Last weekend, Parasite, the hit South Korean thriller on class warfare, took out the coveted Oscar awards of Best Picture and Best Director for Bong Joon-ho at the 92nd Academy Awards.
Not only is Parasite the first South Korean film to ever be in contention for an Oscar, it’s the 11th foreign language film in history to be nominated for Best Picture and the very first to win. Interestingly, this is also the first time in 11 years that a film has won Best Picture without any nominations in the four acting categories (2008’s Slumdog Millionaire). To top it off with another milestone, it picked up Best Original Screenplay for Joon-ho, a feat that no foreign language script has been able to achieve previously.
This was most deserving as the film has been met with wide acclaim from audiences around the world, and was named the Palme d’Or at The Cannes Film Festival last May. In my opinion, Parasite’s haunting originality, wholly unique set up and divine cast were the driving forces behind the win.
That’s not to say there wasn’t some upset over the Academy’s choice. Parasite’s 4 Oscar sweep (including Best International Film) stunned those who had hedged their bets on Sam Mendes’ World War 1 action drama 1917 taking home Best Picture and Best Director. Filmed as one continuous take, 1917 was arguably the most obvious choice. Despite missing out on those two accolades, it claimed 3 Oscars including Cinematography, Visual Effects and Sound Mixing.
Bong Joon-ho accepting the Best Picture Oscar for Parasite
Another noteworthy hopeful, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood won Brad Pitt’s first acting Oscar. It was also awarded Best Production Design for its authentic 60’s LA aesthetic. Joker gave Joaquin Phoenix the win for Best Actor and composer Hildur Guðnadóttir for Best Original Score. It has been 23 years since a female composer took home the award. Historic racing drama Ford v Ferrari took home two technical awards for Film Editing and Sound Editing.
To round up the other major categories, Renee Zellweger took home Best Lead Actress for her portrayal of Judy Garland in Judy. A biopic of a Hollywood legend, her win was a clear choice for voters. Laura Dern won Best Supporting Actress for playing an aggressively passionate divorce lawyer in Marriage Story, while New Zealand’s very own Taika Waititi won Best Adapted Screenplay for his World War II comedy satire Jojo Rabbit, upsetting audience favourite Greta Gerwig for her adaptation of Little Women.
Brad Pitt winning Best Supporting Actor
Speaking of upsets, The Irishman, which reunited legends Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, walked away with zero wins despite 10 nominations. The gangster epic’s momentum cooled in the lead up to the ceremony with some experts crediting its runtime and Netflix release. With Netflix revolutionising the distribution of films, it’s new release system may have ‘scared’ off older voters who fear the change the streaming service is bringing. The same goes for Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story. A touching, personal drama about divorce that had two immaculate leads and a tight script, the film walked away with only one Oscar from six nominations.
The most memorable moments of the night included Dern’s acceptance speech during which she thanked her parents as heroes. Phoenix’s acceptance speech brought to light injustice, and animal cruelty as he honoured his late brother’s legacy. However, the greatest highlight of the night was team Parasite, soaking up the excitement and joy of simply being there. Joon-ho honoured his idols Scorcese and Tarantino, closing his Best Director speech (his third speech of the night) with plans of “drinking until next morning”.
Joaquin Phoenix winning Best Lead Actor
Another host-less ceremony, the Academy got a lot right this year. Compared to last year’s relatively safe choice of Green Book as Best Picture, Parasite’s win is a sign of change and recognition of the growing diversity within cinema. Although facing initial backlash for the lack of female directors and nominees of colour, this year’s ceremony managed to shine light on the exceptional and unique international offerings in film.