The Academy Awards and their relationship to systemic change


As Oscars season comes to a close, viewers are reflecting on this year’s event, which celebrated a revolutionary year in cinema. 2023 marked the 95th Annual Academy Awards Ceremony. Many viewers saw this year as a positive shift toward inclusion and representation, with most of the nominees and winners representing minority groups, accepting wins that highlighted inclusionary action.

This year, the Awards were dominated by Everything Everywhere All at Once, the absurdist fantasy film featuring a near entirely Asian-American cast. The A24-produced film took home many awards, including the ceremonies most prestigious, Best Picture.

As with every year, the ceremony was filled with a large number of interesting moments. One of the most memorable came when Sarah Polley, Canadian writer and director of Women Talking, began her speech with a sharp dig at the Academy as she accepted her award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Polley said, “First of all, I want to thank the Academy for not getting offended by the words women and talking put so close together like that” This demonstrated that Polley is a member of Hollywood with no interest in conforming to the institution.

Brenden Fraser also won Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in A24’s The Whale. The emotion in Fraser’s voice was palpable as he spoke, tears brimming in his eyes. He thanked everyone, making emotional whale puns in a heartwarming and short speech.

Ruth Carter, costume designer for Wakanda Forever, shared a powerful speech while accepting her award. Carter received a standing ovation, ending her speech by saying, “Thank you to the Academy for recognizing the superhero that is a Black woman. She endures, she loves, she overcomes, she is every woman in this film.”

In one of the Twitter memed moments of the night, Jamie Lee Curtis accepted the first Oscar of her three decade long career. While some are proud of her achievement, Curtis’ win sparked some controversy online. Many were upset that Angela Bassett, nominated for her performance in Wakanda Forever, was snubbed in favor of Curtis. 

Buzzfeed Editorial Assistant and self proclaimed ‘Oscars Enthusiast,’ Spencer Althouse (@SpencerAlthouse), took to Twitter to say: “Angela Bassett’s reaction to Jamie Lee Curtis’ name being called…you can tell how much that Oscar would have meant to her. She is, was, and always will be incredible. I better see her on that stage SOON.”

Twitter User @Meradceu resonated similar thoughts by saying: “Of course the #Oscars reward white mediocrity because in what world did Jamie Lee Curtis give a better performance in comparison to Stephanie Hsu or Angela Bassett?

“We just won an Oscar!” Curtis screamed into the crowd, teary eyed. She won this for her role in Everything, Everywhere All at Once, causing speculation as many viewers found that Curtis gave a lackluster performance as IRS inspector, Deirdre Beaubeirdre.

Ke Huy Quan won for Best Supporting Actor in Everything Everywhere All at Once. The excitement in the room was palpable. The entire audience was moved by the tenderly beautiful moment, even causing presenter and actress Ariana DeBose to cry as she announced his win.

Huy Quan entered the stage with a muttered “Oh my god” before giving a tear-inducing speech, saying, “I cannot believe this is happening to me, this is the American dream!”

Michelle Yeoh won Best Actress in a Leading Role for her portrayal of Evelyn Quan Wang in Everything Everywhere All at Once. She began her speech by saying, “Thank you, for all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities, this is proof that dreams do come true, and ladies, don’t let anybody tell you you are ever past your prime.” She then thanked her family in Malaysia, and Hong Kong, the place where she started her career. Michelle closed her speech by saying, “Thank you to the Academy, this is history in the making.”

This year, The Oscars amassed a viewership of 18.7 million Americans, and saw a significant jump in ratings from the previous year. Compared to last year’s controversial events, (including the infamous slap) the general public agrees that this ceremony moved The Oscars into a more positive space, building the ceremony back to its original intentions for an enjoyable and respected event to celebrate the year in film.

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