Parasite— The Only Double Best Picture Winner

Parasite— The Only Double Best Picture Winner February 29, 2020

In the past several years, there has been marked criticism of the Academy that oversees Motion Pictures for a lack of diversity or inclusion on a whole variety of fronts. Probably partially in over-reaction to that criticism, the Korean film Parasite (in Korean with subtitles) not only received the Oscar this month for best international film, it also won the Best Picture Award, an unprecedented double prize. Previously at Cannes it had also won the Golden Palm award. In my personal opinion, while this is an interesting, original, and dramatic film about a variety of subjects (the extremes of wealth and poverty in South Korea, the unfairness of such a social situation, honor and shame in that society, the role of deception in getting ‘ahead’ in life, the nihilism and fatalism of a philosophy that says ‘there is no point in having a plan for your life, as it always turns out differently’) in fact this film should not have beaten out 1917 or even Little Women for best picture. It just isn’t.

The movie is 2 hours and 12 minutes long, and it is punctuated with foul language from time to time, not to mention extreme violence, which earned it its R rating. Further, the movie mostly depicts a dreary time of extreme rain and even severe flooding, presumably in Seoul or some other major city in South Korea. How anyone could label this movie a comedy (as some did) is a mystery. No, this movie is in deadly earnest. It is a movie about survival, apparently of the clever poor, which the title of the movie suggests are parasites on the rich. Perhaps the title is ironic, but clearly that would be the point of view of the rich, not the bereft. All the actors and actresses do a fine job, but you will not likely know any of them. And basically you will not find any of these people appealing, or having many redeeming features.

Indeed, the movie is largely depressing, like the ongoing pouring rain. There is a little glimmer of light in the behavior of the son, who seeks to help his family out of poverty, and later to rescue them from their own misdeeds. But alas, that’s only one silver lining in an otherwise cloudy, dark, and troubling picture. But perhaps that sort of ‘realism’ is what the director, Bong Ju-Ho, was striving for. If so, he succeeded in spades, and won best director honors to boot. This film is only now coming back into the theaters because of all its awards at Oscar time, having had a limited run in the Fall. It is a film strictly for older adults. While I am glad the Academy is open to considering films from anywhere for Best Picture these days, they would have done better to give this one, to another international film, filmed abroad with British actors—- 1917.

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