• Danyol Jaye

Oscars 2015: Moving Backwards?

Photo courtesy of ScreenRant.com

It was a night of major controversy as people all over America tweeted and blogged about the lack of diversity in this years nominees at The Academy Awards. It was the least diverse show since 1998, reported The Huffington Post. Although, there were some moments worth watching, here's my take on the Oscars this year.

I wasn't even five minutes into the show before I was utterly offended at the tasteless jokes that Neil Patrick Harris had to deliver. We understand the show writers were probably trying to make light of things, however, there is funny and then there's just down right racial. All of this to say that I was very confused as to why they chose to use David Oyelowo (Selma) to crack fun at the revised movie musical, Annie. Yes let's use the black man to poke fun at the "black" Annie! This of course was one of MANY underhanded comments and levity that I didn't find at all hilarious.

It was no secret that there was not one single solitary actor of color nominated for an award this year, however, there were those winners in non actor catagories that shined who weren't of Caucasian decent; unless you consider British and Australian to be Caucasian. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (a Mexican) took home the golden statue as Best Director while his film Birdman racked up three awards for Best Cinematography, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture. His moment however was cut short (according to Twitter) as actor Sean Penn, in introducing the award, commented and said,

"Who gave this son-of-a-bitch his green card?"

The Twitterverse was ablaze as they immediately tweeted their disgust at the comment. Even actors such as Mario Lopez waved their finger in disapproval at what many called, another tasteless immigrant joke, saying,

Photo courtesy of DemonBloodAddictsAnnonymous.Tumblr.com

The night did, however, have some saving moments. Lady Gaga received wonderful kudos for her tribute to musical theatre royalty, Julie Andrews, as she sang songs from the iconic film The Sound of Music. Audiences laughed at the playful banter between host, Neil Patrick Harris, and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, and the moment that is on everyone's mind is the Glory performance (and Oscar win for Best Original Song) by Hip-Hop sensation Common and R&B singer/songwriter John Legend.

Photo courtesy of JustJared.com

Now with what I'm about to say I may lose MANY of you; I'm willing to take the risk!

The song itself has been the focus of both great controversy and great emotional pride since being premiered in Ava Duvernay's original screenplay Selma; a story that documents the historic march from Selma to Montgomery for civil rights with Dr. Martin Luther King (played by David Oyelowo) leading the way. The largest controversy was during this years Grammy's when singer Beyonce requested to sing the segue, Precious Lord, into Common and Legends Glory performance. The argument for many was that singer Ledisi, who sang the song in the movie as gospel great Mahalia Jackson, should have been the one to sing the song. She was a part of the movie and gave a jaw dropping performance during the film. Questions about whether Common and/or Legend fought at all for her to sing it became social media's number one concern.

Needless to say Beyonce sang the song to a very disappointed audience. Many say that though they love Queen Bey, her performance of the iconic song was more than lack luster. International Bassist Redd Alder was quoted as saying,

"It felt awkward; Hymns should never feel awkward!"

However, the Oscars is another day and another performance! The two artists gave an emotional and awe abiding performance with a choir of voices marching over a replica of the historic Edmund Pettus bridge. The performnace not only garnerd a standing ovation but also the tears of many in the audience and at home watching on their television sets. Actor David Oyelowo was seen in a stream of tears as he applauded the performance. Actor Chris Pine was also seen shedding a tear for this emotional moment. Pine was later part of another controversial article as his single tear photo was coined the "face of pain" for the struggle depicted in the Glory performance. For more on that story CLICK HERE.

Here's where I'm going to lose most of you. As I enjoyed the performance itself, I was not as moved as the rest of America seemed to be. The controversy, popularity, and overall buzz surrounding this song simply does not sit well with me. There is something "too good to be true" about it. As I strive, as an artist myself, not to take away the accolades of anyone, I can not help but to feel that the ONLY award given to a person of color (Other than Alenjandro's win); for a song in a movie that was nominated for Best Picture, is nothing more than a bone thrown to minorities in an attempt to shut us up for a little while longer so that the injustices of this world (specifically in entertainment for the sake of this subject) can carry on; business as usual. I do not question the deserving nature of the win to Common or John Legend but I do question the reason behind the win itself. I question if they were chosen to be the focal point of positivity while the war of negativity surrounding the lack of diversity at the Oscars remains undealt with. As people continue to cry out about the injustice of Black artistry (music/TV/Film) being underappreciated but their White counterparts (doing the EXACT SAME art) being rewarded, I have to wonder: are we being given a Trojan Horse in entertainment?

I know that many of you will fire back your opinions and say that the Glory performance was the BEST part of the night but as for me, I can not say that I was moved at all by it. I'm sure in that room of the Dolby theatre there was a presence 100 times what I didnt' feel sitting at home. For the hundreds of people in that room, I, without any doubt, know that it was a powerful and meaningful moment. However, I didn't feel it myself. I didn't feel it's emotion, it's power. Just as I didn't get the racial banter that was so callously given throughout the show. I feel the same about this string of moments that I did about the popularity of an Ice Bucket Challenge when the issue of young, innocent, Black men losing their lives over nonsense is ignored.

Even though I may not agree with the "Why" I can not and will not disregard the fact that there were some well deserved awards given. My hope for the future is that many more well deserved awards are given; prayerfully the majority realize that many of those well deserved are people who have faces that are not White.

With race STILL an issue at the table that is America, it is my right to be upset that they didn't serve the food we would like to eat, I can not, however, disregard that at very least we have been invited to the table. I guess the fight for a new menu is another story altogether.

#theacademyawards #beyonce #ledisi #theoscars #johnlegend #common #seanpenn #alejandrogonzalezinarritu #mariolopez

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