2020 Oscars: A Historic Night in Film

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2019 was an important year in film. From big-budget blockbusters such as “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” and “Avengers: Endgame,” to biopics such as “Rocketman” and “Harriett,” audiences were entranced by stellar performances and original stories, as well as cutting-edge visual effects. On Feb. 9, the 92nd Academy Awards were held, and historic achievements were made that left members in the audience and viewers watching at home astonished.

Over 53 films were recognized this year, with a total of 124 nominations. The five films that received the most awards were “Parasite,” “1917,” “Ford v Ferrari,” “Joker” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” “Joker,” which received a total of 11 nominations, the most nominations of this year, starred Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, a failed stand-up comedian who becomes the titular character after a series of traumatic events. Phoenix won the Oscar for Best Actor, his first ever Academy Award. In his moving speech, Phoenix honored his late brother, River Phoenix, who tragically passed away in 1993. Phoenix said, “When he was 17, my brother wrote this lyric. He said, ‘Run to the rescue, and peace and love will follow.’”

Phoenix was not the only actor to win their first Oscar. Laura Dern won her first Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in “Marriage Story,” the first film produced by Netflix to be nominated for and win an Academy Award. Dern thanked her parents, famous actors Dianne Ladd and Bruce Dern, for their support and encouragement throughout her career. Dern said, “You know, some say, ‘never meet your heroes’, but I say, if you’re really blessed, you get them as your parents.” The film starred Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as a couple who go through a rocky relationship.

Brad Pitt received his first Oscar for acting in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” for which he won Best Supporting Actor. Pitt previously won an award for producing “The Departed,” and “12 Years a Slave,” both of which won Best Picture. Pitt thanked his children and his co-star, Leonardo DiCaprio, who was nominated for Best Actor.

However, some believed that other films were ignored and deserved a spot on the nominees list. Senior Beau Blanton said, “The academy has a history, especially in recent years, of nominating work that quite honestly does not deserve a nomination, much less a win. While there were still plenty of snubs, I think the sheer abundance of great films released in 2019 helped shape a satisfying line-up of nominations. Among the nominees in their respective categories, Laura Dern and Joaquin Phoenix certainly deserved their awards. Brad Pitt, however, did not deserve to win best supporting actor over Pesci nor Pacino – not to mention nomination snubs Willem Dafoe and Song Kang-Ho among others.”

The night was not over yet. Taika Waititi won his first award for Best Adapted Screenplay for his film “Jojo Rabbit,” and Disney’s “Toy Story 4” won best Animated Feature Film. Renee Zellweger received the Oscar for Best Actress for her work in “Judy,” a biopic on the final years of famous actress Judy Garland. This is Zellweger’s second Oscar, having previously won Best Supporting Actress in 2004.

However, the big surprise came when Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film. “Parasite” is the first non-English language film ever to win an Oscar for Best Picture, as well as the first South Korean film to receive Academy Award recognition. Joon-ho is the first person ever to win four awards for a single film in Academy Award history. Critics and audiences alike are already calling it one of the best films of the decade. Some have deemed it one of the best Korean films ever made.  When the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, it won the Palme d’Or, one of the highest prized awards given at the festival, some calling it the most prestigious award in film history. After the film was screened at the festival, it received an eight-minute standing ovation. Joon-ho respectively thanked his nominees for inspiring him to be a director, with Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino being his inspiration for directing films.

This brings the question of whether or not foreign films like “Parasite” should be looked at in the same caliber as other films when it comes to Best Picture. Sophomore Gigi Alembik said, “Foreign films deserve as much recognition as films from the U.S. So many movies are ignored just because you need subtitles to watch them. This should and needs to change. I believe ‘Parasite’ especially deserved the recognition of Best Picture. It was a fantastic movie.” Faculty fellow Brooks Hanrahan agrees with this sentiment. Hanrahan said, “It is one thing to win the Foreign Language Film award or to have an individual snag a bigger award (see Alfonso Cuaron’s Best Director win for ‘Roma’ in 2019). It is another thing entirely to win the biggest award of the night out of a number of very strong movies and to have the consensus be that the Academy ‘got it right’ for the first time in a good while. It is hard to overstate the importance of ‘Parasite’ winning as it relates to recognizing the international nature of film and storytelling.”

It was a historic night for film at the 92nd Academy Awards. For the first time ever, a non-English language film won Best Picture, and many actors received their first Oscar after many years of being nominated, but never receiving that golden statue. In the future, many audiences alike will witness original stories and new worlds to explore next. The next decade is certainly something to look forward to in film.

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