Many a Black folk graced the stage Sunday night at the 85th annual Academy Awards, even though it was never to collect a single award. And for those who stuck around for what most critics felt was a humdrum award show, the FLOTUS was the surprise co-presenter (with Jack Nicholson) of Best Picture right before the credits rolled.
The representation was prominent, even if only two Black actors—and one Black producer—were up for big awards.
Celebrated African-American actors like current EBONY cover girl Kerry Washington, Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson (who all co-starred in Best Adapted Screenplay winner, Django Unchained), Queen Latifah, Zoë Saldana and Halle Berry all took the stage at varying moments throughout the live telecast to give out awards.
Early in the night, expected winner Christoph Waltz captured a statue for Best Supporting Actor for his role as King Schultz in Django Unchained, where he played a German bounty hunter who despised slavery.
Waltz (who also won a supporting actor trophy for Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 film, Inglourious Basterds) said he was inspired by his progressive-thinking character.
“We participated in a hero’s journey,” Waltz said, after thanking Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio, Foxx, Jackson and producer Reginald Hudlin. “The hero here being Quentin. You scale the mountain because you’re not afraid of it. You slay the dragon because you’re not afraid of it… and you cross through the fire, because it’s worth it.”
Tarantino, who jumped up to the stage when he won his Oscar, said “this will be the writer’s year, man! I love the competition. You guys are all wonderful. Peace out!”
Black actors who were actually up for Oscars didn’t walk away as winners. The youngest nominee ever, 9-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis, was up for her work in the critically acclaimed Beasts of the Southern Wild, and veteran Oscar winner Denzel Washington was up for his leading role in Flight. Both lost out to Jennifer Lawrence and Daniel Day-Lewis, respectively.
The surprise moment of the night came when First Lady Michelle Obama presented the award to Argo for Best Picture just before midnight from the White House. Slightly politicized, she spoke about the engagement of the arts and how important they are for children.
Mrs. Obama talked up how transformative films were, saying that films “transport us to places we have never imagined. This has been an exciting year for movies,” she said, adding that films “took us all around the world and made us laugh, weep and grip our armrest a little tighter.”
The winners list of the 85th annual Academy Awards is as follows:
Best Picture: Argo
Director: Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Lead Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Lead Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Foreign Film: Amour
Documentary Feature: Searching for Sugar Man
Animated Feature Film: Brave
Original Screenplay: Django Unchained
Adapted Screenplay: Argo
Film Editing: Argo
Original Score: Life of Pi
Original Song: Adele and Paul Epworth, “Skyfall”
Cinematography: Life of Pi
Visual Effects: Life of Pi
Costume: Anna Karenina
Makeup and Hairstyling: Les Misérables
Animated Short Film: Paperman
Live Action Short Film: Curfew
Documentary Short Subject: Inocente
Sound Mixing: Les Misérables
Sound Editing: (tie) Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall
Production Design: Lincoln
— Kelley L. Carter