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Big and small victories for women at the Oscars

The film industry has notoriously favored male storytellers and male-centric narratives. But the 86th Academy Awards ceremony Sunday night gave women a lot to be hopeful for. While there were some great moments for female-focused projects like “Frozen” and “Gravity,” several smaller moments caught my eye.


Shannon Leto, Constance Leto, and actor Jared Leto. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images) Shannon Leto, Constance Leto, and actor Jared Leto. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

When he won best supporting actor for his role as Rayon in “Dallas Buyers Club,” Jared Leto began his speech with a story about a high school drop out and single mother who instilled in her children the values that enabled them to succeed.

“…Somehow she managed to make a better life for herself and her children,” he said. “She encouraged her kids to be creative, to work hard and to do something special. That girl is my mother and she’s here tonight.

Leto gets brownie points for that beautiful recognition, but his most Oscar-worthy moment might’ve been when he hustled host Ellen DeGeneres  for a slice of pizza for his mother.

Later in the program, Lupita Nyong’o, in her acceptance speech for winning best supporting actress, deferred to the real-life woman that she portrayed, Patsey, a slave who was repeatedly beaten and sexually abused by a plantation owner.

“It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s,” she said. ” …I want to salute the spirit of Patsey for her guidance.”

For all the talk about the importance of a film like “12 Years A Slave,” conversations mean little if they don’t continually address the horrors endured by the real-life heroine of Solomon Northup’s memoir. Nyong’o said it beautifully, without condescension and offered inspiration to actresses like herself who don’t fit the typical Hollywood mold.

“When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”

Lastly, while Cate Blanchett is probably somewhere contemplating her relationship with Woody Allen, her appeal to sexist industry executives deserves full marks.

“…To those within the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences, they are not. Audiences want to see them and in fact, they earn money.”

“The world is round, people!” she cheered.

Indeed, Cate. Indeed.

Video: The Oscars in 2 minutes

Ruth Tam is a writer based in Washington, D.C., where she web produces for The Kojo Nnamdi Show.

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