The Academy Awards 2019: “significant firsts”

Emily Maier, Crier staff

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The 91st Academy Awards took place this past February at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. In honor of Bohemian Rhapsody’s five nominations, the ceremony opened with a performance by Queen and Adam Lambert.
The award for Best Actress went to Olivia Colman for her role as Queen Anne in The Favourite. Following up her win, she gave a touchingly genuine and funny acceptance speech, tearfully saying, “To any little girl who’s practicing their speech on the telly – you never know!”

Rami Malek was awarded the Oscar for Best Actor as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, beating out Bradley Cooper, Willem Dafoe, Viggo Mortensen, and Christian Bale. The Academy Award for Best Director was given to Alfonso Cuarón for his Netflix film Roma, which follows the life of a maid in 1970s Mexico.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse took home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature – a well-deserved win, given the incredibly unique animation style. Reportedly, it took one week to animate a single second of footage for the movie, and it certainly paid off in the end.

As the final category of the night, Green Book won Best Picture against BlaKkKlansman, Roma, Bohemian Rhapsody, Black Panther, The Favourite, A Star Is Born, and Vice. This decision has been marked as a source of contention, given the family of Don Shirley referred to the movie as “a symphony of lies.” Others have critiqued the film for offering a less authentic perspective on racial tensions, especially considering the same topic was handled more heavily in movies such as BlacKkKlansman and Black Panther.

As more and more celebrities take to using their platform for change, the Oscars have increasingly become a place to raise awareness for societal issues. In recent years, two of the most relevant topics have been the need for racial diversity and the #MeToo movement in the movie industry.

In recent years, many actors and actresses have criticized the lack of diversity not only in award shows, but in the movie industry as a whole. The nominees for categories such as Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress have historically been overwhelmingly white. In 2015 and 2016, for example, the Academy failed to nominate a single person of color in any of the four categories.

The Academy has made an effort to remedy this disparity, which was certainly evident in this year’s groundbreaking ceremony.
In the very first category of the night, Regina King became one of only three black actresses who have won both Oscars and Emmys. Mahershala Ali is now the first black actor to win two Best Supporting Actor Oscars and Rami Malek became the first actor of Egyptian descent to win for Best Actor.

Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler are the first black women to win Best Costume Design and Best Production Design, respectively, for their work on Black Panther. Their awards also serve as the first two Oscar wins for a Marvel movie. This is especially impressive, as it opens up new possibilities for inclusivity in terms of both race and more “accessible” movies such as blockbusters.

As for the #MeToo movement, which first gained traction in October of 2017, this year’s Oscars is not without its own scandals. Sexual assault allegations have followed Bryan Singer for years. The fact that he was given the opportunity to direct a major film like Bohemian Rhapsody has been critiqued by many. On a less serious – but still reprehensible – note, Green Book’s director, Peter Farrelly, admitted to accusations of past flashing incidents.

Though not to the same degree of Harvey Weinstein’s horrific treatment towards women, discussions about sexual assault still play a crucial role in the movie industry. Without movements such as #MeToo, many people would not have the support needed to come forward with their stories of abuse.

Likewise, discussions on the importance of representation have led to an increase in diverse narratives, which created significant firsts for this year’s Oscars – and hopefully many more firsts to come.

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