed a night to celebrate and it would not be wrong to say, you have come a long way indeed, to the Academy.