This year’s Oscars program was scrutinized more than any of the previous 89 installments.
Following a year that has seen major revelations and groundswells shake up the power structure of Hollywood’s elites, the show had a tall order to satisfy all interested stakeholders.
Rarely had more pressure been placed on an Oscar telecast. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had the burden of trying to keep ratings from falling, while celebrating films that have, for the most part, not been widely seen. The ceremony was expected to acknowledge the appalling sexual harassment scandals that have engulfed Hollywood in recent months — and then go back to gazing lovingly at the history of moviemaking to mark Oscar’s 90th birthday.
Some speeches highlighted diversity and the hope that many have for the future of Hollywood. Other speeches were succinct, thanking family and loved ones and avoiding controversy.
Here are four lessons from celebrities’ prepared remarks during Hollywood’s biggest night:
1. Make your call to action specific.
When Frances McDormand won for her lead performance in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” she demanded attention, quipping that if she fell over from nerves someone should pick her up, “because I got something to say.”
She asked all of the night’s female nominees to stand, offering a striking visual for her speech, and then demanded that studio executives ask those women about projects they would like to get made. The move was reminiscent of other speeches that used human props, including the 2018 State of the Union address.
Her speech concluded with the phrase: “inclusion rider,” making a short and specific call to action for anyone listening who had the power to change Hollywood’s gender parity problem.
2. Celebrate your progress.
On a night when many stars used the platform to highlight inequality, it was a welcome relief when the crowd could applaud diversity.
The winners of the award for Best Original Song, the songwriting team from Disney’s “Coco,” pointed out that their category was not only diverse but also close to 50/50 gender representation.
By pointing out the progress represented in the category, the speakers gave the audience a chance to revel in the progress already achieved and paint a hopeful picture for future awards shows.
3. Talk about the times you quit—and then persevered.
In an emotional win for Jordan Peele, the writer/director shared how frequently he had ditched his script for “Get Out,” which won the first-ever Oscar for Original Screenplay by an African-American.
“I stopped writing this movie about 20 times because I thought it was impossible. I thought it wasn’t going to work,” Peele said. “I thought no one would ever make this movie. But I kept coming back to it because I knew if someone let me make this movie, that people would hear it and people would see it.”
By painting a vivid picture of his own travails, he drew an inspirational arc for others facing seemingly insurmountable odds. “Get Out” was one of the few nominated films to garner high-volume ticket sales, and Peele thanked the fans in his address.
The Post continued:
“To everyone who went and saw this movie, everybody who bought a ticket, who told somebody to buy a ticket, thank you. I love you for shouting out at the theater, for shouting out at the screen. Let’s keep going.”
4. Appeal to people’s self-interest.
Although many of the night’s messages involved preening and posturing, one actor spoke directly to studio heads.
After treading lightly all night, Ashley Judd, Salma Hayek and Annabella Sciorra presented a filmed piece about how women and people of color have been able to break through this year at the cinema.
While Geena Davis, Greta Gerwig, Ava Duvernay, and Lee Daniels offered some inspiration, Kumail Nanjani had the bit of advice that will persuade most Hollywood suits. Noting how pictures starring women and people of color are killing it at the box office he said, “Don’t [make these movies] because it’s good for society. Do it to get rich! You’ll get that promotion.”
With a dash of humor, Nanjani pointed out the benefits for everyone in a more diverse Hollywood.
What are your favorite moments from the Oscars, PR Daily readers?