The Best Picture race at the Academy Awards is always competitive, sometimes disappointing and almost constantly entertaining. Great films are selected as nominees but somehow the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences finds a way to shake things up, in a near-objectively wrong way, year after year.
Following the #OscarsSoWhite controversy (which was never corrected and, in fact, was exacerbated this year), “Green Book” took home the award for Most Disappointing Best Picture, presented by me and everyone else who is tired of seeing historically inaccurate, white savior films walk away with prestige.
After snubbing “Roma,” despite its clear standing as the Best Picture frontrunner before the 2019 Oscars ceremony, the Academy has another opportunity to correct its wrongdoings with “Parasite.” The film, directed by Bong Joon-ho, is the sixth film to be nominated both in the Best Picture and Best International Feature Film (formerly titled Best Foreign Language Film) categories.
Unfortunately, the Academy does not have a vibrant history of rewarding international films in the Best Picture category. In fact, it has no history at all — although six films have been nominated in both categories, not a single one has taken home the Best Picture Oscar.
There are a number of reasons that this year could — and should — be different. For one, “Roma” is a Netflix-distributed film, which is a label that many filmmakers and Hollywood industry names are not fond of. Alfonso Cuaron, the director of “Roma,” even stated that he felt the blowback from those closest to him in the industry, and famed director Steven Spielberg has been outspoken about his distaste for Netflix’s competitiveness in the awards circuit.
That is the first aspect in which “Parasite” has a clear advantage. Most viewers became acquainted with Joon-ho’s on-screen world during its theatrical run, which takes down a crucial barrier between the film and self-proclaimed “traditional” Oscars voters who would be less likely to watch “Parasite” had it come from a streaming giant like Netflix.
Plus, small distributors are no strangers to causing major Oscar upsets in the Best Picture category. Despite the films’ relatively low numbers of nominations across the board, “Spotlight” (Bleecker Street) and “Moonlight” (A24) took home the biggest awards of the night. Although it is not a studio film, “Parasite” has a serious chance with Neon as its distributor.
Beyond the scope of its distribution, “Parasite” has already been an awards season favorite. After becoming the first South Korean film to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes — in a unanimous vote, I might add — the film went on to receive nominations and wins at the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards (BAFTAs) ahead of the Academy Awards ceremony on Feb. 9.
Perhaps the most telling of those accolades is its win for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture at the SAG Awards. This award does not automatically project a frontrunner for the Oscars race (see: the 2019 win of “Black Panther”), but “Parasite” is the first foreign-language film to ever do so.
Clearly, the impact of “Parasite” has been groundbreaking across the board, which highlights why the Academy is so far behind.
Despite the fact “Parasite” is one of the most buzzed-about films of the year, it does not even rank in the films with the most Oscar nominations. Joon-ho’s film only racked up six noms this year, and not a single one falls into one of the acclaimed acting categories. And with the Academy’s track record for nominating non-white actors, no one is surprised.
Only 11 films have ever won Best Picture without picking up a single acting nomination, and the time is now for “Parasite” to make it 12.
“Roma” walked at the 2019 Oscars — and did not pick up the Best Picture accolade it deserved — so the Academy could try harder and “Parasite” could run. Following the momentum of the rest of the awards season this year, Academy voters should take Joon-ho’s advice and overcome the “inch-tall” barrier of subtitles and give “Parasite” the place it deserves in the Best Picture hall of fame.