Parasite makes history at the 92nd Academy Awards by being the first non-English speaking film to win Best Picture, defeating eight other competing English-language movies. Not only did it win Best Picture, but also Best Original Screenplay, Best International Film, and Best Director, totaling 4 Oscars. How good does a movie have to be to jump out of its foreign film category box and win Best Film as well? Let’s start by not thinking of foreign language movies as lesser.
This article contains spoilers for Parasite.
If you haven’t read our earlier piece on Parasite, you should go here. This riveting article by Kristina gives you insights on the movie’s success and how the film perfectly portrays the gap between the rich and the poor.
With a Metascore of 96, an IMDB score of 8.6, and a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, it is more than safe to say Parasite has reached ‘universal acclaim.’ This South-Korean film truly has a universal resonance, and that’s even more apparent now that it has won Best Picture (movie of the year) at the ”American” Oscars.
1917 vs. Parasite
Many people were expecting the war movie 1917 to win, praising its directing and its cinematography with long one-shot scenes, and making it seem like the whole film was shot in one camera take. 1917 was high up there along with Once upon a time in Hollywood to take the number one spot as movie of the year, and it did win 3 Oscars. But what did Parasite have that other films like 1917 didn’t? Let’s break it down.
The Parasite movie starts strongly as a (black) family comedy and suddenly does a 180 to become a drama-thriller midway. We go through so much, not knowing what to expect at every turn, keeping you on the very edge of your seat. It truly jumps genre every other scene, with every dialogue and camera-work strategically coordinated to tell one big story. Comedy, thriller, drama, and horror: All the scenes are shot in one of these ways, but they interweave together beautifully.
People will never forget when the old housekeeper returned. We see her showing up in the rain through the intercom like the beginning of every horror movie. Then after, we see her suspended against the wall trying to pry the secret room open in the basement, like a human crab-walk performed in every psychological thriller. This entire sequence alone goes down in cinematic history as unforgettable.
People hadn’t seen anything like Parasite before and liked it. How much could you say that for the other nominated movies? How many people are open to watching foreign films and having to read subtitles? Created and directed by Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite follows the impoverished Kim family who tries to con their way into the services of the wealthy Park family. Ground-breaking in every way: Impressive how a non-Hollywood studio movie has reached a worldwide audience and praise. Parasite is different from your standard ‘’war’’ movie you’ve probably seen every year. Sometimes people want to see change, and if they liked that change, it hits ten-fold. This film screams creativity and brilliance in every way, and time will only tell how this will affect cinema around the world, especially Hollywood.
‘We are rooting for the Kim family to scam their way to a life of riches and comfort, but would we be happier if they hadn’t done that at the expense of the Parks?’
Years from now, which movie will you remember the most? Parasite hits home with all of its themes, and you do not know who to root for. These morally grey characters make us think and ponder about their questionable deeds. The inequality depicted in the movie makes you sympathize with the poor Kims, but the portrayal of the rich Parks doesn’t make you hate them at all. The rich suburban family doesn’t know any better. Instead of rich vs. poor, it’s always been the poor vs. the poor in the end, as attested by the physical and psychological ‘warfare’ between the Kims and the just-as-poor basement’s husband and wife.
We are rooting for the Kim family to scam their way to a life of riches and comfort, but would we be happier if they hadn’t done that at the expense of the Parks? Leeching off of the wealthy family that seems to have no malicious intent other than naivety and ignorance brings the dilemma to the viewer. This gives a broader audience a strong relatability that other movies like 1917 and Once upon a time in Hollywood failed to provide. These points, along with the directing, screenplay, its symbolisms, and the acting, make it a cinematic masterpiece.
How did the Best Picture not have nominees in the acting categories?
The storyline was a thrill-ride, the cinematography and the directing were top-notch, but why is nobody talking about the acting? The actors of Parasite were phenomenal, and people are quick to overlook this. More specifically, the women of Parasite were outstanding. We’re talking specifically about Cho Yeo-Jeong playing the rich naïve trophy wife, and Park So-Dam, the smart and cunning sister of the poor Kim family. They brought their amazing characters to life in the most realistic way possible, and the Oscar-winning screenplay helped them even more so. Even if you don’t speak Korean, any critic could see the brilliance of the script. But the fact that the acting wasn’t done in English was sadly probably one of the many reasons why.
What does this mean for foreign cinema and (Asian) representation?
There’s been a lot of buzz concerning Asian representation with Parasite winning, but this is NOT representation for Asians in Hollywood. This is representation of East-Asian – more specifically South-Korean – cinema. People around the world are now introduced to the world of Asian cinema, because Parasite is not the first good Korean film out there. People have just been sleeping on foreign cinema, and Parasite has opened doors.
The Oscars being ”woke” is not because a movie with a full Korean cast won, but because they finally looked outside of their (white) American bubble. Representation of Asians in Hollywood (and Western) cinema is a different struggle, and we have to separate Parasite from it. Concerning foreign cinema representation in the future, the Oscars are still overwhelmingly Anglo-centric and while we have reached a huge milestone, it will take more than just a parasite to topple that.