When the 92nd annual Academy Award nominations were announced, it was difficult to not note the elephant in the room. Within moments, #OscarsSoWhite was trending and more memes than you could possibly create were birthed making a mockery of the Academy’s decision to snub people of colour and women in a majority of categories; despite the fact that directors like Lulu Wang, Greta Gerwig, and Lorene Scafaria had heralded critical and commercial successes such as The Farewell, Little Women, and Hustlers, respectively.
On the subject of directors, those that were nominated (Martin Scorsese for The Irishman, Todd Phillips for Joker, Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood, Sam Mendes for 1917, and Bong Joon-Ho for Parasite) made perfect sense, and at least one of them (Bong) broke the “white male” archetype that so often runs rampant throughout the award season, but it certainly stings that their work was chosen over such deserved filmmakers – like the aforementioned Gerwig – when this isn’t the first year that the Academy has been called out for its lack of female representation.
But in a ceremony that seemed so pre-empted upon arrival – I don’t think anyone was shocked when Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), Renee Zellweger (Judy), Brad Pitt (Once Upon A Time…) and Laura Dern (Marriage Story) were all awarded their statues – it was indeed a delicious jolt when the announced winners drew a response of genuine surprise; it’s rather odd that Toy Story 4 winning Best Animated Film wasn’t a given considering Missing Link‘s Golden Globe win and the BAFTA being awarded to Klaus.
It was the first upset(?) of the evening, an evening that ran relatively smoothly without a definitive host – although the duos of Steve Martin & Chris Rock and Kristen Wiig & Maya Rudolph indicate a fine comedy pairing is still needed to keep the audience invested. A bizarre performance from Eminem (the Academy Award-winning musician performing his signature tune “Lose Yourself” following a segment regarding the importance of music in film) and the seemingly pointless exercise of one actor introducing another actor introducing a category (Beanie Feldstein introducing Mindy Kaling to talk about animated films, for example) notwithstanding, the ceremony proved light on filler, which is never an easy task for a program running over 3-and-a-half hours.
As 1917 charged through in the latter half of the award season as the film to seemingly beat following a spell where there didn’t seem to be the most obvious frontrunner (both Once Upon A Time… and Marriage Story had early rumblings, whilst the calibre of The Irishman practically made it an awards certainty), the fact that Sam Mendes‘ applauded drama walked away from this year’s Oscars with only a handful of technical awards proved that the Academy aren’t entirely the out-of-touch collective they have seemingly painted themselves as; many look to Jennifer Lopez‘s Supporting Actress snub being based off the fact that the Academy members openly dismissed Hustlers (at least those that saw it) as being nothing more than “that stripper movie”.
“And the Oscar goes to…Parasite”
Whilst Bong’s South Korean black comedy/thriller was essentially guaranteed a win in the International Feature Film category (renamed from Best Foreign Language Film), and his nominations in the Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film categories were not entirely surprising, the Academy having the common sense to award the film in all those major categories is certainly enough to forgive them for most of their grievances. In taking so many steps backwards by only nominating two performers of different ethnicities this year (Cynthia Erivo in the Best Actress field for Harriet and Antonio Banderas for Best Actor for Pain and Glory), they managed a mighty leap forward by not only awarding the most deserving film, the most deserving screenplay, and most deserving director – Bong’s genuine reaction of shock and awe is worth the Google search – but breaking history by winning both Best Film awards and becoming the first non-English language film in Academy history to take out the top honour.