2017 brings many firsts to the Academy Awards

On Feb. 26 the 89th annual Academy Awards were held. The majority of movies nominated for Oscars are not happy films. They are ones of pain, endurance, change and the grueling reality of what it means to be human. It’s rare you see happiness and comedy in the films represented at the Oscars. This year’s ceremony had a lot of expectations to overcome, being that it was the first of the Trump presidency and the follow up to last year’s #oscarssowhite uproar.

The Academy was very proud of itself for how many people of color were nominated this year. The Academy does not have an algorithm for picking the winners, it is up to their voter’s preference, and oftentimes that does not echo the choices of the global audience. In the 89 ceremonies the Academy has held, only 17 black actors and actresses have ever won an Oscar, so it is reasonable to call out that bias.

Following a 2016 Oscars that was famously labeled as whitewashed, the 2017 ceremony had many firsts.

Viola Davis took home the Oscar for her supporting role in “Fences.” With this award Davis is now the first black person to win an Oscar, Tony and Emmy for acting.

Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim to win an Oscar for an acting role. His performance in “Moonlight” was groundbreaking, and his speeches have been reflective of the challenges people of his faith are facing.

At 32, “La La Land’s” Damien Chazelle became the youngest director to win an Oscar. His film is as fast paced as the music it features and is a real delight if you are a fan of old Hollywood and musical theater.

And, a few weeks ago, the travel ban was going to block Iranian director Asghar Farhadi from coming to the ceremony. Farhadi’s film “The Salesman” won best foreign film, but Farhardi boycotted the awards ceremony to protest the travel ban.

However, not every award presented brought positivity to light. If you read the Highland Echo two weeks ago, you may have seen my piece on Casey Affleck. Affleck was the media’s sweetheart contender for best actor, even though he has heavy sexual assault allegations against him.

He did end up winning the award and proving that, if you are a white man in Hollywood, you can reach the top of the top even with a heinous history. Ain’t it a dream come true? As is tradition, the best actress winner from last year announced his win. This actress was Brie Larson for her performance in “Room.” Her disappointment showed clearly on her face.

“Room” featured a woman who was sexually abused for years, and the actress now advocates against sexual abuse. She, and other celebrities, refused to clap for Affleck.

As someone who desperately wanted “Moonlight” to win, I tuned out the acceptance speech for Best Picture from the producers of “La La Land.” It wasn’t long, however, before a man in a headset started running around the stage like a panicked rabbit.

It was then that “Moonlight” had in fact won best picture, not “La La Land.” This was the last award presented and definitely left the audience, there and at home, in confusion. The mixup led to conspiracy theories and questionable excuses from the academy. Whatever the reason, this year’s Oscars is one for the books.

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