February 10, 2020


The 2020 Oscars were a cut above recent editions of the event, in terms of presentations, performances, general pace of the show, and the satisfying set of results, including Parasite’s historic win. Here’s why

Photos, courtesy: AMPAS

That the Oscars will be a grand affair—where the biggest names from the year of films gone by show up in their finest to celebrate each other, with positivity, encouragement and hope—is a given. If we don’t at least get that, then something would be very wrong. What makes all the difference are the little things—how the nominees are showcased, how the presenters liven up the giving away of the awards, what the winners say in acceptance, and the details that make the show a spectacle. There are always things to complain about, and this year had a few. For instance, the opening number felt a little forced, a few presentations were a little dull, and the absence of introductions for a few performers, such as Chrissy Metz and Randy Newman, felt a little disrespectful. (This felt especially odd considering that, in some cases, presenters were brought in to introduce other presenters. George Mackay even made fun of this when he presented another presenter from the balcony.)

Still, this year, there were a lot more positives than negatives, so I’m going to be more positive, encouraging and hopeful. This is why I feel inclined to do so…

In a world that’s become so small, where we get access to content from all over the world, in all languages—all on our smartphones or smart TVs, and almost simultaneously worldwide—film and television really have become an international phenomenon. And it couldn’t have been more serendipitous that the year the Academy decides to rename ‘foreign language film’ to ‘international feature film’ is the year when a film not in English is named best picture for the first time ever. The historic win is really a reflection of how cinema really is a global phenomenon, and while language is crucial, what transcends literal ‘foreign’ languages is the language of humanness, which is something that speaks to all of us. 

This is something that was so beautifully conveyed with the performance of ‘Into the unknown’ from Frozen II, by Idina Menzel and all the other women who sang in their own languages, really speaking to the global impact of Hollywood and cinema in general. The Oscars have to evolve to stay relevant, at times when people really question whom the Oscars are for and why they matter, and this certainly is a step in the right direction.

Speaking of evolution, this is the second year that the Oscars have gone without a host. Yes, it seems like they might have missed a host last year, which is why they brought in Steve Martin and Chris Rock to deliver an opening dialogue, if you will, despite having had a big opening number. Yet, it felt right, because honestly, for the most part, a host’s job is just to open the show and close it. The SAG Awards even brought in ‘non-hosts’ Eugene Levy and Dan Levy to do just that—open the event and sign off. So it was good to have Martin and Rock open the show for us. Of course, their material wasn’t strong enough to stand on its own without that opening number, but they did elicit some solid laughs. What I particularly found funny was when Rock said that he’d enjoyed ‘the first season of The Irishman on Netflix’, making a dig at the almost tedious duration of the movie.

Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig’s presentations for production design and costume design, acting out their presentation to ‘impress the directors in the room’ was absolutely hilarious, especially the singing of fashion-related songs to introduce costume design. And I say this despite not being a fan of any other awards presentation of theirs that I’ve seen. The singing of a halftime recap of the show, by Utkarsh Ambudkar, who apparently even wrote the ‘song’ (between the beginning of the show and that moment, one would assume), was quite impressive.

What was also impressive was seeing Sigourney Weaver, Gal Gadot and Brie Larson—superheroines extraordinaire—presenting the Oscar for original score, with excerpts from the nominated soundtracks performed by the orchestra conducted by a woman. And then for the award to go to a woman composer—Hildur Guðnadóttir, for Joker—was just the icing on the cake.

However, the best presentation of the evening was Olivia Colman’s, who was just as delightfully uninhibited as she’s been at all the awards shows we’ve seen her at—be it for The Favourite or The Crown. “Winning an Oscar ages you,” she said, just as I was wondering why she’d bleach-dyed her hair! And then she spoke of how when she won last year, it was the best night of her husband’s life! She was just hilarious and endearing, and it was everything to have her back on the Oscars stage. I hope we see a lot more from her and of her.

Olivia Colman presented the Oscar to Joaquin Phoenix, who delivered probably the best speech of the night. He spoke first of how entitled the human race is to assume superiority, as a species, over the rest of the planet. And then he said something that came from a place of maturity and humility, thanking all of those who’d given him a second chance, even though he’d been ‘cruel’ and ‘a scoundrel’, and when he’d become hard to work with. “I think that’s when we’re at our best: when we support each other—not when we cancel each other out for our past mistakes—but when we help each other to grow, when we educate each other; when we guide each other to redemption,” he said. And then he concluded by quoting a lyric by his late brother, River Phoenix, “Run to the rescue with love and peace will follow.” It was extremely poignant.

Bong Joon Ho quoted someone in the room while accepting one of the four Oscars he went up for. Accepting his Oscar for directing, he said, “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 is from our great Martin Scorsese.” Now it’s not uncommon for winners to thank their fellow nominees these days, but this seemed completely sincere, as did his mention of Quentin Tarantino, whom he thanked for helping getting American audiences to notice his work. It was these two speeches that I found really moving.

And ultimately, I come back to the details that made the show a spectacle. I like the return of the behind-the-scenes visuals of sketches and drawings, for production design and costume design, and script excerpts, for writing, presented when the nominations were being announced. This is something that’s been lacking in recent years, and I was happy to again catch these little glimpses of what goes into all this Oscar-nominated work. Additionally, the show-reels for the acting nominees, packaged as consolidated presentations, were outstanding. It just spoke to the depth and the impact of those performances, and it surely must’ve added value even for those who hadn’t seen all the nominated performances. So it really was the little things like this and the set of the stage, and finer touches that made me enjoy the show. It definitely had what makes the Oscars an event worth looking forward to. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good.

I got 19 out or 24 predictions correct, which isn’t bad at all. Even though I really wanted to see 1917 win the big ones, I can’t grudge Parasite for winning and making history—it really was a great film.

These are the Oscar winners for 2020:

Best Motion Picture
Ford v Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Little Women
Marriage Story
Once upon a Time...in Hollywood

Achievement In Directing
The Irishman | Martin Scorsese
Joker | Todd Phillips
1917 | Sam Mendes
Once upon a Time...in Hollywood | Quentin Tarantino
Parasite | Bong Joon Ho

Performance By An Actress In A Leading Role
Cynthia Erivo in Harriet
Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story
Saoirse Ronan in Little Women
Charlize Theron in Bombshell
Renée Zellweger in Judy

Performance By An Actor In A Leading Role
Antonio Banderas in Pain and Glory
Leonardo DiCaprio in Once upon a Time...in Hollywood
Adam Driver in Marriage Story
Joaquin Phoenix in Joker
Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes

Performance By An Actress In A Supporting Role
Kathy Bates in Richard Jewell
Laura Dern in Marriage Story
Scarlett Johansson in Jojo Rabbit
Florence Pugh in Little Women
Margot Robbie in Bombshell

Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role
Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Anthony Hopkins in The Two Popes
Al Pacino in The Irishman
Joe Pesci in The Irishman
Brad Pitt in Once upon a Time...in Hollywood

Adapted Screenplay
The Irishman | Screenplay by Steven Zaillian
Jojo Rabbit | Screenplay by Taika Waititi
Joker | Written by Todd Phillips & Scott Silver
Little Women | Written for the screen by Greta Gerwig
The Two Popes | Written by Anthony McCarten

Original Screenplay
Knives Out | Written by Rian Johnson
Marriage Story | Written by Noah Baumbach
1917 | Written by Sam Mendes & Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Once upon a Time...in Hollywood | Written by Quentin Tarantino
Parasite | Screenplay by Bong Joon Ho, Han Jin Won; Story by Bong Joon Ho

Achievement In Cinematography
The Irishman | Rodrigo Prieto
Joker | Lawrence Sher
The Lighthouse | Jarin Blaschke
1917 | Roger Deakins
Once upon a Time...in Hollywood | Robert Richardson

Achievement In Film Editing
Ford v Ferrari | Michael McCusker and Andrew Buckland
The Irishman | Thelma Schoonmaker
Jojo Rabbit | Tom Eagles
Joker | Jeff Groth
Parasite | Yang Jinmo

Achievement In Costume Design
The Irishman | Sandy Powell and Christopher Peterson
Jojo Rabbit | Mayes C. Rubeo
Joker | Mark Bridges
Little Women | Jacqueline Durran
Once upon a Time...in Hollywood | Arianne Phillips

Achievement In Makeup And Hairstyling
Bombshell | Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan and Vivian Baker
Joker | Nicki Ledermann and Kay Georgiou
Judy | Jeremy Woodhead
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil | Paul Gooch, Arjen Tuiten and David White
1917 | Naomi Donne, Tristan Versluis and Rebecca Cole

Achievement In Music Written For Motion Pictures (Original Score)
Joker | Hildur Guðnadóttir
Little Women | Alexandre Desplat
Marriage Story | Randy Newman
1917 | Thomas Newman
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker | John Williams

Achievement In Music Written For Motion Pictures (Original Song)
‘I can't let you throw yourself away’ from Toy Story 4 | Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
‘(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again’ from Rocketman | Music by Elton John; Lyric by Bernie Taupin
‘I'm standing with you’ from Breakthrough | Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
‘Into the unknown’ from Frozen II | Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
‘Stand up’ from Harriet | Music and Lyric by Joshuah Brian Campbell and Cynthia Erivo

Achievement In Production Design
The Irishman | Production Design: Bob Shaw; Set Decoration: Regina Graves
Jojo Rabbit | Production Design: Ra Vincent; Set Decoration: Nora Sopková
1917 | Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Lee Sandales
Once upon a Time...in Hollywood | Production Design: Barbara Ling; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh
Parasite | Production Design: Lee Ha Jun; Set Decoration: Cho Won Woo

Achievement In Sound Editing
Ford v Ferrari | Donald Sylvester
Joker | Alan Robert Murray
1917 | Oliver Tarney and Rachael Tate
Once upon a Time...in Hollywood | Wylie Stateman
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker | Matthew Wood and David Acord

Achievement In Sound Mixing
Ad Astra | Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson and Mark Ulano
Ford v Ferrari | Paul Massey, David Giammarco and Steven A. Morrow
Joker | Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic and Tod Maitland
1917 | Mark Taylor and Stuart Wilson
Once upon a Time...in Hollywood | Michael Minkler, Christian P. Minkler and Mark Ulano

Achievement In Visual Effects
Avengers: Endgame | Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Matt Aitken and Dan Sudick
The Irishman | Pablo Helman, Leandro Estebecorena, Nelson Sepulveda-Fauser and Stephane Grabli
The Lion King | Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Elliot Newman
1917 | Guillaume Rocheron, Greg Butler and Dominic Tuohy
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker | Roger Guyett, Neal Scanlan, Patrick Tubach and Dominic Tuohy

Best International Feature Film
Corpus Christi | Poland
Honeyland | North Macedonia
Les Misérables | France
Pain and Glory | Spain
Parasite | South Korea

Best Animated Feature Film
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
I Lost My Body
Missing Link
Toy Story 4

Best Documentary Feature
American Factory
The Cave
The Edge of Democracy
For Sama

Best Documentary Short Subject
In the Absence
Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You're a Girl)
Life Overtakes Me
St. Louis Superman
Walk Run Cha-Cha

Best Animated Short Film
Dcera (Daughter)
Hair Love

Best Live Action Short Film
Nefta Football Club
The Neighbors' Window
A Sister

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