When I first saw Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, I was flabbergasted. I had doubted the hype and disbelieved that it would move me in any significant way, but by the time the credits rolled, I had forgotten I was even reading subtitles. My friends and I agreed this film deserved the title of Best Picture but would definitely not win — and probably wouldn’t even be nominated. Parasite is a weird movie, and weird movies don’t usually win awards.
Slowly but surely, our hypothesis began to fall to pieces. First, Parasite was nominated en masse, and we smiled but not with much hope. As Joon-ho laughed off his Oscar nomination, we laughed with him, knowing that we shared the belief in his talent and telling ourselves that was all that mattered. As we watched the Academy Awards last night, we glanced furtively back and forth between the screen and each other. Maybe this was actually going to happen.
It’s worth noting that I was reluctantly adamant that The Irishman was going to take the trophy. Martin Scorsese’s three-and-a-half hour-long mobster epic seemed to be the perfect candidate for The Academy’s definition of a good film. And that compounded with the classical director’s stint of railing against films he doesn’t consider to be “cinema,” I saw The Irishman winning. It would be the perfect opportunity for old Hollywood to reassert its exclusive dominance over the “filmscape.”
I don’t think I’ve ever been so gloriously wrong in my life. I thought it was over when Parasite won Best Foreign Language Film. But it wasn’t. As my friends and I watched Bong Joon-ho and the production crew congregate on the stage, I found myself quite literally jumping for joy. Even as I write this, I am still elated for the underdog of all underdogs winning the big prize, for the recognition this film will get in circles that wouldn’t acknowledge it otherwise, and for all the weird films that will win big in the future by the doors Parasite’s victory kicks down.
This celebration of the weird has the potential to change the movies of the future. It suggests the English language is no longer the barrier for entry into consideration of the film community’s highest honor. Now risk-taking in movies can start to be rewarded.
This past year and especially this month have seen voting assemblies make choices that are close-minded and restrictive to the wonderful diversity our global creative community has to offer. I’m still in disbelief, but on Feb. 9, 2020, the Academy made the right choice.