In the comment thread for yesterday’s “For The Sake of Re-Emphasis” riff, “freek” wrote that “everybody in their right mind knew Parasite was exceptional…it was less of an upset than, say, Spotlight or The Shape of Water.” So I wrote the following response:
Parasite is 2/3 of a good film by a gifted, well-liked genre director (Bong Joon-ho), and yes, Oscar wins will sometimes reflect a broad consensus view about quality, and some will say that’s all that happened.
But the Parasite win wasn’t about “quality” per se, good as many found it to be — the win was mainly about newer, more diverse Academy members pushing back against established (boomer) Hollywood whiteness.
The fact, as any half-honest film lover will admit, is that The Irishman is a much better film — an epic, sprawling, old-school Martin Scorsese gangster pic about life, loyalty, values (family and otherwise) and the gradual envelopment of death — “Wild Strawberries with handguns” (New Yorker’s Anthony Lane).
The alternate fact of the matter is that the Parasite win was largely driven by woke political and cultural currents. The more broadly diverse membership (the New Academy Kidz, the surge in int’l membership) was more excited by a social metaphor drama (arrogant and oblivious 1% vs. desperate, scheming have-nots) than by a period gangster flick, and they wanted a film made by a person of color and/or a non-Anglo to win, and that’s what happened.
2019 (a year of ferocious industry woke-itude if there ever was one) just wasn’t an occasion for another Scorsese crowning.
The fact of the matter is that the last third of Parasite is beset by logic flaws (a huge secret basement that the wealthy owner of a lavish home doesn’t even know exists?) and an absurdly violent, drawn-out ending, and that it basically falls apart when the con-artist family, drunk as skunks, allows the fired maid into the house during a rain storm and thus ensures the collapse of the con — one of the stupidest plot turns in the history of world cinema. (And I don’t want to hear any of of that “they felt sorry for her because they’re from the same social class” crap — if you’re going to be a con artist, you have to commit 100%.)
There are no such errors in The Irishman (the only issue was that the de-aging CG was deemed insufficient) and the Academy membership didn’t care. They wanted a film of a diverse (non-white) international caste to win, and that’s what happened.