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Spike Lee Finally Got Some Love, But The Oscars Still Fixate On White Saviors

Black folks and people of color made history at the Oscars, but Green Book’s Best Picture win was a side eye.

Precedence is what earmarks history, and it is catalyst that often forces precedent. Three years ago, activist April Reign coined the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite to describe the historic absence of nominees and winners of African descent at the Oscars, as well as the absence of other non-black people of color.  

Stereotypical troupes of slaves, gangsters, pimps and coons that once were a normality for black actresses and actors have faded away to find roles that show the total scope of black dignity like no other time in American cinematic history.  

For the 91st Academy Awards, audiences witnessed a historic haul by black creatives. After 91 years of misrepresentation, the Oscars were more inclusive than at any point in its history. A record seven Oscars were handed out to black people this year.

Ruth Carter and Hannah Beachler took home the award for Best Costume Design and Production Design, respectively, for their extraordinary African diaspora-inspired work in creating a futuristic aesthetic that was so perfectly black that it’s still inspiring real-world discussion for black cultural expression across the globe. These were Marvel’s first and second Oscar wins ever.

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Best Supporting Actress- Winner Regina King for If Beale Street Could Talk

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Regina King, who I literally grew up with vicariously from her role on “227” through her Golden Globe Award winning role in Seven Seconds, is the result of the struggles fought by Cicely Tyson and Dorothy Dandridge. She is the continuation of the type of majestic professionalism we’ve come to expect and enjoy from the great Angela Bassett.

 

 Best Animated Picture – Winner Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

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“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” was an incredible dream come true of a cinematic offering. The look hearkened to the comic book flavor while the characters culled from the minds of Marvel danced on the screen in perfect synchronicity.  When we interviewed co-director Peter Ramsey, much of the discussion was about the importance of diversity in film. 

 

The Green Book Conundrum

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Mahershala Ali won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Dr. Shirley in “Green Book”. The film had come under great criticism from Black media, Black Twitter and Dr. Shirley’s living relatives.

Ali himself had expressed contrition regarding the film, which some say centers the character played by Viggo Mortenson instead of highlighting the genius of a black, gay prodigy. The film also won the Oscar for Best Picture.

This was Mahershala’s second Oscar in three years. He won his first Oscar for his role in “Moonlight”.

“Trying to capture Dr. Shirley’s essence pushed me to my ends, which is a reflection of the person he was and the life that he lived,” Ali said, dedicating the award to his grandmother, “who has been in my ear my whole life. … I know I would not be here without her.” 

He joins only Denzel Washington as the only black actors to win multiple Oscars. “Green Book” executive producer Octavia Spencer became the first black woman to win an Oscar for producing a film.

 

 Blackkklansman- Winner Best Adaptive Screenplay

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At long last, director Spike Lee has finally won an Oscar in a competitive category, this one for Best Adaptive Screenplay for Blackkklansman.  Over the years, Lee had been quick to mention the slights of from the Academy in not nominating some of his best works like Malcolm X and Inside Job.

Several years ago, he was given an Academy Honorary Award but his reaction to winning the Oscar this year, which saw him leap into the arms of fellow Morehouse alum Samuel L. Jackson, said it all. Sweet victory! Maybe some of that winning flavor will rub off on his New York Knicks next year. 

His speech was a moving tribute to the ancestors who fought and died, many in anonymity, that he might stand on the Oscar stage.

 

Black Panther- Winner Best Original Score 

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Swedish Composer Ludwig Goransson, who has worked with director Ryan Coogler on such films as “Fruitvale Station” and “Creed”, has his thumb on the pulse of creating moving orchestral beds in which each pivotal scene can be heightened into some other than it otherwise would be.

Each of the approximately 28 tracks that encapsulate the soul of the biggest turning points in “Black Panther”.  This Swedish cat straight finessed the the Oscar for Best Original Score for one of the blackest movies in Hollywood history. Respect.  

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