92nd Academy Awards were an improvement from last year’s

by Jack Hargrove | 2/14/20 2:00am

Last year, the Academy Awards were not in good shape; no one would host, the choices for winners were unpopular and the awards show faced consistently declining numbers. Alternatively, at this year’s 92nd Academy Awards, the decision to not have a host again worked very well; the choices for nominations and winners were the best they have been in years; and the presenters and performers kept the show interesting throughout. And yet, this year’s Oscars had the lowest viewership recorded since Nielsen Sounds can began keeping track in 1974. Those of us who did watch, however, were treated to the best Academy Awards in many years.

Heading into the ceremony, “Joker” led the field in nominations with 11, followed closely by “The Irishman,” “1917,” and “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood,” which had 10 apiece. Other major films being recognized were “Jojo Rabbit,” “Marriage Story,” “Little Women” and “Parasite.” In my opinion, 2019 was a much better year for movies than 2018, and, as a result, this year’s Academy Awards were very competitive.

Despite there being no one host throughout the show, there were many presenters that kept it interesting and moved everything along smoothly. Chris Rock and Steve Martin opened together with various jokes about the lack of diversity in the nominations. Later in the show, Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph also performed a funny skit where they pretended to try and get directors to notice their acting skills. In addition to presenters, there were also quite a few music performances. The most interesting was the one that opened the ceremony: Janelle Monae, dressed as Mr. Rogers, sang the theme song to “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” before singing a version of her track “Come Alive” with new lyrics referencing many of the films nominated for awards. Another notable performance was Eminem’s, which was a complete surprise. He performed a rendition of his song “Lose Yourself,” which won the award for Best Original Song in 2003. While the performances were, without a doubt enjoyable, they paled in comparison to the award winners themselves which were actually interesting for once.

Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt for “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”

After being one of the world’s most famous actors for almost 30 years, Brad Pitt finally won his first Academy Award for acting for his role as aging stuntman Cliff Booth in “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.” While the field of nominees was very strong this year, Pitt deserved to win this award the most. Pitt’s portrayal of Cliff was the most exciting part of the film, and many of the most memorable scenes centered around him. Among these are his brilliant fight scene with Bruce Lee, as well as his first visit to the Manson compound. His chemistry with lead actor Leonardo DiCaprio also contributed to the high quality of the film. After so long, Pitt finally earned his first acting Oscar for one of the best performances of his career.

Best Supporting Actress: Laura Dern for “Marriage Story”

While every performance nominated was great, the race was really between Scarlett Johansson for her role as Rosie Betzler in “Jojo Rabbit” and Laura Dern for her role as Nora Fanshaw in “Marriage Story.” Either could conceivably have won this award and I would have been happy. While Johansson’s performance as Jojo’s mother was very enjoyable to watch, Dern’s take on a divorce lawyer was definitely the stronger of the two. Nora was one of the most compelling characters in “Marriage Story,” and that is primarily due to Dern’s incredible performance.

Best Original Screenplay: Bong Joon-ho and Jin Won Han for “Parasite”

The writing in “Parasite” was easily the best of any movie released last year, so this victory was very well-deserved for Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin Won. “Parasite” conveyed its meaning and nuances to an English-speaking audience extremely well in spite of the language barrier, which is no small feat. Additionally, Bong communicated his biting critique of capitalism through a beautifully written metaphor that blows all of the competition out of the water.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Taika Waititi for “Jojo Rabbit”

“Jojo Rabbit” is an extraordinarily bizarre film that revolves around a young boy in the Hitler youth who has Hitler as his imaginary friend. Taika Waititi’s take on Christine Leunens’ novel “Caging Skies” is a fantastic adaptation to the big screen that deserves plenty of praise. While all of the movies nominated in the category were also well done, Waititi’s ability to bring such a strange story to life in such an effective manner is ultimately why he deserves the award.

Best Director: Bong Joon-ho for “Parasite”

In a field of nominees that included both Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorcese, Bong Joon-ho was a big underdog. Not only was he a relative unknown competing with industry giants, but his film was not even in the same language as the other nominees’. However, for the second year in a row, the Academy gave this award to the director of a non-English film. This was the third of four awards received by “Parasite,” a major achievement for the film. In his speech, Bong said, “After winning Best International Feature, I thought I was done for the day and was ready to relax.” He even mentioned how heavily influenced he was by Scorcese early in his film career and thanked Tarantino for recognizing his work even when it was still not widely recognized in America. He finished his speech by saying, “I will drink until next morning,” to much applause, demonstrating why he was one of the most beloved figures in the film industry last year.

Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix for “Joker”

Joaquin Phoenix’s victory for the Best Actor was far and away the least surprising choice of the night. He was heavily favored going into the Oscars, given his victories at the Golden Globes, BAFTA Awards and SAG Awards. All of these accolades are very well deserved; Phoenix gave a once-in-a-lifetime performance in the role. His performance was the highlight of “Joker,” making up for many of the film’s flaws. Phoenix also continued his streak of strange acceptance speeches this awards season; this time, he gave an impassioned appeal to consider the evils of the production and consumption of dairy products. In a very touching moment, he ended his speech by quoting his late brother, River Phoenix.

Best Actress: Renée Zellweger for “Judy”

Of the movies nominated, “Judy” is certainly not the best. In fact, it may be the least interesting film with an actress nominated. However, the brightest part of “Judy” is Renée Zellweger’s incredible performance as Judy Garland. Despite the lackluster elements that make up the rest of the film, Zellweger gave one of her best performances to date and carried the film to critical acclaim. For this reason, it’s hard to argue that she did not deserve this award. While I personally believe that Saoirse Ronan’s acting in “Little Women” was the best nominated in the category, Zellweger is a good alternative.

Best Picture: “Parasite”

The biggest upset of the night was “Parasite” winning the award for Best Picture. “1917” was heavily favored because of the cinematographic techniques used to make the entire movie appear as a single shot. However, the sharp writing and brilliant direction in “Parasite” proved more important to the academy voters. “Parasite” is now the first movie in a language other than English to win Best Picture at the Oscars in their 92-year history. After the criticism the Academy received last year for giving “Green Book” Best Picture, the Academy got it right this year and awarded what was truly the best film.

Other Awards

In addition to the three awards mentioned above, “Parasite” also won the award for Best International Feature Film, giving it the most awards of the night with four. “1917” won three awards in technical categories, including Best Cinematography, putting it in second place. Additionally, Elton John won the award for Best Original Song for the song “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” that appeared in his own biopic “Rocketman.” Finally, “Hair Love” by Matthew A. Cherry and Karen Rupert Toliver won the award for Best Animated Short Film. As a former NFL wide receiver, Cherry became the second-ever professional athlete to win an Oscar, after Kobe Bryant became the first in 2018 with his short film “Dear Basketball.” “Hair Love” is a beautiful seven-minute story about a father trying to do his young daughter’s hair for the first time.