By Jonathan Perreira, Arts and Entertainment Editor
The Oscars used to be an easy way to watch white men circle jerk golden statues amongst each other. But the fiery spirits of the disenfranchised will never allow that to happen again.
I was born with almost every privilege possible, but even I couldn’t help but feel second-hand empowerment from the success earned by women, people of color, and the LGBT+ community on the night of March 4, 2018. Movies were made, records were set, and history itself is beginning to shake. The industry which defines such a large piece of national culture will no longer tolerate bigotry and hatred.
Frances McDormand, the winner of the Best Actress award for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, accepted the statue with exhilaration and some conspicuous nerves. As she spoke, she put the statue by her feet, placed her hand by her heart, and asked aloud if every woman that was nominated would stand with her in this moment. The audience begins to wildly applaud, the camera cuts to the giant auditorium, and in the sea of people only a handful of women stand.
McDormand said that they all have stories to tell and projects to finance, and she left with two words: “Inclusion rider.” In what has been considered the biggest public acknowledgement to date (according to New York Times), inclusion rider is the notion that film contracts should hire underrepresented communities both behind and in front of the camera. With McDormand’s words, perhaps Hollywood is more inclined to include.
Jordan Peele, writer, director, and producer of the hit horror-movie Get Out, won the award for Best Original Screenplay. Surprisingly (or maybe not if you consider America for a second), no black screenwriter has won the award. He was also nominated for best director, joining a group of only five black men that have ever been nominated. Still, black women have never been nominated for that category. In his speech, Peele thanked his mother, who taught him to “Love, even in the face of hate.”
Peele, a comedian and former actor, apparently worked and quit the script over 20 times. He did something bold– combining satire and horror into one movie, all while trying to make an intense political statement on the current power imbalance in this country. His talent is abundant and only through his hard work and those involved in the film was this independent film able to take away such a prestigious award.
Guillermo del Toro, writer and director of The Shape of Water, a movie nominated in over 10 categories, took the award for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Score. The film, which is a melting pot of genres, is the first science-fiction type movie to win Best Picture. Del Toro continues the four-time streak of a Mexican director winning an Oscar, and cemented the importance of inclusion in his speech: “I am an immigrant. The greatest thing art does and our industry does is erase the lines in the sand. We should continue doing that when the world tells us to make them deeper.”
Del Toro is famous for his monstrous creations, but they have always represented something larger and more symbolic. The famous fish-monster is a vessel of love and healing; the fish-monster is the antithesis to prejudice. A beautiful film with bottomless depth, there’s no question it deserved the award. Throughout the night, awards were segwayed by the poignant and punctual Jimmy Kimmel, who proposed a game to the winners ahead of the night: whoever gave the shortest speech would win a jet ski. Some have theorized this was a light-hearted joke to keep the politics in the ceremony small, but he didn’t avoid making statements himself. My personal favorite was when he said, “Black Panther and Wonder Woman were massive hits which is almost miraculous because I remember a time when the major studios didn’t believe a woman or a minority could open a superhero movie. And the reason I remember that time was because it was March of last year.”
The Oscars this year was beautiful, empowering, and ultimately a relief. Art is an educational tool, but sometimes simply an entertainment tool. A distraction. And if the distraction from our failing democracy and social policy is the social reform of the biggest cultural industry in the world, then I’m thankful for people like Frances McDormand, Jordan Peele, and Guillermo del Toro working so hard in Hollywood.