By: Marcus Perriello | Our Voice Contributor
Indeed, records are made to be broken! In what could easily be described as the most pleasantly surprising night in Oscar history, The Academy proved its critics wrong as the international sensation ‘Parasite’ defied the odds (and conventional wisdom) to become the first international film from South Korea to break two records! This was the first film to win both Best International Feature and Best Picture, as well as becoming the first international film to win for Screenplay (Original), Directing, International Feature, and Best Picture … simultaneously. Congratulations to the cast and crew of ‘Parasite’ on setting a precedent that will never be forgotten and has set a new standard for future Oscar races.
In the past, larger and more prestigious studios have had a distinct advantage over smaller independent films when it comes to awards season. The conventional wisdom is that a film has to have a huge budget, optimal box office success or better, and/or a well-established actor, director, or combination thereof, in order to be a serious contender during awards season. But slowly but surely, during the last 15 years or so, smaller independent films began to chip away at the status quo as many such films began to become more and more viable in the awards circuit.
Up until last year, the language barrier was always a problem – at least, with American audiences. Last year, the critically acclaimed Netflix release, ‘Roma’, became the first film to be produced and released by a streaming service to gain Oscar recognition, resulting in 3 Academy Awards for Alfonso Cuaron with Best International Feature, Best Cinematography, and Best Director. But it did not break through the glass ceiling to win Best Picture. No. That honor was bestowed upon Bong Joon-Ho and ‘Parasite.’
So what does this change in the winds really mean? In an era of increasing hatred and intolerance, many of the nominated films had thematic elements of more love and less hate, tolerance over intolerance, and the philosophical message that our society can best be judged by how we treat the least among us. This was certainly the underlying message in films like ‘Parasite’, ‘Joker’, and ‘Jojo Rabbit.’ The Academy is no stranger to making political statements, and last night was positively littered with political themes and topics that affect everyone around the world, in one way or another. It can be argued that ‘Parasite’ winning Best Picture, among its other awards, symbolizes a call for unity as a human race; that we are all human beings in this world and we all share certain commonalities that are all-too often undermined and overlooked as we mindlessly give in to the lure of self-enrichment that is inherent in Gobal Capitalism.
Joaquin Phoenix, who won Best Actor for his mind-blowing performance in ‘Joker’, had the most to say on these issues as he spared no expense in spilling his guts to the audience about his thought process with regard to humanity’s commonalities. Brad Pitt, the winner for Best Supporting Actor for his role in ‘Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood’, took a shot at the corrupt representatives in Washington – and more specifically the self-indulgent processes they use as political theatre – with his ironic-yet-hillarious line “I have a lot to say, but they only gave me 45 seconds up here…which is more than Congress gave John Bolton, last week.” Steve Martin and Chris Rock took shots at Jeff Bezos (who was in attendance at the Oscars). Martin’s response to Rock’s question was certainly funny, yet tragically symbolic of the power employers have over workers in today’s monopolistic world. Rock: “Do you have anything to say?” Martin: “No thanks. I like to get my packages on time.”
“American Factory” was the winner for Best Documentary Feature, which is about the economic relationship between the U.S. and China and highlights how it affects the working class. The producers of the film made a political statement about how strong workers can be when they unite against the elites. It wasn’t too long or too self-aggrandizing, but rather a well-stated shout out to the working communities of the world: Organizing and taking action is extremely important in affecting real change.
The producers of the Animated Short Film winner ‘Hair Love’ gave yet another political speech about what being beautiful really is. This might have been in response to the recent court ruling that now permits employers to discriminate against African-Americans because of their natural hair texture and styling choices. Finally, what ‘Parasite’ illustrates is that the class struggle and humanitarian division is real, and that we need to be more mindful and inclusive of others who are not so well-off, and that every decision we make in our global economic system has real consequences that can be unpredictable and severe.
The praise for this year’s Academy Awards are pouring in, as the outcome of this year’s ceremony had the highest favorability rating in recent memory. Moviegoers everywhere are delighted with this year’s winners, particularly those of ‘Parasite’, as it was a fan favorite heading into the ceremony. It’s very rare that The Academy awards Best Picture to a film that so closely aligns with the perception of the average viewer. The two best examples of this rare occurrence are ‘Titanic’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.’ On top of that, ‘Parasite’ was also the most critically-acclaimed film of the lot; yet another instance where critics and The Academy are often at odds with each other.
Overall, the 92nd Academy Awards was not just about choosing a winner in the respective categories. It was also an event that signified a changing of the guard in both cinema and in society as a whole. The world has become much more diverse and the traditional boundaries are either shifting, or disappearing completely. The best part of all is that ‘Parasite’s wins were not only a political statement and record-breaking in nature, but they were also the most deserving and in many moviegoer’s view, the right choice.