South Korea’s “Parasite” pulled off a big win at the Academy Awards Sunday, winning four Oscars. The real story: It’s the first foreign language film to grab the top prize.
Prognosticators should have seen the historic moment coming when the Screen Actors Guild gave the film the Best Ensemble prize earlier in the month.
For director Bong Joon Ho, it was a four-statuette night (screenplay, director, foreign language film and picture), giving his translator plenty of screen time and a reason, as he said, to drink until morning.
“1917” came in second with three wins and was expected to win Best Picture, particularly since the Academy is an older, whiter crowd that has been fond of epic-level films.
The acting prizes went to the four who were frontrunners all season: Joaquin Phoenix (“The Joker”), Renee Zellweger (“Judy”), Brad Pitt (“Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood”) and Laura Dern (“Marriage Story”). While both Phoenix and Zellweger rambled, Pitt and Dern focused on their families and the impact they had on their lives. Phoenix referenced a lyric his brother had written: “Run to the rescue with love and peace will follow.”
The show, working without a host, tried to answer the #oscarssowhite jabs with young performers of color introducing others. While the idea was noble, it often left viewers asking, “Who was that?” It wasn’t the “make-good” it should have been.
Several of the Best Song performances went without introductions as well, prompting home viewers to search for projections that included their names. An international choir of Elsas sang the “Frozen II” song; Chrissy Metz (from “This Is Us”) impressed with the song from her film “Breakthrough”; Randy Newman mumbled through his song from “Toy Story 4”; and Cynthia Erivo sold her composition from “Harriet.” Elton John got the biggest showcase with his song from “Rocketman” and, yes, he and Bernie Taupin won.
To make up for the lack of a host, a number of “Saturday Night Live” veterans got expanded spots on the show: Steve Martin, Chris Rock, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell.
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Martin and Rock, both past hosts, opened the show with a monologue that also referenced the Iowa Caucuses snafu and jabbed Amazon’s Jeff Bezos in ways that suggested Ricky Gervais was in the writing room. “He saw ‘Marriage Story’ and thought it was a comedy,” Rock said.
Another of his zings: “I loved the first season of ‘The Irishman,’” which aired on Netflix.
The Martin Scorsese film was the only Best Picture nominee to go home empty-handed. Still, Bong paid tribute to him during his Best Director acceptance speech.
More shell-shocked: Quentin Tarantino, whose “Once Upon a Time” got two awards – Best Supporting Actor and Best Set Design.
Singer/actress Janelle Monae opened the show with a production number that hit so many topics it was hard to track all of them. Eminem showed up, too, and presented the song that he didn’t sing when he won the Oscar in 2003. Because it had its share of profanities, it was bleeped repeatedly. The intro to it was a bit janky – songs that “transformed their films.” Nice, but most of the songs used were ones that were “borrowed” for the films, not written for them.
Outside of “Parasite’s” big Best Picture win, the only real surprise was “Jojo Rabbit” getting Best Adapted Screenplay. Smart money was on “Little Women” but that took home only one prize – Best Costumes.
Because it lacked focus (a host was needed), this year’s Academy Awards rambled as much as Zellweger and Phoenix. Someone like Jimmy Kimmel or Ellen DeGeneres could have prevented some of the train wrecks and made more of its wins.
The best bit: James Corden and Rebel Wilson coming out in “Cats” costumes for Best Visual Effects.
Biggest oversight: Luke Perry wasn’t included in the “In Memoriam” segment, even though he was in one of the Best Picture nominees, “Once Upon a Time.”
Biggest gulp: Red Carpet host Billy Porter called Michael Strahan "Michael Strayhard" and his co-host Lily Aldridge had absolutely nothing to ask the stars who stopped by to see her.