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The most memorable moments from the Oscars 2020

Written by
Anna Smith

Oscars ceremonies aren’t just a useful reminder of who’s dating who (Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara!), they can also throw us a few surprises. The Academy rocked the boat in various ways this time around, while also delivering the usual mix of witty moments and faintly painful ones. Here’s a catch-up of the most memorable things that happened while you were asleep: 

1. ‘Parasite’ beating ‘1917’ to Best Picture

What a moment! The Oscars aren’t always known for recognising the film that’s really the best of the year, and the South Korean black comedy is also the first non-English-language film to take the big one. Even Bong Joon-ho’s translator started looking excited when he scored Best Director as well as International Feature Film, making a fourth Bong hit look like a distinct possibility, rather than a film critic’s wistful dream. The director eagerly promised to have a drink after his first prize, so goodness knows how many chandeliers he is still swinging from as you read this.


2. Joaquin Phoenix’s acceptance speech

The internet is divided on this one, but if Phoenix was putting it on then he really does deserve Best Actor. His impassioned speech painted him as a reformed ‘scoundrel’ committed to tackling injustice and promoting veganism – his vivid description of the treatment of cows must have had breakfast viewers spluttering on their cornflakes. The ‘Joker’ actor delivered a nice message about using his position to help others, and topped it off with a tear-jerking quote from his late brother River. Follow that, Zellweger. 

3. Some women winning awards

The lack of females in the Director category was well publicised, and referred to by Janelle Monáe on stage, as well as a million angry Greta Gerwig fans on Twitter. But it wasn’t an all-male display in the other behind-the-camera categories, with Hildur Guðnadóttir winning Best Original Score for ‘Joker’ and urging musical girls and women to be heard. Producer Kwak Sin-ae shared the Best Picture award with Bong Joon-ho, women won for Production Design and Costumes, and there was a good showing in the Short Film categories. But, yeah, that isn’t really enough – and don’t get us started on diversity.

4. Funny female presenters

Keenly aware of the need to compensate, the Academy rolled out a good number of amusing presenters, leaning towards a female majority. Sandra Oh deadpanned it beautifully with Ray Romano, ‘Bridesmaids’ stars Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph delivered a ballsy musical medley, and action women Brie Larson, Sigourney Weaver and Gal Gadot declared they would be starting a Fight Club. This joke wobbled a bit, but their love-in seemed real, and hopefully no journalists will ever again ask what it’s like to be a woman in Hollywood.

5. All the love in the room

‘Daddy loves you!’ cried Elton John to his two kids while collecting Best Original Song with Bernie Taupin, which was almost as adorable as seeing the two composers of ‘Frozen II’, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and her husband Robert Lopez, share a kiss moments earlier when the nominations were listed. Lots of winners took the opportunity to praise their fellow nominees: Bong Joon-ho seemed particularly awed to be sharing a category or two with his hero Martin Scorsese, who managed to crack a smile for the occasion.

6. So many memes

Twitter was quick off the bat as ever on the meme front. Billie Eilish was an early frontrunner for best meme inspiration, seeming to pull a face during Wiig and Rudolph’s sing-song. Meanwhile, a surprise performance from Eminem provided acres of gold as the camera panned around the audience who were awkwardly attempting to half-dance in their seats. Scorsese appeared to be asleep at this point.


7. The predictable acting categories

It’s been a while since the winners of every performance category have been so cut-and-dried. The fab four – Zellweger, Phoenix, Dern and Pitt – cleaned up in almost all the major ceremonies in the lead-up to the Oscars, and even these great actors couldn’t muster a look of surprise when their names were called. Dern’s speech still had director Noah Baumbach (‘Marriage Story’) and his partner Greta Gerwig in tears, though.

8. The ‘Little Women’ screenplay snub

Speaking of Gerwig, she was widely expected to bring home Best Adapted Screenplay for ‘Little Women’, an award that went to ‘Jojo Rabbit’. This could add weight to theories that male voters were giving ‘Little Women’ a wide berth, and although the film did score for Best Costume Design, you could see that as a bit of pigeonholing for a female-directed period drama.

9. Tom Hanks’s snide aside

Stop the press: the star of ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood’ may not be quite as sweet and lovely as his character, the real-life TV presenter Fred Rogers. Taking to the stage after a speech from Academy president David Rubin, he said: ‘Thank you David, or as we refer to him around the AMPAS offices, Mr Excitement.’ This isn’t the first time Hanks has taken a dig at the person dryly introducing him on stage – come on Tom, we can’t all be Mr Charisma.

10. Rebel Wilson and James Corden’s dig at ‘Cats’

Fresh from a triumphant reference to the failed musical at the Baftas, Rebel Wilson might have overplayed it as she joined James Corden on stage dressed in a cat costume. ‘Nobody more than us understands the importance of GOOD visual effects’ they mewed, which seems a bit unfair on the VFX artists who worked themselves into the ground for ‘Cats’ – it’s not their fault the concept was so dire. The win for ‘1917’ in this category is still puzzling experts in the field, leading one to question if everyone in the Academy has a full understanding of the term. Still, we could watch Rebel and James bop microphones like playful cats all day. Memories indeed.

Check out our review of Best Picture Oscar winner ‘Parasite’

We spoke to ‘Parasite’ director Bong Joon-ho ahead of the awards ceremony. Read our interview here

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