2020 Oscars: ‘Parasite’ Becomes the First Foreign Language Film to Win Best Picture as the Academy Takes Steps to Be More Inclusive
History was made at the 2020 Oscars when “Parasite,” the South Korean satirical thriller from Bong Joon-ho, became the first foreign language film to walk away with the Best Picture Oscar. Bong was also recognized for his original screenplay and directing. Although his cast was shut out of the acting categorie, they were there to share in the filmmaker and producers’ triumphant moment, and the audience felt the excitement with them, chanting for their speeches to continue when they were almost cut off.
“I’m speechless,” said producer Kwak Sin-ae. “We never imagined this to ever happen. We are so happy. I feel like a very opportune moment in history is happening right now.”
When it came to the acting categories, there were no surprises. Hollywood loves it when a performer portrays one of their own, and Renée Zellweger took Best Actress for her transformative role as icon Judy Garland in “Judy.” Joaquin Phoenix was recognized for his dark turn in “Joker,” and Phoenix, who has been speaking on topics important to him all throughout awards season, used his time onstage to address the importance of second chances, as well as injustices to humans and animals.
But it was Brad Pitt, who won Best Supporting Actor for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” who made the most outright political statement of the evening. Referring to President Trump’s recent impeachment trial, he joked that he had 45 seconds to give his acceptance speech, “45 seconds more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week. I’m thinking maybe Quentin [Tarantino] does a movie about it. In the end, the adults do the right thing.” Best Supporting Actress Laura Dern, meanwhile, dedicated her Oscar for “Marriage Story” to her parents, actors Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern.
For the second year in a row, the Oscars went hostless, although two past hosts, Steve Martin and Chris Rock, were there to warm up the crowd. The fact that there was only one black acting nominee did not escape the notice of Rock, who last hosted in 2016, the year of #OscarsSoWhite.
“Cynthia [Erivo] did such a great job in ‘Harriet’ hiding black people, that the Academy got her to hide all the black nominees,” he quipped. “Cynthia, is Eddie Murphy under this stage?”
Although the Academy still has a way to go when it comes to diversity, different voices were represented onstage at the Dolby Theatre, including that of Janelle Monae, who kicked off the show with with an opening number based on her 2010 song “Come Alive,” with the lyrics rewritten to reference the Oscars and some of the year’s top films.
“We celebrate all the women who directed phenomenal films,” she said, midsong, “and I’m so proud to stand here as a black queer artist, telling stories. Happy Black History Month.”
Other highlights of the evening included Idina Menzel performing her nominated song from “Frozen 2,” “Into the Unknown,” along with Norwegian songstress Aurora and several singers from all over the world who lent their voices to international versions of the film. Utkarsh Ambudkar popped up mid-show to perform a comical rap, and none other than Eminem surprised the crowd with a performance of “Lose Yourself.” The most memorable song from the movie “8 Mile” won the 2003 Academy Award for Best Original Song, but the rapper did not attend that year’s ceremony.
Said Eminem via Twitter, “Look, if you had another shot, another opportunity… Thanks for having me @TheAcademy. Sorry it took me 18 years to get here.”
The 92nd Academy Awards took place Feb. 9 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, CA.