This is the first ceremony in several years that actually seems to have worked out okay. There are issues, no Jennifer Lopez for “Hustlers” in Supporting Actress, Best Picture nominations for several movies that are likely not deserving, but the Academy made several good choices.
It is a meme that the Oscars never actually choose the “best picture,” although it has happened. Films like “Casablanca” and “The Godfather” are unimpeachable, and “The Hurt Locker” was an iconic moment where underappreciated Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win best director and helm a best picture winner for what is her second or third greatest movie (behind “Point Break,” obviously). For every transcendent moment like that, there are instances where movies like “Green Book” win over movies like “Roma,” or victories for shallow efforts like “Crash” or “Out of Africa” and “The English Patient” – both too long and too boring. That did not happen this year.
“Parasite” is a great movie – it is also the first foreign language film to ever win best picture. This offers up the potential for so many great things to happen in the industry. While the movie that wins Best Picture does not always influence the industry afterward, the first foreign language film to win best picture could lead to foreign language films getting more of a marketing push behind them, which is great news. Films like the upcoming “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” would get largely ignored were it not for the victory of “Parasite.”
It is surprising that “1917” did not claim the trophy – as it is a much more conventional ‘best picture’ winner. It is passively enjoyable and English and doesn’t really deserve it, but it’s hard to get mad because the movie’s not that bad either. Roger Deakins won his second Oscar for cinematography, and that was absolutely well-deserved. Deakins, the cinematographer of films like “The Shawshank Redemption” and “No Country for Old Men,” was a bridesmaid for a long time but has now secured two back-to-back wins.
There is also a lot of talk about Joaquin Phoenix’s speech after he won best actor. While many have praised him for standing up for the causes he mentioned in his speech – LGBT rights, animal rights, racism, et. al. – many more have mocked him for coming off like a rambling lunatic. This comes off loud and clear to anyone who has watched the speech, although the fact that his speech was so bizarre is no real surprise. He had a series of weird press appearances when he was promoting the movie, and he’s held the persona of this “artsy weirdo” for 10 years now, ever since the infamous mockumentary “I’m Still Here.” It is surprising that the academy did not snub him due to this behavior and his expletive-ridden speech at the Golden Globes. If they were planning to snub him, then perhaps the award would have gone to Jonathan Pryce for “The Two Popes.”
It is unlikely that the next year’s Oscars will be quite this satisfying, so relish the moment.