“Thank you,” said a visibly thrilled Bong Joon-ho. “I will drink until next morning.”
And he had every right to celebrate—his movie Parasite
had just become the first foreign language film to ever win the Oscar for Best
Picture. In fact, Joon-ho kind of swept the whole night, taking home several
more little gold statues for Best Original Screenplay, Best Foreign Language
Film, and Best Director.
It cannot be overstated how important this is to the film industry. Sure, the Oscars themselves are meaningless awards that rich, pretty people give to each other in exchange for freebies and expensive gifts, but these big wins for Parasite signal a major change.
Parasite Wins Signal a Shift in the Wind
First of all, it’s unlikely that the movie’s production company NEON was able to out-swag the likes of other Best Pic nominee backers like 20th Century Fox and Universal, meaning that the Academy members voted for Parasite because they genuinely thought it was the best. They typically would have traded their votes for iPads and fancy watches.
This indicates that maybe—just maybe—the American
audience is maturing to the point where an entirely subtitled film with zero
white people in it at all can find a wide viewership. There are some rather big
implications to this.
Production companies are going to scour foreign lands for the next Bong Joon-ho.
It means not only that audiences are willing to expose themselves to a wider range of movies, but that a more diverse range of filmmakers and films will be getting green lit in the future. Production companies are going to scour foreign lands for the next Bong Joon-ho. They’re going to look twice at movies they never would have looked at once in the past—movies made with subtitles, with complex plots, with non-white casts. In other words, they’re going to be more open to backing films that don’t fit the traditional mold.
There were an awful lot of “safe” movies on the list of nominees (I’m looking at you, Ford v Ferrari, undoubtedly the worst of the night—don’t @ me bro), and the lack of diversity has been well-documented. But overall, Bong’s success shows promise.
The Other Oscar Winners (and Losers)
It’s frankly amazing that the Best Picture didn’t go to a “safe” choice like The Irishman or 1917. In fact, it’s rather surprising that the latter of these (widely considered the frontrunner in most categories) was largely overlooked with the exception of a few technical awards, while the former was denied altogether.
All the acting awards were somewhat predictable but well-deserved. Laura Dern and Brad Pitt both garnered Best Supporting statues, firsts for both in long and outstanding careers, while Renee Zellweger and Joaquin Phoenix both won the Best Leading recognition that was expected of them. As I mentioned in my Oscar nom piece, I would have rather seen the Bests for leading actor and actress go to Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson for their work in Marriage Story, but while I haven’t seen Judy and therefore can’t comment on Zellweger’s performance in it, Phoenix’s recognition was certainly warranted.
In any other year a meticulously crafted Tarantino love-letter to Old Hollywood would have been the major contender…
The fact that Tarantino’s outstanding Once Upon a Time in
Hollywood won so little recognition (a much-deserved Best Production Design
in addition to Pitt’s Best Supporting Actor) goes to show how stacked this year
was with great films. In any other year a meticulously crafted Tarantino
love-letter to Old Hollywood would have been the major contender, but this year
it had substantial competition and no one much expected it to get any of the
Again, I’m rather surprised that 1917 didn’t get more
of the top prizes. Personally I thought it was good but overrated, but there
was a lot of buzz around it after it slaughtered at the BAFTAs, so it seems
that the Academy saw through the one-shot spectacle.
But the most surprising snub went to Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, which went home empty handed. It’s not hard to see why. Like Tarantino’s entry, it was up against arguably “better” films in every category. But as it serves as something of a swan song from one of cinema’s greatest names, I would have expected it to get something. While Bong Joon-ho’s Best Director win was certainly warranted, it would not have been a huge upset to see that one go to Marty.
And its almost universal recognition as such is exciting,
because it likely means that we’re going to have the opportunity to see a whole
lot of quality films that wouldn’t have been made or at least widely
CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.