Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari (A24, 12.11.20) was recently nudged out of Best Motion Picture, Drama competition at the Golden Globes, and thereby forced to compete in the Best Foreign Language category. The HFPA made this decision because the film, an Arkansas-set drama about a South Korean family trying to survive as subsistence farmers in the mid ’80s, is largely spoken in Korean. And yet the film has some American-speaking costars, including Will Patton as a devout Jesus freak.
In this, the most emotionally claustrophobic and soul-suffocating flatline year in over a century, “building buzz and awareness is a challenge,” Thompson notes. “That’s why the Globes controversy may be a boost for Minari, which garnered support from the Gotham Awards and early critics groups (Los Angeles, Boston) for supporting actress Youn Yuh-jung.”
It would be one thing if “most Oscar voters” haven’t seen Minari. Because they’re notoriously lazy, of course, and always will be. And because many are reluctant to wade into what sounds like exotic subject matter. (The title is the name of a kind of Chinese celery and/or Japanese parsley.) But Thompson said “most Oscar voters have never heard” of Chung’s film. To which anyone with half a brain would say “how could that be?”
Minari has been a vaguely buzzy title since it premiered nearly a year ago in Park City, and has certainly been discussed and prodded and kicked around over the last three or four months…c’mon. (I posted my thumbs-up review on 10.30.20.) How could Oscar voters have not at least heard of this worthy little film, which will probably find its ultimate awards payoff at the ’21 Spirit Awards? Are they cows in the field? How hermetic and shut-off could they be?
Here’s Scott Feinberg’s take on what happened with the Minari reclassification.