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Inside Film

Slapgate wasn’t a one-off – the Oscars have always been mired in scandal

With the Academy Awards happening on Sunday, Geoffrey Macnab looks back at Oscar history and says the awards have always been turbulent and continue to reflect the biases of those who greenlight the movies

Friday 10 March 2023 09:16 GMT
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Scandal sheet: Oscar controversies through the years, from Harvey Weinstein to #OscarsSoWhite
Scandal sheet: Oscar controversies through the years, from Harvey Weinstein to #OscarsSoWhite (Getty)

They are not fair, they never have been and they never will be. The biggest misconception about the Academy Awards – happening for the 95th time this Sunday – is that they are an accurate or transparent measure of excellence or that the best movies always win.

We’re in an era of what seems unusual turbulence at the Oscars. Last year, there was “slapgate”, when actor Will Smith hit comedian Chris Rock on stage. That followed on from “envelopegate” in 2017, when the wrong film (La La Land) was declared Best Picture winner instead of Moonlight. This year, the #OscarsSoWhite controversy continues to rage more than 20 years after Halle Berry became the first, and so far only, Black woman to win a Best Actress Oscar for her performance in Monster’s Ball (2001).

Look back deep into Oscar history and you’ll find exactly the same turmoil. If they’d had hashtags and social media in the early years of the event, you might have found #OscarsSoAnti-Orson, after Citizen Kane was spurned controversially for the main awards in 1942. The #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment could just as well have been launched in the 1920s as in 2017.

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