‘I’m so proud to stand here as a black, queer artist telling stories…’
(Liberty Headlines) In a milestone win that instantly expanded the Oscars‘ horizons, Bong Joon Ho’s class satire “Parasite” became the first non-English language film to win best picture in the 92-year history of the Academy Awards.
But the ceremony, as in years past, was dominated by political statements that pushed progressive causes.
As the very first person to take the stage, Janelle Monae set the tone when she plainly addressed the diversity issue in her opening number.
“It’s time to come alive, because the Oscars is so white, it’s time to come alive!” she sang. Her performance directly referenced movies and actors who’d been snubbed in the nominations, and also the missing female directors.
“I’m so proud to stand here as a black, queer artist telling stories,” Monae said. “Happy Black History Month.”
Diversity — both racial and gender — was also a major topic of the “non-monologue” given by “non-hosts” Chris Rock and Steve Martin. (Like last year, the show famously went hostless.)
Rock quipped pointedly that actor Mahershala Ali had two Oscars, but “you know what that means when the cops pull him over? Nothing.”
Martin noted that among the directing nominees, something seemed to be missing. “Vaginas?” replied Rock.
Also, Martin worked in an effective one-liner about recent fumbles on the Democratic side, referring back to that time “La La Land” was mistakenly announced best picture — and then noting that wouldn’t happen this year, “because the academy has switched to the new Iowa caucus app.”
Brad Pitt, finally winning his first acting Oscar for his performance in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” grew emotional as he looked back at his fairytale rise to Hollywood stardom, beginning with his performance in “Thelma & Louise” nearly three decades ago. “Once upon a time in Hollywood. Ain’t that the truth!” he said, misty-eyed.
But he also got a little political.
“They told me you only have 45 seconds up here, which is 45 seconds more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week,” he said in one of the few references to the recent impeachment hearings.
An emotional highlight of the night was Taika Waititi’s win for best adapted screenplay for “Jojo Rabbit.” Waititi, from New Zealand, dedicated his victory “to all the indigenous kids of the world who want to do art and dance and write stories. We are the original storytellers, and we can make it here as well.”
Later, as a presenter, Waititi took the stage and noted the Academy was gathering “on the ancestral lands of the Tongva, Tataviam and the Chumash.”
When Joaquin Phoenix won Best Actor as expected, the “Joker” star spoke about “the opportunity to use our voice for the voiceless.” He added that he saw a commonality in the different causes people in the Hollywood community fight for.
“Whether we’re talking about gender inequality or racism or queer rights or indigenous rights or animal rights, we’re talking about the fight against the belief that one nation, one race, one gender or one species has the right to dominate, control and use and exploit another with impunity,” he said.
For the 87th time, no women were nominated for best director, a subject that was woven into the entire ceremony — and even into some attendees’ clothing. Natalie Portman wore a cape lined with the names of female filmmakers who weren’t nominated for their direction — disregarding the question of whether they deserved the honors — including Lulu Wang (“The Farewell”), Greta Gerwig (“Little Women”) and Mati Diop (“Atlantics”).
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.