The 9 moments that defined the 2020 Oscars — for better or worse
From Parasite's big win to a giant host-shaped hole
At the 2020 Oscars, we saw a show transform in the blink of an eye from being fairly uninteresting into one of the most significant ever.
The telecast was weird like that, for much of its time going through the motions crowning predictable winners with a completely baffling number of musical performances along the way. Then, suddenly, it all turned around as history was made. James Corden and Rebel Wilson also dressed up like cats. Hollywood's biggest night, baby!
From the good to the bad to the deeply weird, these were the moments we'll never forget from the 2020 Oscars — as much as, in some cases, we might like to.
The host-less opening and monologue
One has to wonder what the point of losing a host is if the show is just going to open the exact same way it normally would, only with people who aren't official hosts.
In this case, the night kicked off with a Janelle Monáe performance paying tribute to movies not actually competing for Best Picture (sorry, Midsommar), which previewed a telecast featuring a baffling emphasis on music. Then we had non-hosts Chris Rock and Steve Martin deliver a shortened monologue, including a couple pointed jabs at the lack of diverse nominees. Rock and Martin would become the first of many presenters you kind of wished would just stick around to give the show some consistency.
George MacKay says what we're all thinking
The bigger problem stemming from the lack of a host was just how many times a celebrity came out, only to introduce another celebrity to give out the award. This was awkward to say the least, if not downright insulting to those who fell into the former category. Besides, it sure seemed like an odd time-waster considering one of the reasons not to have a host is theoretically to reduce the show's length.
At one point, 1917 star George MacKay made note of how ridiculous this all was, joking, "Time is of the essence, which is why I'm here to introduce myself, before introducing someone else, who will, in turn, introduce someone else." Let's hope hearing how ridiculous that sounds out loud makes the Academy reconsider this format.
Brad Pitt gets political
After Brad Pitt finally won an Oscar for acting, the first person he mentioned was ... John Bolton?
Yeah, that happened. In one of the few political moments of the night, Pitt quipped that he had 45 seconds to speak, "which is 45 seconds more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week." Now that's a YouTube clip that'll require some context in 15 years.
Eminem performs for no explained reason
You know where a host might have come in handy? To explain why on Earth we were about to watch a performance by Eminem.
It seems the idea was for Eminem to perform "Lose Yourself" because he didn't when he won an Oscar for it in 2003. But still we have to ask, why? Wouldn't this, at the very least, have felt more appropriate on the 15th or 20th anniversary of 8 Mile, and not in a completely random year?
Cats strikes again
When 1917 won Best Visual Effects, we got the chance to see dedicated craftsmen who have worked their entire lives to get to this stage, emotionally accepting their well-deserved Oscar while ... James Corden and Rebel Wilson stood behind them dressed as cats. Could anything sum up Oscars more than this one image?
Hildur Guðnadóttir’s inspiring message
Who would have expected a more memorable speech from Joker composer Hildur Guðnadóttir than almost anyone else? Guðnadóttir, after becoming the first woman to win in the score category in more than 20 years, delivered a beautiful message to those who might wish to follow her.
“To the girls, to the women, to the mothers, to the daughters who hear the music bubbling within, please speak up,” she said. "We need to hear your voices."
The Makeup and Hairstyling winners get cut off
On the other hand, in a year criticized for the lack of diversity among the nominees, and during a broadcast in which Sigourney Weaver declared that "all women are superheroes," cutting off the women of Bombshell who won Best Makeup and Hairstyling before they could speak, as cameras showed a visibly distressed Margot Robbie, was perhaps not the absolute best look in the world. "Bombshell: A movie ostensibly about hearing women's voices and then they play off a woman who was about to talk," Collider's Matt Goldberg noted. But hey, at least there was plenty of time for Eminem.
A standing O for Scorsese
After Martin Scorsese's Gang's of New York earned 10 Oscar nominations but won zero in 2003, the exact same fate befell Scorsese's The Irishman this year. Still, a perhaps extremely guilty-feeling Academy in a sweet moment honored him with a standing ovation as Bong Joon-ho gave him a shout-out in his Best Director speech.
Parasite makes history
Every once in a while, the Academy really does get it right. 1917 dominating the night seemed inevitable, yet the Parasite surge none of us wanted to get our hopes up for somehow truly happened.
For Parasite to take Best Picture and make history as the category's first non-English language winner is already remarkable. But seeing as Best Picture and Best Director often split, for it to take both speaks to the unprecedented movement behind a movie the Academy of 10 years ago would surely have awarded nothing more than the foreign-language film prize. The energy in the room as Parasite won was palpable, as best represented by the moment when everyone from Tom Hanks to Charlize Theron demanded the lights be turned back up after the producers attempted to cut the acceptance speeches short, chanting, "Up!"
Bong Joon-ho, of course, didn't disappoint while accepting his many Oscars. Has there been a more iconic closing to a Best Director acceptance speech than "I will drink until next morning"?
Of course, while the Academy is obviously changing, it's probably inevitable they'll disappoint us again with another safe, boring Best Picture choice, perhaps as soon as next year. But we'll always have Parasite.
Want more essential commentary and analysis like this delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for The Week's "Today's best articles" newsletter here.