This year's Oscars prompts dialogue around diversity

By LUKA MARJANOVIC
On February 12, 2020

Photo courtesy of Toglenn, Wikipedia

For the past several years, the viewership for the Academy Awards has been steadily dropping, and the trend has continued this year. This is also the second year the ceremony was held without an official host, but not without its fair share of controversy.

People of color and women were once again ignored, as they were not represented in nominations. Diversity has always been a problem in Hollywood, but for some reason, this year’s awards ceremony only had one person of color nominated in the acting categories.

No women were nominated in the directing category, even though there were plenty of deserving people, such as Greta Gerwig for her reimagining of “Little Women.” 

She was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, but lost to Taika Waititi for his work on “Jojo Rabbit,” a comedy centered around Hitler’s youth. Waititi is definitely a deserving winner, since he managed to tackle such a difficult topic in a meaningful and tactful way, becoming the first Māori person to win an Oscar in the process.

After not winning an Oscar for his achievements in cinematography for decades, Roger Deakins won his second golden statue for his work on the war epic “1917.”

There were no surprises in the acting department since the frontrunners won all four categories. Laura Dern won for her powerful supporting performance in “Marriage Story,” while Brad Pitt, after winning one for producing “12 Years a Slave,” took home his first acting Oscar for his supporting performance in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood.”

Renée Zellweger won for her work in “Judy,” and to the surprise of no one, Joaquin Phoenix finally won a long overdue Academy Award for his performance in “Joker.” He delivered a long-winded speech about the state of today’s world and society, and his passion and anxiety were visible. He mentioned his deceased brother, River, at the end of the speech, quoting one of his lyrics, giving what he had to say one final emotional punch.

The presenters and the guest comedians were nothing worth mentioning, except for the unexpected team-up of Steve Martin and Chris Rock. They made fun of the lack of diversity at the award shows, but the jokes were treading on safe ground. If their performance was not so short, it would have gotten stale very quickly.

The real highlight of the night was that the South Korean movie “Parasite” won four Oscars: Best Original Screenplay, Achievement in Directing, Best International Feature Film and Best Picture, the latter of which completely surprised everyone. Director, writer and producer Bong Joon-Ho had to deliver three different speeches, and he was visibly more surprised with every new award he was presented with.

“Parasite” has also made history for being the first foreign-language film to win for Best Picture. It could be argued that the Academy voters did this so they would be forgiven for the lack of diversity in the nominees, but that is a pessimistic viewpoint. 

Even with all of its faults, the Academy Awards just propelled Bong Joon-Ho, an international director who, as seen in his speeches, is extremely charming, into the mainstream. Hopefully this will guarantee that he will be able to make films the way he wants to for the rest of his life.

 

lmarjano@ramapo.edu

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