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Going into this year’s Oscars, there had been as much discussion, debate and controversy as ever. The ever-controversial Joker led with 11 nominations, much to the joy and despair of many. Others lamented the presence of indie darlings such as Uncut Gems, The Lighthouse, and Midsommar, suggesting that the Academy is not as attentive to films without significant studio backing.
Throughout this year’s awards season has been a debate concerning the lack of diversity among nominees. The Oscars failed to nominate any women for Best Director again (they have nominated only over the past 92 years), despite Greta Gerwig, Lulu Wang, and Céline Sciamma all coming across as strong contenders for their critically-acclaimed works.
Fast-forward to Sunday night, and even Twitter’s ‘Bong-Hive’ were likely surprised by the unprecedented and historic success of Bong Joon Ho’s South Korean satire Parasite. Having been building momentum since its unanimous win at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, the film arrived in the US in October to much acclaim. It became a strong presence throughout the awards season. Still, given the strong preference for anglophone cinema at the Oscars, could it take its success all the way?
Apparently so, as the film went on to win the award for Best International Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and most importantly becoming the first foreign-language film to win Best Picture. The Artist (2011), a silent French film, holds the distinction of being the first foreign film to win, however. Bong himself became the first person to be awarded four Academy Awards for a single film personally. Perhaps more surprising given the high standard of output in the 21st Century, it was also the first Korean film to be nominated at all for an Oscar.
The single-take war film 1917 got the second-most wins with three awards for Best Sound Mixing, Cinematography, and Visual Effects. Three films received two awards: Ford v Ferrari won for sound editing and film editing, again a testimony to its technical achievements. Joker won Best Actor for Joaquin Phoenix’s role as the Clown-Prince of Crime and Best Original Score for Hildur Guðnadóttir. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood won for Best Production Design and Best Supporting Actor for Brad Pitt, his first Academy Award for acting.
Elsewhere films including Marriage Story, Toy Story 4, Little Women, and Rocketman, all won an award. However, the biggest disappointment of the night will probably go to Scorcese’s The Irishman, which entering with ten nominations, walked away empty-handed. Although there was stiff competition, the public will likely raise questions concerning the Academy’s prickly relationship with Netflix in response to this.
The ceremony itself carried on in much the usual fashion, featuring a host of hosts from across America’s plane of celebrities. There was also plenty of red-carpet styles to keep the papers happy. The night was scattered with a range of musical performances including: Billie Eilish, Sir Elton John, a host of international Elsas, and, perhaps most bizarrely, Eminem returning to perform his 2002 hit ‘Lose Yourself’. (17 years after he won an Oscar for it – he didn’t show up to the Awards ceremony at the time).
I would suggest that more than any, this year’s Oscar felt like it needed start changes. With repeated controversy around the lack of non-studio films and diversity among the nominees, and the show’s lowest ever viewing figures suggesting that audiences are losing interest in watching the six-hour-long shows live, the Oscars needs to evolve to survive. However, because this year a foreign language film could garner such success is hope that change is possible in the Academy.