Oscar speeches. They range from poignant (Forest Whitaker) to inspired (Roberto Benini) to unintelligible (Halle Berry). And of course, most of them are longer than a country Baptist prayer list. But there are rare instances when you hang on every word that a winner says. A decade ago, one might not have expected this to be the case with Sean Penn, but Sunday night, the star of Milk could have commanded the stage as long as he wanted.
“I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame…if they continue that way of support,” he said in his acceptance speech. “We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.”
Spot on, Sean, but not everyone agrees. Apparently there was a bit of a snag in the red-carpet on Sunday, thanks to an unscheduled appearance by the Phabulous Phred Phelps Phamily.
If you’ll allow me to digress briefly: The Phelps’ apparently decided to picket the Oscars after a failed attempt at traveling to the UK to protest a staging of The Laramie Project last Thursday. After posting their plans to go to Europe on their website (which included malicious language about the Queen) they were not granted visas.
“Both these individuals have engaged in unacceptable behavior by inciting hatred against a number of communities,” a U.K. Border Agency spokesperson told the London Telegraph last week. “The Government has made it clear it opposes extremism in all its forms. We will continue to stop those who want to spread extremism, hatred and violent messages in our communities from coming to our country.”
I’m not sure what’s more inspiring here: Penn’s speech or Britain’s stance on people like Phelps. But back to the Oscars.
Amidst a string of new attempts at presentation (by the Ghosts of Christmas Past as one reviewer noted), a medley of movie songs that gave new meaning to the term non sequitur, and the blasphemous interspersion of former winners right in the middle of the official clips from each of this year’s best picture nominees, there was another memorable moment. A young man who grew up Mormon took home an award for all of us when Dustin Lance Black won the Oscar for Best Screenplay. I had no idea who he was, but when this 34-year old man took the stage, I was captivated. Black said he first heard the “life-saving” story of Harvey Milk when he moved to Los Angeles at age thirteen. Who knew that one day he’d be writing for HBO’s Big Love which would give him the clout to approach Gus Van Sant about directing Milk?
“If Harvey had not been taken from us thirty years ago, I think he would have wanted me to say to all the gay and lesbian kids 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 beautiful, wonderful creatures that are valued. And no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and very soon, I promise, you will have equal rights – federally – across this great nation of ours.”
What more could be said? Here ends the writing of the blog.
Thanks be to Sean, Dustin…and Harvey.