Oscars’ best picture win will reflect what society stands for today

Films often reflect societal views; confronting current issues and using the artistic power of the lens to capture history. Watching someone perform on film brings out various elements of the human condition and can hold incredible sway over the viewer. Thus, to celebrate such artistic feats, the Oscars emerged as one of the most highly viewed awards shows of the year.

In the last few years, the Oscars have been criticized for favouring films with ‘white’ actors, even producing a popular hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. This year, the nominations strayed from the ‘white’s-only’ club to include several strong contenders with leading roles for people of colour. Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins, is a film that follows a young gay man through his childhood, teen years, and adulthood, and touches on various issues that affect the African American community in the United States today. This film is a front-runner to win Best Picture, with seven other nominations as well. Another nominated film with leading roles for people of colour is Fences, directed by Denzel Washington, is a film that explores the intergenerational trauma of racism and a father’s inability to help his son succeed because of his own failed success. The third film that touches on African American themes is Hidden Figures, directed by Theodore Melfi, and is based on the true story of a group of African American women that worked for NASA and helped the first space mission launch in the 1960s.

La La Land, a musical directed by Damien Chazelle, is nominated for 14 awards and many expect this film to win best picture. The musical focuses on Hollywood and the struggles that come with stardom. The musical score in this film happens to be phenomenal. Lion, by Garth Davis, arguably has one of the most unique storylines and is based on the true story of a boy adopted from India who used google earth to find his family after he was lost as a child. The tear-jerker of the year is Manchester by the Sea, directed by Kenneth Lonergan, that explores how losing one’s children can destroy you as a person.

Many critics believe that La La Land will win Best Picture because a) it is a fantastic film, b) has won several other awards already and c) was well-received by the academy. A rising sentiment is being whispered among film buffs though that Moonlight will take the crown. Since President Donald Trump has come into power, there has been a growing protest movement in Hollywood that opposes his racist, xenophobic and otherwise extremist right-wing ideologies. A new unified movement in the film community is rising up against the racist and islamophobic reign of terror that has overtaken the United States. Due to the societal convictions of the progressive left, Moonlight should win — also because it is a wonderfully touching film that deserves the recognition.

Though La La Land captures the heart of film and music and has beautiful cinematographic references, Moonlight represents the United States as it currently stands today. Jenkins’ manages to take the struggles of being black in America today and turns it into an art piece. This film offers an opportunity for a person of any ethnicity, age, or religion to step into the role of being a young, gay, African American boy, and it is when the leading character Chiron pauses in silence, that you can feel years of black history and oppression being played out one scene at a time.

No matter what, this year’s Oscar win for best picture will undoubtedly be representative of what Hollywood cares really about — whether that be ignoring reality and embracing the sublime in La La Land or facing the visceral reality of how society has failed people of colour in America in Moonlight. Tune in Sunday, Feb. 26th at 8:30 E.S.T. to find out.

‘You are bold, you are brilliant, and you are beautiful!’

Ashley Graham is a goddess.

Seriously, she is drop-dead gorgeous — anyone who says otherwise is blind.

Graham recently graced the cover of the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated. Sporting a purple bikini with yellow-stringed ties, she sits on the beach, allowing the water to gently splash over her skin. You may ask, what’s controversial about that? It seems standard for any swimsuit edition.

The difference is that Graham is a plus-size model, the first of her kind to grace the pages of Sports Illustrated.

Screenshot 2016-02-29 11.04.45Graham has been featured on the covers of Elle Quebec, London Times, Cover Magazine, Style Magazine, The Edit, and the Shape Issues of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, and Elle UK. She is also quite the entrepreneur, having collaborated with Canadian brand Additionelle on her own line of lingerie. She even appears in her own television advertisements, dressed in her sexy apparel — confident and absolutely seductive.

Despite all of these accomplishments, Graham was still on the receiving end of many body-shaming comments.

My favourite was made by a Facebook group I followed (used to follow I should say) called Bright Side, that said “you decide to get healthy and then see this.”

Former Sports Illustrated model Cheryl Tiegs said that Graham’s face was beautiful, but the magazine shouldn’t be glamorizing full-figured women because her waist was too large. YouTuber Nicole Arbour, whose “Dear Fat People” videos are too shameful to link to in this article, slammed Graham, saying that if she simply worked out she could lose weight. “I want to eat cookies and still be a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model; what’s next, you can be a midget and a Rockette? What’s wrong with having a physical standard for something?” Arbour said in her video.

It boggled my mind that people didn’t see what I did — a beautiful NORMAL sized woman.

Just because a woman is larger, doesn’t mean that she is unhealthy or inactive. I would be considered a plus-size woman, despite the fact that today I ate a salad for lunch, did some yoga, and walked to work instead of taking the bus. I know a lot of beautiful women that are on the larger side. They go to the gym on a regular basis, eat healthily, and live a full life.

During her Tedx Talk in May 2015, Graham starts by saying: “You are bold, you are brilliant, and you are beautiful! There is no other woman like you. You are capable. Back fat, I see you popping up over my bra strap, but I’m going to choose to love you.”

In the U.S., plus-size is defined as size eight to 16. “Most of the people in this room would be defined as plus-size,” she said. “How does that make you feel – to be labelled?”

Graham has worked hard to rid these labels from the fashion industry (which, admittedly, I have used numerous times in this article). She is also the co-founder of ALDA, a modelling agency that “represents beauty beyond size”. This group of five women have made strides to break down size stereotypes within the fashion industry and prove that beauty is not just skin deep.

I commend Sports Illustrated for having the courage to stand up and tell the truth: activity does not necessarily equate size, and size does not necessarily equate health. There is no need to pressure regularly sized women to lose weight through extreme dieting. There is no need to encourage women to drink juice for eight weeks or take pills from unqualified doctors on television. Sports Illustrated has come forward as a magazine for active individuals — regardless of whether you are a size zero or a size 16 — and that means that people like me may actually read the magazine.

One final thought: take a look at how gorgeous Graham looked at the Oscars. Does that look like an unhealthy person to you? As she said in her Tedx Talk, “the fashion industry may want to label me as plus-size, but I like to think of me as my-size.”

All women should be that confident — and it’s time we stopped shaming them for it.



What did you think of Sports Illustrated’s decision? Let us know in the comments below.

#OscarsSoWhite: Should you join the boycott?

The biggest weekend for actors and actresses in Hollywood is just a few days away.

It’s the event movie enthusiasts look forward to every year. The event that encourages us to watch films that provoke various think pieces, blogs, and occasional snore-fests. But, for a few years now, the Oscars have brought on a different kind of conversation – and quite an important one, for that matter. It’s the kind of conversation that causes a certain discomfort not only within the industry, but also in the midst of friends and colleagues who have to decide whether or not they’ll even be watching the Oscars this year. And if you do – should you be feeling guilty?

Awkward, indeed.

Basically, for the last two years, no person of colour was nominated in any of the major categories for the most prestigious award in Hollywood; the Academy Award. Upon realizing this rather questionable circumstance, many actors and actresses have called on a boycott, agreeing not to partake or watch the Oscars this year. The boycott may, or may not, have started with critically-acclaimed actor Will Smith, who was said to have been snubbed for his role in Concussion. Thus, the question arises as to why the boycott really began. Was it due to feelings of bitterness and denial that his performance, specifically, was snubbed, or is it because there truly is a lack of diversity that needs to be addressed? Well, here are my thoughts.


No one is playing ‘the black card’ here. People of colour don’t want to be nominated because of their colour. They want to be nominated because of their talent, their performances, and their input to the film industry. Thus, the conversation about lack of diversity in the film industry is not an invitation to provide people of colour with pity nominations. It’s an invitation to look at the bigger picture, and the problems that are currently present in Hollywood. The fact that the Academy felt no persons of colour were eligible to be nominated for the past two years is not due to lack of talent in the industry – it’s due to the lack of roles available for people in the industry.

It’s not that progress isn’t being made. I see the slow emergence of colour in the industry when I flip through the channels on television. Still, very rarely, do I come across people who look like me. Sure, Viola Davis and Kerry Washington are tearing up Thursday nights and Priyanka Chopra is currently gracing Sunday’s with her South Asian beauty, but why is it when we watch movies, the people that are supposed to look like a certain race and ethnicity – don’t.

If you’ve seen John Oliver’s take on #OscarsSoWhite (below), you’ll know what I’m talking about. A compilation of video clips reveal that the lack of roles given to people of colour are largely due to part that it is in fact, white people, that are being cast in these roles instead. We saw this during the release of Aloha, where Emma Stone was cast as an island girl despite her pasty white skin and huge, buggy eyes. And we saw it again during the release of Prince of Persia, played by a very non-Persian looking Jake Gyllenhall. Although we’ve come a long way from black-face days in the industry, casting decisions like these really make me think – why?

The scariest part is, I, as a person of colour, did not notice the problem with some of these roles until it was pointed out to me. For me, watching Prince of Persia meant taking in the beauty of Jake Gyllenhall in a lot of armour. Gerard Butler in Gods of Egypt is equally yummy. We get so caught up in the star power, car explosions, sword fights, and all the basic eye-catching elements of a Hollywood movie, we forget to think about the more intellectual aspects such as historical accuracy and ethnic requirements.

The fact that we run off to the theatre as soon as a new Jennifer Lawrence movie or Leonardo DiCaprio flick comes out just comes to show that not only has Hollywood whitewashed the industry – it’s winning. With a few splashes of colour here and there with the likes of Lupita Nyong’o and Penelope Cruz, it seems the lack of diversity in Hollywood didn’t even matter to us – until now.

Stick all the nominees into one frame and the visual leaves you with a slap in the face. “Where are all the coloured people?” The thought flicks in our minds and the conversation is sparked. #OscarsSoWhite may not be the ideal hashtag for the board, but it’s the first step to initiating change and raising awareness. The only people we have to blame is ourselves for not starting the conversation sooner. Tje comments left by people named ‘John Goldman’ and ‘Stephanie Smith’ under these videos and think pieces will still leave you speechless. The reverse racism is prevalent and the thoughts and opinions are just plain ignorant.

To answer your question, there’s no need to boycott the Oscars. With Chris Rock set to host the night, we can already expect a plethora of black jokes and digs at the absence of colour in the hall. What we do need to do is continue the conversation and ask questions when casting mistakes happen again – as they will. With the hashtag circulating and the dialogue active, we’ve done what we need to do for now.

So it’s best that we acknowledge the nominees who have worked equally hard this year as the rest of us and enjoy the night. Besides, this may finally be the year that America’s sweetheart (and mine) wins an Oscar for his role in ‘The Revenant.’ DiCaprio, of all people, should know whats it’s like to be snubbed year after year. It’s only fair we repay the favour and root him on.

Of course, the decision is yours.

Will you be watching the Oscars this Sunday? Let us know in the comments below!