The case for Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite to win Best Picture at the 2020 Academy Awards…
by: Christopher Rockwell
It could be stated with reasonable credibility that you could easily swap out the Best Picture nominees for the 92nd Academy Awards with those nominated for an Academy Award for Best International Feature Film and all would be right in the world. For those films celebrated in the International Feature category are of such immense quality that the winner could just be looked at as the Best Picture of 2019 period. Whether it would be the North Macedonia’s film Honeyland (directed by Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov), the novel re-telling of Les Miserables out of France (directed by Ladj Ly), famed Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar’s twenty-first feature film Pain and Glory, or the Polish film Corpus Christi (directed by Jan Komasa), the Best International Feature Film category is absolutely stacked. Chief among these superb works of cinema is the satirical suspense thriller Parasite, the best film released on any continent in 2019.
Renowned Parasite director Bong Joon-ho, who calls his latest film a “stairway movie” (a stairway playing a pivotal role in the story), crafted a film that is so stunning and important because, like no other film released in 2019, it speaks to the state of the broken world. Parasite’s examination of the class divide, and particularly those on the lower rungs of the ladder (or bottom of the staircase), is so effective due to the way in which Joon-ho chose to make his commentary. Parasite isn’t explicit in its impugnment of capitalism and the wealth disparity throughout the world, rather this commentary is laid out through beholding the lengths the Kim family will go to survive. Joon-ho walks viewers intimately into lives fueled by envy and need, into their half-basement apartment, a place so needing they welcome public fumigation to sweep into their home for some costless fumigation. Conversely, Joon-ho grants us, along with the Kim family in turn, access to the phenomenally wealthy home of the Park family, where we not only see how the one percent extravagantly lives, but here we are opened up to the disturbing truth that it doesn’t require exceptionalism in talent or wisdom to obtain bounteous wealth. This is exhibited plainly by the dulled intellect of the mistress of the household, Yeon-kyo (Cho Yeo-jeong), fooled time and again by the Kim family.
There is more though. The weighty examination of wealth inequality is laid bare again and again throughout Parasite. Later in the film it is discovered that the original housekeeper of the Park family, Mun-kwang (Lee Jeong-eun), has stowed away her husband in a secret bunker beneath the Park’s lavish abode. Here, viewers are presented with a clearly literal representation of how the ultra rich are, time and again, propped up atop those in servitude to them. It is also clear that the Park family, the surrogates for the leading class throughout the world, have a general, concealed horror and distaste for the serving class, exemplified in their overt disgust of the smell of those who are forced to use public transportation. And on top of all this, the third act contains within it a nod to the foreboding Climate Emergency that is ever present on the planet, where we can see overtly who will pay the steepest of price from the fallout — the poor and those in need.
Little has become more clear in the most recent years to those paying attention that capitalism has created billionaires while many throughout the globe starve and live in squalor. In all regions of the world people are pitted against a system that allows billionaires to exist yet where people are getting sick because they don’t have access to public health care. We have reached a point where the realization is abounding that the systems in place are illogical and blatantly favor the few while dismissing the many. And it is works of art like Joon-ho’s masterpiece that have aided in opening eyes and minds to this idea around the world. Although Parasite doesn’t end in a hopeful way, it is this idea, that we are waking up to the ills of a greedy system, where the hope does indeed lie.
It would be a beautiful sight to see a non-English film take home Best Picture at the 92nd Academy Awards on Sunday as a signifier that cinema is a global community. If Hollywood truly aims to lead the way in celebrating all walks of life, and as a socially conscious entity that embraces rather than divides, then they would lean towards dissolving the imaginary lines that have been laid upon the maps of the planet and tout the community of filmmakers as one. While this kum ba yah rationale for Parasite taking home top prize at the Oscars would be a good look for the Academy, Joon-Ho’s masterstroke deserves to win on merit alone. Parasite is the echo of this moment in history, a deep and deliberate portrait of what greed and excess have done to the world. It is a film that is shockingly funny, superbly acted and shot, and as thought-provoking a work of art you will come upon. Parasite is the cream of the Best Picture crop, and a film that deserves to be immortalized as the crowning achievement in 2019’s year in cinema.