The Most Political Moments From the 2020 Oscars, with Jane Fonda bonus.

The 2020 Oscars will be remembered for making history. For the first time in the 92-year existence of the Academy Awards, a film not in the English language won best picture. Bong Joon Ho's Parasite took home four Oscars, including best picture, best director for Bong, best international feature, and best original screenplay for Bong and Han Jin Won—and each of its victories were met with thunderous applause from the assembled crowd of Hollywood elite.

Parasite won in a year when the Academy itself was criticized for its failure to nominate any women in the best-director category, while only one person of color, Cynthia Erivo, was cited for acting honors among 20 possible slots—which made its victory feel like a political statement all on its own. But the 2020 Oscars also contained plenty of overt commentary about and criticism of the world at large—even though President Donald Trump went unmentioned by the major winners. Ahead, a collection of the night's most political moments.

Brad Pitt

The most unexpected part of Brad Pitt's very expected Oscar win in the best-supporting-actor category might have been the Once Upon a Time…in Hollywoodstar opening his acceptance speech with a shot at the Donald Trump impeachment trial. "They told me I only had 45 seconds this year, which is 45 seconds more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week," Pitt said, in reference to the fact that the Senate impeachment trial went forward without witnesses. "I'm thinking maybe Quentin [Tarantino] does a movie about it. In the end, the adults do the right thing." (Tarantino has made numerous films that revise tragic historical events, including Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.)

Backstage after the show, Pitt spoke about his decision to open the ceremony with a political statement. "I was really disappointed with this week. and I think when gamesmanship trumps doing the right thing…I don't think we should let it slide," he said.

American Factory codirector Julia Reichert

That the best-documentary category touched on real-world issues should be no surprise: This year's nominees included films about the Syrian war, the environment, and U.S.–China labor relations from Barack and Michelle Obama's production company, Higher Ground. It was that film, American Factory, that won on Sunday night—providing codirector Julia Reichert with a chance to give an impassioned plea for the working class watching at home. "Working people have it harder and harder these days, and we believe that things will get better when workers of the world unite," she said.

On Twitter, the American Factory win was praised by President Obama: "Congrats to Julia and Steven, the filmmakers behind American Factory, for telling such a complex, moving story about the very human consequences of wrenching economic change. Glad to see two talented and downright good people take home the Oscar for Higher Ground's first release."The 2020 Oscars will be remembered for making history. For the first time in the 92-year existence of the Academy Awards, a film not in the English language won best picture. Bong Joon Ho's Parasite took home four Oscars, including best picture, best director for Bong, best international feature, and best original screenplay for Bong and Han Jin Won—and each of its victories were met with thunderous applause from the assembled crowd of Hollywood elite.

Taika Waititi

The Jojo Rabbit filmmaker made history on Sunday night, becoming the first indigenous person to win an Academy Award for screenwriting. During his speech, Waititi dedicated the award to indigenous children around the world. "We are the original storytellers, and we make it here as well," he said. Later, while introducing Governors Award winners Geena Davis and Wes Studi,Waititi acknowledged that Hollywood was built on indigenous land.

Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix used his time on the Oscar stage not to thank Joker director Todd Phillips or his partner, actor Rooney Mara, but instead to speak for whom he called "the voiceless."

"I've been thinking a lot about some of these distressing issues that we are facing collectively, and I think sometimes we feel or are made to feel that we champion different causes. But for me I see commonality," Phoenix said. "I think whether we're talking about gender and equality, or racism, or queer rights, or indigenous rights, or animal rights, we're talking about the fight against injustice. We're talking about the fight against the belief that one people, one race, one gender, one species has the right to dominate, control, use, and exploit another with impunity."

The actor, who is vegan, then added, "We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and then steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable."

Steve Martin

This year's Oscars didn't have a host, but former emcees Steve Martin and Chris Rock opened the show with a barrage of timely jokes, including a zinger about the troubled Iowa caucuses. "A couple of years ago, there was a big disaster here at the Oscars, where they accidentally read out the wrong name," Martin said. "And it was nobody's fault, but they have guaranteed that this will not happen this year because the Academy has switched to the new Iowa caucus app."

Hair Love writer Matthew A. Cherry

While accepting an Academy Award in the best-animated-short category for the film Hair Love, writer Matthew A. Cherry shouted out the CROWN Act(CROWN is an acronym for "Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair"), a law first passed in California that "ensures protection against discrimination based on hairstyles by extending statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles in the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and state Education Codes," according to its website.

"Hair Love was done because we wanted to see more representation in animation, we wanted to normalize black hair and there's a very important issue out there, the CROWN Act," Cherry said. "If we can help get this passed in all 50 states, it will help stories like DeAndre Arnold's [stop happening]." Arnold, who was a guest of the Hair Love team at the Oscars on Sunday, is a high school student from Texas who was told he might not get to walk at graduation if he doesn't cut his dreadlocks. Arnold has said he won't because the hairstyle is part of his Trinidadian heritage. "Like, I've worked for this all my life. I've strived for this. I deserve this moment, to walk across stage and enter into life," Arnold told Ellen DeGeneres last month. "My parents deserve this. Like, they're the ones who, you know, they got me through anything. And you know, they just taught me everything. They deserve to see me walk across the stage."

Vanity Fair, February 10, 2020


February 10, 2020

Voices4America Post Script. Yes, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama first production won an Oscar. Hollywood decried the White House in other ways too. Now that you checked it out, share it! #OscarHatesTrump

Here is further commentary from Emma.Hinchcliffe@

At the Academy Awards last night, women were honored for some important achievements—from the female directors behind four of the five best documentary nominees to Joker composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, the first woman to win for best original score since the current category was created in 2000. ["To the girls, to the women, to the mothers, to the daughters, who hear the music bubbling within, please speak up. We need to hear your voices." ]

Laura Dern took home her first statue for best supporting actress. Renée Zellweger won best actress. The filmmakers behind the animated short Hair Love, including Karen Rupert Toliver, used their win to advocate for the CROWN Act, which would ban hair discrimination nationwide. And the best documentary award went to American Factory, the Obama-backed project co-directed by Julia Reichert, who has spoken about the meaning of winning the honor while battling cancer.

What's more, Eimear Noone was the first woman in the Oscars' 92 years to conduct the ceremony's orchestra.

But the tone of the evening was mixed. Before the ceremony even started on ABC, the network reportedly rejected an advertisement from the company Frida Mom, which sells products for personal care after giving birth, that it said was "too graphic," showing mesh underwear and other bodily realities of the postpartum experience. Then, Natalie Portman showed up in an incredible garment that didn't let us forget who would be missing from the stage later in the evening: the female directors overlooked in the best director category. Their names—Scafaria, Wang, Gerwig, Diop, Heller, Matsoukas, Har'el, Sciamma—were embroidered on her cape. (It was a more effective statement than Chris Rock's opening comment that "vaginas" would be missing from the nominees that night.)

Once the awards actually started, there were a few more snubs. Little Women lost all the awards it was up for except best costume design—a bummer for that movie's fans that also seemed to betray some bias in which aspects of a female-focused movie are valued by the Academy's voters.

And in either a moment of brutal honesty or a complete lack of self-awareness—depending on your perspective— sound editor for Ford v. Ferrari Donald Sylvester thanked his wife for giving up her owncareer as a sound editor to raise their children so that he could win an award last night.

The big winner and history-maker of the night was Parasite, the first non-English language film to win best picture. Producers Kwak Sin-ae and Miky Lee got to close out the evening with heartwarming speeches. Lee, a media mogul in South Korea, thanked the country's moviegoing audiences for their devotion, preventing the filmmakers from becoming "complacent"—a message she delivered after protests from the Oscars crowd forced the night's producers to turn the lights back on and let her speak.

Let's hope that next year, more women will be nominated in behind-the-scenes categories. In the meantime, I'm off to watch some documentaries.

A special shout-out to activist actress Jane Fonda for her newly visible grey hair and choice of her recycled red carpet gown to dramatize climate change.

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