image source: NBC
In “Worst Best Picture” we search every single Best Picture Oscar winner of all time from 1927 to present to uncover the worst of them all. Conventional wisdom says that 2005’s winner Crash is the worst winner in history. We won’t stop until we’ve tested every last one. Read the the first, our review of Crash, here. Posts will be relatively spoiler free, but there may be some details revealed. Today’s installment is the 2019 winner Parasite. Is it better than Crash?
I am going to start here with the hottest take that I have: I think this is the best Oscar winner for Best Picture in 25 years. Moonlight and No Country for Old Men have strong cases, but I think this is still it. On a night with plenty of bad choices, the Academy got it right, out loud, and named Parasite Best International Feature Film, Best Director, and Best Picture.
The Academy has been under fire, correctly, for a lot of bad decisions lately. You can feel in their press approach and the Oscars itself that they want you to love them and they want to figure out what you want them to do to earn that love. The Academy tried to float an idea for “Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film” this year and got laughed at so hard they gave up.
All of that is what makes Parasite so weird. The Academy is famous for getting it close to, but not exactly, right. They understand the problem, often, but then offer as a solution something that doesn’t fix the problem. This year, they offered up a million jokes about the systemic problems of their membership instead of addressing them head on. How, in that space, did they award the first non-English movie (other than The Artist, a technicality and a bad movie) Best Picture?
I’ve been doing this a long time at this point. I’m going to take some space to talk about everything else up for this award in 2019 before we get back to the main course. Tarantino served up one of the better versions of what he does, but like Scorsese, it was more of what he does. They are both all-timers, but when Parasite won Best Director, Bong Joon-ho quoted Scorsese at Scorsese. He told him that he was an inspiration and that Tarantino had championed him when no one else in America did so. It’s a torch-passing like no other.
The other six are stranger fare. Little Women is a truly emotional, extremely beautiful rethinking of a classic film. It’s honestly really sad that it didn’t get more fanfare, but I may be biased by the fact that Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird would have been my pick for Best Picture last year. 1917 was this year’s Dunkirk and it was fine. The Irishman and Marriage Story and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood were all excellent movies that didn’t go very far below the surface and that seems to be the problem, come award time. Jojo Rabbit struck me wrong, though I get it, and Ford v Ferrari seemed to be a movie for someone I’ve never met. Both made well, clearly, but not for me. Joker deserves another graph.
I want to talk briefly about Joker. I didn’t like anything I saw this year less than Joker, but even that is better than Crash. That took the drama out of these Oscars for me, as I always hope there will be another American Sniper or Hacksaw Ridge where they nominate an actual bad movie that might win. But still, Joker, while not an actual bad movie, does preach a horrible message. I honestly can’t tell from his award speeches if he’s gone all the way off the deep end, but the movie that Joker steals everything from is a better movie. The King of Comedy is a legitimately great movie and it’s the same thing, but the message is don’t do this. I wonder, seeing him at these award shows, if our anti-hero understands that’s what it’s supposed to be.
But despite it all, the best movie that came out this year won the award. It really does not happen that often, which you only need look back over the last ten years to realize. How many of these ten did you like?
- Green Book
- The Shape of Water
- 12 Years a Slave
- The Artist
- The King’s Speech
- The Hurt Locker
Most of what was nominated this year is better than everything there, with the exception of Moonlight. I harp on this because that’s what makes it so amazing that this year happened.
Parasite is the story of a down-on-their-luck family that acts as other people to inject themselves into a rich family. It is the kind of movie that demands you come in knowing just that, which makes it hard to write about. In previous years I’ve wanted to spend time breaking down the successes and failures, but I don’t think Parasite allows for that.
I told a friend recently that I’ve never seen anything that went somewhere I expected less or was impressed by more and I stand by that. I think Parasite is the kind of movie you will never forget and I cannot believe that this group — the group that picked Crash — got this right.
There will be much said in the coming weeks. In trying to guess the backlash, I am guessing people will say that it has no heroes. I don’t know and don’t honestly care what will come out as a response to this movie, because this is a rare time that the premise of this blog is silenced. We spend a lot of time shouting and judging when they get it wrong, but after so much noise and a very strange, senseless Eminem concert, tonight, they got it right.
The Best Part: Parasite’s ending is the best ending of any movie on this illustrious list. My jaw very literally dropped when it happened and I would do you a disservice to say more.
The Worst Part: I thought about this a long time. If I had to pick something, 132 minutes does feel long. There’s really only one major theme in Parasite, so the fact that they made their point and then made it again and again does feel somewhat unnecessary, but this feels a little like nitpicking.
Is It Better or Worse than Crash? The premise of this article is crushed under the weight of this movie. We have come to the point that a Korean drama about class has won Best Picture. I do not want to talk about Crash in that space.
Worst Best Picture Archives: Crash | Terms of Endearment | Forrest Gump | All About Eve | The Apartment | No Country for Old Men | Gentleman’s Agreement | 12 Years a Slave | The Last Emperor | The Silence of the Lambs | The Artist | A Man for All Seasons | Platoon | The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King | The King’s Speech | Rain Man | The Departed | The Bridge on the River Kwai | Marty | Gigi | It Happened One Night | Driving Miss Daisy | Shakespeare in Love | Wings | Midnight Cowboy | Rocky | Gone with the Wind | Chicago | Gladiator | Cavalcade | The Greatest Show on Earth | You Can’t Take It With You | The Best Years of Our Lives | The Godfather| Casablanca | Grand Hotel | Kramer vs. Kramer | The French Connection | In the Heat of the Night| An American in Paris | Patton | Mrs. Miniver | Amadeus | Crash, Revisited | How Green Was My Valley | American Beauty | West Side Story | The Sting | Tom Jones | Dances with Wolves | Going My Way | The Hurt Locker | The Life of Emile Zola | Slumdog Millionaire | The Deer Hunter | Around the World in 80 Days | Chariots of Fire | Mutiny on the Bounty | Argo | From Here to Eternity | Ordinary People | The Lost Weekend | All the King’s Men | Rebecca | A Beautiful Mind | Titanic | The Broadway Melody | The Sound of Music | On the Waterfront | Unforgiven | Million Dollar Baby | My Fair Lady | Hamlet | Braveheart | Oliver! | The English Patient | Lawrence of Arabia | Cimarron | One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest | All Quiet on the Western Front | The Great Ziegfeld | Out of Africa | Schindler’s List | Gandhi | Ben-Hur | The Godfather Part II | Annie Hall | Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) | Spotlight | Moonlight | The Shape of Water | Green Book | Parasite
Alex Russell lives in Chicago and is set in his ways. Disagree with him about anything at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @alexbad.