The Oscar Project
I have to apologize for being a little late with this week’s recap post. For anyone playing along at home, the Oscars were this past Sunday night so that was taking most of my attention. Fortunately, I had been able to get my viewing of this week’s film (Network) a little early so I’m only behind on doing this write-up.
As a reminder, the category this week was a Best Original Screenplay Winner. The assumption I made was that this was a winner at the Oscars, as there are other screenplay awards. If you’re still looking for a film to pick for this week, check this link of the Best Original Screenplay Winners from the Oscars.
Now, on to my thoughts about Network. This film is not for everyone. There is a certain sense of humor required to “get” a film like Network, and thankfully I have that sense of humor. As you’ll know if you’ve been following along with my challenge this year, all the films I’m watching are first time watches for me and Network was no exception. I have heard about and read about this film for years, and never made the time to sit down and watch it.
Things continue with Beale doing the news, eventually leading to his “mad as hell” tirade, before he is given a new show of his own where the mad as hell catchphrase becomes the mantra of Beale and his audience. Christensen begins a romance with Beale’s former boss Max Schumacher (William Holden) whose marriage suffers as a result. Schumacher is released from his duties at the station in favor of Christensen who continues pressing Frank Hackett (Robert Duvall) for support. Ultimately, the ratings of Beale’s new show never see sustained success and the leadership decides once again to remove him from the air, permanently.
This is obviously a simplified overview of the plot of a film that has many moving pieces. There are elements of racial and class politics as undertones and a subplot of Schumacher’s affair with Christensen and how that destroys his family. After the initial action to set the plot in motion, Beale himself becomes almost like a background prop, something to be moved around from one place to another to advance the action. Indeed, Beale almost acts as an animal at times, and is thus treated as if he were nothing more than an animal. And **SPOILER ALERT** just like a dairy cow who has stopped giving milk, when Beale runs dry, he is shot down and killed live on air, giving one last bump in the ratings.
The film was obviously well received at the time. It did win four Academy Awards (from nine nominations) at the 49th Academy Awards including Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor (Finch), Best Actress (Dunaway), and Best Supporting Actress (Beatrice Straight as Schumacher’s wife). I can completely understand why it won for screenplay, as the script gives each member of an all-star cast at least one chance to shine. They all get monologues throughout the film, not least of which is Finch’s performance in the famous “mad as hell” scene. The only acting nominees from the film that did not win were for Ned Beatty as the UBS owner Arthur Jensen and for Holden who was nominated alongside Finch in the Best Actor category. I can understand Beatty not winning because while his monologue is just as impressive as the rest, it’s really his only major scene, while the rest of the winners appear throughout the film.
This is one of those films that I’ve always wanted to make time for and while it’s clearly not intended for all audiences, I think it’s absolutely fantastic. I can see why it appears on a number of top 100 lists of films including AFI’s 100 Greatest American Movies of all Time. If you haven’t seen this one before, do yourself a favor, watch it, and then get up, go to the window and yell “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this any more.”
I realized late that I never posted this preview for week 11, even though I've already moved on to week 12.
If you are circling back on this, check out Wikipedia for the list of Best Original Screenplay winners.
In my experience, when people say that a movie is great, to the point where almost no one you talk to has anything bad to say about it, things can go one of two ways. I had the first thing happen many years ago when I finally watched Napoleon Dynamite after friends raving about it for months. I watched it and was thoroughly unimpressed, something I wrote about after returning to the film when I did a 30-day film challenge in late 2020.
The second thing that can happen is the film can completely live up to the expectations, or sometimes even exceed all the glowing things people said about it before you saw it. Parasite is one of those films.
It feels like a little more than just three years since Parasite swept the awards season and capped it off with four Oscar wins including Bong Joon-ho for Best Director and the Best Picture award. It’s also hard to believe that just about a month after the Oscars where Parasite led the pack, the world shut down and things have never been the same since.
Ki-woo meets with a friend and agrees to take his place as an English tutor for the daughter of wealthy family. Once he gets his foot in the door with the Park family, he recommends his sister (re-named “Jessica” to avoid detection as his sister) as an art tutor for the Park’s young son. “Jessica” then recommends Ki-taek as a new driver for Mr. Park, who in turn recommends Chung-sook as a new housekeeper when the Park’s long-time housekeeper is let go. The Kims slowly insinuate themselves into the lives of the entire Park family, latching on to the wealthy in order to improve their own station in life. Once they have forced the existing driver and housekeeper out of the picture, the Kim’s begin to settle into their new way of life, but before they can get too comfortable, things take a drastic turn.
The first half of this film was a slow burn the way it set the scene. While initially feeling bad for the Kim’s in their destitution, I soon turned to feeling for the Park family, especially because of how easily they are duped into trusting the Kim family. The two families are mirrors of one another, both having four members, a mother, father, son, and daughter, and part of the genius of the film is how they could almost be considered the same family that diverged at some point in history.
Where the film really shines is in the second half, once the Kims are fully in place working for the Parks. Mr. Kim ingratiates himself with Mr. Park, gaining his trust and helping with whatever needs doing when it comes to driving him and Mrs. Park around. But we find out in the second half that while Mr. Park appreciates the service provided by Mr. Kim (and the rest of the Kim family) he doesn’t truly respect them, even complaining about the smell that Mr. Kim has in the car as they drive around town. We also learn that the Kims are not the first ones to latch on to the wealthy family in the house. This is where things start to unravel for the Kims and ultimately leads to a deadly conclusion.
If you were to ask me what this film reminds me of, my initial thought would be something along the lines of Hitchcock. Rear Window jumps to mind in the way the first half of that film is a lot of set up where not much really happens, but once the action starts, it doesn’t stop. Just like Hitchcock, there are moments throughout the second half of Parasite where things are quiet and you know something’s coming around the corner, but the quiet lasts just long enough to allow you to let down your guard, before the director smacks you in the face with a new twist.
Several times in the second half of the film I was certain I knew where it was heading, but every time I was wrong. It’s rare in movies today that things can catch seasoned viewers completely off guard, and this film is the exception that proves that rule. Director Bong delivers a trail of breadcrumbs that oftentimes seem to lead to safety, but only serve to take the film in a new direction completely different from where you expect it to go.
Plenty has been written about this film and the statements on class and social inequality, specifically in Korea but also in the world at large. At the end of the film, Ki-woo narrates over the last few scenes that he has a plan in place to bring the Kim family out of poverty, but the very last image shows him still residing in the same basement apartment where he started. Despite the proximity to the wealthy Park family, his position in life hasn’t changed, and the Kim family as a whole is in a much worse situation. It can even be argued that by associating with the Kims, the Park family has collapsed and begun a fall from grace…the host succumbing to the infection of the parasite that has invaded.
This film is one that I absolutely plan to revisit at least once in the next few months. I need a little time to sit with it in my consciousness, but I know there are things I missed on my first viewing. Just like watching Rian Johnson’s Knives Out a second time last fall, there will surely be little details that I pick up on now that I know the outcome of the story.
Bravo Bong Joon-ho! This is truly a masterpiece.
Best Biography Film
Green Book is one of the most recent films on my list this year and it is fantastic. There is a reason this film won the Oscar for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali), and Best Original Screenplay a few years ago and was nominated for several others.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not a perfect film by any stretch, but a great film doesn’t have to be perfect. There is plenty to quibble with in the film and its depiction of race in the Southern United States in the 1960s, but at the heart it is a story about two men from different worlds that come to understand and respect each other through a series of shared experiences.
If you don’t know the story, Ali stars as Dr. Don Shirley, a black pianist who is about to embark on a concert tour of the American Midwest and South. He hires Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) as his driver. The men start off as complete strangers, Shirley trying to get Tony to act with more refinement and class, while Tony makes some attempts to get Shirley to lighten up a bit and “live a little.”
As the trip wears on and the pair venture further into the Deep South, the attitudes towards a black man change and Tony starts to see how Shirley is treated. The final straw comes when Shirley is denied permission to eat dinner in the very dining room of a white country club that he has been hired to perform in that evening. Tony stands fully by Shirley’s side and begs the owners to relent on their rules and allow Shirley to dine with the white members.
While I don’t know much about the two men depicted in the film, I do love the actors that portrayed them. I have been a Mortensen fan since seeing him in G.I. Jane and of course his star turn as Aragon in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Ali has been a rising star as well, garnering his second Oscar for this role following his win for Moonlight several years ago. These two roles couldn’t be more different, so it’s wonderful to see the actor inhabit these drastically different characters.
A film you like from your least favorite genre
Anyone who has followed this blog for any length of time probably already knows that I am not a huge fan of horror films. I should probably amend that to not being a fan of slasher horror, the blood and guts kind that is out there just to spray the camera with as much fake blood as possible. Psychological horror films are some that I have grown to enjoy over the past several years, and my absolute favorite in this arena is Get Out.
I watched this as part of my journey to watch all the Oscar nominated films a few years back. I was initially apprehensive about it but was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt after all the positive buzz I heard from pundits and reviewers at the time. As is normally the case with anything above a PG rating in my house, I waited until after everyone was sounds asleep in bed and it was plenty dark to put on Get Out and remember sitting on the edge of my seat through most of the film.
I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t seen the film, but just as Daniel Kaluuya’s character Chris can’t take his eyes off things later in the film, I couldn’t pull myself away from his predicament as the film progressed. Once I figured out what was going on, I felt paralyzed to do anything to stop the action, flailing along as an innocent bystander but just as invested in “getting out” as the characters in the film.
One of my favorite parts of this film was the casting and how many of the roles are populated by people I associated with comedies. When I think of Catherine Keener, my mind immediately goes to The 40-Year-Old Virgin and while Bradley Whitford is probably best known for his role on The West Wing, I first knew him as the weasily Eric Gordon in Billy Madison. Another small role goes to Stephen Root, who I first think of as the bumbling Gordon Pibb in DodgeBall. All these actors are playing against type in this film and it is awesome to see.
If you haven’t seen Get Out, you need to “get out” there and see it right now. Don’t worry if you’re not a big horror fan, this one is not your typical slasher and I don’t think there’s really any blood to speak of. There is plenty to terrify you though which is the whole point.
Day 10 – Your favorite superhero film | Day 12 – A film that you hate from your favorite genre
We're on to a smaller batch of films that are coming to Disney+ next month and taking a look at the list of Pixar animated films.
If you haven't already checked out the previous posts in this series, please go back and look at the list of live action films and animated films coming to Disney+ when the service kicks off in a few weeks.
We're finally getting to some of the big categories here with my predictions of Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Don't forget to check out the previous prediction posts in my series to see all of my predictions and look for the last few posts with the Best Actress/Actor, Best Director, and Best Picture categories on Monday.
I'm just a film buff who wants to watch great movies. Where else to find the best, than the list of those nominated by the Academy each year?