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'Parasite' takes early Oscar and 'gobsmacked' Brad Pitt wins acting honour

Pitt, 56, was named best supporting actor for playing a charming stunt double in 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood'.

Brad Pitt. Picture: Twitter: @TheAcademy

LOS ANGELES - Brad Pitt capped a triumphant Hollywood comeback on Sunday and South Korean movie Parasite got off to what could be a historic night at the Academy Awards ceremony.

Pitt, 56, was named best supporting actor for playing a charming stunt double in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood after having collected an armful of trophies earlier this year for the role.

“I’m a bit gobsmacked to tell you the truth,” said Pitt, who recalled his early days starting out as an unknown actor.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood - ain’t that the truth?,” he said, dedicating the Academy Award to his six children with former wife Angelina Jolie.

Parasite got off to strong start by winning the original screenplay Oscar, the first of six potential Academy Awards for the film on Sunday. The social satire about the wealth gap in South Korea is also seen as a front-runner for the coveted best picture prize, as well as international feature and best director for Bong Joon Ho. No film in a foreign language has ever won best picture at the Oscars.

Nazi satire Jojo Rabbit brought a best adapted screenplay Oscar for director and writer Taika Waititi. Toy Story 4 was named best animated feature.

The Oscars ceremony, held without a formal host for a second year, started with a song and dance medley led by singers Janelle Monae and Billy Porter, and a surprise appearance by former hosts Steve Martin and Chris Rock.

Martin and Rock delivered a string of barbed jokes about the lack of female directors and people of colour among this year’s nominees.

“I thought there was something missing this year,” said Martin.

“Vaginas?” quipped Rock, to loud applause.

Rock pointed out Cynthia Erivo, who played slavery-era freedom fighter Harriet Tubman in “Harriet” and who was the only actor of colour nominated this year.

“Cynthia did such a great job hiding black people that the academy got her to hide all the black nominees,” said Rock.

The nominees and winners are chosen by the 8,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Earlier on Sunday, heavy rain and chilly temperatures marred the start of Hollywood’s biggest night, sending workers scurrying to hold off leaks on the tented red carpet.

The coveted best picture prize, to be announced at the end of the three-hour show, is thought to be a three-way race between “Parasite,” British director Sam Mendes’ immersive World War One movie “1917” from Universal Pictures CMSCA.O, and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Quentin Tarantino’s love letter to show business, from Sony Pictures.

Dark comic book movie “Joker” from Warner Bros, which has a leading 11 nominations, Netflix divorce drama “Marriage Story” and the streaming service’s mob epic “The Irishman,” race-car drama “Ford v Ferrari” from 20th Century Studios, and novel adaptation “Little Women” from Sony Pictures, round out the competition for the top prize.

Joaquin Phoenix is the favourite to win his first Oscar for a disturbing performance as a loner clown who turns to violence in Joker, while Renee Zellweger is expected to be named best actress for Judy.

Netflix boosted its Hollywood credentials by getting a leading 24 nominations this year, including for drama The Two Popes, animated movie Klaus, and documentary American Factory. But the coveted best picture Oscar may elude it yet again on Sunday, awards watchers say.

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