Oscars 2020: South Korea’s ‘Parasite’ makes Oscar history with Best Picture

South Korean director Bong Joon-ho arrives with the cast and crew of "Parasite" for the 92nd Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California   | Photo Credit: AFP

Just days before the Oscars, South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho had referred to the Oscars as “very local” awards. It seems to have done the trick. Or, perhaps, it was Mr. Bong’s other famous quote — “once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films” — that made the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences look beyond the home turf, and English language, to write history. Mr. Bong’s searing look at class divides — Parasite — became the first non-English feature film to win the Best Film Oscar at the 92nd Academy awards. Ten foreign language films are said to have been nominated previously for Best Picture but none of them could make it to the final post. These include Ingmar Bergman’s Cries and Whispers in 1973 and Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2000.

Not just that, Parasite  is also a rare film to have won both the international film and the best film awards. Last year, Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma took the best international film and best director award but was overtaken by Green Book in the best film category. In 2013 Michael Haneke’s Amour took the foreign language Oscar but not for the best film. In 1999 Roberto Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful got best foreign film and best actor awards but the best film eluded it.


The firsts for Parasite didn’t stop at that. It is the first South Korean film to get nominated and to have won the International Film Oscar. Lee Chang-dong’s Burning couldn’t make it to the list of final nominees last year. Parasite is also the first Asian film to have grabbed the Best Screenplay award, shared by Mr. Bong with Han Jin-won.

Also read | Parasite review:  A dazzling satire on the class divide, engulfed in beguiling charm

Nazi satire

Giving Mr. Bong company in making history was the New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi, who became the first Maori to enter the privileged Oscar club with adapted screenplay award for his Nazi satire Jojo Rabbit. He dedicated the award to the indigenous kids all over the world.

Mr. Bong grew up in the 90s when there was crazy passion for cinema in Korea. “We would give everything up for cinema. 90s was the most cinephile decade in Korean history, the time when we devoured films like crazy,” he had said in an interview to The Hindu on the eve of winning the Palme D’Or at Cannes Film Festival last year. No wonder his Oscar acceptance speech for best director was a warm and generous ode to fellow filmmakers, starting off with Martin Scorsese: “When I was young and starting in cinema there was a saying that I carved deep into my heart which is, ‘The most personal is the most creative.’ That quote was from our great Martin Scorsese… When I was in school, I studied Martin Scorsese’s films. Just to be nominated was a huge honor. I never thought I would win.”


He then went on to thank Quentin Tarantino for getting him a place in the sun: “When people in the U.S. were not familiar with my films, Quentin [Tarantino] always put my films on his list.” And then rounded it off by acknowledging Todd Phillips and Sam Mendes. “If the Academy allows, I would like to get a Texas chainsaw, split the award into five and share it with all of you,” he said.

The acting Oscars went as expected. Joaquin Phoenix won Best Actor for playing a failing clown who finds fame through violence in the dark comic-book tale Joker.

Renee Zellweger was named Best Actress for her performance as an ageing Judy Garland in the musical biopic Judy.

Mr. Tarantino’s sentimental ode to Tinseltown, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, brought the first acting Oscar for Brad Pitt, who played a supporting role as a laid-back stunt man.

Laura Dern took the Supporting Actress Oscar, her first Academy Award, for playing a ruthless divorce lawyer in Marriage Story.


Political messaging

Mr. Pitt gave a fitting political start to the ceremony by referring to the impeachment trial of Donald Trump and blocking of the crucial testimony of John Bolton: “They told me I only have 45 seconds up here which is 45 seconds more than the senate gave John Bolton last week”.

First World War film 1917, from Universal Pictures, had been seen as the film to beat but won just three of its 10 nominations. They came for its stunning “one-shot” feel cinematography, for visual effects and for sound mixing.

(With Reuters inputs)

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 7:13:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/oscars-2020-parasite-makes-oscar-history-with-best-picture-win/article30780627.ece

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