For the 92nd annual Academy Awards, film critic Moira Macdonald and restaurant reviewer Bethany Jean Clement decided to watch in the time-honored fashion: in a living room, surrounded by snacks, cats and laptops. Here’s their report, from randomly sleeved dresses to exuberant speechmaking and “Cats” trauma.
Bethany: What’s black and white and pink all over? All the clothes on the red carpet at the 2020 Oscars! Also: so many asymmetrical dresses — just like the representation of women in the list of nominees!
Moira: I think that somewhere, far from the Oscars red carpet, is a pile of sleeves and shoulder straps.
Bethany: My mom agreed with us that Renée Zellweger wore the look of the year best: white with one long sleeve, sparkling all over and yet somehow still managing to look all elegance, no flash. Also, honorary Oscar for my mom for the artichoke dip and for having a more comfortable TV situation than either of us.
Moira: At Bethany’s mom’s house, the snack spread was almost as good as the Christmas feast in “Little Women.” Which should have won more awards! (“Little Women’s” sole Oscar win was for Best Costume Design.) But back to fashion: I loved Regina King’s pale pink ballgown, Mindy Kaling’s regal yellow sheath, Janelle Monae’s hooded silver gown, and the pleasantly bizarro dresses that made Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig look like they belonged to a very glamorous cult.
Bethany: And given their a cappella hilarity, Rudolph and Wiig should have done all the musical numbers. Moira, you noted that they should just host the whole thing! And if they got to choose all the winners, we’d see some gender equity right quick. But anyway! Timothée Chalamet’s bomber jacket: overcasual, oddly blousey, not a good look. But points to Brad Pitt for a very classy, classic velvet number.
Moira: One of my favorite tweets of the night, from @fuggirls, was “Timothee Chalamet looks like he’s working the shuttle stop for a secret Oscar party in the Hills.”
Bethany: “Throw this one to ‘Little Women’! Come on!” Moira said when Costume Design came up. It’s sad when a film by a female director winning for costumes feels important, but thank god it did, otherwise it would’ve been completely shut out. Such a good film, but, you know, “women” is right there in the title, so how could the men of the Academy be expected to, you know, watch it?
Moira: Costumes ARE important. But I feel you. One thing that’s disappointing about this Oscars — and really most Oscars lately — is that the acting awards seemed decided long ago, based on the season’s earlier awards. Laura Dern (“Marriage Story”), Brad Pitt (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”), Renee Zellweger (“Judy”) and Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker”) all won, as expected. All are fine performances, all well-deserved — but I wanted a surprise acting winner; someone genuinely shocked to be on the podium. Maybe next year.
Bethany: I wasn’t too aware of who the favorites were, but all those categories felt a little zzzzz to me anyway. The energy in my mom’s living room grew low. The cats got sleepy, and so did we.
Moira: Only at the end did things suddenly get exciting. Before Oscar night, this seemed like a Best Picture year that was tough to call. Would “1917” appeal to the traditional Oscar voters? Would Quentin Tarantino take the top prize for his dark Tinseltown valentine “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”? Would “Joker,” which for some reason had more nominations than any other film, sneak in for a win? But no: History was made when “Parasite,” Bong Joon Ho’s masterful, mesmerizing class satire, won both best picture and best international feature, as well as best director and original screenplay. In an evening that often felt rote, this was a delicious surprise — and the first foreign-language film in Oscar history to win the top prize.
Bethany: And Utkarsh Ambudkar wins for his amazing mid-show freestyle rap that addressed everything that had happened so far — and #OscarsSoWhite.
Moira: I was kind enough to write an open letter to the nominees — without even being asked! — telling them how to give a good Oscars speech. And . . . did they listen? A few of them did! Brad Pitt, winning supporting actor for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” was brief and charming. Taika Waititi, winning best original screenplay for “Jojo Rabbit,” dedicated his Oscar “for all the indigenous kids . . . We are the original storytellers.” And Hildur Guonadottir, only the fourth woman in Academy history to win for original score (“Joker”), dedicated hers “to the girls, to the women, to the mothers, to the daughters … please speak up — we need to hear your voices.”
Bethany: Laura Dern’s speech indicated she’d willfully disregarded your advice about minimizing the laundry-listy thanks, but then naming her parents as her heroes turned it around so sweetly in the end. And when she said, “I love you, Mom” — her mother, actor Diane Ladd, was in the audience — I said the same to my mom. Inspiring, just like you say Oscars speeches should be!
Moira: Let’s not talk about Phoenix’s rambling speech, but move right along to how very touching it was to hear Bong Joon-Ho, winning Best Director for “Parasite,” paying tribute to Martin Scorsese, whose films he studied long ago. This resulted in a nice standing O for Scorsese, whose “The Irishman” didn’t win anything, but who is clearly revered.
Bethany: “I’m ready to drink tonight!” Joon-Ho said as he accepted the Oscar for Best International Film. After picking up the best director one, he upgraded to, “Thank you, I will drink until next morning!” Bet he’s partying well into next week after the surprise win for “Parasite” for Best Picture!
Moira: He spoke for all of us. Unfortunately we were on deadline.
Bethany: And with Mom offering us more prosecco!
Bethany: The opening song-and-dance number … what even was that? When the camera panned the audience, many a person looked like they were summoning every iota of their acting skills to look amused rather than baffled and/or horrified.
Moira: I kind of enjoyed it, as it brought back memories of being on a couch with my parents decades ago, watching old-school Oscar-night production numbers. And Janelle Monae looks great in a “Midsommar” flower wreath. Best reaction shot of the evening, though: Scorsese during Eminem’s frequently bleeped performance of “Lose Yourself” (why?).
Bethany: Kelly Marie Tran intro’ing Keanu Reeves as “a man whose matrix we’d all like to reload” seemed, well, wrong.
Moira: Lots of people pointed out on social media that Tran had more to say in 45 seconds at the Oscars than in the last “Star Wars” movie. Diane Keaton and Keanu Reeves presenting together (a “Something’s Gotta Give” reunion!) was … sort of like performance art. But in a good way. And when James Corden and Rebel Wilson came out in their “Cats” costumes … well, it was a little traumatic.
Bethany: One of my mom’s cats commenced howling. Coincidence?!
Moira: Or commentary? Overall, these Oscars felt strangely catchall, like a lot of entirely unrelated vignettes tossed together; sort of an Oscar salad.
Bethany: The unexpected “Parasite”-carries-the-day theme at least made the salad a less snoozy one!
Moira: Our evening ended with Bethany’s mom’s cat crashed on my Oscar ballot — on which I predicted, for the record, 14 out of 24 wins. Not my best year; not my worst. (Happy to be wrong on Best Picture.) As we close, let’s give thanks for the good company (human and feline), the heavenly cheese-heavy spread of snacks, and for Diane Keaton, whose plaid coat should host the Oscars next year.