Parasite won Best Picture! That actually happened! I had been hoping for that outcome ever since I first saw the South Korean thriller back in November. Even going into last night’s ceremony, with Parasite gaining momentum from screenwriting wins at the WGA and BAFTA awards the previous weekend, most pundits expected 1917 to take Best Picture and Best Director. Conventional wisdom about the Oscars led me to believe that if Parasite did emerge victorious, it would take the Moonlight and Spotlight route to the top prize by claiming a screenwriting award first, but not directing. Parasite had a path to winning Best Picture without winning Best Director. 1917 did not. So when Bong Joon-ho was declared the Best Director winner, I knew in that moment the Oscars would be making overdue history at the end of the night.
Parasite became the first non-English language film to claim the top Oscar. To be clear, Roma should have made this history last year, when instead the Oscars gave us one of the worst overall list of winners in recent memory, thanks to a combined seven wins for Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book, the latter of which won Best Picture. But Roma, a black and white, slow paced character study, had an uphill battle winning votes from an organization that historically viewed films with subtitles as something less. Those attitudes could not overcome Parasite this year, a film so entertaining and full of twists and thoughtful statements that no film released since has been able to interrupt the industry and #FilmTwitter’s obsession with it. Even after the ceremony ended, it was hard to find anyone outside of the Fox News crowd who thought Parasite was an awful choice.
In terms of winners, the Oscars got most of the categories right this time around. 1917 was honored for its technical achievements, as was Ford v Ferrari. Marvel continued its Visual Effects losing streak and Taika Wattiti took home the Oscar for Adapted Screenplay for Jojo Rabbit. Elton John and Bernie Taupin finally won an Oscar together after 53 years of collaboration. Hair Love took home the Best Animated Short Prize, and if you haven’t seen it yet, it deserves seven minutes of your time.
The one place where the winners felt a little behind the times was in the acting categories. With the exception of Renee Zellwger, who won her second Oscar for her performance in Judy, the acting winners were all first-timers who should have had Oscars a long time ago. They all gave deserving performances, but the fact the Brad Pitt, Laura Dern and Joaquin Phoenix gave their first Oscar acceptance speeches on the same night in 2020 is proof of how slow the acting branch is to welcome in and reward new talent at times. Perhaps 10-15 years from now, we’ll be watching Awkwafina, Taron Egerton and Cynthia Erivo win their first overdue Oscars and complain that they should have won a long time ago.
The ceremony itself was not quite as smoothly run as last year’s initial hostless outing. Running at least 30 minutes overtime, the telecast this year was stuffed full of a few too many musical performances. It also didn’t help that since the show aired on ABC, Disney made sure one of their nominees for Best Original Song got a longer introduction than the other four nominees in that category. I know we have a long time to wait, but I dream of the day (that may never come) when this ceremony does not air on a platform controlled by Disney.
It also would have been nice for some context to have been provided as to why Eminem was performing “Lose Yourself.” Most viewers probably know it was an Oscar winning song from 8 Mile 18 years ago, but they may not know that Eminem backed out of performing it that year because the academy wanted him to perform a profanity free version. This year, they made good and let him do it his way, albeit while bleeping out the F-bombs. The reason for his appearance should have been made clear. Anyway, I loved Scorsese’s confused reaction to the performance. We could all relate, Marty.
Usually, the morning after the Oscars, I’m in a bad mood. It’s because I usually had to stay up late to sit through three hours of my favorite nominees losing to other films I didn’t enjoy. I usually have to talk myself into feeling better about the whole thing. “At least Dunkirk won Film Editing” or “At least Spike Lee has an Oscar now” were some recent examples of such bargaining. There’s no need for similar pep talks this morning. I’m satisfied, and I’m excited to see what the next year in film and the resulting awards season will bring. Eventually, the academy will screw up big time again, but I’ll have this year to remember when they do.