On a night that seemed destined to be a two-horse race, the 92nd Academy Awards brought much more than that: a lot of compelling moments, A LOT of music, and a lot of Bong Joon-ho. Below, Andrew Gruttadaro and Alison Herman break down the Oscars’ best, worst, most, and least. (For a full list of the actual winners, click here.)
Winner: Bong Joon-ho and Parasite
It started with a Palme d’Or win last spring, followed by a clever run of T-shirts and a thriving hashtag. (#BongHive assemble!) It continued with a surprising slew of Oscar nominations, not just for Best International Film—shamefully, South Korea’s first—but everything from Best Editing to Best Picture. And it culminated with a phenomenal night at the Oscars themselves, yielding the Holy Trinity of reaction GIFs. First:
And last, but not least:
Bong Joon-ho’s awards season run has been absolutely unparalleled, even before he picked up trophies for Best Original Screenplay, Best International Film, and Best Director. He was everyone’s photo-snapping dad. He was witheringly shady to the “very local” Academy and insular American moviegoers. Most importantly, he made a damn good movie, which is now the first non-English language film in history to be awarded Best Picture. Parasite’s win is surprising, precedent-setting, and, above all, earned.
Enjoy those drinks, Bong. You and your cast deserve them. —Alison Herman
Heading into Sunday, 1917 was neck and neck with Parasite in the Best Picture race, with perhaps a leg up—our own Oscar experts Sean Fennessey and Amanda Dobbins predicted it would win. But it was not 1917’s night—the film took home awards for Cinematography (shout-out the god Roger Deakins), Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects, but went home empty-handed in more prominent categories, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and, of course, Best Picture.
1917 had no business competing with Parasite—these films are not on the same level, and in the end the Academy did the right thing. But with all of the prognosticators in its corner, it’s hard not to see the end results as supremely disappointing (for the film, I mean; personally, I’m thrilled). —Andrew Gruttadaro
Winner: Brad Pitt (and His Speech Writer)
Every year, there’s one guy or gal who wins every award at every awards show and gets to use all those reps to become freaking excellent at giving speeches. (You can call this The McConaughey Effect.) This year, that guy was Brad Pitt, who on Sunday night finally took home the award for Best Supporting Actor for portraying stuntman Cliff Booth in Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood. The speech was an all timer, starting off with some stray shots at President Donald Trump’s mangled impeachment trial and moving on to (what Brad probably incorrectly sees as) Booth’s ethos of “expect the worst but look for the best in people.” Then came the really good stuff: Brad telling Leonardo DiCaprio that he’d “ride your coattails any day” (I cried); Brad using the word “gobsmacked;” Brad talking about seeing classic movies as a little tyke; Brad thanking his kids; and Brad sticking his tongue out:
Brad had all awards season to prepare for this moment. Practice really does make perfect. —Gruttadaro
Last year, the Oscars went hostless out of necessity. This time, they went hostless by choice—a choice that led to a disjointed Frankenstein of a show that divvied up the role of MC among a slew of contributors instead of reshaping it altogether. Janelle Monáe led a strained opening number (why make the main visual motif Midsommar, a film that wasn’t even nominated?). The song and dance led into a monologue from Steve Martin and Chris Rock, two former hosts brought back to poke fun at their non-replacement. Celebrities like Beanie Feldstein, Anthony Ramos, and Kelly Marie Tran were called upon to present … other presenters.
The no-host shtick worked out last year, and one could argue the host role is an outdated one that asks too much of a single performer. If that’s the case, though, it’s time to start re-envisioning the Oscars’ format, not squeezing a bunch of smaller players into it like a gold-plated Vincent Adultman. —Herman
Loser: Wolfgang Puck
Quick help us come up for a punny name for the sandwiches I’m smuggling into the Oscars in my purse pic.twitter.com/tPcXHZWw7b— Karina Longworth (@KarinaLongworth) February 9, 2020
Wolfgang Puck decided to go with a mostly plant-based menu for the Oscars this year. He should’ve just served sandwiches instead. —Gruttadaro
Aside from the plant-based menu, this also happened:
there’s no way any of us could’ve guessed that an inseminated cow was gonna get name-dropped at the oscars but if someone would’ve told us that an inseminated cow was gonna her name-dropped at the oscars we all would’ve been like “oh so joaquin’s gonna give a speech then”— Shea Serrano (@SheaSerrano) February 10, 2020
Sooo, yeah … big night for cows. —Gruttadaro
Winner: Billie Eilish
The “Yesterday” performance was fine. This “who the hell are these people?” reaction to Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig is eternal. May we all have judgmental teens on hand to keep us humble! —Herman
It started just like any old “Ain’t Movies Great?” Oscars montage: Lin-Manuel Miranda intro’d a clip show about the songs that have shaped the movies we love, giving way to iconic scenes from Risky Business, Purple Rain, Almost Famous, and Ghost. But then came a scene from 8 Mile—and immediately it was clear that something was up. Instead of the most famous part of “Lose Yourself,” an instrumental intro played. More scenes from 8 Mile followed, and then cameras cut back to the stage, and then I yelled at my television, “OH MY GOD IS EMINEM GOING TO PERFORM?!” And well, my friends, Eminem was going to perform.
Did I imagine that? Why? What year is it? What is up with Eminem’s beard? Who was the guy that was like, “Well obviously Eminem has to do ‘Lose Yourself’ a full 18 years after the song came out”? Why do I feel like I’ve died and gone to some bizarre astral plane? —Gruttadaro
At the same time, having Eminem randomly perform at the same Oscars that nominated Joker for 11 awards was perhaps the best thing that has ever happened. And it certainly taught us that every celebrity loves Eminem:
Twenty years from now, I’m not going to remember that Laura Dern won Best Supporting Actress for Marriage Story—but I am going to remember this completely inexplicable performance. —Gruttadaro
Netflix’s Oscars strategy for 2020 was essentially the inverse of what it was in 2019. Rather than throw its weight behind a lone powerhouse like Roma, the streaming service spread its nominations across a more diverse slate of projects: The Two Popes, The Irishman, Marriage Story, Klaus, American Factory. The wider spread demonstrates that Netflix’s ability to navigate the awards circuit transcends a single movie from a known auteur. But the company still has work to do on its follow-through: Its only two trophies were American Factory’s win for Best Documentary Feature and Laura Dern’s for Best Supporting Actress in Marriage Story. The Irishman, heading into the night with 10 nominations, was shut out entirely. Netflix may have won the cinema vs. streaming wars—which barely registered this cycle after dominating the discourse last year—but the Best Picture statue Ted Sarandos so clearly wants still eludes him. At least time, and millions on millions of campaign funds, is on his side. —Herman
Loser: The People From Cats Making Fun of Cats
If you star in a movie you are NOT allowed to make fun of it—even if that movie ends up being the most hilariously derided film of 2019. James Corden and Rebel Wilson, you got the paycheck; you don’t also get to have the fun of joining us in destroying Cats. —Gruttadaro
Winner: The Obamas
I’m not sure I ever expected to have to Google this:
Before Sunday night, the answer to this question was “zero,” but now it’s “one,” because American Factory—a documentary about a shuttered GM plant in Moraine, Ohio—was produced by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company Higher Ground and won Best Documentary Feature. This means a lot of things—for Netflix, for the Obamas’ foray into filmmaking, for Trump’s self-esteem—but most importantly it means this: Barack Obama is now 75 percent of the way to an EGOT. —Gruttadaro
Loser: Getting to Bed at a Decent Hour
One theme of this Oscars is that self-awareness gets you only so far—which is to say, not very. Janelle Monáe calling out the nonrecognition of female directors doesn’t change their absence; George MacKay cracking, “Time is of the essence, which is why I’m here to introduce myself, to introduce someone else, to in turn introduce someone else” doesn’t turn back the clock to before 11 p.m. ET, which is when the show was supposed to end. Thirty-two minutes isn’t too far over, nor are fleshed-out acting montages and minimal play-offs the worst use of extra time. The absolute lack of playing-off speeches and that tribute to, uh … soundtracks, though? Tomorrow’s extra espresso shot is on the producers. —Herman
An earlier version of this piece misstated how close Barack Obama is to an EGOT.