The 2014 Oscars Were Finally Dignified, Deep and Diverse

Lady Gaga as Oscar

Lady Gaga as Oscar

Whoa, Academy Awards!

I really enjoyed watching the show, I most certainly live-tweeted it and it was one of the best Oscars Award presentations that I’ve ever seen. As an African American, I do not have a great relationship with the Academy of Arts and Sciences. I have watched the Oscars in a half-angry, half-hopeful, mostly disgusted state for many years now. I remember being frustrated that Denzel Washington did not win an Oscar for playing Malcolm X or Steve Biko but won one for playing a crooked-cop-as-mentor in “Training Day.” I was so disappointed that Halle Berry didn’t win an award for “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge” but won for that horrible claptrap of a film, “Monster’s Ball,” in which audiences were asked to believe that a Black woman in a deep Southern town would experience tragedy and death and not one person from her community would bring her a pot of food. Absolute trash-telling. But that’s how Lee Daniels rolls, so…

Cheryl Boone Isaacs

Cheryl Boone Isaacs

I did not have extremely high expectations for what might happen this year but I was still hopeful. After all, I’m an optimist. And my optimism paid off, as the show was great, the awards were something of which one could be proud and the speeches and performances were phenomenal. I think that the first President of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, is at least heavenly responsible for the diversity of the presentation of the show, as well as in the audience. I expect the voting members to change in the future. And it is very much appreciated.

Here were my favorite and most inspiring moments:

Ellen Degeneres Was a Great Host

Ellen Degeneres Was a Great Host

Ellen Degeneres as host was classy, elegant, easy-going, funny and poignant. Her hosting was refreshing and a far cry from the misogynistic insanity with which we had to suffer when Seth MacFarlane hosted. It was hilarious when Ellen opened with her incisive critique on racism stating:

Possibility number one: 12 Years a Slave wins Best Picture. Possibility number two: You’re all racists. And now, please welcome our first White presenter, Anne Hathaway!

And ain’t that the truth! When she emerged as Glenda the Good Witch and ordered pizza and distributed slices for members in the audience, I howled.

One Million Retweets in One Hour Broke Twitter

One Million Retweets in One Hour Broke Twitter

Her greatest achievement was taking the selfie above with A-List Hollywood Actors—and Breaking Twitter in the process. Hysterical.

Jared Leto’s acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor was moving, socially conscious, gracious and soulful, especially his tribute to his Mother:

Jared Leto Accepts Oscar for Best Supporting Actor

Jared Leto Accepts Oscar for Best Supporting Actor

To my fellow nominees, I’m so proud to share this journey with you. I’m in awe and have so much respect for you all. To the Academy, thank you. In 1971, Bossier City, Louisiana, there was a teenage girl who was pregnant with her second child. She was a high school dropout and a single mom, but somehow she managed to make a better life for herself and her children. She encouraged her kids to be creative, to work hard and to do something special. That girl is my mother and she’s here tonight. And I just want to say, I love you, Mom. Thank you for teaching me to dream….

To all the dreamers out there around the world watching this tonight in places like the Ukraine and Venezuela, I want to say we are here and as you struggle to… to make your dreams happen, to live the impossible….We’re thinking of you tonight….And this for the 36 million people who have lost the battle to AIDS and to those of you out there who have ever felt injustice because of who you are or who you love, tonight I stand here in front of the world with you and for you. Thank you so much and goodnight.

Cate Blanchett’s acceptance speech for Best Actress in a Leading Role was phenomenal and wonderfully gendered and political. She made the full case for why Hollywood needs to stop being so white, male, patriarchal, capitalist (if I do quote bell hooks myself) and made it clear audiences want to see women and the cavemen in Hollywood need to evolve:

Cate Blanchette Gets Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role

Cate Blanchette Gets Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role

Thank you so much to the Academy. As random and as subjective as this award is, it means a great deal in a year of extraordinary, yet again, extraordinary performances by women. Amy Adams, everything you do, but your performance in American Hustle blew my mind. And Meryl, what can I say? Sandra, I could watch that performance to the end of time, and I sort of felt like I had. Julia, #suckit. You know what I mean? And Judi Dench, I mean what a career. She’s not here tonight because at the age of 79, her film was so successful that she’s in India doing a sequel. I mean what a career that is, if I could hope….

And thank you to Sony Classics, to Michael and Tom for their extraordinary support. For so bravely and intelligently distributing the film and to the audiences who went to see it and perhaps those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people.

Whoopi Goldberg appeared in a comfortable style that, apparently, Julie Roberts had rocked previously but it worked for both women and I particularly loved Whoopi’s striped black stockings and her red, glittery shoes to introduce the anniversary tribute to “The Wizard of Oz.”

Whoopi Goldberg's Julia Roberts-inspired dress and Dorothy-inspired glittery shoes

Whoopi Goldberg’s Julia Roberts-inspired dress and Dorothy-inspired glittery shoes

Pink was awesome singing, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and her dress was classic and beautiful. There is a time when I don’t think an artist like Pink would have been welcomed at The Oscars, so I appreciate that kind of diversity, as well.

We all seemed surprised that Chiwetel Ejiofor did not win for Best Actor in a Leading Role for playing Solomon Northrup, especially since the film garnered so much attention and support and his soliloquy is what became seared in our minds in the trailers for the film. And he didn’t win.

Chiwetel Ejiofor played Solomon Northrup

Chiwetel Ejiofor played Solomon Northrup

But Matthew McConaughey did. And for the first time, even though my favorite did not win, I was not upset that Matthew did. He is a fine actor and I heard he was superb in “Dallas Buyer’s Club.” Then, he also gave a perfect and wonderfully inspiring speech:

Matthew McConaughey, Best Actor in a Leading Role

Matthew McConaughey, Best Actor in a Leading Role

Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you to the Academy for this—all 6,000 members. Thank you to the other nominees. All these performances were impeccable in my opinion. I didn’t see a false note anywhere….

There’s a few things, about three things to my account that I need each day. One of them is something to look up to, another is something to look forward to, and another is someone to chase. Now, first off, I want to thank God. ‘Cause that’s who I look up to. He has graced my life with opportunities that I know are not of my hand or any other human hand. He has shown me that it’s a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates. In the words of the late Charlie Laughton, who said, “When you’ve got God, you got a friend. And that friend is you.”

To my family, that who and what I look forward to. To my father who, I know he’s up there right now with a big pot of gumbo. He’s got a lemon meringue pie over there. He’s probably in his underwear. And he’s got a cold can of Miller Lite and he’s dancing right now. To you, Dad, you taught me what it means to be a man. To my mother who’s here tonight, who taught me and my two older brothers… demanded that we respect ourselves. And what we in turn learned was that we were then better able to respect others. Thank you for that, Mama. To my wife, Camila, and my kids Levi, Vida and Mr. Stone, the courage and significance you give me every day I go out the door is unparalleled. You are the four people in my life that I want to make the most proud of me. Thank you.

Chasing His Hero

Chasing His Hero

And to my hero. That’s who I chase. Now when I was 15 years old, I had a very important person in my life come to me and say “who’s your hero?” And I said, “I don’t know, I gotta think about that. Give me a couple of weeks.” I come back two weeks later, this person comes up and says “who’s your hero?” I said, “I thought about it. You know who it is? It’s me in 10 years.” So I turned 25. Ten years later, that same person comes to me and says, “So, are you a hero?” And I was like, “not even close. No, no, no.” She said, “Why?” I said, “Because my hero’s me at 35.” So you see every day, every week, every month and every year of my life, my hero’s always 10 years away. I’m never gonna be my hero. I’m not gonna attain that. I know I’m not, and that’s just fine with me because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.

So, to any of us, whatever those things are, whatever it is we look up to, whatever it is we look forward to, and whoever it is we’re chasing, to that I say, “Amen.” To that I say, “Alright, alright, alright.” To that I say “just keep living.” Thank you.

There was also a montage of warriors in Hollywood films that was outstanding and whomever edited it did an impeccable job. And then the montage of persons whom we lost was also sad and memorable. Curiously, Cory Montieth was left out of the montage and I have no idea why but that’s a big oversight. And the last photo lingered on that of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died of a heroin overdose after having been clean for over two decades. Often times, life is extremely cruel and unfair.

Bette Midler Sings "The Wind Beneath My Wings"

Bette Midler – “The Wind Beneath My Wings”

Thus, when Bette Midler appeared and sang, “The Wind Beneath My Wings,” we were all cut deep, down to the white meat. I was bawling, as I have danced a tribute to my own Mother with that song when I was graduating from college and I will undoubtedly play it at her funeral.

Sidney Poitier assisted by Angelina Jolie

Sidney Poitier assisted by Angelina Jolie

Sidney Poitier arrived onstage shortly after Midler made even herself cry—and he was looking old, frail and not very well. Angelina Jolie supported him and we were reminded that we owe him a huge debt. We were all co-signing on Twitter, as it appears this might be his last trip to the Academy Awards. Thank You, Mr. Poitier. “They Call Me Mister Tibbs!,” indeed…

Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez won for “Original Song” for “Frozen,” their speech was the most artistically presented:

Kristen and Robert for "Frozen" Original Song

Kristen and Robert for “Frozen” Original Song

Robert Lopez: Wow, thank you Academy

Kristen: And to our fellow nominees, you are all rock stars.

Both: Literally

Kristen: We have so many people to thank, luckily, everybody’s name rhymes.

Robert: Idina Menzel

Kristen: Kristen Bell

Robert: Jennifer Lee

Kristen: Peter Del V.

Robert: Chris Buck

Kristen: Chris Beck

Robert: John Lasseter

Both, singing: Happy Oscars to you. Let’s do Frozen 2.

Robert: Tom MacDougall

Kristen: Chris Montan

Robert: Oremus

Kristen: Metzger

Robert: Besterman

Kristen: The Anderson

Robert: And the Lopez Clan

Kristen: Jon Groff

Robert: Josh Gad

Both: Mom and dad

Robert: John Buzzetti and our team back East

Kristen: and Kate…Brooklyn. And last but not least

Robert: Our girls

Kristen: Katie and Annie. This song is inspired by our love for you and the hope that you never let fear or shame keep you from celebrating the unique people that you are. Thank you, we love you.

Robert: We love you. Thank you.

12 Years a Slave Poster

12 Years a Slave Poster

But the night belonged to the cast and crew of the film, “12 Years a Slave.” Sometimes, you just cannot deny history and you have to let things happen in due time. I guess this was the right time for such a film.

Cast and Crew, 12 Years a Slave

Cast and Crew, 12 Years a Slave

Lupita N’Yongo has won the hearts and minds of Hollywood, so it was no surprise that she would appear on the red carpet to stun everyone. And she did. Before the show was over, someone had turned her picture into something akin to a Disney cartoon princess.

The Red Carpet Goes Disney

The Red Carpet Goes Disney

But when she gave her acceptance speech for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, she proved she is really a queen.

Lupita Nyong'o for Best Supporting Actress

Lupita Nyong’o for Best Supporting Actress

Yes! Thank you to the Academy for this incredible recognition. It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s. And so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey for her guidance. And for Solomon, thank you for telling her story and your own. Steve McQueen, you charge everything you fashion with a breath of your own spirit. Thank you so much for putting me in this position. This has been the joy of my life. I’m certain that the dead are standing about you and watching and they are grateful and so am I.

Lupita Nyongo Hugs Steve McQueen

Lupita Nyongo Hugs Steve McQueen

Chiwetel, thank you for your fearlessness and how deeply you went into telling Solomon’s story. Michael Fassbender, thank you so much. You were my rock. Alfre and Sarah, it was a thrill to work with you. Joe Walker, the invisible performer in the editing room, thank you. Sean Bobbitt, Kalaadevi, Adruitha, Patty Norris, thank you, thank you, thank you, I could not be here without your work.

Lupita Nyong'o Backstage with her Family

Lupita Nyong’o Backstage with her Family

I want to thank my family for your training and the Yale School of Drama as well for your training. My friends, the Wilsons, this one’s for you. My brother, Junior, sitting by my side. Thank you so much. You are my best friend. And Ben, my other best friend, my chosen family.

When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from your dreams are valid.

Thank you.

Yes, Lupita. Outstanding. John Ridley won for “Best Screenplay Adaptation” and also gave a humbling, inspiring and beautiful speech. The power belongs with the writer, of the Solomon Northrup and John Ridley kind:

John Ridley, Best Screenplay Adaptation

John Ridley, Best Screenplay Adaptation h/t @BET

Thank you, all. I started writing in sitcoms a long time ago. And at that time I was very fortunate to meet a script coordinator who was gracious enough to read everything I wrote. And when she thought it was ready, she put a smiling face at the end and I knew that it was job done. And, Gayle, seeing you here tonight, smiling, you take away all that soul-crushing inadequacy. All the praise goes to Solomon Northup.

Those are his words. That is his life. All the thanks goes to the entire crew, the entire cast, to everyone at Fox Searchlight, at River Road, at New Regency and Plan B, Mr. Pitt, most especially to Dede and Jeremy Kleiner, you made this film happen. Jeremy, you made it happen.

Thank you so much. Mom, Dad, Lisa, Beth, John, Jason…all my love. Thank you very much. Thank you.

Thank You, Solomon Northrup

Thank You, Solomon Northrup. 

And when “12 Years a Slave” won for Best Picture, Steve McQueen jumped up on stage like he was in a new dance troupe and expressed his enthusiasm. For those who were unaware, Brad Pitt produced the film and was quite pleased with how this all turned out.

Best Picture, "12 Years a Slave"

Best Picture, “12 Years a Slave”

Brad Pitt: Thank you all. Thank you for this incredible honor you bestowed on our film tonight. I know I speak for everyone standing behind me that it has been an absolute privilege to work on Solomon’s story. And we all get to stand up here tonight because of one man who brought us all together to tell that story. And that is the indomitable Mr. Steve McQueen.

Steve McQueen: Oh wow. I’m sorry, I apologize for the paper but otherwise I’ll just bore you all. Well, maybe I’ll do the same now but I’ll try not to. I’d first like to thank the Academy. Thank you so much. There are a lot of people for me to thank so I’ll just push on. My wonderful cast and crew, Plan B, Brad Pitt, who without him this film would just not have been made. Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Anthony Katagas. River Road, Bill Pohlad, New Regency, Arnon Milchan and Brad Weston. Film4, to the great Tessa Ross. And Fox Searchlight, Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley, and their fantastic team.

My publicist Paula Woods, I’m sorry about this, for her hard work. April Lamb, and my magnificent agents. I have to say this to all these women, I have all the women in my life and they’re all the most powerful. And my mother, obviously. Maha Dakhil – I can’t even pronounce it. Maha, I’m nervous, I can’t pronounce your name, you know who you are – Beth Swofford, Jenne Casarotto and Jodi Shields. Just give me one more minute. I’d like to thank this amazing historian, Sue Eakin, whose life, she gave her life’s work to preserving Solomon’s book. I’d like to thank my partner, Bianca Stigter, for unearthing this treasure for me. Finally, I thank my mother. My mum’s up there. Thank you for your hard-headedness, Mum, thank you. And my children, Alex and Dexter. And my father, thank you.

The last word: everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live. This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup. I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery. And the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today. Thank you very much. Thank you.

All in all, it was a great night! The show was long but it was truly the most dignified, deep, diverse Academy Awards Show I have ever seen. Thank you, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, for your obvious influence! Not on the awards but the overall presentation of the show and amount of persons from diverse backgrounds in the audience.

By the way, did Kerry Washington get a slice of pizza? We were all wondering! She needed it! She’s a pregnant woman! xoxo

See you in 2015 and maybe it will be from the red carpet!

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