A Long Night at the Oscars

Good morning. I can’t believe I watched the whole thing.

No, not “The Irishman.” This event was much longer than that, although a number of the actors and artists of that Martin Scorsese film were there, looking their real age, which was as startling as the new special effect in the film that allowed them to look considerably younger. Al Pacino arrived at the Oscars as himself instead of Jimmy Hoffa, and what a difference a few decades make.

No, I stayed the course for the 92nd Academy Awards on ABC, including a chunk of the red-carpet arrival show, with splendid views of limos, celebrities, nominees and stars delicately removing themselves into and under awaiting umbrellas, lest a spot of rain fall on their clothes, created by the world’s top designers. Truly, we were in La La Land.

And look what happened. It’s like having a hangover, the memories of which I have long forgotten.

I sensed that somewhere in my dreams I had learned to speak a smattering of Korean, given that the creators of “Parasite,” the beyond-category, horror-satire-creepy thriller from South Korea, had made so many unexpected, historic, victorious trips to the podium en masse, led by Best Director Bong Joon Ho (and his interpreter), who also accepted the Best Picture award. In addition, the film picked up awards for Best Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film.

With the win, “Parasite” had become the first film in a foreign language to win in the Best Picture category (if you discount Laurence Olivier’s high English in the 1940s “Hamlet”).

The International Feature category replaced what had always been the Best Foreign Language Film slot, suggesting a broader, more inclusive direction, something in evidence and also absent from the not-so-greatest movie show on earth.

It’s a good thing, this looking forward, because the selection of “Parasite,” as it started to become self-evident, was startling, hopeful and future-oriented. The absence of a single female director among the Best Director nominations and the nomination of only one actor of color (the splendid, spectacular Cynthia Erivo, for “Harriet”), the references to the Hollywood Golden Age of the 1960s and 1970s (really?) and the announcement of the construction of an Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles suggested otherwise.

Things persist and nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. The show spread itself like a big pillow on a small bed, but it had its moments, moments I always appreciate, growing up as I did on really old Hollywood movies, from “Pinocchio” to “Captain Blood,” in the aftermath of the demise of Nazi Germany. This made me curious about “Jojo Rabbit,” for which Native American Taika Waititi won for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Speaking of nostalgia, the presence and participation of Billie Eilish, the self-created YouTube musical star who tore it up at the Grammys, was useful. She marched onto the carpet, instantly recognizable in a Chanel pantsuit, with greenish sprays of hair, and took on the Beatles’ “Yesterday.” Eilish guided us through the year’s losses (including Kirk Douglas and Kobe Bryant) in an affecting, touching tone, offering a new view of nostalgia from someone for whom “Yesterday” is, well, yesterday.

What I will remember fondly is Brad Pitt, who always seemed to give becoming and being a movie star a good, low-key name for a high-profile, coolly handsome superstar. The man is a prince, at least, but you think you remember him bagging groceries at the Safeway. Pitt deservedly and at last won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Quentin Tarantino’s version of the lives of a fading star (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt man (Pitt), “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” as they get tangled in the affairs of the Manson gang.

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Pitt quipped sardonically, “Ain’t that the truth.” Pitt also got off one of the few political cracks: “They tell me I’ve only got 45 seconds, which is 45 seconds more than John Bolton got.”

I was rooting for Joaquin Phoenix, who won Best Actor. I loved him madly in “Joker,” supposedly recounting the origins of the DC villain. He was nuanced, depraved, crazy, dancing in the thin air of violent madness, while the movie itself refused shamelessly and cynically to make sense. Phoenix, who lost his young brother River to an overdose years ago, gave a powerful speech about doing good in the world, which, because it was still halting, but entirely sincere, touched the heart.

There wasn’t too much of that going on. I liked the comedy of Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig as presenters, better than the partnership of Steve Martin and Chris Rock, and I love to see Regina King anytime. Renée Zellweger did not convince me that I should go see “Judy,” and I’m obviously not alone in that. I still want to see “1917,” not for its touted one-shot technical deftness but because it’s the work of Sam Mendes.

“Little Women” got so very little and deserved so much more. It is also the only movie with a Meryl Streep role this year — I think.

Two popes are still not better than one, I guess.

If you’re the network hosting the red carpet, please, please don’t interview each other. Near the end of another win (Best Director, I think), Bong Joon Ho broke into English and said: “I want to relax a little. I want to get a drink.”

By night’s end and show’s end, I said congrats, Bong, and concurred. Enough was enough.

I dreamed about Billy Porter’s outfit and the dark lights of “Parasite,” not Paris.



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