The best picture win for Moonlight turned out to be a literal takeaway for both LaLa Land and the Hollywood establishment. But not all takeaways are created equally.
In the first case, the “Hollywood ending” quips are totally called for. After a clearly confused Warren Beatty looked vainly inside the wrong envelope for the right announcement, his co-presenter, Faye Dunaway, announced LaLa Land as the winner of the Best Picture award. Except it wasn’t. It was Moonlight, in a moment so stunning that even the graphic designers managed to get in their critiques – design a readable card! – before the conspiracy theorists recovered enough to weigh in.
No matter what is going on in your life, I expect you will be having a better day than the people who were associated with the chain of custody of that last, all-important envelope.
Some three LaLa Land producers had managed to get through their acceptance speeches before they were finally told the news. And in a moment of extraordinary grace, it was LaLa Land producer Jordan Horowitz who snatched the correct card from Beatty and showed it to the audience declaring, “This is not a joke. Moonlight has won Best Picture.”
And with that, a moment of triumph and celebration was engulfed by confusion and disbelief, as two separate but equally hard-working film families struggled to process the news. A clean win would have meant so much. “I didn’t want to go up there and take anything from somebody, you know?” Mahershala Ali told The New York Times. At least it wasn’t the other way around, black Twitter whispered, a nod to a controversy that would never, ever have died.
But without belaboring a difficult moment, there’s a deeper poignancy in the scene. For the past two years, the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag and related online social pressure have forced the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to diversify its leadership and voting base, ruffling the feathers of some longstanding members, many of whom hadn’t made any part of a movie for decades. As a result, new filmmakers, stories, themes, and talent were being acknowledged in a ceremony that had been routinely criticized for rewarding insiders instead of excellence, a liberal Hollywood that turned out not to be so liberal after all.
While there were plenty of mainstream political moments , it was hard to deny how different the ceremony felt and looked.
Six black actors were nominated, all deserving. The two who won – first-timer Mahershala Ali and longtime favorite Viola Davis – both moved the crowd to tears with their extraordinary acceptance speeches. Three films with predominantly black casts, “Fences,” “Moonlight,” and “Hidden Figures,” were nominated for Best Picture, with nary a slave or a maid in sight. Four out of five entries in the documentary category were created by artists of color. The winner for the best documentary short film was The White Helmets, a film about the extraordinary Syrian civil defense unit that conducts civilian rescue operations in war-torn Syria. In an ironic twist, their cinematographer was blocked by the Department Homeland Security from entering the country to attend the ceremony.
I can’t blame anyone who said, “Enough of politics!” and turned the channel, as so many on social feeds claimed to do. But you don’t have to watch the Oscars or annoying celebrities speak in their own voices to reap the benefits of a diverse Hollywood. You just have to live in the real world that they are helping to shape: One in which disciplined creators get to tell big, humane and unexpected stories that change the way we see ourselves and each other.
I expect there will continue to be some confusing moments as the Hollywood old guard figures out how to make room on stage for unfamiliar others, the very newcomers who are unfailingly making the business case for diversity in film.
But the only thing that’s truly being lost are the opportunity costs associated with seeing the world in a narrow way. And that’s the kind of takeaway we should all be able to live with.
|Turns out Daniel Kaluuya, the star of “Get Out,” has a lot to say|
|Speaking of business case for diversity in film, it looks like Get Out, the directorial debut from comedian Jordan Peele, handily won the weekend’s box office. Kaluuya stars as a man who visits his white girlfriend’s family for the first time, setting off a series of horrific psychological and physical tortures. It’s a metaphor for race that nobody but a black man whose mastered the craft of storytelling could create, and resonated deeply with Kaluuya. “In the real world, there’s probably nothing more horrifying than racism. Living racism is a horrifying experience. And then, having to normalize it and internalize it,” he says of everyday racial slights. “However, the impact is making people feel isolated and different, because you just want to feel included, like you belong.”|
|Headstones damaged at a Philadelphia Jewish cemetery|
|At least 100 headstones were confirmed pushed over or otherwise damaged, but volunteers say the number might be five times that. The police have declared it a clear case of vandalism, and an interfaith group has been working to set things right. “There are people from Quaker, Muslim, Jewish communities,” said a local rabbi. “[They] came out here out of the desire to be in solidarity to show that we’re not interested in any narrative about victimization and – as heartbreaking as this is – we are strong together.” A reward is being offered for information about the person or persons responsible.|
|HBCUs are seeing an uptick in applications as black students seek psychological safety over Ivy “prestige”|
|The pressures of being a black student at a majority white college is forcing some students to re-think their options, according to this report from NPR’s Code Switch. Recent research shows that students who study and live on predominantly white campuses suffer from a “physical and mental wear-and-tear that contributes to a host of psychological and physical ailments.” It’s not something that mere “grit” can overcome, either. Students and parents of color are taking the research seriously. Over the last three years – during a time of protests and high-profile shooting incidents involving the police- nearly a third of historically black schools have seen at least a 20% increase in applications.|
|Untangling the kimono: Is it cultural appropriation or appreciation?|
|The kimono dates back centuries, yet has become a fashion staple for westerners, and, in various forms, a go-to money maker for designers. But as people have become more outspoken about cultural sensitivity in fashion – think bindi dots and Native headdresses – the kimono is getting a second look. Does it matter whether Beyonce wears a sexy kimono? The answers aren’t always easy. “It’s the cultural context that gives meaning and potency to acts of cultural appropriation,” says one expert. “To dress in kimono in Canada or the U.S. during the 1940s would of course have a very different meaning than it does today.”|
|The Globe and Mail|
|On the meaning of black homeownership|
|Natalie Moore, from Chicago’s WBEZ, has a published an audio documentary and story on black homeownership, and how fraught the dream of safety, security and wealth-building has historically been for people of color. The centerpiece of her story, is her own family, who managed to buy a home in a formerly white-flight neighborhood which had become “black on purpose.” The wave of civil rights thinking that helped her father get a good job at Shell Oil wasn’t enough to change the way Chicago operated. “Race shapes the decision of what house to buy and where to buy it. It changes the way the whole system works for African-Americans.”|
The Woke Leader
|Atherton’s police blotter is both sweetly serene and weirdly revealing|
|It’s a quiet suburb nestled in the heart of Silicon Valley, filled with tony mansions and home to a host of bold-faced tech names like Sheryl Sandberg, Eric Schmidt, and Paul Allen. In Atherton, CA, one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S., people routinely buy multi-million-dollar homes with cash. That’s part of what makes the fascinating Atherton police blotter the ultimate in voyeuristic entertainment. It’s a whole other planet. “A male truck driver wearing gloves reportedly made a U-turn and then stared at a person,” is one entry. And this doozy, “A resident reported a large light in the sky. It was the moon.” One year, they even called the cops on Santa. Ho, ho, ho.|
|An old-time newspaperman was the local hero we didn’t know we needed|
|Stanley Dearman, the editor/publisher of a weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Miss., died over the weekend. His death was announced in the paper he bought in 1966 and ran for 34 years until he retired. Dearman is not famous, but should be, for his role in demanding justice for three young civil rights workers, James Earl Chaney, a black activist from Mississippi, and Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, white New Yorkers, who were intercepted on a rural Mississippi road and killed by Klansman in 1964. After part-time preacher and Klan organizer Edgar Killen was cleared by an all-white jury in 1966, Dearman used his small paper to demand justice for the victims, publishing scores of editorials and articles, including interviews with the family of the murdered civil rights workers. He continued his quest for decades.|
|New York Times|
|Telling the story of Syria, one stone at a time|
|Syrian-based artist Nizar Ali Badr, has been telling stories by placing beach swept stones into remarkable compositions for decades. But starting in 2011, he began telling the stories he was seeing from the Syrian conflict – death, displaced families, homes destroyed. He scours for stones on the shoreline of Jebel Aqra, also known as Mount Zaphon, a limestone mountain on the Syrian-Turkish border. After years of creating then destroying his work, he now photographs them and posts them on Facebook. The work is a human endeavor, not a commercial one. “I am a human before anything else. The conflict has caused me a lot of pain and I sometimes can’t sleep at night,” he said.|