The return of Radical Chic
Parasite, Bong Joon-ho’s beloved creation won the Academy Award for best Original Screenplay, best International Film; best Director, best Picture…and came close to winning best documentary and animated flick. Best. Best. Best. Best. It was certainly a night to remember for South Koreans and soap-opera lovers all over the world, the cute, inspiring story of a little foreign movie that beat the crap out of the Hollywood establishment, right? A triumph against all odds; a reminder for upcoming filmmakers that anything is possible, dreams may come true…even if you are struggling or starving to death in such countries as South Korea.
So what does Parasite’s victory exactly mean? Was it the most original, groundbreaking movie of the year? Edgier than Jojo Rabbit? Was the “sex scene” hotter than watching Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s hairy armpit hippie chick put her feet up on the dashboard? Was the script far superior to The Irishman’s? Better crafted than Little Women or 1917? More dramatic than Marriage Story or creepier than Joker? No, no, no, no, no and NO.
I saw Parasite twice. It’s a cool, quirky, funny movie. But is it the best 2019 piece of worldwide filmmaking? Its story is as fresh, original and imaginative as…Sorry, it is not fresh, original, or imaginative. It’s a flat, cliché-based movie with the vibe and twists of an average Latino soap opera.
But before you start opening your all mighty critic’s mouths, watch some Telemundo soap operas and then and only then I dare to you to prove me wrong. The fact is last night’s Academy Awards were not about good or bad movies…actually not even movies at all, but about pleasing our contemporary society’s populist and wimpy mindset. In an era defined by victimization, Parasite stands as tall as Muhammad Ali in Manila.
Janelle Monae’s pompous opening set the tone for this year’s Academy Awards: a return to what Tom Wolfe labeled in 1970 as “Radical Chic”. Only in this case it wasn’t ‘that party at Lenny Bernstein’s to support the Black Panthers, but an even bigger televised/streamed one, carrying this year’s theme: let’s make Hollywood look great and open-minded (like never before).
This was an act of complete hypocrisy, considering it took place in a theater packed with the richest people from the most powerful industry of the world. That’s why they all looked shocked when the very white very non-victimized Eminem jumped out of nowhere to perform Lose Yourself.
But after a brief moment of insanity it was like: “um, relax, he is one of us. We are safe. The show must go on.” Cut to: standing ovation (even when most of those people probably hate his guts).
The first awards came out, and early on Parasite took over the spotlight. Then, in order to follow whatever Twitter/socialist trend exists today, evil little Greta Tintin Eleonora Thunberg’s (yes, that’s her name) blasted on the screen to remind us the world is melting down, falling apart and soon we all be dead. You know, the usual stuff but wait a second. Let’s rewind, Greta Thunberg? THE annoying Greta Thunberg? What does this Greta character know about movies (besides the weird one playing nonstop in her young, yet twisted mind) in order to be part of the almighty Academy Awards ceremony? That’s when the populist bell started ringing in my head: Parasite is the CHOSEN one. Not the greatest, but the CHOSEN one.
Best Original Screenplay
It’s very easy to compare Parasite with any Latino soap opera. I’m not talking about similar stories, but carbon-copied ones. Starting from the never-ending plotline: a poor family wants to be as rich as the riches they hate. Either the rich boy or girl will fall for the poor boy or girl. A lot of drama in between, some might get killed…and at the end poor people will remain poor while rich people…exactly! So within this context, Parasite’s screenplay ain’t that original, right? No. Apparently not a single human being, apart from me, has ever read, seen, or heard such a melodramatic story arc.
What was so outstanding about Parasite’s script? Some critics talks about the social metaphors. But there’s no such thing as a metaphor within Parasite’s story: it’s all plain straightforward: we are poor, we want to be rich…and surely it must be easy to do it, since that rich family is stupid, crazy and mostly naïve. So we will do what we have to do: the panty, the peach, etc.
How necessary was the bloody scene at the end? Sure, I like blood and violence…but it was so predictable, I was actually waiting for it to happen. Instead I’d have been ecstatic with a subtle exit from that scene’s chaos. But gore is easy, and gore sells.
Therefore, Parasite’s script is not the category’s best. It’s certainly amusing, and easily beats 1917’s Run Lola Run-like story, but nothing new. Actually, the whole Rich vs. Poor allusion is one of the oldest yet effective keystones of all storytelling, with a finale as simple as Parasite’s poor kid, dreaming about a future life of wealth for him and his family. Keep dreaming, boy.
Parasite’s story is not only an old one, but also manages to portray Bong’s fellow South Koreans as basic two-dimensional characters absolutely lacking depth, just like in Telenovelas. It’s a social satire, but also a parody of itself.
Parasite is a well-acted, well-directed movie. Under any circumstance, it tops The Irishman, 1917, Joker or even Little Women. Bong’s skills are more than clever and he keeps almost every scene under the same amount of tension, but since Parasite takes place in a “controlled environment” (rich family house/poor family basement house) it seems like he is playing around in a comfort zone.
Finally, Parasite made history. It took the big one in the name of the underrated, and, above all, in the name of love. Yes, because love was in the air last night. Love for the social and moral correctness. Let’s give them what they want. It felt like the entire ceremony was the Parasite: Let us rich allow the poor ones to come and eat our food, have fun…let the socialists believe we are moving toward their side…let the minorities believe we are standing for them…let them all believe…let us hear the standing ovation, while we remain the same old Hollywood as we’ve always been!
Beyond Parasite’s epic performance…the real sad story goes to those who were not invited to “that party at Oscar’s”. Right, Eddie Murphy? With Parasite, Hollywood played it safe. But what about giving the International Picture to Almodovar’s superb Dolor y Gloria? Nup, too risky.
Fade in: evil Greta Tintin Eleonora Thunberg smiles. She took home the real big one…Now, she is Hollywood canon.