Why Parasite Deserves to Win the Best Film Oscar Over Joker
Parasite, directed by Bong Joon-Ho, truly deserves to win the Best Film Oscar instead of Joker
Imagine a world where art is rewarded without considering borders. Subtitles aren’t a problem. Stories, when told in a global context, aren’t judged based on the nationalities they represent but whether the story is told, executed and performed well. Imagine, then, if there are the Academy Awards that take place not in Hollywood but maybe in another global center (Dubai, even) which honors not just Americans or the British artists as equals, but stories that are being told beautifully all across the world.
But those are just fantasies. Right now, the closest to making the Academy Awards aware of why it doesn’t really need a ‘foreign language film’ category to award a feature that is written in a way that captivates the audience completely is Parasite, a Korean feature film that tells a tale that is honest, brutal and compassionate all at the same time.
Bong Joon-Ho, at the Golden Globes 2020, stated, “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films”. Joon-Ho won the award for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes and was nominated as the Best Director.
Sam Mendes’ war film 1917 won the award for the Best Motion Picture Drama and Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker was nominated. In this year’s Academy Awards, Parasite is nominated alongside Joker for Best Direction and Best Film both. While the Joker’s biggest problem was that it wasn’t responsible enough the idea that both Joker and Parasite are considered to be rivals is quite laughable. Parasite is a far superior film than Joker and if Parasite loses, it will add to the laundry list of bad decisions taken by the Academy. (This year alone major snubs were Jennifor Lopez for Hustlers and Lupita Nyongo for Us.)
Bong Joon Ho’s film is as original as it gets whereas Phillips’ film is a mix of Taxi Driver and The Shining. The violence in Phillips’ film is placed without much reason and the establishment of Fleck’s character can be mostly credited to Phoenix’s portrayal. Parasite, on the other hand, uses violence as punishment and not gratification. At the culmination of the film, the fate of the characters is sealed by it, not elevated by it. At no point in time does Joon Ho glorify or beautify richness or poverty. The rich mansion is haunted by dimly lit angles that are often foreboding. Kims, in their squalor, are no saints nor do they live as such. The moral depravity of the Kims and the disconnected complacence of the Parks is a gripping contrast, one that isn’t hampered by the fact that the entire film is in a foreign language.
Joker, on the other hand, takes the brow-beaten tale of disturbed-man-wronged and peppers it with a lot of blood and anger to make it seem ‘edgy’. Sourced from an earlier comic book, the story of how Arthur Fleck became a feared villain is hardly original and not at all revolutionary. If there was an Oscar for the Best Homages, sure, Joker would have taken that up in no time. Because there hasn’t been a better homage to Martin Scorsese, not even in Saturday Night Live.
There has also been a lot of conversation around the Joker being a fairly irresponsible film and creating an anti-hero in Arthur Fleck as he happily stands atop a car’s bonnet in the middle of a mob attack and becomes the leader (?) of the proletariat. Parasite, on the other hand, creates a truly mindful picture of what it means to be the forsaken class of society. It displays a struggle for survival, a cutting look at the urban social double standards and yet somehow it tells it with compassion and sensitivity.
But we live in the age where The Witcher has gotten more traction than it deserves and pretty soon the Academy may award the Best TikToks which is fine by me. As long as they don’t restrict it old white men who think Greta Gerwig doesn’t deserve a place in the Best Director list for Little Women. The future is inclusive and if Parasite is able to defeat Joker in the Best Film category, we can hope that better films will come to be celebrated from around the world by the most prestigious platform of all time.