Friday, February 14th, 2020

And the Oscar goes to… Social Awareness

Jonathan Blum

This year’s Oscar Awards were the talk of the town, and not just for some unexpected gold statue winners. Film stars walked the red carpet of the year’s most anticipated event—the night Hollywood honors their work. However, despite its status as a leading entertainment industry event, it continues to be polemic.

The nominees for all categories were announced weeks ago. To many it was very obvious it had —yet again—left out a significant number of female filmmakers. Despite there being several successful female-directed films this year, these were snubbed in the main nomination categories such as Best Director and Best Picture. To protest, actress Natalie Portman wore a red Dior dress featuring a cape embroidered with all the names of the female directors who had been left out of the awards, including Greta Gerwig, Lulu Wang, Lorene Scafaria, among others.

On the upside, this year the Academy made an effort to show greater cultural and racial receptiveness—most likely in response to the demands and criticism of an evolving society that is becoming increasingly aware of its social responsibility.

But there is still a long road ahead. Most nominations were “white and male”. However, several of the event’s performances suggest the Oscars’ vision is becoming less conservative. The opening was an example. Afro-American actress and singer, Janelle Monáe, presented a bright show starring people of color and began her speech by celebrating all women who had directed extraordinary films, again addressing the topic of equality. Another highlight was the performance of songs from Frozen 2. It demonstrated greater cultural inclusivity by featuring singers of diverse nationalities including Mexican, Japanese, and Russian.

And how could we forget the big surprise of the night? For many, it was pretty clear which films and performances were the favorites. Several awards were predictable, such as Joaquín Phoenix for his role as the Joker, Little Women for Best Costume Design, and 1917 for Best Cinematography. But the night’s biggest surprise—which nobody expected although many had their hopes pinned on it—was Parasite as Best Picture. It marks a historic win because it is the first time a non-English language film has won this award, taking home 4 statues out of its 6 nominations. The Academy’s decision to select this Korean film, which uses dark comedy to depict the chasm separating social classes, reflects its growing cultural diversity and the importance of making films that portray meaningful messages and raise awareness about the plight of others.

This year’s awards were different. Many of the nominated films stood out thanks to the sum of their parts rather than a single feature such as its photography or soundtrack. Their stories, performances, and technical sides seamlessly blended into works of art.

Something all of this year’s nominees had in common is they were all created from a place of greater social awareness. They each tell a story that invites us to reflect on many of the problems that have been latent in our society for many years, but which are only just beginning to gain visibility and awareness.

If you still haven’t seen these 2020 Oscar award-winning films, please take a moment to do so and immerse yourself, if only for a while, in these incredible stories.