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Parasitic - #OscarsSoShite


"Up to now - since shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution - most movie makers have been assuming they know how to make movies. Just like a bad writer doesn't ask himself if he's capable of writing a novel - he thinks he knows. If movie makers were building airplanes, there would be an accident every time one took off. But in the movies, these accidents are called Oscars."

- Quote attributed to Jean-Luc Godard, filmmaker


Soigne ta droite: Une place sur la terre (Keep Your Right Up) [Jean-Luc Godard, 1987]:

Me, when somebody asks if I watched the Academy Awards.

I've always considered the Oscars to be entirely worthless. Even as a youngster, discovering film as a serious passion at the age of around twelve or thirteen, I found the ceremony completely boring. Worse than boring, it was vulgar, tasteless and divorced from anything meaningful or inspiring that one might get from the experience of watching a film.

It might be lyrical to at least suggest that if movies are life, then the Oscars, or any other televised award ceremony, from the BAFTAs to the Golden Globes, are the post-mortem, but it's not true. These shows are more like the vultures and insects that pick apart and fester upon the rotten corpse of the art when it's been left to rot too long on the side of the road. There's nothing respectful about the process or methodology of these supposed institutions; how they pit films and filmmakers against one another in a tedious competition, reducing personal expression and creativity to something as crass as a junkyard dog fight; mistaking fawning adoration, platitudes and soundbites for actual appreciation, and indulging in and enabling all manner of corruption, manipulation, self-congratulation and empty virtue-signaling.

The Oscars is not a celebration of films or filmmakers, it's a celebration of the self; of the Hollywood machine and its corporations, its committees, its agents and its drug dealers, its liars, its charlatans and its procurers of unsuspecting victims. It's an organization tainted by the worst of Hollywood scandals, and yet year after year they convince us that the gold shines a little brighter. You only have to look at the response to this year's ceremony on social media to see how easily distracted we all are by the glitz and the glamour, by the $100,000 dresses and tuxedoes, by the capped teeth and cleavages, by the well-rehearsed humanism and the speeches about saving the planet.

That the Oscars repeat the same disingenuous shit-show on a yearly basis, recycling and regurgitating the same tired formula, rewarding and celebrating films that no one cares about or remembers five or even two months after the fact, it remains perpetually staggering to me that audiences have any investment in the whole meaningless charade.


The 92nd Academy Awards [ABC, 2020]:

Looking at any crowd shot from The Academy Awards always reminds me of the title of the second album by The Housemartins...


The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death [The Housemartins, 1987]:

...although it was meant in reference to the British Royal Family, themselves parasitic, the association still stands.

It's worth remembering that the Oscars aren't real. Like the profession they're designed to celebrate, it's all just make believe; an expensive fantasy that adds up to little more than an elaborate game of playing pretend. The entire concept of the "Academy Awards" was invented by Hollywood to celebrate itself. They have no artistic or even cultural value whatsoever. They have no legitimacy. You could literally make up your own award show and it would be no more or less valid than the Oscars. Tradition dictates that it's become a cultural institution, or the end goal for what all cinema is striving for or aspiring to, but this isn't the case.

The Oscars have been awarded to some of the absolute worst films in history, and to some of the absolute worst people in the motion picture industry. The stink of Harvey Weinstein still clings to the podium. And the same people that gave a standing ovation for a convicted rapist like Roman Polanski, and then signed petitions for his exoneration, are the ones now calling for greater diversity, the inclusion of female filmmakers, or shaking their gold chains in approval of the millionaire Bong Joon-ho's upper-class baiting satire/thriller, Parasite (2019).


Parasite [Bong Joon-ho, 2019]:

I haven't seen Parasite, but I would very much like to. This rant isn't against Bong's film, although I do think there's something disingenuous about it being both produced and acclaimed by the same people it apparently attacks.

For every great film to be graced by the acclaim of "the Academy", there are a thousand more that are just as great, if not better, that will never be hoisted into the same golden orbit. Why? Because those films and their makers couldn't afford to pay millions on an Awards campaign? Because they weren't in bed with the right studios, producers or press agents? Because they were appalled by the unending abuses of Hollywood and the sad legacy of victims chewed up and spat out by the whole insidious system? Because they wanted no part in the further perpetuation of the belief that art is a competitive sport? It isn't.

The real award you get for making a film is the film itself. The reward is that you were privileged and fortunate enough to be able to tell your story, express your feelings and ideas, and collaborate with countless talented and creative individuals to create the work that will endure beyond your own lifetime. For an industry as parasitic and narcissistic as Hollywood, this reward, and the millions of dollars they generate from such a gift, is not enough. They needed to invent fake awards, formed in the style of tacky little gold men, to make them feel special; to elevate filmmaking away from its industrial, working-class, artisan practicality, and further define it as an elitist, expensive pursuit reserved only for the beautiful and the wealthy. I hate all festivals and award shows for the same reason.

Last year Green Book (2018) took home the "prize" for Best Picture. Directed by the serious auteur behind films such as Shallow Hal (2001), Hall Pass (2011) and Dumb and Dumber To (2014), its win was seen as devastating to the integrity of the whole event. This year, with the aforementioned Parasite winning the same award, the Oscars have been apparently redeemed in the eyes of its sycophantic audience. That it's taken the Academy almost a hundred years to get it right seems irrelevant. This is totally the Oscars turning a new page and beginning a new chapter. It couldn't possibly be another in a long line of progressive one-offs which soon give way to the usual middlebrow films about how racism is bad, how war and the holocaust are tragic, how individuals in real life struggled against adversity to achieve incredible odds. Meanwhile, millionaires in tuxedoes and ball gowns get to pat themselves on the back for their enlightenment, while the rest of the world that exists outside their elitist sphere, struggles with poverty, inequality and exploitation.

To close, here are ten films picked at random that are as good as if not greater than any of the year's "best picture" nominees. I could pick another ten that are just as great, important and entertaining, and even another ten after that.

1. BLACK GOD, WHITE DEVIL [GLAUBER ROCHA, 1964]
2. THE PERSECUTION AND ASSASSINATION OF JEAN-PAUL MARAT AS PERFORMED BY THE INMATES OF THE ASYLUM OF CHARENTON UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE MARQUIS DE SADE [PETER BROOK, 1967]
3. PROFOUND DESIRES OF THE GODS [SHOHEI IMAMURA, 1968]
4. DAILY BREAD (USKI ROTI) [MANI KAUL, 1970]
5. EYES DO NOT WANT TO CLOSE AT ALL TIMES, OR PERHAPS ONE DAY ROME WILL ALLOW HERSELF TO CHOOSE IN TURN [JEAN-MARIE STRAUB & DANIÈLE HUILLET, 1970]
6. ONE SINGS, THE OTHER DOESN'T [AGNÈS VARDA, 1977]
7. GUELWAAR [OUSMANE SEMBÈNE, 1993]
8. LA CÉRÉMONIE [CLAUDE CHABROL, 1995]
9. BREAKFAST ON PLUTO [NEIL JORDAN, 2005]
10. MARIE ANTOINETTE [SOFIA COPPOLA, 2006]

None of these films garnered much attention from "The Academy", and that's fine. They don't need a chocolate Oscar to demonstrate their greatness; it's inherent in the work and our ability to experience it, personally and subjectively.

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