2020 Oscars: A Shocking Turn of Events

Courtesy of CNN.com

By Noelia Veras

The 2020 Academy Awards made history Sunday night, shocking many people by awarding films that would traditionally not be recognized at the Oscars, namely the short film Hair Love and the foreign language film Parasite. Although the Academy got a lot of backlash for its lack of diverse nominations, the show managed to make up for its lack of representation  by making more racially inclusive films the forefront of the show.

1917 was one of the stand out films of the night, winning awards for Best Sound Mixing, Best Visual Effects, and Best Cinematography. Taking most of the glory of the night, though, was Parasite, winning groundbreaking awards and trailblazing for foriegn language films in the United States. The film won Best Foreign Language Film, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and outstandingly Best Picture. 

Significantly, Hair Love won the award for Best Animated Short Film. The short film was about representation and empathy as it follows a little girl navigating her appearance as an African American without a mother figure. The short film is heartwarming and reveals the strides animation is making towards the representation of minorities.

The Awards made it a point to emphasize as much as it could the effort of minorities, especially African American women. This was exemplified by the opening performance from Janelle Monáe which gave a nod to movies that had been overlooked for nominations. Most of the films referenced were created by African Americans like Dolemite is My Name, Us, and Queen and Slim. Monáe did make sure to reference A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and Midsommar as well though. Monáe even declared that “It’s time to come alive, because the Oscars is so white!”

Chris Rock and Steve Martin, both former hosts of the Oscars, took the stage to introduce the show and openly address the lack of diversity in the chosen nominees for this year. Martin joked to Rock saying, “think how much the Oscars have changed in the past 92 years. In 1929, there was no black acting nominees,” to which Rock responded, “Now, in 2020, we got one.” This joke referenced the fact that only one actor of color, Cynthia Erivo in Harriet, was recognized this year. The pair also highlighted the lack of female nominations, especially in the category for Best Director. 

As expected, the first award of the night honored the Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role which Brad Pitt—one of Hollywood’s favorite actors— won. The actors nominated in this category in fact were mainly Hollywood favorites too, such as Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Anthony Hopkins in The Two Popes, Al Pacino in The Irishman, and Joe Pesci also in The Irishman. Pitt accepted the award and in a particularly heartwarming moment, regardless of the predictability of his win, gave thanks to Quentin Tarantino and Leonardo DiCaprio.

“Leo, I’ll ride on your coattails any day, man. The view is fantastic,” said Pitt.

Similar to Best Original Screenplay, Best Movie Adaptation presented excerpts from the films nominated. 

Regardless of the predictability of many awards, some awards were refreshing and uplifting as well. Taika Waititi’s win for Best Movie Adaptation is an example of a refreshing win. Waititi’s film JoJo Rabbit was based on the book Caging Skies by Christine Leunens, and Waititi gave a humor infused speech. The filmmaker’s speech ended more seriously but maintained an air of authenticity as he honored all of the indigenous children everywhere saying “we are the original storytellers and we can make it here.”

Tension built for the recognition of Best Original Screenplay, and an excerpt from each nominated film was presented. The films nominated were Knives Out written by Rian Johnson, Marriage Story written by Noah Baumbach, 1917 written by Sam Mendes and Kristy Wilson-Cairns, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood written by Quentin Tarantino, and Parasite screenplay by Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won story by Bong Joon Ho. Parasite won its first award of the night for Best Original Screenplay, and Bong Joon Ho gave his speech in Korean while a translator interpreted it. 

The celebration of diversity was also infused as Idina Menzel gave a special global performance of “Into the Unknown,” incorporating different languages in the performance. Some of the languages included in the performance were Japanese, Polish, Thai, Castilian, German, Norwegian, Russian, Spanish, and Danish.

Many parts of the night were heartwarming, but a particularly emotional moment was when Mindy Kaling presented the award for Best Animated Feature Film. Toy Story 4 won in this category, pleasing many fans on social media.

“As a shy little girl, a daughter of immigrant parents, animated films introduced me to worlds beyond my home and my classroom,” said Kaling. “Then as I got older I began to realize that those films contain some of the most sophisticated storytelling in all of cinema.” 

Perhaps one of the funniest parts of the night included Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig, who showed off their silly acting as they attempted to be more dramatic than usual. They gave a nod to all of the directors in the room. They also sang to the audience and gathered some funny reactions from the crowd.

Parasite is the first film to have won Best Picture as a foreign language film. Although the Academy received a lot of backlash for its lack of diverse nominees, audiences are pleased with the outcome of many awards, feeling the Academy redeemed itself. 
Overall, the critiques surrounding the lack of representation from the Oscar nominations ultimately opened up a space for more social outcry. Parasite having won Best Film sets the Academy Awards in the right direction pleasantly surprising viewers. 2019 was a year chock full of amazing stories, stories that the Academy honored Hopefully 2020 will be full of more original and important stories that will be remembered and revered by the Academy and the viewers at home.

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