It's not too late to watch Bong Joon Ho's watershed masterpiece.
Listen, if you didn't watch Parasite last year—that's okay. Life is demanding, and last year was a shitshow, and maybe the Oscars aren't your thing. But Parasite oughta be. This year, even amidst the chaos and crisis on the news every night (Who am I kidding? Every minute.), celebrate Parasite's historic win by, well, watching it.
What is Parasite, again? A refresher: When a poor, young Korean man is offered a tutoring gig by a friend, he and his entire family begin working for the very wealthy Park family. They are there under false pretenses: The children are not exactly tutors, the mother is not exactly a housekeeper, the father is not exactly a driver. But they have all the necessary skills, and they relish the sizeable income from their new jobs. However, nothing good can last forever, as they say, and "greed and class discrimination threatens the newly formed symbiotic relationship between the wealthy Park family and the destitute Kim clan." The film is a sharply funny, beautifully shot, intriguing, suspenseful take on the very pertinent, yet timeless issue of class division—and it was shot in Korea, with a Korean cast, by a Korean director, in the Korean language.
The last bit is what makes its four-Oscar win so historic. The Oscars have long-held separate categories for "Best Picture" and "Best Foreign Language Feature," which was only changed to "International Feature Film" at last year's awards ceremony. As Alissa Wilkinson wrote for Vox, "The title change marked a step forward and signaled a willingness to reorient the way the Academy thinks about world cinema—not as being “foreign” or “other,” but part of the broader movie landscape."
Yet the mere presence of an additional "International Feature Film" category can imply that international films do not qualify, that they are second-best; "a subsection of success," as Kristin Scott Thomas said about "women's awards" in Fleabag. Parasite director Bong Joon Ho seemed to nod to that when he accepted the Oscar for "Best Director," joking, "After winning Best International Feature, I thought I was done for the day and ready to relax."
So when Parasite won "Best Picture," it was the Academy walking the walk; a long-overdue recognition that films do not have to be in the English language to be the best. This clip is the moment when Parasite won last year, and it. Is. Euphoric. For all the worthy films presented, and for all the filmmakers, producers, writers, actors, cinematographers, etc., etc., etc. who worked long and hard on those other projects, the elated eruption when Jane Fonda declares, "Parasite" speaks beautifully to what the win represented.
Watch Parasite for its barbed social commentary. Watch it for its stunning shots. Watch it for its impeccable production design, talented actors, and the Jessica Jingle. But most of all, watch it for what it represents. For the hope it gives filmmakers across the world, even as the L.A.-based portion of the industry missteps again, that international cinema is not "a subsection of success." Stories are not "the best" only if they're set in America and told in English. Art is art, wherever it's made, and whoever makes it.
And watch it for the inimitable Bong Joon Ho, who graciously accepted his Best Director Oscar by sweetly praising his fellow nominees and then quipping, "Thank you, I will drink until next morning, thank you."
Have you watched Parasite? If not, are you curious about giving it a go? Let us know in the comments.