Nothing with sense opened in wide release in theaters this past weekend. And with the Super Bowl this weekend, there’s even more unwatchable garbage being released today.
So why not use this time to catch up on the movies that will be vying for Academy Awards next weekend?
“Parasite” and “Jojo Rabbit” are two of 2019’s most original and imaginative pictures. Both of these very dark comedies are among the nine films nominated for Best Picture.
“Jojo Rabbit”, which opened in October in the U.S., began a week-long run last Friday at the Island House. “Parasite” opened in South Korea last May and in the Unites States in November. It’s available now on some online streaming services.
“Parasite” (U.S.-Rated R)
Cast: Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Kang-Ho Song
If, for some strange and bizarre reason, you are allowed to watch only one movie from 2019 – one picture that could cover all the bases and be almost everything you could want: a hilarious comedy, compelling and thrilling drama, with excellent performances and stunning production values – “Parasite” should be that movie.
This comedy-drama/thriller from South Korea is in Korean (not English). But as you’re reading this review (unless someone is reading it to you), it’s safe to assume that you’d have few difficulties with the subtitles – unless reading tiny text on a screen for two hours and 12 minutes presents some challenges.
In the film, greed and class discrimination threaten the newly-formed symbiotic relationship between the wealthy Park family and the destitute Kim clan.
What starts off as a comedy becomes ever more farcical, until it becomes clearer and clearer that some serious statements are being made on how various social classes see each other, and about what’s important to those in these castes. The themes here are relatable to just about anyone in the modern world, and you’ll likely know a number of people like these characters.
But about halfway through the picture, you’ll hit a giant surprise. A most dramatic twist turns “Parasite” into an intense drama – an actual thriller, with sprinkles from the horror genre. It’s an edge-of-your-seat, shout-at-the-screen experience.
You can tell when someone is giving one helluva performance, no matter what language they’re speaking. And the entire cast of “Parasite” is on fire, particularly Cho Yeo-jeong as Mrs. Park, the eccentric rich wife, and Kang-Ho Song, the patriarch of the Kim family.
This is a film to watch more than once. While you’re busy reading subtitles, you can’t always soak up all the lovely scenery. It is, in fact, nominated for Academy Awards in Production Design and Film Editing – just two of its six nods, along with Picture, Director (for Bong Joon-ho), Original Screenplay and International Feature Film.
“Parasite” has already won Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes and Outstanding Performance by a Cast at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards.
Look for my Oscar predictions next week, but here’s one early fearless prediction: come Monday, February 10, you’ll be hearing a lot about how history has just been made, as for the first time ever, a movie not in English has won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
“Jojo Rabbit” (PG-13)
Cast: Roman Griffin Davis, Scarlett Johansson, Thomasin McKenzie, Taika Waititi
“Jojo Rabbit” finds humor in seemingly some of the darkest days of the 20th Century – the waning years of World War II.
Jojo (12-year-old Roman Griffin Davis) is a lonely German boy who discovers that his single mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic. Aided only by his imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler, Jojo must confront his blind nationalism as World War II continues to rage on.
Imaginary friend Hitler? Oh yes! And this Hitler is hilarious! How director and screenwriter Taika Waititi (“Thor: Ragnarok”), who also plays this (even more demented) Adolf, got a studio to greenlight such a project seems like a plot for a sequel to “The Producers”.
But amazingly, “Jojo Rabbit” succeeds on multiple levels. First and foremost, as an absurdist comedy. But it’s also as a love story, or even two love stories, exploring both first love and the love of a boy for his mom. And finally, it is commentary on the ridiculousness of war and of blindly following leaders with warped ideologies.
Johansson is simply fantastic, and is arguably even better here than in “Marriage Story”. She’s nominated for Oscars for both (only the 12th time in history an actor has been nominated for two Academy Awards in the same year).
Young New Zealander Thomasin McKenzie as Jewish girl Elsa also gives a decent performance.
Davis is electric as young Jojo, and lights up the screen in a role that allows him to display just about every emotion imaginable.
Unfortunately, the Academy Awards continue to be unfair and unjust to child actors. He’d been nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor. But so frequently these days, the Oscars will nominate a film and many of the adult cast, yet won’t not even mention the children in the leading roles. It’s a travesty!
There are other delightful supporting performances, though, including Oscar Winner Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, Alfie Allen (“Game of Thrones”) and especially scene-stealing 11-year-old Archie Yates.
Watching “Jojo Rabbit” during a week that marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz might seem like odd timing. But the film is so brilliantly creative, it’s likely to even elicit chuckles, smiles and warm feelings from Holocaust survivors.
Now that’s dark!
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.