While Roma’s win for best Director last year was a step towards breaking the pattern, Parasite blew the English language precedent out of the water tonight when it surprised and took Best Director and Best Picture, becoming not just the first Korean film to earn a nomination in the International Feature category, Best Picture, Director and Screenplay – but now it has WON all of those.
Many were predicting it would win. But many of us thought that they would not give one film two Best Picture prizes. Turns out, that wasn’t a problem.
The Oscars ceremony itself was a night devoted to the topic of inclusion and exclusion. Wouldn’t it have been funny if after all that they handed their awards to a film made by white men? Probably wasn’t going to happen.
Sam Mendes and 1917 had won the Globe for Picture and Director, the Producers Guild, the Directors Guild and the BAFTA. But it was hurt by being a late-breaking film, and by having no acting nominations. It would have had to win either Screenplay or Director to win Best Picture but Parasite took both of those awards, along with International Feature.
So Parasite won:
The difference between the Academy and the other voting bodies are the actors, who dominate. They were seen giving Parasite an excited standing ovation at the SAG, and that probably went a long way towards pushing Parasite to the top where actors dominate. On its own, a SAG ensemble stat isn’t a strong push towards Best Picture, but the standing ovation on television was probably the bigger influencer.
What happened with Parasite was more than a fluke of the preferential ballot. Had it won just Best Picture you could chalk it up to that. But even though they didn’t give the film Editing or Production Design (it’s almost shocking that they didn’t, come to think of it) this was as close to a sweep as you’re going to see in the era of the expanded ballot. That it won Picture and Director showed passion. It probably won on the first round even.
I figure a lot of people out there are very happy tonight. I know for the Academy they won’t have to face any blowback for refusing Bong’s film the top prize and they will likely be praised for this choice. It has always been true, as Justin Chang said in the LA Times, that the Academy needed Parasite more than Parasite needed the Academy.
As far as the film industry, well, I don’t know where they go from here. To see a year of such great films coming out of the major studios and none of them could win Best Picture – I’m not sure what message that sends, or where it leaves them, or where it leads.
I have to admit that I didn’t see it coming. If I had I would have been more conflicted about what would win Best Picture. I saw the bigger picture much differently. I was looking at how the major Hollywood studios had made so many great films this year. I just couldn’t imagine the Academy would say, yeah but you didn’t make one better than this one here. But they did.
On the upside, a really great movie won Best Picture and Best Director, one that was daring and dark and brilliant. It is, without a doubt, among the best films that have ever won the top prize at the Oscars. The Academy has, in one night, completely changed what defines it, and in so doing, shut up its critics and forever altered its legacy. It is now officially a global institution, not a local one.