Focus on Film: The Oscars, a night to remember

Stephen J. Miller praises the 92nd Academy Awards

Wow! I was impressed with the Oscars telecast on so many different levels.

The show was entertaining with a mix of comedy, seriousness, surprises and the occasional political statement. It was a history-making year where, for the first time, the best picture went to a foreign language film, Parasite, and deservedly so.

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A South Korean film, Parasite took home four Oscars in the directing, international feature and original screenplay categories in addition to its best picture win.

For the second year in a row, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided against having a host, which proved to be a good move on its part. Instead, A-List celebrity guests introduced speakers, musical numbers and award presenters.

Comedy came in short, well-spaced spurts from the likes of Steve Martin and Chris Rock, Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig, and the furry (and uproarious!) cats played by James Corden and Rebel Wilson.

In the past, presenters and award winners have taken their moment in the spotlight to voice their political views and I expected this to happen again, given the current political situation in the United States. It didn’t though, which made the night all the more poignant and memorable.

Joaquin Phoenix’s acceptance speech for best actor was political but not harmfully so. More impactful was his moving tribute to his late older brother, River Phoenix.

The most surprising moment of the evening was an unexpected performance by rapper Eminem. Even though the song, “Lose Yourself” had little to do with this year’s Oscars (it won an award for best song in 2003), it exemplified the powerful effect music can have in a film.

In addition to Parasite, last year had a slew of very good films that also received recognition. Ford v Ferrari, Honeyland, 1917, Jojo Rabbit and Marriage Story were just a few that made 2019 a pretty wonderful year to go and see movies. This embarrassment of riches made it that much more difficult, yet all the more fun to try to predict the winners.

When I take part in an Oscar pool (think hockey pool but, you know, for Oscars), I try to balance my personal views with the realities of Academy voting politics. Often, big American studios invest sizable chunks of money to promote their films in advance of voting with the belief that such visibility increases their chances to win the most sought-after awards.

This year was an exception though, where Parasite beat out such USA-made favourites as Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, 1917, Ford v Ferrari and The Irishman. Had I gone with my gut instinct instead of trying to “game” the competition, I would have chosen one of the films that were truly my favourites of last year for best picture, probably Parasite or Jojo Rabbit, which I found to be two of the most profound and affecting films of last decade.

The future of film has been elevated by the independent studios and the crop of films from 2019 supports this trend. These films will no doubt give hope to the smaller studios, directors and storytellers that there is a future on the screen.

I am very much looking forward to what 2020 will bring us. See you at the Oscars in 2021!

Stephen J. Miller regularly reviews movies for the Powell River Peak.

Copyright © Powell River Peak


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