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Oscars 2020: What It Got Right and Wrong in 20 Takeaways

on February 10, 2020, 3:31am
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And so, another awards season has come and gone — the months of rabid speculation, online contention, and hot takes about deep cuts can finally rest. (At least for a month or two, before festival season forces us into the rat race once again.)

But the 2020 Oscars were a curious season, a frustrating crop of (mostly) good-to-great movies that nonetheless failed to reflect the diversity of modern moviemaking. The night itself reflected that tension, attempting to make up for the nominees’ lack of diversity by leaning hard into the diversity of the presentation itself.

Whether it amounts to an admirable effort to even the score, or breathless tokenism to take the heat off the overbearing whiteness of the nominees, is anyone’s guess. But an effort was made, and it was certainly reflected in the night’s big (and deserved) winner: Bong Joon-ho’s twisty, immaculately crafted social thriller Parasite.


That’s not all. Amidst the directionless structure of the host-less awards show, moments ranged from surprising to frustrating, second-hand embarrassing to downright adorable. Here are a bunch of ’em, distilled down to memories we can cherish as we hug our Parasite Blu-rays and pray for a smoother, more equitable awards season next year.

Now, let’s all celebrate and, in the words of Director Bong, “drink until the next morning.”

–Clint Worthington
Senior Writer


The Kids Are More Than Alright

Leave it to a 10-year-old to be the most professional celebrity at the Oscars. Out of all the BS stop-and-chats on the red carpet, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood star Julia Butters actually looked stoked to be there — and why not? She’s living a dream, a notion hardly lost on the young star as she confessed to E! that she feels truly “blessed.” No kidding. At her age, I was watching the show on my couch with slices of Pizza Hut. Speaking of which, she came fully prepared in that area, packing herself a turkey sandwich in the event the food sucked. What a pro. Rest assured, this won’t be her last rodeo at the Dolby. On a side note, it was also nice to see that the friendship between Jojo Rabbit co-stars Thomasin McKenzie and Archie Yates was anything but fiction. –Michael Roffman


You Make Me Feel So Old

last crusade Oscars 2020: What It Got Right and Wrong in 20 Takeaways

The Oscars have long felt like a paean to filmmaking throughout the centuries, so it’s especially jarring to remember just how old we all are. And I think all of us felt the years on our shoulders when Billy Porter asked Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas what their favorite movies were growing up. Now Finneas is 22 and Eilish is 18, so, of course, their filmmaking influences were going to be a little more… recent. Even so, just hearing them mention films like The Babadook and The Social Network — movies that are only 5-10 years old — as childhood favorites made us collectively shrivel up into our respective crypts. God, what have we done with our lives? Where have the years gone? –Clint Worthington


Beg Your Porgdon?

Rian Johnson wore his knives on his sleeves. Were these Porg-inspired cufflinks a subtle reminder that he’s bounced back from the controversy over The Last Jedi by writing an Oscar-nominated screenplay? If so, I’m here for it: Knives Out was one of my favorite films of the year, and revenge is a dish best served with an Academy Award nomination. What’s more, Johnson confirmed he’ll begin writing the sequel to Knives Out come Monday, so maybe this was an attempt to tune back into the snark that made the original so devilishly delightful? Special shout-out to his wife Karina Longworth, host of the You Must Remember This podcast. One can already hear her future episode on Oscar night cufflink shade. –Jenn Adams


Best Ensemble: Parasite Cast

And the Academy Award for most adorable group of human beings goes to …. everyone involved in Parasite! Over the past few weeks, the film’s cast and crew have brought a lot of joy to what’s otherwise been a dreadful awards season. While none of its actors were nominated for their performances (read: huge mistake), they certainly came dressed as frontrunners. Park So-Dam in hot pink fringe? Give her an award just for that, please. Outfits aside, there was an energy to the Parasite cast that was delightful and palpable and exactly what we needed. Can they please host next year? —Carrie Wittmer


Unlikeliest Fan: Timothee Chalamet’s Ford vs Ferrari Cosplay

No one could have predicted that Timothée Chalamet would stan for Best Picture nominee Ford vs Ferrari, but he did. His getup, which was basically a fancy windbreaker and some slicked-back hair, was cosplay as some Italian guy in the James Mangold film who cleans the cars. And, you know what, it worked … somehow. It probably had to do with his cheekbones, which should be named a national monument immediately. —Carrie Wittmer


Best Fashion Statement: Natalie Portman’s Embroidery

Oscar-winner Natalie Portman saved her best shade for the Academy. Easily outdoing her “here are the all-male nominees” barb at the Golden Globes, Portman rolled up to the red carpet wearing a black and gold embellished gown, a dramatic cape, and a Shiv Roy-inspired haircut that screamed of major hot super-villain vibes. A closer look at the embroidery on her cape, however, revealed the names of female directors who could have (and should have) been nominated for Best Director, particularly Greta Gerwig, Lulu Wang, and Marielle Heller. TL;DR? It’s fashion and a statement. —Carrie Wittmer


Best Dressed: Florence Pugh

Florence Pugh is powerful enough to arrive so late to the Oscars that she didn’t even have time for an interview with Billy Porter — though that would have been a delight, and I want to see it. Pugh is drawn to bold colors and high volume. To be fair, it doesn’t always work (I have more nightmares about her BAFTAs look than I do about Midsommar). And while her tiered gown could have gone 2006 Prom easily, Pugh’s styling and confidence in a color as bold as jade really sold it. She made Amy March — who would definitely wear this in 2020 — proud. –Carrie Wittmer


Okay, Legit Best Dressed: Janelle Monáe

Right before a commercial break, I saw a hooded figure from far away in a long shot of the Oscars’ red carpet. In that flash, I knew right away that it was Janelle Monáe, a testament to her already-iconic style. Monáe’s Safdie-esque silver gown had a dramatic A-line silhouette, long sleeves, and a hood. It wasn’t revealing in any way, and yet it was still sexy. My only question was how she got out of it so quickly for the opening number. It must have taken a village. Here’s hoping Monáe gets to keep the gown so she can wear it in a space-set movie musical one day. Perhaps an adaptation of her own ArchAndroid –Carrie Wittmer


Monáe Set the Mood

Beyond fashion, Janelle Monáe also killed it on stage with her opening number. Masterfully recovering from a near-wardrobe malfunction and duetting with the always spectacular Billy Porter, she led a lively performance brimming with more diversity than the night’s list of nominees. Though her May Queen cape and Tethered dancers reminded me of some snubs I’m still bitter about, and the Cats-style audience participation left me nervous for those in the front row, Monáe kicked off a controversial ceremony with a visible dose of representation and awareness. Quite the Q.U.E.E.N. –Jenn Adams


Someone’s Gotta Give Bong Joon-ho an Oscar

I hate it when people say, “It’s a reunion!”, whenever former co-stars are in the same room. But this … it was a reunion, and it was magical. Keanu Reeves (swoon) and Diane Keaton (looking very Diane Keaton in a hat and a wool coat over a blazer) took the stage to present the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay together. It was the first time I’d seen them on-screen together since 2003’s  Something’s Gotta Give, in which Reeves plays a young doctor hot for Keaton. After Keaton joked about their co-star (and her other on-screen love interest) Jack Nicholson, she went on to signal a change in the course of the night by announcing the first of many surprise wins for Parasite. Something did give.  —Carrie Wittmer

Click ahead for more takeaways (and Cats)…


And the Award for Most Creative Audition Goes To…

Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig brought some humor (and passion) to the Production and Costume Design categories. Admittedly, they had me fooled at first, and aided by an early cut to Greta Gerwig in the audience, I prepared to hear a rant about one of the many touchy subjects on the ceremony. Not so fast, they were … acting, all while reminding us (and the many directors in the room) that they’re insanely talented and worthy of any project. (Scorsese, I’m looking at you.) Their second act — an a capella medley of costume-themed songs ranging from “Lady in Red” to “The Thong Song” — was not only hilarious, but pitch-perfect to boot. Pun intended. –Jenn Adams


Cats Are Terrifying Without Terrifying Visual Effects

This is terrifying to think about and will haunt me in my sleep. Actually, I won’t get any sleep tonight because of it. James Corden and Rebel Wilson, both stars of the cinematic vomit that is Tom Hooper’s Cats, were announced on to the stage as presenters for Best Visual Effects. Me, an innocent person who has not seen Cats, and foolishly did not put the two together, screamed, “Noooooooo!” when the two stars arrived in their Cats getup. Even sans their not-Oscar-nominated visual effects, they looked terrifying. Eventually, the award went to the mostly practical 1917, and not Thanos or Young De Niro, but it didn’t matter. The Cats had got their revenge, and the only person more horrified than me was perhaps Bradley Cooper. –Carrie Wittmer


Eh, We Loved That Stroll Down Melody Memory Lane

I’m a sucker for a good cinematic musical montage, especially when introduced by Lin-Manuel-Miranda. While I’m not sure how it connected to the ceremony, I loved revisiting (and singing along with) some of my favorite movie soundtracks from Almost Famous and Ghost to Wayne’s World and The Breakfast Club. I’m not ashamed to say that Titanic and The Bodyguard brought the tears, while Reservoir Dogs and Deliverance kept the schmaltziness from taking over. The montage concluded with a live performance of “Lose Yourself” by Eminem that was probably better live due to the liberal (but expected) use of the mute button. Necessary or not, this segment allowed us all to bask in what Clint called “so much rhythmic white nodding.” I nearly lost myself in it.–Jenn Adams


Is This a Camera for Ants?!

Their latest film Downhill isn’t exactly a laugh riot, but Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus at least committed to a slyly hilarious bit tonight when they presented the Best Cinematography and Best Editing Oscars. For the former, they blustered their way through their … broad definitions of what a cinematographer does with all the nervous confidence of someone interviewing for a job they’re in no way qualified for (“Not only does the cinematographer prepare the meals for the crew and cast, it is also the cinematographer who knocks on your trailer door to let you know it is time to get to the set… to create magic“). For the latter, they complained about the editors who’ve cut them out of everything from Parasite to Ford v. Ferrari (“It was originally Ford v. Ferrari v. Ferrell!”). Look, I’m a sucker for Deadpan Ferrell, okay? Sue me. –Clint Worthington


The Canary in the Colman

olivia colman Oscars 2020: What It Got Right and Wrong in 20 Takeaways

For the Best Acting awards, the Oscars trotted out last year’s Best Actor and Actress winners to present to the opposite category for which they won. While Rami Malek offered a sober, earnest ode to the actresses he paid tribute to, Olivia Colman blustered on to the stage with the same giddy energy that made her a favorite (sorry, favourite) when she won last year. “Winning an Oscar ages you,” she quipped of her shock of bleach-blonde hair, before launching into an effortlessly hilarious monologue in which she *checks notes* jokes about railing her husband hardcore the night of her Oscar win (“Last year was the best night… of my husband’s life”)? What an absolute legend. –Clint Worthington


Just All of Laura Dern

Whatever film you’d like to imagine Laura Dern really won for tonight (Yes, of course, she’s good in both Marriage Story and Little Women, but this was just as much a Sympathy Oscar as anything else), it was really great that Dern brought her family — daughter Jaya Harper and mother/Hollywood royalty Diane Ladd — to sit with her at the ceremony. And when she won, that cut to Ladd’s tear-filled face was just about enough to get something in the eyes of everyone watching at home. By the time this publishes, it will be Laura Dern’s birthday. Happy birthday, Laura Dern! Take a load off; you’ve earned it. –Clint Worthington


Disorder of the Phoenix

It came as no surprise that Joaquin Phoenix would win for Joker, and if his BAFTAs speech was to be any indicator, he was more than ready to use his platform to call out the specter of inequality. And to be fair, it got off to a good start, with plenty of gratitude for his fellow nominees and the beginnings of a great speech about inequality. Then it started to lose focus a bit, meandering into tangents about veganism (“We’ve become very disconnected from the natural world”) and cow insemination.

What’s more, he referred to himself as a “scoundrel” in previous years and apologized for being difficult to work with in the past; okay, that’s good. Then he sprang from that to call out “canceling each other for our past mistakes,” before ending with a genuinely tear-jerking ode to his late brother River Phoenix, who wrote the lyric “Run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow.”

Well-intentioned stuff for the most part, but I gotta say, hearing veganism conflated as equal to the struggle against systemic racism, poverty, and violence rings a little false to the ear. Still, points for effort in using his platform to speak to bigger issues, however confusing it may have been. –Clint Worthington


I Heard You Lose Oscars

irishman Oscars 2020: What It Got Right and Wrong in 20 Takeaways

Apart from our precious Bong Sweep (go Parasite!), it’s surprising just how far the love was spread among the other eight Best Picture nominees this year. That is, of course, except Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, which got bupkis in all of its nominated categories. It’s especially ironic, considering how much Director Bong and everyone else at the ceremony celebrated Marty’s body of work (even inspiring a standing O for the man during Bong’s Best Director speech). Maybe the Academy voters just couldn’t sit through three and a half hours? Did Netflix’s marketing team not ply them with red wine and bread? It is what it is. –Clint Worthington


Bong Hive Assemble!

But nothing — not the lack of diversity in the nominees, not the occasional egregious omission (no Gerwig for Screenplay, Zellweger for Judy) could take away from the absolute giddiness that was seeing Parasite sweep so many major awards. Of course, doing so also meant that poor Director Bong had to get up to the mic no fewer than three times to accept awards.

While he’s quipped about the Oscars being a “local awards show” in the past, he was endearingly self-effacing in all of his speeches, from his insistence that everyone stand up and clap for the awards-snubbed cast of his film, to adorably quipping that “I’m ready to drink tonight” after his first win.

Still, the Bong moment of the night came when he paid grateful homage to his fellow directing nominees, from Scorsese (inspiring a standing ovation) to Tarantino (quashing whatever silly rumors were floating around Twitter that they had a beef based on one sour still image of QT’s face), and insisting they take a “Texas Chain Saw” to his Oscar and share it among the five nominees. Now, that I’d like to see. –Clint Worthington


Once Upon a Future in Hollywood

Over the past few weeks, backlash over the lack of diversity in the nominees has been harsh, and the producers of tonight’s ceremony clearly took notice. The 92nd Academy Awards ceremony was filled with women and people of color, and the producers were fairly transparent in their efforts to go out of their way to show us that they do value inclusiveness … even if many of their members don’t. While this is a welcome change and I love seeing Kelly Marie Tran, Questlove, Utkarsh Ambudkar, and acknowledgment of the indigenous people on whose land the Dolby was built, something about it didn’t sit right.

Toward the end, Jane Fonda said nothing is more important than raising awareness, but I would argue that taking action is equally, if not more, important. I don’t want to be told that all women are superheroes, I want women and people of color to have the opportunity to show it in Hollywood and an Academy Award nomination goes a long way toward making that possible. The idea that we should solely value quality may work as a logical ideal, but that is not the world we live in. We are in need of a course correction.

And while the diverse ceremony was a refreshing change — not to mention, Parasite’s unlikely sweep — we are still a ways off from the systemic changes needed to make #OscarsSoWhite a thing of the past. –Jenn Adams

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