Oscars 2020: ‘Parasite’ makes history

For the first time in 92 years, a foreign-language film took the top prize at the Academy Awards, destroying scores of home Oscar ballots.

Parasite‘s surprise win — not only in Best Picture, but also in Best Director — certainly bruised my own ballot. I wound up going 17 for 24 for the night — about my average, all things told.

But Oscar voters, who erupted in applause when Jane Fonda read Parasite‘s name, dove into uncharted waters — at least in a couple of categories. Until those climactic awards, the awards went largely to predictable (though deserving) winners. (Yes, I know I just said I missed seven picks, but even those were certainly within the realm of possibility. I just chose to read the wrong tea leaves.)

Parasite was my second-favorite film last year, and one I’m excited to watch repeatedly in years to come. That’s not something I can say about every Best Picture winner — and I’ve seen ’em all. (Not to brag, but there’s only 78 Best Picture nominees that I haven’t seen, eight of those within my lifetime.)

And besides being compulsively watchable, Parasite speaks to our times and the ever-intensifying tensions between the haves and the have-nots (and those who have even less than that). It’s a brilliant choice, something we certainly can’t always say. (For instance, see last year’s winner. Or, rather, don’t see it.)

The four acting winners — Joaquin Phoenix, Renée Zellweger, Brad Pitt and Laura Dern — each won as expected, and (generally) gave thoughtful, appropriate speeches. (Zellweger seemed to get lost in her words for a second, but paid lovely tribute to Judy Garland, and Phoenix overcame his apparent shyness to deliver some thoughtful words, plus a battle cry for cows.)

As for the show itself, I hope that the two-year-old no-host experiment has come to an end. That would have cut down on the odd spectacle of actors introducing actors to introduce presenters or performers, or performers singing without any introduction at all (poor Chrissy Metz!). And perhaps a mid-show recap, even one amusingly rapped by Utkarsh Ambudkar, wasn’t a great use of time?

As pleasantly surprised as I was to see Eminem perform “Lose Yourself,” it could easily have been cut for time. Janelle Monae’s introductory song was … well, it was energetic, certainly. (I loved Vulture‘s description: “It’s fully the version of the song you witness when you do the Midsommar drugs.”)

I hope if you watched last night that you were inspired to watch something new — particularly Parasite, and especially if you’re otherwise resistant to subtitles. If so, let me know what you plan to watch in the comments!

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