Academy Awards 2020: ‘Parasite’ makes history, while acting awards follow the script

Bong Joon Ho, left, is congratulated by Kang-Ho Song before going on stage to accept the award for best international feature film for "Parasite," from South Korea, at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello) (Chris Pizzello)

"Parasite" made history at the 92nd Academy Awards, becoming the first non-English language film to win best picture, while adding honors for director Bong Joon Ho, original screenplay and the renamed "international feature film" category.

It was a surprising outcome -- given that many felt the World War I epic "1917" was the frontrunner -- but hardly a complete shock, given the praise showered on the South Korean thriller by the industry and critics through the awards season.

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The overwhelmed director graciously singled out his fellow nominees, going so far as to mention using a chainsaw to carve up the award and share it with them.

The four acting wins, meanwhile, followed the script, given the array of honors handed out in the run-up to Oscar night.

Three of the recipients were first-time winners, with Joaquin Phoenix winning for his title role in "Joker," a dark drama spun out of the Batman franchise. He delivered a passionate speech about animal rights, among other things.

Renee Zellweger, a 2004 supporting actress winner for "Cold Mountain," earned her first lead actress award for "Judy," a biography of Judy Garland near the end of her troubled life.

Brad Pitt and Laura Dern claimed their first acting Oscars in the supporting races for "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood" and "Marriage Story."

Although he won an Oscar as a producer for "12 Years a Slave," Pitt received his first as an actor for his supporting role in "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood." He injected an immediate note of politics into the ceremony, referring to President Trump's impeachment trial by noting that his 45-second speech was more time than the Senate had allocated for witnesses.

Dern was recognized for "Marriage Story," thanking her acting parents, Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd, in an emotional speech.

Both wins were widely anticipated, given the array of honors the two have earned in the run-up to Oscar night.

Another best-picture nominee, writer-director Taika Waititi's anti-Nazi satire "Jojo Rabbit," took the adapted screenplay prize.

Oscar voters spread the wealth. Eight of the nine nominated best pictures have earned at least one award, with "1917" snagging a trio in sound, cinematography and visual effects. "Once Upon a Time" garnered a second for production design, with "Ford v. Ferrari" winning one of the sound prizes and for editing. "Little Women" nabbed costume design, and Hilda Gudnadottir was honored for the original score for "Joker."

The lone exception was "The Irishman," the expensive Netflix gangster drama from director Martin Scorsese.

"American Factory," a Netflix documentary released with the support of the Obamas, was honored in that category. The film chronicles the takeover of an Ohio production plant by Chinese interests.

"Toy Story 4" received best animated movie, as did its predecessor in 2011 -- the first franchise to win a pair of awards within that category, which was introduced in 2002.

The composing team of Elton John and Bernie Taupin also shared an Oscar for their original song for "Rocketman," the musical drama based on John's life.

Suspense over the best picture race remains at the heart of this year's event, based on the consistency among acting honors in the buildup to movie industry's biggest night.

The awards have also reignited the debate about inclusion and diversity within the academy, which birthed the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag five years ago. Despite academy efforts to address the issue, only one person of color -- actress Cynthia Erivo, for the Harriet Tubman biography "Harriet" -- is among the 20 nominees for best and supporting actor and actress.

Ratings for the Oscars will be watched closely, amid a general decline for the major ceremonies leading up to it, including the Golden Globes -- which kicked off this year's truncated awards season in early January -- and the Grammys two weeks ago.

The ceremony again opted to go without a designated host, after employing that approach in 2019. While that served as something of a novelty, it will be interesting to see whether it generates similar curiosity the second time around.

The night opened with a raucous musical number by Janelle Monae, followed by an introduction by two past hosts, Steve Martin and Chris Rock, joking about the lack of female directors and people of color among the nominees.

Matthew A. Cherry, director of the animated short "Hair Love," dedicated its victory to the late Kobe Bryant, while speaking of the need for greater representation.

The production included a joke at the expense of “Cats,” the major box-office flop, and a surprise performance by Eminem. The latter drew an enthusiastic response from the crowd, but generated a “why” response on social media.

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