Early on in the Oscars telecast, Steve Martin and Chris Rock took the stage at the hostless ceremony and started riffing on a melange of topics. After spending a bit of time taking some playful jabs at Amazon’s Jeff Bezos who was in the audience, they pivoted towards the topic of diversity this year.
“Chris, I thought there was something missing from the list this year,” Martin said in regards to nominations — specifically the director’s category.
Rock responded, “Vaginas?”
“Yeah!” they said. This was of course, in reference to the lack of recognition of female filmmakers in the Best Directing category.
At one point Rock and Martin gave a shout out to Oscar nominee Cynthia Erivo, who was the lone person of color nominated in an acting category. Rock added that Erivo “did such a great job hiding black people in Harriet that the Academy got her to hide all the black nominees!”
The diversity talk at this year’s ceremony was fairly tame throughout the night despite the lack of diverse nominees in major categories. However, Parasite annihilated the Oscars, becoming the shining star of representation when it comes to inclusive narratives. Nominated for six Oscars, the Korean dark comedy won four trophies including Best Picture, Best International Feature, Best Original Screenplay and Best Director. While doing so, it made history becoming the first non-English feature to win Best Picture and was the first film to win both Best Picture and Best International Feature. It was also the first South Korean film to take home trophies in all of those categories that it won. With all wins, more notice was put on the Academy for not nominating its cast for any acting categories.
Bong’s buddy Taika Waititi became the first Academy Award winner of Maori descent when he took the award for Best Adapted Screenplay. During his speech he gave a shout out to his Indigenous brethren and to all the “indigenous kids who want to create art.”
The night was peppered with talk of diversity but there weren’t many explosive moments to spark controversy. The closest was when Janelle Monae called out the Academy during the opening number saying, “”It’s time to come alive because the Oscars is so white!” She also gave a shout out for the need for narratives from people of color and the LGBTQ community during her opening performance.
When Joaquin Phoenix won Best Actor for his role in Joker, he echoed his BAFTA Awards speech and spoke of unity and fighting against injustice when it came to inequality, racism or animal rights. “We’re talking about the fight against the belief that one nation, one people, one race, one gender or one species has the right to dominate, control and use and exploit another with impunity,” he said.
Other noteworthy moments of the evening was when Shia LaBeouf and his Peanut Butter Falcon co-star Zack Gottsagen presented the award for Best Live Action Short Film. Gottsagen became the first actor with Down syndrome to present at the Oscars. Matthew Cherry won his first Oscar along with Karen Rupert Toliver for the animated short Hair Love, which sheds light on and celebrates black hair and identity.