Oscars 2017: Dismissive or Diverse?

 

Moonlight finally got to step into the spotlight. It was made on a micro budget as compared to the other films nominated and told the story of its protagonist in a different way. A black man on screen admitting he’s gay – gosh that is an oxymoron in itself.

Yet who really watches the Oscars anymore? I don’t. Well I do but in part for the fashion although it is not as much of a guilty pleasure as when the late great Joan Rivers would be dismissive of most of the fashion. And then there are the prizes, you know the ones, the important prizes: best actress, best actor, best picture. Frankly, by the time that the Oscars comes around after SAG, BAFTA, Indie Spirit, Cesar and all the other countless awards it almost feels like a forgone conclusion who will win.

Last year the only winner seem to be a hashtag: #OscarSoWhite. Oscar was just too white glossing over the fact that he’s actually golden. Where were the black nominees. And there goes the neighbourhood and meaningful discussion about prizes. You aren’t guaranteed to win. There are plenty of great films and actors that haven’t won an Oscar over the years and should have. It’s a prize – albeit shiny and golden but just a prize.

Cue 2017 and nobody said it but I will: the Blacks have arrived or maybe to be politically correct – African Americans. Yet diversity isn’t and shouldn’t be reduced to a, pun alert, black or white issue. It’s about telling stories in a variety of ways and from different points of view. One of my favourite films – Children of a Lesser God is a love story. The main character is deaf and she falls in love with her speech therapy teacher. Marlee Matlin won the Oscar for best actress that year, the first deaf actress to ever win such an accolade.

Anyway as with all hashtag movements, #Oscarsowhite, it became disposable. 2017 was all about Old Hollywood glamour, feel good after some reality tv star and property mogul, someone called Trump  became the 45th President of the USA and we were all told we needed escapism. That distraction came in the form of La La Land. Either you loved it or loathed it. I don’t enjoy musicals – the end. So when it came to the final and most important Oscar of the night – Best Picture. It didn’t come as a surprise that La La Land was announced except, O-M-G, that was the wrong winner. Here’s how Oscar is dismissive – rather than allow Moonlight it’s rightful moment in the spotlight and getting those multi award  Oscar La La Land winners off the stage, confusion reigned. I still don’t know whether the producers, director etc of Moonlight gave a speech or in fact what they said. For all Oscar 2017’s effort to make it about diversity and there were notable African American Oscar winners – best actor and best supporting actor, what we were left with was a how did the La La Land team feel about being ejected off the stage.

Let’s focus on Moonlight – glorious moonlight under which I do my best writing. I am a creature of the night. This is a movie made on a micro budget something that could have been crowdfunded. It is narrative driven and tells the coming out story from a different point of view and has African American actors in central roles. This film is truly diverse. It’s not about race but the story – who’d have thought there would be a story about a black man coming out. This story is rarely told but needs to be. So I’m happy Moonlight won. My other favourite was Hidden Figures because it showed how far we’d come as humans getting to the moon and as women. Actually a number of films nominated were diverse – Elle as well as Manchester by the Sea. You may know the core story but not told in that particular way. This is definitely the case for Moonlight.

Dismiss disposable hashtags and start demanding to see diverse storytelling. I hope this a trend that will endure and that the Oscars will continue to recognise and award such films.

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