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Politics and serious art have played hand in hand since Aristophanes was writing caustic socially conscious blockbusters for Athenian society. More recently, the Oscar presentations have historically been an irresistible stage for presenters and winners who have a political point to make. And the 87th Academy Awards is as politically charged as any since 2003—when best documentary winner Michael Moore took President George Bush to task for invading Iraq.
The lead-up to Oscars 2015 included open debate around the paucity of Selma nominations and whether or not American Sniper is propaganda as art or pure art. So pointed mentions of political points-of-view were anticipated for 2015, and pointed mentions were made—just not always from the expected directions.
Host Neil Patrick Harris delivered the night’s first stab at topical humor at the top of the show, “Tonight we celebrate Hollywood’s best and whitest, sorry … brightest.”
John Legend, with Common standing at his side, accentuated the color discrepancy in the room while accepting the Oscar for best original song, “Glory” from Selma: “We are the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men who live under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850.”
Patricia Arquette turned her best supporting actress (Boyhood) acceptance remarks into an opportunity to advocate for working people, especially working moms and working women: “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and to have equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
Director Laura Poitras, claiming a best documentary Oscar for Citizen Four, with investigative reporter Glenn Greenwald at her side, addressed the threat of secret government actions: “The disclosures that Edward Snowden reveals don’t only expose a threat to privacy, but to democracy itself. Thank you to Edward Snowden and to the many other whistleblowers.”
As Poitras and Greenwald headed backstage, host Neil Patrick Harris quipped from the audience: “The subject of Citizen Four, Edward Snowden could not be here tonight, for some treason.”
Birdman writer-director Alejandro G. Iñárritu, finishing off the night from his vantage point as the best-picture honoree, dedicated his Oscar to “my fellow Mexicans.” “[For those living in Mexico] I pray that we can find and build a government that we deserve, and the ones that live in this country, who are a part of the latest generation of immigrants in this country, I just pray that they can be treated with the same dignity and respect as the ones who came before and built this incredible immigrant nation.”
Anyone with a vested interest in which of these moments were a best, and which were the worst, please take the debate to the comments.
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