This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Charlie’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
"Once you overcome the 1-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many amazing films.
Ah the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences. The council of geriatric boomers far too far into their senile, aging delusions of being "Top dogs of deciding the best in the best of films" every year. So many years, there have been times where you've picked the absolute wrong choices for your winners of your big awards to the point where so many, even myself, have disregarded you as but a joke. But, if history has taught me anything, it is that "Even a broken clock can be right at-least every once in a while." And on the night of February 9th 2020,
the Academy surprised myself and many a cinema fan in their annual Academy Awards show by rewarding Bong Joon-ho's Parasite with not one. But 4 Academy Awards. For Best Picture, Best Director for Bong Joon-ho, Best Original Screenplay and Best International Feature. Making it the film to win the most awards that night and a fist for bring a foreign film to win Best Picture and Original Screenplay. Up against films like the Billion Dollar DC juggernaut in Todd Philip's Joker, Tarantino's "penultimate" kickback film reflection on classic Hollywood with Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Sam Mendes's mesmerizing and technical showcase of a World War I story in 1917, Greta Gertwig's delightful take on the classic Little Women, Taika Waititi's anti-Nazi satire in Jojo Rabbit, James Mangold's solid race history piece with Ford V Ferrari, Martin Scorsese's somber gangster epic in The Irishman, and Noah Baumbach's well acted and directed realistic look into divorce and how it can tear people apart with Marriage Story. Making it a truly historic night not just for the Academy (This being the first Foreign film to win Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay) but for cinema. We can all agree the Academy can be really lame at times (Look at last year's atrocious Award show with films like Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody taking home far too much gold) but their award show, love it or hate it, does help garner awareness to films big and small. And having this be the first foreign film to win an award as well known and celebrated as this, is fantastic not just for Bong Joon-ho and company. But most importantly for foreign cinema in general. While I will say that foreign films are becoming more and more accessible and known thanks to platforms like Criterion Channel, there's still a sense of esoteric nature and divide for many. But with a film like this winning, I think that divide can be easily crossed. More and more will discover amazing films like this one. And that itself is amazing. Not just in the discovery of art around the world, but the cultural divide it can create for so many others.
But I digress. I'm here to revisit this film I love for a third time and ask: "Did the Academy get it right this year"?
And upon my re-watch I can honestly say: They 100% did this time.
Parasite isn't just a film deserving of it's Oscar wins. It's deserving of all it's other award wins, critical and viewer praise, and all the hype you've heard from me and so many more. It's deserving in it's spot on the Letterboxd 250 and other spots. It's... That damn good.
I've also decided this time to do an even more in depth review of why this film is so good. And it will (as you can tell) contain spoilers from here out. So come back to this once you've seen it. And I will not only go into deep reasoning on why this film is so good, but why I love it so dearly, and why I feel it's not just one of the best Best Picture winners. But also why it's a truly important film that anyone, regardless of how you feel on foreign films can enjoy.
Why It's So Good:
So many facets go into what makes a movie a masterpiece. And while I do think that's up to subjectivity of viewers, I feel there does fit a certain criteria that can be discussed and argued. And to go through that criteria would mean going into each great artistic facet of film-making and storytelling.
As far as direction goes, Bong Joon-ho directs and choreographs the hell out of this film. He's the only director I've seen capture similar senses of tension like that of Hitchcock and still have his own work stand out. And all his best aspects seen in other films are played out here wonderfully.
From a script writing and story telling angle, Parasite is an all out masterclass. Bong Joon-ho is no slouch when it comes to screenwriting as made obvious by his previous works. He has a briliant way of mixing gripping drama with light comedic elements and symbolic story telling. In my mind, Parasite is where his storytelling style and craft is not only at it's best, but at it's most signature. The story of the Kim family's plan to break into the upper class home of the Parks via a scheme consisting of acting, con artistry, and well played out trickery upon an upper class family's sense of gullibility given to them by their upper class living plays out brilliantly. Like a well oiled Rube Goldberg machine of set ups, pay offs, twist and turns all culminating in an epic, gripping tale that comments on the states of late stage capitalism and the battles of classicism not just in the upper vs lower. But even how same classes scrap and fight with one another just to prevail. And how the fallout between all this can lead to tragedy and suffering. All of it filled with brilliant symbolism (The Scholar Stone first representing what I feel to be first a symbol of good luck in the films beginning. But later an omen of misfortune for the Kim's in the face of karma and being an item of attachment for Ki-woo working nicely within his arc and importance to the story. The staircase between the Kim's old low level poverty struck basement home and their life at the Park a representation of lower class and upper class living, the rain showers and flood representing a form of karmic wrath and even drowing sense that plays well into the film's final acts and further classicism ideals. The use of Da-song's love of Native American Indians I'm certain ties into the classicism tale in how it can be paralleled Native Americans were killed and oppressed. Etc) And even little details that all reveal nicely in the end and all have brilliant set up and pay off.
And it's cast of characters is one of the best I've seen period. All faulty individuals with methods behind their madness and actions. All well layered, gripping and important in one way or the other. From the tricky and street smart Kim family. To the gullible and relaxed Parks. Even the surprising Moon-gwang and her husband being amazing incredible reveal antagonists. All well layered, and bring their own flavor and brilliance and engagement to this tale. And all further the themes and story beats perfectly. All directed to their best performances by director Bong Joon-ho. This was the film that landed Song Kang-ho as one of my all time favorite actors. And his performance, along with the performances of the fellow players. Makes for some of the best acting I've seen in the film.. All feeling entertaining, human and engaging. From their line reads to their body language, no performance here is bad. I'm actually a bit shocked Song nor Lee got nominations for their acting at the Oscars.
From the production stand point, this work looks simply phenomenal. From the structure of the houses (The Park's upper-class estate feels so huge when you consider the Kim's lower class life and how big it must feel for them) and set pieces. The cinematography bringing the film to life and knowing what shots and camera work to use for each scene. And the editing keeps this thriller's pacing on it's toes at all times. Never being a slow or boring affair.
I also feel the score, sound mixing and sound editing is great. From the fitting unique orchestrations that give the feelings of the film a further punch, to the actual sound editing really completing the immersion.
From a craft stand point, I would say that Parasite is a truly brilliant movie. Any complaints I've heard seem to come down to pure nitpicking and upon this, my third viewing, I'd still say if it ain't perfect, it's pretty damn close. Really fitting of the term "masterpiece" in this young man's mind. If you disagree, I'd love to hear why. Because for me, it's a masterpiece that thanks to it's themes which transcend Korean borders and tones, but can be entertaining for those outside of Korean audiences and instead for all. Which leads me to my next point.
Why I Love It:
Growing up, I fell in love with cinema through works like Toy Story, ET The Extraterrestrial, Jurassic Park, Die Hard and comedies like the works of Mel Brooks and Zucker Brothers and Jim Abrams. All planting seeds in my young mind that would lead me to love cinema, write my own movies and videos and writing reviews like this one. Foreign cinema only came to me around my later teen years through Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai and I loved it so much. Leading me to Andrei Tarkovsky, Federico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman and that lead me down to allot more directors foreign and from the US and to who I love now. I later knew of Bong's works through Snowpiercer and Okja. Which I really enjoyed. But he really became a favorite of mine through a work I feel is his other masterpiece in Memories of Murder. So getting to hear him making a new film and being able to see it in theaters was a real treat. And seeing it in theaters up until now, it's amazing. Getting to see a favorite director that may not be "as big" as more well acclaimed and universally loved by the masses like Christopher Nolan and seeing it get this acclaim is truly a positive sight to behold. I really hope it leads to Bong making bigger films in the future. So he can keep making greater films. And other foreign directors like him can have their visions seen by more and more thanks to it's accolades.
I love this film for it's craft, it's story, it's characters, the passion and meaning behind it. It's just... A film that's everything to me. I never thought a film as new as this (aside from Spider-Verse) could impress me to the point of being in my personal top 50. But... Here we are. And it's damn welcome. It's commentary on classicism and struggles and the savagery of humans really opened, my eyes and had me looking at the world far differently. I love when a film not only entertains me. But challenges me personally. And that it did.
Why It's Important:
Not only are the themes and story of Parasite super important to enlightening other cultures to similar struggles. Not only is it a film packed with technicalities and intricacies that can be studied to help understand it and teach others about life, the real world and help film students guide their own craft and understanding of film, it's important because of this accolade of Best Picture it has received. Again, I stated my dislike over the Academy's flawed sensibilities. But I've also acknowledged how it can be an important ceremony. As it allows the average viewing populous to look into more films and discover more thus progressing the film medium and progressing it's growth for other creators. I love that it has given Parasite this spot in the spotlight. Because much like how Seven Samurai gave me the gateway to foreign films, which entertained me and taught me so much and got me looking into different cultures, but I feel Parasite can now be that film for so many. And I feel that's the most important thing to note. That it's a film that can inspire so many thanks to it's accolades especially at the Oscars. More people can possibly think differently, get inspired and discover newer and newer movies they never knew about. And as someone who loves movies, that makes me so happy. That it can be a possible bigger part in others's lives and inspire them, teach them and all that.
Or it could just be a real good movie.
The point of my word salad is this: Films like Parasite are far and in between. But they exist all over the world. But they seem to never get their time because of people won't invest their time in subtitle films because "Ugh reading." And I feel that's a shame. Parasite is a film that I feel will stand the test of time. One that goes beyond it's own barriers of culture and of they can insliren others. Up there with Citizen Kane, Godfather (and it's sequel Godfather Part II), Taxi Driver, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Apocalypse Now, and many other US Films. And is one I feel is even be up there with the likes of A Brighter Summer Day, Seven Samurai, Harakiri, Pierrot Le Fou, Close-Up, Come and See, Spirited Away, Stalker, Love Exposure, The Handmaiden, 8 1/2, Persona, and many other greats as fellow foreign films. Bong Joon-ho truly made something special. And he is getting his just due for giving that to us. He gave us Parasite in what I feel is a truly remarkable piece of art. One I feel will stand the test of time. Ilove this film. I love film. And I hope that's a love that never stops. And this film is truly one of many to remind me of that love.
Thank you, Bong Joon-ho.
Thank you, cinema.
Thank you, everyone who read this.