On Sunday night, the 92nd Academy Awards ceremony closed a turbulent film awards season with several historic wins. Icelandic musician and Joker composer Hildur Guðnadóttir became the first woman to take home the Academy Award for Best Original Score. Jojo Rabbit screenwriter Taika Waititi became the first Indigenous filmmaker to win an Academy Award, receiving the award for Best Adapted Screenplay. And, of course, Bong Joon-ho’s tragicomedy Parasite is the first South Korean film to be nominated in the Best Picture category, and the first non-English film to win the Academy’s hallmark award.
Parasite swept the awards on Sunday night, garnering wins in four categories: Best Original Screenplay, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Director and Best Picture. Bong Joon-ho’s awards equaled a record set by Walt Disney in 1954, when he also won four Academy Awards. Parasite is also the highest-grossing Korean film of all time, earning $167.5 million at the box office. The dark comedy’s success signals a brighter future for inclusion of foreign films by awards ceremonies and general audiences.
In his acceptance speech, Bong Joon-ho honored the other nominated directors, paying particular attention to Martin Scorcese as an influence on his own work. “When I was young and studying cinema there was a saying that I carved deep into my heart, which is ‘the most personal is the most creative.’ That quote was from our great Martin Scorcese,” he said.
Joaquin Phoenix won the award for Best Actor for his performance in Joker and Reneé Zellweger won the award for Best Actress for her performance in Judy. Brad Pitt won Best Supporting Actor for Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood and Laura Dern won Best Supporting Actress for Marriage Story, both of them receiving their first Academy Award.
However, many of this year’s most critically acclaimed performances were not recognized in the nominations, including Lupita Nyong’o’s performance in Us, Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers, Eddie Murphy in Dolemite is My Name and Awkwafina in The Farewell. None of the actors for Parasite were nominated for any awards. While it is groundbreaking that a film with an all-Korean cast performed so well, the acting nominations expose a disparity in the recognition of people of color at the Oscars.
Race has been a consistent issue at the awards show. In 2015, the #OscarsSoWhite social media movement pointed out the nominations’ lack of diversity. In Janelle Monae’s opening performance at the ceremony this year, she referenced the movement, singing, “It’s time to come alive because the Oscars is so white.”
Concern also sparked over the lack of female representation at this year’s Oscars. Greta Gerwig was notably not nominated in the Best Directing category, even though her film Little Women received six nominations and a win in the Best Costume Design category. Hustlers director Lorene Scafaria, Honey Boy director Alma Ha’rel and The Farewell director Lulu Wang received no nominations, although their films won top prizes at other awards ceremonies.
While the nominations continue the Oscars’ consistent problem with diversity, Parasite’s unprecedented wins indicate a brighter future for inclusion at the Oscars.