Parasite

Neon

I’m not a filmmaker, but I would imagine that every director’s ultimate aspiration is to make a movie that is everything a movie can be. But is that even possible? Is it possible for any single movie to be all things at once: socially conscious, morally perplexing, layered, inventive, complicated, universal, accessible, funny, serious, scary, dramatic, weird, heartbreaking, tense, thrilling, violent, sweet, fast-paced, beautiful, well-acted, well-written and entertaining? Can you even think of a movie that covers all of that? The closest and most recent one that I can think of is Get Out, Jordan Peele’s masterpiece from 2017. Well, I’m not calling Parasite this year’s Get Out, but it’s not the worst comparison. Let me put it this way: I thought it would be a long time until I saw a movie that was as many things as Get Out was and achieved it in as such a perfect way, but here I am, just two years later and another perfect movie has arrived. And we totally should have seen it coming.

Writer/director Joon Ho Bong has been building up to this. His slate of films has slowly increased in critical attention, from Memories of Murder in 2003 to The Host in 2006 to Mother in 2009 to Snowpiercer in 2013 to Okja in 2017, Bong has been building a catalog of films that keeps getting stronger and while each film shone a brighter spotlight on the genius of Bong by cinephiles and critics, he still was far from being a household name. His latest film, Parasite, just might change all that. If there is any justice in the world at all, Parasite will finally be the film that recognizes Bong as the master filmmaker he is and officially serve notice to Mexico that Korea just may be taking over as the new home of master film auteurs.

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The Farewell

A24

I have a good friend whose favorite genre of movies is dysfunctional family drama. Which makes me wonder: is there such a thing as a functional family drama? Is that even something we’d want to see? The whole fun is the dysfunction, right? The more insane the relationships, the more dramatic the movie, which means more entertainment for us, the audience.

But what if you made a movie about a regular family that just happened to collectively stumble into one specific dysfunction, all at the same time? The Farewell is just that movie, about one loving family’s struggle to work together to, well, maintain a lie. Ok, maybe they’re not so regular after all.

But here’s where it gets really interesting. Grandma Nai Nai, the matriarch of this family, has terminal cancer and has been given 4 months to live. The family, driven by cultural traditions, decides to not tell Grandma the diagnosis, and plan a fake wedding instead to allow everyone to come home to say their goodbyes without her ever knowing it. I’ll admit, when I first heard this premise, it intrigued and annoyed me. My gut reaction was “how on earth could they do that?” The idea of withholding someone’s diagnosis from them seemed offensive and immoral. But writer/director Lulu Wang not only spoke to my emotional and ethical concerns with her smart and thoughtful screenplay, she turned a film about a simple lie into a heartfelt movie about love, grief, and letting go.

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