I like to think that I have a good, varied taste in movies. I get immense enjoyment out of just about anything that’s well-made (and knows what it is), from blockbuster Marvel movies to indie darlings. I even get some sick, twisted pleasure from movies that are so bad, they’re good. All of this is to say that I try to be as informed as possible when it comes to films that are released in any given year, and I don’t say it lightly when I tell everyone with whom I come into contact that Parasite is not only one of the best films of 2019, but one of the best films of all time.
Of course, film is subjective, and different people like different things. Additionally, I haven’t even seen some of the other masterpieces of 2019 (Little Women, The Farewell, The Lighthouse). Even so, there’s something special about Parasite that’s impacted me more than any film has in a long time.
Without spoiling anything, the plot revolves around the lives of two families: the impoverished Kims and the wealthy Parks. When the Kims’ son receives an opportunity to work as an English tutor for the Parks, he and the rest of the family scheme to secure jobs for the lot of them, unbeknownst to their employers. The film is part comedy, part thriller, and it does an excellent job of blending the two genres, thanks to its masterful writing and directing by Bong Joon-ho.
The South Korean film has, so far, won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, snagged a couple of Golden Globes, and was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and it’s not hard to understand why. The film is impeccable, with purposeful direction, incredible acting, and gorgeous cinematography. Every single choice, from the set design to the dialogue, is deliberate and works perfectly to service the class commentary at the heart of the film. Parasite also has one of the best twists I’ve seen in a long time, and holds the rare distinction of being a film that made me afraid to walk past the stairs in my home, if only for one night. Words cannot do it justice unless I delve into some of the spoilery details I discovered in Reddit threads. If you can’t already tell, I highly recommend you see Parasite. I’ve seen the film twice as of now, and I plan to watch it several more times in the future. It’s that good.
Why, then, do I think it won’t win the Oscar for Best Picture?
Although the Oscars aren’t the end-all, be-all in determining which films are masterpieces (Citizen Kane famously lost out on Best Picture all the way back in 1942), it’s satisfying to see excellent movies get recognized for being excellent. Unfortunately, the Oscars haven’t been kind to foreign language films, especially South Korean films. Parasite is the first film from South Korea to be nominated for Best Picture and Best International Feature, despite several fantastic films (Burning, anyone?) previously campaigning for the latter award, not to mention that no foreign language film has ever won the coveted award. History simply isn’t in Parasite’s favor.
What’s more is that the other film that claims to comment on class and society, the current bane of my existence that’s also nominated for Best Picture and ten (ten!) other Oscars, has the upper hand, and that film is Joker. I’ve seen Joker, and I thought it was just fine—an average comic book film. I loved certain scenes, and absolutely hated others. My main issue with it is that Joker lacks any subtlety in its social commentary, and repeatedly falls short of saying anything with any real weight. Parasite, on the other hand, is filled to the brim with scathing commentary on class warfare and society at large, all while being (just about) technically flawless. With the Academy’s viewership declining in recent years, I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave the night’s top prize to a movie that general audiences ate up.
In a perfect world, Parasite would win Best Picture, but as things currently stand, I’m convinced the Academy will pull another Roma. While there are other films I’d be fine with winning the big award, such as 1917, Little Women, or Jojo Rabbit, all I can do is hope that I’m proven wrong and that this article will become irrelevant on February 9th.