Hollywood’s biggest night kicked off with a performance from sexy Mr. Rogers (actually Janelle Monae) surrounded by Hargas, clowns and Nazis, before she made a swift transition into 2020’s official May Queen — and to this excitement, the rest of this year’s Academy Awards (at least for all of us Parasite fans) held up.
In the biggest news of the night, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite not only secured four Oscars out of its six nominations, including Best Picture, but made Oscar history on multiple accounts. The black comedy-thriller broke boundaries as both the first South Korean film to receive recognition from the Academy and the first non-English language film to ever win Best Picture. We can only suppose the Academy was trying to make up for Green Book (and, honestly, they’re forgiven).
“I’m ready to drink tonight,” Bong announced after picking up his award for Best International Feature. When he came back up for Best Director, he then announced he was planning “to drink tonight until next morning.” It’s what the Kim family would want.
Parasite also received Best Original Screenplay. This was Bong’s first of the night and also one of the most touching moments; as co-writer Han Jin-won gave his acceptance speech, Bong cradled his Oscar in the background, eyes on it and grin wide. It all was inarguably well-deserved, as the film quickly became the highest rated film of 2019 and the seventh highest rated of the decade.
Parasite aside, 1917, Ford v Ferrari and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood also all swept up handfuls of awards — including a predictable Best Supporting Actor for Brad Pitt. Surprises came in the form of Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit blocking out a potential Best Adapted Screenplay win for Little Women or The Irishman and Joaquin Phoenix winning for Joker, a deserving win, but one that will be undoubtedly controversial. Phoenix gave one of the most memorable speeches of the night, speaking of how the “greatest gift” his career has given him was the opportunity to speak up for the voiceless, before he launched into a discussion of the many issues facing our society today. He closed off by remembering the late River Phoenix despite failing efforts to remain composed, “when he was 17, my brother wrote the lyric ‘run to the rescue with love and peace will follow’.”
The biggest surprise of all was perhaps the realization at the end that The Irishman didn’t take home a single award despite being brought to us by one of Hollywood’s heavy-hitters. Bong Joon-ho quite humbly took his time during his Best Director speech to praise Scorsese and his adoration for the auteur throughout his years studying cinema, a moment which led to a standing ovation for Scorsese. Easily one of the evening’s most wholesome moments.
Of course, not every surprise on live television can go off without a hitch.
Eminem emerged with a surprise performance of Oscar-winning “Lose Yourself”, that absolutely nobody asked for. The performance seemed to befuddle some members of the audience and had Martin Scorsese falling asleep. Still, mom’s spaghetti earned a standing ovation that was 17 years overdue, but next to Cynthia Erivo and a Beatles cover from Billie Eilish and Finneas, it couldn’t hold up.
The program doesn’t suffer from lack of a host, as without one, the show goes by more efficiently and the winners can be the true stars of the evening. Still, there were multiple moments that fell flat thanks to presenters having far too much screen time than they should have. Even though there were a handful of jokes that missed, they were all long forgotten by the time Rebel Wilson and James Corden emerged dressed as their characters from Cats and reawakened some traumas many of us have been working hard on attempting to part with. It was a noble effort to make fun of the embarrassment of a film, but even Tom Hanks was flat-out disgusted by watching the two presenters lick the microphone and paw it back and forth.
This year’s ceremony made history and destroyed Bong Joon-ho’s liver for the same reasons. Even if you’re not entirely pleased with the results, they’re commendable for that reason alone.