Photo from CNN Entertainment
The 92nd Academy Awards can be summed up in one word, or movie title “Parasite.” It’s the film you heard about leading up to the Oscars, and now it’s the film you definitely won’t forget. It took home four Academy Awards, including a stunning, but not entirely surprising, victory over World War I epic “1917” for Best Picture. Bong Joon-ho won Best Director, capping what was an unforgettable night for the Academy and film culture.
“Parasite” was the story of the night, but the evening was full of plenty of noteworthy presenters, awards and speeches. Here’s a rundown of the evening’s biggest stories and important moments.
The battle for Best Picture, a finish worth waiting for
By all accounts, Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” couldn’t have had a better night. In the 92-year history of the Academy Awards, there had never been an international film to win Best Picture. “Parasite” did just that on Sunday, earning Best International Feature and Best Original Screenplay in the process. It was a riveting moment for the Academy, film enthusiasts and South Korea.
The international hit’s primary competition heading into the night was Sam Mendes’ World War I epic, “1917.” It had long been considered the favorite, primarily for Mendes’ direction and its one-shot approach. However, the Academy got it absolutely right for its decision to reward “Parasite.” It was widely expected to contend for many of the nights top awards, praised for its originality and the relevancy of its social references. More importantly, the film’s success was a reminder that the Academy can still get it right when it matters most. “1917” is the visual masterpiece with a palette of emotion, but “Parasite” is the film that we will remember.
The Night Started off With a Bang
Janelle Monae performed to start the evening’s ceremonies, and she did not disappoint. It was electric, thunderous and a clear declaration that inclusivity would be a theme of the show, even if its nominations failed to reflect it. She was followed by comedians Steve Martin and Chris Rock, the first presenters of the night. The pair’s chemistry was evident early, regularly earning enthusiastic, authentic laughs from the packed house at Hollywood’s Dolby Theater. They made references to the Democratic Iowa Caucus fiasco and mocked Billionaire Jeff Bezos and director Martin Scorsese. Thankfully, they were quick to reference the Academy’s lack of women directors and black nominees. While the opening ceremonies were relatively ordinary, its authenticity helped get the night started smoothly. It was a massive improvement from Ricky Gervais’ job as Golden Globes host in January.
An expected, but memorable night for the supporting winners
Go Brad! That was the overwhelming feeling as Brad Pitt approached the stage to take his statue for Best Supporting Actor. He was long penciled in to win here for his role as Cliff Booth, stuntman in “Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood.” Still, it was extremely satisfying to see the 56-year-old finally win his first Oscar for an acting role. Pitt also delivered a highly anticipated speech, short and sweet. He referenced John Bolton in a few scathing lines and finished his time by kindheartedly asking, “Once upon a time in Hollywood, ain’t that the truth?” It was a fitting moment for one of cinema’s true stars.
Like Pitt’s award, Laura Dern’s candidacy for Best Supporting Actress was a favorite throughout awards season. Indeed, she took home her first Academy Award for her performance as fiery divorce lawyer, Nora Fanshaw, in Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story.” It was a long time coming for the 53-year-old Dern, who received nominations for 2015’s “Wild” and 1992’s “Rambling Rose.” Her speech was equally touching, offering spirited remarks to her mother, which ABC cameras made sure to capture in its emotional moments. It was a fine night for two of modern films finest, two powers capable of pulling off Tour de France performances.
A disappointing night for the big ones
“The Irishman” and “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” were nominated for a combined 19 awards. They left the night with two. The latter won for Best Supporting Actor (Brad Pitt) and Best Production Design, but the two feel like a letdown for Quentin Tarantino, who was nominated for Best Original Screenplay and Director. It couldn’t outduel “Parasite” and its steady momentum. The same can be said for Martin Scorsese and “The Irishman.” After its massive budget, de-aging technology and assembly of star power, it was essentially shut out through the major awards season. “1917” didn’t have a bad night, but it seemed destined for Best Director and Best Picture. “Parasite” had other plans, thanks to surging momentum.
Four quick hits
It was great to see legendary songwriter Bernie Taupin and Elton John’s “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” win for Best Original Song. “Rocketman” almost feels forgotten in a 2019 that was packed with important films, a reason it earned just one nomination.
“Little Women” should have won for Best Adapted Screenplay after Greta Gerwig’s Best Director snub, but “Jojo Rabbit” gained a big following and was always a contender here.
As expected, Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker”) and Renee Zellweger (“Judy”) took home the Best Actor/Actress Oscars.
Netflix’s “American Factory” took home the Best Documentary Oscar. It was a significant moment for the streaming giant, which mostly had a quiet night aside from Laura Dern’s Supporting Actress win. The documentary was produced by Higher Ground Productions, the creation of Barack and Michelle Obama.
Two standout quotes
“They told me I only have 45 seconds up here, which is 45 seconds more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week. I’m thinking maybe Quentin does a movie about it, in the end, the adults do the right thing.” — Brad Pitt
“Thank you so much. When I was young and studying cinema, there was a saying that I carved deep into my heart, which is, the most personal is the most creative.” — Bong Joon-ho