Colorful Oscar awards celebrate ‘Soul,’ ‘Strangers’

93rd Academy Awards in Los Angeles
Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, winners of the award for best original score for “Soul,” pose in the press room at the Oscars on April 25.
Chris Pizzello/Pool via REUTERS

Hollywood’s most glamorous night marked the 93rd annual Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Awards and as usual surprised television viewers by showcasing the most rewarding ceremony to honor the contributions of people of color in films.

A far departure from 2015 and 2016 when 20 of the acting nominees were white and #OscarsSoWhite became a viral hashtag, this year nine of 20 acting nominees named people of color.

The diversified gala featured a limited capacity, socially distanced gathering assembled for a reveal of the winners of last year’s best films.

The big reveal announced the names of winners representing thespians, artisans, creators and contributors to the audio/visual screen industry.

On a night Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis, the stars of the August Wilson-penned play “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” were poised to make history, two Black women made history as the first of their race to win an unprecedented category.

Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson bested hair and makeup specialists in the field for their work in the musical “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” The film also won for Best Costume Design.

Neither Davis nor Boseman managed to garner enough votes to win the Best Actor and Best Actress honors.

Favored to win, they both lost to the dismay of fans who believed a posthumous award to Boseman, the “Black Panther” star, would have been deserving.

A victory for Davis would have distinguished her as the only Black actress to win the category twice.

Inspired by the tragedy of George Floyd’s murder, “Too Distant Strangers” emerged as the winner of the Best Live Action Short film.

The 32-minute film addresses police brutality and provides food for thought on social issues.

Released on Netflix, the film was co-directed by Trayvon Free and Martin Desmond Roe.

On Hollywood’s biggest night, fashionistas spared no expense flaunting jewelry, fabric, and the excesses from success.

Director Free and his partner were among the extravagant spenders. They wore matching Dolce & Gabbana black suits lined by gold, silk embroidered with the names of victims of police brutality — among them Duante Wright, Tamir Rice, and George Floyd.

“Soul” beat all competition in the Best Animated Feature category. The film won a second statuette for Best Original Score.

Jon Batiste, keyboardist and musical director of The Stephen Colbert “Late Show” picked up a trophy for his winning effort in the film.

He is only the second Black composer to win the honor.

In 1986, Herbie Hancock was first to claim the prize for his jazz composition in the film “Round Midnight.”

Tyler Perry received a special Humanitarian award for the long list of charitable acts he has delivered throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The film mogul has extended goodwill to strangers and displaced individuals enough to fill this page. His humbling acceptance speech referenced lessons his mother taught him about discrimination, philanthropy and pre-judging strangers.

Probably the most humorous speech of the night spotlighted British actor Daniel Kaluuya, who won in the Best Supporting category for his performance in “Judas and the Black Messiah.”

Kaluuya’s role as Chicago Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton nabbed the coveted trophy from his fellow actor in the same film, Sacha Baron Cohen (The Trial of the Chicago 7) Leslie Odom Jr., (One Night in Miami) and Paul Raci, (Sound of Metal).

The actor took full advantage of the unlimited time he was afforded to thank voters.

He used the time to thank the cast, crew, producers and Black activists from the ‘60s. As if on a mission to lavish gratitude on everyone he could think of, the actor also thanked his parents for “having sex.”

His mother and sister in the audience seemed to cringe from the mention. However, his peers seemed amused by the candid and spontaneous shout-out he weaved into his acceptance.

Chinese director Chloe Zhao won a pair of statuettes for her masterful work on the film “Nomadland.” The first woman of color to win the Best Director award, she broke the glass ceiling for the gender and for her race.

Her film also took the Best Film and Best Actress categories. Frances McDormand won the Best Actress category for her portrayal in the film.

South Korean actress Yuh-Jung Youn could have won the most charismatic award had the Academy included such a category. The darling of the evening scored victory for her supporting role in the film “Minari.”

Stevie Wonder was not a contender in any category but his “As” recording proved an appropriate background to the long list of 2020/21 thespians and film specialists who died in the worst year for the industry when movie houses were closed to audiences.

Prominently acknowledged in the in memoriam segment: rapper DMX, actress Paula Kelly, actors Yaphet Kotto, Sean Connery, Chloris Leachman and Boseman, among others, were given their final tributes. Introduced with dramatic honor, actress Angela Bassett recited their prominence and legacy that will endure en perpetuity.

Instead of the usual orchestral accompaniments before and after each presentation, deejay Questlove provided turntable samplings that seemed to entice the privileged crowd.

And although this year’s presentation has been criticized for lacking in entertainment, actress Glenn Close, who was denied a golden Oscar for the eight time proved to be most endearing when she demonstrated her recollection of a ‘90s dance named “Da Butt.”

Not only did Close ace the routine that made the song and dance prominent, but she schooled the audience about the song which was released by Washington, D.C., based EU and was featured in the Spike Lee movie “School Daze.”

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