South Korean film 'Parasite' makes historic Oscars sweep

"Parasite" won the Oscar for best picture. It also took the prize for best director, best original screenplay, and best international feature film.

Chris Pizzello/AP
Bong Joon Ho (right) accepts the award for best international feature film for "Parasite," from South Korea, at the Oscars on Feb. 9, 2020, in Los Angeles.

"Parasite," a dark social satire from South Korea, won the Oscar for best picture on Sunday, making history as the first film in a language other than English to claim the movie industry's highest honor.

"Parasite," about the gap between rich and poor in modern Seoul, won a total of four Oscars, including best director and original screenplay for Bong Joon Ho and best international feature film. No film had ever won both international feature film and best picture at the Oscars.

It was a remarkable outcome for a film that played with subtitles in the United States, beating movies by major studios and Hollywood veterans such as Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino. The win also came at the end of an awards season that had been criticized for lack of diversity.

Instead, the Oscars stage was crowded with South Korean actors and filmmakers, who mostly spoke to the audience through an interpreter.

"I am speechless," said Kwak Sin Ae, one of "Parasite"'s co-producers. "We never imagined this would ever happen. We are so happy. I feel like a very opportune moment in history is happening right now."

When Bong got his first Oscar of the night – for best original screenplay – he gazed at the golden statuette in amazement.

He later paid tribute to his four fellow director nominees, saying, "I would like to get a Texas chainsaw and split the Oscar into five and share it with all of you."

The ceremony, held without an official host, was peppered with jokes and sarcastic commentary about the exclusion of women from the directing category and the list of 20 acting nominees that included just one person of color.

Four years after the #OscarsSoWhite furor was supposed to have spurred Hollywood to become more inclusive, just one of the 20 contenders for best lead or supporting acting honors this year was a performer of color – Cynthia Erivo. She starred as anti-slavery freedom fighter Harriet Tubman in "Harriet." She didn't win.

"Cynthia did such a great job in 'Harriet' hiding black people that the academy got her to hide all the black nominees," comedian Chris Rock joked in an opening monolog he shared with fellow funnyman Steve Martin.

"Think how much the Oscars have changed in the past 92 years," Mr. Martin exclaimed. "Back in 1929, there were no black acting nominees."

"And now in 2020, we got one!" Mr. Rock added in a not-so subtle punchline jab.

Actor-singer Janelle Monae pointed to the diversity problem in the show's opening musical dance number, singing: "It's time to come alive ... because the Oscars is so white!"

But for all the running commentary on a lack of diversity at this year's Oscar proceedings, the show ended with the all-Korean cast of "Parasite" assembled on the Dolby Theatre stage accepting the best picture award. 

Phoenix Gives Thanks For Second Chance 

The acting Oscars went as expected. Joaquin Phoenix won best actor for playing a failing clown who finds fame through violence in the dark comic-book tale "Joker," and Renee Zellweger was named best actress for her performance as an aging Judy Garland in the musical biopic "Judy."

Mr. Phoenix, a strict vegan, gave a long, impassioned acceptance speech about climate change and animal rights but concluded on a personal note.

"I've been a scoundrel in my life. I've been selfish, cruel at times, and hard to work with, and I'm grateful that so many people in this room have given me a second chance," he said.

World War I movie "1917," from Universal Pictures , had been seen as the film to beat but won just three of its 10 nominations. They came for its stunning "one-shot" feel cinematography, for visual effects, and for sound mixing.

Mr. Tarantino's sentimental ode to Tinseltown, "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," brought the first acting Oscar for Brad Pitt, who played a supporting role as a laid-back stunt man.

Laura Dern took the supporting actress Oscar, her first Academy Award, for playing a ruthless divorce lawyer in "Marriage Story."

But Netflix movie "The Irishman" – a costly Mafia saga directed by Mr. Scorsese that had 10 Oscar nominations and starred Hollywood veterans Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci – came away empty-handed.

Music played a large part in the ceremony, with a surprise performance by rapper Eminem of his 2003 Oscar-winning song "Lose Yourself" from the movie "8 Mile."

Elton John won best original song for "(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again" from his biopic "Rocketman," which he performed at Sunday night's ceremony. And American teen Billie Eilish, who won five Grammys last month, sang the Beatles hit ballad "Yesterday" for the in memoriam segment.

"American Factory," about the decline of manufacturing jobs in the industrial Midwest from former U.S. President Barack and first lady Michelle Obama's new production company, won the Oscar for best documentary.

The best adapted screenplay award went to New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi for his Nazi satire “Jojo Rabbit.” Mr. Waititi is the first indigenous director ever to win an Oscar. He dedicated the award to “all the indigenous kids in the world who want to do art, dance, and write stories.”

“We are the original storytellers,” Mr. Waititi said, reported the Associated Press. 

“Joker” composer Hildur Guðnadóttir became only the third woman to ever win best original score. ”To the girls, to the women, to the mothers, to the daughters who hear the music opening within, please speak up," said Ms. Guðnadóttir. "We need to hear your voices."

This story was reported by Reuters. Additional reporting by Steve Gorman, Bill Tarrant, Maria Caspani, Lisa Richwine, and Nichola Groom; Editing by Sandra Maler, Jonathan Oatis, and Sandra Maler.

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