Director Bong Joon-ho stood back, as he had already been onstage three times, delivering memorable quotes of his own. He had noted that the “foreign language” category had been changed to “international feature film”: “I’m so happy to be its first recipient under the new name. I applaud and support the new direction that this change symbolizes.” And later, he spoke for all the winners with the instantly iconic line: “Thank you, I will drink until next morning.” (“Parasite” won Oscars for best picture, best international feature film, best original screenplay and best director.)
2) Martin Scorsese’s influence was recognized, even though his film was not
Bong began his acceptance speech for best director, the third of his four awards, by thanking one of his fellow nominees: “When I was young and studying cinema,” Bong said via interpreter, “there was a saying that I carved deep into my heart, which is, ‘The most personal is the most creative.’ That quote is from our great Martin Scorsese.”
While Bong went on to thank the other three nominees as well — Todd Phillips (“Joker”), Sam Mendes (“1917”) and Quentin Tarantino (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” who Bong said “always put my films on his list”) — the crowd only rose for Scorsese. But the standing ovation was all the prolific director received, as “The Irishman,” his mob drama nominated for 10 awards, was completely shut out.
3) The best actor and actress delivered winding speeches
Joaquin Phoenix and Renée Zellweger, who took home the lead acting trophies after consistently winning throughout the awards season, each gave characteristic speeches. Phoenix, who played the infamous Batman villain in “Joker,” accepted his first-ever Oscar with a call for unity: “I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the distressing issues that we are facing collectively, and I think at times we feel or we’re made to feel that we champion different causes. But for me, I see commonality. I think whether we’re talking about gender inequality or racism or queer rights or indigenous rights or animal rights, we’re talking about the right against injustice.”
After advocating for veganism, he admitted he has been a “scoundrel” at times and thanked those in the audience who gave him second chances. He concluded his speech with a nod to his brother, River, who died of a drug overdose in 1993. “When he was 17, my brother wrote this lyric,” Phoenix stated through tears. “He said, ‘Run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow.’ ”
Zellweger’s speech, while less politically charged, meandered even more than Phoenix’s. She thanked her fellow nominees, the cast and crew of “Judy” and her family, specifically: “my immigrant folks who came here with nothing but each other and a belief in the American Dream.” Then she touched on the legacy of Judy Garland, whom she plays in the film, and listed a bunch of other American heroes: Neil Armstrong, Harriet Tubman and even Venus and Serena Williams.
4) Janelle Monáe’s musical number
In lieu of an opening monologue, the host-less ceremony began with Janelle Monáe performing a musical number. She sang the “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” theme — an odd choice, given that the film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” and its director were snubbed, aside from a nod for supporting actor Tom Hanks. She then switched to her hit “Come Alive,” adapted to include lyrics that reflected the awards show.
More noticeable than those altered lyrics, however, were the costumes and props surrounding Monáe. While the terrifying dancing Jokers reflected a film that was recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — “Joker” received 11 nominations, only winning two awards — the rest were more in line with the “Mister Rogers” snub. Monáe wore the floral May Queen outfit from Ari Aster’s horrifying thriller “Midsommar,” for instance, which featured a powerhouse performance from Florence Pugh (who was instead nominated for her supporting role in “Little Women”). Other dancers wore red jumpsuits like those in “Us,” which failed to earn any nominations for Oscar-winning filmmaker Jordan Peele or for Lupita Nyong’o’s critically acclaimed lead performance.
5) Steve Martin and Chris Rock delivered their version of a host’s monologue
Following Monáe’s musical number, presenters Steve Martin and Chris Rock took a swing at “hosting” the ceremony. “Mahershala [Ali] has two Oscars,” Rock said at one point. “You know what that means when the cops pull him over? Nothing!”
One of the better-received bits concerned Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (who, full disclosure, owns The Washington Post). “Jeff Bezos is here,” Rock said, with Martin adding: “Wow, great actor!” Rock continued: “He’s got so much cash, when he writes a check, the bank bounces. Jeff Bezos is so rich, he got divorced and he’s still the richest man in the world. He saw ‘Marriage Story’ and thought it was a comedy.” (Bezos was seen laughing in the audience.)
After jokes that touched upon the lack of racial diversity in the acting categories and gender diversity among the nominated directors — “I thought there was something missing this year,” Martin said, with Rock responding, “Vaginas?” — the two men decided they were done. “We’ve had a great time not hosting tonight.”
6) A focus on women (who were snubbed)
The Oscar nominations made headlines this year — and not in a good way — when no women were nominated for best director. So during the telecast, there was a real “Women are great!” vibe from the stars and presenters. Mark Ruffalo, presenting best documentary feature, noted that four of the films were directed or co-directed by women. Presenters Sigourney Weaver, Brie Larson and Gal Gadot announced they would be starting their own female fight club, as they introduced the first female conductor in Oscars history to lead a performance. (This led into Hildur Gudnadottir winning best original score for “Joker.”) Greta Gerwig, notably snubbed for “Little Women,” received lots of love: “If I could give this Oscar to Greta Gerwig, I would do it right now,” best supporting actress winner Laura Dern said backstage, also calling out “The Farewell” director Lulu Wang and “Honey Boy” director Alma Har’el.
The tribute that made the biggest splash? Natalie Portman’s Dior cape, captured by Los Angeles Times reporter Amy Kaufman on the red carpet, embroidered with names of female directors who were not nominated.
7) ‘Cats’ got a moment in the spotlight
You know how “Cats” was so bad that it was hard to even describe how bad it was? “Cats” stars James Corden and Rebel Wilson wanted to let you know they were In On The Joke. Much fuss was made about the movie’s botched visuals (you could see Judi Dench’s human hands and her wedding ring in one scene), mostly because they were terrifying. Anyway, Corden and Wilson presented the visual effects category dressed as cats, and got a big laugh with this: “As cast members of the motion picture ‘Cats,’ nobody more than us understands the importance of good visual effects.” Good joke, though we’re not sure the winners (the “1917” visual effects team) appreciated the attention-stealing costumes.
8) The supporting actor/actress speeches
The big four acting categories had their wins basically locked up, and Brad Pitt concluded his Perfect Award Season Run with his first-ever acting Oscar. “They told me I only have 45 seconds up here, which is 45 seconds more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week. I’m thinking maybe Quentin does a movie about it, in the end, the adults do the right thing,” he said dryly. (“I’m just really disappointed with this week, and I think when gamesmanship trumps doing the right thing, it’s a sad day, and I don’t think we should let it slide,” he added backstage.) At the end of his speech, he gave a rare shout-out to his six children whom he shares with actress Angelina Jolie: “This is for my kids, who color everything I do. I adore you.”
Meanwhile, Laura Dern also won her first Oscar, and teared up as she thanked her parents, “acting legends” Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd. “Some say never meet your heroes, but I say if you’re really blessed, you get them as your parents.” (In the audience, Ladd was also in tears.) Dern, who would turn 54 on Monday, noted that this was a great way to celebrate: “Thank you all for this gift. This is the best birthday present ever.”
9) ‘Hair Love’ made history
Matthew Cherry won best animated short for “Hair Love,” a Kickstarter campaign-turned-film about a black father who learns how to do his daughter’s hair. In doing so, Cherry, a former NFL player, became the second former professional athlete to win an Oscar — following Kobe Bryant, who won for his animated short, “Dear Basketball,” two years ago. Cherry dedicated his award to the late basketball player: “May we all have a second act as great as his was,” he said. Meanwhile, his foreshadowing tweet from 2012 started making its way around Twitter:
10) Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig basically auditioned to host the Oscars next year
This marks the second year Maya Rudolph has stolen the show: She followed last year’s presentation alongside Amy Poehler and Tina Fey with an equally entertaining bit alongside Kristen Wiig this year. Immediately after approaching the microphone, the actresses announced they couldn’t present the award for production design because they were too upset. They were ticked off and seeing red. Then, they backtracked, revealing they were — wait for it — acting. “We just know there are a lot of directors here tonight,” Wiig said, with Rudolph adding: “We just want them to know we do more than comedy.” Can we get a sequel to “Bridesmaids,” pretty please?
11) Eminem was there?!
Indeed, he was. And it raised far more questions than answers. Allow our colleague Elahe Izadi to guide you through it, frame by frame.
12) Cynthia Erivo’s performance
While Elton John and Bernie Taupin won for best original song with “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from “Rocketman,” Erivo’s stellar performance of the ballad “Stand Up” from “Harriet” got one of the biggest reactions of the night. Social media lit up with praise, and the star-studded audience, still probably confused after that Eminem performance, gave her a standing ovation.
13) People of color performed songs while not actually being nominated
“Cynthia Erivo did such a good job hiding black people in ‘Harriet,’ the academy got her to hide all the black nominees,” Rock said wryly in his faux-monologue with Martin; they also added the Oscars have gone from “zero” black acting nominees in 1929 to “one” in 2020. “Amazing growth!” Martin joked. Many on social media noted that while many people of color had songs and performances during the ceremony (including Utkarsh Ambudkar, who did a rap recap in the middle of the show), it was a stark contrast to the lack of diversity within the nominees.
14) Taika Waititi also made Oscars history
In winning best adapted screenplay for “Jojo Rabbit,” his World War II satire, filmmaker Taika Waititi became the first person of Maori descent to ever win an Oscar. He dedicated his award to “all the indigenous kids of the world who want to do art and dance and write stories.” Holding up the statuette, he added: “We are the original storytellers and we can make it here as well. Thank you.” At another point in the ceremony, Waititi noted the Dolby Theatre is located “on the ancestral lands of the Tongva, the Tataviam and the Chumash. We acknowledge them as the first peoples of this land on which our motion picture community lives and works.”
15) The memes
Aside from Idina Menzel’s reaction to Eminem (see above), the two winners were probably Billie Eilish’s face during the Wiig-Rudolph bit …
… or Timothée Chalamet and his outfit of choice: