By Carla Hay
NABJ Black News & Views
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” costume designer Ruth E. Carter made Oscar history Sunday by becoming the first Black woman to win two Academy Awards.
Carter, in fact, was the only Black person to win an Oscar at the 95th annual Academy Awards ceremony, which took place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles and aired on ABC.
Carter’s win in the show hosted by Jimmy Kimmel came amid an Oscar ceremony that drew attention because of the low percentage of Black nominees. There were eight Black nominees at this year’s Academy Awards show, with seven of those nominees from Marvel Studios’ superhero sequel “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”
In her acceptance speech, Carter hailed Black women and noted that her own mother had recently passed at the age of 101.
“Thank you to the Academy for recognizing the superhero that is a Black woman,” Carter said. “She endures, she loves, she overcomes. She is every woman in this film. She is my mother.”
Carter continued, “This past week, Mabel Carter became an ancestor. This film prepared me for this moment.”
Carter also acknowledged “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman (who died of colon cancer in 2020) and Ryan Coogler, the director and co-writer of “Black Panther” and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”
“Chadwick, please take care of Mom. Ryan Coogler, make more. Thank you both for your vision. Together, we are reshaping how culture is represented.”
Carter previously won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design in 2019, for Marvel Studios’ 2018 blockbuster “Black Panther.” She made Oscar history then too, by becoming the first Black person to win in the category of Best Costume Design.
Black excellence was also on stage when first-time Oscar nominee Rihanna performed the “Black Panther: Wakanda” theme “Lift Me Up,” nominated for Best Original Song. “Lift Me Up” is dedicated to Boseman. Rihanna co-wrote “Lift Me Up” with Coogler, Tems, and Ludwig Göransson, who shared the Oscar nomination with her. “Naatu Naatu,” from the Indian action film “RRR,” won the Academy Award for Best Original Song this year.
Coogler and Tems attended the ceremony, as did the other Oscar nominees from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”: Angela Bassett (nominated for Best Supporting Actress), Camille Friend (nominated for Best Makeup and Hairstyling), and R. Christopher White (nominated for Best Visual Effects). Also at the ceremony was first-time Oscar nominee Brian Tyree Henry of the Apple Studios/A24 drama “Causeway.” Henry, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, is the only Black nominee for an Oscar this year who wasn’t from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”
Halle Bailey, Halle Berry, Ariana DeBose, Morgan Freeman, Danai Gurira, Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johnson, Michael B. Jordan, Jonathan Majors, Janelle Monáe, Zoe Saldaña, and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson were among the presenters. Also on stage was Lenny Kravitz, who performed his song “Calling All Angels” for the show’s In Memoriam segment.
In spite of all that Black presence, another topic was at the top of mind for fans of Black actors and filmmakers. This year’s Oscars drew heavy criticism and scrutiny for the very low percentage of Black people nominated this year. During his opening monologue, Kimmel talked about “diversity and inclusion” for Oscar nominees. He acknowledged that Black-oriented historical dramas “The Woman King” (starring Viola Davis) and “Till” (starring Danielle Deadwyler) were among the biggest snubs for movies that did not get any Oscar nominations this year.
“There are a number of excellent films and performances that were not nominated tonight, including ‘Till’ and ‘The Woman King,’ which are both based on true stories, with great performances from Danielle Deadwyler and Viola Davis that are very worthy of your time, if you haven’t seen them.”
Multiple times in his monologue, Kimmel also joked about the Will Smith/Chris Rock altercation from the 2022 Oscar ceremony. In one of these comments, Kimmel sarcastically said that the 2023 Oscar ceremony had “diversity and inclusion,” because five Irish actors were nominated this year, “which means the odds of another fight happening on stage just went way up.”
A24’s genre-blending sci-fi film “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which centers on a Chinese American family, won the most Oscars at the ceremony, including Best Picture. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” won a total of seven Oscars out of its 11 nominations. A complete list of winners can be found at the official Academy Awards website.