Academy Awards 2020: A long due Redemption and Correction!

This year academy awards or Oscar did not follow as before much of the footstep of the Golden globe and voted differently for the major awards of the best picture, best director, best original screenplay, and best foreign film all for the first time in the history of the academy to the South Korean film “Parasite”.

Academy Award has been well known for her past omission of nominations of many great films such as “City Lights” and “Modern Times” of Charles Chaplin in 1931 and 1936, “King Kong” in 1933, “39 Steps” and “The Birds” of Alfred Hitchcock in 1935 and 1963,”Snow White and Seven Dwarfs” in 1937, “Casablanca” and “Sullivan’s Travels” in 1942, “Singin’ in the Rain” in 1952, “The Searchers” and “The Invasion of the body snatchers” in 1956, “Vertigo” and “Touch of Evil” of Orson Welles in 1958, “Some like it hot’ in 1959, “Dr.Strangelove” of Stanley Kubrick in 1964, “Rosemary’s Baby” of Roman Polanski in 1968, “They shoot the horses, don’t they” in 1969, “Straw Dogs” of Sam Peckinpah in 1971, “The last tango in Paris” and “The Exorcist” in 1973, “Sophie’s Choice” in 1982, “Full Metal Jacket” of Stanley Kubrick in 1987, “Toy Story” in 1995, “Finding Nemo” in 2003 and “Up” in 2009 (both nominate and awarded only the best animated feature films).  

Many great films in the past have also lost at the Oscar to win any major awards such as “The Informer” of Alfred Hitchcock in 1935, “Grand illusion” in 1938, “The Great Dictator” of Charles Chaplin and “The Grapes of Wrath” of John Ford in 1940, “Citizen Kane” of Orson Welles in 1941, “Double Indemnity” in 1944, “The Killers” in 1946, “The treasure of Sierra Madre” of John Huston in 1948, “A Streetcar named Desire” of Elia Kazan and “The African Queen” of John Huston in 1951, “Roma Holiday” in 1953, “12 Angry Men” of Sydney Lumet in 1957, “To kill a Mockingbird” in 1962, “Bonnie and Clyde” in 1967, “Love Story” in 1970, “Dog Day Afternoon” and “Network” of Sydney Lumet in 1975 and 1976, “Taxi Driver” of Martin Scorsese in 1976, “Close Encounters of the third kind” of Steven Spielberg in 1977, “Apocalypse Now” of Francis Ford Coppola in 1979, “Reds” of Warren Beatty in 1981, “E.T.” of Steven Spielberg in 1982, “The Aviator” of Martin Scorsese in 2004, “The Reader” in 2008, “Avatar” of James Cameron in 2009, , “Life of Pi” in 2012, and “The Revenant” of Alejandro Inarritu (he won only the best direction) in 2015.

Academy awards have also missed in recognition and awarding many great foreign films in the past since its first nomination in this category in 1947, such as “The Cranes are flying” of Kalatazov in 1957, “Ivan’s Childhood” of Tarkovsky in 1962, “The Seventh Seal” and “Wild Strawberries” of Ingmar Bergman in 1957 and 1966 while awarded his “Virgin Spring” and “Through a glass darkly” in two years in a row in 1960 and 1961 that were not as great, “L’Avventura” of Antonioni in 1960, “Women on the verge of nervous breakdown” of Almadovar in 1988 while awarding him later on for his less great film of “All about my mother” in 1999, “Children of Heaven” of Majidi in 1997, “Amores Perros”,”21 Grams” and “Babel” of Alejandro Inarritu in 2000, 2003, and 2006, “Kandahar” of Mohsen Makhmalbaf in 2001, “City of God” of Fernando Merielles in 2002, “At Five in the afternoon” of Samira Makhmalbaf in 2003, “Oldboy” of Park Chan-wook in 2003, “The driving bell and the butterfly” of Julian Schnable in 2007, and “The White Meadows” of Rassoulof in 2009.    

This year as a redemption or correction of the past errors, academy awards surprised all by honoring the South Korean film of Bong Joon-ho not only for the best foreign film of 2019, but the best picture, best direction and best original screenplay in competition with Hollywood films of “The Irish Man” by Scorsese, “Once upon a time in Hollywood” of Tarantino, “1917” of Sam Mendes, “Joker” of Todd Phillips, and “Marriage Story”. A truly great and surprising film, but not one of the greatest coming out of S. Korea, “Parasite” is a mélange of dark comedy and thriller film with superb screenplay, direction and performances. Within a commercial and box office hit domestically and internationally and showered by upscale awards across the globe, the film bares to the bone the reality lives of ordinary people and their struggles with poverty in contrast with the lives of rich capitalists of their own in the third wealthiest Asian country.  

An ordinary poor family of four, the father Ki-taek, the mother Chung-sook, the daughter Ki-jeong and the son Ki-woo struggle for survival in a basement apartment starting to invade and occupy an uptown rich family of the same four. First the son Ki-woo is offered a private tutoring job to Jung Ji-so, the young daughter of the rich Park family. Soon he brings in her sister Ki-jeong as an acquaintance and expert in art therapy for the toddler spoiled son of Park family, Jung Hyeon-jun who’s obsessed with the American Indian characters. Then the father Ki-taek is brought in to replace Park family’s chauffeur who was innocently being framed as a sexual pervert by Ki-jeong who leaves her underwear in his car one day when she was driven home. Lastly the mother, Chung-sook is replaced with the long time working nanny of Park family, Lee Hyeon-jun by spraying peach powder that she is extremely allergic to, heedlessly on the back of her neck so her to cough constantly then to claim she suffers from tuberculosis.

When on a weekend the Park family leave for camping, the Kim family of four have the whole luxury house comfortably in their possession, eating, drinking and daydreaming of owning it totally one day. While all drunk and in their comfort, the fired housekeeper, Lee Hyeon-jun rings the bell asking entry to get a belonging that she had forgotten to take from the basement when fired in a haste. Going to the basement of the house that is like an underground tunnel apparently built in every rich house in South Korea as shelters in the case of North Korean nuclear attack, we and the Kim family discover in surprise that Lee Hyeon-jun has hidden her bankrupt and poor husband down there for several years in secret. Both sides start threat each other reporting to Park family that the house phone rings informing them that the family will be home due to the rain and conclusion of camping within minutes.    

The old housemaid and husband tied in the basement, and the Kim family except the mother who supposed to be the only one taking care of the house, hidden under a coffee table in the hallway of the house when Park family arrive is a quite thrilling and comic scene. Finally the Kim father, son and daughter manage to get out of the house in the middle of the night in pouring rain, when arriving at their own basement apartment that along with the rest of the poor neighborhood being all flooded and ruined. When in a community shelter along with hundreds of ordinary poor people stricken by the flood, all sleeping on the floor in a large hall, they’re called to work the next day at the Park family’s house for a surprise last minute birthday party for their son, Jung Hyeon-jun.

Indeed the party of the rich people is surprised at the end with a series of killings of Park young parents, the old housekeeper, her husband and Kim daughter, Ki-jeong. Kim’s son Ki-woo suffered a severe head injury and saved by a brain operation is not quite normal mentally, living with his mother, while the father Ki-taek is now hidden in the Park’s house basement away from the prosecution by the law. The film ends in Ki-woo’s daydream of getting rich to buy the Park’s house to release his father and join together again, a daydream that looks to the viewers as real.

Before being showered by four major awards at the Oscar, “Parasite” has been already the winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival with unanimous vote, and on numerous top 10 film lists of the year. The film has been a commercial as well literary and critics’ success for its thrill and comedy façade and its social content, well contrasting the poor and rich sects in South Korea. This social class contrast content of the film that is rarely seen on the screen these days, specially in a commercial film takes very well the message to the all lay audience if for one moment watch and think deep about the matter. While not one of the greatest film coming out of South Korea ever or one of the greatest of all time to be listed here, the film at the downfall era of cinema, when Hollywood with its famous directors, Martin Scorsese stuck with gangster films, and Quentin Tarantino in confusion making all kinds of film subjects for the lack of any ideology, it stands out above all the rest. So at this era that TV has replaced cinema with its television films, Netflix and now Amazon devaluing the art of cinema and as Bong Joon-ho has mentioned the true cinema partisans should focus only on foreign films if they could tolerate the subtitles.