The Academy Awards — people love to love them and equally love to hate them. The Oscars float in a sea of celebrity drama that interacts with complex world issues, so it can be hard to see the good without the bad. But what do our writers think? Find out below in a mini battle of opinions.
Katie Moore (Arts & Culture editor)
Okay hear me out, I think there are parts of the Oscars that are actually pretty great — we get to see everyone dressed up, there’s crazy performances and there are some extremely heartfelt moments that make me melt every time, especially during the acceptance speeches.
Seriously, you can’t tell me you didn’t tear up when the first thing Ke Huy Quan did when he won the award for Best Supporting Actor was scream “Oh my God” and tell his mom through the camera that he just won an Oscar. His speech was genuine and his thank you’s were sincere, and that’s not something you always see.
I also appreciated that they didn’t cut him off, which is something they definitely did to other people. I won’t lie, there was a hint of favoritism in terms of talking time and I couldn’t help but notice that women were cut off more frequently than men. Just look at the video time for the acceptance speeches done by the ladies of “The Elephant Whisperers“ versus the men from “All Quiet on the Western Front.”
For those who didn’t know, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” won movie of the year and has been snatching well deserved awards up all season. This included a Best Actress win for Michelle Yeoh, making her the first Asian woman to win an Oscar in that category and only the second woman of color to do so. She was handed the award by Halle Berry, the first woman of color to win Best Actress.
Yeoh received a standing ovation and massive hugs from her whole cast, and after a shaky first breath (that you could just totally tell was filled with love) she gave a wonderful speech. She said her Oscar was “a beacon of hope” for young actors of color and made sure to tell the ladies in the audience that nobody gets to decide when you’re past your prime. Literally just rewatching the acceptance I’m getting emotional watching her just take deep breaths.
I think at the opposite end of speeches is the presenting of the awards, which is usually when they find the best looking people to liven things up and read out some names. While those intros can be occasionally awkward — like when John Travolta totally butchered Idina Menzel’s name when introducing her 2014 performance of “Let It Go” — they can also be a way to break barriers. For example, this year is the first year I’ve seen a deaf actor come and present an award. Troy Kotsur, last year’s Best Supporting Actor winner who was born deaf, used sign language to present the award and someone interpreted and spoke over what he was saying. Not a massive moment, but I was glad to see that they included him and didn’t just write him off because he would be signing instead of speaking.
I know the Oscars get a lot of heat given their bias towards white nominees and lack of inclusion, and believe me, I agree with all of it and work must keep being done; but, I also know there are wonderful things like some of the above moments that come from the Oscars as well. If the Oscars are about celebrating people who really fight to make change and make meaningful movies, I think it isn’t all that bad.
Contact Katie Moore at email@example.com.
James Miller (staff writer)
As a kid, I was always left puzzled when my mom would tune into the Oscars. She’d only give a handful of other televised national spectacles, like the Super Bowl and the State of the Union Address, an afternoon of undivided attention. I understood the visceral appeal of the Super Bowl, the traditional political platform State of the Union Addresses provide. But the Oscars? Why would I watch conceited actors congratulate themselves for three hours?
My younger self was too critical of the Oscars. The show does a tremendous job of celebrating elite performers in all aspects of the film industry. And despite me not wanting to admit it, I’m intrigued by famous actors parading the red (er, champagne) carpet in gaudy outfits. But it’s hard for me to stay engaged during the three-plus hour long affair. The Oscars are just bland.
The show doesn’t need more ostentatious moments like the Will Smith slap last year. I’d be more eager to watch if the evening added a veneer of seriousness, perhaps by highlighting nominees’ humanitarian work. I suspect others would be as well.
This year’s host, Jimmy Kimmel, had a chance to do this with Malala Yousafzai. The youngest Nobel laureate in history, Yousafzai was in attendance as an executive producer of “Stranger at the Gate”, a nominee in the documentary short category. The documentary tells the story of a former Marine who plans a terrorist attack at a local mosque, only to be accepted by the Muslim community and convert to Islam.
Instead of highlighting her humanitarian work through the Malala Fund, Kimmel asked Yousafzai for her stance on “Spitgate” — whether or not Harry Styles spit on Chris Pine at the Venice Film Festival. Yousafzai replied that she only talks “about peace,” and the joke flopped. But more importantly, the chance to connect the Awards in a positive way with a worldwide star outside of the movie industry was missed.
It’s not just Hollywood outsiders with humanitarian work worth mentioning. The day following her Best Actress win, Michelle Yeoh published an essay in the New York Times advocating for women’s needs to be met during humanitarian crises. Yeoh describes her experience in Nepal during an earthquake that killed more than 1,900 people in 2015, and how she returned twice to aid relief efforts as a United Nations Development Program goodwill ambassador. This should’ve been mentioned during the Awards.
The organization behind the Oscars, The Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences, does have a humanitarian award. According to the Oscars’ website, the Academy bestows the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to an “individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.” Michael J. Fox is the most recent recipient, winning last November.
Although the award comes with an Oscars statuette and has honored Hollywood A-listers like Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie in the past, the Academy gives it out at the Governors Awards, a secondary gala held each November. Moving this award to the Oscars would encourage Hollywood’s stars to use their personal platforms for the greater good.
I’m frustrated by the Oscars’ lack of attention to humanitarian causes, because nominees clearly work hard to make the world a better place. If the Oscars’ highlighted nominees work for the public good, the glitzy evening would have more substance outside of the movie industry. It would give possible viewers like me a new reason to tune in, too.
Contact James Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.