The 2015 Oscars Party hosted by the Wellesley Film Society on Sunday was a notable success. According to the Facebook event, 190 people attended. The party was hosted in Pendleton Atrium, and students began trickling in at 7 p.m. to watch the red carpet. The Film Society partnered with El Table to provide free sandwiches, soda and chips to guests. Comments following the event ranged from praises of Lady Gaga and Julie Andrews’ performance, to criticism of Sean Penn’s Green Card joke. Overall, Wellesley students seemed to enjoy the event, with many informal gatherings also taking place in residence halls.
Unfortunately, Wellesley students’ enthusiasm for the Oscars was not replicated in other parts of the country. According to CNN and Forbes, this year’s Academy Awards had the lowest ratings in six years. Six million fewer people tuned in to watch the Oscars than last year, when Tina Fey and Amy Poehler won over the audience with their masterful improv comedy. Not even the host, beloved actor Neil Patrick Harris, could make up the script’s worn-out humor. Few laughed at his tandem with Octavia Spencer, who was supposed to watch the ballot box for the entirety of the awards without moving a muscle. Many in the audience concluded that Neil Patrick Harris’ lukewarm hosting made the Oscars seem to drag on beyond the slated three-and-a-half hour slated time.
Another factor contributing to this year’s low ratings was the controversy surrounding the Oscars’ racially discriminatory practices. All the 20 actors and actresses nominated for Oscars were white, a low point in diversity that hadn’t been reached for a decade. Despite the critical acclaim of the film “Selma,” Ava Duvernay did not become the first African American director nominated for an Academy Award. John Legend and Common, African American singers, did win an Oscar for the song “Glory” from the film. The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite took Facebook and other social media outlets by storm, raising legitimate questions about whether the Oscars are racially biased against minority groups. The Academy Awards staff attempted to respond to these allegations by having 12 of the 35 presenters be minorities. According to the Washington Post, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first African American president of the Academy Awards, maintained that “Selma” had not been snubbed in not being nominated for best film and made a speech celebrating the “diversity of vision” promoted by the nominated films.
The Academy Awards staff also responded to allegations of racism by trying to infuse the tired script with racial jokes. Rather than achieving a comedic effect, the quips offended many people. When opening the 87th Academy Awards, Neil Patrick Harris said, “We welcome Hollywood’s best and whitest…sorry, brightest” to try defusing the tension between the Academy and audience. Harris also told his African American co-host Octavia Spencer, “No snacks!” when she had the mundane task of watching the lockbox of the 2015 Oscars winners. Janet Mock retorted on Twitter, “Hey, Oscars, Octavia Spencer is not The Help. You can watch that ballot box on your own.” An unplanned Mexican joke from Sean Pean about the “Birdman” director and Oscar winner, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu offended many observers. When Penn gave Iñárritu the award, he joked, “Who gave this son of a b***h a Green Card?”
This year’s Oscars were doubtless marred by unenthusiastic hosting and racist statements. However, there were some good memories to complement the bad ones. Many were inspired by Lady Gaga’s 50th anniversary medley of songs from “The Sound of Music.” John Legend and Common’s performance and acceptance speech also tugged the audience’s heartstrings. The grand jewel of the night for most was Patricia Arquette’s speech about women deserving equal pay to men, which was lauded by feminists, Meryl Streep and Wellesley students alike.