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South Korean film makes history at Oscars, France leaves empty-handed

South Korean directors Bong Joon-ho (centre) makes history in taking Best Picture award for an Asian film
South Korean directors Bong Joon-ho (centre) makes history in taking Best Picture award for an Asian film KEVIN WINTER / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

South Korean black comedy "Parasite" made movie history at the Oscars on Sunday, beating frontrunner "1917" to become the first non English-language film to win best picture award - Hollywood's biggest accolade. 

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A thriller about a poor family infiltrating a wealthy household, "Parasite" won four awards including Oscar for best international feature. It became the first Asian film to scoop best original screenplay.

"It's such a great honor. I feel like I'll wake up to find it's all a dream. It all feels very surreal," director Bong Joon-ho told journalists backstage, calling the night "crazy."

Bong predicted that "naturally we will come to a day" when "a foreign language film winning this won't be much of an issue”.

Wins for Phoenix and Zellweger

The pre-Oscars favorite "1917," Sam Mendes's innovative World War I movie about two soldiers crossing no-man's-land, had to settle for best cinematography, visual effects and sound mixing prizes.

Joaquin Phoenix won his first Oscar for Best Actor in supervillain story "Joker," the film that started the night with the most nominations.

In an emotionally charged speech, the actor railed against injustice and "an egocentric worldview" that leads to environmental destruction.

Renee Zellweger sealed a major comeback by winning best actress for "Judy, dedicating the award to the Hollywood screen legend she portrayed.

"Judy Garland did not receive this honor in her time. I am certain that this moment is an extension of the celebration of her legacy," she said.

A whiff of politics 

Brad Pitt, who claimed his first acting Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in Quentin Tarantino's "Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood," was one of the few winners to strike a political note in an otherwise low-key ceremony.

"They told me I only have 45 seconds up here, which is 45 seconds more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week," he said, referring to President Donald Trump's recent impeachment trial.

"American Factory" - the first film from Barack and Michelle Obama's production house, about a Rust Belt factory reopened by a Chinese billionaire - won best documentary.

Best adapted screenplay went to Nazi satire "Jojo Rabbit," about a young boy corrupted by fascism.

Taika Waititi, who is of Maori origin, said he hoped the win would inspire "all the indigenous kids in the world who want to do art and dance and write stories."

Laura Dern won Best Supporting Actress for her turn as a feisty divorce lawyer in "Marriage Story."

French disappointment

There had been high hopes for "Les Misérables" by Ladj Ly, nominated in the best picture category, but the Academy was having none of it.

Nothing either for Alexandre Desplat, composer of the score to “Little Women”, or Jérémy Clapin's animation film “I lost my body” which lost out to “Toy Story”. 

Short animation film “Mémorable” by Bruno Collet was beaten by “Hair Love”. And Yves Piat” “Nefta Football Club” was pipped to the post by “The Neighbors’ Window”.      

Women's 'fight club' 

Icelandic composer Hildur Gudnadottir won best original score for her haunting music for "Joker". She is only the third woman to win an Oscar for that category.

"To the girls, to the women, to the mothers, to the daughters, who hear the music bubbling within, please speak up," she said. "We need to hear your voices."

Several celebrities noted the absence of nominations for female directors this year.

Natalie Portman, a best actress Oscar winner in 2011 for "Black Swan," donned a Dior cape with names of women left out stitched into it, saying it was her "subtle way" of responding to the omissions.

In her opening musical number, Janelle Monae praised "all the women who directed phenomenal films."

"Alien" star Sigourney Weaver quipped on stage that she and female superheroes Brie Larson ("Captain Marvel") and Gal Gadot ("Wonder Women") were starting a "fight club."

"Men are all invited, but no shirts allowed," Gadot joked.

"And the loser gets to answer questions from journalists about how it feels to be a woman in Hollywood," she added.
 

(with AFP)

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