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Oscar’s Best Picture Award

June 17, 2020

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After the movie Parasite won the Oscar for Best Picture my buddy said that we definitely had to see this picture – easier said than done, I’m afraid. Since I hadn’t even heard or read anything about it, I more or less “dragged my feet” about the whole thing.

But she persisted so I told her that on Monday, February 10th we could see it at Lincoln Center – no that wouldn’t work she said, “How about Wednesday, February 12th at the same theater?” It was “no” again. Finally, we circled back to the Kips Bay Theater (our favorite) and found there were lots of showings – ALL SOLD OUT. At this point, we both got nervous so we decided to go to the special 10 pm to midnight showing. It was worth all the effort we put into finally seeing this film.

IT ALL STARTED IN MAY 2019 IN CANNES: This was the first film from South Korea to win the Palme d’Or and by June the film topped $50 million at the box office in South Korea – after having the biggest opening weekend of any Palme winner in 25 years. Other screenings at festivals followed and by October the movie was sitting atop a $90.1 million take with the U.S. market still to be tapped.

A Game Changer:  Bong Joon-ho at the Cannes Film Festival – Photo courtesy of Vanity Fair, December 2019

THE MOVIE IS ABOUT THE HAVES AND HAVE-NOTS: Have you ever seen a movie where a poor family cleverly takes over a rich one? I certainly haven’t. There are four people in this unemployed family of con artists, (#1) a son Ki-woo (played by Choi Woo-shik) who stumbles into a job as an English tutor for the young girl in the family, then (#2) he makes way for his sister, Ki-jung (actress Park So-dam) to become an art therapy instructor for the rich family’s younger son. Then finally (#3) actor Song Kang-ho stars as the father who gets a job as the driver for the rich family and (#4) the mother takes over as the new housekeeper (and the old one is fired).

On the other side is the rich family and the handsome husband, Lee Sun-kyun and his lovely, but gullible, young wife, Cho Yeo-jeong. The story, screenplay and direction of the film are all by Boon Joon-ho.

An ad for the film that appeared in Vanity Fair Awards Extra, 2019 – Shown: the rich wife, Cho Yeo-jeong

A STUNNING SCENE YOU WON’T FORGET: The movie begins with a scene in the basement apartment where the poor family lives and it is truly dreadful. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an opening quite like this in my whole life. When I first saw it, I thought, “My God, what are we in for!” The other scene that I can’t put out of my mind is where the housekeeper has secretly kept her husband for years – way, way down in the wealthy family’s home. After she’s fired, she returns to help him. This is truly sad.

A couple of schemers in their cramped apartment (top) – Photo courtesy of Vanity Fair Awards Extra, 2019

THE BACKSTORY ON BONG JOON-HO: When I asked an Asian friend (in February 2020) who travels back-and-forth from New York to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan or wherever if he had seen this movie he wrote back, “Yes, I saw it last year.” That made me realize that this movie’s current popularity (specifically: the first non-English film with subtitles to take home the top prize in the Academy’s 92-year history) was at the end of a very long journey.

THE 51-YEAR-OLD DIRECTOR SAYS,

“I was just a shy, naive 12-year-old cinema fan when I decided to become a director. I never imagined that one day I'd hold this trophy (Palme d'Or). Merci.”

“I follow my instinct – that’s what I always try to do. For example, a priest has a Bible next to him and the lawyers use the book of laws, but we directors have no Bible – we just have our instinct.” (Cannes press conference for Parasite in 2019)

 “I just hope that Parasite gives audiences a lot to think about. It is in parts: funny, frightening and sad. And, if it makes viewers feel like sharing a drink and talking over all the ideas they had while watching it – I’ll wish for nothing more.”

Shaun Nelson-Henrick


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