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The Screen Scene: Parasite

The Screen Scene with Scott Phillips

Secret lives, hidden rooms, hidden motives

Bong Joon-Ho. Movie lovers are going to be hearing that name often over the next few months.

The South Korean filmmaker won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his latest film, Parasite, and industry experts think the film has a legitimate shot at being the first foreign film to ever win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

That’s right. A foreign film has NEVER won the Oscar for Best Picture, and Bong Joon-Ho may just end that long losing streak.

Bong is no stranger to foreign film lovers. At the age of 50, he has an impressive filmography that crosses into nearly every film genre.

In 2003, he made Memories of Murder, a crime film based on a true story about the South Korean equivalent of San Francisco’s Zodiac Killer. In 2013, he made Snowpiercer, a sci-fi film that examines class warfare on a train that constantly circles a future Earth that is frozen from climate change.

Bong’s latest film, Parasite, is the story of the Kim’s, a family of scam artists who slowly infiltrate the home of a trusting upper class family. The Kim’s live a meager life in a below-ground apartment, literally finding themselves beneath the rest of society.

Their son stumbles into a job as a tutor for the wealthy Park family, and the Kim’s begin to scheme up ways to create other employment opportunities in the Park household.

Parasite works on so many levels. The screenplay is a masterpiece of intricate plot twists and rich character detail. The film functions fully as a con man thriller like The Sting or The Grifters, but it’s also a compelling study of the Have’s and the Have Not’s in modern day South Korea.

The Kim’s see themselves as the equals of their wealthy employers. They may actually see themselves as superior to the Park’s because the Park’s are the “suckers” who’ve been taken in by the Kim’s. But, time and time again, each member of the Kim family is reminded that society respects wealth and social position more than street smarts. The Kim’s are seen as nothing more than the Park’s servants.

Parasite certainly deserves to be in the race for Best Film of 2019. It’s a stunning piece of work. Do I think it will break the losing streak for foreign films at the Oscars? No. I don’t. The Academy tends to embrace feel-good films like Green Book or The King’s Speech. Parasite is brilliant, but it takes a dark, cynical view of humanity.

It’s been a great year for film. I’ve been entertained by dozens of 2019 releases. But, Parasite sticks with you. It resonates in your mind. It’s my favorite film of the year. I can’t wait to see it again. Get over your fear of subtitles and give Parasite a shot. You’ll be happy you did. I give it five out of five popcorn buckets.

You can catch Parasite in theaters, and almost all of Bong Joon-Ho’s previous films are available through most online rental platforms.

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