LOS ANGELES — Subtitle this: “Parasite” is the first non-English language film to win best picture in the 92-year history of the Academy Awards.
Bong Joon Ho’s masterfully devious class satire took Hollywood’s top prize at the Oscars 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 went overseas, to South Korea, to reward a contemporary and unsettling portrait of social inequality in “Parasite.”
True to its name, “Parasite” simply got under the skin of Oscar voters, attaching itself to the American awards season and, ultimately, to history. The win was a watershed moment for the Academy Awards, which has long been content to relegate international films to their own category.
Multiple standing ovations greeted Bong's several wins. “I am ready to drink tonight,” Bong said, prompting roars from the crowd. Unexpectedly called up again for best director, Bong saluted his fellow nominees, particularly Martin Scorsese, and concluded: “Now I'm ready to drink until tomorrow.”
After the Dolby Theatre had emptied out, the “Parasite” team still remained on the stage, soaking in their win.
The win for “Parasite” — which had echoes of the surprise victory of “Moonlight” over “La La Land” three years ago — came in a year when many criticized the lack of diversity in the nominees and the absence of female filmmakers. But the triumph for “Parasite” enabled Hollywood to flip the script and signal a different kind of progress.
In doing so, the film academy turned away another history-making event, again denying Netflix its first best-picture win despite two contenders in “The Irishman” and “Marriage Story,” and a big-spending awards campaign blitz.
Mendes’ audaciously conceived World War I film “1917,” made to seem one continuous shot, had been the clear favorite heading into Oscars, having won nearly all the precursor awards, including top honors from the Producers Guild, the Directors Guild, the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs. In the end, “1917” went home with three awards for its technical virtuosity: Roger Deakins' cinematography, visual effects and sound mixing.
All of the acting winners — Brad Pitt, Renee Zellweger, Joaquin Phoenix and Laura Dern — went as expected. While Pitt, notching his first acting Oscar, had regaled audiences with one-liners in the run-up to Sunday, 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,” Pitt said, alluding to the impeachment hearings. “I'm thinking maybe Quentin does a movie about it.”