How the Academy's push for diversity enabled 'Parasite' to make Oscar history

  • Bong Joon Ho, right, reacts as he is presented with the award for Best Picture for "Parasite" from presenter Jane Fonda at the Oscars Sunday.

    Bong Joon Ho, right, reacts as he is presented with the award for Best Picture for "Parasite" from presenter Jane Fonda at the Oscars Sunday. Associated Press

  • Bong Joon Ho holds the Oscars won Sunday for his film "Parasite."

    Bong Joon Ho holds the Oscars won Sunday for his film "Parasite." Associated Press

  • Bong Joon Ho accepts the award for best International Feature Film for "Parasite," from South Korea, at the Oscars on Sunday. The film also won Best Picture, among other awards.

    Bong Joon Ho accepts the award for best International Feature Film for "Parasite," from South Korea, at the Oscars on Sunday. The film also won Best Picture, among other awards. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 2/10/2020 4:32 PM

I am delighted -- and bowled over ­-- that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences agrees with me that Bong Joon Ho's South Korean political drama "Parasite" is the best-written, best-directed, best motion picture of 2019.

But I, like most Academy Awards prognosticators, didn't predict that "Parasite" would win Oscars for Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Best Director. (The Oscar for Best International Feature was an easy call.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

After Academy voters last year roundly rejected Alfonso Cuarón's universally hailed, autobiographically inspired Mexican drama "Roma" as best picture (in favor of the conventional "Green Book"), things looked bleak for any foreign language film to win both the International Feature and Best Picture Oscars.

"Parasite" did it, and wrote a long-overdue page in the Academy's history books.

Even Bong Joon Ho didn't think that would happen, not until he picked up the Best Director trophy and said, through an interpreter, "After winning the International Feature, I thought I was done for the day!"

Not quite.

So what happened between last year and Sunday that pushed Oscar voters outside of their traditional mindset?

Let's look at the numbers.

Ever since the #OscarsSoWhite protests over the conspicuous lack of nonwhite nominees a few years ago, the Academy has promised to diversify its ranks.

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In 2019, the Academy invited 842 filmmakers to join. Reportedly, 50 percent were female, 29 percent were nonwhite.

In announcing those additions, the Hollywood Reporter noted that, as of '19, 32 percent of Academy members were female and 16 percent were people of color. The latter percentage is up from just 8 percent four years earlier.

Could the new members have been enough to shake up the Academy's long-held practice to make the International Feature Oscar the best that any foreign-language movie could hope for?

Apparently, they did.

Which should not take anything away from "Parasite" earning each of its four Oscars. Bong's surprise-filled film topped my Best 10 list for 2019, and has deservedly picked up top awards from many writers and critics organizations.

So, the 92nd Academy Awards started off as a predictably routine show that, just like "Parasite," saved its biggest surprises for the very end.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Meanwhile on an upbeat musical note, Hildur Guðnadóttir broke the male-dominated original score category for her music to "Joker."

Natalie Portman donned a Dior cape embroidered with the names of women who directed 2019 movies, but didn't receive Oscar nominations for their works.

Spike Lee paid tribute to the late Kobe Bryant by wearing a purple and gold suit with the number 24 stitched onto the lapels.

The best nonacceptance speech of the night belonged to Olivia Colman announcing the Best Actor recipient.

She told us that her Best Actress win a year ago (for "The Favourite") turned into "the best night of my husband's life!"

Then she said to the audience, "I hope you're having as good a time as he did!"

To be honest, I don't think we did.

But the "Parasite" crew might think differently.

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