In the days leading up to the 92nd Academy Awards, I predicted that 1917 would win Best Picture. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong.
It’s not that 1917 is a bad movie — it’s an incredible technical achievement, and at its best, like during the climatic running scene, it captured my attention like few other war movies ever have — but it wasn’t what I wanted to win Best Picture. Parasite was not only my favorite film of 2019, it was also one of my favorite films of the 2010s, a masterpiece of genre juggling from Oscar winner Bong Joon-ho. What a fun thing to type, “Oscar winner Bong Joon-ho.” He could have won an Oscar for Memories of Murder, or The Host, or for writing “I know babies taste the best,” but it took until Parasite for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize his brilliance.
It’s a weird feeling to agree with the Oscars. Half the fun of watching any award show is getting mad at said award show. You know the deal: yelling about the snubs (the use of the word “snub” must skyrocket this time of year), complaining over who lost to whom, wondering why Eminem performed a song from 18 years ago. (A reminder that “Lose Yourself” beat U2’s song for the Gangs of New York soundtrack and Paul Simon’s “Father and Daughter” from The Wild Thornberrys Movie.) But I didn’t have much to complain about during this year’s Oscars. Sure, I would have liked Florence Pugh to win Best Supporting Actor over Laura Dern, and it would have been nice if Honeyland hadn’t gone zero for two, but those are minor quibbles. There’s a difference between a complaint and a quibble. A complaint is “this is bad, and here’s why it’s bad.” A quibble is “this is bad, but oh well.” After every Parasite win, beginning with Original Screenplay and International Feature before the big two later on, and further deserving wins for Toy Story 4 and Joker composer Hildur Guðnadóttir and Roger Deakins’ remarkable 1917 cinematography, my complaints about the other categories turned to quibbles.
Whether we like to admit it or not, a vocal rooting interest in the Oscars, especially for Best Picture, is to proclaim yourself a purveyor of quality, a self-imposed expert. I’m guilty of this, as I desperately wanted Parasite to win Best Picture, therefore proving that I have objectively good taste. It’s not like the Super Bowl, where, if your favorite team isn’t playing in The Big Game, you root for whichever team you hate less. The Oscars is a fleeting, year-to-year proposition; just because Rob Marshall made Chicago, that doesn’t necessarily mean you want him to get nominated for Into the Woods, too.
Maybe that’s a shallow read on when you go ride-or-die for a particular film — it is the Oscars, after all. But counterpoint: I don’t care, not if it means giving 2019’s best movie (Parasite) the 2020 Oscars’ biggest award (Best Picture). It’s not like it’s an annual occurrence. It didn’t happen in the previous year’s ceremony, when Green Book inexplicably won, or the year before that, with The Shape of Water. In my lifetime, I can only count two other occasions where my favorite movie in a calendar year also won Best Picture: 2016’s Moonlight and 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs. That’s not to say other great films haven’t won — Titanic! The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King! No Country for Old Men! — but I wouldn’t put them at the top of my year-end list.
I think that’s why I’m still stunned about Parasite‘s win, outside of the historical significance. The movie I wanted to win, won. As a Carolina Panthers and New York Mets fan (for anyone who doesn’t follow sports, those are bad teams that I cursed myself into rooting for as a child), that’s not something I take for granted. And neither should you. By this time next year, that weird feeling of the Oscars doing something right will be gone and we’ll go back to complaining when Sonic the Hedgehog wins Best Picture.
Parasite is much more than one dope’s favorite film, but the fact that it can be both Important and simply a damn good movie, removed from the Oscars’ diversity issues, is what makes it great. Well, that, and the peach fuzz sequence.
Screw it, I’m going to watch Parasite again.