The Academy Awards, which aired Sunday night, were shroud in tension even before the stars began walking that red carpet.
The lack of racial diversity that was glaringly apparent among this year’s nominees threatened to ruin the Academy Awards this year.
In fact, there were protests scheduled to take place before Selma director, Ava Duvernay, asked that they be called off.
All 20 of the actor nominees were white.
This spurred Academy Awards host, Neil Patrick Harris, to jokingly announce the nominees as Hollywood’s “best and whitest…sorry, brightest.”
As far as the Oscars’ exclusive history, Darnell Hunt, a UCLA professor and director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies and co-author of a 2014 diversity report on the film and TV industries, says it’s nothing new.
“I was surprised but then I wasn’t,” he said.
He added, “What we saw in terms of the nominations this year was business as usual. What we got was more or less an accurate reflection of the way the industry is structured and the way the academy is populated.”
However, despite all the pre-Academy Awards tension, it seems the joking of the host, the social quips from winners, and an incredibly stirring performance of the song “Glory” from Selma by John Legend and Common, eased the friction a little bit.
Christopher Sharrett, a film professor at Seton Hall University, managed to put the situation in a nutshell, “The ceremony managed to genuflect toward social issues … when the bets were that it wouldn’t, given the under-recognition of Selma.”
Especially effective was the performance of “Glory”.
Charles Bernstein, one of three music governors for the academy, said of the performance, “I really thought the standing ovation given to ‘Glory’ was the academy acknowledging that it was in error for not nominating [actor] David Oyelowo, or [director] Ava DuVernay for Selma.”
But it meant so much more than that. The Academy Awards audience was treated to John Legend’s acceptance speech after the song won for best original song.
In it he said, “Once a landmark of a divided nation, the spirit of this bridge is now for all people regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or social status. This bridge was built on hope and welded with compassion.”
He added, “We wrote this film for events that happened 50 years ago but we say that Selma is now. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men incarcerated today than were in slavery in 1850.”
The attention given to social issues really seemed to make the Academy Awards meaningful when all thought that the night would be a contentious white-out.
What did you think about the Academy Awards? Do you think the jokes, speeches, and “Glory” helped soothe tensions?