No host, no politics, no “diversity”, no surprises, the 95th Academy Awards stuck to a safe and tested script. Till, amidst a bitter US election season highlighting the class divide, it had a moment. On Sunday night, four of the most prestigious Oscars went to a film that placed class in one’s house, heart, mind, even nostrils — in a tale from the other end of the world that was very, very universal. And that is what makes Bong Joon-Ho a breath of fresh air — much more than the Mexican directors Hollywood wholeheartedly celebrates.
Bong’s films (The Host, Okja, even Snowpiercer) carry the sensibility of home, of a society with very Asian concerns, and a very different view of right and wrong. As recently as October, asked about Parasite’s Oscar chances, Bong indicated he wasn’t really sweating about it. “The Oscars are not an international film festival. They’re very local,” he said, even skipping the usual Academy rounds made by directors to showcase films. Up on that starry stage on Sunday night, Bong looked very much like an artist who belonged. He preferred to speak in Korean, chided the Academy (again) for stumbling at “the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles”, expressed unfiltered delight at his unprecedented four wins, and declared his plans to drink till the morning — none of that vegan, Earth-loving, apologetic rambling of Joaquin Phoenix.
As for that class divide, Bong, a sociology student, has indicated it remains intrinsic to his art, once saying, “Before it’s a massive, sociological term, capitalism is just our lives.” On Oscar night, he paid ode to two other outliers in that room, Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino, fellow directors who may have paved new paths but stumbled often at the Academy door. In forcing that door open, Bong has given the much-battered Academy, which saw its viewership drop to 20 per cent from a year ago, a chance to reinvent. Next up is said to be HBO’s six-part Parasite series, and Mark “The Hulk” Ruffalo in starring role.
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