Oscars not so white? Academy Awards winners see big shift
Three years after #OscarsSoWhite, the Academy Awards sees major shift in diversity of winners and story-telling
A black superhero action flick. A film about an indigenous maid in Mexico. A portrayal of a gay, immigrant rock star. Spike Lee's first Oscar.
Held on Sunday night in Los Angeles, the 2019 Oscars were a win for films telling stories from a range of racial and cultural perspectives, marking a major shift three years after the movie industry's top awards show was slammed for overlooking work by non-white artists.
Green Book, a film about racial injustice in the segregated US South in the 1960s, took best picture, the night's top prize.
In his acceptance speech, director Peter Farrelly said the film, about a black pianist and his white driver, was "about loving each other despite our differences".
It won despite a slew of negative publicity around it in recent months.
The family of the late pianist Dr. Don Shirley has said that his portrayal contained inaccuracies, and in January, accusations surfaced of sexual impropriety by Farrelly in the 1990s.
Some critics also faulted it for portraying a white character (played by Viggo Mortensen) as the main protagonist in a film about discrimination against black people.
"I think we brought great honour to Dr. Shirley," screenwriter Nick Vallelonga, who won for best original screenplay, told reporters on Sunday about the criticism.
However, acclaimed black director Spike Lee, whose film BlacKkKlansman was nominated for best picture, said "the ref made a bad call".
He tried to storm out of the Dolby Theatre just after Green Book was announced the winner at the end of the ceremony, according to various media accounts, then came back to his seat, where he turned his back on the stage during the Green Book acceptance speeches.
In the press room backstage, Lee recalled that a previous racial drama of his, Do The Right Thing, had failed to earn a best picture nomination for the Oscars in 1989, the year that the film Driving Miss Daisy - about a black chauffeur for a white elderly Southern woman - won the award.
"I'm snakebit. Every time someone is driving somebody, I lose,"
Lee, a big fan of the National Basketball Association's New York Knicks, told reporters in response to a question about his reaction to Green Book's victory.
"I thought I was courtside at the (Madison Square) Garden, and the ref made a bad call."
Green Book won three awards, as did Roma, a black-and-white, Spanish-language film about an indigenous housemaid, and Black Panther, a Marvel superhero movie with an almost entirely black cast.
Yet, Lee took home his first Oscar on Sunday - best adapted screenplay for BlacKkKlansman, about a black detective who goes undercover with the Ku Klux Klan.
Backstage, he sipped champagne and said he would not have won his recent accolade had it not been for the #OscarSoWhite campaign that erupted in 2015 and 2016, and for Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the former Academy president who oversaw efforts to diversify its membership.
"They opened up the Academy to make the Academy look more like America," Lee said, noting wins on Sunday by black women including Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler, the costume designer and production designer respectively for Black Panther.
"It's a real breakthrough that any film about race gets to win," co-writer Kevin Willmott added backstage."When I started in the industry, it was really bad. And we've come a long way since then." - REUTERS
List of Oscar winners
Best picture: Green Book
Best director: Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
Best actor: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Best actress: Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Best supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Best supporting actress: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Best foreign language film: Roma
Best cinematography: Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
Best animated feature: Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
Best documentary feature: Free Solo
Best original screenplay: Green Book
Best adapted screenplay: BlacKkKlansman
Best original score: Black Panther
Best original song: Shallow, A Star Is Born