Oscar winners to watch
It was astounding to watch this year’s Oscars and see how willing Hollywood’s old boy network was to shake things up, and chart a more inclusive course for the 21st century in world cinema.
Not only did the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences give four marquee Oscars to the stunning South Korean film Parasite, including Best Picture, but the swells inside the Dolby Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard erupted in rapturous applause when Parasite earned the first one.
It went to writer/director Bong Joon Ho and collaborator Han Jin Won for Best Original Screenplay. The energetic reception was the first clue that something extraordinary was happening. When Parasite added Best International Feature Film (newly renamed from Foreign Language Film), the intensity rose. When Bong took Best Director and lovingly paid tribute to his inspirational rival, Martin Scorsese, standing ovations greeted both icons.
It suddenly seemed inevitable that Parasite – a savagely funny, smart, bittersweet and finally violent treatise on the Korean class system and the world’s environmental crisis – would triumph as Best Picture. And it actually is planet earth’s best of 2019.
It is impossible to overstate what a tsunami of change this represents. Not just the first South Korean film to win a slew of awards, Parasite is the first film not primarily in the english language to win Best Picture in Oscar’s 92-year history. As a mixed-genre crime thriller, drama and comedy, Bong’s electrifying opus is also the most uncompromising winner since Silence of the Lambs (1991).
So, should you see Parasite, now that the applause has subsided and Hollywood has gone back to its obsession with box office? Yes – and Parasite isn’t the only one. Here are the Oscar nominees and winners worth watching, along with two warnings about what to avoid.
Parasite – It’s daring story that focuses on a struggling, working-class family of four, with each carving out a new niche working for a rich family. But what horrors lurk in the basement? What happens next is mesmerizing, and the potent social messages that Bong layers elevates this film to a masterpiece. The material is so rich that Bong is now adapting it into a six-hour HBO extravaganza.
1917 – With a technical filmmaking flourish that propels the audience forward just like his British protagonists, Sam Mendes crafts a harrowing and heartbreaking story of perseverance during a WWI battle. Winner of three Oscars.
Joker – Winner of two Oscars, this is not-a-comic-book movie. Instead, with Best Actor Joaquin Phoenix as his quixotic anti-hero, Todd Phillips conjures a gut-wrenching, human study of a psychotic breakdown.
Marriage Story – The winner of one Oscar, Noah Baumbach’s intimate, autobiographical portrait of a broken marriage features powerful emotions and note-perfect performances from Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson.
Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood – Oops! In Quentin Tarantino’s first big misfire, this disjointed historical drama revisits the Charles Manson era and bizarrely rewrites history – for no reason. Two Oscars.
Little Women – Argh! Undermining her fine cast, Greta Gerwig trashes a classic story, robbing Louisa May Alcott’s novel of its heart, soul and compelling structure. One Oscar.
|Bruce Kirkland‘s career spans more than four decades, working as a film critic for The Toronto Star, The Ottawa Journal and for 36 years at The Toronto Sun.|