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The 95th Oscars sparks conversation about representation

March 16, 2023
<p>Illustration by Wendy Guzman.</p>

Illustration by Wendy Guzman.

Photo by Wendy Guzman | The State News

While 2022's Oscars night was diluted of its appreciation for art by the infamous slap between Will Smith and Chris Rock, this year, the award ceremony was able to spark a conversation about representation within the film industry.  

The movie to beat this year was “Everything, Everywhere, All At Once,” an A24 produced film about an immigrant family that has to travel throughout the multiverse to save existence. As of Sunday, March 13, it is the most awarded film by the Academy of all time with six Oscars

History and political science sophomore Connor Le said he was ecstatic to see his favorite movie receive so much buzz, especially with the Best Actress campaign for Michelle Yeoh. Le is Asian American said he can relate to the idea of coming from an immigrant family and experiencing the generational trauma

Michelle Yeoh is the second woman of color to ever win the Oscar for Best Actress, with the first being Halle Berry in 2002 for “Monster’s Ball.” 

“It definitely shines a  light on (the fact) that it's a very, very white dominated industry,” Le said. “Hopefully with Michelle Yeoh’s win, it's a good step forward to allow more people of color to be winning these awards.”

Political science-pre law sophomore Brooke Groce believes that the Oscars show a lack of diversity and representation, even down to who is choosing the winners

Groce believes that Jamie Lee Curtis’ win for “Everything, Everywhere, All At Once” in the Best Supporting Actress award over Angela Basset in "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" was more about seniority than merit — due to the weight of Bassett’s performance

“I think (Bassett's performance) meant a lot for a lot of people and there's a lot of people who are into the Marvel franchise,” Groce said. “It was an emotional performance because Chadwick Boseman passed away before that film, and … you could just tell in her performance she was taking all of that in and it was … more than acting to a lot of people.” 

Le said he loved Curtis in the film, but believed Stephanie Hsu’s performance in the same movie was more important, as a representation of an LGBTQ+ child to an immigrant family.

One of the bigger scandals of the awards show was how Bassett reacted to Curtis's win — she did not clap or stand up for her. While many people were upset about this, Le said it isn't “that deep.”

“It's a major award. You should have some right to be a little bit upset if you don't win an award, but I don't think Angela Bassett was trying to show that she was trying to be negative in any way,” Le said. 

Redemption stories were a theme for four of the acting awards. Brendan Fraser, who won Best Actor for “The Whale” and Ke Huy Quan, who won Best Supporting Actor for “Everything, Everywhere, All At Once,” were both once blacklisted from Hollywood — Fraser because he spoke out about Hollywood abuse and Quan because his role “The Goonies,” left him long perceived as a child actor

Jamie Lee Curtis and Michelle Yeoh both have had long careers without much recognition. Yeoh said she has not passed “her prime.” 

“I think it just shows that no matter if people think that somebody is dried up, no matter … if it looks like they are all done, that comebacks can happen,” Le said.

Political science-pre law senior and Mitchell Scholar has interest in Irish research. The new “Star Wars” films and “Game of Thrones” were filmed in Ireland,  which Scholar said challenges the idea of "cinema being American." 

"More and more, you have film industries in India and Ireland … that have stories that are informed by very different histories than ours and different cultures that are going to give a different slant to how those movies are produce,” Keefe said. “Those unique achievements are really great because it gives those different countries the opportunity to share a part of themselves with the rest of the world.” 

The Oscars recognized foreign films this year, with “The Banshees of Inisherin” receiving nine nominations and “An Irish Goodbye,” winning best live action short film.

"I used to think of foreign films and foreign originating actors being put in like the foreign film category box … (with) its own dedicated category,” Keefe said. “It almost creates that perception that American film is inherently different from foreign film and foreign cinema. That's what makes them so much more competitive. Now that we're seeing that box is being broken down, I know my mind has definitely been broken of that thinking by the success of more foreign actors, foreign countries and their production efforts.”

With this growing representation, many are seeing a comeback of the Oscars and its relevance to the world of filmmaking and art

“I still think it has its place and with a greater diversification, as we've seen … that's something that is getting better,” Keefe said. “There's more voices being heard and more achievements being spotlighted.” 

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