Technically speaking, next Sunday’s Academy Awards will be the 87th ceremony rather than 88th. However, since the very first Oscars held in 1929 honored not one but two previous film years, it got the event off to a running, extra-year start.
Born at the beginning of the first Oscars year honored: Sidney Poitier, Feb. 20, 1927. Last night, Denzel Washington and several others joined Poitier at Craig’s in West Hollywood to help the actor and his wife celebrate Poitier’s 89th birthday. On his way out of the restaurant, Poitier confirmed he will not be attending the 2016 Oscars and artfully dodged a TMZ cameraman question about #OscarsSoWhite.
The day after this year’s Oscars, Feb. 29, also happens to be the deadline for entries in the Sir Sidney Poitier Essay Competition. Open to all high school students in the Bahamas, the competition mandates that entries be no longer than one page and offers a first prize that will rank for some lucky person as their version of winning the Oscar:
The winner of the essay competition will be awarded five hundred dollars ($500) and will also get an opportunity to fly to Los Angeles, along with a chaperone, to visit Sir Sidney.
In a piece published today, Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley provides an interesting take on the Oscars diversity controversy. She explains that she has stopped caring about a lot of the movies Hollywood makes these days and frames it all with the film that made Poitier the first African-American winner in the Best Actor category:
I miss the gentle nuance and quiet grace Poitier brought to the [Lilies of the Field] character Homer Smith, a handyman who builds a chapel for a group of nuns, but whose dignity becomes a supporting cast member. I’d choose that film and my couch over many films made today time and time again.