The Academy Awards were held last Sunday night, which means I, like most sane Americans, found out Monday morning that the Picture of the Year was a film called Parasite. (Seriously? You stayed up to hear Joaquin Phoenix is upset cows have been domesticated for about 11,000 years?)
Now what makes this particular win so unusual is that, well, it apparently actually IS the best movie of the year, a happy situation that hasn't always been the case. Also, Parasite is a South Korean film starring South Koreans and set in South Korea, so the director, who is also, surprisingly, South Korean, made the bold decision to have the cast do the film while speaking Korean.
That would make Parasite a foreign language film. OK, not to the people who wrote it, starred in it or directed it, but it's our awards show, so ...
As far as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is concerned, since no one in Parasite is from around these parts, that makes it one of them there "foreigner films," and its win the first in the history of the Oscars for a movie so designated.
And that is problematic for a certain segment of the movie-going audience because, unless crash courses in South Korean are offered, the only way most Americans are going to be able to tell what's going on is by reading the film's subtitles.
I'm being told the exercise will be well worth it, since the film is being called a masterpiece that explores societal fault lines with a genre-fluid style lays bare the something something some other thing. In other words, this sounds like a movie that requires extensive prep and pre-reading and a translator for ... the review.
Despite that, people have expressed ambivalence about going to see the film, not because the "genre-fluid, something, something some other thing" thing but because of a more elemental reason: They don't like subtitles.
Not sure why. People don't read as much as they used to. And the reading they actually do might not leave them feeling as comfortable with this film because the subtitles don't include the phrase "LOL" or have a smiley-face emoji.
Others are concerned that if they spend all their time reading subtitles, they'll miss important visual details like the Starbucks cup on the table during the medieval banquet. Critical subtext, I'm being told.
Whatever the aversions of others, I've got to say that, personally, I love me some subtitles. Perhaps it's because I don't hear well, and turning up my hearing aids to the point where I can actually catch all the dialogue often produces the same impact extremely loud noises had on the aliens in A Quiet Place.
Which is to say, that's how they killed the aliens in A Quiet Place. (In case you were not watching it at the same time you weren't watching Parasite.)
So happy am I with subtitles that I actually leave them on during all the shows I watch. Even the ones I can actually hear because, well, I might have been wrong. And because, with some of the shows I'm compelled to watch, I can't believe they actually said that. Or use the word "amazing" that often in conversation.
Also, the Lovely Mrs. Smith and I tend to watch a lot of moody British detective shows on our streaming service. And as has been said, the United States and Great Britain are two countries joined by culture and history and separated by language.
The great challenge with subtitles or closed captioning is that it works just great for pre-recorded offerings, but not so great for live-action events like most sporting events, since whatever collection of typewriter-pounding monkeys they use to transcribe are hard-pressed to keep up with what is being said.
Which means most commentators' dialogue comes across as gibberish. Until you can actually hear it and you realize it really is gibberish.
I've got a lot going on around here (more on that in days to come) but I'm sure at some point I'll find the time to watch the movie considered the best shown in 2019. And when I do, I'm assured by the same people who use phrases like "genre-fluid" that I'll be impressed.
And rather than being upset that I "have" to read the dialogue, for at least two hours of my day I'll be 100 percent sure I know exactly what people are saying and what's going on. Or at least I think I will. Because I'm still really not sure what "genre-fluid" means.
Commentary on 02/14/2020
Print Headline: Speaking my language (sort of )