LOS ANGELES — The 92nd Academy Awards have started off on script: Brad Pitt won his first acting Oscar for his performance in “Once Upon a Time ... In Hollywood” and Bong Joon Ho's “Parasite” took best original screenplay.
Few categories were more certain coming into Sunday's Oscars than best supporting actor, which Pitt has had locked down all awards season. Pitt earlier shared in the best picture win for “12 Years a Slave,” as was a producer. While Pitt has regaled audiences with one-liners in the run-up to the Oscars, he began his comments on a political note.
“They told me I have 45 seconds to speak, which is 45 seconds more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week,” said Pitt, alluding to the impeachment hearings. “I'm thinking maybe Quentin does a movie about it.”
Pitt said the honor had given him reason to reflect on his fairy-tale journey in the film industry, going back to when he moved to Los Angeles from Missouri. “Once upon a time in Hollywood," said Pitt. "Ain't that the truth.”
The class satire “Parasite," which many believe has a chance to upset the front-runner “1917” for best picture, got off to a good start. In winning best screenplay, Bong and co-writer Han Jin Won became the first Asian writers to take the prize, and “Parasite” became the first Korean film to win an Oscar. Should “Parasite” win the night's final award, it would be the first non-English language film to win best picture.
“Regardless of the outcome, I think the door has been opened,” Bong said on the red carpet. “I think as long as we continue this effort, the door will just open wider and wider.”
As it did last year, the annual Dolby Theatre ceremony kicked off without a host. Janelle Monae opened the show entering a Mister Rogers set and singing “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” Singing to the front row, Monae dropped her bowler hat on the head of Tom Hanks, who was nominated for his performance as Fred Rogers. A medley continued with Billy Porter joining in, as Monae segued into her song “Come Alive.”
“I’m so proud to be standing here as a black queer artist telling stories," said Monae. "Happy Black History Month.”
Two former Oscar hosts, Chris Rock and Steve Martin, dropped in to supply an opening monologue. Martin called it “an incredible demotion.” Martin noted that something was missing from this year's directing nominees. “Vaginas!" Rock replied. No women were nominated for best director this year.
Pixar extended its domination of the best animated film category, winning for “Toy Story 4.” It's the 10th Pixar film to win the award and second “Toy Story” film to do so, following the previous 2010 installment.
It was also an early award for the Walt Disney Co. which despite last year amassing a record $13 billion in worldwide box office and owning the network the Oscars are broadcast on, was set to play a minor role in the ceremony. Some of its best chances came from 20th Century Fox (“Ford v Ferrari”) and Fox Searchlight (“Jojo Rabbit”), which the company took control of after its $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox last year.
“Jojo Rabbit” also won for Taika Waititi's adapted screenplay to his Nazi satire. The New Zealand filmmaker became the first indigenous director ever to win an Oscar. He dedicated the award to “all the indigenous kids in the world who want to do art, dance and write stories.”
“We are the original storytellers,” Waititi said.
The rainy weather provided some early drama on the red carpet, with workers scrambling to keep water from leaking onto camera crews covering the ceremony. Some outfits spoke loudly. Natalie Portman wore a cape lined with the names of female filmmakers who weren't nominated for best director, including Lulu Wang ("The Farewell"), Greta Gerwig ("Little Women") and Mati Diop ("Atlantics"). Spike Lee, who documented the late Kobe Bryant in the 2009 documentary “Kobe Doin' Work,” wore a Lakers-colored tuxedo with Bryant's number, 24, emblazoned on it.
ABC, which is broadcasting the show live, is hoping a widely watched field of nominees — including the $1 billion-grossing “Joker,” up for a leading 11 awards — will help viewership. Last year’s show garnered 29.6 million viewers, a 12% uptick.
This year’s Oscars comes amid a streaming overhaul throughout Hollywood. Hurrying to catch up to Netflix and Amazon, most of the major studios are prepping or have already launched their own streaming services, as have new entrants like Apple. Netflix comes into the Oscars with a leading 24 nominations thanks to “The Irishman,” “Marriage Story,” “The Two Popes” and the likely best documentary winner, “American Factory.”
But despite spending heavily through awards season, Netflix may go home with only a few awards. The streamer is still seeking its first best picture win after Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” came up just shy last year.
Instead, this year’s Oscar favorites are largely movies released widely in theaters. They also predominantly feature male characters and come from male directors.
After a year in which women made significant gains behind the camera, no female directors were nominated for best director. The acting categories are also the least diverse since the fallout of #OscarsSoWhite pushed the academy to remake its membership. Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet”) is the only actor of color nominated. Those results, which have been a topic in speeches through awards season, stand in contrast to research that suggests the most popular movies star more people of color than ever before.