2020 Oscars Preview: who to watch and why

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Kathy Ou/The Occidental

The 92nd Academy Awards is taking place Feb. 9 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, CA. As much as it raises boos from some critics and fans and hurrahs from others for all political and aesthetic reasons these days, this year’s Oscars is a tight race in multiple categories. From Greta Gerwig’s heartfelt adaptation on the classic tale of sisterhood in “Little Women” to Quentin Tarantino’s nostalgic love letter to Old Hollywood in “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” to Bong Joon Ho’s darkly riveting satire on class division in “Parasite,” it is worth spending some time anticipating the potential highlights of this year for both long-time cinephiles and those still torn between watching the telecast or not.

The Academy announced their nominees Jan. 13. The lack of racial diversity and female representation across award categories again reflected the Oscars’ deep-rooted diversity problem, well captured by Issa Rae’s sarcastic “congratulations to those men” during her announcement of the Best Director nominees. Out of the twenty men and women nominated for either Best Actor/Actress in a leading role or Best Actor/Actress in a supporting role, Cynthia Erivo is the only person of color — leaving Oscar nominee hopefuls like Awkwafina in “The Farewell” and Jennifer Lopez in “Hustlers” without any recognition. The Best Director category featured no women in its lineup, despite 2019 being a record-breaking year for films directed by women. This unfortunate predicament resulted in brilliantly insightful filmmakers, such as Greta Gerwig and Lulu Wang, being snubbed.

In light of the social awakenings in the hashtag era, this year’s selection of an all-white crew of nominees in the acting categories is evoking painful memories from the 87th Academy Awards in 2015. Four years after #OscarsSoWhite started, the situation has hardly improved, if at all.

“If 2017 and 2018 were hot times to talk about social issues, then now is even more so,” Schmitz said. “Expect those speeches to be coming from everyone.”

Despite the dynamic performances of many individuals like Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson in “Marriage Story” or Cynthia Enrivo in “Harriet,” the race for Best Actor or Actress in a leading or supporting role has remained static throughout the whole awards season. Nominations that will most likely result in Oscar wins include: Joaquin Phoenix (Best Actor), Renée Zellweger (Best Actress), Brad Pitt (Best Actor in a Supporting Role) and Laura Dern (Best Actress in a Supporting Role), as they have all consistently remained at the top of their respective categories. However, the fight for Best Picture is more riveting than the Best Actor or Actress category with “Parasite,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “1917” and “The Irishman” all vying for the coveted title.

The biggest dark horse this year is most likely “Parasite.” From receiving universal critical acclaim and winning the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, to Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild, Bong Joon Ho encapsulates the world through his metaphorical masterpiece.

“I think ‘Parasite’ is the best movie of the year,” Oxy Film Club President Max Schmitz (sophomore) said.

This witty and grimly humorous take on class warfare and inequality urges viewers to reexamine the current wealth disparity in the U.S. By examining the polar-opposite lives of the working-class Kim family and the affluent Park family, Joon Ho argues both parties leech off of one another, despite conventional notions of the impoverished solely needing the help of the wealthy. Joon Ho’s nuanced thriller redefines the possibilities for foreign language films, as “Parasite’s” circulation within the U.S. is impressive. In terms of numerical success, “Parasite” grossed 31.6 million dollars domestically, amounting to a total of 161.5 million dollars worldwide, making it the highest-grossing film for distributor NEON.

“I think it would be so great if a Korean film got Best Picture,” Manny Rothman* (sophomore) said. “It will be a real shift for the Oscars, giving a non-American film Best Picture. This could be a really monumental moment, and I’m hoping for it.”

Eímear Noone, an Irish conductor and composer, will make Oscars history as the first-ever female conductor on the podium. Former National Football League player and film director and producer Matthew A. Cherry will make his first appearance as well, with his sincere and endearing animated short “Hair Love” about self-confidence and fatherhood in an African-American family — an internet phenomenon with 14 million views on YouTube.

“It’s unfortunate that after a few years where [diversity] has been part of the conversation, this is the case,” Media, Arts & Culture student production coordinator Brendan Galbreath (senior) said. “Ultimately, whether it’s naive or not to say this, I hope we can get to a point where whoever puts in the best performance gets nominated and nothing else is put into consideration.”

The Oxy Film Club will host an Oscars watch party in Choi Auditorium Feb. 9 at 5 p.m.

*Manny Rothman is a Web Designer for The Occidental.