[Update: 10 February 2020]
Parasite has made Oscar history by scoring four wins (and many firsts) for director Bong Joon-ho and the movie’s primarily Asian cast.
Not only is Parasite the first Korean film to bag the Best Picture and Best International Film at the 92nd Academy Awards, the comedy thriller also took home the Best Director and Best Screenplay awards—a well-deserved recognition for the South Korean film industry.
Having received numerous accolades including Best Film Not in the English Language, as well as the award for Best Original Screenplay at the BAFTAs, and the Writers Guild Awards for Best Original Screenplay Director, Bong Joon-ho and co-writer Han Jin-won beat out strong competition from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, 1917, and Marriage Story, among other heavyweights.
[20 January 2020]
By now, you’ve probably seen Once Upon A Time in Hollywood and Joker. You’ll be aware that Sam Mendes‘ 1917 is tipped for great things, and that Martin Scorsese‘s The Irishman has had glowing reviews from anyone whose sat through the three-and-a-half-hour epic.
The awards season big players are well known, but a lesser known film is slowly attracting awards acclaim. Step forward Parasite, which made history at the recent SAG Awards by becoming the first foreign-language film to win Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. The South Korean comedy-thriller beat competition from Bombshell, The Irishman, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Jojo Rabbit.
“It is true that the momentum is building, and we are a part of the awards race,” said director Bong Joon-Ho. “But I think today was truly important as these actors were acknowledged by fellow peers and that’s the greatest joy of this night. With regard to the Oscars, no one can predict what will happen.”
Here, we guide you through what you need to know about the film.
Related article: Parasite Makes History At The SAG Awards
What’s Parasite about?
The film focuses on a disadvantaged poor family—the Kims—who become employees of a wealthy family by posing as unrelated highly qualified, skilled workers. As the plot continues, things take a sinister turn as issues relating to class, materialism and status are played out with dark humour. The story starts after the son from the Kims gets a job as a tutor for the affluent Parks family, after his sister creates a fake college diploma. In time, the sister—concealing her real identity—is enlisted as an art tutor for the same family. Revealing too much more of the plot would result in spoilers, but the whole thing begins to unravel when one of the Parks’ comes home unexpectedly from a camping holiday to find the Kims revelling in the luxuries of their mansion, and realising that they are, in fact, a family.
What are the critics saying?
Parasite won Cannes Film Festival’s prestigious Palme d’Or prize, the first Korean film to do so and the first film to do so with a unanimous vote since 2013’s Blue Is the Warmest Colour. The praise was far-reaching. The Guardian described it as “an enjoyable, elegant, scabrous movie”, while the New York Times described it as |wildly entertaining, the kind of smart, generous, aesthetically-energised movie that obliterates the tired distinctions between art films and popcorn movies”. NY Mag hailed it “a nerve-racking masterpiece”.
What about the public reception?
One of the most remarkable things about Parasite is its cult-like status among young cinefiles. Before it even won big at Cannes, the film sparked a fan base that calls itself #BongHive, after its director, Bong Joon-Ho. Parasite has its own merchandise, and even a ringtone based on the ‘Jessica Jingle’—a chant delivered by one of the characters. While other foreign language films have attracted critical acclaim (take 2019’s Roma for example which attracted 10 Oscar nominations), few have the same level of cultural cachet.
Related article: 12 Snubs And Surprises From The 2020 Oscar Nominations
Is it likely to win an Oscar?
The Academy isn’t known for its diverse, progressive choices, and 1917 is still the favourite to win (lavishly produced epic period dramas involving historical tragedy have long been considered Oscars bait). No foreign language film have ever won Best Picture—despite all the hype surrounding 2019’s Roma, the award was eventually won by Green Book. Regardless, Joon-Ho doesn’t care whether or not his film receives Oscars recognition. “The Oscars are not an international film festival,” he said breezily. “They’re very local.”
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR UK.
Related article: Oscar Nominations 2020: The Full List