This almost makes me regret missing this when it happened live. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored Tyler Perry with its Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, and Perry spent the next three minutes demonstrating why this might have been the best Oscar decision of the night. Perry told a moving story about his encounter with a homeless woman, and then declared that he refuses to hate — and hopes the rest of the world will “meet me in the middle” to refuse hate as well.
Courtesy of ABC’s YouTube channel, here’s three minutes of uplift for the middle of your day:
Our colleague Karen Townsend transcribed the speech for Newsbusters:
I remember one time, about 17 years ago, I rented a building, using it for production. I saw a woman, I said, she’s homeless, let me give her some money. I’m about to give her money, she says, sir, do you have any shoes? It stopped me cold. I remember being homeless, and I had one pair of shoes, they were bent over at the heels. We go to wardrobe, and there were all these boxes, fabrics, racks of clothes. We had to stand in the middle of the floor. As we were standing there, we found some shoes, she’s looking down. She finally looks up, she has tears in her eyes. She said, thank you, Jesus. My feet are off the ground.
In that moment, I just — I recall her saying to me, I thought you would hate me for asking. How can I hate you, when I used to be you, when I had a mother who grew up in the Jim Crow south in Louisiana, right across the border in Mississippi. At 9 or 10 years old, she was grieving the death of Emmitt Till. And the death of the civil rights boys, and the little girls in the bombing in Alabama. And I remember coming home, she was in tears. She said, there was a bomb threat. She couldn’t believe that someone wanted to blow up this place where she worked, where she took care of the toddlers, it was the Jewish community center. She taught me to refuse hate and blanket judgment.
In this time, with all of the internet and social media and algorithms that want us to think a certain way. The 24-hour news cycle. It’s my hope that we teach our kids, refuse hate. Don’t hate anybody. I refuse to hate someone because they’re Mexican or because they are black or white. Or LGBTQ or Asian. I would hope we would refuse hate. And I want to take this humanitarian award and dedicate it to anyone who wants to stand in the middle. Because that’s where healing, where conversation, where change happens. It happens in the middle. Anyone who wants to meet me in the middle to refuse hate and blanket judgment, this one is for you, too.
Unfortunately, this speech is lit remarkably poorly, for some reason. I assume this is the way it got broadcast last night as well, not a great look for the entertainment industry’s most prestigious awards show. It detracts from one of the best Oscars speeches heard in a very long time. Kudos to Perry to find a way to bring the Academy back to a cultural middle, even if for a brief moment in time.
The rest of the Oscars didn’t fare much better than the technical issues demonstrated here. The Hollywood Reporter called it a “trainwreck” staged in an appropriate venue:
I can only assume that the producers insisted upon and the Academy granted them final-cut, and the producers, recognizing that nothing could stop this from being the lowest-rated Oscars in history, decided to try out a bunch of out-there stuff: not only not having a host (for the third year in a row), but also having no comedy bits, music performances or film clips; giving a biographical sketch of virtually every nominee; waiting until deep into the show to present a highly-anticipated award; presenting not one but two Jean Hersholt humanitarian awards on the air; not playing off any longwinded acceptance speeches; and presenting best picture as the third-to-last award of the night, rather than the last.
The good news, I suppose, is that we now know beyond any shadow of a doubt that the Academy’s longtime accountants, PwC, do not share the voting results with the producers before the envelopes are unsealed, because there is no way that the producers would have chosen to end the show with the best actor Oscar going not to the late Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), whose widow was in attendance and ready to give a speech, as she had at virtually every other awards show this season, but instead to Anthony Hopkins (The Father), who apparently couldn’t be bothered to show up.
The producers gambled, hoping for a big emotional moment to end the show, and unfortunately lost in shocking fashion — not because Hopkins isn’t a worthy winner (he is), but because the night ended with a gut-punch, rather than a group celebration (which is the reason why one shouldn’t mess with the tradition of presenting best picture last).
D’oh! The BBC has a good roundup of the critics’ brickbats. No word on ratings yet, but it’s telling that everyone assumes they’ll be atrocious, and for good reason. It’s unfortunate that so few people got a chance to see Perry deliver this worthy and moving address.
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