No matter how you slice it, history was made last night. What started as an $11 million dream has erupted worldwide, earning almost $200 million in worldwide grosses, selling out theaters at major film festivals and Midwest chains, and now dominating the highest award there is. That’s right, in a stunning upset, Parasite not only takes home the Best International Feature Oscar (the first South Korean film to ever be nominated, let alone win), but dominated the show as a whole, winning Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, all for the incredible Bong Joon Ho.
That’s right, in a night mostly dedicated to the status quo (I managed to get 19/24 correct, only missing the Parasite wins and a handful of close calls), the Academy managed to break every possible rule to award the best film possible. I’m a little mad I bet against myself – I’m not a huge fan of 1917, which won its deserved prizes in Best Sound Mixing, Best Cinematography, and Best Visual Effects, all preferential ballots pointed to overwhelming love for the little film that could, and Parasite is my favorite of the nominated films. But how could I have foreseen the DGA/BAFTA/Globe stat falling, or the fact that until last night, no foreign language film had ever won Best Picture? It just seemed too impossible to overcome. And honestly? I’ve never been happier to be wrong. I mean, watching Bong Joon Ho break down as he thanked the legendary directors he’d beaten for their influence on his career and leading the audience in a standing ovation for his rivals had to be one of the best moments of the night. Other big winners included Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood and Joker, which each earned two Oscars, respectively. Hollywood took home Best Production Design and Best Supporting Actor for Brad Pitt, whose speech was less memorable than the ones he’d given before on the circuit, but at least showed him get emotional at the end. Joker, meanwhile, earned Best Original Score and Best Actor for Joaquin Phoenix. Composer Hildur Guõnadóttir perhaps gave the best speech of the night, emotionally thanking the Academy and advocating for young girls to follow their dreams, and quietly winning her third award of the year on the way to an EGOT. That’s right, she now only needs a Tony to complete the cycle. As for Phoenix, it’s hard to deny the overall power of his speech, even if it was the night’s most political. There’s just something about when you know the speaker believes in the morals he’s declaring as opposed to just trying to earn brownie points that makes it so much more palatable. And the fact he thanked his late brother with a poem he’d written was a fitting feather in his deserved cap.
Meanwhile, most of the other awards played out as relatively expected. Elton John won for his original song “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” while acclaimed comedian Taika Waititi finally won his first Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Laura Dern finally won her first Oscar and delivered a moving, textbook speech, while Renée Zellweger made her triumphant return after essentially being bullied out of the industry…only to give one of the weakest speeches of the night (I still don’t understand all that she was rambling about). Bombshell unsurprisingly took home Best Makeup and Hairstyling for turning Charlize Theron and John Lithgow into Megyn Kelly and Roger Ailes, while the Little Women coalition came through in Best Costume Design (well deserved, I might add). Best Documentary went to American Factory, while Toy Story 4 waltzed its Pixar money all the way to the podium. And the Short Films, as expected, went to Learning To Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re A Girl), The Neighbors’ Window, and Hair Love (which I didn’t predict as I didn’t expect the Academy to go that direction, but was clearly the best short of the lot). Hell, even the categories I got wrong went to the first or second place contenders, like 1917 in Best Film Editing. In fact, the only real shock of the night (outside of Parasite, of course) seems to be Ford v Ferrari edging out 1917 in Best Sound Editing – these categories rarely split, and despite Ford’s success in most precursor awards, the fact that the film’s each took home a trophy is rare and weird. Ferrari also won Best Film Editing, which I thankfully switched to Saturday evening before the ceremony, in an eerie moment of foresight. It’s funny; after all the fuss over the nominations, the best possible winners seemed to have won out in every category (even if there should have been more love for The Farewell, Midsommar, The Report, Little Women, and A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood).
As for the show itself, I won’t lie: after surviving by the scrape of its teeth last season, this year’s show found itself in desperate need of a host. In fact, it seemingly tantalized us throughout with potential pairings and combinations, each that would have been a ratings get and comedy gold. Steve Martin and Chris Rock opened the show with a solid comedy bit that served as some of the best material of the night (Rock tearing into Jeff Bezos was a real treat). Meanwhile, Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph made their yearly pilgrimage to hijack the show for chaos and glory. They weren’t exactly funny (they weren’t supposed to be), but Brie Larson, Gal Gadot, and Sigourney Weaver made for a presenting dream team. And while I would probably hate watching the two of them host an entire show by themselves, Rebel Wilson and James Corden hosting in their Cats costumes and declaring that they know better than anyone “The importance of good special effects” was perhaps the highlight of the night. As for the performances, the show consisted of random pairings that, ultimately, really worked. Sure, Elton, Randy Newman, and Chrissy Metz’s songs were kind of just average. But watching Idina Menzel and Aurora belt “Into The Unknown” with Elsas from around the world was a real treat, while Cynthia Erivo earned a standing ovation for her generic, but impeccably sung “Stand Up” from Harriet. However, my favorite performances came from the non-actors who appeared throughout. Janelle Monáe brought the house down with an opening that paid tribute to, inexplicably, all of my favorite films not nominated this year (Midsommar, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood, etc.). Billie Eilish sang the hell out of “Yesterday” during a touching In Memoriam segment. And in a moment of Oscar restitution, a “Music In Movies” montage gave way to a surprise Eminem performance of 8 Mile, a performance previously withheld from the Oscars due to infighting between producers and Eminem’s team (ironically, I had just been telling this story to my viewing patrons when Eminem made his entrance). It was a weird moment, to be sure, but watching the room react with delight (Lin Manuel Miranda, Ricky Minor, and Kelly Marie Tran) or confusion (Idina Menzel and Martin Scorsese) was one of the most interesting moments of the night. Honestly, it was a confusing, quiet night that needed more “oomph,” yet remained a step in the right direction.
Well, that brings us to the end of the 2019 Oscar race. It was short, insane, weird, infuriating, uplifting, and wonderful, all at the same time, and I hope you had fun going through it with me along the way. And I hope you’re all excited about next year! I’ll be taking a week or two off from Oscar predictions, as I try to get my Best of 2019 lists finished and published, but get ready: 2020 Oscar predictions are coming. With the Travis Test still firmly holding true after last year’s brief snafu, it’ll be interesting to see how things pan out going forward. In the meantime, you can see the full results of last night’s show below, and until next time, thanks for joining me on this epic, crazy journey!
Best Picture: Parasite
Best Director: Bong Joon Ho – Parasite
Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix – Joker
Best Actress: Renée Zellweger – Judy
Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt – Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood
Best Supporting Actress: Laura Dern – Marriage Story
Best Original Screenplay: Parasite
Best Adapted Screenplay: Jojo Rabbit
Best Animated Feature: Toy Story 4
Best International Feature: Parasite
Best Documentary Feature: American Factory
Best Documentary Short: Learning To Skateboard In a Warzone (If You’re A Girl)
Best Animated Short: Hair Love
Best Live Action Short: The Neighbors’ Window
Best Original Score: Joker
Best Original Song: “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” – Rocketman
Best Sound Editing: Ford v Ferrari
Best Sound Mixing: 1917
Best Production Design: Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood
Best Cinematography: 1917
Best Costume Design: Little Women
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Bombshell
Best Film Editing: Ford v Ferrari
Best Visual Effects: 1917