It’s the biggest and most glamorous night in Hollywood – the Oscars. Now in its 92nd year, the Academy Award is recognised as the top honour in the world’s film industry, and it is every actor’s and filmmaker’s dream to win it! This year’s ceremony was full of nostalgia, can’t-miss moments, and host-less yet again- it saw many highs, too. While the South Korean film Parasite beat Hollywood biggies like Joker, 1917, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in winning the best picture, there was a captivating musical touch given by artistes Elton John and Eminem.
Although it did not have an official host this year too, it was well opened by Janelle Monae’s musical performance. Minutes later, former hosts Chris Rock and Steve Martin hit the stage and delivered a stand-up comedy set in which they called out the Academy for not nominating any woman in the best director category. Actress Natalie Portman also weighed in on the issue by wearing a cape featuring names of female directors not nominated for an Oscar this year.
However, women power could be seen on stage. Two on-screen superheroes (Brie Larson and Gal Gadot) and Sigourney Weaver, introduced Irish conductor Eimear Noone - the first woman to conduct at the Academy Awards. Composer Hildur Gudnadottir scored an important Oscar win for women. She is the first woman to win an Academy Award for best original score in two decades.
Moving forward, President Donald Trump’s recently-concluded impeachment trial was also given a mention at the Hollywood’s biggest night when actor Brad Pitt got on the stage to receive his supporting actor Oscar for his portrayal of stuntman Cliff Booth in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. During his speech, he called out the Trump impeachment trial for blocking the testimony of former national security adviser John Bolton. “They told me I only have 45 seconds up here, which is 45 seconds more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week,” he said on stage after receiving his first Oscar for acting.
“I’m thinking maybe Quentin does a movie about it... in the end, the adults do the right thing.” He went on to further pay tribute to Tarantino: “Tarantino, you are original, you are one of a kind. The film industry would be a much drier place without you.” He also bagged the supporting actor prize at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, BAFTAs and Golden Globes. Pitt previously won an Oscar as a producer when 12 Years a Slave took the best picture in 2014.
Taika Waititi, who wrote, directed and co-starred in the anti-fascist story Jojo Rabbit, won the best adapted screenplay award and dedicated it “to all the indigenous kids in the world who want to do art and dance and write stories. We are the original storytellers, and we can make it here”. Waititi is the first Indigenous filmmaker to win an Oscar.
Talking about immigrants, before announcing the Academy Award for best animated feature film, Indian-American comedian Mindy Kaling said she found solace in animated films as a “shy” young girl from an immigrant family. Now that she’s older, she recognises that animation is one of the most sophisticated forms of storytelling. “I can’t wait to introduce those worlds to my daughter now,” Kaling said before announcing Toy Story 4 as the winner.
As for best animated short, it went to former athlete Matthew A. Cherry for Hair Love. It’s the same category that late basketball player Kobe Bryant won in 2018. It tells the story of an African American father and his daughter attempting to do her hair, and learning to love what makes her in the process. “Hair Love was done because we wanted to see more representation in animation, and because we wanted to normalise black hair,” Cherry said on the Dolby stage. He dedicated the win to Bryant saying, “This award is dedicated to Kobe, may we all have a second act as great as his.”
If Kaling was a presenter, Indian-American filmmakers Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan competed in documentary short subject category. Their St. Louis Superman lost to Leaning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl).
India found a place in the winners’ list too. Director Sam Mendes’ war drama 1917, which has Reliance Entertainment and Amblin Partners among the banners associated with the film’s production, took the Oscar for best visual effects, beating out tough competitors like Avengers: Endgame. The World War I epic also won the best cinematography award at the ceremony held in Hollywood on the following night. India’s presence at the gala didn’t stop with just that. Indian composer A.R. Rahman, who had won Oscars for his song ‘Jai Ho’, made it to an original song montage.
However, this wasn’t the only musical touch at the ceremony. Eminem, Elton John, Randy Newman, Chrissy Metz, Idina Menzel, and Billie Eilish entertained the audience that consisted of stars like Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Jane Fonda and Martin Scorsese. The Memoriam segment, delivered to Billie Eilish singing the Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’, featured names including Kobe Bryant, Doris Day, Peter Fonda, and Kirk Douglas.
Among other winners, Ford v Ferrari, a racing drama, won the best editing award. It won for sound editing too. American Factory, backed by former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama, was announced as the winner of the best documentary feature.
Designer Jacqueline Durran’s work in Little Women helped her win the best costume design. Renee Zellweger, who had won an Oscar in 2004 for Cold Mountain, collected the best actress trophy for her portrayal of Judy Garland in Judy. She was nominated alongside actresses like Charlize Theron and Scarlett Johansson. This past year “has been a really cool reminder that our heroes unite us”, she said on stage. “When we look at our heroes, we agree and that matters.” One of those heroes, for her, is Garland, and Zellweger paid tribute to her legacy of unique exceptionalism and inclusivity and generosity of spirit. The film traces the journey of Garland and her career during the last year of her life when she relocated her stage career to Britain. It captures her initial success and what happens when her progress worsens due to health issues.
“I’ve never been asked to sing several belters in a row, let alone do a live performance anywhere,” Zellweger had said. “I just figured we’d start a year before and work regularly to see if there was any truth to the saying that you really can strengthen your vocal chords like any other muscle. The big thing to remember was that I wasn’t doing an impersonation or trying to emulate this great icon.”
Laura Dern, on the other hand, won the best supporting actress for her role as a divorce lawyer in Marriage Story. She was nominated along with popular faces like Kathy Bates and Florence Pugh. Dern thanked the Academy for her first Oscar, director Noah Baumbach for his “vision, magic, and friendship”, her step-children and children, and her parents, actors Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern: “You got game, I love you.” The actress, who sported a pale pink dress for the gala, called the victory “the best birthday present ever”. She brought her famous mother, Diane Ladd, and her children - son Ellery Harper, and daughter Jaya Harper, to the ceremony held here on Sunday night. This isn’t her first win for the film. Dern has bagged the Bafta, Golden Globe, Critics Choice and Screen Actors Guild awards too.
Joaquin Phoenix walked home with the best actor for playing superhero Batman’s nemesis in Joker. He faced tough competition from actors like Adam Driver, Leonardo DiCaprio, Antonio Banderas and Jonathan Pryce. After winning his first Oscar, Phoenix got emotional and quoted a lyric by his late brother River: “Run to the rescue with love and peace will follow.” He also spoke about injustice, honoured the natural world, and said let love and compassion be “our guiding principles”. “We’re at our best when we support each other and not cancel each other out. That is the best of humanity,” he said.
Phoenix, who has won Best Actor for the role at every imaginable awards function this year, looked rather relaxed when he arrived at the Oscar with his lady love Rooney Mara. In an obvious chilled-out mood, the couple did not waste the chance to engage in some random PDA. Phoenix looked natty in a black tux while Mara opted for a delicate lace cut-out number. They held hands as they casually walked down the red carpet and took their time to strike some cosy poses for the shutterbugs. Phoenix even gushed over Mara as she momentarily left him to pose for solo photo-ops. Fans have loved every moment of it, all through the next day. A few even hailed them as Hollywood’s ‘royal couple’.
Meanwhile, Parasite got the best picture in addition to best directing, international feature film and writing (original screenplay) awards. The comedy-drama, which has been a favourite since it claimed the Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes film festival, had its India premiere at the International Film Festival of India in November last year. The South Korean film created history as it’s the first non-English to win the top honour. At the gala, director Bong Joon-ho along with the whole cast and crew got on stage as the audience gave a standing ovation to the team for their victory.
However, the ‘thank yous’ got a little long and soon, music started playing to get them off the stage. But the crowd, including Hollywood star Tom Hanks, clapped and cheered until the microphone was turned back on. South Korean film producer Miky Lee then paid tribute to Bong’s smile, his crazy hair, the way he talks, the way he walks, and especially the way he directs. “What I really like about him is his sense of humour and the fact is he can be really making fun of himself and he never takes himself seriously,” she said. - IANS