The South Korean psychological thriller “Parasite” is a permanent part of Oscar history Monday, winning four Academy Awards and becoming the first non-English-language film to ever be named best picture.
The film dominated the 92nd Oscars on Sunday night, first winning the original screenplay prize for Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won, then taking home the best international film prize and a best-director honor for Bong Joon Ho. Although the World War I epic “1917” went into the night as a favorite in the best-picture category, “Parasite’s” momentum clearly mounted as the Dolby Theatre ceremony progressed.
“We never imagined this to ever happen, we are so happy,” the film’s producer, Kwak Sin Ae, said while accepting the best picture prize. “I feel like a very opportune moment in history is happening right now. I express my deepest gratitude and respect to all the members of the Academy for making this decision.”
The win for “Parasite” provided a dramatic ending for a night that otherwise went largely as expected, with Joaquin Phoenix and Renee Zellweger winning Oscars for their leading roles in “Joker” and “Judy,” respectively, and Brad Pitt and Laura Dern collecting statuettes for their supporting work in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and “Marriage Story.” The actors had swept all the major pre-Oscar awards, leaving little doubt they would emerge victorious on Oscar night.
But the success of “Parasite” was the story of the evening, increasingly overwhelming director/co-writer Bong Joon Ho, who repeatedly returned to the stage to collect prizes.
After winning the Oscar for best international feature film — a category previously known as best foreign-language film — Bong Joon Ho told the crowd he was ready to go have a drink. But his night was far from over. He returned to the stage when he was named best director — besting “1917” director Sam Mendes, who won the top honor from the Directors Guild of America, which normally leads to an Oscar win.
“After winning best international feature, I thought I was done for the day and was ready to relax,” he said through an interpreter as he accepted the directing prize.
But he paid homage to his fellow nominees, most notably Martin Scorsese (“The Irishman”).
“When I was young and studying cinema, there was a saying that I carved deep into my heart, which is: `The most personal is the most creative.’ That quote was from our great Martin Scorsese,” he said, prompting the crowd to give Scorsese a standing ovation.
“When I was in school, I studied Martin Scorsese’s films. Just to be nominated was a huge honor. I never thought I would win.”
The support for “Parasite” was clear inside the Dolby Theatre. While accepting the international feature Oscar, Bong Joon Ho urged the crowd to recognize the cast and crew of the film sitting in the audience — and everyone rose to their feet in thunderous applause.
Mendes’ “1917” did win three Oscars on the night, but only in the technical categories of cinematography for Roger Deakins, sound mixing for Mark Taylor and Stuart Wilson and visual effects for Guillaume Rocheron, Greg Butler and Dominic Tuohy.
Phoenix, 45, won the best-actor Oscar for his weight-dropping, cringe-inducing performance as the lead character in “Joker.” It was his first career Oscar. He was previously nominated for his leading roles in “Walk the Line” and “The Master,” and once in the supporting-actor category for “Gladiator.”
Phoenix gave a politically charged acceptance speech, saying he has been “thinking a lot about some of the distressing issues that we are facing collectively,” such as gender equality, racism, indigenous rights or animal rights, but he said he believes people can change for the better.
“I think we fear the idea of personal change because we think we have to sacrifice something, to give something up,” he said. “But human beings at our best are so inventive and creative and ingenious and I think that when we use love and compassion as our guiding principles, we can create, develop and implement systems of change that are beneficial to all sentient beings and the environment.
“Now, I’ve been a scoundrel in my life. I’ve been selfish, I’ve been cruel at times, hard to work with. And I’m grateful that so many of you in this room have given me a second chance. And i think that’s when we’re at our best. When we support each other, not when we cancel each other out for past mistakes, but when we help each other to grow, when we educate each other, when we guide each other toward redemption, that is the best of humanity.”
Phoenix appeared to get choked up as he quoted a line from his brother — actor River Phoenix — who died in 1993.
“When he was 17 my brother wrote this lyric. He said, `Run to the rescue with love and peace will follow.”’
Zellweger, 50, took home her second career Oscar for her spot-on role as an aging Judy Garland in “Judy.” She previously won for her supporting work in “Cold Mountain.”
“I have to say that this past year of conversations celebrating Judy Garland across genders and … across generations and across cultures has been a really cool reminder that our heroes unite us,” she said. “The best among us who inspire us to find the best in ourselves. When they unite us, when we look to our heroes, we agree, you know? And that matters.
” … When we celebrate our heroes, you know, we’re reminded of who we are as one people, united. And though Judy Garland did not receive this honor in her time, I am certain that this moment is an extension of the celebration of her legacy that began on a film set, and is also representative of the fact that her legacy of unique exceptionalism and inclusivity and generosity of spirit. It transcends any one artistic achievement. Miss Garland, you are certainly among the heroes who unite and define us, and this is certainly for you. I am so grateful. Thank you so much, everybody.”
Pitt and Dern also completed their sweeps of major award shows by collecting Oscars for their supporting roles in “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood” and “Marriage Story,” respectively.
The performance wins were career firsts for both, although Pitt previously won an Oscar as a producer of best-picture winner “12 Years a Slave.”
Pitt, 56, was honored for his portrayal of stuntman Cliff Booth in writer/director Quentin Tarantino’s Manson-era fable “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”
Pitt credited Tarantino for the win.
“You are original, you are one of a kind,” he said. “The film industry would be a much drier place without you and I loved the ethos you gave Cliff Booth — look for the best in people, expect the worst but look for the best.”
To his co-star, Leonardo DiCaprio, he added, “Leo, I’ll ride on your coattails any day, man. The view is fantastic.” He also gave a shoutout to an often unheralded group, saying, “I think it’s time we give a little love to our stunt coordinators and our stunt crews.”
But he also reminisced about his time growing up watching movies, moving to Hollywood and getting his big break in film.
“All the wonderful people I’ve met along the way, to stand here now — `Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’? Ain’t that the truth,” he said.
Laura Dern collected her first career Oscar for her supporting role as a divorce attorney in writer/director Noah Baumbach’s Netflix film “Marriage Story.” She won the award on the eve of her 53rd birthday.
“Noah wrote a movie about love and about breaching divisions in the name and in the honor of family and home and hopefully for all of us in the name of our planet,” she said. “… You know, some say never meet your heroes, but I say if you’re really blessed, you get them as your parents. I share this with my acting heroes, my legends, Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern. You got game. I love you.
“Thank you all for this gift. This is the best birthday present ever.”
For adapted screenplay, the prize went to Taika Waititi for the World War II satire “Jojo Rabbit.”
“I’d like thank my mother,” he said. “… Thank you for being my mother, and for, I mean, many other reasons — for giving me the book that I adapted, and this film wouldn’t have existed without you doing that.”
“Toy Story 4” won the Oscar for best animated feature.
The Oscar for best documentary feature went to “American Factory,” the story of a Chinese production company operating in a former General Motors plant in Ohio. The Netflix film, produced by Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert and Jeff Reichert, was the first made under Barack and Michelle Obama’s production house, Higher Ground Productions. The Obamas were not in attendance at the ceremony.
In one of the night’s more emotional moments, Hildur Guonadottir won the Oscar for best original score for “Joker” — a rare win for a woman in the category. And she urged others to follow in her footsteps.
“To the girls, to the women, to the mothers, to the daughters who hear the music bubbling within — please speak up. We need to hear your voices,” she said.
Elton John and his long-time collaborator Bernie Taupin won the prize for best original song for “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” from the biopic “Rocketman.”
“I don’t have words for it,” Taupin said. “I mean, this is justification for 53 years of just hammering it out and doing what we do.”
John heaped praise on his songwriting partner.
“Thank you to Bernie, who has been the constant thing in my life,” he said. “When I was screwed up, when I was normal, he was there for me.”
For the second year in a row, the Oscar ceremony was held without a host. Instead, the show opened with singer/actress Janelle Monae walking onto a “Mister Rogers” apartment set, putting on a sweater and breaking into a modified rendition of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” She then broke into an upbeat movie-themed musical performance that brought the crowd to his feet.
Comedians — and former Oscar hosts — Steve Martin and Chris Rock then took the stage to warm up the crowd. Martin ended the bit by saying, “Well, we’ve had a great time not hosting tonight.”
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