Oscar 2020: Parasite Makes History, Sweeping Best Picture and Major Awards

February 9, 2020--Parasite made history at the 92nd Academy Awards on Sunday night, becoming the first foreign language film to win the top award, the Best Picture.  Earlier the South Korean film also won the Best International Feature.

The victory caps off an awards season run for the South Korean twisty dramatic thriller. The story of social class conflict has successfully crossed cultural and language barriers to become a commercial and critical smash.

Heading into the night, “1917,” Sam Mendes’ bold, if gimmicky one-shot World War I epic had been expected to add best picture to its other awards, which included top wins at the Golden Globes, Producers Guild, and Directors Guild awards. Instead, that film’s four prizes were all in technical categories.

Bong Joon Ho, the auteur behind “Parasite,” scored best director over the heavily favored Mendes. The film also earned best international feature and best original screenplay prizes.

“I thought I was done for the day and ready to relax,” Bong joked as he accepted his director prize. After saying he wanted to “Texas Chainsaw” the golden statue and share it with his fellow nominees, Bong declared himself, “bloody ready to drink until morning.”

Parasite made history at Sunday’s Oscar Awards on five significant fronts.

It was the first South Korean feature to ever be nominated for an Oscar.  The movie actually won in 4 major categories out of its 6 nominations.

It was the first Palme d’Or winner, the top award at the Cannes Film Fest (where it had world premiered), to also win Best Picture since Delbert Mann’s “Marty” won, back in 1955.  That’s 64 years ago!

It was the first foreign (read non-English) film to win the Best International Feature and the Best Picture in Oscar’s 92-year-history.

Michael Haneke’s Amour won the Best Foreign Language Film in 2012, and was nominated for (but did not won) Best Picture.

In the end, it turns out that neither the Producers Guild (PGA) nor the Directors Guild (DGA) were reliable predictors of the Best Director and Best Picture.  Both organizations gave their awards to director Sam Mendes and to 1917.

Finally, Parasite reaffirms the role of influential individual critics and of critics groups, such as the Los Angles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), which awarded the Korean film its top award, Best Picture (It also won the group’s Best Supporting Actor).

Speaking of critics, Parasite was not among the Ten Best Films of Variety’s two chief film critics, nor was it on the list of the Hollywood Reporter’s main reviewer.

Finally, Parasite has become the highest grossing foreign film at the domestic box office.  According to Box-Office Mojo, as of February 9 (prior to the Sunday Night Telecast), the movie has earned $35.47 million in North America and $129,890,022 million internationally, adding to an impressive haul of million 165,362,304 globally.

The above figures demonstrate the still viable role of commercial appeal in America the overall performance of a film–worldwide

The above achievements could not have happened up to five or six years ago, when the Academy decided to expand its ranks in a substantial and international way.  Over the past decade, the number of eligible Oscar voters almost doubled in size!

By my rough estimates, about one fifth of the Academy members are foreign-born artists or foreign artists who work in Hollywood.