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Parasite’s Best Picture Oscar Is Historic. Is This the Beginning of a New Era in Film?

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When Bong Joon-Ho went onstage to accept the Academy Award for Best International Film for Parasite at the 2020 Oscars, he thought his night was done. “I am ready to drink tonight until next morning,” he said gleefully. He had already collected one Oscar before that, for Best Original Screenplay.

But instead, Bong would return to the stage to collect two more trophies: one for Best Director, making him the second Asian to win that award, after Ang Lee—and one for Best Picture. Parasite‘s upset win in the biggest category of the night, over frontrunner 1917, made it the first foreign language film ever to win Best Picture across 92 years of Oscar history. “I feel like a very opportune moment in history is happening right now,” one of the film’s producers, Kwak Sin-ae, said while accepting the award.

Gone are the days when foreign films only stood a chance of opening to coastal cinephiles. Parasite has shown that foreign language films can be unifying blockbuster events—and its success is proof of the fact that, as director Bong Joon-Ho himself said at the Globes, “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”

Released concurrently with many structural changes—including the advent of streaming and concerted widespread efforts to champion diversity—Parasite’s runaway success could mark a pivotal turning point for foreign language films, and especially Asian ones, in America. “This is a huge breaking of a psychological barrier,” Janet Yang, a veteran Hollywood producer, tells TIME. “This wall we’ve built, in which non-English language movies were limited not just in release or box office but in people’s minds, is being cracked.”

But Parasite’s success also arose from a very specific set of circumstances that may not be easily replicable. And in Korea and elsewhere, a new crop of Asian filmmakers is working hard to ensure that Parasite isn’t just a momentary bout of glory but the start of a new global era.

The marginalization of foreign films

Things were very different for foreign language films at the start of Yang’s multi-decade career. When she arrived in Hollywood in the ’80s, Asian-language films, in particular, weren’t even considered a possibility for mainstream wide release. “They would be marketed in a different way. It was all about getting the Asian audience out, along with the specialty festival crowd,” she says. Indie distributors that are now long gone, like New Yorker Films and Circle Films, funneled international films to theaters like New York’s Film Forum, where they found success with erudite and adventurous audiences.

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But these films were mostly low-budget, low-grossing specialty affairs that rarely made a dent at the box office—and received even less recognition from the Academy Awards. While Hollywood likes to think of itself as the center of the film world, 92 years of Oscar nominations support Bong’s claim that the Oscars are “very local.” Just 12 foreign language films have ever been nominated for Best Picture—and most of those films depicted a monumental historical event or figure, whether it be the Holocaust (Life is Beautiful), World War II (Letters from Iwo Jima) or Pablo Neruda (Il Postino). The Academy’s choices pointed to the idea that voters valued the modern lives of people around the world less than their historical or American counterparts.

In 2000, Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon exploded to $128 million at the North American box office, becoming the highest-grossing foreign language film produced overseas at the American box office. The 18th-century martial arts film, the first Asian-language movie and only other one besides Parasite to land a Best Picture nod, showed that audiences would be willing to read subtitles—but also reinforced the idea that the only foreign films worth paying attention to were those that told exotic or historical stories. Over the next few years, other martial arts films like Hero and Kung Fu Hustle successfully replicated Crouching Tiger’s success, but did little to expand the scope of foreign language film in America.

The Korean auteur generation

While Lee was stringing together a run of multilingual epics, a new generation of Korean filmmakers was in the midst of its own golden age. Emboldened by the country’s expanding democratic rights and flush with cash from chaebols—large family-run conglomerates—a group of auteurs led by the trio Bong Joon-Ho, Kim Ji-woon and Park Chan-wook rose in the ’90s with films like The Quiet Family, Joint Security Area and Barking Dogs Never Bite. In 2004, Park’s Oldboy became the first Korean film to win the Grand Prix at Cannes.

But it was Bong, in particular, who would chart a path toward international stardom through a set of savvy strategic choices. “He’s able to think 10 years ahead—he understands the industry very, very well,” Jason Bechervaise, an entertainment professor at Korea Soongsil Cyber University who also wrote a Ph.D. thesis on Bong’s work, told TIME. In 2013, Bong crossed over to Hollywood with Snowpiercer, his first English-language film, which raised eyebrows for being one of the first films to come to streaming soon after theatrical release. In 2017, his bilingual film Okja caused a firestorm at Cannes when audience members objected to the inclusion of a Netflix production in the festival.

“This chaos is all good news for Bong because they talk about him, and more people become aware of who he is,” Bechervaise says. Having gained an international profile—and many high profile friends and admirers like Tilda Swinton and Quentin Tarantino—Bong ensured that when he returned to Korea to make a fully foreign language film, the world would still be paying attention.

Streaming and social media rewrite the rules

At the same time, American audiences were also seeing more faces of color on their screens thanks to the erosion of traditional gatekeepers in film and television. In 2015 and 2016, #OscarsSoWhite exploded on Twitter after two consecutive years of all-white acting nominees, leading the Academy to announce an initiative to double their number of female and minority members by 2020. In 2018 and 2019, social media campaigns helped lift Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians to huge box office returns—and even non-blockbusters like Roma (in Spanish) and The Farewell (in Mandarin and English) fared better than expected thanks to insistent support from communities of color.

All of these successes showed production companies and distributors that increased representation was, if nothing else, a sensible economic move. It was in this climate that the distributor Neon came to the fore as a rising powerhouse that invested both in English and non-English films. In 2019, they released four well-received foreign language films, including Parasite, Honeyland and Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

While traditional film production companies and distributors warmed to a broader range of releases, they also received a push from streaming services, whose potential subscribers could come from anywhere in the world. In 2016, Netflix put a stake down in South Korea, spearheading not just Okja but the zombie series Kingdom and the romantic teen drama Love Alarm. Their algorithm placed Okja in the same ‘taste cluster’ as Mad Men—meaning that viewers with no experience with foreign language films might still be prompted to watch it, and give it a chance from the comfort of their couch. In the coming years, the Japanese reality show Terrace House and the Spanish language drama Narcos: Mexico would become global phenomena.

Global resonance

In May, Parasite opened at Cannes to an eight-minute standing ovation, eventually winning the festival’s top prize. In October, the film opened in the U.S.—and thanks to rapturous reviews, word-of-mouth campaigns that included the efforts of Gold House—an Asian American organization that had formed in 2018 to boost Crazy Rich Asians at the box office—and all the factors mentioned above, Parasite claimed the biggest-ever opening for an international film in the U.S.

Of course, it was not merely these external factors that drove Parasite’s success, but the quality of the film itself. While the movie is distinctly Korean in its approach to horror and humor, its incisive exploration of inequality hit the zeitgeist at the exact right moment. “Uneven distribution of wealth is a disease we all live with, wherever you are,” Suk-Young Kim, a theater and performance studies professor at UCLA, tells TIME. “It’s something we can all relate to.” This subject material elevated the film from a local Korean story into a larger wave of movies exploring the same subject—from Burning to Us to Joker.

And it can’t have hurt that the movie was shot in a rising center of culture and fashion thanks to the increasing dominance of K-pop. “Seoul is a cultural hub: a fashionable place that more people want to visit and know about,” Kim says.

Thanks to a shrewd rollout from Neon, Parasite continued to excel at the box office throughout the fall and gain momentum into awards season. The awards season success of Roma the year before had eased the path, as had the the increased diversity within the ranks of the Academy. Since 2015, the percentage of female Academy voters has risen from 25 to 32 percent, while the number of minorities has doubled from 8 to a still paltry 16 percent. This year, the invitees hailed from 59 countries.

But the movie’s momentum was also carried by Bong Joon-Ho who led the way as a witty and charismatic presence on the circuit. He quickly became the main event at many Oscars parties and generated headlines for his extremely quotable speeches. “It’s impossible not to be charmed by him, for sure,” Yang says.

In January, Parasite became the first foreign language film to ever win the SAG Award for best cast of a motion picture. Backstage, Choi Woo-shik, who plays Ki-woo, used the platform to open the door for the next generation. “Other than us, there are so many legends out there in foreign countries,” he said. “I really truly hope that after this moment, maybe next year, we can see more foreign-language films and Asian films.”

While the SAG Awards were an exciting bit of recognition, the Oscars were another matter. It was widely expected that Parasite would fall to the heavily favored 1917, meaning that the first non-English Best Picture winner would have to wait at least another year. But Parasite pulled out a stunning upset, much to delight of many online—who christened themselves the #BongHive—and the celebrities in the audience. When the producers tried to turn the lights out on a show that ran half an hour overtime, the crowd roared at them to let Parasite’s team finish.

“Milestone and motivation”

But Parasite’s best picture win does not guarantee lasting change. The Korean film industry has recently become stagnant—with admissions plateauing since 2013—and top-heavy, with many blockbusters taking up an increasing amount of space at theaters. (Last year, a Korean Film Council study said that on any given day, 67.5% of all screenings would be occupied by the three most screened films).

And while any movie by Bong, Park and Kim attracts widespread interest, the rest of the country’s filmmakers are far less known around the world. “The industry, globally at least, is heavily reliant on the auteurs,” Bechervaise says. He worries that the circumstances that led to their creative rise are not replicable—and that young filmmakers will not only have to contend with the trio’s long shadow, but competition from the onslaught of global content arriving in Korea thanks to streaming services.

But for some Korean filmmakers, Parasite’s success is already causing a trickle-down effect. At the 2020 International Film Festival Rotterdam last week, the director Kim Yong-hoon noticed a change in the way people were looking at his new film Beasts Clawing at Straws. “I definitely felt this increased global interest, not only from the festival programmer but from the audience,” he wrote in an email to TIME through a translator. “These international film industry people now notice that there are plenty of good filmmakers in Korea.”

Beasts Clawing at Straws won the festival’s special jury award, while another Korean film, Yoon Dan-bi’s Moving On, won the Bright Future prize. At Sundance, Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari, which is set in Arkansas but spoken mostly in Korean, made a big splash, winning the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize for the dramatic category. The Steven Yuen-led film, produced by Brad Pitt’s company Plan B Entertainment, will be distributed by A24, which successfully launched movies like Moonlight and Lady Bird.

So anyone hoping to find the next Parasite won’t have to look far. The Truth, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s first non-Japanese-language film, stars two French legends in Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche and arrives in March. On streaming, Alan Yang’s Tigertail, which is mostly delivered in different Chinese dialects, will arrive on Netflix, while an adaptation of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko in Japanese and Korean is in the works at Apple. Thanks to Parasite, they all have the opportunity to make an impact not just at Film Forum but across the United States and the world.

“I think Parasite could be a milestone and at the same time a motivation to the next generation filmmakers,” Kim Yong-hoon says. “This is a huge opportunity.”

By Andrew R. Chow 11:57 PM EST

Source: Parasite’s Best Picture Oscar Is Historic. Is This the Beginning of a New Era in Film?

Language is no longer a barrier to global success. That is the message from South Korean director Bong Joon Ho, whose film “Parasite” has clinched six Oscar nominations in categories like Best Picture and Best Foreign Film. Subscribe to our channel here: https://cna.asia/youtubesub Subscribe to our news service on Telegram: https://cna.asia/telegram Follow us: CNA: https://cna.asia CNA Lifestyle: http://www.cnalifestyle.com Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/channelnewsasia Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/channelnews… Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/channelnewsasia
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Joker Review: Joaquin Phoenix Overacts So Hard It’s No Fun

(FromL) German US actress Zazie Beetz, US actor Joaquin Phoenix and US director Todd Phillips attend a photocall for the film “Joker” on August 31, 2019 presented in competition during the 76th Venice Film Festival at Venice Lido. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP) (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s official. With Joker, Joaquin Phoenix is a certified graduate of the Acme Academy of Dramatic Arts. You want acting? Come and get it.

Skills on display include but are not limited to leering, jeering, airhorn-style blasts of laughter timed for maximum audience discomfort, funky-chicken style dance moves, the occasional blank, dead stare and assorted moony expressions indicating soulful lonerism.

But don’t for a minute think Phoenix isn’t funny, too. They say you never forget Clowning 101, and Phoenix hasn’t: He hops around like an unhinged Emmett Kelly, twisting his physique into weird and unsettling shapes. His body has a rubbery angularity, like a chicken bone soaked in Coca-Cola.

In Joker — playing in competition here at the Venice Film Festival — Phoenix is acting so hard you can feel the desperation throbbing in his veins. He leaves you wanting to start him a GoFundMe, so he won’t have to pour so much sweat into his job again. But the aggressive terribleness of his performance isn’t completely his fault. (He has often been, and generally remains, a superb actor. Just not here.)

Director Todd Phillips — who made frat-boy comedies like Road Trip and Old School before graduating to dude-bro comedies like The Hangover movies — bears at least some of the blame, and the aggressive and possibly irresponsible idiocy of Joker overall is his alone to answer for. Phillips may want us to think he’s giving us a movie all about the emptiness of our culture, but really, he’s just offering a prime example of it.

Joker is a stand-alone origin story that dovetails with, but does not strictly follow, DC Universe Batman lore. Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck — he’ll later become one of Batman’s nemeses, the Joker, in case you didn’t already know that — is an odd, lonely guy who lives at home with the mother (played by a wan Frances Conroy) he love-hates.

Arthur works for a sad rent-a-clown joint, and nothing ever goes right. This is clear from the moment we meet him: he’s tense, nervous and he can’t ever relax. The movie is set in a Gotham City that’s a lazy approximation of gritty 1970s-era New York, complete with garbage strikes and “super-rats” overrunning the city. On the job in clown costume, Arthur gets beaten up by a mob of nasty punks — and then almost gets fired because they stole and broke the “going out of business sign” he was twirling for a client.

More bad stuff happens, day in, day out. He gets angrier and more isolated by the minute. No one is ever kind to Arthur; he’s the world’s saddest punching bag.

When the city’s social services close down, he can no longer receive counseling there, or get his meds. (He carries around a little laminated card that he holds out helpfully whenever he laughs inappropriately, which is pretty much all the time. It reads, “Forgive my laughter, I have a brain injury.”) The one bright spot of his day, or night, is watching a Johnny Carson-style talk-show host, Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro), on television. He dreams of being a stand-up comic and someday being on the show. His wish will come true, but life will have beaten the poor lad down interminably before then.

As you can probably guess, all of Arthur’s travails are leading up to a series of “See what you made me do?” brutalities, most of which happen while he’s dressed up in his clown suit. Violence makes him feel more in control, less pathetic. Killing — usually with a gun, but scissors or a good old-fashioned suffocation will do just fine — empowers him.

But it’s not as if we don’t know how this pathology works: In America, there’s a mass shooting or attempted act of violence by a guy like Arthur practically every other week. And yet we’re supposed to feel some sympathy for Arthur, the troubled lamb; he just hasn’t had enough love. Before long, he becomes a vigilante folk hero — his first signature act is to kill a trio of annoying Wall Street spuds while riding the subway, which inspires the masses to don clown masks and march enthusiastically around the city with “Kill the Rich!” placards.

Arthur also tries to work out a personal beef with rich asshat and aspiring city mayor Thomas Wayne, father of you-know-who. Because, it turns out, Arthur has some daddy issues too. Who would have guessed?

Joker — which was written by Phillips and Scott Silver — doesn’t have a plot; it’s more like a bunch of reaction GIFs strung together. When Arthur gets fired from his clown job, he struts by the time-clock, deadpans, “Oh no, I forgot to punch out” and then, wait for it, socks it so hard it dangles from the wall. Make a note of the moment, because you’ll be seeing it a lot in your Twitter and Facebook feeds.

The movie’s cracks — and it’s practically all cracks — are stuffed with phony philosophy. Joker is dark only in a stupidly adolescent way, but it wants us to think it’s imparting subtle political or cultural wisdom. Just before one of his more violent tirades, Arthur muses, “Everybody just screams at each other. Nobody’s civil anymore.” Who doesn’t feel that way in our terrible modern times? But Arthur’s observation is one of those truisms that’s so true it just slides off the wall, a message that both the left and the right can get behind and use for their own aims. It means nothing.

Meanwhile, the movie lionizes and glamorizes Arthur even as it shakes its head, faux-sorrowfully, over his violent behavior. There’s an aimless subplot involving a neighbor in Arthur’s apartment building, played by Zazie Beetz, in an underdeveloped role. (Beetz also appears in another movie here at the festival, Benedict Andrews’s Seberg, where she’s given much more to do.) Arthur has a crush on her, and though he does her no harm, there’s still something creepily entitled about his attentiveness to her. He could easily be adopted as the patron saint of incels.

Arthur is a mess, but we’re also supposed to think he’s kind of great — a misunderstood savant. Dressed up for his big TV moment in a turquoise paisley shirt, marigold vest and dapper cranberry suit (admittedly a marvelous feat of costume design), Arthur struts down an outdoor stairway like a rock’n’roll hero. It’s the most energizing moment in the movie, but what is it winding us up for? Arthur inspires chaos and anarchy, but the movie makes it look like he’s starting a revolution, where the rich are taken down, the poor get everything they need and deserve, and the sad guys who can’t get a date become killer heroes. There’s a sick joke in there somewhere. Unfortunately, it’s on us.

By Stephanie Zacharek

Source: Joker Review: Joaquin Phoenix Overacts So Hard It’s No Fun | Time

Al Bowlly – Midnight, the Stars and You

“Midnight, the Stars and You”, by Al Bowlly with Ray Noble and His Orchestra, is a 1934 song that accompanies the end of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” (1980). Recorded: February 16, 1934 Label: Victor Records 24700 ___Albert Allick Bowlly (7 January 1898 — 17 April 1941) was a Mozambican born South African singer, songwriter, composer and band leader, who became a popular jazz crooner during the British dance band era of the 1930s and later worked in the United States.

He recorded more than 1,000 records between 1927 and 1941. His most popular songs include “Midnight, the Stars and You”, “Goodnight, Sweetheart”, “The Very Thought of You”, “Guilty” and “Love Is the Sweetest Thing”.

“midnight with the stars and you

midnight and a rendez-vous

your eyes held a message tender

saying “I surrender all my love to you”

midnight brought us sweet romance

I know all my whole life through

I’ll be remembering you whatever else I do

midnight with the stars and you”

 

 

 

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Crazy Rich Asians: Read the Letter That Convinced Coldplay to Allow “Yellow” in the Movie by Rebecca Sun

 

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The song that plays over the final scenes of Crazy Rich Asians had to hit several important notes: It had to strike the right emotional tone for Rachel’s (Constance Wu) departure from Singapore, wistful yet strong; it had to work as an emotional throughline as the film checks in with the other key relationships in the movie — Nick (Henry Golding) and Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), Astrid (Gemma Chan) and Michael (Pierre Png) — and it had to serve as a thematic closing statement for the film, the first studio product in a quarter century to feature an entirely Westernized Asian cast.

To director Jon M. Chu, the only tune that could fit the bill was Coldplay’s 2000 breakthrough single “Yellow.” Warner Bros. was concerned that the song’s title was problematic (the word has been used as an ethnic slur against Asians), but that’s exactly why Chu wanted it. “We’re going to own that term,” he told The Hollywood Reporter in an outtake from THR’s cover story. “If we’re going to be called yellow, we’re going to make it beautiful.”

Initially, Coldplay turned down the request. Jeff Yang, writing for Quartzy, provides a possible explanation for the rejection: The band had previously been criticized for appropriating Asian culture in their 2012 song “Princess of China” and 2016’s “Hymn for the Weekend,” and perhaps wanted to steer clear of Crazy Rich Asians to be safe.

Chu tried other songs in the key spot — including, according to HuffPost, Rihanna’s “Stay” and Sia tracks — but none struck the right tone. “We tried so many other songs,” he told THR, “but everything was about the love story and not about the bigger context of who we are.”

So the filmmaker wrote directly to Coldplay members Chris Martin, Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland and Will Champion, laying out his reasons for needing their song, and their song alone, for the film: “[The word ‘yellow’] has always had a negative connotation in my life … until I heard your song.”

“I remember seeing the music video in college for the first time on [MTV’s] TRL,” Chu’s letter continued. “That oner shot with the sun rising was breathtaking for both my filmmaker and music-loving side. It immediately became an anthem for me and my friends and gave us a new sense of pride we never felt before.”

Although Chu can’t say for sure that it was his letter that did the trick, within 24 hours of sending it, the band approved the “Yellow” request. As with several other songs on the Crazy Rich Asians soundtrack, Chu commissioned a Chinese-language cover of the tune — another meta reference to contemporary global identity, remixing culture across continents and generations. The team reached out to young Beijing singer Li Wenqi, who had popularized a Mandarin version, called “Liu Xing,” on China’s edition of The Voice, and when she declined, they found Katherine Ho, a USC freshman who previously competed on season 10 of the U.S. version of The Voice.

Read Chu’s full letter to Coldplay below, then listen to Ho’s Mandarin cover of “Yellow,” from the Crazy Rich Asians soundtrack.

 

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