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Oscar-nominated film review: 'Parasite' deserves all awards for genre-bending tale of class differences

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Parasite Screenshot

A screenshot from Oscar-nominated film "Parasite."

Editor's note: This article is the fourth of seven film reviews that are The Daily staff's top picks from the 92nd Academy Awards nominees. The final results will be announced at the annual ceremony, streaming at 7 p.m. Feb. 9 on ABC Network. 

“Parasite” is a nearly perfect movie that deserves every award it is a contender for. However, it does not need any awards to prove itself. 

The film has already made history by being the first South Korean film to be nominated for the Best Picture category at the Oscars. “Parasite,” directed by Bong Joon-ho, was also nominated for five other Academy Awards: Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Original Screenplay and Best Production Design.

Prior to its Oscar nominations, the film performed well with critics during its festival circuit — even winning the coveted Palme d’Or at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. 

Most recently, on Jan. 5, the film took home the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award for “outstanding performance by a cast,” beating out top contenders and big names such as Robert De Niro and “The Irishman” ensemble, and Quentin Tarantino’s star-studded cast for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”

The film is deserving of every award it has earned. It is one of the most pleasurable movie-going experiences of 2019. 

Part-heist, part-horror, part-comedy, part-drama, “Parasite” defies genre to deliver a fluid experience of laughter, tears and moments of "Oh God, what’s happening?" 

The plot follows a lower-class family, struggling to make ends meet, who become the caretakers of a rich family in one of South Korea’s wealthiest neighborhoods.

That is as much plot detail a viewer can learn before venturing into spoiler territory. 

The film is best experienced with little-to-no knowledge of its plot, as it is full of fun and shocking moments, all cleverly interlaced in one of the most compelling plots put on screen.  

American audiences would most recognize director Bong’s work from “Snowpiercer” (Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton) and Netflix’s “Okja” (Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal), though he has more Korean-language films under his belt, “Parasite” among them.

While the cast is made up of entirely Korean actors, they rightfully deserve their SAG award and should have been nominated for the Academy Awards as well. Despite the difference in language, every character in “Parasite” is phenomenal because of the actors portraying them.

Song Kang-ho, who plays the father of the poor family in the film, has been a frequent star in Bong’s previous works and gives an incredibly subdued performance, perfectly suited for where the plot takes his character. The children in the main family, portrayed by Choi Woo-sik and Park So-dam, give such believable performances that the audience might forget they aren’t really siblings. This review could detail every performance and praise each individual, but it would be more beneficial to just watch the film.

American audiences are notoriously bad at seeing foreign films in theaters compared to the rest of the world. There are a variety of reasons for the lack of engagement. Subtitles are a large turn-off for movie goers who think its too much of a burden to read an English translation, but Bong has been campaigning for Americans to watch more foreign language films.

“Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,” Bong said in his Golden Globes acceptance speech.

While the Academy Awards are frequently seen by American audiences as the pinnacle of film awards, to foreign filmmakers it's just another awards show. Other awards, like the Palme d’Or at Cannes, are much more coveted. In an interview with Vulture, Bong even called the event “local” in terms of relevance.

While the Oscars may not hold much international importance, the awards give notoriety to films and filmmakers, especially with American audiences, that may not otherwise receive it.

“Parasite” is a great place for American audiences to start overcoming their phobia of subtitles, because by the first 15 minutes of the film there will be less focus on “Why am I reading?” and more focus on “What happens next?”

Film enthusiasts should make it their top priority to see "Parasite" — best experienced in a theater — as soon as possible. OU’s Meacham Auditorium will have 6 p.m., 9 p.m. and midnight showings of the film on Friday, March 6.  

The Academy Awards show airs at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 9 on ABC Network. The awards show will be full of American stars and filmmakers, but if previous awards are anything to go by, “Parasite” is all set up to make a big splash among its American contenders, and rightfully so. 

The Daily staff's full list of reviews from the 92nd Academy Awards nominations:

Assistant Video Editor

Justin Jayne is a Creative Media Production sophomore with a minor in Communication. His loves include movies, music, books, video games (pretty much all media) and dogs.

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