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Oscar Ceremony Platform For Important Civil And Environmental Issues

By: Marjorie Galas

There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that the 88th Annual Oscar telecast that took place Sunday, February 28, 2016 was going to be one for the books.   While a stellar ensemble of performers and craftspeople were recognized with Oscar nominations, the lack of ethnic diversity among the nominees was highly publicized in social media campaigns (#OscarsSoWhite) and public outcry by the likes of Jada Pinkett Smith and Al Sharpton, just to name a few.  Mix in a highly polarizing political campaign that is fueling emotional statements by everyone, including celebrities, and  all eyes were on entertainers who may take a moment within their acceptance speeches to lend a voice to encourage others to really think about their words and actions.

Rock was on point from the moment the show began.  After a clip reel highlighting the biggest films of the past year concluded, Rock announced “I counted about 15 black people in that clip.”  While he weaved jokes calling the year’s Oscars the “white people’s choice awards” into his monologue, he also pointed out the excessive hype that has deluted the attention from the nominees who’s efforts deserve praise and accolades.   He fought back against Smith’s boycott of the  event, stating

“How come it is only unemployed people that tell you to quit something?” and suggested the issue isn’t anything new, but something that has been happening for many years.

“It  has happened at least 71 other times.  In the 60s we had real things to protest.  We were too busy being raped or lynched to worry about best cinematography,” said Rock.

While Rock continued to call attention to the rising need of diversity in the entertainment system, the evening’s big winners brought much needed attention to topics reflected in their films as well.  The below-the-line juggernaut, “Mad Max: Fury Road” presented an opportunity for some of its department heads to reflect on the process of creating a desolate future that’s the outcome of a disrupted, toxic environment.  Upon receiving her Oscar for Outstanding Costume Design, Jenny Beavan attempted to remark that the future presented in “Mad Max” could become a reality.  Unfortunately played off by the orchestra, she elaborated on her comment backstage.

“Unfortunately, the music came up and I wasn’t quick enough,” said Beavan.  “(It) has been growing on me that if we’re not kind to each other and if we don’t stop filling the ocean and land with toxic waste, I think that could all be horribly real.”

As excited and honored as Leonardo DiCaprio was to receive his first Oscar for his Outstanding Male Lead in “The Revenant,” he also felt the opportunity to highlight the need for environmental protection on the Oscar stage was directly tied into the work done in the movie, that highlights man’s direct connection to nature.  In the press room, DiCaprio revealed his simultaneous efforts working on an environmental-themed documentary being shot while he was working on “The Revenant” that brought him to Greenland, China and India (to name a few) to speak with the world’s leading environment and climate change experts and highlight an issue that is close to his heart.

“I feel so overwhelmed with gratitude for what happened tonight.  But I feel there is a tacking clock out there.  Three is a sense of urgency that we all must do something proactive about this issue,” said DiCaprio.  “With this upcoming election, the truth is this: if you do not believe in climate change, you do not believe in modern science or empirical truths and you will be on the wrong side of history.  We need to all join together and vote for leaders who care about the future of this civilization and the world as we know it.”

Charles Randolph and Adam McKay, who won the Oscar for Outstanding Adapted Screenplay for their work on “The Big Short” informed the audience that they had the power to stop big money from manipulating the government or else the events on their reality based movie focusing on the housing crisis of the early 2000 will re-occur.  When asked to express their comment further backstage, McKay elaborated on his comment.

“The amazing thing about this movie is that Bill O’Reilly and Bernie Sanders support this movie.  This is a right/left movie,” said McKay.  “Big money is taking over our government, and until right and left goes (away), no more big money – it has to go away.  It has to be like a scarlet letter n these candidates.  So I really honestly did not mean either side, but…Google it.  Just Google it.  You can see what the candidates have been paid, and when you elect people that get money from banks and oil and weirdo billionaires, that’s who they vote for.”

Although her Oscar nominated song did not take home the award, Lady Gaga used her performance of “Till it Happens to You” to highlight the plight of men and women affected by sexual assault.  Vice President Joe Bidden announced the performance, which featured a stage full of survivors surrounding Lady Gaga as she performed the piece by playing piano.

After highlighting close collaborator and cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki for his third consecutive win for his work on “The Revenant”, Oscar winning “The Revenant” director Alejandro G. Inarritu took a moment on stage to thank his Native American cast and remind people that tolerance encompasses people of every skin color and background.

“There is a line in the film that Glass says to his mixed race son ‘They don’t listen to you, they just see the color of your skin.’  So what a great opportunity to our generation to really liberate ourselves from all prejudice and this tribal thinking, and make sure for once and forever that the color of the skin becomes as irrelevant as the length of our hair.”

To view a complete list of the winners of the 88th Academy Awards, please visit: