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Mon, Feb 10, 2020 2:02

‘Parasite’ makes history at the Oscars

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The South Korean film “Parasite” won best picture at the 92nd Academy Awards, becoming the first ever non-English-language film to seize the top honor. 

The South Korean film “Parasite” won best picture at the 92nd Academy Awards, becoming the first ever non-English-language film to seize the top honor. The historic victory marked the fourth win of the night for the film, which mined suspense, humor and anguish in its tale rooted in the socioeconomic divide between two families.

“Parasite,” which was one of only 10 foreign-language films in Oscar history nominated for best picture, also won best international feature film, original screenplay and director for filmmaker Bong Joon Ho. He used one of his acceptance speeches to thank fellow nominees, including Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The thriller beat the odds to win best picture over strong contenders, especially “1917,” a box-office hit with a string of conquests at previous award shows. That World War I drama directed by Sam Mendes won three Oscars-for cinematography, sound mixing and visual effects.

The timely theme of class alienation in “Parasite” helped make it the highest-grossing foreign release in the U.S. last year. It found a passionate support base in Hollywood, which embraced Mr. Bong as a filmmaker working at the top of his game. And, after the director used a Golden Globes speech to encourage English-speaking audiences to get past “the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles,” Oscar voters rallied behind a movie in Korean.

The wins for “Parasite” seemed to promise a more inclusive Oscars that many critics of the Hollywood institution have called for. In one of his acceptance speeches, Mr. Bong referred to a naming change by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of the formerly “foreign-language film” category to “international feature film.” Said Mr. Bong, “I applaud and support the direction that this new change symbolizes.”

The original screenplay Oscar for Mr. Bong and Han Jin Won also marks the first time an Asian nominee has won in any writing category.

The Oscar for lead actor went to Joaquin Phoenix, who dropped 52 pounds and adopted a consumptive cackle to play Arthur Fleck, a mentally ill man who spins into violence in “Joker.”

For her turn as Judy Garland in “Judy,” Renée Zellweger earned the Oscar for actress in a leading role, marking a career comeback 16 years after she won her first Oscar as a supporting actress in “Cold Mountain.”

The 92nd Academy Awards kicked off Sunday with a win for Brad Pitt, who took home the best supporting actor award for his role in “Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood.”

Another Hollywood veteran, Laura Dern, won best supporting actress for playing a take-no-prisoners divorce attorney in “Marriage Story.”

Adding to a career with many memorable characters, Brad Pitt now has an Oscar-awarded performance as Cliff Booth, a stunt double and cool customer who anchors the film by director Quentin Tarantino. Mr. Pitt’s win is his first as an actor. (He holds one Oscar as a producer of best-picture winner “12 Years a Slave.”)

This is the first Oscar for Ms. Dern, who was the favorite to win. She dedicated the award to her acting heroes and parents Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd.

The World War I film “1917,” which went into the night as one of the strongest contenders, won awards for its cinematography, visual effects and sound mixing.

The award for best adapted screenplay went to Taika Waititi, the New Zealand writer and director of “Jojo Rabbit,” a comedic drama about a boy whose best friend is an imaginary Adolf Hitler. Set in World War II Germany, the movie is loosely based on a novel by Christine Leunens, “Caging Skies.”

Composer Hildur Guðnadóttir’s tense, cello-driven score to “Joker,” which director Todd Phillips has credited for shaping key scenes, won for best original score. The Icelandic musician topped such veterans as John Williams, Alexandre Desplat and Thomas Newman, the “1917” composer who has 15 nominations without a win.

Legendary music duo Elton John and Bernie Taupin collected their first joint Oscar for the song “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” from the Elton biopic “Rocketman.” Mr. Taupin described the honor as “justification for 53 years of hammering it out and doing what we do.”

Netflix scored with “American Factory,” which embedded with the workers and managers of a Chinese-owned factory in Ohio, and won for best documentary. Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground, was among the companies that backed the movie. The Oscar was awarded to producer Jeff Reichert and directors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert.

For their painstaking recreation of Hollywood circa 1969 in “Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood,” Nancy Haigh and Barbara Ling landed the award for production design. Costume designer Jacqueline Durran won for her work in “Little Women.”

“Toy Story 4” won for best animated feature, earning the Pixar studio its 10th win in that category, more than all other winning studios combined since the award was introduced in 2002.

The award for animated short film went to “Hair Love,” about an African American dad’s efforts to do his daughter’s hair for the first time. Director Matthew A. Cherry, a former professional football player, dedicated the award to Kobe Bryant, who won the same award in 2018 for his film “Dear Basketball.”

The show opened with a big musical number led by singer and actor Janelle Monae, who first took the stage in a tribute to Mister Rogers, the subject of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” The song-and-dance routine included some nods to the snubbed, including Ms. Monae’s shout-out to female directors, of which there were none among this year’s Oscar nominees.

With no official hosts, comedy duos like Steve Martin and Chris Rock, Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell carried the load with comedy bits.

The Oscars arrived almost a month early this year, shortening the window between when films were nominated and when voters turned in their ballots. That left critics, filmmakers and awards prognosticators concerned those voters wouldn’t have enough time to see the full list of movies that had been nominated.

As it is, a lot has shifted in the month since award season kicked off in earnest. The Oscars started out as a wide-open race, with high-profile releases such as ”The Irishman” and “Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood” jockeying as early rivals for best picture and other top honors. But the competition took a turn when “1917” won Golden Globe awards last month, including best drama, and continued to pick up top honors from groups within the industry, such as the directors’ and producers’ guilds.

A record-high four movies have 10 nominations or more: “1917,” “The Irishman,” “Joker” and “Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood.”

‘Joker’ which earned $1 billion world-wide at the box off and is the highest-grossing R-rated drama garnered 11 nominations, more than any other film.

The South Korean thriller “Parasite” has six nominations, including nods for best director, best picture and best international feature film. If it wins best picture it will be the first time a foreign-language film has won the top honor. “Jojo Rabbit,” the story of a boy whose imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler, also has six nominations, including one for best picture and one for adapted screenplay.