92nd Academy Awards: 'Parasite' Gets A Hollywood Ending With Best Picture Win

Bong Joon Ho, right, reacts as he is presented with the award for best picture for "Parasite" from presenter Jane Fonda at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, at the Dolby Theatre. (Chris PizzelloInvision/AP)

The Oscars seemed poised to honor a history movie, the World War I drama, 1917. Instead, Academy Award voters made movie history, as Parasite became the first foreign-language film to win the best picture trophy.

The 92nd Oscars were in many ways a litmus test for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. With just a single person of color, Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), among the 20 acting nominees, and no woman nominated for directing, Sunday night's lineup was widely criticized for its glaring lack of diversity before the show even began. Had the largely all-white (both in front of and behind the camera) 1917 won the top Oscar, the evening would have concluded on a similar exclusionary note.

But thanks to Parasite, this year's Oscars had an ending that — even by Hollywood standards — was a shocker, and perhaps just as startling as the film's crazy final 15 minutes. And its triumph may prove, at least for the moment, that the academy's deep investment in diversifying its membership is paying dividends.


All The Winners Of The 92nd Academy Awards


Director and co-screenwriter Bong Joon-ho took home four statuettes for Parasite: best director; original screenplay; international feature; and best picture. While 1917 won some lesser awards, including cinematography for Roger Deakins, it lost in several categories where it was favored, especially for its director and co-writer, Sam Mendes.

While Parasite's victories for best picture and director were surprising, very few of the other top winners were unexpected, particularly in the acting races: Joker's Joaquin Phoenix; Brad Pitt from Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood; Renee Zellweger from Judy; and Marriage Story's Laura Dern were all forecast to take home Oscars.

Actress Laura Dern poses with her engraved award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for "Marriage Story" as she attends the 92nd Oscars Governors Ball at the Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood on Feb. 9, 2020. (Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images)
In its selection of presenters and performers (including a performance by Eminem kept so secret that only four academy people knew of the plan until the last minute), the ceremony's producers tried to cast a wide net. But even that strategy helped highlight the disparity when the nominees were introduced and the hardware handed out. In her opening musical number, Janelle Monae said, "We celebrate women who directed great films." Of course none of those women, most notably Greta Gerwig (Little Women), were up for a directing honor.

After the ceremony, I had a chance to talk to a former and the current president of the academy. Cheryl Boone Isaacs was in charge in 2012 when I and a team of Los Angeles Times reporters spent a year investigating the demographics of the Oscar voters. The paper found that the membership was 94% Caucasian, and 77% male with a median age of 62. Isaacs, in the wake of that report, helped push for an academy initiative, called A2020, to ensure that new members were dramatically more diverse.

David Rubin, the current president, inherited the fruits of that effort. While he didn't tip his hand as to how he voted on best picture, he was nevertheless quite pleased that Parasite made Oscar history. "That," he said, "was a really good night."