Academy Awards sincerely great this year
February 13, 2020
All four of the acting awards seemed to be written in stone this year for some reason. Joaquin Phoneix won Best Actor for Joker, Renee Zellweger won Best Actress for Judy, Brad Pitt won Best Supporting Actor for Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, and Laura Dern won Best Supporting Actress for Marriage Story.
The same four people won at about every awards show. Did they all deserve to win? Maybe. I had Leonardo DiCaprio and Joaquin Phoenix tying for Best Actor and Scarlett Johansson winning for Best Actress on my personal list of favorites, but otherwise I can agree.
Whoa, 1917 won for Best Visual Effects over Avengers: Endgame and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. That was certainly a surprise, as was Ford v Ferrari winning Best Editing over The Irishman, which seemed like a lock. Ford v Ferrari also won for Best Sound Editing while 1917 won for Best Sound Mixing. These are big, loud films that require a lot of work in post in order to be competent viewing experiences, so I get it.
That being said, anyone who knows anything about film production knows that Uncut Gems was the audio marvel of 2019.
Best Costume Design went to Jacqueline Durran for Little Women, a movie that I think looked like a Hallmark film if I’m being honest. Best Production Design rightfully went to the gorgeous Once Upon a Time In Hollywood.
Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl) won for Best Documentary Short, The Neighbors’ Window won for Best Live-Action Short, Bombshell won for Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Elton John and Bernie Taupin (Rocketman) won for Best Original Song, and Hair Love won for Best Animated Short.
My third favorite award of the night, Best Cinematography, went to the legendary Roger Deakins for his brilliant work on Sam Mendes’ 1917. After winning, Deakins stood up and turned back to look at fellow nominee Robert Richardson. The two locked eyes, then hands, for a beat before Deakins went to the stage to pick up his second Oscar. Deakins and Richardson have been sitting near each other as fellow nominees at these awards shows for 30+ years now, and so that was certainly what I would call the Best Cinephile Moment of the night.
I watched Bong Joon-ho’s latest film, Parasite, three times this past week. It’s truly one of the great modern films in my opinion, and so I was rooting for it to take home at least one award.
I figured that, if nothing else, Parasite would win Best International Feature Film, and it did. And Director Bong gave an incredible speech. Then Bong won again, this time for Best Original Screenplay, beating out legendary American auteurs Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story) and Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time In Hollywood).
We all knew that American Factory, a Netflix film made possible by Barack and Michelle Obama, would win Best Documentary Feature and we were all pretty sure that Toy Story 4 would win Best Animated Feature. And they did. And they both deserved to.
And, finally, female composer Hildur Guðnadóttir won Best Score for her work on Todd Phillips’ Joker. Female composers don’t really win that award, so it was especially nice to see.
And, finally, Mr. Clever himself, Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit) surprised with his win for Best Adapted Screenplay.
THE MAIN EVENT
It was Bong Joon-ho night. Unbelievable. Director Bong, after winning Best International Feature Film and Best Original Screenplay, went on to also win Best Director and Best Picture for Parasite. Once Upon a Time and Parasite are the two films I loved the most in 2019, so I was hoping one of the two would win. Hollywood is certainly the film I’ll watch and celebrate more as the years pass, but Parasite felt undeniably special in a way we don’t get every year. Or decade.
Imagine if Amelie or Un Prophete or Amarcord (or even Roma) had won Best Picture the years they were released?
So what does that mean for the Oscars going forward? Are we now allowed to expect that the most creative, as opposed to the most comfortable, films have a chance at the Best Picture gold going forward?
Renee Zellweger’s incoherent speech for a great performance in a film no one cares about was a true drag. Like Joaquin Phoenix’s speech, it was alarming enough that you have to worry about the mental health of Renee (and Joaquin). True bite-your-tongue moments.
Also, as funny as the Cats bit was, it still included that truly miserable film in a night that’s supposed to celebrate the best of the best. Not a fan, to say the least.
Also bad: Quentin Tarantino’s sour little face every time he lost an award. He doesn’t hide it, does he? I guess I sort of respect that. He’s one of the most important film figures of the last 30 years and he’s never won a Best Director Oscar. As much as I like Bong and love Parasite, I think QT should have taken home the Best Director this year for his brilliant work on Hollywood.
Billie Eilish continued to make fans with a vocals-centric performance that was both delicate and beautiful. I could have listened to her sing all night. Brad Pitt’s acceptance speech was delightful, as were all of Director Bong’s, and the opening monologue by Chris Rock and Steve Martin was perfect.
Oh, and how about when writer/director couple Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach cried on screen together? That felt pretty great for us cinephile nerds who have been loving those two for a long time now.
I could go on about all the reasons why this will be thought of as a very special year at the Academy Awards but, hey, I’m out of room! See ya next week, movie nerds!