The 92nd Academy Awards: Where do the Oscars go from here?

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Courtesy of David Swanson/Shutterstock

"Parasite" writer-director Bong Joon-ho plays matchmaker with two of his four Oscar statuettes.

Shreyas Banerjee, Staff Reporter

Although 2019 was a strong year for movies, the 92nd Academy Awards was one of the most confusing and disjointed ceremonies in a long time, despite monumental historic achievements.

I’ve been watching the Academy Awards telecast every year for as long as I can remember. There was always something magical about it. Not only could you see all of your favorite Hollywood celebrities in one room, but the ceremony itself was a celebration of the best movies of the year. Most of the time, I hadn’t seen any of the nominees, but it was still enthralling to see the entire industry together.

Indeed, many great movies were celebrated this year. Many of the awards were locks after a long awards season, with the four acting nominees having their Oscar statuettes practically engraved, but the race for Best Picture could not have been more interesting. 

In a year where almost all the Best Picture nominees were box office successes or at least present in the cultural conversation (looking at you, Netflix), and several movies that could be argued to be the best of the 2010s, a few of which The Observer has covered, the outcome was to be anticipated. 

After last year’s controversial opinion to give “Green Book” Best Picture, despite being a shallow film on race relations in a year with better and more relevant nominees, one could not be sure what to expect. But “Parasite” and its sweep of awards felt deserving.

“Parasite,” written and directed by Bong Joon-ho, received four Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best International Film, with its win for Best Picture marking the first such win for any foreign language film. This remarkable achievement could be indicative of a changing and more diverse Academy or just a recognition of the cultural conversation this movie has created. 

If you haven’t seen it, the less you know before stepping into the theater, the better. This South Korean film’s commentary on social classes and the story it tells of two families stratified in society is one to be remembered. 

With its wins, “Parasite” probably created some of my favorite “Oscar moments” in recent memory and reminded me why we love the concept of celebrating movies so much. From Bong thanking fellow directing nominees Martin Scorcese and Quentin Tarantino for inspiring him, to the pure jubilation in the room when “Parasite” was announced as Best Picture winner over frontrunners “1917” and “Once Upon a Time in . . . Hollywood” (still two great films), to Tom Hanks and the rest of the front row demanding that the lights be turned on the stage for a bit longer to allow more celebratory speeches from the “Parasite” posse to be made, the “Parasite” sweep was truly the best of the Oscars.

It’s too bad that it all happened in the last thirty minutes of a nearly four-hour show, with moments that could be some of the strangest of the Oscars. In its second year of having a host-less ceremony, after last year’s booting of Kevin Hart over homophobic tweets, the 92nd Academy Awards tried to build on the energy and freshness of the 91st, which managed to still move along on a quick pace despite a lack of host. 

Yet, this year, the telecast seemed to substitute a single host with a strange series of presenters introducing other presenters and an inordinate amount of musical performances. 24 awards were presented that night, but with them on stage were 14 musical performances. 14! 

Ranging from an amazing performance of nominated actress Cynthia Erivo’s own song from “Harriet,” to an awkward rap recap of the program by Utkarsh Ambudkar, to an off-key performance of “Into the Unknown” from “Frozen II” in various languages, every five minutes, the ceremony celebrating film became interrupted by things that just don’t make good TV. 

Most confounding was a montage of iconic music in movies that didn’t allow any song to play for more than a few seconds, not allowing any to actually shine, culminating in a live performance by Eminem of his song “Lose Yourself” from the 2002 film “8 Mile.” 

Eminem’s performance epitomized the tonal confusion throughout the show. “Lose Yourself,” was completely unrelated from anything else in the program, came out of nowhere, was painfully awkward with shots of audience members staring inscrutably, and seemingly two decades too late to be relevant.

This confusion and longwindedness may have contributed to the fact that this was the lowest-watched Oscars telecast ever, with a 20% dip of viewership from last year. Though some of this may be attributed to falling cable subscriptions, the dip is substantial and far more than the dip for the Grammys. 

With all this, perhaps it’s time for the Academy to remember what made people watch the ceremony in the first place: the joy of recognizing and celebrating great movies with our favorite celebrities. 

I don’t think the ceremony necessarily needs to be any shorter, but rather more focused on the films themselves and the great amount of effort that goes into producing them. Celebrating the films of the year shouldn’t just be in the moments of handing out the statuettes, but omnipresent throughout. While Will Ferrell’s and Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ riffing on the fact that no one knows what a cinematographer or a film editor does was quite funny, it is also true that most people are unfamiliar with the intricacies of making a feature film. 

Instead of having James Corden and Rebel Wilson show up in cat costumes to joke about how they had been burned by the bad visual effects of the film “Cats,” the Academy should show what goes into making good VFX. There is no better opportunity to educate and showcase the various talents that go into making the movies we love than the Academy Awards, as recognition of great films only helps audiences know what films to watch and what to look for. 

If the award ceremony had any impact, it should be in getting people to see great movies that they would otherwise miss out on. With that, the Case Western Reserve University Film Society will show Best Picture winner “Parasite” on Feb. 28 at Strosacker Auditorium.