Hello 2019: the Oscars were a triumph for diversity – finally
It appears the academy has been listening: this year's awards featured record numbers of winners who weren't white and male
Diversity has been a talking point in Hollywood ever since April Reign coined the #OscarSoWhite hashtag more than four years ago.
This year, with the Academy Awards voting panel extended to include a higher number of minority and female voters, the Oscars has finally delivered on some of its promises of inclusivity.
Three out of four ain’t bad
Three of this year’s acting awards went to non-white actors, with Egyptian-American Rami Malek picking up the Best Actor prize for his role as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, the first actor of Arab origin to lift the prize, Mahershala Ali taking the Best Supporting Actor statue for Green Book and Regina King taking home the spoils for Best Supporting Actress.
Away from the acting prizes, Ruth E Carter became the first African-American woman to win best costume design for her work on Marvel’s Black Panther, thanking Spike Lee in her acceptance speech. Lee himself picked up an award for Best Adapted Screenplay for BlackKklansman, although the legendary filmmaker's too long, three-decade wait for a Best Director or Best Picture award goes on.
Black Panther production designer Hannah Beachler, meanwhile, was the first black woman ever to be nominated in her category, and duly picked up the award on the night. Black Panther completed a trio of awards with a win for Best Original Score.
Mahershala Ali also joined Denzel Washington as only the second black actor to win two Oscars after his win on Sunday night.
Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse can also make a reasonable claim to have contributed to the night’s diversity haul, featuring as it does the Afro-Latino Spider-Man Miles Morales, voiced by Shameik Moore, in this spin-off to the main Peter Parker Spider-Man series.
Women on top
This year’s awards had a record number of female winners overall, with Kate Biscoe and Patricia DeHaney’s make-up and hairstyling win for Vice and Rayka Zehtabchi and Melissa Berton’s best documentary short win for Period. End of Sentence, which itself tackles the topic of menstruation.
Domee Shi and Becky Neiman-Cobb of Pixar also nabbed an animated short prize for Bao, and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Shannon Dill shared best documentary feature for Free Solo, with Jimmy Chin and Evan Hayes.
International directors reign supreme
Alfonso Cuaron’s Best Director prize means that, incredibly, it is now nine years since an American director has won that award. Perhaps equally incredibly, that American was a woman – Kathryn Bigelow picked up the prize in 2010 for The Hurt Locker.
Since then, the award has been won five times by a Mexican – Alfonso Cuaron twice for Gravity and Roma, Alejandro Inarritu twice for Birdman and The Revenant, and Guillermo Del Toro for The Shape of Water. Two further awards were picked up by Frenchman Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist and French-American Damain Chazelle for LaLa Land, and one apiece went to Taiwan and Britain – Ang Lee for Life of Pi and Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech.
Trouble in Paradise?
The Oscars may have scored well on diversity on the surface, but the judge’s decisions were not without their critics. The selection of Green Book for Best Picture was particularly controversial. The film has been accused of being a “white saviour” movie, while lead actor Viggo Mortensen and co-writer Nick Vallelonga have both been involved in racism rows during the movie’s awards campaign trail.
Spike Lee, who is never a man to steer clear of controversy, was up against the film in the Best Picture category with BlackKlansman and was reported to say backstage: "I thought I was courtside at the Garden and the ref made a bad call", when asked about Green Book’s win. The director, who picked up an award for Best Adapted Screenplay this year, added: "Every time somebody's driving somebody, I lose," referring to the 1990 awards when his first Oscar-nominated movie, Do the Right Thing, lost out to Driving Miss Daisy for the Best Original Screenplay Award.
Lee’s film wasn’t up against Green Book in the Best Adapted Screenplay category this year, though we’d be interested to hear what he made of Green Book’s Best Original Screenplay win, given that the film is inspired by, if not exactly based on, The Negro Motorist Green Book, a mid-20th century guidebook for African-American travellers written by Victor Hugo Green, to help find motels and restaurants that would serve them.
Updated: February 25, 2019 04:10 PM