'Parasite' takes best picture at Oscars

AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Director Bong Joon Ho (right) reacts as he is presented with the award for best picture for "Parasite" at the Oscars on Sunday in Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES -- Subtitle this: "Parasite" is the first non-English language film to win best picture in the 92-year history of the Academy Awards.

Bong Joon Ho's masterfully devious class satire took Hollywood's top prize at the Oscars on Sunday night, along with awards for best director, best international film and best screenplay. In a year dominated by period epics -- "1917," "Once Upon a Time ... In Hollywood," "The Irishman" -- the film academy instead went overseas, to South Korea, to reward a contemporary and unsettling portrait of social inequality in "Parasite."

True to its name, "Parasite" simply got under the skin of Oscar voters, attaching itself to the American awards season and, ultimately, to history. The win was a watershed moment for the Academy Awards, which has long been content to relegate international films to their own category.

Multiple standing ovations greeted Bong's several wins. "I am ready to drink tonight," Bong said, prompting roars from the crowd. Unexpectedly called up again for best director, Bong saluted his fellow nominees, particularly Martin Scorsese, and concluded: "Now I'm ready to drink until tomorrow."

The win for "Parasite" -- which had echoes of the surprise victory of "Moonlight" over "La La Land" three years ago -- came in a year in which many criticized the lack of diversity in the nominees and the absence of female filmmakers. But the triumph for "Parasite" enabled Hollywood to flip the script, and signal a different kind of progress.

In doing so, the film academy turned away another history-making event, again denying Netflix its first best-picture win despite two contenders in "The Irishman" and "Marriage Story," and a big-spending awards campaign blitz.

All of the acting winners -- Brad Pitt, Renee Zellweger, Joaquin Phoenix and Laura Dern -- went as expected.

Few categories were more certain coming into Sunday's Oscars than best supporting actor, which Pitt has had locked down all awards season. While Pitt (who in 2014 shared in the best picture win for "12 Years a Slave," as was a producer) has regaled audiences with one-liners in the run-up to the Oscars, he began his comments on a political note.

"They told me I have 45 seconds to speak, which is 45 seconds more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week," Pitt said, alluding to the impeachment hearings. "I'm thinking maybe Quentin does a movie about it."

Pitt said the honor had given him reason to reflect on his fairy-tale journey in the film industry, going back to when he moved to Los Angeles from Missouri. "Once upon a time in Hollywood," said Pitt. "Ain't that the truth."

Most of the early awards went according to forecasts, including Dern winning for her performance as a divorce attorney in Noah Baumbach's "Marriage Story." Accepting her first Oscar, Dern thanked her in-attendance parents, "my legends, Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern."

For the 87th time, no women were nominated for best director this year, a subject that was woven into the entire ceremony -- and even into some attendees' clothing. Natalie Portman wore a cape lined with the names of female filmmakers who weren't nominated for best director, including Lulu Wang ("The Farewell"), Greta Gerwig ("Little Women") and Mati Diop ("Atlantics").

Coming on a rare rainy day in Los Angeles, the ceremony was soggy and song-heavy. Some performances, like Eminem's performance of "Lose Yourself," were unexpected (and drew a wane response from Martin Scorsese). All of the song nominees performed, including Elton John who won with his longtime songwriting partner Bernie Taupin for their "Rocketman" tune.

The hostless ceremony opened on a note of inclusion, with Janelle Monae performing "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" and her own song, "Come Alive," with an assist from Billy Porter. "I'm so proud to be standing here as a black queer artist telling stories," Monae said. "Happy Black History Month."

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