… because this door tonight has been opened

I remember being absolutely blown away by Halle Berry’s performance in Monster’s Ball. And her victory at the Oscars, while expected, was also a sweet moment because it was part of a trifecta for African American actors – Denzel Washington won Best Actor for an amazing performance in Training Day, and Sidney Poitier won a Lifetime Achievement award. Poitier’s acceptance speech was a study in dignity and barely controlled emotion – even if you were only barely cognizant of the history, as I was, it was a very moving moment.

The title of this post is from Halle Berry’s speech. I quote more of it here to provide some context:

Oh, my God. Oh, my God. I’m sorry. This moment is so much bigger than me. This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. It’s for the women that stand beside me, Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox. And it’s for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened. Thank you. I’m so honored.

Looking at the Oscar winners since then, it does seem a bit like the door has indeed been opened. Jamie Foxx for Ray, Morgan Freeman for Million Dollar Baby, Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland, Jennifer Hudson for Dreamgirls… even Eddie Murphy nearly joined the party with Dreamgirls but apparently he’s lost a lot of goodwill recently. Not to mention the ones who came damn close – Don Cheadle made me cry in Hotel Rwanda, and Terence Howard (Hustle and Flow) was, I felt, the most deserving of last year’s Best Actor nominees.

I wonder why this has happened: have Academy voters suddenly decided to believe in affirmative action? I think what has happened is that filmmakers have started looking more at movies with black protagonists, and the producers no longer feel that it might not be as commercially viable. That’s the door that I think has been opened.

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