This year’s Academy Awards ushered in another year of mostly white male nominees, but a series of surprise wins on Sunday helped to redefine the as South Korean thriller Parasite took home four Oscars, including Best picture and director.
Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite was the upset in key categories, also winning the stacked honors for original screenplay and the newly named best international feature film.
“I’m so happy to be the first recipient under the new name. I applaud and support the new direction that this change symbolizes.”
In the 92-year history of the Academy Awards, Parasite became the first foreign-language film to win best picture. Not bad for a $11 million Korean-language theatrical effort that grew through word-of-mouth since its Palme d’Or win at the Cannes in May (it’s now has grossed over $167 million worldwide).
As The Hollywood Reporter says,
It is rare for a film to win best picture honors without any individual acting nominations, but after Parasite won the best ensemble prize at the Screen Actors Guild Awards last month, its chances looked a little brighter. Still, it was Sam Mendes‘ World War I drama 1917 that went into Sunday as the presumptive favorite in the best picture and directing categories.
Backstage after winning his Oscar, Bong said,
“I think naturally there will come a day when a foreign-language film or not, it won’t really matter.”
The Oscars came under fire in 2016 when all 20 of its acting nominees were white for two consecutive years, forcing the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to pledge to double its female and minority memberships by this year. While the Academy is close to meeting its goals, a recent Hollywood Reporter study revealed that 84 percent of the organization is white.
First-time Oscar producers Lynette Howell Taylor and Stephanie Allain kicked the show off with Janelle Monae a lively Mister Rogers-style musical number that quickly became an opportunity to showcase diverse talent, including Billy Porter (above.)
Monae sang, surrounded by black dancers dressed as characters from Joker, Dolemite Is My Name, Little Women, Midsommar and Us.
“It’s time to come alive / Because the Oscars is so white.
Tonight we celebrate all the amazing talent in this room. We celebrate all the women who directed phenomenal films. And I’m so proud to stand here as a black queer artist telling stories.
Happy Black History Month!”
Harriet lead Cynthia Erivo was the only actor of color nominated across all four acting categories.
As non-hosts Steve Martin & Chris Rock again called out the lack of female directors and diverse acting nominees.
“Cynthia [Erivo] did such a great job in Harriet hiding black people that the Academy got her to hide all the black nominees! Cynthia, is Eddie Murphy under this stage?”
“Back in 1929, there were no black acting nominees…”
to which Rock replied,
“And now in 2020, we got one!”
New Zealand’s Taika Waititi became the first indigenous filmmaker to win an Oscar, picking up best adapted screenplay for his Nazi satire Jojo Rabbit. Waititi said onstage,
“This is dedicated to all the indigenous kids around the world that want to do art, dance and write stories. We are the original storytellers, and we can make it up here as well.”
Director Matthew A. Cherry, whose Hair Love (a story of a black father learning to do his daughter’s hair) won the animated short film Oscar, said the film was
“done because we wanted to see more representation in animation and to normalize black hair.”
Actor and singer Utkarsh Ambudkar, who was in Broadway’s Freestyle Love Supreme show and appears in the upcoming Mulan, also rapped about inclusion onstage as he came on halfway to recap the show and mention Parasite and Waititi’s wins:
“Been a long time, trying to be color blind
What you see right in front of you is a sign of the times.”
Todd Phillips‘ Joker, which led all nominees with 11, earned two wins: Joaquin Phoenix for best actor and Hildur Gudnadottir for best original score.
Gudnadottir became the first solo female to win in the original score category and said:
“To the girls, to the women, to the mothers, to the daughters who hear the music opening within, please speak up. We need to hear your voices.”
Mark Ruffalo mentioned while presenting the documentary feature category that four of the nominated films featured female directors or co-directors.
And Natalie Portman, who called out the “all-male nominees” at the Golden Globes two years ago, wore a cape embroidered with the names of 2019’s female directors.
Speaking of capes, Sigourney Weaver said as she was flanked by Wonder Woman’s Gal Gadot and Captain Marvel’s Brie Larson as they introduced the musical presentation for original score, which was led by a female conductor for the first time.
“All women are superheroes.”
(Photos, Avalon; via THR)