Much of the chatter going into the Oscars was about the lack of diversity in the Academy’s choices, specifically the dearth of nominations for “Selma.”
But while there were plenty of references to racial justice during the ceremony – drawing tears from the movie’s David Oyelowo at one point – issues mentioned in acceptance speeches ranged from suicide to Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease to wage equality for women.
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Sean Penn raised eyebrows with a reference he made to green cards in presenting the Oscar for best picture to Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for “Birdman,” but the two are friends and Inarritu interpreted the comment as a joke.
“Who gave this son of a bitch his green card?” Penn said.
Inarritu, who is Mexican, hugged Penn warmly, and joked that the U.S. government might now impose immigration rules on the academy: “Two Mexicans in a row, that’s suspicious.” Alfonso Cuaron, another Mexican director, won for “Gravity” last year.
On a serious note, he said, he hoped the “latest generation of immigrants … can be treated with the same dignity and respect of the ones who came before and built this incredible immigrant nation.”
ALS AND ALZHEIMER'S
In accepting the award for best actress for “Still Alice,” Julianne Moore said the movie shines a light on Alzheimer’s, saying, “People with Alzheimer’s deserve to be seen.” She also noted that Richard Glatzer, who directed and wrote it with Wash Westmoreland, has ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Eddie Redmayne, accepting the best actor award for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything,” said: “This Oscar belongs to all of those people around the world battling ALS.”
Graham Moore, who won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay for “The Imitation Game,” said in his acceptance speech that he had tried to kill himself as a teenager.
“When I was 16, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird and I felt different and I felt like I did not belong,” he said. “I would like this moment to be for the kid out there who feels like she’s weird and different and feels like she doesn’t belong. … Yes, you do.”
Backstage, Moore said he saw the public moment as a rare opportunity for a writer and figured that “I might as well use it to say something meaningful.”
Earlier in the ceremony, Dana Perry mentioned that her son had killed himself. Perry made her comments in accepting the Oscar for best documentary for “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1.”
“We should talk about suicide out loud,” she said.
DEMOCRACY AND CITIZENFOUR
Laura Poitras used part of her speech accepting the award for best documentary for “Citizenfour” to note that “the disclosures that Edward Snowden reveals don’t only expose threats to our privacy but to our democracy.”
But when the camera went back to Oscar host Neil Patrick Harris, he was quick to make a reference to the controversy surrounding Snowden: “The subject of ‘Citizenfour' couldn’t be here for some treason.”
Snowden is living in Russia to avoid arrest here. His supporters think he’s a hero; critics think he’s a traitor.
WAGE EQUALITY AND MORE ROLES FOR WOMEN
Meryl Streep leapt to her feet cheering, pointing and shouting, “Yes! Yes!” as Patricia Arquette ended her Oscar acceptance speech with a call for women’s rights.
“To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen in this nation: We have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality in the U.S.,” said Arquette, who won best supporting actress for portraying the mother in “Boyhood.”
The movie “Wild” didn’t win anything, but its two nominees, Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern, also talked about women needing better representation in Hollywood on the red carpet before the show.
Witherspoon said she started her own production company, making “Gone Girl” and “Wild” because she “got frustrated” with roles available to women. Dernsaid she was “proud” along with Witherspoon to be among “two of the 47 women nominated tonight. May we see that number double.”
LIMITED GLORY FOR SELMA
“Selma,” the movie about Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights march in Selma, Alabama, 50 years ago, was only nominated in two categories, best picture and best song. Fans felt it deserved more recognition and that Oyelowo, who played King, had been passed over for best actor.
The movie lost best picture to “Birdman” but won best song after a stirring performance of the anthem “Glory” by Common and John Legend. The audience was on its feet for the performance, and Oyelowo’s face was stained with tears.
The performance included a recreation onstage of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where the original march took place.
“This bridge was once a landmark of a divided nation but is now a symbol for change,” Common said while accepting the award. “This bridge was built on hope, welded with compassion.”
Legend cited voting rights and the incarceration rates of black men. Backstage, he said, “When you think about equality and freedom and justice, we’ve got more work to do.”