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'Parasite' Makes Best Picture History At The Academy Awards


Got a chance to see "Parasite" the other night without quite realizing how well-timed the viewing was because the South Korean film upended the Oscars last night by becoming the first foreign language film to win best picture. NPR's Mandalit del Barco was backstage and filed this report.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Bong Joon-ho made history when his film "Parasite" won best motion picture and best international feature film and two other Oscars. Journalists backstage and the audience inside the Dolby Theater leapt to their feet, cheering for the class warfare thriller. Here's Bong accepting the award for best director.


BONG JOON-HO: (Speaking Korean).

SHARON CHOI: Thank you so much. When I was young and studying cinema, there was a saying that I carved deep into my heart, which is the most personal is the most creative.

BONG: That quote was from our great Martin Scorsese so...


DEL BARCO: The audience gave a standing ovation to Martin Scorsese, whose film "The Irishman" had been nominated for 10 awards but took home none. Bong also paid tribute to his fellow nominees Quentin Tarantino, Todd Phillips and Sam Mendes.


BONG: (Speaking Korean).

CHOI: If The Academy allows, I would like to get a Texas chainsaw, split the Oscar trophy into five and share it with all of you.


BONG: Thank you. I will drink until next morning. Thank you.


DEL BARCO: Backstage, Bong talked about the historic win for South Korean cinema. There were no surprises in the acting categories. Best supporting actress went to Laura Dern for "Marriage Story" and Renee Zellweger won for leading actress for her performance as Judy Garland. Backstage, Zellweger said "Judy" honors Garland's legacy.


RENEE ZELLWEGER: To celebrate Judy Garland and to shine a light on perhaps the nuances of the circumstances of her life, which people dismiss as tragic and, you know, the opportunity to tell a story that challenges that narrative and says, oh, no, no, no, you can't know how extraordinary a person is until you know what they struggle with and what they overcome.

DEL BARCO: For his turn as the unstable Joker, Joaquin Phoenix won the Oscar for actor in a leading role. He gave a sprawling speech.


JOAQUIN PHOENIX: Whether we're talking about gender inequality or racism or queer rights or Indigenous rights or animal rights, we're talking about the fight against injustice.

DEL BARCO: There were no official hosts of the ceremony again this year, but comedians Chris Rock and Steve Martin, who've both hosted before, kicked off the night with jabs at the directing category.


STEVE MARTIN: I thought there was something missing from the list this year.

CHRIS ROCK: Vaginas?



DEL BARCO: And a reference to the best picture mix-up at the ceremony three years ago.


MARTIN: Where they accidentally read out the wrong name, and it was nobody's fault, but they have guaranteed that this will not happen this year because The Academy has switched to the new Iowa caucus app.


DEL BARCO: When he accepted the Oscar for best supporting actor, Brad Pitt took a swipe at President Trump's impeachment trial.


BRAD PITT: Thank you to The Academy for this honor of honors. They told me I only have 45 seconds up here, which is 45 seconds more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week.

DEL BARCO: Director Taika Waititi got an Oscar for his adapted screenplay of the World War II satire "Jojo Rabbit" and "Hair Love" won for animated short film. Writer and co-director Matthew Cherry said he made the film to show more representation in animation and to normalize black hair.


MATTHEW CHERRY: This award is dedicated to Kobe Bryant. May we all have a second act as great as his was. Thank you.

DEL BARCO: Kobe Bryant and Kirk Douglas bookended the In Memoriam segment, accompanied by Billie Eilish and her brother.


BILLIE EILISH: (Singing) Yesterday...

DEL BARCO: For the first time in Oscar history, a woman, maestra Eimear Noone, conducted the medley of nominated film scores and another woman, Hildur Gudnadottir, won for her original score for "Joker."


HILDUR GUDNADOTTIR: To the girls, to the women, to the mothers, to the daughters who hear the music bubbling within, please speak up. We need to hear your voices.


DEL BARCO: Whether or not The Academy is listening, we'll find out next year. Mandalit del Barco, NPR News, Hollywood. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Mandalit del Barco
As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition,, and