Politics Share the Stage at the Oscars

23 February, 2015

The Academy Awards honor the year's best movies, actors and other parts of the Hollywood film industry. The night is often called the Oscars because winners receive a statue called an Oscar. Last night, the Oscars turned political.

Before the ceremony even began, many people talked about the lack of diversity -- or differences -- in the nominees. In general, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated few people of color.

Actor Neil Patrick Harris hosted the Oscars. He started the night by making a joke about the lack of diversity.

"Tonight we honor Hollywood's best and whitest — I mean brightest," he said.

Some believed the Academy should have nominated the movie "Selma" for many awards. "Selma" is about Martin Luther King, Jr.'s civil rights march for racial equality in Selma, Alabama 50 years ago. The Academy nominated the movie in only two categories.

Politics Share the Stage at the Oscars
Director Alejandro Inarritu accepts the Oscar for best picture for his film "Birdman" during the 87th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 22, 2015. (REUTERS/Mike Blake)

Common and John Legend perform at the Oscars with the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the set.

"Selma" did win the award for Best Original Song. Singers Common and John Legend performed "Glory" last night and brought the audience to their feet. The Edmund Pettus Bridge, where the original march took place, was re-created for the performance on stage.

"This bridge was once a landmark of a divided nation but is now a symbol for change," Common said. "This bridge was built on hope, welded with compassion."

Mr. Legend spoke against limits to voting rights and the high numbers of black men in jail.

Immigration debate

Racial equality was not the only political issue people discussed last night. Immigration took the spotlight when actor Sean Penn gave the Best Picture Oscar for "Birdman" to director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Mr. Inarritu is Mexican. Mr. Penn asked, jokingly, "Who gave this son of a bitch a green card?" A green card is an authorization to live and work in the U.S.

Mr. Inarritu returned the joke by saying the U.S. government now might make new immigration rules for the Academy. Last year Alfonso Cuaron, another Mexican movie director, won an Oscar for his movie "Gravity."

"Two Mexicans in a row, that's suspicious, " Mr. Inarritu said.

However, Mr. Inarritu made serious comments about immigration as well.

He said he hopes the "latest generation of immigrants ... can be treated with the same dignity and respect as the ones who came before and built this incredible immigrant nation."

Women's rights

Patricia Arquette won the best supporting actress Oscar for her role in the movie "Boyhood." She spoke from the stage about equal pay for women.

Patricia Arquette accepts the award for best actress in a supporting role for "Boyhood"

"To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen in this nation: We have fought for everybody else's equal rights; it's our time to have wage equality in the U.S," she said.

Her words brought people to their feet and won loud applause. In the audience, actress Meryl Streep stood and cheered loudly, despite the fact she had just lost to Ms. Arquette. Later, Ms. Streep told Ms. Arquette backstage that she "made my night."

Government surveillance

Laura Poitras hit some political notes while accepting the Best Documentary Feature award for "Citizenfour." The film is about American Edward Snowden, who revealed secret information about U.S. government surveillance to the media.

Dirk Wilutzky, from left, Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald accept the award for best documentary feature for "Citizenfour" at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

Ms. Poitras said, "the disclosures that Edward Snowden reveals don't only expose threats to our privacy but to our democracy."

Some think Edward Snowden is a hero. Others – including U.S. government lawyers -- say he is a traitor. Edward Snowden moved to Russia to avoid arrest in the U.S.

Oscar host Neil Patrick Harris commented on the dispute surrounding Mr. Snowden. "The subject of 'Citizenfour' couldn't be here for some treason," he said.

A hero or a murderer?

More controversy surrounds the movie "American Sniper," which, as of Sunday has made just over $428 million worldwide, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The movie tells the story of Navy Seal Chris Kyle, a deadly sniper with 160 confirmed kills. There is now a debate in the U.S. as to whether Kyle was a hero or a murderer.

Bradley Cooper in American Sniper

The movie was up for six awards, including best picture and best actor for Bradley Cooper. The film took home only one Oscar, for Best Sound Editing. Mr. Kyle's memoir has also come under fire recently for questions about whether parts of the book were true, or not.

Before the show, Chris Kyle's widow walked the red carpet carrying his dog tags. Taya Kyle has been attending the trial of his alleged killer who is being tried in Texas.

From Alzheimer to ALS

Actress Julianne Moore won best actress for her portrayal of a woman suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's is an incurable disease that causes memory loss and eventually death.

While accepting the award for her role in "Still Alice," Ms. Moore said "people with Alzheimer's deserve to be seen."

She also praised Richard Glatzer who directed and co-wrote the movie. Mr. Glatzer suffers from ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, which is usually fatal and causes a person to lose the ability to move or speak.

Actor Eddie Redmayne also spoke about ALS. Mr. Redmayne won the best actor award for portraying scientist Stephen Hawking, who has ALS, in the movie "The Theory of Everything."

"This Oscar belongs to all of those people around the world battling ALS," Mr. Redmayne said.

Screenwriter talked about suicide

Writer Graham Moore won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for "The Imitation Game." In his acceptance speech, Mr. Moore said he tried to kill himself as a teenager.

"I felt weird and I felt different and I felt like I did not belong," he said. "I would like this moment to be for the kid out there who feels like she's weird and different and feels like she doesn't belong... Yes, you do."

Filmmaker Dana Perry also talked about suicide when she accepted the best documentary Oscar for "Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1."

Ms. Perry said she had lost her son to suicide and that "we should talk about suicide out loud."

I'm Anne Ball.

Anne Ball reported and wrote this story for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly and Hai Do were the editors.


Words in This Story

diversity - n. having many different forms, types or ideas

nominee - n. someone chosen as a candidate for an award

applause - n. a show of approval or appreciation in which people clap, or strike their hands together, over and over

stage - n. a raised platform where performers stand and speak