• James Kunovski

2020 Oscars: Final Thoughts and Recap

The ceremony kicked off with a violent throwback to the musical number intros we saw in the 1980s with Janelle Monáe, never comprising her style, and Billy Porter tearing up the stage. Steve Martin and Chris Rock kicked off their hosting, non-hosting gig. Why weren’t they called? Best moment of the opening was when Bezos’ introduction received no applause. Without a host, the rest of the presenters did an amiable job of filling the gap. These included Diane Keaton who evidently hasn’t changed a bit; SNL alumni Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig, Julia-Louis Dreyfus and Will Ferrell. The latter two duos, although their humour requires a bit of acquired taste would make great hosts. Possibly the Globes, which are usually more liberal with their choices are on the lookout?

Parasite won its first of four awards for original screenplay in want turned out to be a surprising lovefest for the Korean comedic-thriller. It became the sixth film not in the English language to win a writing award, joining the likes of Pedro Almodóvar's Talk to Her and Divorce Italian Style. Favourite part of this speech was Bong Joon-ho lovingly inspecting the Oscar in the background. If only he knew how many he would receive by night’s end. He also twice mentioned his plans to drink ‘til Monday morning. His poor liver. Taika Waititi won his first Oscar for writing Jojo Rabbit. He was previously nominated over a decade ago in the live action short film category. In his speech, he spurred on Indigenous talent and spun the tables by dryly admitting that the statuette was light. I was a bit disappointed to see Brotherhood lose live action short to The Neighbour’s Window which I found to be a bit too fulfilling and safe. Most of the speeches were endurable; some were even good. I especially liked documentarian Julia Reichert of American Factory’s speech. She expressed gratitude and admiration for her fellow nominees, making the point that many had risked their lives for their work. It was equally awesome to see Diane Ladd’s reaction to daughter Laura Dern, whose career has enjoyed a recent gain, winning for supporting actress. They were nominated together in the same year twenty-eight years ago for their work on Rambling Rose. It wouldn’t be the Oscars without plentiful montages about a shared love for cinema and boy, did this year deliver. While the actress montages made a point about empowerment, I found the international film intro, voiced by Penelope Cruz, quite moving and indicative of my own experiences. Musical performances also made a reappearance and shaped some of the gaps between categories. Eminem, who literally rose onto stage, was a surprise. Not sure if this was advertised well, but fair game, even though it seemed that his backing track did most of the work. Cynthia Erivo, a two-time nominee, performed a stirring rendition of Stand Up from Harriet. She is only an 'O' away from an EGOT. The look Erivo gives the circling camera at the end tells all. She knows she’s got it. Rather, they awarded Elton John and Bernie Taupin, of Rocketman for original song, in an anticipated outcome. Utkarsh Ambudkar’s rhyming recap basically did my job, so there’s that. The Irishman didn’t win anything in turn from its ten nominations. Perhaps nominators just don’t want to judge a three-and-a-half-hour film multiple times. Fair enough. It’s almost a cruel joke for the Academy to award Deakins twice in three years after almost thirty years of ignoring him. What a joy to see another one of his humble speeches. Ray Romano’s F-bomb. That is all… taking after co-star DeNiro are we? What a year for Joker composer Hildur Guðnadóttir who has won an Emmy, Grammy and Oscar in the past six months. She just has to write an eerily solemn Broadway musical to round it off! I wondered if there would be any mention of politics. Of course, there were, but it remained pretty discreet. Steve Martin referenced the Iowa Caucus; Brad Pitt quipped that he would be given more time for a speech than National Security Advisor John Bolton and sound editor Donald Sylvester was relieved none of his children grew up to become politicians. Olivia Colman was splendid, as usual, when presenting the award to Joaquin Phoenix who called for equality and concluded with a quote by his late brother River. Parasite’s successful night continued when Bong Joon-ho, in a true shock, clinched best director. He honoured his fellow directors and their films he studied as a student. It’s always great when a film buff becomes a filmmaker.

Parasite’s historic win for best picture was an incredible surprise and rescued the ceremony’s legacy from a predictable affair. The fact that 1917 won the Golden Globe, Producers Guild Award and the Bafta only adds to this case. Earlier in the night Bong drifted into amazement of his trophy and invited the cast to stand. Luckily, they were able to take to the stage by the final award.

A mix of predictability and a few welcome surprises beckoned this year’s Oscars. Parasite's win is the type of courageous choice we need to see more often so the Oscars become an award show that rightfully recognises the emblematic reaches of cinema.


Cover image, all credit to Mark Ralston/AFP