History Was Made Last Night: A Recap of the 2020 Oscars (AKA: PARASITE STOLE THE SHOW!)

Where do I begin??

Well…it certainly has a happier ending than LOVE STORY…and the movie in question was light years better than the saccharine LOVE STORY.

After months of wishing and hoping that the Academy would finally break the unfortunate distinction of never honoring a film not in the English language, they finally did so last night by rewarding PARASITE, a South Korean film by director Bong Joon-ho that I have been going on and on and on and on about on social media for what seems like an eternity now.

I was predicting PARASITE to win Best Picture…but I knew that it might have been slightly based on my heart rather than my head. I knew it was definitely possible because it did win a couple of key awards (SAG Ensemble and the WGA for its Screenplay) but it seemed like the overwhelming amount of awards were going to 1917…thankfully the passion for PARASITE that seemed to be peeking through ended up paying off!

I will come back to that magnificent film in a moment.

As for the ceremony itself, it was kind of all over the place. I think not having a host helps but they still have people doing extended bits while presenting and they let Steve Martin and Chris Rock do a monologue at the beginning…after a while, as is often the case, you just beg them to stop because you just want to get past the Sound and Shorts Awards because you want to go to bed at a decent hour since you need to get up by 6am and yet you are obsessed with the results.

Most of the winners were expected…particularly the four acting wins. For me personally, I would have only voted for one of the winners…that being Joaquin Phoenix. I am definitely TEAM JOKER and felt he was phenomenal in this role…and it should’ve been his 2nd Oscar in my eyes because I would’ve given him the win for THE MASTER.

Renee Zellweger should feel lucky because she was part of one of the weakest Best Actress lineups in recent memory. I don’t even have a favorite in that category so I really didn’t care who actually won. As for her performance, I thought there were certain mannerisms she nailed as Garland but the explosive volcanic performance people kept describing just wasn’t there. She seemed too subdued and polished to be Judy Garland…especially the same Judy Garland who would be dead within a year of when the film took place.

Brad Pitt winning is another case of a co-lead winning in Supporting at the expense of a more worthy Supporting performance…and in this category, I think Pacino and Hanks were more worthy than him. It isn’t a bad performance at all…it is just more of a pure movie star/charisma performance and it was a way for the Academy to acknowledge Pitt with an Oscar for his acting (he already won as a Producer). He has been around a while so it serves almost like a career award.

Speaking of career awards, we then have Laura Dern. I have expressed my love for Laura Dern often and I have been so eager for her to be able to add an Oscar to her list of numerous awards….but the problem is that there is NOTHING to her performance in MARRIAGE STORY. All she comes across as is a lightweight version of her BIG LITTLE LIES character Renata Klein, which IS a fantastic performance…and even her big “money scene” in which she discusses the differences between mothers and fathers plays incredibly false to me. It does teeter a line between being overwrought and well-written but her delivery of it sort of makes it feel less real and more staged. On a superficial level, I will just pretend this award was for her work in David Lynch’s INLAND EMPIRE. Who would I have voted for among the nominees? Florence Pugh for LITTLE WOMEN.

The Screenplay awards provided some great moments. For Adapted Screenplay, Taika Waititi won for JOJO RABBIT, a film he also directed. With this win, he becomes the first person of Maori descent to ever win an Academy Award. While I had significant issues with some of the choices and structure in the final third of the film, I do enjoy his work usually so I don’t begrudge him the win even if I probably would’ve voted for Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of LITTLE WOMEN.

The Original Screenplay category was the make or break it moment for PARASITE. Even though it had forward momentum winning the WGA (without Tarantino, since he wasn’t eligible) and BAFTA, there did seem a good chance Tarantino would pull off the Oscar win…thankfully, that didn’t happen and that was going to be the first award Bong Joon-ho would win last night. While PARASITE wasn’t exactly a movie that wowed with its dialogue, it really scored based on its premise and structure and seamless ease of tonal shifts…which that comes all back to Direction.

Going into the Oscars, it was Sam Mendes who was favored to win for 1917 as he had the flashier direction (one-shot gimmick, war battles, etc…) but Bong Joon-ho’s delicate touch in being able to make a movie like PARASITE work was astonishing. The fact that he ended up winning was a HUGE but very deserved upset. The only Directing award he won all season was the Critics’ Choice Award in a tie with Mendes, who won the Globe, DGA, and BAFTA. It is one of those out of nowhere upsets that very few people even forecasted.

Once Bong won Director, it seemed like there was no way that PARASITE would lose Best Picture…though I was still on the edge of my seat, thinking that somehow they would end up giving it to 1917 still or, god forbid, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD…but in rewarding PARASITE, the Academy finally broke the mold by giving it to a Foreign Language film and it also became the first movie to win TWO Best Film awards in one evening.

That actually brings me to my next topic of discussion: the idea of a film winning twice.

Some people have made comments about how a film shouldn’t be able to win Best Picture if it is a Foreign Language Film because it has its own category, which just had a name change this year to Best International Film. This is the same situation if we ever got an Animated movie that would come close to winning the top prize (which is now the next big hurdle for the Academy to now tackle…we need more animated movies with the punch of UP, WALL-E, and TOY STORY 3).

We’ve seen in the anonymous ballots released by the press that some Academy members expressed this belief that not only should a film not be able to win both, but there seems to be people who love to take an almost xenophobic attitude in that American films should only be recognized…and it is that kind of thing that makes me even more thrilled about how well PARASITE did.

It almost feels like a case of Idiotic Elitism. It is one thing if you are pretentious and dismiss any kind of popular film but I feel like this case of being strictly for American films and not wanting to honor or even watch foreign films is kind of ludicrous.

Maybe that makes me my own form of elitist but I feel like so many great films aren’t seen or acknowledged because they aren’t in the English language…so the fact that the passion received by PARASITE was able to propel it to a win is nothing short of extraordinary.

With that, the Movie Award season has come to an end and it ended on such a high note after all of the predictability we had been getting. Pretty soon, there will be people online already discussing this year’s films and what could be up for Oscars…in many ways, some people already have.

Instead, I am just going to take a step back and bask in the glow of this historic win.

To paraphrase Bong Joon-ho last night during his 2nd od 3 acceptance speeches (since he didn’t speak when the film won Best Picture), “I will be drinking”…out of celebration of course.

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