Ten Decades of Oscars: PARASITE (2019)

Welcome to the final installment of Ten Decades of Oscars, and today’s film will be the latest Best Picture winner until later tonight when the awards are announced. What to say of the 2010s? The first half is fairly middling, the second half is a much better improvement. We saw gaffes of untold proportions with MOONLIGHT’s (2016) win and we saw now-forgotten crowdpleasers akin to most 80s fare with films like ARGO (2012). A couple of my favourite wins like BIRDMAN (2014) and THE SHAPE OF WATER (2017) and a couple of my least favourite like THE ARTIST (2011) and the aforementioned ARGO. The Academy seemed a bit aimless this decade, gunning for the basics in the less culturally turbulent half of the decade before rerouting course and choosing films with relevant takes on our modern world. Maybe it’s just more of the dinosaur members dying that gave up PARASITE’s win in 2019, the first international film to snag the prize. The best part of last year’s race was PARASITE did not seem likely from the outset. I distinctly remember watching the precursors roll in and it suddenly dawning on me: oh cripes, the sonofabitch might pull this off! God, remember when PARASITE won? You remember! It was the last good thing that happened! I’m speaking generally again.

I saw PARASITE twice in theatres. I actually worked at a movie theatre box office when that film finally arrived at our big multiplex and I watched as showings sold out and it stayed in our roster for an unusually long time. We’re in the era of Disney—it was uncommon to see anything else play for extended periods of time. PARASITE is my latest memory of cheering for a film’s continued and growing success. Shortly thereafter, we closed up shop and I moved on.

There were plenty of contrarian tweets and hot-take articles after PARASITE won that derided not just the Academy but PARASITE’s blissful supporters. Who were the Academy fooling? Thousands of wealthy, mostly white people gave PARASITE—a beautiful yet stark rendering of classism—a big bone to distract everybody from the fact that those wealthy, mostly white Hollywood elites are part of the problem—that they contribute to the widening schism between the haves and have-nots. And… that’s a difficult premise to argue against because it’s actually quite true, but it’s also a position devoid of nuance and robs PARASITE of its merit. The film did deserve to win. Did every voter watch that film and experience a life-altering paradigm shift? Nah. But maybe it’s a younger crowd in the voter pool (I don’t actually know the metrics of the Academy voter base anymore), and maybe this is their social conscience in action. You know, you could also say Heath Ledger only won because he died. Maybe part of that is true! But did he still deserve it? Absolutely. I think PARASITE will stand higher in the annals of film than any of its colleagues this decade.

Now we’re in an unprecedented year where I’m forced to digitally rent all of the nominees in order to watch them before the ceremony, which means in some cases I’m dropping like twenty-five dollars on one goddamn movie. It’s nice to see the Academy evolve with the times, even if it’s a couple generations behind most of the world. It’s a little absurd that we’re only seeing a decent showing of diversity and multiculturalism across the nominees only now in 2021, but now is better than never. If we continue to hold ourselves and others to higher standards, we’ll get more winners like PARASITE, and that’s probably one of the first steps toward a sustainable utopia. That or the gay agenda—whichever comes first. Anyway, I hope the lack of big Disney blockbusters has convinced more people to check out some of the nominees. The Oscars may not be that relevant anymore, but they can be a valuable gateway for budding film enthusiasts to a wider world of cinema. Be like me and watch every nominee before the show—even if some of them don’t look like they appeal to you.

Thanks for reading, folks! And thanks to our editor Jason Whyte for letting me do this series despite my waffling devotion to deadlines. It’s been fun.

PARASITE is available on 4k, Blu Ray (read Jason’s review here), streaming on Crave+, and for digital purchase on Apple TV and Google Play.

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