The Oscars are a time when the world celebrates all of the best that the film industry has to offer. There is no doubt that 2014 was a great year for film, debuting movies like Boyhood, Selma, Birdman, and The Theory of Everything, and offering a number of outstanding performances from actors and actresses such as Julianne Moore in Still Alice, Steve Carell in Foxcatcher, and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game. However, this year’s Academy Awards also served as a platform for many winners to bring awareness to political and social causes and sending out a call for action during their acceptance speeches.
Eddie Redmayne took home the award for Best Actor for his performance as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything; he passionately dedicated the award to the Hawking family and to those living with ALS. Redmayne’s amazing performance shed light on the daily struggles of living with ALS and the perseverance of a brilliant man; his Oscar speech served to bring even more awareness to this disease and those living with it. Likewise, Julianne Moore used her acceptance speech for the Best Actress award, which she received for her role in Still Alice, as a platform to bring attention to Alzheimer's disease. “So many people with this disease feel isolated and marginalized,” Moore said in her speech. “And people with Alzheimer's deserve to be seen so that we can find a cure.”
Other honorees used their speeches to send political messages. Patricia Arquette called for gender equality and equal pay in her Best Supporting Actress speech. “To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights," Arquette said. "It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.” This was met with thunderous applause from the crowd, as well as a full-on standing ovation from stars like Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez, who both cheered her on passionately.
John Legend and Common, who wrote "Glory" from the film Selma, were honored with the award for Best Original Song, and their speech was one of the most memorable of the night. Legend called attention to the fact that the social justice issues from the movie Selma are still relevant today. “Selma is now because the struggle for justice is right now,” Legend said. He went on to discuss the issue of voting rights and the high number of incarcerated individuals in the US, bringing tears to many of the audience members, from Oprah to Chris Pine. The speech undoubtedly left a lasting impression on all those watching, much like the chills that resonated from the live performance of their award-winning song.
Graham Moore, who took home the award for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game, gave a touching speech about depression and his own suicide attempt at age 16. He ended his speech by sending out a message to “That kid out there that feels like she’s weird, or she’s different, or she doesn’t fit in anywhere.” Moore passed on his touching message to anyone who struggles with the same challenges he endured. “Stay weird, stay different, and then when it’s your turn, and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person that comes along," Moore said.
Finally, Birdman won the award for Best Picture, and director Alejandro González Iñárritu dedicated the award to his countrymen, and used the rest of his acceptance speech to call attention to the issue of immigration. “For my fellow Mexicans, the ones who live in Mexico, I pray that we can find and build a government that we deserve,” Iñárritu said. “And the ones who live in this country, who are part of the latest generation of immigrants in this country, I just pray that they can be treated with the same dignity and respect as the ones who came before and built this incredible immigrant nation.” His speech was powerful, and brought to light the issues of immigration and racial prejudice in our country, sparking support from many viewers.
Overall, the acceptance speeches given at the 87th Academy Awards reflected so many of the political and social issues that are being discussed and debated both domestically and internationally. And thanks to upwards of 36.6 million viewers, these speeches are truly powerful vehicles that can be used to activate for social change.
Photos courtesy of the LA Times, BBC News, ABC News, Gigwise, and the Daily Beast.