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Is the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag still relevant in 2019?

This year, the 91st Academy Awards were hosted at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles with stars such as Daniel Craig, Whoopi Goldberg and Brie Larson presenting the highly anticipated awards for achievements in Film. For many viewers, critics and journalists, this event is a highlight in the award season because getting an Oscar means you’ve established a serious reputation in Hollywood. Not only are you recognised as a star amidst people like Al Pacino, Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence, your work has been acknowledged and praised by a very tough crowd. After watching the BAFTAs this year and then comparing the wins to the Oscar’s wins, I quickly realised how many categories had the same nominees. It seems like the UK and USA were on the same page about many of the films and the deserving stars.

Firstly, I think it’s significant to remark on how good Rami Malek and Olivia Colman’s performances were in their respective films, Bohemian Rhapsody and The Favourite. Both actors have been praised for their roles in TV series, but it seems they moved into film and, judging by their recent success, that was a decision for the better. Both Malek and Colman received the BAFTA for Best Leading Actor and Actress as well as the Oscar’s for them. Malek played a hard role as the late ‘Queen’ icon, Freddie Mercury, whereby he had to essentially adopt Mercury’s flamboyant character and convince the audience. Bohemian Rhapsody was nominated for a great deal of awards but it seemed to only do well when it came to Malek’s performance and sound editing. I first saw Malek in the TV series, Mr Robot, and instantly recognised his talent an actor. He was very convincing in his role back then as a socially awkward hacker and I had no doubt that he would perform well in the awards season. However, when he was listed against actors such as Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper, I wasn’t so sure he would come out on top. But it was nice to see him do well and progress quickly since entering the world of the feature film.

I’m sure she has inspired a whole load of actresses who have been told they have a sell-by date when it comes to their time on-screen

Olivia Colman, as a British actress, has always been my favourite contender because not only is she an incredible actress, she has managed to stay incredibly humble and funny. After her success at the 2019 BAFTAs as Best Leading Actress, it seemed likely that she may just beat out Glenn Close and Lady Gaga for that top spot. What really made me smile was that Colman proved that as a female in the industry, it is possible to still get roles and still win awards over a certain age. Colman was 45 years old when she collected that Oscar for Best Actress and in doing so, I’m sure she has inspired a whole load of actresses who have been told they have a sell-by date when it comes to their time on-screen. Hollywood has been notorious for only ever having the young, beautiful actress whilst the men still get brilliant roles up into their 50’s and 60’s. Colman’s charm shone through once more in her role as well as her acceptance speech and it will be exciting to see what else she appears in after.

Whilst all of this was great to see, what caught my attention this year was the amount of non-white winners. It filled me (and many others) with joy to see that both recipients of the Best Supporting Actor and Actress categories were won by black actors, Mahershala Ali for Green Book and Regina King for If Beale Street Could Talk. Since the 2015 internet sensation ‘#OscarsSoWhite’, awards ceremonies have been under the spotlight when it comes to giving recognition to candidates from a non-white background. Whilst this year has shown a good amount of progress (finally), there is still “more to be done” across the film industry when it comes to representation and recognition according to the hashtag’s creator, April Reign.

This only goes to show how there is talent found across every background and that, if anything, Hollywood needs to give everyone equal opportunity if they want a great result and box office success

Aside from acting, it was nice to see that Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse as an animation with a black lead was well received and achieved the Best Animated Feature film award, doing better award-wise than many of the live-action and other animated superhero films. Talking of superhero films, Black Panther did exceptionally well with Oscars for Best Costume Design given to the first African-American woman to ever win the award, Ruth Carter, and one for Hannah Beachler for Best Production Design who was also the first African-American woman to win that. This only goes to show how there is talent found across every background and that, if anything, Hollywood needs to give everyone equal opportunity if they want a great result and box office success. BlacKkKlansman did well too with an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, but the real success was Roma, directed by Alfonso Cuarón, a Mexican director who bagged awards for Best Achievement in Cinematography, Directing and Best Foreign Language film. Not too bad considering he already won the BAFTA for Best Film a few weeks earlier.

The surprise this year for many was Best Motion Picture of the Year which was awarded to Green Book (which also achieved one for Best Original Screenplay). Since winning the award there has been a boost in the box office as more people were keen to see why it is that the film won. Green Book tells the story of an African-American pianist in the 1960s being driven around the American South by an Italian-American chauffeur. The film has been compared to Driving Miss Daisy, with a bitter Spike Lee (director of BlacKkKlansman) stating that all they did was “they changed the seating arrangement!”. Whilst Mahershala Ali did win the Best Supporting Actor award, it was noticeable that when the director, Peter Farelley and his white production team went onstage to collect the award, Twitter users took to posting memes and commentary bringing back the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag to prove that whilst there were significant wins for non-white actors and film crew, the ending didn’t look so inclusive. Justin Chang from the Los Angeles Times called it “the worst best picture Oscar winner since Crash” and Clarisse Loughery from the Independent called it “about as traditional choice as you can get” and a case of the “same old” situation, suggesting that indeed not all that much changed.

Full list of nominees and winners here.

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