Os­cars view­er­ship plunges to record low

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jake Coyle

With­out a host or a great deal of piz­zazz, the Academy Awards reached its small­est au­di­ence ever.

LOS AN­GE­LES >> In a mile­stone win that in­stantly ex­panded the Os­cars’ hori­zons, Bong Joon Ho’s mas­ter­fully de­vi­ous class satire “Par­a­site” be­came the first non-English lan­guage film to win best pic­ture in the 92-year his­tory of the Academy Awards.

“Par­a­site” took Hol­ly­wood’s top prize 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. But in re­cent years, to di­ver­sify its mem­ber­ship, the Academy of Mo­tion Pic­tures Arts and Sci­ences has in­vited many more over­seas vot­ers.

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.”

Af­ter the Dolby The­atre had emp­tied out, the “Par­a­site” team still re­mained on the stage, soak­ing in their win. Back­stage, Bong was still gob­s­macked. “It’s re­ally f—-ing crazy,” he told re­porters, clutch­ing his awards.

The vic­tory for “Par­a­site” — which had echoes of the sur­prise win by “Moon­light” over “La La Land” three years ago — came in a year when many crit­i­cized the lack of di­ver­sity in the nom­i­nees and the ab­sence of fe­male film­mak­ers. But the tri­umph for “Par­a­site,” the Palme d’Or-win­ner at last year’s Cannes Film Fes­ti­val, en­abled Hol­ly­wood to flip the script and sig­nal progress, nev­er­the­less. No Korean film had ever won an Os­car be­fore.

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

Sam Men­des’ au­da­ciously con­ceived World War I film “1917,” made to seem one con­tin­u­ous shot, had been the clear fa­vorite head­ing into Os­cars, hav­ing won nearly all the pre­cur­sor awards, in­clud­ing top hon­ors from the Pro­duc­ers Guild, the Di­rec­tors Guild, the Golden Globes and the BAF­TAs. In the end, “1917” went home with three awards for its tech­ni­cal vir­tu­os­ity: Roger Deakins’ cin­e­matog­ra­phy, vis­ual ef­fects and sound mix­ing.

All of the act­ing win­ners — Brad Pitt, Renée Zell­weger, Joaquin Phoenix and Laura Dern — went as ex­pected. While Pitt, notch­ing his first act­ing Os­car, had re­galed au­di­ences with one-lin­ers in the run-up to Sun­day, 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 be­fore men­tion­ing di­rec­tor Quentin Tarantino. “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.”

Zell­weger com­pleted a come­back, win­ning her sec­ond Academy Award for her frag­ile but in­domitable Judy Gar­land in “Judy.” Dern won 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.”

Phoenix, long one of Hol­ly­wood’s most re­spected ac­tors, took best ac­tor for his lim­ber but mo­rose Joker. In his ac­cep­tance speech, Phoenix spoke de­lib­er­ately about a host of is­sues, in­clud­ing sex­ism and racism in the film in­dus­try, eco­log­i­cal dis­as­ter and veg­e­tar­i­an­ism.

CHRIS PIZZELLO — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Bong Joon Ho, right, re­acts as he is pre­sented with the award for best pic­ture the Os­cars on Sun­day in Los An­ge­les.

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