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Berry, Denzel Make Oscars History
March 25, 2002 7:02 AM   Subscribe

Berry, Denzel Make Oscars History Denzel Washington is only the second African American male to win an Best Actor Oscar since Sidney Poitier's win for Lilies of the Field in 1963. Halle Berry is the first African American female to win Best Actress ever. Berry's speech was quite good (albeit long) but it leaves me wondering how all those "women who stand behind her[sic], Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox and it's for every nameless faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened" feel about being named inferior. And why didn't the camera flash onto Jada Pinkett-Smith when Berry said that? Now, that would have been a true Oscar moment.
posted by gloege (60 comments total)

 
I believe Mrs. Smith had left the building at that point...I could be wrong, but the Smiths were there, and later, they were not (as evidenced by the photo of Will being flashed up on screen during the Best Actor announcement).
posted by drinkcoffee at 7:06 AM on March 25, 2002


Do we really need a second thread about the Oscars?
posted by JollyWanker at 7:11 AM on March 25, 2002


Obviously so. It got posted. You commented on it. Hence it MUST be a necessity. Carry on...
posted by gloege at 7:22 AM on March 25, 2002


You know, if I were mentioned in an oscar speech, I'd be pretty freaking stoked. If it is true that Jada Pinkett-Smith walked out after the speech, I am sure it was to congratulate Halle Berry.
posted by DragonBoy at 7:28 AM on March 25, 2002


I didn't see the speech (past my bedtime), but I don't think the remarks were meant in a demeaning way. The girl just won an Oscar, it sounds like she was just overcome with the moment.
posted by groundhog at 7:37 AM on March 25, 2002


No, no! Jada Smith left along with Will Smith because they received news their daughter was sick not because of a jealous tirade.
posted by gloege at 7:41 AM on March 25, 2002


I'm sure these folks don't hire speechwriters - it certainly seemed extemporaneous. Still, my feeling is that the speech could have been a little more... gracious.

I'm sure it wasn't intentional, but Berry did make herself the nexus of this 'historic' event. She certainly had every right to do so - but I would have felt somehow better about it if she had played up the past and the future without making me feel like she was saying "Thanks to me,..."

(Pardon the quotes around 'historical' - I know some consider this a big cultural event, but to me movie awards as a whole are about as historic as any episode of 'Siskel and Ebert')
posted by Perigee at 7:43 AM on March 25, 2002


Thanking the women "behind her" doesn't mean she's calling them inferior, it means she's grateful for the road they've helped to pave, and the support they've given her. There's no need to invent catfighting, the moment was dripping with drama already. Halle had me until she started to thank her lawyers. By then I'd had enough...
posted by Fofer at 7:51 AM on March 25, 2002


women who stand behind her
You know, I could have sworn I heard her say "women who stand beside her", which would have made a bit more sense. I'm wondering if it was just a simple mistake in the documentation to the web. Does anyone have it on tape that could listen to it again?

As for thanking her lawyers, there is a very good reason for that.
posted by grum@work at 7:56 AM on March 25, 2002


I have never seen anyone lose it the way Berry lost it. The woman was wailing, not only that, she stood at the microphone so everyone could hear her wailing. I was thinking "You're an actor, dammit, act!" I'm glad she finally managed to get it together and get her speech out. I can understand why she was so emotional, but it did seem like she could've handled the moment with a bit more gravitas. I'm extremely happy for her, though, and for us.
posted by Ty Webb at 8:08 AM on March 25, 2002


Are Jada Pinkett and Vivica Fox really considered two of the best four African American actresses? We must be able to come up with some much better examples... or can we?
posted by thebigpoop at 8:44 AM on March 25, 2002


Let me get in trouble here, but what's the big deal about "first black woman?" As far as I'm concerned this does nothing to improve race relations - it just re-emphasizes that we have distinct races, we're supposed to recognize them differently, etc. I so hoped that Sidney, Halle or Denzel would have pulled a tiger woods and ignored their race. I always admired that fact that Tiger didn't get into the whole race issue - he stayed above the fray. I wish more people shared his view on race.

Besides, ever since Halle's body drove away from the scene of an accident I'd lost most my respect for her, after last night, I've lost all of it.
posted by stormy at 8:50 AM on March 25, 2002


Her speech was one of the most cringingly embarrassing things I've ever seen on TV. Get a grip girl, it's only the movies.
posted by Summer at 8:55 AM on March 25, 2002


whom did denzel blow to get this. man, what a give-away
posted by clavdivs at 8:56 AM on March 25, 2002


I'd like to thank Halle Berry's lawyer, her Roto-Rooter man, and her mailman...
posted by websavvy at 8:59 AM on March 25, 2002


Get a grip girl, it's only the movies.

It's only her chosen profession. It's only the highest honor she can hope to receive as an actress. Forgive her if this is one of the most imprtant moments of her life.
posted by o2b at 9:08 AM on March 25, 2002


I hate to repeat myself, but. . .
posted by ColdChef at 9:23 AM on March 25, 2002


all I heard was -

Robert Redford - "blah blah blah blah"

Halle Berry - "waah waah waah waah"

it was however, a good show.
posted by lostbyanecho at 9:26 AM on March 25, 2002


oh ms. berry, was that method acting you employed during the acceptance speech? a tad overwrought for my taste. contain your enthusiasm please.
posted by billybob at 9:29 AM on March 25, 2002


It's only her chosen profession. It's only the highest honor she can hope to receive as an actress. Forgive her if this is one of the most imprtant moments of her life.

If Halle Berry had received the top award for a profession other than hollywood film acting, no-one would be defending that behaviour.
posted by Summer at 9:30 AM on March 25, 2002


I thought it was pretty funny because in the middle of her wailing and moaning she managed to eke out "I want to thank my lawyer"
posted by cell divide at 9:31 AM on March 25, 2002


Someone should remind Ms. Berry that you win because you're good, not because of your race (at least that's how it should be). I think it was a little distasteful for her to suggest that all the black women who were nominated for Best Actress before her should've won just because they were black. She might as well have come right out and said that white actresses are horrible lesbians, I mean, thespians.
posted by susanlucci at 9:45 AM on March 25, 2002


im not one to cry easilly, but halle made me cry. maybe it's cuz im black, but i thought the show was way better than i expected.

denzel totally showed the Russell Crowes of the world how to accept an award and be a classy actor, woody allen (!) was funnier in 4 minutes than all of his last 10 movies combined, randy newman finally got his just due respect - and gave a funny ass speech, and halle brought about real emotion - quite an accomplishment in keep-it-together-at-all-cost world of hollywood.

the real superstars are the academy voters, who selected some real winners this year instead of resorting to industry politics and picking all the favorites.

for those of you who perhaps dont understand what a big victory this was for African-Americans, you may want to turn your radio dial to an "urban" radio station today. last night was huge.
posted by tsarfan at 10:10 AM on March 25, 2002


Didn't Berry also say something along the lines of "Thank you for choosing me as the vessel by which to (make history)?

As if the voters chose her to recieve the honor with making history in mind, not her startling performance in Monster's Ball.

Tacky.
posted by brittney at 10:16 AM on March 25, 2002


who selected some real winners this year instead of resorting to industry politics and picking all the favorites

You do realize that A Beautiful Mind took home the top prize last night, don't you?
posted by brittney at 10:18 AM on March 25, 2002


In my opinion, she wasn't saying that she's happy she won because she was black, or that she "opened the door" for black women to win more Oscars. It was that the award helps open the door for black women to get better roles in Hollywood. That was part of Sidney Poitier's contribution. The Oscar was a partial validation of his presence (and, by extension, the presence of strong, leading black men) in the movies. I think Ms. Berry was very clear about deemphasizing her position in all of this; although she didn't devalue her own performance that garnered her the award, she began her speech with "this moment is so much bigger than me" and graciously thanked every single person who threw her a bone when she needed it (actually, I'm sure that's not true; there were many more people, but yeah, I think she showed her gratitude). It's not like she arbitrarily thanked Dorothy Dandridge; this has been a personal issue for her for a long time. I think it's amazing and really appropriate that she was the one to receive this honor. I haven't seen Monster's Ball, but from what I've heard, she deserved it as well. "Thank you for choosing me as the vessel" was not an acknowledgment that the award was given just because she was black, but an acknowledgment that the award might have been given to so many black women before her had they been given her opportunities.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 10:37 AM on March 25, 2002


Yup, that Halle Berry. How dare she be a nervous emotional wreck? She was only the first African-American to win Best Actress, receiving this honor in front of millions of viewers. Man, some of you folks are so cynically unrealistic about what went down last night. This was a big deal, about as big as Star Trek's first interracial kiss on television or Vanessa Williams winning Miss America. Sure, the events themselves may be trite. But it is a significant thing when an African-American appears on television and participates in something that is traditionally Caucasian in front of millions of people. It takes images like this, transplanted in popular mediums, to help the world become color blind, if, as the filmmaker for Murder on a Sunday Morning suggested, such a dream is ever possible.
posted by ed at 10:51 AM on March 25, 2002


1) Regarding Halle thanking her lawyer, I seem to remember Gwineth Paltrow thanking a dead cousin. And if you ask me, that Gwineth oscar was a give-away, because the fact is that, at least at that time, she could not act. I could have enjoyed Shakespear in Love a lot more, if I was not so distracted by her 'acting'.

2) Some of the awards are clearly not given in a merit-basis, but rather as messages or statements. I happen to think that it is, indeed, a major deal that finally a black women got an award. It means that the race issue will play a smaller role from now on.

I guess that the racial issue is a lot deeper that we can reach if we start to discuss it here, but the basic message is that it is a big deal because it's the stablishment recognition of the merits of a black person and that matters a lot when you talk about possible rolemodels.
posted by rexgregbr at 10:52 AM on March 25, 2002


In the event you're still scratching your pate over this, have you heard of Jackie Robinson?
posted by ed at 10:54 AM on March 25, 2002


Nice, grrarggh. Really, people, it's a couple minutes of "impromptu" talking. Anybody who thinks she said all those bad things is projecting. Why interpret what someone said in a bad way if there's another possible interpretation? Maybe I don't read the Weekly World News enough, because I know nothing about the woman, so I have no reason to assume she's an egomaniac. Sheesh.
posted by Wood at 10:54 AM on March 25, 2002


Obviously so. It got posted. You commented on it. Hence it MUST be a necessity. Carry on...

Oh, double bullshit - bullshit defense of a bullshit double-post. It got posted because you posted it, not because we needed it. And if you will look closely, you will see that I did not comment on it; I was already following this topic of conversation in a thread with a more relevant link to it. What I did do was comment that you had double-posted regarding a topic that already has an active thread. Double-posts are generally considered bad MetaFilter form. There's nothing that makes this a "necessity," it was very old news by the time you'd even gotten around to it.
posted by JollyWanker at 10:59 AM on March 25, 2002


Halle Barry DID say "..It's for the women who stand beside me." Not behind. I was listening last night and heard it clearly. I hope we can put that argument to rest. Even if she had said behind in the context of the moment one can in no way assume she was belittling the efforts of her peers - in a symbolic way she was endeavoring to line them up beside her on the stage and take the bow with them.

She was emotionally distressed and too caught up in the moment. She didn't compose herself in a respectful way. To anyone who disses her for that, I have a couple middle fingers over here for you. I preferred her jubilant outburst of triumph to Denzel Washington's more stolid arrogance. What frustrates me is that she felt the outburst necessary. We are so far away from resolving race relations. Part of the reason why is because some black people cling to racism like a security blanket, thus fanning the flames instead of helping the embers fade.

Tsarfan: "the real superstars are the academy voters, who selected some real winners this year instead of resorting to industry politics and picking all the favorites."

Uhm.. It's all politics. It wasn't merely coincidence that they were awarding Sidney Portier the same night both Denzel and Halle won the most coveted Oscars in their field. Having Whoopi as host filled out the panorama: The industry was trying to make a point, and they were trying to make up for the slights of their past. Add to that how they managed to kiss & make up with Woody Allen, and how they finally gave Randy Newman his just reward (for what has to be one of his least impressive songs - thus saying that means I'm complimenting all his other work). They mentioned that George Harrison always wanted to be remembered not for his time with the Beatles but for his admirable work afterwards as a producer who believed in projects when no one else would (Monty Python's Life of Brian being only one of his more notable achievements).

Arthur Hiller made an impressive point last night: "It feels humbling to receive a humanitarian award for doing what my parents brought me up to do... They felt all other people as individual human beings, and judged them by their actions, and not by their color, or their race or religion... It's so embarrassing to receive an award for doing what you should be doing.."

Last night was an attempt by The Man Behind The Curtain (whoever or whatever actually makes the Academy Awards a successful happening every year) to paint the world of Hollywood and indeed reality in general as an idealistic place where with patience and time, eventually all disagreements can be resolved, and all those who deserve congratulations will receive their just reward.

Oscar was playing Pope last night: apologizing for the errors of its past. Trying to right wrongs and smooth the arguments of its critics. Perhaps it was a little too little too late, but at least efforts have been made.

It's a start.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:24 AM on March 25, 2002


"Oh, double bullshit - bullshit defense of a bullshit double-post. "

Hmmm.. JollyWanker is trying to be Dr. Suess and failing miserably. Can we start the Mefi awards? Best asshole in a post. Best supporting assmunch in a forum. I see this going somewhere.
posted by gloege at 12:01 PM on March 25, 2002


It's only her chosen profession. It's only the highest honor she can hope to receive as an actress.

The greatest honor she (or any actor) can receive is a paying gig and an appreciative audience. She’s not starving and she's not out begging for a job. I question the values of someone that makes such a big deal out of a friggin' trophy.If she actually believes someone will have an easier time getting a job just because she won an Oscar, she’s a fool.

The Academy had last night’s show set up from a mile away.It was makeup time for most of their major catagories.It’s always funny that so many people actually believe that the Academy Awards have something to do with quality.It’s all political.

Sometimes they get it right, but usually they don't.It's uaually about who you know, how they feel about you, what kind of a PR campaign you run and who they and the media think is due.

She was emotionally distressed and too caught up in the moment. She didn't compose herself in a respectful way. To anyone who disses her for that, I have a couple middle fingers over here for you.

Right back at ya.She looked like a fool before she even got to the stage.Being happy is one thng but going into convulsions over a trophy is shallow and stupid.
posted by BarneyFifesBullet at 12:13 PM on March 25, 2002


JollyWanker. Gloege. Take it to MeTa. Thank you.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:23 PM on March 25, 2002


Being happy is one thng but going into convulsions over a trophy is shallow and stupid.

And anyone who thinks she was just 'going into convulsions over a trophy' should read the bios of all all the other african-american women who have won an Academy Award for best actress.
posted by o2b at 12:25 PM on March 25, 2002


I think BarneyFife raises some really good points. Especially where he questions the values of someone that makes such a big deal out of a friggin trophy. That seems reasonable. Her reaction clearly made me think, this woman has poor values. She looks like a fool. And she's stupid and shallow.

I'm so glad I could get that off my chest.
posted by Wood at 12:25 PM on March 25, 2002


Although I was happy to see Halle Berry win, I'm afraid that she may now be shuttled off to what I like to call the "Cuba Gooding Jr. Dustbin of History."

Coming soon: Academy Award Winner™ Halle Berry in "Snow Dogs 2: Who Let the Dogs Out?"
posted by ColdChef at 12:51 PM on March 25, 2002


Is it worth mentioning Halle's mum is a scouser? Thought so.
posted by feelinglistless at 1:28 PM on March 25, 2002


Are you guys being trolls or do you honestly believe that Berry's reaction was ...shallow? Foolish? Stupid?

O2B's point is more valid. Examine the history of the Oscars and you'll see why she suddenly felt like the weight of three quarters of a century of history were resting on her shoulders. How dare they try to wave her off? She was representing 74 years! I'm still embarrassed for my species that no one ever thought to award Lena Horne. You think Randy Newman's the Susan Lucci of the Oscars? Notice on that page at IMdB, that the "awards & nominations" link for Lena Horne is GREY.

Berry's initial reaction was admittedly an ugly one, even painful to watch, but she won the award with what was admittedly an ugly, raw, emotion-ridden performance. The Academy nominated her. The Academy awarded her the "friggin trophy." They got what they paid for, so to speak. If they wanted a polite but emotionless response, they woulda given it to Dame Judi Dench.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:41 PM on March 25, 2002


I shouldn't be so facetious. I was just compressing down the vitriol that Barney wanted to lay on Berry. It seemed almost unbelievable to me.
posted by Wood at 1:47 PM on March 25, 2002


Coming soon: Academy Award Winner™ Halle Berry in "Snow Dogs 2: Who Let the Dogs Out?"

How soon we forget. I submit exhibit A circa 1997 for your review.

Do I think she went overboard with the emotions? No. Initially it seemed quite genuine. I was happy for her... until she started thanking her lawyers, that really pissed me off and took any dignity, specialness and intimacy out of the speech for me.

Lately, the best actress winners have been average actresses who put in one decent performance, win an Oscar and all of the sudden, they're "thespians". This especially irked me with Hilary Swank. Of course, Swank's Oscar was even more sinful; she was on 90210 just a year before her Oscar winning performance.
posted by jerseygirl at 2:01 PM on March 25, 2002


For those of you with the friggin' trophy attitude, all I can say is "yeah, but it's HER friggin' trouphy". If you think it should be so damn inconsequential to her, why on earth were you watching the Oscars? It has considerably less to do with you, yet you sit in front of the tube for 4 hours and then come online and bitch about it. Give me a break.

If anyone's shallow in the scenario or misinterpreting the significance of her award, I don't think it's Berry.
posted by dobbs at 2:33 PM on March 25, 2002


jerseygirl - It's not the best actress award, it's the award fot the best performance by an actress in a leading role, so get over the snotty attitude your comments convey about the actresses and focus on the performance.
posted by NortonDC at 3:52 PM on March 25, 2002


Hmmm, well it's typical of Mefi that when you present an non-pc opinion, you're referred to as a "troll".Isn't that the whole idea of being here, to offer an opinion?If you can't handle opinions that differ from yours, why are you here anyway?

She was representing 74 years!

Geez...it's just an awards show.

There's been a lot of talk about race ... this is an award to an actor.

Denzel Washington, who also said of Randy Newman, Sixteen times,(nominated) what would he say on his 15th time when he lost, was that racism?"

Yeah, my point exactly. Good for them and enjoy it, have fun with it. It's hardly the earth-shaking social event some try to make it out to be, though. Just what do you expect to happen now anyway?

If you think it should be so damn inconsequential to her, why on earth were you watching the Oscars? It has considerably less to do with you, yet you sit in front of the tube for 4 hours and then come online and bitch about it. Give me a break.

Boofuckinhoo.I didn't say it shouldn't mean anything. My point is if you or they actually believe that the highest honor they can attain is a trophy....well, that speaks for itself. It's also a major reason why most movies are garbage. Also, when you thank your lawyer and Oprah, but you don't thank your co-star, that also says a lot about you. Let me guess, she's supposed to get an automatic nomination every year now or you will bitch.

BTW, who said I watched the whole show?I didn't. One last thing about this oh-so-world-changing event...

Ask people this time next week who won and see what happens. My point, exactly. It's just an showbiz awards show. Have fun with it, but in the end it doesn't mean much.
posted by BarneyFifesBullet at 4:08 PM on March 25, 2002


The awards show means something to those in the acting profession, and while most of it may be politics and glitter, there is some (if not a lot) validity to the awards. Winning an Oscar may just be a trinket to those not in the business, but to those that receive - and truly deserve it - it's much more than just a statue. It's the sentiment, not the glitz (for those that want the sentiment; I'm not naive enough to believe that the Oscars aren't 90 percent glitz).
posted by Zosia Blue at 4:19 PM on March 25, 2002


Zach, hate to break it to you but of course it was a coincidence that Whoopi was the host, and Poitier got his honorary award the same year that Halle and Denzel got their awards.

The only reason Woody Allen was even there was because two friggin death planes got hijacked and made a mess of his hometown.

You act as if this was all nicely choreographed by a couple of balding execs with their sleeves rolled up.

I doubt that even 7 of the 5,607 academy voting members gave a rat's ass as to who the host would be or who would get an honorary award when it came down to making a vote.

Just like any vote, you can talk and talk and talk but ultimately you put a check in a box and submit it, you look at the names and you choose.

Have you learned nothing from "Survivor?"

The story about the man behind the curtain was a fake movie made up nearly 75 years ago. The plausibility of organizing thousands of slimy, weasly competitors in the film industry together TO VOTE FOR HALLE BERRY is as laughable as flying monkies who listen to green witches.

You need to stay away from the poppy fields and try to grasp the fact that the state of African Americans must be much different than what you think it is if you dont understand why we were so happy last night that thousands of mostly-white people independently voted two black professionals as being tops in their fields that year.

That sort of acknowledgement in the movie-making business is unprecedented and to suggest that it was a pathetic show of pity, or a correction of nearly a century of racism is childish and grossly incorrect.

This just in: the world isnt flat either.

Simply put, the voters chose who they thought were the best and it was a beautiful coincidence that that two of the benefactors happened to be of an ancestory that has been overlooked in this profession.

And it was wonderful that Randy Newman got his make-up Oscar.

But to actually believe, which I dont think you do, that the puppetmaster either rigged all of the major voting, or influenced the members, shows a gross misunderstanding of human nature, probability, or the inner workings of this membership group.

Click your heels all you want and wish that you were somewhere else, but what you saw was a very nice event last night and it made lots of people very happy and inspired millions.
posted by tsarfan at 5:59 PM on March 25, 2002


Are Jada Pinkett and Vivica Fox really considered two of the best four African American actresses?

They were but two of the contemporaries that Halle thanked, and rightly so. There are but a handful of African-American actresses who are able to competitively land major roles in major studio films, and the sad fact is that 99 times out of 100 even when the character's race is not specified, African-American actresses are still not able to get leading roles in big budget pictures.

It is a testament to Halle Berry's strength as a performer that she has. It is a testament to the weakness of imagination of Hollywood's big budget movie makers that Fox, Pinkett-Smith, Lela Rochon, Angela Bassett, Lonette McKee and others have not been able to do likewise.

she started thanking her lawyers, that really pissed me off

Because lawyers are the soulless scourge of earth and it is in no way possible that one could actually do something good for someone, right?

Halle thanked her lawyer very specifically for making the deal which got her the role in the movie for which she won. There was a lot of wrangling to get her this part -- not only did she have to overcome a strong opinion from some of the production team that she could not play the part, there was also a weird bit of negotiation required to make it technically and economically feasible for her to be a part of the film, and that negotiation was handled masterfully by her lawyer.

If there were no lawyers making the contracts and doing the deals, there would be no movies. It was very gracious that someone who just won the most prestigious accolade of her profession recognised that there are very unglamourous people who do behind-the-scenes scut work that enabled her to go out and enjoy (as Jack Lemmon called it) magic time.

Also, when you thank your lawyer and Oprah, but you don't thank your co-star, that also says a lot about you.

Last year, Julia Roberts didn't name a single co-star of Erin Brockovich in her speech, nor did she thank the real Erin, nor did she mention her own well-known actor brother. She did, however, refer to the academy award winning orchestra conductor as "stick man" and go on and on about how much it meant to be her at that very moment. It was a very self-centered speech.

Many actors have famously forgotten to thank co-stars, spouses who are sitting right in the front row of the auditorium, directors, and so on. Most of the time they get into the press room and some reporter says "You didn't thank X" and their eyes get big and they say "I didn't?!!??! Oh no!!!" and many effusive statements of gratitude follow. Unmade thanks are not fair indicators of anything in particular, unless the speech was read from a crib sheet.
posted by Dreama at 8:41 PM on March 25, 2002


Oh, please. Unfair!! She thanked her freakin' mom and sister (I wouldn't have thanked the pathetic Eric Roberts either) and at least a dozen other people. Julia Roberts, that is.
posted by raysmj at 9:17 PM on March 25, 2002


Not since the Maltesers 'Godfather' ad has defeat been so spastically snatched from the jaws of victory as in Ms Berry's acceptance.
posted by holloway at 10:04 PM on March 25, 2002


Part of the reason why is because some black people cling to racism like a security blanket, thus fanning the flames instead of helping the embers fade.

You know, I never thought of that... But that definitely has some semblance of truth to it.
posted by susanlucci at 7:12 AM on March 26, 2002


Salon has a most hilarious article on the Oscars: "We watched as people already morbidly overstuffed with congratulations vomited up all previous congratulations to make room for these, the best and biggest congratulations of all."
posted by muckster at 8:43 AM on March 26, 2002


From the New York Post:

Excruciatingly patronizing: The spin on the evening was that it made history because two black performers won Best Actor and Best Actress on the same night that the first black movie star, Sidney Poitier, received an honorary Oscar.

But there was something terribly retrogressive about the way all this was treated. The Oscar show worked overtime to make us think of Denzel Washington, Halle Berry and Poitier not as unique and remarkable talents but rather as tokens.

Why were only black actors and actresses given a chance to speak in the three-minute film tribute to Sidney Poitier? Did Poitier's career really have meaning only to black performers? Of course not. His extraordinary dignity and power gave the lie to the racist idea that white audiences could only respond to white performers and white stories.

In a magnificent speech that was the highlight of the otherwise-unspeakable ceremony, Poitier himself paid a powerful and modest tribute to the directors, producers and studio heads who made history by casting him in the films that made him a star. They were all white.

So is Poitier's wife Joanna. Poitier had two daughters with Joanna, who are therefore both black and white. He is an integrationist not only professionally, but personally. For him to be seen as an inspiration only to black people is to ghettoize an extraordinary man who simply refused to accept the limits of race.

Then there was Halle Berry. In an acceptance speech so out-of-control that you worried she might actually have to be carted off the stage in a straitjacket, Berry reduced herself to the status of a "vessel." Berry basically said she was worthy of winning solely because other black actresses hadn't won before her and because "nameless, faceless" women of color everywhere needed a role model.

It must therefore have puzzled the TV audience immensely to watch as Berry gave thanks to her mother, to whom the camera cut immediately only to discover that Judith Hawkins Berry is white. Halle Berry is not a representative black woman and not a vessel. She is very much herself, which is how it should be in America.

posted by ColdChef at 9:05 AM on March 26, 2002


Also:

Race for the Oscars: By dwelling on skin color, the Academy Awards do blacks a disservice.
posted by ColdChef at 9:07 AM on March 26, 2002


I have to agree with the sentiments in those articles, ColdChef. The Oscars reeked of "lets give them blacks some awards so they shut up". Having only black actors in the Poitier piece sort of said Poitier only inspired blacks, when its plain to see that Sidney Poitier isn't just a good BLACK actor - but a good ACTOR - no racial modifier needed.

Hollywood will pat itself on the back, say they broke the color barrier then produce yet another movie where Denzel Washington is the leading man opposite a white woman he doesn't kiss.
posted by owillis at 11:22 AM on March 26, 2002


From the Salon piece: "If Sept. 11 showed us anything, it's that we're all Americans together, and our black friends are just as excellent at being overprivileged celebrity fuckwads as anybody else."

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that maybe this is one phrase with which all of us here in this thread can agree. =) Salon's very astute to point out that this year's Oscars were an attempt by the Academy to prove that they have a right to exist after Nine Eleven. Tom Cruise's opening speech further validates that.

And in hindsight, I don't think they succeeded. So the next time I go see a film, I think I'm gonna make a point to make it an independent film made on a shoestring budget that has no Hollywood talent in it. I should probably do that more often than I already do.

On a slightly different note, I already mentioned this in another thread, but if anyone agrees to the sentiments expressed in this silly petition, feel free to sign it.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:28 PM on March 26, 2002


Last year, Julia Roberts didn't name a single co-star of Erin Brockovich in her speech, nor did she thank the real Erin, nor did she mention her own well-known actor brother.

Dreama : well according to the link raysmj posted. She thanked amost half the cast, the real Erin and a good portion of her imediate family.

But your right about the brother thing. How dare she forget your brother!! Oh wait she did thank "everybody", but that can't possibly include her brother, can it now?
posted by snoopie at 6:37 PM on March 26, 2002


Totally patronizing garbage...Denzel and Halle acted like arrogant fools. It's only an awards ceremony -- nothing world changing. Martin Luther King broke barriers for blacks including the whining, piss-n'-moan variety evidenced at the ceremony.
posted by {savg*pncl} at 6:46 PM on March 26, 2002


an interesting argument has broken out at jimformation...
posted by bwg at 8:18 AM on March 27, 2002


Not since Vanilla Ice...
posted by holloway at 8:51 PM on July 8, 2002


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