‘Parasite’ Makes Oscar History and more…

This morning you’d probably waken up to Parasites everywhere. What is Parasite, you might ask. In case you’re one of those who avoids watching the perennial award show of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, after 92 years, they have opened their door and allowed a non-English film to win the top prize, Best Picture of the Year.

 

Parasite
Looking for Wi-Fi connection are brother and sister Woo-sik Choi and So-dam Park, a scene in “Parasite”. Photo courtesy of TIFF.

Last night at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, the South Korean, genre-bending dark comedy directed by Bong Joon Ho garnered four Oscars. Other than Best Picture, it won Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best International Feature Film. Haven’t heard of Best International Feature Film either? It’s the new name for the old category Best Foreign Language Film, an effort to dispel the awkwardness of the term ‘Foreign’. Even within the continent of North America, many languages are spoken.

Previously, no non-English film had ever won Oscar Best Picture even though nominated: Ingmar Bergman’s Cries and Whispers (1974 Oscar), Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Michael Haneke’s Armour (2013), Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma (2019). Parasite makes a monumental win in Oscars’ 92 years history by being the first non-English language film to reach the highest prize.

By opening this door, the Academy begins to reach out to tap its potential, international stature. The closest I can think of is Cannes. The most prestigious film festival in the world that takes place annually in the small resort town in the French Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur has maintained its status of bestowing the highest cinematic accolades across national borders.

About borders, director Bong’s vision is global: “I don’t think it’s necessary to separate all the borders of division if we pursue the beauty of cinema.” Referring to Chinese American filmmaker Lulu Wang’s Indie Spirit Best Picture win for her film The Farewell just the day before the Oscars, Bong said: “Like Lulu, we just all make movies.”

When it comes to breaking down barriers, Bong’s own acceptance speech at the Golden Globes is succinct and spot-on. As translator Sharon Choi relayed in English, the director’s commentary on differences and the language that unites is inspiring for our divisive world:

“Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films. Just being nominated along with fellow amazing international filmmakers was a huge honor.” And in English, he added, “I think we use only one language: the cinema.”

I’ve had the chance to enjoy some refreshing cross-border collaborations at Film Festivals. Just to name a few from last year:

Frankie – the Cannes nominated American Ira Sachs directing two veterans of the cinema, French actress Isabelle Huppert and Irish actor Brendan Gleeson in a film shot in Portugal. Language: English, French, Portuguese.

To the Ends of the Earth – Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa shot the film in Uzbekistan (a former Soviet republic close to the Eurasian border) on a commission to celebrate the diplomatic relationship between Japan and Uzbekistan. Language: Japanese, Uzbek

The Truth Japanese auteur Hirokazu Koreeda directing the legendary Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche and Ethan Hawke (no need to declare nationality, I think you got the idea) Language: French, English

Maybe the art of cinema could well be the lingua franca to unite us all.

 

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Related posts on Ripple Effects:

My review of Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite and Lulu Wang’s The Farewell

 

 

Published by

Arti

If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

16 thoughts on “‘Parasite’ Makes Oscar History and more…”

    1. From my previous posts you probably have guessed I was rooting for Little Women, one which I knew wouldn’t have much of a chance for Best Picture. But still I’m glad it won Best Costume, deservingly. I’m disappointed that Greta Gerwig didn’t win Adapted Screenplay, and snubbed from even a nom for Director. Parasite’s win unfolds like a Bong movie. 🙂

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    1. Silvia,

      The three movies I mentioned are what you call “Festival Films”. The chance that they’ll be screened in the theatres isn’t great. All the more to support film festivals where you can always find some real gems! Hope you’ll be able to find these films somewhere. Again, thanks for stopping by the Pond and throwing in your two pebbles. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I was really surprised that enough people got it for it to win. While I enjoyed it a lot and more than I thought I would, I could see people a bit tentative and puzzled when I came out of the cinema. I’m glad it did win.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Denise,

      Parasite has been a major buzz within the awards circuit, and winning many important accolades, Golden Globes, BAFTA, SAG… As for ‘getting it’, there’s no one single interpretation with movies anymore. Bong and his team had been getting a lot of promotional support from many Academy members. It’s a long journey, not just a one-night win for them. It’s both a surprise and not a surprise for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The idea of a third family would have been interesting, but the ending was one of the best parts, it brought everything together and seemed the only “right” way to end it, but not one I would have thought of. I am surprised that he had to think of the ending along the way, it was so assured it seemed that was where things had been heading all the time.
        A friend and I were discussing afterwards, where I live it is full of the “chattering classes” and many people who in a way are the privileged family upstairs!!! So I guess the reactions I was hearing around me were skewed towards people who wouldn’t necessarily “get” the point of the film.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The tweets I’d read from people discussing the ending made me think some just might ‘get it’ more than the author had intended. As Greta Gerwig had said in a writer’s panel, “the movie (she was talking about ‘Little Women’) belongs to the audience.” How true! But I think here Bong is ingenious in introducing another family to ‘compete’ with the Kims. Now it’s no longer rich vs. poor; nothing is as clean cut as that.

          “I am surprised that he had to think of the ending along the way.” I remember learning a screenwriting tip and that was to let the characters drive the story along. No need to think of a neat ending beforehand. Interesting that Bong thought of the ending while waiting at a crosswalk in Vancouver (from the article I linked above). That’s your international ingredient there. 🙂

          And to those closer to where you live, this is how I’d put it: Parasite is a contemporary Korean ‘Downton Abbey’ a la blood and gore Bong style. (Have you seen his previous work Snowpiercerwith Tilda Swinton?) I’d say too that Bong is Korea’s Tarantino.

          Remember 2018’s Burning? I’m more fond of director Lee Chang-dong’s works. Maybe I’ll write a post about him and Hirokazu Kore-eda, two of my favourite directors today.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Oooh yes, I loved Burning. And it’s an interesting comparison to Downton Abbey. I was discussing with my friend yesterday and having the couple appear was when the film changed for me from straightforward, almost standard issue fare, to something that really started to engage me.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t find it now, but somewhere I read a quotation from Bong Joon Ho that I loved. After being asked how he won, or how he approaches his craft, or some such, he said something like, “To succeed, all that is needed is writing, coffee, and solitude.” I love that. I’ve got coffee and solitude down cold!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Arti,

    I was shocked and not shocked that
    Parasite won Best Picture at the Oscars. I liked Bong’s shout-out to Scorsese and Tarantino on one of his acceptance speeches and got a kick out of watching his obvious shock that he has won in 4 out of 6 of his nominated categories. And his translator sure got a lot of screen time, who is she?

    Yinling

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yinling,

      Bong said his translator Sharon Choi has a ‘fandom’ of her own. Her gig started with Cannes last year and now topping it off with Bong’s Oscar wins. The 25 year-old Korean American studied film with directing as her goal. Keep your eyes peeled. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Great post. I’ve been looking into the phenomenon of best foreign language film getting nominated for best picture (you missed Life is Beautiful and Z), but my method hadn’t anticipated movies that didn’t *win* best foreign film, but that did get nominated for best picture, so had no idea about Ingmar’s movie.

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