“Parasite” makes history at Oscars

Writer-Director Bong Joon-Ho accepts an Oscar at the 2020 Academy Awards.

Bong Joon-Ho’s “Parasite” — a compelling exploration of class inequality in South Korea — has received near-universal critical acclaim. The first Korean film to win the prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes, and the first non-English language film to receive the Outstanding Performance by a Cast award at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards, “Parasite” made history tonight when it also became the first non-English language film to win the Best Picture Academy Award.

In total, “Parasite” — which was released on Blu-Ray last week — received four of the six Academy Awards for which it was nominated: in addition to Best Picture, the film was awarded Best Foreign Language Film, Best Original Screenplay and director Bong Joon-Ho was awarded Best Director.

Prior to tonight, Bong Joon-Ho called out the narcissism of American Hollywood while claiming the Best Foreign Language Film prize at the Golden Globes. “Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,” he said in his acceptance speech.

This is a truism many of us familiar with non-American film already recognize: amazing films are made around the world, and (whether in America or abroad) in languages other than English. Indeed, some of my earliest memories of of fantastic films are Chinese-language films introduced to me by my parents. And yet, only rarely do non-English films (even American-made ones like “The Farewell”) get recognized or celebrated by Hollywood — a trend that underscores the many ways that non-white films are still Other-ized.

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Academy Issues Weak Sauce Apology for Anti-Asian Jokes

Chris Rock introduces three young Asian/Asian American children at Oscars 2016. (Photo credit: Rex)
Chris Rock introduces three young Asian/Asian American children at Oscars 2016. (Photo credit: Rex)

I’m going to create a new Tumblr: Weak Sauce Apologies For Racism.

Initial entries would include Emma Stone’s “my eyes have been opened” apology for appearing as an Asian American woman in Cameron Crowe’s Aloha; James Bond writer Anthony Horowitz’s 140-character mea culpa for calling Idris Elba “too street” to play his titular character; and Mark Wahlberg’s request to be pardoned for an anti-Asian hate crime assault.

We can also add another one to the list. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences issued a weak sauce, two sentence apology today, nearly three weeks after it aired a skit during the Oscars that invoked anti-Asian “model minority” and “child labour” stereotypes while exploiting three Asian American children as racial props.

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Why I didn’t watch the Oscars. | #WhereisFruitvale

Whaddya mean the Oscars happened last night without Oscar Grant?
Whaddya mean the Oscars happened last night without Oscar Grant?

Regular readers of the blog will remember my occasional stories of my desperately Americanized childhood: those brief years when my parents would identify some quintessentially “Western” cultural practice, and try to synthesize it for me and my sister — often without ever quite understanding why White people even liked the thing in the first place —  in futile, and ultimately comical, attempts by two culturally displaced Taiwanese parents to ensure the proper North American upbringing for their daughters. This is how I saw my first baseball game at Skydome, how my father burnt my first  Thanksgiving turkey, and how I choked down my first bowl of oatmeal with the consistency of concrete.

And this is also how enduring the Academy Awards became an annual tradition in my house.

For years, my mother, my sister and I would gather around the television one Sunday evening and “ooh and ahh” over the fabulously-coifed White ladies and gentlemen as they floated down a red carpet a thousand miles away. Later, we would watch the entire Academy Awards from start-to-finish, rarely commenting (my mother would wander off, during the middle parts of the ceremony when the more technical awards were announced). Even after I moved away, the Academy Awards was my Superbowl, and I would relish the night of opulence-by-proxy, printing out nomination cards to keep track of the winners against my own predictions.

But, as the years passed, my interest in the Oscars waned. And now, as I sat mere hours away from the start of 86th Academy Awards ceremony, and I realized that I wouldn’t be tuning in. I realized that I haven’t watched the ceremony in years. I realized that some time in the last decade, the Oscars stopped being relevant to me. 

And then, I realized: maybe the Academy Awards were never relevant.

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