The Academy Awards is our State of the Union. They’re fun, they’re festive, but they’re also the single most important long hard look in the mirror that Hollywood makes each year. This year we heard plenty of tent pole and superhero jokes and the customary teasing of the studio system, but more importantly, we heard and saw the overwhelming triumph of change.
SELMA may have been widely snubbed, but it achieved an emotional victory some centuries in the making. John Legend and Common reminded us why we’re in this weird little business. We have a responsibility to recognize and elevate marginalized voices past and present; to understand that an award is a step, not a watershed moment, and no gain is invulnerable. Heroes are everywhere, but whether it’s fair or not, their sacrifices and achievements frequently go unappreciated. Moments in the public eye are precious and that performance of “Glory” and its subsequent Oscar win was a profound proclamation that films do have power–that we can effect change and improve our world. Art doesn’t just imitate life, it creates life, it changes life, and it reminds us to look inside ourselves and find the courage to help construct the world we want to see.
I was deeply moved by that moment tonight and it motivated me to reach out and reaffirm my commitment to the people closest to me, who are also some of the most talented artists and creators on Earth. Cultural capital is a unique asset not afforded to many, and those few of us fortunate enough to wield it have a civic responsibility. That performance of “Glory” tonight was a prescient reminder that as far as we’ve come, we still have a ways to go.