Subtitle this: Parasite is the first non-English language film to win best picture in the 92-year history of the Academy Awards.
Bong Joon Ho’s masterfully devious class satire took Hollywood’s top prize at the Oscars on Sunday night, along with awards for best director, best international film and best screenplay. In a year dominated by period epics -- 1917, Once Upon a Time ... In Hollywood, The Irishman -- the film academy instead went overseas, to South Korea, to reward a contemporary and unsettling portrait of social inequality in Parasite.
True to its name, Parasite simply got under the skin of Oscar voters, attaching itself to the American awards season and, ultimately, to history. The win was a watershed moment for the Academy Awards, which has long been content to relegate international films to their own category.
Multiple standing ovations greeted Bong’s several wins. “I am ready to drink tonight,” Bong said, prompting roars from the crowd. Unexpectedly called up again for best director, Bong saluted his fellow nominees, particularly Martin Scorsese, and concluded: “Now I’m ready to drink until tomorrow.”
After the Dolby Theatre had emptied out, the Parasite team still remained on the stage, soaking in their win.
The win for Parasite — which had echoes of the surprise victory of Moonlight over La La Land three years ago — came in year in which many criticized the lack of diversity in the nominees and the absence of female filmmakers. But the triumph for Parasite enabled Hollywood to flip the script, and signal a different kind of progress.
In doing so, the film academy turned away another history-making event, again denying Netflix its first best-picture win despite two contenders in The Irishman and Marriage Story, and a big-spending awards campaign blitz.
All of the acting winners — Brad Pitt, Renee Zellweger, Joaquin Phoenix and Laura Dern — went as expected.
Renee Zellweger has won the best actress Academy Award for her portrayal of Judy Garland in the tumultuous final year of her life.
It is Zellweger’s second Oscar; she won the supporting actress award in 2004 for Cold Mountain.
The actress has enjoyed front-runner status throughout awards season, picking up top Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild honours last month.
Joaquin Phoenix won the best actor Academy Award Sunday for his role as a wanna-be-comedian destined to become a supervillain in Joker.
It is Phoenix’s first Oscar and fourth nomination. Widely praised for performances in films ranging from Gladiator to the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, a best actor win had proved elusive for Phoenix.
In his acceptance speech, Phoenix said he did not feel elevated above any of his fellow nominees. He said he didn’t know what he would be if not for acting.
Phoenix had been seen as the front-runner for the award heading in to Sunday’s ceremony. Joker won the best original score Oscar as well, and is up for the night’s final prize, best picture.
He becomes the second actor to win an Oscar for playing the notorious DC Comics villain. Heath Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for playing the Joker in The Dark Knight in 2008.
Few categories were more certain coming into Sunday’s Oscars than best supporting actor, which Pitt has had locked down all awards season. While Pitt (who in 2014 shared in the best picture win for 12 Years a Slave, as a producer) has regaled audiences with one-liners in the run-up to the Oscars, he began his comments on a political note.
“They told me I have 45 seconds to speak, which is 45 seconds more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week,” said Pitt, alluding to the impeachment hearings. “I’m thinking maybe Quentin does a movie about it.”
Pitt said the honour had given him reason to reflect on his fairy-tale journey in the film industry, going back to when he moved to Los Angeles from Missouri. “Once upon a time in Hollywood,” said Pitt. “Ain’t that the truth.”
Most of the early awards went according to forecasts, including Dern winning for her performance as a divorce attorney in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story. Accepting her first Oscar, Dern thanked her in-attendance parents, “my legends, Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern.”
For the 87th time, no women were nominated for best director this year, a subject that was woven into the entire ceremony — and even into some attendees’ clothing. Natalie Portman wore a cape lined with the names of female filmmakers who weren’t nominated for best director, including Lulu Wang (The Farewell), Greta Gerwig (Little Women) and Mati Diop (Atlantics).
Coming on a rare rainy day in Los Angeles, the ceremony was soggy and song-heavy. Some performances, like Eminem’s performance of “Lose Yourself,” were unexpected (and drew a wane response from Martin Scorsese). All of the song nominees performed, including Elton John who won with his long-time songwriting partner Bernie Taupin for their Rocketman tune.
The hostless ceremony opened on a note of inclusion, with Janelle Monae performing “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” and her own song, “Come Alive,” with an assist from Billy Porter. “I’m so proud to be standing here as a black queer artist telling stories,” Monae said. “Happy Black History Month.”
Two former Oscar hosts, Chris Rock and Steve Martin, provided the opening monologue. “An incredible demotion,” Martin called it. Martin also reminded that something was missing from this year’s directing nominees. “Vaginas!” Rock replied.
There were milestones, nevertheless. In winning best adapted screenplay for his Nazi satire Jojo Rabbit, the New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi became the first indigenous director ever to win an Oscar. He dedicated the award to “all the indigenous kids in the world who want to do art, dance and write stories.”
“We are the original storytellers,” Waititi said.
Joker composer Hildur Gudnadottir became only the third woman to ever win best original score. ”To the girls, to the women, to the mothers, to the daughters who hear the music opening within, please speak up,“ said Gudnadottir. ”We need to hear your voices.“
Awards were spread around to all of the best-picture nominees, with the lone exception being Martin Scorsese’s 10-time nominee The Irishman.
1917, acclaimed for its technical virtuosity, took awards for Roger Deakins’ cinematography, visual effects and sound mixing. The car racing throwback Ford v Ferrari was also honoured for its craft, winning both editing and sound editing. Gerwig’s Louisa May Alcott adaptation Little Women won for Jacqueline Durran’s costume design. Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood for Barbara Ling’s production design.
Netflix came in with a leading 24 nominations. Along with the win for Marriage Story, the streamer’s American Factory won best documentary. The film is the first release from Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions. No studio has spent more heavily this awards season than Netflix, which is seeking its first best picture win after coming up just shy last year with Roma.
Pixar extended its domination of the best animated film category, winning for Toy Story 4. It’s the 10th Pixar film to win the award and second “Toy Story” film to do so, following the previous 2010 instalment.
It was an early award for the Walt Disney Co. which despite last year amassing a record $13 billion in worldwide box office and owning the network the Oscars are broadcast on, played a minor role in the ceremony. The bulk of its awards came from 20th Century Fox (Ford v Ferrari) and Fox Searchlight (Jojo Rabbit), both of which the company took control of after its $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox last year.
Disney’s ABC, which is broadcasting the show live, hoped a widely watched field of nominees — including the $1 billion-grossing Joker, up for a leading 11 awards — will help viewership. Last year’s show garnered 29.6 million viewers, a 12% uptick.
In a year of streaming upheaval throughout the industry, this year’s Oscar favourites were largely movies released widely in theatres. They also predominantly featured male characters and came from male directors.
After a year in which women made significant gains behind the camera, no female directors were nominated for best director. The acting categories are also the least diverse since the fallout of #OscarsSoWhite pushed the academy to remake its membership. Cynthia Erivo (Harriet) is the only actor of colour nominated. Those results, which have been a topic in speeches through awards season, stand in contrast to research that suggests the most popular movies star more people of colour than ever before.
The latest winners at the 92nd Academy Awards:
Best supporting actor: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood
Animated feature: Toy Story 4
Animated short film: Hair Love
Original screenplay: Parasite, Bong Joon-ho and Jin Won Han
Adapted screenplay: Jojo Rabbit, Taika Waititi
Live action short film: The Neighbors’ Window
Production design: Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood
Costume design: Little Women
Documentary feature: American Factory
Documentary short subject: Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)
Best supporting actress: Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Sound Editing: Ford v Ferrari, Don Sylvester
Sound mixing: 1917, Mark Taylor and Stuart Wilson
Cinematography: Roger Deakins, 1917
Film editing: Ford Vs. Ferrari
Visual effects: 1917
Makeup and hairstyling: Bombshell
International film: Parasite, South Korea
Original Score: Hildur Gunadottir, Joker
Original song: “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” Rocketman (Music by Elton John, lyrics by Bernie Taupin)
Best director: Bong Joon Ho, Parasite
Best actor: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Best actress: Renee Zellweger, Judy
Best picture: Parasite