Subhash K Jha talks about how 1917 was a more deserving film to win at the Oscars when compared to Parasite.

Dear Uncle Oscar, Parasite is a better film than 1917?

That Joaquin Phoenix ‘s darker-than-darkest portrayal of Joker has fetched him the Oscar for Best Actor is no surprise. Joaquin’s Joker is a reflection of the times we live in.

That Rene Zellweger’s portrayal of the legendary performer Judy Garland has won the Oscar for Best Actress is a surprise. I expected Scarlett Johansson’s popular Marriage Story to take this one, although Sharmila Tagore in Basu Bhattacharya’s Aavishkar—the original Marriage Story—was superior, and although Cynthia Erivo in Harriet is far more powerful. But my favourite performances by a female lead in 2019 were Rene in Judy and Saoirse Ronan in Little Women.

But no quibbles. Now we come to Best Picture. We had towering entries here, none more towering than Sam Mendes’1917. And still, they gave the Oscar for Best Picture and Best Director to Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite??!!

Are we celebrating diversity or excellence? If the latter, then 1917 deserved to win. Not that Parasite is not a masterpiece. It is. But it is not the finest film among the nominees. I find its denouement to be a problematic bloody mess, in more ways than won…err, one. To suggest in such gruesome graphic detail that class differences can be eradicated by mayhem is a very dangerous cringe-worthy premise.

In hindsight, I feel we all over-reacted to the merits of Parasite. It lacks a humane quality. On the other hand Sam Mendes’film is also about savage brutality. But its sense of compassion and humanism never deserts the film’s tone.

Speaking of humanism, Taika Waititi’s very endearing Jojo Rabbit has been accused of humanizing Hitler. But that’s not what this wonderfully cocky film does. It sets off to look at the brutality of Nazi Germany through the eyes of an innocent child who befriends an imaginary version of Hitler. I am glad it got honoured with an Oscar for the best-adapated screenplay. I would have also liked Scarlett Johansson’s heartwarming performance to be honoured for best-supporting actress instead of Laura Dern who was…well, Laura Dern in Marriage Story. Revving on the verve non-stop.

The imagination is a wonderful tool to alchemize pain. Consider us lucky that major Oscars have not gone to Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In America. The one Oscar that it got left me scratching my head. Was Brad Pitt honoured to make up for all these years of no-win at the Oscars? Was Pitt really better than Al Pacino in The Irishman? Really???

To not see Martin Scorcese’ The Irishman and Greta Gerwig’s Little Women win in any major categories is a matter of abiding sorrow. So smitten were the jury members by Parasite that they gave the Best Picture, Best Director AND Best International feature Film to it. I wonder why they gave Best Costumes to Little Women. That too should’ve gone to Parasite.

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