The Weekend Movie Takeaway: ‘Parasite’ Takes Top Hollywood Prize at the Oscars While ‘Birds of Prey’ Flies Into The Box Office #1 Spot
February 11, 2020
It was a big weekend in Hollywood as a historic night at the Oscars® threatened to blow the lid off “traditional” narrative and the box office results saw an expected superhero blockbuster fall somewhat flat.
First: the Oscars. While the ceremony itself—host-less again for the second year in a row—wasn't especially remarkable and garnered all-time low ratings. While the acting categories all more or less played as expected, it still proved a remarkable evening for the phenomenon that is Bong Joon Ho's Parasite.
After sweeping the Best International Feature and Best Original Screenplay awards, many thought the Parasite team was done for the evening, including Joon Ho himself. Then, he won Best Director. And then the film took home the biggest prize of the night—Best Picture.
Seen as an outsider since awards season began, the result shows that forward progression might actually be happening in Hollywood. It's the first film to win both Best Picture and Best International Feature (previously known as Best Foreign Film), and it's the first non-English language film to win the top prize.
Parasite’s unexpected success at the Oscars demonstrates at least a desire on the part of the Academy to expand the types of films the industry highlights and celebrates. Which is definitely exciting from a narrative perspective.
The story explores class conflict in a manner that Hollywood hasn't bothered to in some time, and shows how much value a narrative can gain when you layer your film with concerns pressing to the majority of people, regardless of country.
There is already talk of an HBO limited series version of Parasite starring Mark Ruffalo, which could be interesting. But one would hope the main impact of this win means wider audiences being more willing to engage in films with subtitles, an aspect of foreign films that sadly still seems to keep many potential English-speaking viewers away.
Throughout his many acceptance speeches this awards season, most memorably at the Golden Globes®, Joon Ho has advocated for subtitled movies. Parasite's big night at the Oscars strengthens his case and should lead to more people giving not only this film a chance, but opening their minds to films from other countries.
Meanwhile at the box office, Bad Boys for Life slipped into second place and an Oscar-favorite for Best Picture, 1917, stayed in the top three. Claiming the top spot over the weekend was the second theatrical outing of popular DC character Harley Quinn (following the widely ridiculed but commercially successful Suicide Squad in 2016) in Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn.
However, the glitter bomb-shooting anti-heroine’s first solo outing fell short of expectations. Tracking predicted a $50 million+ opening, while Warner Bros. announced a projection of $45 million, but the R-rated film only took in around $33 million.
Some will predictably attribute this result to the fact that this was a female-focused take on the superhero blockbuster, but Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel showed us that girls can win in this realm. The larger issue appears to be one of brand management and marketing, two factors that play an unfortunately large role in modern narrative—as are famously demanding comic book audiences.
Written by: Dominic CorryDominic Corry is a Los Angeles-based film critic, writer, journalist and broadcaster. Raised in New Zealand, he is also the West Coast editor of Letterboxd, the social network for movie lovers. For more of his film writing, see his website www.TheGoodInMovies.com