Over blizzard-like conditions in Colorado, we watched the 87th Academy Awards simply known as the Oscars. The Oscars have always been a personal favorite because like so many people, as we watch, we are often lost in the magic of Hollywood.
The glitz and glamour of Tinsel Town is a far cry from the average lives so many people live, but this year, reality set in over and over again. This year was the year of the political and cause statements that covered, inequality in pay, a subject eloquently covered by Best Supporting actress, Patricia Arquette (Boyhood). It is still an issue which gets overlooked in a predominantly man’s world that is soon set to shift with the influx of women in the workforce.
Suicide was also covered by Oscar winner Dana Perry (Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1), who told the audience her son had committed suicide and that it was a subject that needed to be discussed openly in society. An untimely joke by Oscars host Neil Patrick Harris followed and one we’re sure he won’t soon forget.
The positive call to action of the night was by Best Supporting actor, J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) who finalized his speech by adding, “If you are lucky enough to still have one or both your parents, call them. Don’t text or email them, call them. Talk to them as long as they want to talk.”
Another winner, Graham Moore (The Imitation Game) indicated he tried to kill himself when he was 16, because he felt weird, different, and didn’t fit in, but encouraged those who felt “weird or different” to hang in there. He stressed that their time would come.
Selma’s “Glory,” singers John Legend and Common delivered their speech on justice and civil rights for African-Americans.
The issue of immigration and the highest state of tackiness would not be ignored as actor and activist Sean Penn announced the Best Director winner, (Birdman) opened the envelope, dramatically paused and said, “Who gave this son-of-a-bitch a green card.” Alejandro Gonzales Iñárritu went on to give his thanks and made his political statement on immigration and hoped his fellow Mexicans, in Mexico, get the government they deserve. Referencing Mexicans in this country, Iñárritu added, “I pray that they can be treated with the same dignity and respect of the ones who came before and built this incredible immigrant nation.”
Of late, it isn’t enough that film productions are an outlet to express ideas, but Oscar winners have used the ceremony as a platform to advance their political issues and causes.
In 1973, actor Marlon Brando sent a young Native-American woman named Sacheen Littlefeather to decline the Best Actor award (The Godfather) he had just won. Littlefeather said the actor, “very regretfully” declined the award because he was protesting Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans in movies. Ironically, Brando received the Best Actor award for his portrayal of a Mafia don in The Godfather, a negative and unwelcome portrayal of Italians by the Italian community.
Irony revisited, Sean Penn played the role of a gay San Francisco politician, Harvey Milk, an advocate of gay rights. Penn won for best actor in 2009. That noble performance and real life advocacy was trumped Oscar night when he chose to devalue the incredibly talented work of Mexican director, Alejandro Iñárritu and insulted the Mexican community by using the worst judgment when blurting out “Who gave this son-of-a-bitch his green card.”
In social media, one tweet was loud and clear – Sean Penn, “Not your moment, not your culture, not appropriate!”