March 28, 2020

Taika Waititi and Joaquin Phoenix Win Oscar Gold

Natalie Portman, Taika Waititi, Timothée Chalamet: Rick Rowell/ABC

Although there was a big surprise at the 92nd Academy Awards when “Parasite” was named Best Picture in addition to its expected win for Best International Feature, Jewish frontrunners Taika Waititi and Joaquin Phoenix did win, for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor respectively.

Waititi, who had previously won the Writers Guild of America award for his “Jojo Rabbit” screenplay, thanked his mother, Robin Cohen, for giving him the book on which it is based and its author Christine Leunens. “This is dedicated to all the indigenous kids in the world who want to do art and dance and tell stories,” the half-Maori filmmaker said. “We are the original storytellers and we can make it here as well.”

Earlier on the red carpet, Waititi explained why he made his movie. “I’ve always been fascinated with children’s experiences in times of conflict, what they go through, and I wanted to make a film about that,” he said. “But also, it seems to have a lot more resonance because of the resurgence of hate and intolerance in the world, and I feel like, sadly, we still need films like this. We still need to be teaching lessons on how to be a good person.”

Backstage, Waititi talked about “the things before tonight that have made me feel validated about making this film. One of them was that Mel Brooks, one of my heroes, gave it his seal of approval,” he said. Another was the positive reaction from people whose parents had been in concentration camps. “And when the Shoah Foundation said they were going to make it part of the curriculum, that for me sealed everything and made me feel it was worthwhile.”

Joaquin Phoenix: Arturo Holmes/ABC

In his acceptance speech, “Joker” star Phoenix used his time to be a “voice for the voiceless…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 the belief that one nation, one race, one gender or one species has the right to dominate, control and use and exploit another with impunity. I think that we’ve become very disconnected from the natural world and many of us, what we’re guilty of is an egocentric world view, the belief that we’re the center of the universe.

“We go into the natural world and we plunder it for its resources,” he continued. “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. When we use love and compassion as our guiding principles, we can create, develop and implement systems of change that are beneficial to all sentient beings and to the environment.”

The star-studded roster of presenters included Tribe members Natalie Portman and Timothée Chalamet, who presented Waititi’s screenplay award, Gal Gadot, Beanie Feldstein, and Steven Spielberg, who introduced the In Memoriam tribute to those who passed away this year.

Josh Gad introduced Idina Menzel’s performance of Best Song nominee “Into the Unknown” from “Frozen 2,” for which ‘Elsas’ from around the world joined her.