“Birdman” took home Best Picture and Best Director prizes on an Oscar night filled with passionate and overtly political speeches.
Director Alejandro González Iñárritu, who won for helming the innovative Michael Keaton film, used his Best Picture acceptance speech as a platform to address his native Mexico and the broken immigration system here in the United States.
“I want to dedicate this award for my fellow Mexicans, the ones who live in Mexico. I pray that we can find and build a government that we deserve. And the ones that live in this country who are part of the latest generation of immigrants in this country,” said Iñárritu.”I just pray that they can be treated with the same dignity and respect as the ones who came before and built this incredible immigrant nation.”
The theme of dignity and mutual respect was a recurring one throughout the night. From the red carpet, where Best Actress nominee Reese Witherspoon helped champion a social media campaign (#AskHerMore) encouraging the media to ask women about more than their outfits. to the Oscar stage, where several performers made socially relevant remarks before getting played off by the show’s producers.
Adapted screenplay winner Graham Moore (for “The Imitation Game”) made extremely personal remarks about why the story of Alan Turing, a closeted gay codebreaker during World War II, resonated with him.
“Alan Turing never got to stand on a stage like this and look out at all of these disconcertingly attractive faces. And I do. And that’s the most unfair thing I think I’ve ever heard. So in this brief time here what I would want to use it to do is to say this: when I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself. Because I felt weird, and I felt different, and I felt like I did not belong,” said Moore. “And now I’m standing here, and so I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere. Yes you do. I promise you do – you do. Stay weird, stay different. And then, when it’s your turn and you are standing on this stage please pass this message to the next person who comes along.”
Patricia Arquette, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for “Boyhood,” received rapturous applause for making a shoutout for equal pay for women and musical artists John Legend and Common riveted the audience with a stirring performance of “Glory,” their timely Oscar winning song from the movie “Selma.”
During their acceptance speech, both Legend and Common were not shy about calling attention to the ongoing racial crises in America. Common talked about paying a recent visit to the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the historical site of the civil rights march for voting rights, led by Dr. Martin Luther King and depicted in the film.
“The spirit of this bridge transcends race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and social status. The spirit of this bridge connects the kid from the South Side of Chicago dreaming of a better life to those in France standing up for their freedom of expression. To the people in Hong Kong protesting for democracy. This bridge was built on hope, welded with compassion and elevated by love for all human beings,” said Common.
“We know the Voting Rights Act that they fought 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this country today. We know that right now the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850,” added Legend.
The fact that “Selma” was snubbed by in most of the major Oscar categories provided comedic fodder for the show’s host, Neil Patrick Harris. During his opening monologue he welcomed Hollywood’s “best and whitest … I mean brightest,” and later when “Selma” star David Oyelowo was greeted with applause, Harris quipped, “Oh, now you like him!”
Despite the laughs, a serious, even earnest tone pervaded the proceedings as evidenced by “Citzenfour” director Laura Poitras’ Best Documentary acceptance speech.
“The disclosures that Edward Snowden reveals don’t only expose the threat to our privacy but to our democracy itself,” said Poitras. “When the most important decisions being made effecting all of us are made in secret we lose our ability to check the powers that control.”