By BROOKE AUBIN
Photo Credit: Variety
As the stars flooded the Dolby Theater on the eve of the 2020 Oscars ceremony, the rain flooded the famous red carpet, starting the evening off with a mad scramble to protect the celebrities’ expensive outfits. As a Los Angeles Times reporter put it, you could hear the “squish-squish of shoes” as people walked by. But, perhaps starting the evening with chaos was a good thing in retrospect, because the ceremony only went up from there.
Once again, this year’s Oscars was lacking a traditional host. So, in lieu of the opening monologue, music icon Janelle Monae opened the show with a slightly awkward (if not charming) Mr. Rogers impression (a nod to this year’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood) before leaping into a performance of her hit 2010 single, Come Alive.
Monae was surrounded by costumed dancers representing films from the past year, such as critically-acclaimed yet Academy-snubbed horror film Midsommer, and highly-praised films from black actors and directors (Dolemite Is My Name, Us, Queen & Slim), also snubbed. Monae referenced #OscarsSoWhite, a controversy from the ceremony years ago that was only narrowly avoided this year.
Another theme of the night was the snubbing of women, especially women directors. There were no women directors nominated this year, despite directing some of the most critically acclaimed films of the year: Greta Gerwig for Little Women, Lorene Scafaria for Hustlers, Melina Matsoukas for Queen & Slim, and Céline Sciamma for Portrait of a Lady on Fire, to name just a few.
Actress Natalie Portman made headlines when she donned a cape embroidered with the names of the snubbed female directors to draw attention to the issue, yet stirred controversy when viewers pointed out that Portman’s own production company has only ever hired male directors, aside from Portman herself. Nevertheless, it was an important point to notice. In better news, Joker composer Hildur Gudnadóttir became the first woman to ever win the category of Best Score, which is one win for women for the night.
More notable/chaotic moments include James Corden and Rebel Wilson presenting the award for Best Visual Effects (which went to 1917, deservingly) in their costumes from the panned 2019 film, Cats. Quite a few celebrities took their allotted speech times to address political issues, including Joaquin Phoenix (Best Actor for Joker) discussing environmental issues, Chris Rock and Steven Martin taking shots at the Iowa Caucus mishaps, and Josh Gad addressing climate change deniers with a joke about Frozen 2.
Later into the night, Idina Menzel took the stage to perform Into the Unknown from Frozen 2, accompanied by Elsa voice actresses from around the world. Though the song didn’t win the award (it went to Rocketman’s song I’m Gonna Love Me Again, performed by the iconic Elton John), the performance was showstopping.
Renée Zellweger unsurprisingly won Best Actress for her performance as Judy Garland in the biopic Judy, and Best Supporting Actress went to the incredible Laura Dern for Marriage Story. In the animated film categories, Toy Story 4 took the award for Best Animated Film, and heartwarming short Hair Love won for Best Animated Short Film. The latter told the story of a father learning to do his daughter’s natural hair, and it was nothing short (no pun intended) of adorable.
Additionally, Taika Waititi became the first Māori filmmaker to win Best Adapted Screenplay (for Jojo Rabbit) and dedicated his award to “all the indigenous kids in the world who want to do art and dance and write stories.”
But, the biggest wins of the evening surely went to Bong Joon-ho and his film Parasite. The Korean comedy-drama-thriller took not only the award for Best International Film, but also the big prize: Best Picture. Bong Joon-ho also won Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. With these wins, Parasite and its cast and crew became the first South Korean film to take the Academy’s biggest awards.
Bong Joon-ho delivered three heartwarming speeches alongside his cast with the assistance of his interpreter, and upon finishing, he announced to the adoring audience: “I’m ready to drink tonight.” And, with all those wins, you certainly deserve it, Bong.