The Best And Worst Things That Happened At The 2020 Oscars

The 2020 Oscars made history in several ways: Parasite took home four trophies out of its six Academy Award nominations, making it the first South Korean film to win an Oscar. According to Variety, Elton John's win for Best Original Song for "I'm Gonna Love Me Again" from Rocketman, was his first in 25 years, and the the first ever with his longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin. And Icelandic musician Hildur Guðnadóttir became the first female composer in 23 years to win for Best Original Score for Joker. There were a lot of great moments, and they were tough to narrow down!

However, like any other awards show, the 2020 Oscars had its issues. It ran long, and its lack of a host made pacing and segues from segment to segment and to and from commercial breaks awkward at times — and even took away the spotlight from many stars who deserved it. Then there were the self-indulgent speeches, the occasionally pitchy performances, and one high-profile and possibly hurtful snub. Behold, the five best and five worst moments of the 2020 Oscars.

Hair Love was a win for representation

Matthew A. Cherry (above far left) and Karen Rupert Tolliver (above far right) took home the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film for Hair Love, a celebration of black hair. Tolliver told the crowd, "It was a labor of love and it was because we have a firm belief that representation matters deeply, especially in cartoons, because in cartoons that's when we first see our movies and that's how we shape our lives and think about how we see the world."

Cherry said, "Hair Love was done because we wanted to see more representation in animation. We wanted to normalize black hair. There's a very important issue that's out there, it's the Crown Act, and if we can help to get this passed in all 50 states, it will help stories like DeAndre Arnold, who's our special guest tonight." Arnold had been banned from attending his high school prom and graduation ceremony because he refused to cut his dreadlocks. He previously told Refinery 29 of Cherry and Tolliver's Oscars invitation, "I'm so grateful. I never expected any of this. The message of that movie and my message go together so well. I think it's really amazing how they reached out to me and we can fight this together."

Both supporting actor winners made moving speeches

Brad Pitt took home his first acting Oscar ever for Best Supporting Actor for Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. "This is incredible, just incredible," Pitt gushed. "Thank you to the Academy for this honor of honors ... I only have 45 seconds up here, which is 45 more seconds than the Senate gave John Bolton this week. Maybe someday Quentin Tarantino will make a movie where in the end, the adults do the right thing."

"Leo, I'll ride on your coattails any day, man. The view is fantastic," he added. Pitt then admitted, "I'm a little bit gobsmacked." He reminisced on going to drive-in theaters with his parents growing up in Missouri, then moving to Los Angeles in his youth to pursue his acting career. "'Once upon a time in Hollywood,' ain't that the truth?" he said, his voice breaking with emotion. "This is for my kids, who color everything I do," he concluded. "I adore you. Thank you."

Laura Dern won the Best Supporting Actress trophy and issued a similarly moving speech, thanking her parents. "You know, some say never meet your heroes, but I say if you're really blessed you get them as your parents," the Marriage Story star said. "I share this with my acting heroes, my legends, Dianne Ladd and Bruce Dern."

The alleged sexism and racism of the Oscars didn't go unnoticed

Chris Rock and Steve Martin joined forces for evening's opening introductions, with Rock joking that Martin confused Monae with Jennifer Lopez, who'd just killed it with a join performance with Shakira at the Super Bowl a week prior. The comedians, who each hosted the Oscars in the past, cracked that "Twitter" was the reason the show had no host, and Rock brought up social issues, including homelessness, wealth inequality and even the Iowa caucuses. They called out attendee Jeff Bezos ("He got divorced and he's still the richest man alive!"), and told Martin Scorsese they "loved the first season of The Irishman." The funnymen also pointedly pointed out that "vaginas" were missing from the Best Director nominees (with the camera cutting to Greta Gerwig, who was snubbed for her critically acclaimed adaptation of Little Women) and joked that Harriet star Cynthia Erivo did such a good job playing Harriet Tubman that she was "hiding all the black nominees," citing Eddie Murphy's snub for Dolemite Is My Name.

Later, Oscar Isaac and Salma Hayek took their own shots at the heavily white Oscar nominees. Clutching Isaac's hand, Hayek cracked that it was the first time she had "held an Oscar on this stage," to which Isaac responded, "Congratulations! Oscars not so white now."

Eminem and Cynthia Erivo lost themselves

A bearded Eminem, accompanied by a small orchestra, delivered a powerful performance of "Lose Yourself" from 8 Mile ... 18 years after the movie was released. The televised version of the performance was heavily censored, leaving entire bars silent. That said, the crowd enjoyed it, especially Gal Gadot, Kelly Marie Tran, Janelle Monae, Billie Elilish, and Aurora (though Martin Scorsese looked like he was dozing off and Idina Menzel just looked irked throughout). The performance was a surprise, especially since it came with no introduction. Eminem acknowledged the confusion somewhat in a tweet, posting a video of Barbra Streisand announcing the track winning Best Original Song at the 2003 Oscars. "Look, if you had another shot, another opportunity... Thanks for having me @TheAcademy," he wrote. "Sorry it took me 18 years to get here."

Cynthia Erivo and a choir performed "Stand Up" from Harriet and absolutely slayed it. Clad in a gold sheath gown with a statement collar that extended higher than her head in back, Erivo delivered a powerful yet understated vocal performance that appeared effortless. "Stand Up" was nominated for Best Original Song, but lost out to Elton John and Taron Egerton's "I'm Gonna Love Me Again" from Rocketman. Erivo was also nominated for Best Actress in the biopic of Harriet Tubman. Erivo earned a standing ovation for the moving performance, which required no bells and whistles to be a shining moment on Hollywood's biggest night.

Janelle Monae and Billy Porter's killing opening number

Janelle Monae opened the show with "Won't You Be My Neighbor," visiting Tom Hanks in the front row and giving him her bowler hat. From there, she made her way back onto the stage with an uptempo original song and dance number about the Oscars themselves, urging the crowd to "come alive" and "shine." Joining her was Billy Porter, clad in a red outfit, beaded glittering gold coat, and silver red-bottom sparkly heels. He did a brief cover of Elton John's "I'm Still Standing" in honor of Rocketman, then Monae launched into a mostly ad-libbed track set to the melody of "Never Had a Friend Like Me" from Aladdin, asking audience members including Rebel Wilson and Brie Larson to sing along — and celebrating the fact that she was opening the show as a black, queer artist. The crowd gave Monae a standing ovation, and Larson, as well as Marriage Story stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, were spotted cheering and beaming at the conclusion of the performance.

The international performance of a Frozen II song was fire

Idina Menzel and Aurora tore the roof off with their rendition of "Into the Unknown" from Frozen II, for which they were joined by several of the international voices of Elsa: Maria Lucia Heiberg Rosenberg (Denmark), Willemijn Verkaik {Germany}, Takako Matsu (Japan), Carmen Garcia Saenz (Latin America), Lisa Stokke (Norway), Kasia Laska (Poland), Anna Buturlina (Russia), Gisela (Spain) and Gam Wichayanee (Thailand).

Unfortunately, the international Elsas' vocals often surpassed Menzel, who was occasionally drowned out by the instrumentals, but the overall effect was, at times, a cacophony of well-intentioned caterwauling. Even the stage production design evoked the feel of Frozen II with its blue, icy diamonds and Aurora sitting alone in the back upper area, with her voice of the "siren" calling to the others. Menzel told ABC 7's On the Red Carpet ahead of the Oscars that it was "100 percent not true" that she wasn't nervous about the performance. "I am always nervous," she admitted. "It's that weird thing of loving to perform and having to combat a lot of anxiety and nerves. It certainly doesn't go away ... not on a night like tonight."

Why did the Oscars choose to not introduce these musical numbers?

Randy Newman, Chrissy Metz, Eminem, and Elton John had no introductions to their musical performances, which would be bad enough on their own. But the biggest tragedy of the evening was the lack of an introduction for the amazing rap performance by Utkarsh Ambudkar, who recapped the 2020 Oscars up to that point. It was an incredible display of his talent, which included quips like pointing out that there were "a bunch of nominees who don't look like me." He congratulated Brad Pitt on his Best Supporting Actor win for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and begged him to do the sequel to World War Z, called out John Travolta for notoriously calling Idina Menzel "Adele Dazeem" years ago and closed with the announcement that there is "plenty of light here for us all to shine."

If only Ambudkar, whose credits include the upcoming Mulan and Free Guy, as well as The Mindy Project and Brittany Runs a Marathon,had been introduced properly, he may have gotten the recognition he absolutely deserved.

Joaquin Phoenix's Oscar acceptance speech was all over the place

Joaquin Phoenix was quite deserving of the Best Actor Oscar for Joker, but his acceptance speech was a muddle of gratitude and scold. Ironically, while calling out "egocentric worldviews," he came off as pretentious and rambling. At times, he did seem conciliatory, saying, "I've been a scoundrel in my life. I've been selfish. I've been cruel at times, hard to work with, and ungrateful, but so many of you in this room have given me a second chance." But when it came time to address what he called "the distressing issues we are facing collectively," including gender inequality, racism, environmental issues, indigenous rights, queer rights, he focused exclusively on... animal rights.

"We've become very disconnected from the natural world," he said. "We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and when she gives birth, we steal her baby even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable, and then we take her milk that's intended for her calf and we put it in our coffee and our cereal." Uh.. what? He also addressed cancel culture, the internet's tendency to quickly condemn a public person's high-profile foible, saying, "We're at our best ... when we help each other to grow, when we educate each other, when we guide each other toward redemption." He did close with a moving lyric from late brother River Phoenix: "Run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow." It could have been much better, yes, but it also could have been worse.

The cast of Parasite almost missed its biggest Oscars moment

As we previously mentioned, Parasite made history multiple times over, winning Best Director for Bong Joon Ho, Best Original Screenplay and Best International Film. Then came Best Picture, which is the biggest award of the entire Oscars telecast — and the cast and crew's time to shine was almost cut short when the lights dimmed on-stage because the show ran overtime. 

It was unfair for a history-making event, especially after the audience had just listened to Renee Zellweger and Joaquin Phoenix's respective rambling for Best Actress and Best Actor that each went without truncation. Thankfully, the crowd urged the curtain to go back up, and the team behind the first Academy Award-winning film ever from South Korea was able to have its well-deserved, hard-earned moment of glory at the conclusion of the show. And considering how great Ho's speeches were earlier in the evening (including his shoutouts to Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino, as well as his announcement that he was going to drink for the rest of the night), it was great to give the rest of the team their moment in the sun.

The Oscars In Memoriam segment had two big omissions

Newly minted Grammy winner Billie Eilish and her equally ubiquitous brother Finneas delivered a relatively solid performance of a cover of "Yesterday" by the Beatles for the 2020 Academy Awards "In Memoriam" segment. At times, Billie's vocals were rendered inaudible, but that was the least of the segment's issues: They omitted two major stars from the tribute.

Entertainment Weekly reported that Luke Perry, who died in February 2019 after suffering a stroke days earlier, and Cameron Boyce, a former Disney star who appeared in movies including Grown Ups franchise, were missing from the list of stars the world has lost in the past year since the 2019 Oscars. Perry's absence was particularly surprising considering the Beverly Hills, 90210 star appeared in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood with Best Supporting Actor winner Brad Pitt. Both Boyce and Perry were previously honored in the in memoriam tributes at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Emmy Awards.