Oscars 2016 a.k.a. The Blackest White Oscars Ever
So, the Academy Awards took one heck of a penitent turn.
After the Academy endured months of tumult over its blatantly monochromatic nomination choices ("whiter than a Yeti in a snowstorm fighting Tilda Swinton" said John Oliver), it delivered what was probably the most compensatory ebony ceremony we've seen. Like ever.
- Chris Rock's polarising, cringeworthy, self-aware and brave opening monologue was ENTIRELY about the racial disparity, including the gems; "Welcome to the White People's Choice Awards," "This year in the 'In Memoriam' package, it's just gonna be black people who were shot by the cops on the way to the movies," "Is Hollywood racist? Yeah, damn right Hollywood is racist... Hollywood is sorority racist." and "We want opportunity, we want black actors to have the same opportunity. That's it. You know... not just once."
- Most Oscar ceremonies air skits and pre-recorded parody segments in-between awards. This year's catalogue was also dedicated entirely to the race conversation. Parody clips of 'Carol', 'The Martian', 'The Danish Girl' and 'The Revenant' were recreated, to startlingly expert effect, portraying black people as underdogs in every film they appeared in (including one where Leonardo's bear is replaced by an angry black female, and 'The Martian' ends prematurely because the astronaut is Chris Rock and Nasa couldn't possibly spend $2,500 to bring him home). Angela Bassett presented a 'Black History Month Minute' dedicated to a non-black type of Black, and Chris Rock went out on the street asking black people, just like he did in 2005, what nominated films they had seen, to hilarious (and blush-worthy?) effect.
The most memorable line: Whoopi Goldberg appearing as a janitor in the film 'Carol' and saying, “Of course, a black girl would have to invent the cure to cancer before they even give her a TV movie."
- Snubbed lead actor of 'Beasts of No Nation' Abraham Attah presented an award alongside (snubbed?) supporting actor of Room, Jacob Tremblay. Attah's untainted Ghanaian accent was a glorious sound in itself.
- The telecast began and ended with instrumental renditions of two Black anthems; the affable 'Hollywood Swinging' by Kool & The Gang, and the more acidic monumental tune, Public Enemy's 'Fight The Power'. The second half of the end credits had the latter song play, lyrics and all.
- This event saw the largest number of black presenters/supporting cast appear on stage or on screen, including Quincy Jones, John Legend, Common, Pharrell, Stacey Dash (biggest what-just-happened moment of the night), Whoopi Goldberg, SNL's Leslie Jones, Michael B. Jordan, Abraham Attah, Chadwick Boseman, Tracy Morgan, Louis Gossett Jr, parody Suge Knight, and a group of all black Girl Scouts.
- Harold Wheeler, a black composer and conductor, took the helm as the Music Director, conducting the choir through a series of familiar film tunes and several melodies associated with blackness. In a conspicuous moment of appreciation, Chris Rock eased the showiness by quipping, "We're only doing this so he can get laid at The Governor's Ball'.
- And finally, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the black and female president of the Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences delivered the customary speech, except it was heavy on an awareness of what's wrong with the Academy, and included a quote by Martin Luther King.
I'm not saying this ceremony rights any wrongs. Yes it was too little too late. But it was also a refreshingly unexpected 4-hour long reaction. I'm intrigued at having witnessed the Blackest White Oscars ever, and I have renewed appreciation for the many colours that irony can possess.
Let's see what happens next year.
(Oh, and I'm one of those folks that had to Google Stacey Dash. Her failed appearance on the stage was painful in epic ways [and vice versa].)