From 'Parasite' history to Eminem's surprise, 'Irishman' losses to 'Cats' comeback: The highs, lows and head-scratchers of the 2020 Oscars

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There were no hosts for the second year in a row, but there were two major upsets at the 92nd Academy Awards. Bong Joon Ho and the South Korean sensation Parasite not only took home Best Director, but the film made history by becoming the first foreign-language movie ever to win Best Picture, topping entries like 1917 and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in a Moonlight-esque upset. (An upset, we should proudly note, that was predicted by Yahoo Entertainment.)

Parasite’s triumph was the feel-good story of the 2020 Oscars on a night when, like most telecasts, there were plenty of highs and lows. Steve Martin and Chris Rock provided some laughs as the closest things we did get to co-hosts, Cats stars James Corden and Rebel Wilson made for good sports in roasting their box-office turkey, and Eminem showed up to perform his 8 Mile Oscar winner “Lose Yourself” 17 years later. And then there were the not-so-great moments. Read on for our recap of the show’s best and worst.

HIGH: Parasite makes history for South Korea and the Oscars

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When Bong accepted the Best Original Screenplay statue early in the night, he became the first South Korean filmmaker to take an Oscar back to his native land. That would have been historic enough, but then Parasite kept adding to the history books, winning Best International Film (the first winner in that category, which was formerly called Best Foreign-Language Film), Best Director and, best of all, Best Picture. For the first time in the 92 years of Academy Awards, the top prize went to a film that’s not in the English language, a seismic change that we'll look back on in another nine decades and get teary-eyed all over again. Speaking of tearing up, Bong turned on the waterworks in noted tough guy, Martin Scorsese, by paying homage to the legendary filmmaker during his Best Director acceptance speech — which inspired a standing ovation from the crowd. “I will drink until the next morning,” the filmmaker said as he left the stage. After tonight, he never has to buy a drink in Hollywood or Seoul again. 

LOW: The all-too predictable acting categories

You would’ve thought with the shortened awards season there’d be more suspense in all of the top categories. You’d be wrong. The four acting races were more predictable than the color of that carpet leading into the Dolby Theatre. Renée Zellweger (Judy), Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), Laura Dern (Marriage Story) and Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) won big at the Golden Globes, SAG Awards AND BAFTA Awards, and the Academy wasn’t going to dare deviate from the consensus. There was no Olivia Colman-over-Glenn Close upset in store this year, and in retrospect, there never was a chance.

HEAD-SCRATCHER: Janelle Monáe danced like everyone was watching

Well… at least there weren’t any dancing Hitlers! The always cutting-edge Janelle Monáe kicked the show off with a musical number that was joyously surreal as anything in Cats. After getting into Mr. Rogers garb to sing “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” the superstar changed into a Midsommar ensemble to head up a dance crew clad as little women, jokers and even World War I soldiers. Remember those old Billy Crystal Best Picture medleys from the ’80s and ’90s? This was like that only infinitely weirder… and cooler.

HIGH: Steve Martin and Chris Rock delivered a vagina monologue for the ages

Steve Martin and Chris Rock may have joked about being demoted to non-hosts this year, but the duo still brought their A-game to the opening monologue. Or should that be V-game? Martin and Rock brought the house down by acknowledging what was missing from the Best Director lineup: “Vaginas.” The duo also got in great digs in at the Iowa caucus meltdown, the lack of diversity among the acting nominees and the size of Jeff Bezos’s bank account. For non-hosts, they generated plenty of actual laughs.

LOW: Ford v Ferrari sound editor gets dragged for thanking wife for leaving career

It's not usually the Best Sound Editing speech that draws the most passionate reaction on social media, but some Twitter users were up in arms about about Ford v Ferrari sound editor Donald Sylvester's seemingly well-intentioned gratitude toward his wife. “I want to thank my wonderful wife of 34 years who gave up her editing career for me to pursue my career, but she raised my kids and did a wonderful job,” Sylvester said. “That story is nowhere near as cute as you think it is,” wrote one Twitterer. And sure, the optics of that anecdote don’t sound great in 2020, but we don’t know the circumstances behind that family’s decisions. Of course, that’s never stopped social media from passing judgment.

HEAD-SCRATCHER: A montage that wasn’t music to our ears

Music makes a movie better? That’s not exactly a controversial opinion, but Oscar producers still felt the need to devote a whole montage to it anyway. As nice as it was to revisit such classic moments as Tom Cruise riskily dancing in his tighty-whities to “Old Time Rock & Roll” or Wayne and Garth head-banging along to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the whole reel felt like a time-filler. And that’s exactly what it was, because guess who was waiting in the wings all along? 

HIGH: Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” performance was worth the 17-year wait

Eminem’s 8 Mile anthem “Lose Yourself” won the Best Original Song statue at the 75th Academy Awards in 2003, but Marshall Mathers wasn’t in the room where it happened at the time. Seventeen years later, he stormed the stage and pumped up the audience — well, everyone except Scorsese anyway — with an epic throwback performance. Just further confirmation that “Lose Yourself” deserved its win over (checks notes) “Father and Daughter” from The Wild Thornberrys Movie

HIGH: Cats stars skewer their own bomb for our enjoyment

The Best Sense of Humor About Starring in an Epically Awful Film prize easily goes to James Corden and Rebel Wilson, who turned up in full Cats jellicle costumes to hand out — emphasis on the hands, given how awkward everyone agreed the feline characters looked with human hands — the trophy for Best Visual Effects. “As cast members of the motion picture Cats,” Wilson started. “Nobody more than us understands the importance of good visual effects,” Wilson and Corden continued in sync. The pair proceeded to paw the microphone around for a good 15 seconds before announcing what film won (1917). We’re sure Cats director Tom Hooper was not thrilled. But we were.

LOW: Live from the Oscars… it’s former Saturday Night Live players overstaying their welcome

Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell may be Saturday Night Live all-stars, but their specific set of skills didn’t entirely translate to the Oscar stage tonight. Rudolph and Wiig got off to a great start by showcasing their “acting” skills ahead of handing out the Best Production Design Oscar, but by the time they started singing Madonna and Sisqo during the Best Costume Design presentation, it felt like they were gasping for airtime a bit (did you catch Billie Eilish squirming in her seat?). Similarly, Louis-Dreyfus and Ferrell let a funny joke about what exactly a cinematographer does get away from them before getting around to announcing the nominees. 

HIGH: Billie Eilish led a moving “In Memoriam” segment

Grammy-dominating 18-year-old phenom Billie Eilish breathed new life into the Beatles classic “Yesterday,” which accompanied this year’s “In Memoriam” reel highlighting all of the industry giants who have passed on. Eilish’s mournful vocals were the ideal way to say goodbye to such men and women as Kobe Bryant, Doris Day and Danny Aiello to Diahann Carroll, John Singleton and Kirk Douglas. But there were a few oversights, most notably Luke Perry, who appeared in one of the night’s most-nominated films, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

HEAD-SCRATCHER: Is Renée Zellweger the next Jack Sparrow? 

After giving such a supremely focused performance as Judy Garland, Renée Zellweger has earned the right to ramble a little bit. Still, many online noted that her four-minute acceptance speech for Best Actress did veer all over the place as she thanked a panoply of people, even those who weren’t associated with the film. But the weirdest moment was saved for the very end: As she exited the stage, the Oscar orchestra serenaded her with… the Pirates of the Caribbean theme? Michael Bolton isn’t the only Jack Sparrow mega-fan around

LOW: Netflix’s big Oscar hopeful, The Irishman, went winless

Netflix headed into this year’s Oscar ceremony with a whopping 24 nominations, 10 of which were for the biggest film in the streaming service’s history: Martin Scorsese’s costly, lengthy gangster drama The Irishman. But at the end of an equally long night, the film went home completely empty handed: an 0-for-10 shut-out on par with American Hustle in 2013 and just behind the 0-for-11 losses endured by The Color Purple in 1985 and The Turning Point in 1977. It wasn’t all bad news for Netflix, though: They ended the night with two statues — Laura Dern’s Best Supporting Actress win for Marriage Story and American Factory’s victory in a competitive Best Documentary category. 

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