It has been a little over a week since the Academy Awards’ epic night in Hollywood. Yet, there’s still a buzz in the film industry. The reason for the buzz, at least among black actors, actresses, directors, and producers, was for the first time in Academy Awards history, African Americans were nominated in each of the four acting categories. The categories and black nominees were, Best Actor (Denzel Washington for “Fences”), Best Actress (Ruth Negga for “Loving”), Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali for “Moonlight”), and Best Supporting Actress (Viola Davis for “Fences”), Naomie Harris (“Moonlight”) and Octavia Spencer (“Hidden Figures”). Ali and Davis received Oscars.
Additionally, for the first time in Academy Awards history, three black films (“Moonlight,” “Fences,” “Hidden Figures”) were nominated for Best Picture. “Moonlight” grabbed the Oscar in a very strange way. With so many firsts for African Americans at this year’s Academy Awards, there seemed to have been a major Oscar pivot regarding diversity/inclusion. After all, for two straight years, no African American actor or actress was nominated in any of the acting categories. So why the change of heart from voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences?
There are some people who believe that radical changes in policies, processes, and voting requirements made by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in January, 2016 were the difference.
“There’s an often-repeated complaint that the academy, in its lack of diversity, reflects the demographics of a film industry that for years has been primarily white and male,” academy’s president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who is black, said in a statement in January, 2016. “Therefore, the academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up.”
Some point to the “messages of hate and racial divide” that Donald J. Trump espoused, beginning in 2015, when he started running for the office of President of the United States. Much of Hollywood did not like – and still does not like – his platform of divide. Yet, to call Trump out for promoting racial divide, Hollywood and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, had to first clean up their own “real or perceived history of racism.” The record number of black nominees and multiple Oscar winners helped send the perception of change, at least for now.
“I want to say thank you to President Trump,” joked Jimmy Kimmel in his monologue to open the awards show. “I mean, remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist?”
Now, as far as the 89th Academy Awards’ so called “mix-up” that gave Best Picture honors to “La La Land,” only to rescind it and present to the rightful winner, “Moonlight” was most interesting! There are people who don’t believe it was a mix-up, but was done purposely to generate more interest in the Oscars, and boost sagging television ratings in the future. This year’s Oscars drew a televised audience in the United States of almost 33 million, according to numbers released by Nielsen. It was the lowest Academy Awards’ viewership since 2008.
There’s also the belief that to increase greater interest in the Oscars and boost TV ratings significantly, more diversity had be a part of the equation. In other words, white people are not the only ones who can act, direct, and/or produce great movies. African Americans and other minorities have done brilliant
work both in front and behind the camera, with little or no recognition from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ voting members.
Therefore, a segment of people – both inside and outside of the film industry – believes that PricewaterhouseCoopers didn’t make a mistake by serving up the wrong Best Picture envelope to Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway to announce the winner. Some believe an opportunity was created to brand “the new and very inclusive Oscars.” To accomplish and maximize this new direction, a “monumental moment of optical richness” had to be witnessed by a live audience of Hollywood’s best talent, as well as millions of viewers glued to national and international televisions. What was witnessed will be remembered for decades.
A Conspiracy theory? Think about the visual reality of a predominately white cast/executives of “La La Land,” on stage, believing they’ve won Best Picture, only to be stopped during their acceptance speeches to handover the gold statue to the rightful winning and all-black cast of “Moonlight.” There were some powerful conscious and subliminal messages sent by this scenario, whether contrived or not. And it would not have been the first time that Hollywood pulled off a major “publicity stunt.” Mission accomplished!
Reparations? The word reparation is basically defined as, “a controlling entity making significant compensations and amends for the wrong and injustice actions done to a minority entity who has been harmed on many levels.” While it may never be called reparations by the powers that be, there’s no denying that this year’s Oscars finally got it right.
Make no mistake, nothing was given to the winning black actors, actresses, and black film, “just because.” Each winners richly deserved to hold his or her Oscar, Hollywood’s most coveted award, just like dozens of other gifted African Americans over the decades who the Oscars looked over, passed over, stepped over, and/or purposely ignored. The spirit of the late actress, Hattie McDaniel, the first African American to win an Oscar (1939, Best Supporting Actress, “Gone with the Wind”) must be smiling, as well as the other 16 black actors and black actresses that have won Oscars in the acting categories since 1929. Fade to black!