Heading into the 2020 Oscars, the major categories seemed to be locked, with little room for any surprising or subversive wins. But this year’s ceremony proved prognosticators wrong; as the night progressed, viewers saw the expected winners triumph in the acting categories, while the night’s top awards saw stunning, historic upsets.
Janelle Monaé opened the show without missing a beat, crooning the song “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” in a cartoonish, Mister Rogers-themed set. The show was off to an enchanting start until the stage became abruptly flooded with a smorgasbord of dancing characters from both nominated and awkwardly snubbed films. The opening performance was campy at best, even though Billy Porter tried to save the day, singing “I’m Still Standing.”
The tackiness continued with presenters Steve Martin and Chris Rock, who laid into audience member and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos with the roast, “He thought ‘Marriage Story’ was a comedy.”
Unlike past years, the Oscars presented each category with a montage of scenes, rather than individual clips for each actor. The award for best supporting actor unsurprisingly went to Brad Pitt for his role in “Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood,” the actor’s first Oscar in an acting category. Pitt waxed poetic about his journey to stardom in his speech, saying, “Once upon a time in Hollywood — ain’t that the truth.”
Mindy Kaling presented the award for best animated feature film, which went to “Toy Story 4.” The creators accepted the award onstage, saying they hope growing up with Woody made life a little better. Immediately after, “Hair Love” won for best animated short and Idina Menzel performed a chilling rendition of “Into the Unknown” from “Frozen 2.” Menzel was joined by an ensemble of vocalists, each bringing a different national language to the endearing mix.
In a historic moment, best original screenplay went to Bong Joon Ho for “Parasite,” the first foreign language film to win this category in 17 years. Taika Waititi then won best adapted screenplay for “Jojo Rabbit,” against notable competitor Greta Gerwig for her “Little Women” script.
Presenters Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig brought comedic drama to the stage while presenting best production design. “Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood” took this achievement, while best costume design went to “Little Women.”
After a stunning montage celebrating the importance of documentary filmmaking, “American Factory” took home the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, also signifying the first win for Netflix that night.
In the next predictable but deserved acting win, Laura Dern won best supporting actress for playing divorce lawyer Nora Fanshaw in “Marriage Story.”
In one of the most confusing moments of the night, Eminem took the stage to perform his Oscar-winning hit “Lose Yourself” from the film “8 Mile.” The number followed a montage of moments celebrating the power of music in film. While the audience reactions to the surprise were enjoyable, the lack of explanation for the performance added to the strangeness of the moment.
Sound editing and mixing were split, with “Ford v Ferrari” taking the award for achievement in sound editing and “1917” winning its first award of the night for sound mixing.
Roger Deakins, the expected winner for best cinematography, took home the prize for “1917.” The film’s precision and one-shot appearance were highly publicized, and Deakins deservedly garnered his second career cinematography win for the film.
“Ford v Ferrari” also took home the award for film editing, a slight surprise as fellow nominees “Parasite” and “Jojo Rabbit” were perceived as strong contenders for this award.
James Corden and Rebel Wilson appeared in full “Cats” regalia to present the Oscar for visual effects to “1917.” “Bombshell” took home the award for makeup and hairstyling.
After a stirring tribute to international cinema, Penélope Cruz presented the Oscar for international feature film to the expected and deserving victor: “Parasite,” the first South Korean nominee and winner in this category. In his speech, Bong congratulated his cast, who stood up to receive a round of applause from the audience, and remarked that he was “ready to drink tonight.”
Sir Elton John performed his nominated original song, “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again.” Brie Larson, Gal Gadot and Sigourney Weaver then introduced a musical montage of this year’s best original score nominees. The award for best original score went to Hildur Guðnadóttir for her work on “Joker,” becoming only the fourth female nominee to win this category.
The Oscar for best original song was awarded to John and Bernie Taupin, gaining the sole win of the night for “Rocketman.” The award for best director then went to Bong Joon Ho for “Parasite,” a massive upset win over favored fellow nominee Sam Mendes.
Last year’s best actress winner Olivia Colman presented expected winner Joaquin Phoenix with the Oscar for leading actor. In his speech, Phoenix spoke about gender inequality, racism and animal rights, ending on a touching tribute to his brother, River Phoenix.
Renée Zellweger took home the award for best actress, another expected victory for her performance in “Judy.” Zellweger paid tribute to the late Judy Garland in her speech.
“Parasite” won best picture, in a shocking, history-making upset. The film is the first non-English language movie to win the Oscars’ top honor. If this year’s Academy Awards prove anything, it’s that film fans should never count out a surprise. Let’s hope Bong is enjoying his well-deserved drink.