Readers Write In #143: Why ‘Parasite’ doesn’t deserve the best picture Oscar despite being really good

Posted on February 12, 2020

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(by Alex John)

Nobody can argue against the fact that Parasite is an enthralling movie. I don’t either. But is it worthy of the most celebrated film award in the world? A lot of people would say yes, but I beg to differ. This probably is the most difficult piece I have written because I find it hard to put into words what Parasite is lacking. It is not the run-of-the mill humanness or the sugary subtlety that we always look up to. If it was, I would struggle to explain why I don’t mind Silence of the
lambs being on the list. It’s that…mind-boggled feeling, that solemnity we carry home from a truly great movie. It’s that ability of a movie to haunt us, yes, that’s the word, forever. To be a part of our lives. Aren’t all the art awards, not just films’, about that haunting? I am a strong believer of this and hence big awards like Oscars given to any film that doesn’t leave a strong impression on me (Argo&Gladiator, from the top of my head), annoys me.

And what about Parasite? It entertained me, made me in awe of it, definitely made me think, but after that it just.. left me (director Bong Joon-ho’s another film, Snowpiercer, had the same effect on me). It is an infectious, wonderfully crafted film, but is it great art? If it is, why do I feel that I won’t think about it 20 years from now? Heck, a pure genre film like Silence of the lambs sends chills down my spine even after 3 decades and umpteen number of viewings. Parasite delves into social issues, but not deep enough to leave an enduring impact on the viewers. And its social takes feel familiar as it has been handled in better ways by probably less proficient but deeper films of the past and the present. In a nutshell, Parasite is a bold, true to its times movie, but,to me, short of the timeless classics in the Oscar list.

Let’s get back to the director Bong Joon-ho. He is a meticulous filmmaker, and if any of his films deserves to be on the podium, it is the unforgettable 2003 crime/drama Memories of murder. It is a one of its kind film that grinds its viewers, and yet making them want to come back to it over and again. I sometimes wonder why I feel this 17 year old movie was released yesterday. If somebody who reads this is still unable to understand what I miss in Parasite, it is that kind of magical spell that keeps me hooked on to a film. It’s a must watch if you are a fan of crime films, and I wish the world was smaller back then as it is now. If it was, Memories of murder would have bagged much more prestigious prizes than it already has.

I am tremendously happy that a film like Parasite happened to me. I just think the Oscar for the best picture had to go to a better film. I was counting on Joker, a film with more gravitas or Marriage story, for its impeccable script and succulent performances( I wish I had seen the Irishman). I know the O Henry-esque underdog-ish melancholy sets Parasite apart from the most of its likes, but it felt like a brilliantly crafted con film with hackneyed social commentaries for the most of its parts. And that odd familiarity that lingered over the film kept repelling me throughout its running time. I know it’s blasphemous to say this now, but with all its exuberance taken into account, the Oscar-worthy greatness of Parasite eludes me. By and large.