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Oscar Speeches Spotlight Income Inequality, Immigration And Incarceration

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The lack of diversity among this year's Oscar acting nominees (all 20 are white) and the perceived lack of opportunity for minorities in Hollywood generally were subjects of criticism in the run-up to the ceremony. And in their acceptance speeches, some of the winners broadened the discussion to income inequality, incarceration and immigration.

Income Inequality

Patricia Arquette, who won best supporting actress for her role in Boyhood, railed against income inequality for women. Her remarks led Jennifer Lopez to scream in approval and Meryl Streep to stand and cheer. In remarks after the ceremony Arquette repeated much of what she had said on stage.

"It's time for women. Equal means equal. The truth is the older women get, the less money they make. The highest percentage of children living in poverty are in female-headed households. It's inexcusable that we go around the world and we talk about equal rights for women in other countries and we don't. One of those superior court justices said two years ago in a law speech at a university that we don't have equal rights for women in America and we don't because when they wrote Constitution, they didn't intend it for women. So the truth is even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America right under the surface there are huge issues at play that really do affect women. It's time for all the women in America, and all the men that love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we've all fought for to fight for us now."


Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu's film Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) won four Academy Awards, including best picture.

Hollywood legend has it the Oscar statuette was modeled after Mexican actor and director Emilio Fernandez.

Before announcing that Birdman had won best picture, presenter Sean Penn made a joke about Iñárritu, a citizen of Mexico, asking how it could be that Iñárittu had been given a green card. The twitter outrage was swift. It was a joke that, as NPR's Linda Holmes put it, "you might get away with if it weren't such a wretched year for diversity in both nominees and films."

But it was Iñárritu's message asking for compassion for immigrants that touched many.

"I want to dedicate this award for my fellow Mexicans, the ones who live in Mexico. I pray that we can find and build the government that we deserve. And the ones that live in this country, who are part of the latest generation of immigrants in this country, I just pray that they can be treated with the same dignity and respect of the ones who came before and built this incredible immigrant nation."


 The Oscar for best original song went to John Stephens (John Legend) and Lonnie Lynn (Common) for "Glory" from the film Selma. It was the only Oscar for the film. Legend was mostly praised when he used his acceptance speech to connect the issues of the civil rights movement 50 years ago to the incarceration of African-American men in the criminal justice system today.

"Nina Simone said, 'It's an artist's duty to reflect the times in which we life.' We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that were 50 years ago, but we say 'Selma' is now because the struggle for justice is right now. We know that the Voting Rights Act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now, in this country, today. We know that right now, the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850. When people are marching with our song, we want to tell you we are with you, we see you, we love you and march on."

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