Oscars put social issues on center stage

The 88th Annual Academy Awards aired on Feb. 28 with hours full of exciting wins, brilliant performances and politically charged monologues.

Many have been following the controversy of the “#OscarsSoWhite” scandal that up-roared after the release of names nominated for Oscars this year.  The issue lent itself to many actors and actresses, both of color and white, boycotting the awards entirely. Though many were absent from the show, that did not stop it from carrying on and relentlessly addressing the issue of race, as well as many other issues, throughout the show.

Chris Rock, the host of the award show, began his night with subtle jabs at the race issue with comments like “White People’s Choice Award” and mentioning had his position as host been an award, he would never have been nominated. However, as his opening monologue continued, he blatantly mentioned that the protest of the Oscars was “due to a lack of better things to do, since back in the ’60s they were too busy being raped and lynched.” An instant discomfort spread to many across the room and across the country.

Like all award shows, the Oscars came packed tightly with musical performances from some of the most popular voices on the radio today. The most talked about performance from the night was Lady Gaga’s “Till It Happens to You” from the documentary The Hunting Ground. The performance was introduced by Vice President Joe Biden, who is the primary author of the Violence Against Women Act from the 1990s. Biden encouraged those watching to check out the message-sponsored website ItsOnUs.org for more information about sexual assault.

When the performance began, Gaga already had tears welling in her eyes as she sang the ballad soon to be ringing in the ears of millions. The utter passion and deep meaning in the words she sang were perceived to all as nothing but sincere. At times, Gaga could not keep seated. She began to sit and stand throughout the performance as she still kept her fingers on the keys and voice unshaken. The “chills” moment really came into play as dozens of victims of sexual assault began marching on stage hand in hand. The performance received a standing ovation and the camera showed many celebrities in the audience wiping tears from their eyes.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an award show without some shocking award news. The “Best Picture” award went to Spotlight. “Best Leading Actress” was awarded to Brie Larson for Room. Both of these awards, though outstanding and more than just appreciated, were thought by many to be out shadowed by one of the most celebrated award to be given in years.

For the first time, after six nominations and years of being at the end of numerous Oscar jokes, Leonardo DiCaprio took home his very first Oscar award for “Best Leading Male Role” in The Revenant. This award was greatly celebrated because many believed he more than deserved this award.

DiCaprio did not take this win lightly. His acceptance speech said that and more as it too was politically charged. After hearing about racism, sexism, sexual assault, and more – DiCaprio referenced The Revenant and the bond between nature and man. In his acceptance speech, he took a proud stance on the reality of climate change and urged all to take this matter seriously.

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