The Reel Dad shares his favorite Oscar 2020 moments
At age 92 - when institutions can start to show the weight of time - the Academy Awards let us know just how bold they can be.
As we saw Sunday evening, Oscar still has what it takes to reassure us that, when everything else in the world may be up for grabs, good movies can always prompt us to see the world in new ways.
Here are some lessons from Oscar night 2020.
Oscar can still get it right.
The Academy could have followed a predictable path to Best Picture by selecting Sam Mendes’ beautifully crafted “1917.” But the voters chose, instead, to reach beyond conventional borders to honor a film that transcends language to authentically comment on the human condition. By naming “Parasite” the Best Picture of 2019 - the first foreign-language film to win the top award - the Academy celebrates the international community that movies create. And Oscar reminds us how good it can feel when the best movie wins the top award.
Oscar winners can still touch the heart.
The Academy loves to see winners reveal what we may not have seen before. This year, each of the four acting winners brought unique views to their acceptance remarks. For Brad Pitt, winning an Oscar gave him the chance to thank people who first helped him in his career; for Laura Dern, standing center stage offered a special opportunity to pay tribute to her parents, Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd. Best Actress Renée Zellweger saluted the heroes that bring people together while Best Actor Joaquin Phoenix reminded us that we are all accountable for what happens in worlds outside movie theaters.
Oscar can still create heroes.
The Academy cherishes the chance to make people famous. And the star of this evening - the first to win four Oscars the same year since Walt Disney in 1953 - was “Parasite” creator Bong Joon Ho. As brilliant as his work on screen may be, what we will remember from this year’s Oscars is how endearing a winner he was, category after category. As if apologizing for all the attention he received, Joon Ho made his achievement all the more human by sharing - when he stunned the audience to be named Best Director - “after winning best international feature, I thought I was done for the day and was ready to relax.” And he still had Best Picture to win.
Oscar can still sing and dance.
The Academy could have continued its tendency, in recent years, to downplay the musical performances on the telecast. But lavish production numbers have been an Oscar staple since the awards were first televised in 1953. This year music made a difference to the show from the delightful opening number - featuring Billy Porter and Janelle Monáe - to the extravagant treatments of each of the five Best Song nominees - to the magical medley of Best Music Score nominees conducted by Eimear Noone, the first woman to lead the Academy orchestra.
Oscar can still have fun.
The Academy did repeat last year’s choice to bypass a traditional host. But that didn’t mean the theater was safe from barbs. Former hosts Steve Martin and Chris Rock hit the right notes with their opening observations; Maya Rudolph and Kristin Wiig had a field day while “pretending” to audition for the directors in the room (including those looking for musical stars). Even the banter between presenters - which can be painful some years - felt a bit less formal, and a lot more fun.
Yes, another year at the movies comes to an official end with the close of Oscar night. And now we wait many months before we begin, again, to wonder which films may receive this special recognition. Thank you, Oscar, for again reminding us how good movies can be, and how much we love to see good movies. See you next year.