×

Oscars: Women, People of Color Triumph on Night of Firsts (and Seconds)

Oscar Sunday marked a night of important firsts — and seconds — for diverse artists and filmmakers and their Hollywood contributions.

The 2019 telecast started making history almost immediately. After Regina King accepted best supporting actress for “If Beale Street Could Talk,” Ruth E. Carter became the first African American woman to ever win best costume design, for her work on Marvel’s “Black Panther.”

“I dreamed of this night and I prayed for this night honestly…what it would mean not just for me but for young people coming behind me,” Carter told press backstage at Hollywood’s Dolby Theater. A nod to a new generation of costumers could have been expected, as the first person Carter thanked in her acceptance speech was Spike Lee. The director gave her her start, she said, and he was himself a multiple nominee on Sunday for “BlacKkKlansman.”

“I hope through my example this means there is hope. Other people can come on in and win an Oscar, just like I did,” Carter said.

The production designer of “Black Panther,” Hannah Beachler, took that advice to heart and proceed to win in her category minutes after Carter, the first time a woman of color had even been nominated in that space.

Popular on Variety

“When you think it’s impossible, just remember to say this piece of advice I got from a very wise woman: I did my best, and my best is good enough,” Beachler said in an emotional speech that kicked off with a shout out to New Orleans. Both Beachler and Carter’s wins are historic in multiple ways: An African-American woman hasn’t won an a non-acting Oscar in 30 years.

Mahershala Ali took the best supporting actor Oscar for ”Green Book,” and now becomes the only other black performer besides Denzel Washington to have won more than one Academy Award. Ali thanked his director Peter Farrelly for “really giving us the space” to work out the complexity of his intersectional character Don Shirley (who was black and queer).

Despite Disney-Pixar often taking the animated feature category, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” ended its clean-sweep of awards season against films including “Incredibles 2.”

Producers Phil Lord (a Cuban-American) and Chris Miller accepted the prize with directors including Peter Ramsey, for mounting the groundbreaking Sony Pictures Animation film that was the first to ever feature a Spider-Man of color (the Afro-Latino Miles Morales).

“To our audience, thank you so much. We love you, and we just want you all to know, we see you,” said Ramsey

Female visibility above and below the line was incredibly strong, with Kate Biscoe and Patricia DeHaney’s makeup and hairstyling win for “Vice” and Rayka Zehtabchi and Melissa Berton’s best documentary short win for “Period. End of Sentence.”

“I’m not crying because I have my period or anything,” a teary Berton said on stage. “I can’t believe a film about menstruation won an Oscar!”

Indeed, “Period” follows an enduring stigma around menstruation in rural parts of India and how it affects the lives and education of women.

Domee Shi and Becky Neiman-Cobb of Pixar also nabbed an animated short for “Bao,” and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Shannon Dill shared best documentary feature for “Free Solo” with Jimmy Chin and Evan Hayes.

Roma,” in black-and-white and entirely in Spanish, netted Alfonso Cuaron wins for best director, cinematography and best foreign language film. For the whole of awards season, the director has been vocal about the spotlight the film has put on underrepresented people like his lead, the indigenous first-time actress Yalitza Aparicio.

But perhaps it was chef and humanitarian Jose Andres who said it best, introducing the film as a best picture nominee on stage on Sunday.

“Immigrants and women move humanity forward,” he said.

More Film

  • Wendy

    'Wendy': Film Review

    Eight long years after “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” Benh Zeitlin brings that same rust-bottomed sense of magical realism to the legend of Peter Pan, reframing J.M. Barrie’s Victorian classic through the eyes of the eldest Darling. “Wendy,” as the indie-minded not-quite-family-film is aptly titled, re-envisions its title character as a working-class kiddo raised at [...]

  • The 40-Year-Old Version

    'The 40-Year-Old Version': Film Review

    In Radha Blank’s semi-autobiographical comedy, the quadruple-threat plays “Rahda Blank,” a Harlem-based playwright who faces many of the same struggles and setbacks as her creator. It’s been more than a decade since Radha (as we’ll call the character) earned a promising “30 Under 30” award, and now, instead of getting her work produced, she’s teaching [...]

  • Pamela Tola

    Göteborg: Pamela Tola Proves There is an Audience for Different Stories

    GÖTEBORG, Sweden —  Chosen to close the discussion dedicated to discrimination against elderly people at the Göteborg Film Festival, Pamela Tola’s “Ladies of Steel” fitted right into this year’s focus on feminism and gender at the Swedish event. Which managed to deliver on its 50/50 promise, with 54% of the presented films being directed by [...]

  • Shirley Chen and Jose Angeles appear

    'Beast Beast': Film Review

    Writer-director Danny Madden’s “Beast Beast” clatters to life with organic percussion: a stick rat-a-tatting against an iron fence, a skateboard scraping on concrete, a rifle pinging bullets against a defenseless tin plate. Together, these sounds combine into jazz, despite the discordance of the three teens making such a ruckus. Krista (Shirley Chen), the stick thwacker, [...]

  • Sundance: PBS POV Acquires Kenyan Doc

    Sundance: PBS POV Acquires Kenyan Doc ‘Softie’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    PBS’s documentary arm POV has snapped up U.S. broadcast rights for Kenyan director Sam Soko’s “Softie,” fresh off its world premiere in the World Documentary Cinema competition at Sundance, Variety has learned. The film, which is the first Kenyan-produced movie to premiere at the festival, will air as part of the series’ 33rd season, which kicks [...]

  • Will Smith as Mike Lowrey in

    Box Office: 'Bad Boys for Life' Rules Over 'The Gentlemen'

    STX’s “The Gentlemen” proved no match for Sony’s “Bad Boys for Life,” which again left box office competitors in the dust after collecting $34 million in its sophomore outing. Those ticket sales, pushing the Will Smith and Martin Lawrence-led sequel past the $100 million mark, were easily enough to claim the No. 1 spot for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content