The statues have been handed out, the photos taken, the speeches given, the parties attended, and the snubs and surprises analyzed. The 2020 Oscars are over.
But you can still enjoy what’s best about the Oscars: the movies themselves. Sixteen films took home awards on February 9. Below, we’ve listed what they each won and how to watch them — and why you should.
Awards: Cinematography, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects
Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road, Skyfall) won a Golden Globe for directing this historical drama based partly on stories his grandfather told him about World War I. The plot is relatively simple: Two British soldiers are sent on an impossible mission to warn a battalion of an impending ambush. Through trenches and peril and bombed-out cities, they are caught in the crossfire of a war that’s much bigger than them, and one where ordinary acts of heroism can go unnoticed.
1917’s cast includes Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Colin Firth, and Benedict Cumberbatch, as well as rising stars George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman. And it’s edited (by the legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins) to look as if it was all filmed in one shot, which adds intensity to the action.
Awards: Documentary Feature
American Factory is a documentary about the 2014 reopening of a closed GM plant in Dayton, Ohio — by a Chinese company that makes automotive glass — and the ensuing cultural clashes that put some bumps in the road. Veteran documentarians Julia Reichert and Steve Bognar train their cameras on not only the people involved, but also the tasks and materials of factory work. In doing so, the pair gives less-familiar viewers an idea of how complicated and difficult it can be, as well as the value of skilled labor.
The resulting film tackles the challenges of globalization with much more depth and nuance than most other reporting on the topic, precisely because it steps back to watch a story unfold over time while resisting easy generalizations. It’s both soberly instructive and fascinating. (It’s also the first film from Higher Ground, Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, which has partnered with Netflix to distribute a slate of programming.)
How to watch it: American Factory is streaming on Netflix.
Awards: Makeup and Hairstyling
Bombshell is a movie about the women who accused Fox News founder Roger Ailes of sexual harassment and led, eventually, to his professional demise. The movie stars Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly, Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson, and Margot Robbie as a fictional TV producer, tracing the women’s experiences as they slowly come to realize that the way they and other women are being treated at the network shouldn’t be ignored.
It’s a great story, but Bombshell unfortunately feels like it misses its own point. Ailes was ousted from Fox News, sure, but that event was hardly the rah-rah tale of female empowerment that Bombshell makes it out to be. What’s more, the film neglects to examine the underlying causes of misogyny and the attitudes that lead to a culture of harassment, and its attempts at satire fall flat. But Theron, Kidman, and Robbie, along with a star-studded supporting cast (including John Lithgow, Kate McKinnon, Connie Britton, Mark Duplass, Rob Delaney, Allison Janney, and more), give fine performances — and Theron completely disappears into the character of Kelly.
Awards: Sound Editing, Film Editing
Ford v Ferrari is a classic crowd pleaser, a biographical film set in the 1960s about a real-life story that seems made for the big screen. James Mangold (Logan) directs a cast led by Christian Bale and Matt Damon, who play legendary former racer and car designer Carroll Shelby and British driver Ken Miles. When Henry Ford (Tracy Letts) decides he wants to beat the celebrated Ferrari company at its own car-racing game, Shelby and Miles join the Ford Motor Company to develop a vehicle that can beat Enzo Ferrari’s racing cars.
The big test will be at the grueling 24-hour Le Mans race in France. And to beat Ferrari, Shelby and Miles will have to build a car from scratch — and confront demons of their own. It’s an engrossing, often moving movie about masculinity as well as the risks, challenges, and obsessions that go along with trying to be the greatest at something.
Awards: Animated Short
Hair Love was a record-breaking Kickstarter before it was a movie; after launching in 2017, the crowdfunded film drew contributions totaling than $300,000, the most raised to date on the platform for a short film. And no wonder. Directed by BlacKkKlansman executive producer (and former football player) Matthew A. Cherry, Hair Love is the five-minute tale of a father attempting to help his seven-year-old daughter Zuri style her hair. (The movie is narrated by Zuri’s mother, voiced by Issa Rae.)
Cherry has said that he wanted to make the film partly to project a positive image of black fathers, who “have had one of the worst raps in mainstream media as being portrayed as being deadbeats and not being involved.” And it’s also a celebration of black hair textures — a theme that took on special significance when the production team was joined at the Oscars by Deandre Arnold, the Texas teen who was told he couldn’t attend his own high school graduation unless he cut his dreadlocks.
How to watch it: You can watch Hair Love above from Sony Pictures Animation’s official YouTube channel.
Awards: Adapted Screenplay
Director Taika Waititi followed up his 2017 Thor installment with Jojo Rabbit, a dark comedy about a young boy in Nazi Germany, who everyone dismisses as a “scared rabbit,” and the boy’s imaginary friend. That imaginary friend is one Adolf Hitler, played by Waititi himself. And while the film is a little too sprightly to land any heavy punches — it’s more of a comedy with satirical elements than a true satirical tale — it’s best as a coming-of-age story about a kid who’s gotten lost in a world where loyalty has displaced love and bravado has displaced true bravery.
It’s a bold move to marry the bildungsroman, which Jojo sets at the end of the Third Reich, to Waititi’s signature goofball aesthetic and frenetic self-awareness; the film is more successful in some moments than others. But by the end, it’s obvious what Jojo Rabbit is really about: how hate preys on the weak and the young, and how history keeps repeating itself.
Awards: Actor (Joaquin Phoenix), Original Score
Joker was undoubtedly one of 2019’s most-talked-about movies. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, who won a Golden Globe for his performance, it’s a gritty reimagining of the character’s early days, directed and co-written by Todd Phillips. Phillips has spent his career bringing a particular breed of pleasure-obsessed American masculinity to the big screen with successful side-splitters like Old School and the Hangover trilogy. And Joker is a well-crafted film that boasts an excellent turn by Phoenix as it tells the story of an impoverished, failed standup comedian who turns to violence and chaos because he feels the world has gone mad.
Joker actively courted controversy relative to the average superhero film, touting its “hard-R rating” even though there’s no such thing, but there’s nothing particularly “bonkers” about it. It’s worth seeing, both for Phoenix’s performance and so you can participate knowledgeably in the conversation surrounding the film. Just don’t expect to have your world turned upside down. Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Bill Camp, and Frances Conroy also star.
Awards: Actress (Renée Zellweger)
Renée Zellweger plays Judy Garland in this biopic, which takes place in 1968, one year before Garland died. Thirty years after starring in The Wizard of Oz, and after battles with addiction and illness, Garland is in London to perform to sold-out nightclub crowds — and that’s where she meets the man who will become her fifth husband, Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock). To help explain Garland’s behavior, the London scenes are interspersed with glimpses of Judy’s early life as a child star (played by Darci Shaw) under contract at MGM, where her life is controlled entirely by studio head Louis B. Mayer.
Judy is, ultimately, a tragedy — a story of how the Hollywood system took a vulnerable young girl, made a star out of her, and then ultimately broke her. Which is why Judy may leave you a bit uneasy by the end. (I know it left me feeling that way.) Hollywood has a love affair with its own mythology — movies about the industry (from The Artist to Argo to La La Land) often rocket straight to the top of Oscar-hopeful lists. So it’s disheartening that the movie couldn’t make the extra leap into being at least a little self-critical of its own industry. In a film that tries to get at the woman behind the screen star, it’s sad to see the final word get its own message so wrong.
Learning to Skateboard in a War Zone (If You’re a Girl)
Awards: Documentary Short
Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl) peeks behind the high walls that protect a school in the middle of Kabul, where girls and women often live their lives out of sight. The short centers on a school run by a charity called Skateistan, which features two kinds of learning. The school offers classes in literacy, math, and other subjects in which Afghani girls from poor families are not typically educated; the school focuses on educating those who wouldn’t be able to pay for education otherwise.
And then there’s the skateboarding, with the girls’ lessons conducted at a large indoor skate park. They learn at first to stand on the board and move it, and then increasingly more complicated tricks, all from accomplished women skateboarders. Building courage and confidence as well as mobility and goal-setting, the girls learn to become skillful skaters — and the short, which runs nearly 40 minutes, shows how powerful those lessons can be.
Awards: Costume Design
Greta Gerwig decided to follow up her beautiful, heartfelt 2017 comedy Lady Bird with an adaptation of Little Women that boasts an inspired cast featuring Saoirse Ronan, Timothée Chalamet, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Eliza Scanlen, Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, Bob Odenkirk, Louis Garrel, Tracy Letts, and many more. It is every bit as funny and loving and heart-wrenching as Little Women has always been, throughout its many adaptations.
But for those who’ve loved the story for years, Gerwig’s version packs a twist, interrogating the source material without disrespecting it, taking into consideration what Louisa May Alcott wrote from a distance of more than 150 years. It’s not revisionist; instead, the movie functions like the best works of criticism, thinking about the circumstances in which a woman like Alcott would write a book like Little Women, and the world in which she lived. The film is deft, lovely, and altogether wonderful.
Awards: Supporting Actress (Laura Dern)
Noah Baumbach is America’s foremost chronicler of rough-hewn and disintegrating family units. In Marriage Story, he pries open an impending divorce to find the beating heart inside. The film sees the end of a marriage as both a cause for mourning and a source of bittersweet comedy: A relationship is changing, but not ending. And its evolution is something to behold.
Marriage Story is a showcase for stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as much as it is a triumph for Baumbach, recalling the wry humor and perfect pitch of Woody Allen’s best work, albeit with a touch less self-obsession. (That is, even though the couple seems at least partly — and probably inevitably — modeled on Baumbach’s 2013 divorce from Jennifer Jason Leigh.) Getting a story like this right requires a sense of the comical and the absurd along with the devastating, and Baumbach delivers.
How to watch it: Marriage Story is streaming on Netflix.
Awards: Supporting Actor (Brad Pitt), Production Design
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the story of Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), an actor who was huge in the 1950s but whose star is fading in 1969, when the movie takes place. Rick’s stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt, mesmerizing in his Oscar-winning role), also acts as his driver, best friend, and pep talk provider. Two main stories run on parallel tracks in the film: One concerns Rick’s neighbor and budding movie star Sharon Tate, who is carefree, innocent, and eager to please. The other follows Rick and Cliff, and often splits into two stories of its own — Rick’s struggle to be an actor of real worth in a changing industry, and Cliff’s brush with a group of teenage girls (and a few guys) living on an abandoned ranch that once functioned as a movie set. That group just so happens to be the Manson family.
The movie sparked controversy upon its release, but it’s done well at the start of awards season. Tarantino weaves a fairy tale, a fantasy, and a wistful elegy for a world that many of us wish we lived in — most of all, Tarantino himself. Famously obsessed with the history of cinema and its preservation, the director has recreated an era he wishes he could have worked in with such care and skill and love that, for the most part, it feels like his most personal film. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is lots of fun, but it’s also strangely, hauntingly sad.
Awards: Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, International Feature
It’s difficult to categorize a Bong Joon-ho film; the director excels at making movies that explode boundaries. His darkly comedic monster films. like The Host and Okja, double as biting social commentaries, often aiming barbs at inequality, particularly in his native South Korea. Parasite returns to those themes with superb control. It’s a bleakly comic film about two families, one wealthy and one not so wealthy, and a caustic tale of class conflict. (At times it plays like a dark inversion of 2018’s Shoplifters.)
Bong is working at the top of his game here, constructing with his cinematographer Hong Kyung-pyo a world where drastic shifts inside houses signify not just changing living conditions but the interior state of the inhabitants. Everything on these characters’ insides shows up outside, too — and that may be why their world is in chaos.
At Cannes, Parasite won Bong the Palme d’Or in a unanimous decision by the jury, becoming the first Korean film to take home the festival’s top prize. Now, it’s made history again by becoming both South Korea’s first Oscar winner and the first non-English-language film to win Best Picture in the history of the Oscars.
Awards: Original Song (for Bernie Taupin and Elton John’s “I’m Gonna Love Me Again”)
Any worthwhile movie about Elton John must be much, much larger than life. John has been a legend for decades — his songs are ubiquitous, his stage presence iconic. But Rocketman is smart enough to not try to outshine its star. It’s flashy because its spectacular subject is a lightsource all his own.
Rocketman absolutely explodes with energy. because Elton John is its pulse. It stumbles a few times — as has John — but on the whole, it’s a consistently good biopic and jukebox musical from start to finish, a movie rooted in a real story that nonetheless doesn’t tether itself too close to the ground.
Which is a bit of a relief. You don’t have to be a fan of Elton John’s music to know his music; even the most pop culture-oblivious person knows “Your Song,” or “Tiny Dancer,” or “Rocket Man.” And it’s easy, while watching Taron Egerton play Elton John whipping a crowd into a frenzy, to understand John’s genius. Rocketman is a solid introduction to the singer that is also guaranteed to please his fans.
The Neighbors’ Window
Awards: Live Action Short
Marshall Curry typically makes documentaries (three of which, two shorts and a feature, were previously nominated for Oscars), but for The Neighbors’ Window he turned to fiction to tell an extraordinarily sensitive and moving tale that’s familiar to anyone who’s wondered about the lives of people living nearby. A couple nearing middle age (played by Maria Dizzia and Greg Keller) have settled into a happy-enough life in a Brooklyn apartment with their preschool-aged twins, and they have another baby on the way. One day, they realize they can see their younger neighbors’ lives through the window, and start to wish they were still living the carefree lives they once lived.
But over time, events start to transpire that make them see their own lives differently. In just 20 minutes, The Neighbors’ Window captures empathetic performances (particularly from the expressive Dizzia) and functions as a reminder of how powerful it is, amidst the uncertainty of life, to be grateful for where we are, now, today.
How to watch it: You can watch The Neighbors’ Window above, hosted by Vimeo.
Awards: Animated Feature
It’s been nearly a quarter-century since the first Toy Story movie came out in November 1995, and it’s hard to believe the franchise can still pack an emotional wallop. Toy Story 4 proves it can, bringing back Woody, Buzz, and even Bo Peep for another tale, this time about saying goodbye.
The new movie picks up where the last one left off, with all of Andy’s toys now belonging to Bonnie, the daughter of Andy’s mother’s close friend. The toys end up on another adventure, of course, and even welcome a new recruit in Forky (voiced by Tony Hale), a plaything with a special place in Bonnie’s heart. But along the way, they have to grapple with a difficult question: If toys exist to be loved, what happens if the love goes away?
“Toy Story 4’s message to us is that we don’t have to stop loving someone just because they’re not in our lives anymore,” Vox’s Alex Abad-Santos wrote in his review. “There’s going to be a time when we won’t be there for someone we love, and there will be a time when they won’t be there for us. What matters is the time we did share, and the feelings we did, and do, have for each other.”