Korea, Republic Of
Bong Joon-ho’s sharp-edged social commentary film cut through at this year’s Oscars, collecting many of the event’s major awards, and setting a milestone as the first foreign language film to win best picture.
After taking home the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival last year, the South Korean thriller has enthralled international critics, taking in more than $US165 million ($265 million) at the box office worldwide since its release.
Parasite film trailer.
The full list of Oscars 2020 winners
South Korean film Parasite has emerged as the big success story at this year’s Oscars. Here’s the full list of winners.
Here’s what you need to know about the foreign film that climbed to the top of the Hollywood heap in 2020.
What did Parasite win?
Bong’s film took home four awards in total from Hollywood’s biggest award ceremony — best picture, best director, best international feature film and best original screenplay.
It was also nominated for two other Oscars — best production design and best film editing.
How big of an upset win was Parasite?
Generally, the bookmarkers have a pretty good record picking who will win the major awards at the Oscars.
Gathering intel from the winners of a host of lead-up awards — such as the Golden Globes, BAFTAs and Screen Actors Guild Awards — either the first or second favourites on betting markets typically take out the top prize, especially during the last decade.
Video: Bong Joon-ho wins the best director Oscar for Parasite
And — going by the betting odds — Parasite’s win was no outlier.
Newsweek reported the best picture betting odds at three US betting agencies on Sunday, and all three had Parasite second favourite to win the award behind clear favourite and Golden Globe winner 1917, with Bong Joon-ho second to Sam Mendes for best director.
So why was Parasite’s win such a big deal?
Well, typically foreign films don’t do well at the Oscars.
Yes, it is true, films from outside of the US have had success, but they have typically been English language films — or more specifically British films such as The King’s Speech, Ghandi and Chariots of Fire, which all took home best picture.
The poverty-stricken family in Parasite infiltrate the home of their wealthy counterparts. (Supplied: Madman Entertainment)
Hollywood typically consigns foreign language films to their own category, presenting the best international feature film award earlier in the ceremony as an indicator of its relative importance to the American films that follow late in the night.
Parasite blazed its own trail when it became the first foreign language film to take out the best picture award.
Reuters’ film writer Jake Coyle called the win “a watershed moment for the Academy Awards”, noting the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences had invited more overseas voters in recent years to diversify its membership.
Early in the ceremony, Bong won South Korea’s first-ever Oscar when he was awarded best original screenplay.
Video: Oscar audience rallied for lights to come back up for Parasite's best picture speech to continue
And while it hasn’t been uncommon for foreign filmmakers to take out the best director award at the Oscars in recent years (during the 2010s, only one American has taken out the award — Damien Chazelle), Bong was the first South Korean to ever be nominated for the award. And only the second Asian filmmaker to be named best director after two-time winner Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi).
Bong’s win was made even more memorable by who he beat out for the award — Hollywood filmmaking legends Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino, and past winner Sam Mendes (American Beauty).
What is Parasite about?
Parasite uses what our reviewer Luke Goodsell described as a mutant hybrid of genre conventions to satirise class tensions and social inequality in South Korea.
The film follows a family of impoverished grifters who infiltrate the home of a wealthy family.
Parasite portrays poverty in South Korea, but its themes have resonated worldwide. (Supplied: Madman Entertainment)
One-by-one, the underclass children and parents take up jobs in the upper-class home to comic effect, enjoying the luxuries of their social superiors until their actions lead to inter-familial tensions, disappointment, and eventually — full-blown horror.
With a darkly humorous touch, Bong doesn’t let the social commentary get too heavy-handed, and even makes light of the film’s barely concealed ideological undertones, with one of the characters repeatedly commenting “It’s metaphorical”.
While the film might be set in South Korea, the themes have resonated worldwide — to Bong’s initial surprise.
Speaking to Birth.Movies.Death about the film last year, Bong said he tried to express a sentiment “specific to Korean culture”.
Youtube: Bong Joon-ho discusses Parasite
“But upon screening the film after completion, all the responses from different audiences were pretty much the same, which made me realise that the topic was universal in fact,” he said.
“Essentially, we all live in the same country called capitalism, which may explain the universality of their responses.”
Have other foreign language films come close to Parasite’s success?
Just last year, Netflix’s Roma garnered 10 nominations, winning three (including best director), and tying with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for the most Academy Award nominations for a foreign language film.
Parasite equals Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Sweden’s Fanny and Alexander with four Oscar wins each, including best foreign language feature film.
Bong Joon-ho made history by becoming the first South Korean to win an Oscar. (AP: Chris Pizzello)
But neither of those films took home any of the major awards, such as best director and best picture.
Two leading actresses have won Oscars for their roles in foreign language films — Sophia Loren for Two Women and Marion Cotillard for La Mome — while Roberto Benigni took home best actor for his film Life is Beautiful.
Benigni was also nominated for best director for the film, which garnered seven nominations and three wins in total.
What has the reaction been?
Parasite has been a box office success in Bong’s home country, taking in $US72 million ($107 million) domestically — making it one of the top-20 highest grossing homegrown movies in South Korean history.
Hollywood has also been more than happy to embrace Bong’s success, given the shots it has taken over accusations of a lack of diversity among nominees this year, along with an absence of female filmmakers nominated.
The triumph for Parasite enabled Hollywood to flip the script.
Multiple standing ovations greeted Bong’s wins throughout the ceremony, and he was happy to celebrate: “I am ready to drink tonight,” Bong said during one of his earlier wins, prompting roars from the crowd.
Parasite reaction tweet
When he was called up again for best director, Bong saluted his fellow nominees, particularly Scorsese, and concluded: “Now I’m ready to drink until tomorrow.”
After the Dolby Theatre emptied out, the Parasite cast and crew remained on the stage, soaking up their win.
Backstage, Bong was still gobsmacked. “It’s really f****** crazy,” he told reporters, clutching his awards.
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