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Academy Award post-mortem

I put a lot of emotional energy into this year’s Academy Awards, and now that they’re over, I feel like a kid when the circus has just left town. I don’t normally follow the Oscars so fervently, but something this year pulled me in from the minute the nominees were announced. Initially, I received a fair bit of bewilderment for my obsession. Even I judged myself- why did I care so deeply about an event that I didn’t think mattered, at least not in any meaningful way? The Oscars are largely denounced as ostentatious and trivial, however the more I immersed myself in the awards show, the more I found that there is actually some substance behind the glittery gowns and gold statues. Here were 5 moments in this year’s telecast that proved me right.

Women walking the red carpet have come to expect one question- What are you wearing? To challenge the validity of that question, non-profit organization The Representation Project began a campaign using the hashtag #AskHerMore, to call for entertainment hosts to ask female celebrities about more than just the outfits they wear. A number of accomplished females supported the movement on Oscar night, including Best Actress nominee Reese Witherspoon.
“This is a movement to say we’re more than just our dresses. There are 44 nominees this year that are women and we are so happy to be here and talk about the work that we’ve done.”
Oscar winner Patricia Arquette used her acceptance speech to tackle another feminist issue- the income gap. She gave a rousing cry “to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.” Many other famous females showed support for Arquette’s message from the audience- most notably Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez.

The fact that not a single non-Caucasian actor received a nomination this year was a contentious issue, particularly since one of the best picture nominated films was about Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. Host Neil Patrick Harris quipped at the beginning of the show that they were there to celebrate “the best and the whitest.” However despite being underrepresented in the awards categories, people of colour still made a profound impact at the Academy Awards. One of the most moving moments was when John Legend and Common took to the stage to perform the Oscar winning song Glory from the movie Selma. Their powerful performance elicited an emotional response in many people, including Selma actor David Oyelowo who was brought to tears.

Stay weird, stay different
The most deeply honest moment of the night came from Graham Moore, who won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. He was honoured for penning The Imitation Game, which told the story of Alan Turing, the misunderstood World War II hero who was criminally convicted for being gay and ultimately committed suicide. During his acceptance speech, Moore opened up the discussion about suicide by sharing his own experience.
“When I was 16, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird and I felt different and I felt like I did not belong.”
He then encouraged anyone who might be struggling to stay weird and stay different, and pass on that message to others. The writer also expressed how unfair it was that he could stand on that stage and Turing could not. However many have credited Moore for honouring Turing and his story, as well as for adding another voice the fight against depression.

Shining a light
2015’s best actor and actress also used their time on the stage to draw attention to their respective causes. Julianne Moore won her Oscar for portraying a woman living with Alzheimer’s in Still Alice. In her acceptance speech, she said that she hoped that the movie was able to shine a light on the condition.
“So many people with this disease feel isolated and marginalized, and one of the wonderful things about movies is that it makes us feel seen and not alone. People with Alzheimer’s deserve to be seen so that we can find a cure.”
Best Actor winner Eddie Redmayne also utilized his acceptance speech to raise awareness for the disease his character lives with. The actor received critical acclaim for his painstaking portrayal of genius scientist Stephen Hawking, who suffers from ALS. Redmayne used his platform to bring ALS back into the public consciousness by dedicating his award to the Hawking family and everyone around the world battling the motor neuron disease.

Dignity and respect
Alejandro González Iñárritu was far and away the most successful person the 2015 Academy Awards, having won three Oscars in a single night. The Birdman director used his final speech, accepting the award for Best Picture, to give a personal message to his fellow Mexicans. Iñárritu used the stage his incredible success afforded him to have a meaningful discussion about some of the challenges facing Mexican people, and continue the dialogue Selma set forth about race relations in the USA. He expressed his desire that Mexicans living in Mexico would be able to find and build government, while also sharing his hope for the future of Mexican immigrants in America.
“I just pray that they can be treated with the same dignity and respect of the one’s who came before and built this incredible immigrant nation.”

These events were the gems of the 87th Academy Awards. The ceremony was still filled with the self-indulgent frippery one would expect from an awards show (Neil Patrick Harris in his underwear! Lupita Nyong’o wearing 6,000 pearls!), but I thought these moments were telling. For once the artists framed the conversation, by taking a stand and talking about what they believe deserved talking about. Since they were brave enough to do that, I think it’s time we take 10 minutes to stop criticizing their outfits and actually listen to what they have to say.