On Sunday, Feb. 9, the 92nd Academy Awards celebrated 2019’s achievements in filmmaking. This year’s awards season was unusually short, leading many to assume the films that had been dominating the rest of awards season would keep up the momentum. Thankfully, they were incorrect. While the Oscars lasted a bloated three hours and 35 minutes, the twists and turns of the night managed to make staying up til midnight worth it.
The live broadcast opened with an uncomfortable and confusing musical number from singer Janelle Monáe. The performance set the tone for the rest of the show, which included 14 unnecessary musical performances and could have been confused with the Grammy’s. An unwarranted ten minute performance of “Lose Yourself” by Eminem left everyone, but most notably Martin Scorsese, questioning where they were.
Like last year’s awards ceremony, Sunday’s show had no host. Instead, various celebrities introduced other celebrities who finally handed out awards. Chris Rock and Steve Martin gave the opening monologue. They made fun of Jeff Bezos’ divorce, the Iowa caucus and the fact that there was only one black nominee this year, Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet”). Many presenters followed suit and poked fun at the Academy’s continued failure to nominate people of color and women, but after years, the same jokes get old. It is not funny anymore, it is just sad.
All of the acting awards went to the expected recipients. Brad Pitt (“Fight Club”) received Best Supporting Actor for his role Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood,’’ and “Big Little Lies” star Laura Dern won Best Supporting Actress for Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story.”
Joaquin Phoenix (“Her”) took home Best Actor for his titular role in “Joker.” Phoenix’s acceptance speeches at past awards shows have spotlit social justice causes, and this one was no different. After speaking against inequality, he ended his speech with a tribute to his late brother, “When he was 17, my brother wrote this lyric. It said, ‘Run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow.”
The Best Actress award went to Renée Zellweger (“Bridget Jones’s Diary”) for her portrayal of Judy Garland in the little-seen biopic “Judy.” Though it may seem impossible, her speech was longer and more rambling than Phoenix’s. She name-dropped everyone from Sally Ride to Bob Dylan, thanked the troops and was just generally nonsensical.
The undisputed winner of the night was South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho (“Snowpiercer”). He shocked audiences early in the night by taking home the awards for Best Original Screenplay and International Feature Film for “Parasite.” Just when it seemed like that was it for “Parasite,” the movie made history twice. Bong Joon-ho beat out front-runner Sam Mendes in another upset for Best Director, becoming the first South Korean recipient in that category.
Then, in the biggest surprise of the night, Sam Mendes’ World War I drama, “1917,” did not receive Best Picture, as “Parasite,” once again shocked viewers. The applause from the audience was tremendous as the cast and crew took the stage. “Parasite” is the first ever foreign-language film to win Best Picture. Joon-ho summed up the night apptly in one of his acceptance speeches: “Thank you, and yeah. I’m ready to drink tonight, until next morning. Thank you.”
Taika Waititi (“Thor: Ragnarok”) also made history when he became the first person of Maori descent to win an Oscar; he wrote, directed and starred in “Jojo Rabbit,” a satirical World War II comedy about a boy growing up in Nazi, Germany, which won him the award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Of the ten movies that it was nominated for, “1917” won just three: Best Cinematography, Best Sound Mixing and Best Visual Effects. Todd Phillips’ “Joker,” which boasted 11 nominations — the most of any movie — took home only Best Actor and Best Original Music Score. Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” was the only Best Picture nominee not to receive a single award.
In recent years, the Academy Awards have struggled with drawing viewers. While the 2019 Oscars ceremony broke the downward trend and had a 12% viewership increase from the previous year, Sunday’s broadcast did not follow suit. Six million less viewers tuned in this year, bringing the total viewership down from 29.6 million to 23.6 million.
The Academy Awards have been under scrutiny in recent years for lack of diversity and inclusion. The broadcast’s ratings continue to drop year after year. Oscar-nominated films are rarely popular among the general public, and the same five films manage to appear for in every award category.
While this year’s ceremony showed little improvement in any of these problem areas, Parasite’s success made for a historic night, and made making it to the end of a tedious broadcast seem worth it. The Academy should take note for future ceremonies.