Donald Trump was the name that would not be spoken at the 2019 Oscars. But, with much recognition given to immigrants, and shout-outs to Mexico throughout the night, and all the cautionary warnings about the rise of white supremacy and antisemitism, a strongly implied rebuke of the President of the United States hung heavy in the broadcast.
Maya Rudolph kicked things off noting of this year’s awards ceremony, “There is no host, there won’t be a Popular Movie category – and Mexico is not paying for the wall.”
Introducing a clip of Roma, chef/outspoken Trump critic Jose Andres described it as a “this beautiful intimate film, one that gives voice to the voiceless, reminds us of understanding and compassion we all owe to the invisible people in our lives, immigrants and women, who move humanity forward.”
Javier Bardem, a presenter in the category of Best Foreign Language Film, said pointedly, in Spanish, “There are no borders or walls that can restrain ingenuity and talent. In any region of any country of any continent there are always great stories that move us. And tonight we celebrate the excellence and importance of the cultures and languages of different countries.”
Roma director Alfonso Cuaron, picking up that Oscar, added, “I grew up watching foreign language films and being inspired by them. Films like Citizen Kane, Jaws, Rashomon, the Godfather and Breathless.”
Noting French filmmaker Claude Chabrol once said “there are no waves, there’s only the ocean,” Cuaron said, “The nominees tonight have proven that we are part of the same ocean.”
Skin, a movie about a former skinhead group member, took the Oscar for Best Live Action Short and, in his acceptance speech, filmmaker Guy Nattiv said, “I moved here five years ago from Israel…My grandparents are Holocaust survivors. The bigotry they experienced in the Holocaust we see that everywhere today. In America, in Europe. And this film is about education, about teaching your kids a better way.”
His wife/film partner Jaime Ray Newman, jumped in exuberantly to dedicate the Oscar to their five-month old baby, adding, “We hope you grow up in a world where these things don’t happen.”
Spike Lee, picking up his Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for BlacKkKlansman got a standing ovation urging attendees to vote out of office a president who redefined controversy and division as a winning political strategy.
“We will have love and wisdom when we regain our humanity. It will be a powerful moment. The 2020 presidential election is around the corner. Let’s all mobilize. Let’s all be on the right side of history!” he enthused. “Make the moral choice between love versus hate. Let’s do the right thing!”
Barbra Streisand, introducing a clip for Lee’s movie, took a thinly veiled swipe at Trump, saying the 1970’s-set movie, based on the true story of an African American detective who infiltrated the KKK in Colorado Springs, Colorado, “stunned” and “excited” and “moved” her, because “it was so real, so funny. And yet, so horrifying, because it was based on the truth – and truth is especially precious these days.”
The unflinching look at race relations in America in the 1970’s, is “just as relevant today,” she added.
Bohemian Rhapsody star Rami Malek, Best Actor winner, meanwhile, marveled “We made film about a gay man and immigrant who lived his life unapologetically himself,” and added, “I am the son of immigrants from Egypt, a first-generation American and my story is being written right now.”
But maybe the strongest rebuke of Trump’s vision for America came toward the end of the ceremony when civil rights icon, Rep. John Lewis took the stage to introduce a clip of Green Book, which went on to take the Oscar for Best Picture.
Joining him on stage, Amandla Stenberg described Green Book as “a film about bigotry friendship and growth” based on the story about a white man and an African American man on a journey through the segregated south.
“I can bear witness that the portrait of that time and place in our history is very real,” Lewis, a fierce critic of Trump, said emotionally.
“It is seared in my memory. Black men and women, our brothers and sisters, treated as second class citizens. Threatened for raising their family, or earning a living. Beaten and sometimes killed for the crime of trying to live a life of dignity. Our nation bears the scars of that time, as do I,” he said, and encouraged people to become an active participant” in that journey still going on today.