Brad Pitt’s Oscar win on Sunday marks a fitting comeback for the veteran actor whose personal life, rather than his on-screen roles, has dominated headlines in recent years.
Pitt won the golden statuette for his role as a laid-back fading stuntman in Quentin Tarantino’s ode to 1960s Tinseltown, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.”
“This is incredible, really incredible,” the 56-year-old said as he accepted the award — his first Academy Award for acting after more than 30 years in showbiz and three previous performance nominations.
“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, in reference to President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.
“I’m thinking maybe Quentin does a movie about it — in the end, the adults do the right thing.”
His quips were the latest in a string of pithy, often funny speeches delivered as he swept a glut of prizes this award season including a Golden Globe, targeting everything from divorce to Prince Harry.
On Sunday, he bested a crowded field of four former Oscar winners — Joe Pesci and Al Pacino for Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” Anthony Hopkins (“The Two Popes”) and Tom Hanks (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”).
But it was not his first Oscar — he won a best picture prize in 2014 as one of the producers of “12 Years a Slave.”
Pitt’s performance in “Once Upon a Time…” earned him rave reviews, with Britain’s Sunday Times describing it as the best by a movie star in 2019.
The award is a well-earned win for the Hollywood heartthrob, who has kept a low profile since 2016 as he went through a messy divorce with Angelina Jolie and a bitter custody battle over their six children.
Pitt faced accusations of child abuse, heavy drinking, and drug use.
Since then, he has talked at length about getting sober and attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for a year and a half after having “taken things as far as I could take” them.
“This is for my kids who color everything I do. I adore you,” he said Sunday.
Even before his relationship with Jolie, Pitt has endured the constant tabloid spotlight — especially during his engagement to Gwyneth Paltrow and subsequent marriage to Jennifer Aniston.
“In the 90s, all that attention really threw me,” Pitt told The New York Times in an interview last year.
“It was really uncomfortable for me, the cacophony of expectations and judgments. I really became a bit of a hermit and just bonged myself into oblivion.”
Focus on producing
Raised in Springfield, Missouri, Pitt was the eldest of three children whose father owned a trucking company and aspired to give his kids a better life.
Pitt moved to Los Angeles in the 1980s on a whim, dropping out of college just two credits shy of earning a degree in journalism.
After doing some odd jobs, including dressing as a chicken for a fast-food restaurant, he started getting small TV roles, including on “Dallas” and “21 Jump Street.”
His breakout role came in 1991 as a sexy hustler in Ridley Scott’s smash hit “Thelma & Louise” starring Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon.
That success propelled him to a series of bigger roles — “A River Runs Through It” directed by Robert Redford, “Interview With the Vampire” opposite Tom Cruise, “Legends of the Fall” with Hopkins, and thriller “Se7en” all by 1995.
His first Oscar nod came for another 1995 film, the off-kilter “Twelve Monkeys” directed by Terry Gilliam.
By that time, Pitt was a bona fide A-lister.
After that, he showed versatility in his roles, starring in crime caper “Ocean’s Eleven” with George Clooney, psychological drama “Babel” and Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds.”
His other Oscar acting nods came for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “Moneyball,” a film he also produced.
Apart from “Once Upon a Time,” his comeback to the big screen in 2019 also included a critically acclaimed performance in space drama “Ad Astra,” in which he plays astronaut Roy McBride.
Going forward, Pitt — whose interests include sculpting and landscaping — has said he plans to increasingly focus on producing movies rather than appearing in front of the camera.
“It’ll be fewer and farther in between for me, just because I have other things I want to do now,” he told the Times.
“When you feel like you’ve finally got your arms around something, then it’s time to go get your arms around something else.”
Movie history was made at the Oscars Sunday as South Korea’s black comedy “Parasite” became the first non-English-language film to win the best picture award, Hollywood’s biggest prize of all.
“Parasite,” about a poor South Korean family infiltrating a wealthy household, won a total of four awards, defying the received wisdom that the Academy would overlook a subtitled Asian movie.
“I thought I was done for the day and ready to relax,” filmmaker Bong Joon-ho said upon winning best director honors, before promising to “drink until next morning.”
But a bigger shock was in store as the movie beat frontrunner “1917” to win Best Picture.
“It feels like a very opportune moment in history is happening right now,” producer Kwak Sin-ae told an audience of Tinseltown A-listers, who cheered the film’s wins throughout the night at the Dolby Theatre.
“Parasite” also won the Oscar for best international feature, and became the first Asian film to scoop Best Original Screenplay.
“We never write to represent our countries,” Bong said earlier in the night when he took the screenplay award. “But this is (the) very first Oscar to South Korea. Thank you.”
Bong also paid tribute to his childhood hero and fellow nominee Martin Scorsese, drawing a standing ovation for the veteran director of “The Irishman.”
Phoenix and Zellweger win
The pre-Oscars favorite “1917,” Sam Mendes’s innovative and personal 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 his turn in supervillain origin 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, before paying tribute to his actor brother River, who died of a drug overdose in 1993.
“I have been a scoundrel in my life,” admitted Phoenix, thanking Hollywood for not “canceling” him out and urging others to show similar forgiveness.
Renee Zellweger sealed a remarkable comeback after six years away from the screen by winning best actress for “Judy,” dedicating the award to Hollywood screen legend Judy Garland.
“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 in accepting her second Oscar.
Pitt, who claimed his first acting Academy Award for his supporting turn in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood,” was one of several winners to strike a political note.
“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.
Barack Obama tweeted his praise for “a complex, moving story about the very human consequences of wrenching economic change.”
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.”
The event’s luxury and glamour contrast with the grief enveloping Los Angeles over the recent deaths of Golden Age film legend Kirk Douglas and Oscar-winning basketball star Kobe Bryant.
Record Grammy-winning singer Billie Eilish sang a moving version of “Yesterday” to accompany the “in memoriam” montage for those Hollywood lost this year, which opened with Bryant and closed with Douglas.
Music was a prominent theme throughout the night, which began with a medley addressing a swirling row over the lack of minorities and female directors on the star-studded nominee list.
“We celebrate all the women who directed phenomenal films and I’m so proud to stand here as a black, queer artist,” singer Janelle Monae said.
Elton John, who won for Best Original Song from “Rocketman,” a film about his life, thanked best original song co-winner Bernie Taupin for being there “when I was screwed up, when I was normal.”
Icelandic composer Hildur Gudnadottir won Best Original Score for her haunting music for “Joker.”
“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.”
No female directors were nominated this year — a theme referred to by several celebrities.
Natalie Portman, a best actress Oscar winner in 2011 for “Black Swan,” literally wore her feelings — she had their names stitched into the Dior cape she wore to the gala.
#MeToo movie “Bombshell,” the true story of sexual harassment at Fox News, won Best Make-up and Hairstyling.
Auto racing film “Ford v Ferrari” bagged two technical prizes, for film editing and sound editing.
The ceremony had no host for a second consecutive time, after last year’s batch of bright guest presenters caused a trend-bucking uplift in TV ratings.
Renee Zellweger scored the Oscar for best actress on Sunday for her performance as the American icon Judy Garland in “Judy” — the second Academy Award of her career.
She bested a stacked field that included Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet”), Scarlett Johansson (“Marriage Story”), Saoirse Ronan (“Little Women”) and Charlize Theron (“Bombshell”).
“Boy, it is an honor to be considered in your company,” she said, before praising the power of “heroes” to unite, calling out figures including Neil Armstrong, Selena, Harriet Tubman, and Martin Scorsese.
“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 that began on our film set,” Zellweger said.
“Ms Garland, you are certainly among the heroes who unite and define us, and this is certainly for you.”
The Barack and Michelle Obama-produced film “American Factory” snagged an Oscar on Sunday for Best Documentary — a win for Netflix, which backed the story of a manufacturing plant in the US Midwest reopened by a Chinese billionaire.
The film charts a Rust Belt community’s journey from optimism at the giant plant’s reopening, which brought back vital jobs, towards creeping anger and disillusionment, as the Chinese management imposed strict, exhausting demands on workers — and sacked those who did not comply.
“Our film is from Ohio and China,” director Julia Reichert said. “But it really could be from anywhere that people put on a uniform, punch a clock, trying to make their families have a better life.”
“Working people have it harder and harder these days, and we believe that things will get better when workers of the world unite,” she said in accepting her statuette.
Congrats to Julia, Steven, and the whole crew on winning Best Documentary for #AmericanFactory, Higher Ground’s first release! So glad to see their heart and honesty recognized—because the best stories are rarely tidy or perfect. But that’s where the truth so often lies. https://t.co/qtdNEw9H3f
Co-directed by Reichert and Steven Bognar, the film is an all-access look at how both American and Chinese workers, from blue-collar to management, had their lives transformed by powerful global economic forces.
The story was moving enough to catch notice from none other than the Obamas.
The former first couple acquired “American Factory” early last year at the Sundance Film Festival, where it had won the directing award.
It was released on Netflix in August 2019 as the first offering from the former first couple’s Higher Ground Productions company.
The film’s co-producer and the factory’s chairman were unable to leave China for the ceremony, due to White House restrictions on travel over the coronavirus panic.
“That inconvenience pales when compared to people losing their lives, suffering because of this virus,” co-director Bognar said backstage.
The Obamas congratulated Reichert and Bognar for their win Sunday, with the former president calling the film “a complex, moving story about the very human consequences of wrenching economic change.”
“Glad to see two talented and downright good people take home the Oscar for Higher Ground’s first release,” he tweeted.
Congrats to Julia and Steven, the filmmakers behind American Factory, for telling such a complex, moving story about the very human consequences of wrenching economic change. Glad to see two talented and downright good people take home the Oscar for Higher Ground’s first release. https://t.co/W4AZ68iWoY
Joaquin Phoenix capped his awards season sweep with his first Oscar on Sunday for “Joker,” besting a packed field of nominees that included Antonio Banderas, Leonardo DiCaprio, Adam Driver, and Jonathan Pryce.
His first Academy Award follows months of controversy over the arthouse origin story about Batman’s nemesis, which stoked fears of inciting violence even as it hoarded nominations and awards.
“We share the same love, the love of film. This form of expression has given me the most extraordinary life,” the actor said before launching into an emotional call for Hollywood to “use our voice for the voiceless” and “fight against injustice.”
He ended his speech with a tearful tribute to his brother River, who died of an overdose in 1993 at age 23.
“Run to the rescue with love and peace will follow,” Phoenix said, quoting his brother.
This has certainly been a very good year for Laura Dern.
The 52-year-old has been enjoying a career revival of sorts, with a string of starring roles in critically acclaimed film and TV projects — and now she has claimed her first Oscar.
Dern triumphed on Sunday in the best-supporting actress category for her portrayal of a cutthroat divorce lawyer in “Marriage Story,” on the heels of wins at the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild awards and the Baftas.
She also featured in another Oscar-nominated film this past year, “Little Women,” and is enjoying success on the small screen in the HBO hit series “Big Little Lies” as ambitious executive Renata.
But it is her work as Nora, the lawyer representing Scarlett Johansson’s Nicole in her divorce from Adam Driver’s Charlie in “Marriage Story,” that has turned into her crowning glory.
“Some say never meet your heroes, but I say, if you are really blessed, you get them as your parents. I share this with my acting heroes, my legends, Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern,” Dern told the audience, her mom looking on in tears.
Dern bested a field that included Johansson, her “Little Women” co-star Florence Pugh, past Oscar winner Kathy Bates and Margot Robbie.
The Academy Award, which comes on Dern’s third nomination, is quite a gift for the actress, who turns 53 on Monday.
“This is the best birthday present ever,” she said on stage.
Born into Hollywood royalty, the veteran actress began her career as a teenager in the 1980s and over three decades has played radically different roles.
She enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), intending to study psychology and journalism, but she withdrew two days into the semester after being cast in David Lynch’s 1986 mystery-thriller “Blue Velvet.”
Her decision clearly paid off and the roles started coming in — she went on to reunite with Lynch for “Wild at Heart” (1990) and “Inland Empire” (2006).
She earned her first Oscar nomination in 1992 for her role as the titular character in “Rambling Rose,” in which she starred alongside her mother and played a love-hungry young woman.
Her second Oscar nomination came in 2015 for her role in “Wild,” based on writer Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, alongside Reese Witherspoon, one of her co-stars in “Big Little Lies.”
And while much of her work has been in independent cinema, Dern made a foray into the world of Hollywood blockbusters with “Jurassic Park” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”
She has more than 50 films under her belt, and her television work is equally recognized — she has won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for “Big Little Lies,” and three other Globes for TV roles.
Dern, who spoke with AFP at a pre-Oscars event in Beverly Hills, said “Marriage Story” was a “deeply personal” story for her.
She said she could relate to the searing narrative, given her own divorce from musician Ben Harper — with whom she has two children — and her parents’ breakup when she was two years old.
“We know it because of heartbreak in general,” said Dern. “We know it because of our childhood. We know it because of our sisters. We know it because of heartbreak in general.
“Or we’ve actually gone through divorce.”
Dern — who is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ board of governors — has been actively involved in the Time’s Up initiative founded by women in entertainment in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
The group aims to fight sexual harassment and assault in all industries.
“Toy Story 4” on Sunday took home the Oscar for Best Animated Film — the third golden statuette for the innovative Pixar franchise about a collection of toys, the value of friendship and accepting change.
The latest installment added Forky — a handicraft made by child heroine Bonnie from a plastic spork — to the mix, where he joined Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the now-iconic merry toy band.
“Toy Story 3” won the same award in 2011, as well as the Oscar for Best Original Song — a powerful trifecta for the computer-animated flicks released by Disney.
“We take great pride in the fact that we get to make family films,” producer Jonas Rivera said as he accepted the award. “‘Toy Story 4’ is a love letter to our families.”
“Toy Story 4,” which was also nominated for Best Original Song this year, is the final chapter in the saga begun in 1995 by Pixar.
It was the then-little-known studio’s first feature film. Since then, the technology has changed dramatically, making the series an interesting study in the evolution of the genre.
“Pixar’s foundation is ‘Toy Story’,” director Josh Cooley told AFP last year before the film was released, describing Woody, Buzz and Rex as the studio’s “Mickey, Donald and Goofy.”
“I felt a great pressure, I could not sleep. But at the same time it was an honor because I love these characters very much,” he added.
Many, including the team at Pixar, thought the franchise would end as a trilogy.
But then the question kept coming up, Cooley said during a visit in June 2019 to Pixar’s studios in Emeryville outside San Francisco: “What’s next for Woody?” — the toy cowboy voiced by Tom Hanks.
“Toy Story 3” ended with Woody being passed by Andy — his former boy owner, now all grown up — to Bonnie.
Woody finds himself “in a different room with a different girl, different toys… something he’s never lived through, and we felt we had the beginning of another story,” Cooley said.
“Toy Story 4” marked the return of the plucky Bo Peep (Annie Potts) in a starring role and the arrival of 70s action figure Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves).
The porcelain Bo Peep, who once adorned a lamp, is childless — something which in Woody’s eyes is a tragedy. But she doesn’t care.
After being discarded by her previous owner, Bo is happy with her newfound freedom — she even drives a battery-powered car.
In short, she is the sort of empowered, independent woman audiences increasingly want to see on the silver screen.
Becki Tower, who worked on Bo’s animation, said she was “excited” by a character who represents a “strong, innovative, daring” woman.
But she clarified that Bo, who appeared in the first two films, did not return with her new attitude simply in response to the pressures of movements like Time’s Up, which demand full gender equality.
The film was in development long before Time’s Up was launched, and in fact even before the departure of the man who created the character, John Lasseter.
Lasseter — known for transforming Pixar from a small Lucasfilm graphics department into the world’s most successful animation studio — resigned from Disney in 2018 after several allegations of sexual misconduct were made against him.
He now leads Skydance Media’s nascent animation unit.
Rivera previously told AFP that the “DNA and love of the toy and characters” created by Lasseter remain, but that the saga has evolved.
“We’ve taken over, the second and third generation of Pixar filmmakers — we’ve made it a little our own,” he said.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has reconstituted a 12-man committee of Nollywood stakeholders, ahead of the 2020 Academy Awards, popularly called The Oscars.
Comprising old and young Nollywood stakeholders, the newly constituted Nigerian Oscars Selection Committee (NOSC) is headed by pioneer member, Chineze Anyaene, with other members including, Mildred Okwo, Mahmood Ali-Balogun, Ngozi Okafor, Charles Novia, Abba Makama, Bruce Ayonote, Ramsey Nouah, Chioma Ude, Shaibu Husseini, Adetokunbo “DJ Tee” Odubawo and CJ Obasi.
“We dont take this for granted. We hope the committee fulfils its original mandate, which is to give a platform to credible Nigerian films to compete at the prestigious Academy Awards annually,” Anyaene said.
“We couldn’t make any submissions in previous years due to unavailability of qualifying films, but things are looking hopeful… and we are actively working towards having an entry this year.”
Nigeria had joined 82 other countries contesting the ‘Foreign Language’ diadem, now called ‘International Feature Film’ category, after an approval and subsequent inauguration of the NOSC in February 2014.
However, Nollywood could not present any film for the Oscars as the few submissions did not meet basic criteria.
The ‘International Feature Film’ of the Oscars gives an opportunity to Nigerian filmmakers living in Nigeria and diaspora for a shot at the foremost creative industry award scheme globally.
Leonardo DiCaprio has finally won his first Oscar for survival epic The Revenant, after six nominations.
He was named best actor at the 88th Academy Awards, with Brie Larson named best actress Oscar for Room.
Catholic Church abuse movie “Spotlight” was named best picture, the top award at Sunday’s Oscars ceremony, after a night peppered with punchlines from host Chris Rock about the #OscarsSoWhite controversy that has dominated the industry.
In a ceremony where no single movie commanded attention, Mexico’s Alejandro Inarritu nabbed the best directing Oscar for “The Revenant”, becoming the first filmmaker in more than 60 years to win back-to-back Academy Awards. Inarritu won in 2015 for “Birdman.”
“The Revenant” went into Sunday’s ceremony with a leading 12 nominations, and was among four movies believed to have the best chances for best picture after it won Golden Globe and BAFTA trophies.
The ambitious 20th Century Fox (FOXA.O) Pioneer-era tale, shot in sub-zero temperatures, also brought a first Oscar win for its star Leonardo DiCaprio, who got a standing ovation from the A-list Hollywood audience.
“I do not take tonight for granted,” DiCaprio said, taking the opportunity in his acceptance speech to urge action on climate change.
Yet voters in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences chose Open Road Films’ (RGC.N) “Spotlight,” which traces the Boston Globe’s 2003 Pulitzer Prize winning investigation of child sex abuse by Catholic priests, for best picture. The movie also won best original screenplay.
“This film gave a voice to survivors, and this Oscar amplifies that voice, which we hope can become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican,” said producer Michael Sugar.
Rising star Brie Larson, 26, took home the statuette for best actress for her role as an abducted young woman in indie movie “Room,” adding to her armful of trophies from other award shows.