I look forward to the Oscars almost every year, and after last year’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy, I was especially excited to see so many films made by immigrants, Black artists, and people of color rightfully earn nominations.
Though I watched enthusiastically, I hardly expected the night to be as amazing and impactful as it was for diversity, for film history, and for the years ahead.
Here are some of last night’s most memorable and historic Oscar moments.
1. Mahershala Ali wins Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali took home the award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in “Moonlight,” becoming the first Muslim-American to win an award in an acting category. But before Sunni, Arab/Desi Muslims begin touting his accomplishment as a win for the entire Muslim world, Muslim Twitter was quick to point out that Ali is a Black, Ahmadi Muslim convert who won for his role in a film largely about Black LGBTQ issues.
Before any who marginalize Black Muslims, Ahmadi Muslims, converts and LGBTQ people go tripping all over themselves to claim this win for all Muslims, they’re going to have to address their hypocrisy, and the fact that Ali won as a marginalized member of a marginalized community in a proudly gay movie.
2. Viola Davis wins Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis snagged the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in “Fences,” making her the first black actress to win an Emmy, Oscar, and Tony. (Many noted that Whoopi Goldberg got the EGOT [Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony] first, but her Tony award was for hosting, not performance).
3. Ava DuVernay stuns in dress worn as solidarity statement
Ava DuVernay, nominated for her incredible and eye-opening documentary “13th,” knocked everybody’s socks off in a shimmery silver gown made by a fashion house based in Lebanon. DuVernay tweeted that she specifically chose a dress from a Muslim-Majority country in solidarity with those affected by Islamophobia and the Muslim Ban.
4. Katherine Gobel-Johnson joins cast of “Hidden Figures” to announce Best Documentary Feature
Katherine Gobel-Johnson, absolutely lovely in a draped blue gown, joined Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae, and Octavia Spencer to announce the award for Best Documentary Feature. 97-year-old Johnson is the subject of nominated film “Hidden Figures,” and a former mathematical analyst for NASA whose calculations put the first man into orbit.
5. Ruth Negga wears a crown like the Queen she is and rocks an ACLU ribbon
Ruth Negga, nominated for her portrayal of Mildred Loving, was all aglow in a ruby gown and matching headpiece. The gorgeous star and talented actress wasn’t just making a fashion statement: Negga wore a bright blue ACLU ribbon to the event of the year. Civil liberties FOR THE WIN.
6. Auli’i Cravalho performs “How Far I’ll Go”
Sixteen-year-old “Moana” actress Auli’i Cravalho performed the animated feature’s “How Far I’ll Go,” alongside Hamilton’s Lin Manuel Miranda. “Moana,” nominated for both Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song, was an exceptional tribute to Polynesian culture and Girl-Power. Not a romantic interest in sight, just a young woman restoring a mythical object to an anthropomorphic island deity and saving her entire culture while singing about it.
7. “The Salesman” wins Best Foreign Language Picture, acceptance speech delivered by Iranian astronaut Anousheh Ansari
Asghar Farhadi, director of “The Salesman,” delivered his acceptance speech via Iranian astronaut Anousheh Ansari, after refusing to attend the Oscars in solidarity with everyone affected by the immigration ban imposed by 45, which particularly hit Muslim-Majority countries. Farhadi was one of the five directors nominated for Best Foreign Language Picture, all of whom issued an open letter of protest against 45 and his administration’s Muslim Ban.
8. “The White Helmets” wins Best Documentary Short, acceptance speech features a verse from the Quran
As if the night hadn’t already been a tear-jerking protest variety show, “The White Helmets” ensured there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when they won for Best Documentary Short. Director Orlando Von Einsiedel read a statement from the founder of the White Helmets, Raed al-Saleh. Saleh thanked the academy, and in an incredible first for the Academy Awards, quoted a verse from the Quran, saying:
“We are so grateful that this film has highlighted our work to the world. Our organisation is guided by a verse from the Quran: to save one life is to save all of humanity. We have saved more than 82,000 Syrian lives. I invite anyone here who hears me to work on the side of life to stop the bloodshed in Syria and around the world.”
9. The “In Memoriam” segment kills everyone straight dead
The “In Memoriam” segment nearly killed us all as it caused us all to relive the deaths of so many beloved artists, ending with a tribute to the recently deceased Bill Paxton, who died this week at the age of 61 after suffering complications from surgery. There were 184 tributes in total. Below: among the memorialized, Carrie Fischer, Bill Paxton, Anton Yelchin, and Abbas Kiarostami.
10. “Moonlight” wins for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture
“Moonlight” took home the richly deserved Oscars for Best Screenplay and Best Picture, but don’t even get us started on the ridiculous snafu that was the Best Picture announcement. Congratulations, Barry Jenkins, on an incredible film and several well-earned wins.