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Oscars 2017: Are the awards now just a gaffe or an opportunity lost?

Instead of being outspoken against the vicious political climate in the US, the winners at Academy Awards 2017 restricted their on-stage speeches to being personal notes of gratitude.

oscars 2017 Updated: Feb 27, 2017 15:47 IST
Sonal Kalra
Iranian astronaut Anousheh Ansari accepting the Oscar and reading out a note on behalf of Iranian director Asghar Farhadi.
Iranian astronaut Anousheh Ansari accepting the Oscar and reading out a note on behalf of Iranian director Asghar Farhadi.

Beside the mother of all goof-ups in announcing the wrong winner in the most important category, the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday night disappointed on another count. That of winning actors and filmmakers not being as outspoken against the vicious political climate that prevails in the US, as was expected of them. Barring a strongly worded monologue by the evening’s host, Jimmy Kimmel, that started with ‘This broadcast is being watched by millions in America and around the world, in more than 225 countries that hate us’ and ended with a dig at President Trump by calling for a standing ovation for the ‘most overrated and undeserving’ Meryl Streep, the on-stage speeches largely remained as personal notes of gratitude by the winners.

Host Jimmy Kimmel tweets to President Donald Trump. (REUTERS)

With over a billion people watching it live across the world, Oscars made the largest platform for the American film fraternity to raise a voice against the xenophobia being unleashed by President Donald Trump and his government. Actor Meryl Streep’s incredibly hard-hitting speech at the Golden Globes in January this year further led to expectations that a collective, loud and clear point that the film fraternity is not willing to be a silent spectator to Trump’s anti-secular and non-inclusive ways, would be made from the Oscar stage.

Best Supporting Actor winner Mahershala Ali (L-R), Best Actress winner Emma Stone, Best Supporting Actress winner Viola Davis and Best Actor winner Casey Affleck pose with their Oscars. (REUTERS)

None of the main winners however, Best Actor Casey Affleck, Best Actress Emma Stone, Best Supporting Actress Viola Davis and Best Supporting Actor Mahershala Ali, chose to touch upon the highly sensitive racial atmosphere that grips their country at the moment. With Davis and Ali among the record seven actors of colour nominated for Oscars this year, and Ali being the only black Muslim actor ever to have made it, it was indeed an opportunity lost.

The saving grace was the absence-in-protest of Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi whose intense drama, The Salesman, won him his second Oscar in the best Foreign Film category. That his award was received by Iranian astronaut Anousheh Ansari, the first Muslim woman to travel to space, spoke volumes against what Farhadi called ‘the unjust circumstances’ created by US president Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel from several Muslim-majority countries, including Iran.

Jimmy Kimmel talks to Warren Beatty during the presentation for Best Picture. (REUTERS)

With all the media attention having squarely shifted to the embarrassing faux pas made by Warren Beatty in declaring La La Land as the Best Film in place of the actual winner Moonlight, the 89th Academy Awards will sadly be remembered for a shocking gaffe, and not for the rare opportunity which could have allowed American artists to step out of the La La Land, and make a significant point.

Watch: The great goof-up

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