From: Silver Screen

Highlights from the 2020 Academy Awards

Highlights from the 2020 Academy Awards

Compared to last year’s fiasco, the 92nd Academy Awards were relatively tame, and the surprises that did materialize were mostly welcome ones. Perhaps the most memorable moment of the evening was when the South Korean favorite “Parasite” won the grand prize for Best Motion Picture—the first time a foreign language film has won the award. “Parasite” also walked away with the newly renamed Best International Film award (formerly called the Best Foreign Language Film).

In addition to this underdog upset, there were a number of memorable moments in the evening, from colorful and unexpected musical performances to heartfelt and heart-stopping speeches. Here are a few of the evening’s highlights:

“Parasite” wins Best Picture

Director Bong Joon Ho got plenty of exercise last night, walking to and from the stage for four separate Academy Awards, including Original Screenplay, Achievement in Directing, as well as both Best International Feature Film and Best Motion Picture.”Parasite” was the first film in the ceremony’s history to win both of the latter awards. In a deluge of firsts, “Parasite” was also the first South Korean film to be nominated for Best Picture (and consequently the first to win).

This came as a surprise given some of the other popular contenders for the night’s highest prize; many predicted Sam Mendes’ “1917” or Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” to take it. “1917” did well in the technical categories, but “The Irishman” walked away empty-handed. The result was a stunning rebuke to the Academy and the films that traditionally succeed during the ceremony.

In his host of acceptance speeches, Bong (through a translator) humbly recognized the cast and crew that made the titanic success possible, recognized the significance of representing South Korea’s first nomination for the International Film category, became emotional and graciously thanked the other nominees when accepting his Directing award, and made a couple of jokes about celebrating by drinking “until [the] next morning.”

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Janelle Monáe led the ceremony off with what began as a spoof of Mr. Rogers’ “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, a song featured throughout the film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” starring Tom Hanks. It quickly evolved into a theatrical performance featuring dancers dressed as characters from some of this year’s snubbed movies. It was the first (and arguably the best) in a number of excellent guest performances, matched only in the theatrics of the incomparable Sir Elton John with his performance of “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from the biopic “Rocketman.” John won his second Oscar for the song.

Also of note was a perplexing performance of the decades-old “Lose Yourself” by Eminem, whose presence at the Oscars came as a surprise to many, and an intimate and tasteful rendition of The Beatles’ “Yesterday” by Billie Eilish—fresh off of her sweep at the Grammys—during the In Memoriam section of the evening. The performance of “Into the Unknown” from “Frozen II” was also a spectacle, featuring lines sung in various international languages, reinforcing the themes of belonging from the film as well as the ever-relevant importance of international unity.

Powerful Speeches 

There are always a number of memorable speeches during every Oscar ceremony. Artists from behind and in front of the camera use the spotlight to address any manner of political causes or to simply recite a laundry list of individuals the winner is grateful for. One of the first of the evening came from Matthew A. Cherry and Karen Rupert Toliver, the winners of Best Animated Short Film for “Hair Love.” Their speech called attention to the lack of representation in animation, and the often-overlooked impact of eurocentric standards of beauty on people—and particularly women—of color. Cherry closed out their speech with a brief tribute to Kobe Bryant, the basketball legend who died in an accident earlier this year.

On the issue of representation in film, composer Hildur Guðnadóttir gave an incredibly humble and inspiring speech during her acceptance of her Oscar for Original Score for “Joker.” On top of the standard fare of thanking the film’s cast and crew as well as loved ones, she closed her speech saying, “To the girls, to the women, to the mothers, to the daughters, who hear the music bubbling within, please speak up—we need to hear your voices.” Guðnadóttir won in a competitive category otherwise populated entirely by men for this year’s ceremony, joining an incredibly exclusive club of female composers with only three other women ever walking away with the award. Guðnadóttir is the first to win under the award’s “Original Score” name, which was changed in 2000. 

In another victory for the critically derided (but popularly loved) “Joker,” Joaquin Phoenix gave a lengthy and deeply emotional speech that touched on a number of subjects, focusing primarily on animal rights, our disconnection from the natural world and how these issues affect our understanding of each other. Choking up, Phoenix then closed out his speech quoting a lyric written by his late brother, River: “Run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow.”

While perhaps unlikely given last year’s Best Picture winner, “Parasite’s sweep of the Oscars is hopefully the harbinger of a new era of recognizing films and filmmakers that challenge orthodox conceptions of what we consider a “good movie,” as well as encouraging the Academy to look past the Hollywood sign when considering what to deem as exceptional cinema. While some may cynically believe the result here is just the Academy capitulating to criticism about representation at the Awards—we clearly still have a long way to go there—it is encouraging to see a departure from the sometimes insular world of prestige Hollywood filmmaking.

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