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2020 Oscars Recap & Reactions | Column from the Editor

With the 92nd Academy Awards announced Sunday, here are my reactions, commentary and analysis of the awards:

Best Picture

Winner: Parasite

I’m sure “Parasite” deserves this, but I generally don’t like the Best Picture category because it’s too broad. That being said, “Parasite”’s upset story will be one that will be remembered as the highlight of the night. 

Actor in a Leading Role

Winner: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

Joaquin was fantastic as the Joker in the movie of the same name, and it is notable that he follows Heath Ledger’s footsteps with this Oscar win. But his performance wasn’t the best of the year, and pales in comparison to both Jonathan Pryce’s heartfelt portrayal of Pope Francis in “The Two Popes” and Adam Driver’s performance in “Marriage Story.” Pryce and Driver’s performances will live on as legendary in the coming years, while I’m not sure how Phoenix’s portrayal of Arthur Fleck/The Joker will be looked at outside of its 2019 context of economic inequality and mental illness. 

Actress in a Leading Role

Winner: Renée Zellweger, Judy

Scarlett Johansson was robbed. It is noteworthy that Johansson has enough accolades, but her performance in “Marriage Story”, which matches another great performance given by Adam Driver, is one that reaches levels we might seldom see again. 

Actor in a Supporting Role

Winner: Brad Pitt, Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood

I liked Brad Pitt in “Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood,” but I don’t get this choice. Joe Pesci, Anthony Hopkins and Al Pacino all put in superior performances in their respective films. I think Pitt won the Oscar mostly because of name recognition. Classic Oscar internal politics over quality, in my opinion. 

Actress in a Supporting Role

Winner: Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Dern was absolutely awful, but in a good way, in “Marriage Story.” Well-deserved, and a major win for Netflix. 

Animated Feature Film

Winner: Toy Story 4

Another “I voted for that because I know what that is” selection. To be fair, I liked Toy Story 4, and I gave it a favorable review, but it is nowhere near as good as “Klaus.” This was the second award announced, and it created a depressing start to the night.

Cinematography

Winner: 1917

As someone who liked this film, I get what its cinematographer, Roger Deakins tried to do. However, the “all filmed in one shot” gimmick it uses has overstayed its welcome. “The Lighthouse” has more striking and memorable cinematography, in my opinion. 

Costume Design

Winner: Little Women

There’s some obsession with period films this year, and an assumption that they come with some inherent special production value. I can see why this got the nod, only because of the weak field. 

Directing

Winner: Bong Joon Ho, Parasite

This is a shocker. He beat out Sean Mendes, Martin Scorcese, and Quentin Tarantino. I think it’s safe to say that Parasite won the Oscars. 

Documentary (Feature)

Winner: American Factory

Didn’t have a horse in this race. But congratz to this film!

Documentary (Short Subject)

Winner: Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)

I called this one! There wasn’t a lot of films I was right about this year.

Film Editing

Winner: Ford v. Ferrari

I can’t say much until I see Ford v. Ferrari. But it seems like I was wrong to take a pass on it in the theater. 

International Feature Film

Winner: Parasite

“Parasite” absolutely obliterated the Oscars. No other film in this category stood a chance.

Makeup and Hairstyle

Winner: Bombshell

“Joker” should’ve gotten this. Not to say that “Bombshell” is not a fantastic film, but “Joker”’s makeup specifically planted the character in popular culture, and gave Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker a unique look that elevated his performance. That’s no small task, especially considering the high mark Heath Ledger left on the character.  

Music (Original Score)

Winner: Joker

Very funny. But seriously, who really got Best Score? I can’t even remember a full number from this film’s score. 

Music (Original Song)

Winner: (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again, Rocketman

I liked “Rocketman,” and I liked its music. However, I didn’t find this song memorable, and I would wager if Elton John didn’t appear on the ballot, Into the Unknown from Frozen would be victorious. 

Production Design

Winner: Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood

This is a good film. There’s nothing particularly special about its production design. Just because it’s a period film done well doesn’t mean it should have won an Oscar for its production design. Best Cinematography would have been a better category for this film. 

Short Film (Animated)

Winner: Hair Love

I thought “Hair Love” was a cute short film. I’m glad it won. 

Short Film (Live Action)

Winner: The Neighbors’ Window

Didn’t really have a horse in this race. 

Sound Editing

Winner: Ford v. Ferrari

Having not seen the winning film, there’s not much I can say. But I’m usually not very invested in this category. 

Sound Mixing

Winner: 1917

I get this selection, but I think “Ad Astra” was more creative and memorable in this area.

Visual Effects

Winner: 1917

Absolutely not. “Avengers: Endgame” and “The Lion King” featured groundbreaking visual effects. “1917” is a pretty film, but it once again highlights the Academy’s infatuation with war movies over films that take cinema to the next level. 

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Winner: Jojo Rabbit

Taika Waiti is a cool dude, and his Oscar win only reinforces how much I need to see Jojo Rabbit.

Writing (Original Screenplay)

Winner: Parasite

Like I’ve said before, this film won the Oscars. 

Overall thoughts:

Some people might be happy that Joaquin Phoenix matched Heath Ledger with an Oscar for his Joker. Others might celebrate Parasite’s dominance. I, however, lament the unforgivable snubs of “The Irishman”, “Marriage Story,” “The Two Popes,” and even “Avengers: Endgame”, which lost to safe and seemingly nonsensical choices.

We shouldn’t be giving esteemed awards for period films for creating relate able worlds that general audiences can dig into. That’s rewarding the bare minimum. Our Academy Awards should celebrate films that take cinema to the next level, and the 92nd Academy Awards failed to do that.

There has been much talk about the need to diversify who chooses the Oscars, as year after year, the films chosen seem to all cater to primarily old white men, and this year has been no exception, for good reason.

Furthermore, we live in a time where some of the best cinema that has ever been made is gracing our screens in nontraditional ways, like streaming.

Until the Oscars represents the wide variety of tastes and views this country holds, its reputation will only depreciate. There might be a day when winning an Oscar doesn’t mean anything anymore.

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