One of the most intense Best Picture races in recent memory has come to an end in history-making fashion: “Parasite,” Bong Joon Ho’s critically acclaimed thriller that earned the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or last May and earned unanimous critical acclaim, has won the Oscar for Best Picture over tough competition from Sam Mendes’ World War I drama “1917.” The Best Picture win for “Parasite” is the first time a foreign-language drama has won top honors from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which makes Bong’s film a game-changer for the Oscars’ future. “Parasite” made history earlier at the Oscars after it became the first South Korean movie to win the Best International Feature Film category. “Parasite” is now by default the first South Korean film to win Best Picture.
Nearly every Oscar pundit was split between “Parasite” and “1917” for Best Picture. The latter should have been this winner as far as precursor statistics are concerned. “1917” won Best Picture from the Producers Guild of America, the Golden Globe awards, and the BAFTA Film Awards. The Academy shares many voting members with the PGA and BAFTA, and the PGA even uses the same preferential ballot system the Academy uses. For these reasons, “1917” was a logical choice to win Best Picture.
And yet “Parasite” had the kind of passion that could not be underestimated. After “Parasite” won Best Original Screenplay at the WGA Awards and the BAFTAs, it became clear that it had strong supporters. The screenplay categories are often a launching pad for Best Picture. Then there was the SAG Awards, where “Parasite” won the top prize for Best Ensemble Cast to become the first cast from a foreign-language film to do so. The “Parasite” cast earned a massive standing ovation from their fellow actors when they took the stage mid-ceremony to present a clip package for their film.
The SAG Awards made it clear there was unbridled enthusiasm for “Parasite,” which had many Oscar pundits remembering the 2016-2017 race between “La La Land” and “Moonlight.” Like “La La Land,” “1917” was the big artistic achievement with Oscar nominations in the double digits (“1917” had 10 noms this year). “Parasite” was this year’s “Moonlight,” a more intimate drama that made an outspoken community of supporters out of its viewers. “La La Land” took the PGA and the BAFTA for Best Film, only to lose to the smaller “Moonlight” at the Oscars because of passionate support for the latter. The same exact thing seems to have happened this year with “1917” and “Parasite.”
It’s only fitting that “Parasite” end its awards run in such ground-breaking fashion with its historic Best Picture win at the Oscars. The film started its awards season journey as a history maker at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was awarded the Palme d’Or. The prize made Bong Joon Ho the first South Korean filmmaker to win the Cannes Film Festival’s top prize. Bong reacted to the win by hoping awards success for “Parasite” would increase an interest in South Korean cinema around the world, and he’s most likely hoping the film’s Oscar wins do the same.
“In 2006 I went to see a retrospective on Kim Ki-young,” Bong told the press at Cannes, citing the South Korean director who most influenced “Parasite.” “I went to the French cinema library to see that and was surprised to see French spectators really liked his films and that made a big impression on me. I got the Palme today in Cannes but I’m not the only Korean director who could receive that award. There’s a lot of Korean talent that could win the Palme. I would like to do more retrospectives around the world featuring great Korean directors. Maybe today this will help me move forward in this direction. It’s an opportunity for people to learn more about Korean cinema around the world.”
“Parasite” has become a box office phenomenon in the U.S. and around the world. The movie has crossed the $30 million mark at the domestic box office to become one of the top foreign-language films in U.S. box office history. “Parasite” has soared above the $160 million mark worldwide. The movie is the first Bong-directed feature to gross more than $100 million. Next up for Bong is adapted “Parasite” into a television series for HBO. Bong is developing the project with fellow Oscar winner Adam McKay, who already has a relationship with HBO as the producer of “Succession.” Bong says the show will expand the idea of the film and contain plot points that he was unable to script into a two-hour movie.