South Korean thriller ‘Parasite’ wins four Academy Awards and is the first foreign-language film to claim Best Picture

The South Korean film Parasite won best picture at the 92nd Academy Awards, becoming the first ever non-English-language film to seize the top honor. The historic victory marked the fourth win of the night for the film, which mined suspense, humor and anguish in its tale rooted in the socioeconomic divide between two families.Parasite, which was one of only 10 foreign-language films in Oscar history nominated for best picture, also won best international feature film, original screenplay and director for filmmaker Bong Joon Ho. He used one of his acceptance speeches to thank fellow nominees who influenced his work, including Martin Scorsese, whose epic The Irishman was shut out of all 10 categories it was nominated in.
The thriller beat the odds to win best picture over strong contenders, especially 1917, a box-office hit with a string of conquests at previous award shows. That World War I drama directed by Sam Mendes won three Oscars, for cinematography, sound mixing and visual effects.
The timely theme of class alienation in Parasite helped make it the highest-grossing foreign release in the U.S. last year. It found passionate support among critics and in Hollywood, which embraced Mr. Bong as a filmmaker working at the top of his game after six previous films, including The Host, Snowpiercer and Okja. After the director used a Golden Globes speech to encourage English-speaking audiences to get past the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, Oscar voters rallied behind a movie in Korean.
The wins for Parasite seemed to promise a more inclusive Oscars that many critics of the Hollywood institution have called for. In one of his acceptance speeches, Mr. Bong referred to a naming change by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of the formerly foreign-language film category to international feature film. Said Mr. Bong, I applaud and support the direction that this new change symbolizes.
The original screenplay Oscar for Mr. Bong and Han Jin Won also marks the first time an Asian nominee has won in any writing category.
Joker went into the night with 11 nominations, more than any other film but came away with only two awards, including a win for lead actor Joaquin Phoenix. He dropped 52 pounds and adopted a consumptive cackle to play Arthur Fleck, a mentally ill man who spins into violence in Joker. (Heath Ledger won a supporting-actor Oscar for playing the same comic-book character in a different movie, The Dark Knight.)
For her turn as Judy Garland in Judy, Renée Zellweger earned the Oscar for actress in a leading role, marking a career comeback 16 years after she won her first Oscar as a supporting actress in Cold Mountain.
The ceremony kicked off Sunday night with a win for Brad Pitt, who took home the best supporting actor award for his role in Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood.
Another Hollywood veteran, Laura Dern, won best supporting actress for playing a take-no-prisoners divorce attorney in Marriage Story.
Adding to a career with many memorable characters, Mr. Pitt now has an Oscar-awarded performance as Cliff Booth, a stunt double and cool customer who anchors the film by director Quentin Tarantino. Mr. Pitts win is his first as an actor. (He holds one Oscar as a producer of best-picture winner 12 Years a Slave.)
This is the first Oscar for Ms. Dern, who was the favorite to win. She dedicated the award to her acting heroes and parents, Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd.
The award for best adapted screenplay went to Taika Waititi, the New Zealand writer and director of Jojo Rabbit, a comedic drama about a boy whose best friend is an imaginary Adolf Hitler. Set in World War II Germany, the movie is loosely based on a novel by Christine Leunens, Caging Skies.
A second Joker victory went to composer Hildur Guðnadóttir. Her tense, cello-driven score, which director Todd Phillips has credited for shaping key scenes, won for best original score. The Icelandic musician topped such veterans as John Williams, Alexandre Desplat and Thomas Newman, the 1917 composer who has 15 nominations without a win.
Legendary music duo Elton John and Bernie Taupin collected their first joint Oscar for the song (Im Gonna) Love Me Again, from the Elton biopic Rocketman. Mr. Taupin described the honor as justification for 53 years of hammering it out and doing what we do.
scored with American Factory, which embedded with the workers and managers of a Chinese-owned factory in Ohio and won for best documentary. Barack and
Michelle Obamas
production company, Higher Ground, was among the companies that backed the movie. The Oscar was awarded to producer Jeff Reichert and directors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert.
With Ms. Derns win for the Netflix release Marriage Story, the streamer converted only two of its 24 nominations into wins. That, along with other near-shutouts at previous awards ceremonies, raises questions: Is there some bias against the streaming company (or its all-out campaign tactics) among Hollywood awards voters, or does it all come down to the vagaries of the awards system?
For their painstaking recreation of Hollywood circa 1969 in Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood, Nancy Haigh and Barbara Ling landed the award for production design. Costume designer Jacqueline Durran won for her work in Little Women.
Other winners on the technical side of filmmaking included Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan and Vivian Baker, the makeup and hairstyling team who transformed Charlize Theron into Megyn Kelly in Bombshell.
Toy Story 4 won for best animated feature, earning the Pixar studio its 10th win in that category, more than all other winning studios combined since the award was introduced in 2002.
The hit Ford v Ferrari crossed the Oscars finish line with two awards, for editing and sound editing.
The award for animated short film went to Hair Love, about an African American dads efforts to do his daughters hair for the first time. Director Matthew A. Cherry, a former professional football player, dedicated the award to Kobe Bryant, who won the same award in 2018 for his film Dear Basketball.
The show opened with a big musical number led by singer and actor Janelle Monáe, who first took the stage in a tribute to Mister Rogers, the subject of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. The song-and-dance routine included some nods to the snubbed, including Ms. Monáes shout-out to female directors, of which there were none among this years Oscar nominees.
With no official hosts, comedy duos like Steve Martin and Chris Rock, Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus and
Will Ferrell
carried the load with comedy bits.
Multiple jokes and asides in the telecast seemed like strategic reactions to the backlash the Oscars has received for the lingering homogeneity of its top nominees, including rapper Utkarsh Ambudkars reference to winners who dont look like me in his rhyming recap of the ceremony.
Scarlett Johansson was nominated for both lead actress for her role in Marriage Story and for best supporting actress for her role in Jojo Rabbit.
Show Caption
Scarlett Johansson was nominated for both lead actress for her role in Marriage Story and for best supporting actress for her role in Jojo Rabbit.
Write to John Jurgensen at john.jurgensen@wsj.com
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