Oscar speeches look more like presidential debate at 88th Academy Awards

By : Jeremy Williams
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Oscar night is often filled with award shocks and surprises and the 88th Academy Awards did not disappoint as Sam Smith becomes the first openly gay man to win an Oscar. Well, okay so he wasn’t, but he wasn’t sure about it so he said it anyways.

Sam Smith was among the winners considered an upset by Oscar experts. The winner of the Best Original Song for “Writing’s on the Wall” from the James Bond film Spectre was as shocked as the rest of the viewing world when his name was called instead of Lady Gaga and Diane Warren for the emotional song “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground, a documentary about campus rape in the United States.

Carol also felt the cold shoulder of Oscar as the 6-time nominated film went home empty handed. The film about two women engaged in a love affair in the 1950s, and directed by the Oscar winning and openly gay Todd Haynes, was one of the best reviewed movies of 2015.

Alicia Vikander won Best Supporting Actress for her role of Gerda Wegener, the wife of transgender artist Lili Elbe, in The Danish Girl.

Vikander was joined by Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), Brie Larson (Room) and Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant) as the actors to take home the golden statue.

Oscar night, which usually is focused on awards and dresses, dug a little bit deeper as acceptance speeches drew attention to issues on politics, racism, the environment, sexual assault, child molestation and equal rights.

Smith referenced an article he read about Ian McKellen saying no openly gay man had ever won an Oscar.

“If this is the case,” Smith said. “Even if it isn’t the case, I want to dedicate this to the LGBT community all around the world. I stand here tonight as a proud gay man.”

It wasn’t the case, as he was referencing an interview with Sky News where McKellan referred to openly gay actors not winning Oscars. The comments seemed to upset screenwriter Dustin Lance Black who wrote, and won an Oscar for, the screenplay for Milk in 2009.

Black tweeted, “Hey @SamSmithWorld, if you have no idea who I am, it may be time to stop texting my fiancé.” Black is engaged to British Olympic diver Tom Daley.

Producer Michael Sugar from Best Picture winner Spotlight, which tells the story of the Boston Globe’s investigation into the Catholic churches’ child molestation scandal, said the win gave a voice to the survivors.

“This film amplifies that voice, which we hope will become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican,” Sugar said.

Spotlight won against odds on favorite The Revenant, which still had a good night winning three Oscars including the one for DiCaprio.

DiCaprio used his time on Oscar’s stage to speak about climate change.

“Climate change is real, and it’s happening right now,” DiCaprio said. “It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.”

The biggest elephant in the room, however, was the lack of diversity in the nominations this year, including for the second year in a row where no people of color were nominated in the acting categories.

Host Chris Rock hit the subject hard. Diversity was the focus of his entire opening monologue and he doubled down with several videos throughout the night about the lack of movies with black characters.

The issue-driven ceremony seemed apropos during a very divisive election year but it apparently wasn’t the glitz and glamour people wanted to tune into. This Oscar ceremony was the lowest rated in eight years.

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