THE 92ND ACADEMY AWARDS CEREMONY. DOLBY THEATRE, LOS ANGELES.
There is no ceremony which equals the Oscars in prestige and the shock victory of Parasite, a sub-titled South Korean film which highlights the injustices of capitalism and which won Best Picture, will have seismic consequences. No non-English language film had ever won before. Parasite was the twelfth which had been nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, its win in this category as well as Best Director for Bong Joon-ho, who was on exuberant form, for Best International Feature Film and Best Original Screenplay was a tour de force which is of enormous significance for global cinema.
There were early signs that this was possible. It had earlier won at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the actors branch has the largest number of Oscar voters. Since the debacle of #OscarsSoWhite in 2015 and 2016, the Academy had added some 3,500 members and a large percentage of these have come from abroad which also might have helped. Even if they admired its technical wizardry, quite a number of those who saw Sir Sam Mendes’s 1917, which was the favourite to win Best Picture, were not emotionally involved with the characters. Parasite shakes you up, it is menacing, sometimes macabre and a masterly example of black humour. Its win opens the door to non-English language films which should, in future, comprise a far larger number of Best Picture nominees.
It is also a signal to actors in non-English language films that they now have a far better chance of winning. In past years, there have been 44 nominees, six having multiple nominations and only eight have won. It is ironic that this ceremony which was being reviled for being insular, with only one person of colour, Cynthia Erivo, among the twenty acting nominees and no female nominees among the directors yet again, made headlines with its embrace of the wider world with Parasite.
The evening also proved, as last year, that a host was superfluous to the proceedings of the greatest show on earth, a jokey interlude had two former hosts, Steve Martin and Chris Rock, reminisce amusingly about their respective stints. Entertaining repartee between the presenters of the different awards was a perfectly adequate substitute and made the ceremony shorter. However, sadly, the ratings were the lowest ever so many may disagree! As always, the fashions were a spectacular eyeful, some outfits were gorgeous, some grotesque.
Somewhat of a surprise was the appearance of the rapper Eminem to perform Lose Yourself from 8 Mile, 17 years after the song won an Oscar. It was to be expected that the musical Cats, which has become a byword for awfulness, would be recognised in some way. Wearing their costumes from the film, Rebel Wilson and James Corden were hilarious as presenters for the Oscar for Visual Effects.
It was fantastic to see Sir Elton John perform (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again which featured in the biopic Rocketman, and win his second Oscar for it. Other memorable moments included the appearance of the famous director Steven Spielberg who introduced the In Memoriam segment which was accompanied by a haunting rendition of “Yesterday” by Grammy winner Billie Ellish and the actress Jane Fonda, who memorably announced the win for Parasite as Best Picture.
The acting awards went as expected to the four favourites, all of whom were deserved winners. Joaquin Phoenix who won Best Actor as the comedian turned criminal in the ultra-violent Joker made a powerful speech about inclusivity. Renée Zellweger, the winner for Best Actress as Judy Garland in Judy, paid tribute in a touching speech to the legendary singer who never won an Oscar. Brad Pitt’s victory as Best Supporting Actor as a stuntman in Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood was enhanced by his witty and emotional acceptance speech, as at the BAFTAS, it was well crafted. Laura Dern was a popular winner of Best Supporting Actress as a venomous lawyer in Marriage Story.
That was one of the only two wins for Netflix during the evening, which was undoubtedly a less publicized but nonetheless strong statement which the Academy sent out. Netflix pumped millions of dollars into promoting Roma as Best Picture last year and, marvellous though it was, it failed. They had hoped with Martin Scorsese’s superb Mafia movie The Irishman and Noah Baumbach’s moving Marriage Story, to win top Oscars but their two dozen nominations only brought them two. Whilst it was honouring Parasite and thus potentially changing the future face of the Oscars forever, the Academy was also showing that it really cared about the way films were screened. In an era where a film can be shown anywhere, it was absolutely right to champion the large screen as the venue where we can obviously appreciate it best.