This year's Oscars could be the show's most political

For decades, going to the movies has given men and women a two-hour escape from the daily news cycle. But at the Academy Awards -- the pinnacle event in Hollywood -- winners on occasion have utilized the platform to bring interest to political issues. ABC...

This year's Oscars could be the show's most political

For decades, going to the movies has given men and women a two-hour escape from the daily news cycle. But at the Academy Awards -- the pinnacle event in Hollywood -- winners on occasion have utilized the platform to bring interest to political issues. ABC...

24 February 2017 Friday 17:01
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This year's Oscars could be the show's most political

For decades, going to the movies has given men and women a two-hour escape from the daily news cycle. But at the Academy Awards -- the pinnacle event in Hollywood -- winners on occasion have utilized the platform to bring interest to political issues.

ABC News film critic Peter Travers predicts this year will "be the most political year of the Academy Awards ever."

When did the Oscars develop into so political?

Hollywood insiders generally point to the 1973 Oscars as the precursor to political speeches.

That year Marlon Brando asked Sacheen Littlefeather, the president of National Native American Affirmative Image Committee, to accept the ideal actor Oscar on his behalf.

Littlefeather told the audience "that [Brando] quite regretfully can not accept this pretty generous award" simply because of "the remedy of American Indians today by the film market" and "current happenings" at Wounded Knee Creek, on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Weeks just before the awards show, protesters at Wounded Knee named for the resignation of tribal council president Richard Wilson, whom they accused of corruption, and for the U.S. government to reexamine treaties with Native Americans.

Her comments had been met by applause and boos. She mentioned she hoped her speech wouldn't "intrude" on the evening.

Right after Littlefeather's speech, "everyone at the time was wildly upset" mainly because they felt politics and Hollywood need to be separate, Travers mentioned.

In 1978 Vanessa Redgrave was nominated for finest supporting actress for her part in "Julia," in which she played an anti-Nazi activist. Redgrave, an outspoken supporter of the Palestinians, had narrated and helped fund the documentary “The Palestinian” which supported a Palestinian state, according to The Connected Press.

When Redgrave stepped on stage to accept her award, she praised the Academy for its help.

"I salute you ... and I think you really should be quite proud that in the last couple of weeks you've stood firm, and you have refused to be intimated by the threats of a tiny bunch of Zionist hoodlums," Redgrave said to the crowd as the Academy members booed.

Without having pausing, Redgrave continued, "Whose behavior is an insult to the stature of Jews all more than the planet and to their wonderful and heroic record of struggle against fascism and oppression."

"And I salute that record, and I salute all of you, for obtaining stood firm and having dealt a final blow against that period when Nixon and McCarthy launched a worldwide witch-hunt," she mentioned, which was met with a lot more boos. "Against these who tried to express in their lives and their work the truth that they believed in. I salute you and I thank you and I pledge to you that I will continue to fight against antisemitism and fascism."

When Redgrave was initial nominated, she was "opposed pretty aggressively by Jewish groups for the reason that of her assistance of Palestinians," said Akira Mizuta Lippit, vice dean of faculty at the University of Southern California's College of Cinematic Arts.

Supporters of the Jewish Defense League picketed outside the awards ceremony and burned an effigy of Redgrave.

"There was a substantial protest," Lippit told ABC News. "And she spoke out against the protest and praised the Academy for moving forward with her nomination."

Travers stated Redgrave "called it as she saw it ... she called people today 'hoodlums' -- she was angry, there have been protesters outside" and she resented that they had been carrying placards against her simply because of her position on Palestinians.

But "there was tremendous backlash at the time for her having something political to say," Travers stated.

Lippit said Redgrave faced so a great deal backlash right after that speech because her fellow Academy members thought it was "inappropriate to take a political stance at a ceremonial occasion like this."

But "in a lot of ways [it] served as a catalyst for the reason that it definitely opened up the question ... what are the limits?" he added.

Director Elia Kazan was given an honorary Academy Award in 1999, decades after his involvement with The Residence Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) -- a group in the 1950s that investigated Americans suspected of having Communist ties.

If an actor or writer proffered names of people today who have been involved in "leftist, socialist activities," Lippit explained, that person "would be allowed to continue and resume" their profession. If someone refused, that person could develop into blacklisted from Hollywood. Lots of, like Kazan, likely offered names to defend themselves, Lippit said.

Kazan under no circumstances apologized for his actions and "became a pariah for numerous people," Lippit said. The honorary Academy Award "was a huge debate" that "seriously divided the community."

Some, like Warren Beatty, had been supportive, Lippit stated, and "felt [Kazan] should be recognized for the operate he accomplished as a director." Other people, even so, felt that "you could not forgive a man who had betrayed other people in the profession in order to save himself."

Lippit mentioned Kagan's scenario presented an intriguing dilemma in Hollywood.

"It actually raises the question: if 1 can absolutely quarantine politics from entertainment and no matter whether that's even a valid query. Is entertainment, as we define it, something that needs to be kept strictly segregated from the social, political world ... when in reality entertainment reflects in lots of instances the globe that we live in, or the world that we have lived in," he explained.

The trend of political speeches continued via the years. Halle Berry proclaimed her best actress win symbolically opened the door for other African American actresses in the sector though Michael Moore focused his 2003 Oscar speech on bashing President George W. Bush and the Iraq War.

In 2009, when Dustin Lance Black won ideal original screenplay for "Milk," he said the story of gay rights activist Harvey Milk gave him hope as a teen.

"If Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago," Black said in his speech, "I assume he'd want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian little ones out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches, or by the government, or by their families, that you are attractive, superb creatures of value. And that no matter what any one tells you God does appreciate you, and that quite quickly, I guarantee you, you will have equal rights federally across this fantastic nation of ours."

Much more lately climate modify has come to be a hot topic at the Oscars.

Finest actor winner Leonardo DiCaprio pleaded for action on climate transform in his 2016 speech.

"Making 'The Revenant' was about man's partnership to the organic world -- a planet we collectively felt in 2015 as the hottest year in recorded history. Our production required to move to the southern tip of this planet just to be in a position to locate snow," DiCaprio stated. "Climate change is genuine. ... Let us not take this planet for granted, I do not take tonight for granted."

This year, Travers predicted Mahershala Ali, who is Muslim, will get political if he wins for very best supporting actor.

And he may possibly not be the only a single. If Viola Davis nabs an Oscar for her performance in "Fences," she "is not going to mince words about what is going on in her head," noted Travers.

Additionally, Travers believes this year will "be the most political year of the Academy Awards ever" for two motives: the Trump administration and the #OscarsSoWhite backlash from 2015.

At the Golden Globes in January, Meryl Streep, in her acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award, went on the attack against Trump, calling him out (although not by name) for his therapy of a disabled reporter and the press.

Trump later responded by tweeting that Streep was "more than-rated" and a "flunky" of Hillary Clinton.

Travers stated the criticism of Trump by Hollywood wasn't "name calling."

"They all look to have an agenda," he stated.

In addition to tension with Trump, Travers said the Academy is "dealing with their own two-year criticism for not recognizing minorities in any of those major awards."

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs addressed the criticism by creating alterations to membership policies, which would, she hoped, create far more opportunities for minorities.

Ted Johnson, senior editor at Range, mentioned these speeches can ultimately launch several initiatives.

"Presidential administrations are conscious of the capacity of the Oscars to be a platform," he told ABC News in an email. "Joe Biden introduced Lady Gaga at final year's Oscars as a way to highlight the dilemma of sexual assault on college campuses. Ronald Reagan addressed the ceremony by video in 1981, and Franklin Roosevelt addressed the Oscars in 1941."

He also gave the example of Patricia Arquette, who won an Oscar in 2015 for "Boyhood." The publicity following her speech on equal pay for girls encouraged one particular California lawmaker to introduce equal spend legislation in the state. It passed later that year, Johnson noted.

According to Lippit, these speeches "will only have an indirect impact -- on climate change policy, for instance -- but they do in some cases have a significant influence on public opinion, which can lead to policy alterations."

With 100 million individuals watching, Travers mentioned, "Would anyone give up the chance to get something off their chest? I don't think so."

ABC News' Morgan Korn, Jeff Costello, Lindsey Jacobson, Lesley Messer, Veronica Stracqualursi, Stephanie Ebbs and Stacy Chen contributed to this report.

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