If the Academy Awards are your Super Bowl, then GoldDerby.com is the Sports Book at Caesar’s Palace. Tables outlining the odds and predictions for all the major film categories (as gleaned from dozens of industry experts) give cinephiles a solid look at each year’s films to beat.

In the first week of September, a relative unknown cracked the top ten in GoldDerby’s tally of Best Picture favorites. South Korean psychological thriller Parasite, which won the vaunted Palme D’Or at Cannes in May, was getting some good buzz, but many insiders weren’t sure of the film’s ability to translate (literally and metaphorically) with Academy voters. It continued its steady climb, though, and now—with less than a month until the announcement of Oscar noms— it sits as the film with the third-best odds to win it all, behind The Irishman and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

There’s a reason for its growing popularity, and the reason is simple. Parasite may just be the best film of the year.

Writer-director Bong Joon-ho, best-known (if at all) for 2013’s Snowpiercer, has created a marvel that not only entertains at the highest level but also doubles as a violent, penetrating psychological experiment with a side order of scathing socio-economic commentary. Heady stuff, to be sure (and certainly not for every taste), but those who appreciate a scary-good mind trip that keeps you guessing and is superbly crafted can’t do much better than Parasite.

The concept is fairly straightforward—a dirt-poor Korean family gradually and insidiously embeds itself into the resplendent home life of a wealthy family—and it’s not only how they go about it but what happens when they do that vaults Parasite into rarified air. This is a film, however, where the less you know is truly better, so here endeth the recap.

Suffice to say that Bong has constructed a razor-sharp examination of the haves and have-nots and wrapped it up in a tidy package wherein not a frame is wasted, not a word is superfluous, and not a moment is easily forgotten. His genius-level contrast of the homes, characters, and lifestyles of the two families is simultaneously subtle and profound, and his deadly combo of auteurism and profound technical skill (aided by cinematographer Hong Kyung-Pyo) is evident from the outset.

The script, which Bong co-wrote from his own story alongside Jin Won Han, is not only a masterpiece of the understatement but a cinematic Rorschach test, begging you to choose sides as the plot progresses. Do you side with the unfortunates who figure out a way to dig themselves from the gutter? Or do your sympathies lie with the unsuspecting family who are being victimized (perhaps xxterrorized) by a family of conniving liars? The final call is up to the viewer and is liable to spark debates across the cinematic world, as Parasite burrows its way under the skin of all who watch.


5/5 stars