LOS ANGELES.- Brad Pitt won his first acting Oscar, Laura Dern collected best supporting actress and Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” made history at a 92nd Academy Awards that has largely stuck to the script.
Few categories were more certain coming into Sunday’s Oscars than best supporting actor, which Pitt has had locked down all awards season. While Pitt (who in 2014 shared in the best picture win for “12 Years a Slave,” as was a producer) has regaled audiences with one-liners in the run-up to the Oscars, he began his comments on a political note.
“They told me I have 45 seconds to speak, which is 45 seconds more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week,” said Pitt, alluding to the impeachment hearings. “I’m thinking maybe Quentin does a movie about it.”
Pitt said the honor had given him reason to reflect on his fairy-tale journey in the film industry, going back to when he moved to Los Angeles from Missouri. “Once upon a time in Hollywood,” said Pitt. “Ain’t that the truth.”
The South Korean class satire “Parasite,” which many believe has a chance to upset the front-runner “1917” for best picture, took best original screenplay and best foreign film. Bong and co-writer Han Jin Won became the first Asian writers to take the screenplay prize, and “Parasite” became the first Korean film to win an Oscar. Should “Parasite” win the night’s final award, it would be the first non-English language film to win best picture.
“Regardless of the outcome, I think the door has been opened,” Bong said on the red carpet. “I think as long as we continue this effort, the door will just open wider and wider.”
Most of the early awards went according to forecasts, including Dern winning for her performance as a divorce attorney in Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story.” Accepting her first Oscar, Dern thanked her in-attendance parents, “my legends Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern.”
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 best director, including Lulu Wang (“The Farewell”), Greta Gerwig (“Little Women”) and Mati Diop (“Atlantics”).
The hostless ceremony opened on a note of inclusion, with Janelle Monae performing “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” and her own song, “Come Alive,” with an assist from Billy Porter. “I’m so proud to be standing here as a black queer artist telling stories,” Monae said. “Happy Black History Month.”
Two former Oscar hosts, Chris Rock and Steve Martin, provided the opening monologue. “An incredible demotion,” Martin called it. Martin also reminded that something was missing from this year’s directing nominees. “Vaginas!” Rock replied.
There were milestones, though. In winning best adapted screenplay for his Nazi satire “Jojo Rabbit,” the 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.
Awards were spread around to most of the top nominated films. “1917,” acclaimed for its technical virtuosity, took awards for Roger Deakins’ cinematography, visual effects and sound mixing. The car racing throwback “Ford v Ferrari” was also honored for its craft, winning both editing and sound editing. Gerwig’s Louisa May Alcott adaptation “Little Women” won for Jacqueline Durran’s costume design. “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” for Barbara Ling’s production design
Netflix came in with a leading 24 nominations. Along with the win for “Marriage Story,” the streamer’s “American Factory” won best documentary. The film is the first release from Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions. No studio has spent more heavily this awards season than Netflix, which is seeking its first best picture win after coming up just shy last year with “Roma.”
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 installment.
It was an early award for the Walt Disney Co. which despite last year amassing a record $13 billion in worldwide box office and owning the network the Oscars are broadcast on, played a minor role in the ceremony. The bulk of its awards came from 20th Century Fox (“Ford v Ferrari”) and Fox Searchlight (“Jojo Rabbit”), both of which the company took control of after its $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox last year.
Disney’s ABC, which is broadcasting the show live, hoped a widely watched field of nominees — including the $1 billion-grossing “Joker,” up for a leading 11 awards — will help viewership. Last year’s show garnered 29.6 million viewers, a 12% uptick.
Instead, this year’s Oscar favorites are largely movies released widely in theaters. They also predominantly feature male characters and come from male directors.
After a year in which women made significant gains behind the camera, no female directors were nominated for best director. The acting categories are also the least diverse since the fallout of #OscarsSoWhite pushed the academy to remake its membership. Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet”) is the only actor of color nominated. Those results, which have been a topic in speeches through awards season, stand in contrast to research that suggests the most popular movies star more people of color than ever before.