The 2020 Oscars appeared to be on track to avoid any major upsets until late in the telecast. Korean director Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite instantly went from being a well-received film to landmark cinema. The deserving four-time winner upset favorite 1917 and achieved a first in the ceremony’s 92 years.
Reactions To The 2020 Academy Awards
1 – One year after opening the hostless Oscars with Queen, the 92nd Academy Awards reverted to a more traditional performance to begin the ceremony. For the second straight year, the absence of one star to guide the evening along was just fine. Janelle Monae’s number and the Chris Rock-Steve Martin intro essentially filled the host role.
The changing cast of presenters is also more refreshing than tired bits that lengthen the ceremony. Weeks after Ricky Gervais roasted Hollywood at the Golden Globes, the hostless Oscars is a safer and more fluid show for the traditional proceedings…
2 – … is what I thought before the Eminem performance. Great, of course… but why? If ABC was looking to inject a random moment to keep viewers paying attention, the tactic worked. It was more unexpected than the infamous Moonlight gaffe of 2017. Eminem’s song, “Lose Yourself,” won an Oscar in 2003.
Eminem’s surprise ironically comes 19 years after his much-discussed duet with Elton John at the 2001 Grammys. Both artists performed separately at this year’s Oscars.
3 – Hildur Guðnadótti’s win for Best Original Score defied long odds. Fellow nominees Randy Newman, Thomas Newman, and John Williams have 90 combined Oscar nominations. The evening was Guðnadótti’s only career nod. As much as I loved Thomas Newman’s passionate score in 1917, Guðnadótti’s first Academy Awards nomination and her work on Joker is an amazing accomplishment.
4 – In an age where technology allows films to achieve essentially any vision, the most enduring movies are defined by the best stories. Taika Waititi’s win for Best Adapted Screenplay is a major accomplishment for a director who has knack for selecting unique stories.
While his portrayal of Adolf Hitler in JoJo Rabbit generated some controversy, the dissent detracted from the powerful story of a German boy during the waning years of World War II. Based on Christine Leunen’s book Caging Skies, JoJo Rabbit incorporated comedy, drama, and love into the screenplay as well as film of the year. I was happy to see Taika Waititi receive an award for risky, but well-crafted material.
5 – Laura Dern’s Oscar for Best Supporting Actress caped a fantastic year for the actress. She was also phenomenal as Renata Klein in HBO’s Big Little Lies. Dern’s first Oscar win for her role as a cutthroat divorce attorney in Marriage Story appropriately awarded a performance you couldn’t look away from.
6 – Roger Deakins has an incredible 15 Oscar nominations for cinematography, yet did not receive a statuette until his work on Blade Runner 2049 was recognized in 2018. During two viewings of 1917, I couldn’t help but be blown away by the visual work of Deakins and his team. The Oscar-winning sound and photography made for the consummate big screen experience.
7 – Parasite director Bong Joon Ho was the biggest winner of the evening. Not only did he win highly-coveted awards for screenwriting and directing, but his fantastic drama was the first South Korean film to win an Oscar. His acknowledgment of fellow nominee Martin Scorsese and the other directors was a true expression of fraternity and reminder of the multi-generational impact of movies.
8 – That fraternity is increasingly becoming an international affair. Only one director who was born in America (Damien Chazelle) was honored for Best Director in the 2010s. The last time American filmmakers won Best Director in consecutive years was 2007-08, when the Coen brothers and Martin Scorsese received the prize.
9 – Parasite also has the historical distinction of being the first foreign language film to ever win Best Picture. The win opens the door for other foreign films to be recognized in future ceremonies.
10 – One unintended aspect of Parasite’s Best Picture win is that it allowed the cast a moment onstage. The ensemble did not receive a single nomination, making it the third Best Picture nominee to not have an acting nod in 2020. None of the cast from Ford v. Ferrari or 1917 received recognition at this year’s ceremony.