2017 –– Sexual misconduct and assault allegations rocks some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry, in particular producer and graduate from the Institute of Sex Pestery, Harvey Weinstein. Hollywood reacted, #MeToo came into new prominence, and the #TimesUp anti-sexual harassment movement was born. Since then, #Metoo has become a much broader conversation with countless women and men coming forward publicly about experiences they’d never been able to talk about before.
2015 –– All 20 acting nominees are white sparking a campaign that helped to raise awareness on decades of disparity within the academy. #OscarsSoWhite efforts has since seen the likes of movies like Moonlight (2016), a story about a young gay African-American, winning Best Picture, and more inclusive nominations with multiple people of colour in all categories such as Jordan Peele who made history in becoming the first black director nominated for Picture, Director and Screenplay for his debut film Get Out (2017).
1973 –– Marlon Brando is announced as the Best Actor winner for his performance as Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972). However, instead of seeing the man himself take to the stage, up comes actress-activist Sacheen Littlefeather to decline the Oscar on his behalf. See, Brando had boycotted the ceremony in response to the Wounded Knee incident and also to “the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry and on television in movie reruns.” Littlefeather was met with a mixed response of boos and applause.
1940 –– The Oscars have been handing out little gold statuettes since 1929, but it wasn’t until 1940 that an African-American actor won one. Hattie McDaniel won the Best Supporting Actress prize for her role as Mammy in Gone With the Wind (1939). Although this accolade didn’t outdo the atrocity of McDaniel having to sit at a segregated table at the back of the room of the Ambassador Hotel, a venue that at the time held a “no coloureds” policy. It would be 51 more years until the next African-American woman won an Oscar, which went to Whoopi Goldberg for her supporting role in Ghost (1990).
2003 –– Never one to be kept quiet, Michael Moore took home an Oscar for Bowling for Columbine (2002), a documentary which was an early call for gun control (very sad then that all these years later it seems there’s a high school shooting every other day). Moore used his acceptance speech to protest the invasion of Iraq that had started four days before the event. He denounced George Bush calling him a “fictitious president.” The mix of boos and cheers was met with loud music to outplay Moore who was still speaking.
1993 –– Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins presented the prize for best editing and used the platform to highlight the plight of Haitian HIV victims in Cuba, asking authorities to admit 250 refugees to the US. Oscar producer Gil Cates called their actions “outrageous, distasteful and dishonest” and said the pair would not be invited back. Cates threatened to ban the actors, including Richard Gere for his talk on Tibet, from future Oscars broadcasts because they departed from their scripted speeches to make political statements.
2009 –– Sean Penn delivered a stand-out performance as gay rights activist Harvey Milk who was shot to death in 1978 in San Francisco. Penn was rewarded by the Academy with the Best Actor gong in 2009. Sharp-tongued Penn discussed the topic of Milk more broadly in his acceptance speech and called for equal rights for the gay community:
“I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way of support.”