One day, you’re showing an interesting foreign film at an art museum. The very next day, you see that movie get nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award. This actually happened to me a few weeks back when a little bit of Seoul came to Flint.
The movie was “Parasite,” a seriocomic, class-conscious, genre-bending thriller from South Korea that we offered for a January weekend at the Flint Institute of Arts. This fully-subtitled film is typical of the non-English-language fare regularly shown at the museum, but its rise to a best picture nod is rare – one of the welcome surprises the Oscar races too frequently seem to lack.
Unfortunately, the timing of the movie awards season had its perils: One of the FIA’s three scheduled screenings of “Parasite” was canceled due to a winter storm. This did not prevent those who were able to see it from being impressed – it’s one of those movies best enjoyed with little advance knowledge. Once you do see it, prepare to be shocked.
People ask me to predict the Academy Awards, so here’s a non-shocking forecast: All four acting favorites – Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker”), Renee Zellweger (“Judy”), Brad Pitt (“Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”) and Laura Dern (“Marriage Story”) – will take home statuettes on Oscar Night, February 9.
As for best picture, well, that’s a toughie. Of the nine nominees, you can eliminate “Ford v Ferrari,” “Jojo Rabbit” (which we plan to show in March at FIA), “Little Women” and “Marriage Story” because their directors weren’t also nominated, so let’s whittle down the remaining five.
“The Irishman” is a great Scorsese-De Niro-Pesci-Pacino-Keitel reunion, but it’s 3½ hours long. I loved seeing the fearsome Joe Pesci back on screen. But the whole thing seemed warmed-over Scorsese, done more effectively in other pictures. Did I mention it was 3½ hours long?
I loved “Parasite” and wouldn’t be surprised if Bong Joon Ho won for Best Director. But only ten foreign-language films have been nominated for best picture, and none have won. I’d love to be wrong about this, but “Parasite” will have to settle for the Best International Film award.
The World War I drama “1917” is a great piece of filmmaking, as Sam Mendes directed it to look like one continuous shot (although this is partly illusory). The film opened wide in the U.S. during the Oscar balloting period, so don’t discount the timing factor. Still … let’s move on.
That leaves “Joker” and “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” I have written in this space that “Joker,” a comic-book movie turned social commentary on Trumpian America, is powerful yet disturbing. Academy voters don’t like “disturbing” so much.
No matter: I liked “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” better, anyway. You must remember that the Oscars were created in the first place to promote Hollywood’s product, and Quentin Tarantino’s film is a love letter to the town, even with its setting in the bittersweet year of 1969. With its brilliant, detailed sense of time and place, this movie will be its director’s first to win Oscar’s top honor.
Meanwhile, among the FIA’s February film selections are two documentaries: “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am” (February 7-9) and a “Fiddler on the Roof” chronicle titled “Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles” (February 20-23). For details on those and the rest of the lineup, visit flintarts.org.
And if you’re reading this column after February 9, feel free to laugh if I was wrong.