Despite the fact that the 92nd Academy Awards were again a reason for #OscarsSoWhite to trend on social media, South Korean director 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 awards.
The film took Hollywood’s top prize on Sunday night, along with awards for best director, best international film and best screenplay. In a year dominated by period epics – 1917, Once Upon a Time ... In Hollywood, The Irishman – the film academy instead rewarded a contemporary and unsettling portrait of social inequality.
Bong also made history with his four wins, matching the record for number won in one night set by Walt Disney in 1954.
The victory for Parasite – which had echoes of the surprise win by Moonlight over La La Land three years ago – came in a year when many criticised the lack of diversity in the nominees and the absence of female filmmakers.
The film’s success also prevented another history-making event, again denying Netflix its first best-picture win despite two contenders in The Irishman and Marriage Story.
Mendes’ first world war film 1917 had been the clear favourite heading into Oscars, having won nearly all the precursor awards, including top honours from the Producers Guild, the Directors Guild, the Golden Globes and the Baftas. In the end, it took home three awards for its technical virtuosity: Roger Deakins’ cinematography, visual effects and sound mixing.
All of the acting winners – Renée Zellweger, Joaquin Phoenix, Laura Dern and Brad Pitt – went as expected. They were first time wins for Pitt, Dern and Phoenix, while Zellweger was a second-time winner, having won a Best Supporting Actress trophy in 2004 for Cold Mountain.
For the 87th time, no women were nominated for best director this year, 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, including Lulu Wang (The Farewell), Greta Gerwig (Little Women) and Marielle Heller (A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood).
The opening monologue, by former Oscar hosts Chris Rock and Steve Martin, also referred to the lack of female moviemakers by referring to the shortage of ... female body parts.
There were milestones beyond Parasite. In winning best adapted screenplay for his Nazi satire Jojo Rabbit, New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi became 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,” Waititi said.
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 Guðnadóttir. “We need to hear your voices.”
Pixar extended its domination of the best animated film category, winning for Toy Story 4. It’s the 10th Pixar film to win the award and second Toy Story film to do so, following the previous 2010 instalment.