It was a moment of surprise and ecstasy. Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite had just been awarded Cannes’ ultimate award – the Palm D’Or, and made history by being the first Korean film to do so.
Needless to say, it set the path for the film’s selection as South Korea’s official entrant for the Academy Award’s International Film Oscar and raised the ultimate question: Could it win Best International (Foreign) Film?
These days, the question isn’t the question. The story isn’t the story. Now awards pundits wonder, can Parasite (with almost $20 million at the domestic box office, a stunner of its own) actually enter the Best Picture race and position itself in a way few foreign films ever do?
Again, a question others are asking. We’d prefer to ask something different. Namely…
Will the old people who vote for Best International Film; (a) get the film, (b) not be turned off by the violence of the film, and (c) finally stop voting for old English white dude movies set in and around war, death or adultery?
Neon Rated has done an amazing job with Parasite thus far. Aside from driving an amazing result at the domestic box office and delivering a marketing and digital campaign that smartly didn’t include any footage from the latter half of the movie, it is one of the highest foreign film box office results ever. They’ve even gone so far as to send crated props from the film that weigh literally 200 lbs. to film critics and tastemakers alike, which has been a smart way to drive additional awareness for the film, even if you disagree with the cost associated with the over-hyped paperweight.
But again, the old people. What about the old people?
Historically, old Oscar voters have trouble with a variety of progressive subjects in their foreign films. Gay sex, for example. Or narrative structure that goes against the grain, choosing to unfold a story in an untraditional way. Movies with excessive violence, characters with questionable moral values, and films that don’t feel sweeping or traditional in their style and visual flair.
It doesn’t help that those voting for the Best International Film are required to see at least one-third of 80+ movies. If you’ve got dinner at 4:30pm or restless leg syndrome, it’s gonna make it pretty hard to sit through hours of subtitled movies. So when something comes along that feels different; that feels dangerous and perhaps outside the box, sometimes the instinct is to get up, walk out, and put your chips on that British war drama about the alcoholic patriarch of a family of artists.
But Parasite may be just the thing to break a hole in the levee of lethargy.
In a year when most Best Picture potential nominees are making us yawn, we truly can’t think of another movie more worthy than Parasite to take that crown. For god’s sake, we hope it does.
If it doesn’t, at least we can blame the old people.
That’s always a good excuse.