FILM

Yes, "Parasite" Is Even Better Than You've Heard

Bong Joon-ho's Parasite is easily the best movie of the year, and probably of the decade, too.

NEON

In all my years of studying and watching films, I've never come across anything quite like Bong Joon-ho's Parasite.

Parasite is one of those exceedingly rare movies that seems to exist beyond categorization. It's a satire, oftentimes a very funny one. It definitely could be called a thriller, full of incredible twists that feel both surprising and earned. But at its core, Parasite might also be deemed a tragedy or even a dystopian nightmare, at least to the extent that our modern society has become dystopian for its underclass. It's a movie that stays with you and makes you think long after the credits roll.

Spoilers follow, so for anyone who stumbles upon this without having already seen the movie, I'll simply say that Parasite is a near-perfect film, easily one, if not the best, of the past decade, and you'd do best to go in blind and form your own opinions.

Parasite movie NEON

***SPOILERS BELOW***

Parasite is the story of two families in Korea, the Kim family and the Park family, who are separated by a rigid class divide. The Kim family is representative of "dirt spoons," a recent slang term in Korea for people born into poor families with little hope of social mobility. The family of four––father, Ki-taek; mother, Chung-sook; daughter, Ki-jeong; and son, Ki-woo––live in a cramped basement apartment in the slums where they scrounge for bathroom corners with unprotected Wi-Fi access and fold pizza boxes to barely make ends meet. Both Ki-jeong and Ki-woo are incredibly smart––Ki-jeong is talented at graphic design and Ki-woo is fluent in English––but neither have the means to afford any further education.

The Park family lives in stark contrast, inhabiting a gated mansion atop a hill overlooking the city. Mr. Park works a high-paying tech job. Mrs. Park spends her days lounging and snacking on fancy foods, tended to by her middle-aged housekeeper, Moon-Gwang. The Park children, teenage daughter Da-hye and younger son Da-song, are free to pursue their studies and creative interests.

Parasite NEON


The families meet through a stroke of fate when Da-hye's English tutor, who also happens to be Ki-woo's childhood friend, recommends Ki-woo as a replacement before he travels abroad. Ki-woo lands the gig (with the help of his sister's graphic design skills to forge college documents), and after finding Mrs. Park gullible and easily swayed he begins the process of worming his family into the Parks' lives. First, Ki-jeong becomes Da-song's art therapist. Then Ki-taek becomes Mr. Park's driver. Finally, the Kims manage to oust Moon-Gwang and insert Chung-sook as the new housekeeper.

Bong Joon-ho is no stranger to directing movies that tackle class divides. His 2013 sci-fi action film, Snowpiercer, placed the rich and the poor in brutal opposition aboard a fast-moving train in a post-apocalyptic world. But in Parasite, Joon-ho takes a far more subtle approach to morality. The Kim family are clearly doing antagonistic deeds, not only lying to the Park family but also sabotaging the other lower class people whose positions they want to usurp. At the same time, even though the Kim family is arguably "bad," and not even necessarily likable, our full understanding of their severe poverty leads us to empathize with their actions and even root for them.

Meanwhile, the Park family remains sympathetic, too. Joon-ho could have easily made the wealthier family into cartoon stereotypes, but they're not. Mrs. Park, especially, is an incredibly good-natured employer. "They're rich but still nice," Ki-taek says to his wife.

"They're nice because they're rich," she replies. This sentiment seems to reside at Parasite's very core: Can we truly condemn the dubious actions of an oppressed underclass when the social hierarchy gives them very few alternatives?

The Kims' plan starts to unravel after Moon-Gwang, the ousted housekeeper, returns with a secret of her own. Like the Kims, she, too, had been taking advantage of her position with the Park family. For years, she had been harboring her homeless husband in a secret bunker beneath the Park home. By taking away her job, the Kims completely destroyed the lives of her and her husband. So upon discovering the Kims are related, Moon-Gwang threatens to expose them to the Parks in order to reinstate her position.

With this twist, Joon-ho illustrates how even though the major class divide is between the rich and the poor, it oftentimes plays out through in-fighting amongst the poor over scarce resources––in this case, jobs. While the Kims obviously took advantage of the Parks, they never actually hurt them (at least up until this point). They did, however, actively destroy Moon-Gwang, another poor person just trying her best to make ends meet.

In the ensuing struggle over Moon-Gwang's cell phone (with evidence of the Kim family's relationship), the Kims accidentally kill her and proceed to trap her husband in the bunker alongside her corpse. Moon-Gwang's husband's hatred and psychosis grow, culminating in his escape during Da-song's lavish birthday party, during which he attempts to kill the entire Kim family. He bashes Ki-woo's head with a rock and stabs Ki-jeong. Chung-sook manages to kill him, but not in time to save her daughter. Da-song faints amidst the chaos, and Mr. Park demands that Ki-taek drive them to get help without any regard for Ki-Jeong. Ki-taek snaps, murdering Mr. Park in a burst of oppressed rage.

Ultimately, Parasite ends in tragedy. Three families are destroyed. The Kims are split apart––Ki-jeong dies, Ki-woo survives with brain damage, and Ki-taek locks himself away in the underground bunker. Moon-Gwang and her husband are dead. The Parks flee their family home, minus the father.

Historically, ruined lives are always the end-game of vast income gaps, and nobody is truly safe as long as such inequality exists. The movie ends on Ki-woo devising a plan to become rich and buy the former Park house, so that his family can be together again. He fantasizes about this plan from the tiny, basement apartment in the slums where he now lives with just his mom. We know his plan will never come to fruition.

In Parasite, Joon-ho's paints a reality that, in a fairer socioeconomic climate, would have been entirely avoidable. Ki-woo and Ki-jeong would have been able to attend college––they were both more than capable––and bring their family up in society. Parents wouldn't need to fold pizza boxes just to make ends meet, and the wealth gap between rich and poor wouldn't be nearly as vast. But alas, in the world as we know it, the Kims' only hope of moving up in the world was to become parasites, and in doing so, they bled everyone else dry. Then again, when a family like the Parks can live so high on the backs of people so poor that they can't even fathom their struggles, maybe the Kims weren't the parasites after all.

5/5

FILM

In Defense of Mr. Kim's Actions at the End of "Parasite"

Mr. Kim's actions at the end of Parasite were completely understandable.

Mr. Kim

NEON

***MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR PARASITE FOLLOW***

Even amidst a finale full of shocking moments, no scene in director Bong Joon-ho's Parasite comes close to the emotional gut punch of Mr. Kim stabbing Mr. Park. But what exactly led the mostly affable Mr. Kim to snap in such a brutal manner? The answer lies at Parasite's very core.

Parasite's main thrust revolves around the vast class dichotomy between rich people and poor people, as represented by two families––the Kims and the Parks. But more specifically, Parasite explores the deep conflicts that arise from the necessary dependence both classes have on one another in a society plagued by overwhelming stratification.

For the Kim family, who live at the bottom rung of society and are perpetually unemployed in spite of their varied talents and who scrape pizza boxes together to survive, latching onto the wealthy for job opportunities (by any means necessary) is their only opportunity to move up in the world. For the Park family, who live in such resplendent wealth that they can afford any luxury at a moment's notice, they still rely on the underclass to do their bidding––cooking, cleaning, driving, etc. And no matter how elaborately the Kims lie to the Parks, or how nice the Parks might act towards the Kims, the lopsided power dynamic is forever in favor of the Parks. After all, they hold the money, so they always hold the power.

parasite mr park Mr. ParkNEON

While the Kims and the Parks enjoy relatively amicable relationships with their counterparts––Ki-woo and Da-hye are romantic with one another, Ki-jung is significantly older than and in an authoritative position to Da-song, and Chung-sook mainly stays out of Mrs. Park's way as the housekeeper––Mr. Kim's relationship to Mr. Park as his personal driver is more complicated. Mr. Park holds the most rigid views of class boundaries. He's amicable and friendly to Mr. Kim but quickly shifts to annoyance anytime he feels like Mr. Kim comes close to a conversational boundary (like mentioning Mr. Park's relationship with his wife). Unlike the other Kim/Park family relationships, the relationship between Mr. Park and Mr. Kim could be deemed subtly adversarial.

Of course, Mr. Kim doesn't just stab Mr. Park out of nowhere due to an ill-defined resentment. Mr. Park's murder stems from the build up of a few distinct events.

The first is Mr. Kim's body odor and the unfortunate circumstances that lead him to overhear Mr. Park complaining about it to Mrs. Park. After the mid-movie twist whereby the former housekeeper returns and the Kims lock her and her husband in the underground bunker, Mr. Kim finds himself trapped beneath a table, unbeknownst to Mr. and Mrs. Park while they canoodle on the sofa. During this time, Mr. Park vents about Mr. Kim's scent to his his wife, saying that when they're in the car together, he can't escape Mr. Kim's smell. "People who ride the subway have a special smell," he says.

Then comes the flood during which the Kim's basement apartment in the slums gets overrun by dirty sewage water. After spending the night sleeping in a gym with his children, the Kims need to return to the Parks for an impromptu Indian-themed children's party for Da-song. Immediately after losing everything he owns to the storm, Mr. Kim is forced to silently listen to Mrs. Park lightly muse about how fortunate it is that the rain cleared out the air before their party. Mr. Kim also notices Mrs. Park cover her nose at one point during the drive, likely exacerbating his bubbling anger at Mr. Park.

But the proverbial nail in the coffin comes when, during the party, the housekeeper's husband escapes the bunker and stabs Ki-jung. The shock of the scene causes Da-song to faint, and as Mr. Kim attends to his bleeding daughter, Mr. Park insists that he leave her to help take Da-song to safety. In fairness to Mr. Park, he doesn't realize that Mr. Kim is Ki-jung's father. But at the same time, Mr. Park's blatant disregard for the life of an employee stands in stark contrast to his heightened concern for his own son who's completely unwounded.

It is in this moment, tinted by unimaginable grief and sadness, that Mr. Kim's rage bubbles over––channeling the overwhelming rage of the underclass whose very lives are viewed as less than––and he stabs Mr. Park in the heart.

While Mr. Kim's actions may be brutal and wrong, it's easy to empathize with him. One can only take so much derision before snapping, and when faced with the cold reality of Mr. Park devaluing his daughter's life, Mr. Kim's snap seems natural. History has proven that when the uber-wealthy feed off the poor for so long without ever considering their hardships or humanity, violence will always be the outcome.

CULTURE

Dax Shepard Faces Backlash for Sympathizing with Casey Affleck

Shepard is facing extensive backlash from his fanbase after sympathizing with Affleck, who received disturbing allegations of sexual harassment.

Armchair Expert

"I asked my mom when she turned 65 what it was like, and she said, 'Everything glows,'" Casey Affleck told Dax Shepard on his podcast, Armchair Expert. "I interpreted that as all the bad parts [are] softened, but also memory itself [blurs everything] into a nostalgic vision of her past. I sort of hope that's what happens."

Now, Shepard is facing extensive backlash from his fanbase after sympathizing with Affleck, who received disturbing allegations of sexual harassment that plagued his 2018 Oscar Nomination for "Best Actor." The 43-year-old actor additionally took time on the podcast to promote his new film, Light of My Life––a post-pandemic drama about a father and daughter that's coincidentally set in a world without women. The film is set for release this Friday, exactly one year after Affleck first responded to the allegations. "I wish I had found a way to resolve things in a different way. I hate that," he initially said. "I had never had any complaints like that made about me before in my life and it was really embarrassing and I didn't know how to handle it."

The conversation on Armchair cryptically addressed the allegations, with Shepard––who warned Affleck there would be "a lot of projecting" on his end because he's "stuck in his own point of view"––choosing to bond with Affleck instead of questioning his behavior. The actor strongly implied that his misunderstanding of consent was due to him never learning the right lessons as a kid. "You and I might have been taught, well, 'No means no': that's the slogan. You ask somebody, and if they say no, you leave them alone." Shepard agreed and said he learned the complications of consent only "a year ago" after he watched a 60 Minutes special that detailed the allegations against Mario Batali. He cited the special as the first time he learned that women might be too scared to fight back in the midst of an assault. "I never would have assumed when I went to kiss a girl that if she didn't say, "Oh no, thank you," that would be my signal."

It's disturbing to think a graphic 60 Minute special on a sexual predator was what it took for Shepard to learn and understand female body language, especially considering how often he discusses and prides himself on being sexually liberated. He added that learning that information caused him to reflect back on choices in his life. "When I start running my whole life [back] through the camera, I take on new information, and I get a little scared," he admitted.

Affleck agreed and called the allegations "complicated." Shepard also defended Affleck earlier by implying that Affleck's alleged assaults were a by-product of not knowing professional boundaries. "I was a boss on two different movies I directed, but I am still 12 in my head... and I'm just not seeing myself as 'The Boss,'" Shepard said. "Now, of course, years later [I realize], well I was the boss, and I didn't take that in, and I should have. Some situations you see come up [you realize], 'Oh I had power over someone." Affleck was quick to agree: "Yes, I've been a boss and not been aware of exactly what the responsibilities of that role entailed." He added, "If you're not abiding by or aware of the guidelines of a professional environment, you're vulnerable to people saying that you're not behaving responsibility, and that has all kinds of tentacles."

In December 2008, Amanda White accused Affleck of "attempting to manipulate her into sharing a hotel room with him." When she refused, "he grabbed her threateningly and attempted to scare her into submission." His statements on Armchair were similar to his initial address in 2018, wherein he first called the allegations "unprofessional" rather than admitting to his own internalized misogyny. When asked on Armchair if he was a supporter of the #MeToo movement, Affleck claimed to love women. He said feminism was "baked into [his] own value system" and offhandedly mentioned that he wasn't even allowed to watch Dukes of Hazard as a kid because his parents felt it was too "sexist." He called the allegations "antithetical" to his true character and turned to sarcasm to avoid directly answering the question: "Who would not be supportive [of #MeToo]...that's an idea that's even out there?"

Monica Padman, Shepard's co-host, strove further to defend Affleck. "There's a certain negativity happening where people just don't wanna hear the other side. They want people to automatically know the right thing to do," she said. "Mistakes are going to happen in this process," she said. To clarify, in 2008 Amanda White claimed she was "harassed repeatedly" by Affleck, claiming that on one occasion Affleck "ordered a crew member to take off his pants and show White his penis–even after she vehemently objected." She additionally claimed Affleck would "repeatedly" refer to women as "cows" and "recount his sexual exploits with reckless abandon."

On the podcast, Padman also mentioned that "sometimes women aren't telling the truth" and suggested that's a factor rarely considered in cases of sexual misconduct. "I'm a woman, and I've lied. We're capable of doing that. It's anti-feminist to say that women don't lie." Even Affleck knew it was best to debunk that statement. He said "it doesn't help" to accuse women of lying.



The blowback from fans was immediate. Shepard referred to Affleck as a "lovely human," and fans vehemently condemned Shepard and Padman's approach to discussing sexual assault. Many accused them of enabling abusers. "We do not need to be giving abusers platforms," wrote one fan. "'Lovely human?' oh how quickly we forget," wrote another. Shepard has repeatedly claimed his podcast is nonpolitical and that it is a platform to help explore "the messiness of being human." Yet, Shepard has previously engaged in heated debates, passionately going back and forth with Talib Kweli over the politics of Sam Harris on a previous episode. To bring such fiery energy to a political debate over race but leave it absent from a discussion on women's rights and sexual harassment is problematic, to say the least.

From Ryan Adams to Louis C.K., many of the #MeToo accused have been quick to blame their behavior on past trauma in the hopes that it will paint a more sympathetic picture of them and the crimes they've committed. This tactic, in turn, directs sympathy and attention away from the victims. Affleck's feigned self-loathing throughout the episode continues this trend. Unlike Aziz Ansari, at no point did Affleck express remorse for potentially hurting these people. He instead chose to focus on his own traumatic upbringing in order to garner sympathy from the general public. Both Shepard and Padman helped him achieve this goal, with Shepard claiming that "all roads" lead back home. It's a tactic we've seen used continuously by abusers striving for a comeback in the #MeToo era.

The episode was no doubt meant to be Afflick's "comeback," and Shepard may have helped him achieve that goal, but it also revealed a lot about the podcast's hosts and where their values lie. Armchair Expert is an almost quasi-religious self-help guide to many people. The hosts regularly discuss ways to live an authentic life. But women still need to be believed, and it's disappointing to know that even the icons we consider to be the most "woke," still don't quite get it yet.

FILM

Robert Eggers' "The Lighthouse" Actually Looks Like an Original Movie Concept

In a world of remakes and sequels, "The Lighthouse" shines.

The trailer is out for horror director Robert Eggers' new movie, The Lighthouse, and amazingly, it looks like a totally original Hollywood movie.

Is this even possible? Would Hollywood really, truly release a movie in 2019 that isn't a sequel, prequel, reboot, or generic, derivative, paint-by-numbers? Watch the trailer and see for yourself:

The Lighthouse | Official Trailer HD | A24 www.youtube.com

Eggers' first film, The Witch, established him as a fresh, original voice in the horror genre. From the looks of it, The Lighthouse will solidify his spot in the modern horror canon.

The aesthetic is deeply unique. The black and white color scheme coupled with intriguing set design (a diagonal ceiling, a spiral staircase) recall silent Expressionist horror of the 1920s like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. At the same time, Eggers' use of harsh lighting and tight, close shots on his two lead actors (Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson) feel reminiscent of a theater production.

The movie already received rave reviews after its premiere at Cannes, with critics lauding the direction, horror, and performances of both leads in equal measure. Willem Dafoe's greatness should probably come as no surprise, but it's great to hear that Robert Pattinson holds his own, too.

The Lighthouse looks excellent, and more importantly, unlike anything else that's hit theaters over the past few decades. Considering the current state of the Hollywood landscape, this is quite the feat. Let's hope it delivers.

Make sure to check out The Lighthouse in theaters on October 18th.

FILM

No US Company Wants To Screen Woody Allen's Film With Timothée Chalamet, Elle Fanning, Selena Gomez

Earlier this week, Woody Allen shared the trailer for A Rainy Day in New York, his unreleased film that may never be screened in US theaters.

JAMES DEVANEY/GETTY IMAGES

Woody Allen recently acquired the distribution rights to A Rainy Day In New York from Amazon Studios, who had previously put a release hold on the title during the height of the #MeToo movement given the controversy surrounding Dylan Farrow's allegations against Allen.

Now, the director is looking for an American company to screen his 48th feature film, to little or no avail.

The trailer for Rainy Day reveals a movie that seems so rife with Allen tropes––a young girl pursued by an older man, contrived quirky dialogue, a jazzy soundtrack, and the backdrop of New York City as a character in its own right––to the point where it feels more like a parody than an original screenplay.

Timothée Chalament and Elle Fanning star as a college-aged couple whose weekend getaway to New York City takes a disastrous turn as they get entangled in romantic mishaps and inclement weather conditions. The star-studded ensemble also features Selena Gomez, Jude Law, Rebecca Hall, Liev Schreiber, and Diego Luna. Many of the actors expressed regret for working with Allen and some donated their profits from Rainy Day to various charities, including Time's Up.

A Rainy Day In New York was part of a four-movie deal Allen struck with Amazon Prime, which started off with 2016's Café Society followed by 2017's Wonder Wheel. After the company's decision to put the movie on a release hold, Allen filed a $68 million lawsuit against Amazon for breaching their contract over a "25-year-old, baseless allegation."

Earlier this week, Allen took to his Facebook page to post the trailer in an apparent self-promo, and also posted a photo of the movie poster with a caption touting, "Coming soon." Variety reported that Rainy Day In New York is set to release in France, Germany, and Italy, among a few other countries, but it's still unclear whether the film will be screened in U.S. theaters.

An anonymous source told Variety that a film distribution company potentially acquiring the film would be "death, publicity-wise."While some subscribe to the belief that sexual allegations can ruin a man's career, Allen is currently working on another film in Spain financed by the international media company MediaPro.

FILM

The Best LGBTQ+ Movies to Stream This Weekend

Celebrate the passing of the Equality act with these six films.

On Friday, the House of Representatives passed a historic civil rights bill protecting the LGBTQ community.

The Equality Act extends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, including employers, landlords, and public accommodations such as restaurants and hotels. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, "No one should lose their job because of who they are or who they love." While it's yet to be seen if the bill will pass through the Republican-controlled Senate, The Equality Act is the first step Congress has made to elevate the rights of the LGBTQ community to equal importance as racial equality and religious freedom.

Celebrate the groundbreaking bill by watching the best LGBTQ films available to stream right now.

Blue Is the Warmest Color (Netflix)

Nominated for a Golden Globe, this 2014 French coming-of-age film follows two teenagers as they meet and fall in love. Adele (played by Adèle Exarchopoulos) is a dissatisfied teenager who meets an older art student, Emma (played by Léa Seydoux). The film is celebrated for its emotional intensity, as the two form a life-changing bond.

Blue Is The Warmest Color - Official Trailer youtu.be


The Handmaiden (Amazon)

Based on Sarah Waters' novel Fingersmith, Park Chan-wook's adaptation is set in Japanese-occupied Korea. Sook-hee is a young pickpocket who's hired to become a Japanese heiress' maid. They begin a dramatic affair that challenges their families' and society's expectations.

The Handmaiden - Official Trailer youtu.be

Kiki (Hulu)

This documentary explores New York's ballroom and voguing culture (a.k.a the "Kiki" scene). A worthy complement to 1991's celebrated documentary Paris Is Burning, Kiki features several LGBTQ youths of color expressing themselves in New York's drag scene in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Kiki (2016) - Trailer youtu.be

Carol (Netflix)

Set in 1950s Manhattan, Carol captures the torrid relationship between a young aspiring photographer, Therese (Rooney Mara), and an older woman in the midst of a divorce, Carol (Cate Blanchett). Based on the 1952 romance novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, the film features some of the best performances of 2015.

Carol Official US Trailer #1 (2015) - Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett Romance Movie HD youtu.be

Appropriate Behavior (Amazon)

Desiree Akhavan (The Miseducation of Cameron Post, The Bisexual) debuted in 2015 when she wrote, directed, and starred in this feature about a closeted bisexual Brooklynite. The comedy follows Shirin (Akhavan) struggling to appease her traditional Persian family while trying to save her relationship with her girlfriend Maxine (Rebecca Henderson).

Appropriate Behavior Official Trailer 1 (2015) - Comedy HD youtu.be

G. B. F. (Netflix)

Darren Stein's teen comedy stars Michael J Willett as Tanner, a gay teen who comes out of the closet and instantly becomes the most popular boy at his suburban New Jersey high school. Everybody wants to claim him as their "gay best friend." Natasha Lyonne plays an encouraging teacher while Megan Mullally plays an overbearing mother. The film satirizes the notion of objectifying gay people as a trendy symbol while depicting Tanner's genuine, enduring friendships.

G.B.F. Official Trailer 1 (2014) - Natasha Lyonne, Evanna Lynch Movie HD youtu.be


Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher, and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.