2017 Awards Profile: Bong Joon-ho’s “Okja” From Netflix

FILM: “Okja:
PRODUCERS: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Dooho Choi, Lewis Taewan Kim, Ted Sarandos and Joon-ho Bong
DISTRIBUTOR: Netflix

DIRECTOR: Bong Joon-ho
WRITERS: Bong Joon-ho and Jon Ronson

CAST: Ahn Seo-hyun, Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Byun Hee-bong, Lily Collins, Steven Yuen, Shirley Henderson, Je-moon Yoon, Devon Bostick, Giancarlo Esposito, Daniel Henshall, Choi Woo-shik

SYNOPSIS (via IMDB): Meet Mija, a young girl who risks everything to prevent a powerful, multi-national company from kidnapping her best friend – a massive animal named Okja.

WHY IT MIGHT SUCCEED:

Could this be the first Netflix original movie to finally break through the seemingly impenetrable anti-streaming bias? Aside from television and documentaries, Netflix has had a difficult time convincing awards voters that their films should be taken as seriously as those that debut theatrically. However, even with a technical malfunction at the beginning of its premiere, word from the Cannes festival was effusively positive. This oddity of a fantasy drama is being singled out for its delightful weirdness. Hopefully this children’s fable-esque tale is more “Pan’s Labyrinth” than “A Monster Calls” when it comes to accolade acknowledgment. With thespian royalty in the form of Tilda Swinton, Bong Joon-ho’s latest extravaganza could create quite the stateside stir.

Winning the coveted Palme d’Or would make a pretty bold statement that method of distribution is secondary to content itself. With co-stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Paul Dano joining Swinton for the bizarre ride, Bong brings a pedigree of prestige that will assuage skeptics from initial genre prejudice. If anything, “Okja” positions itself as a film of the future, able to be experienced in various cinematic outlets. The film strives to bring high-brow art cinema to the home experience, a foreign offering at one time. If “Okja” can have the backing of both Netflix and a massive home audience fanbase, the Academy will be forced to reckon with its popularity.

WHY IT MIGHT NOT SUCCEED:

Bong’s previous film, “Snowpiercer,” received rapturous reaction from critics but couldn’t make any kind of headway with the Academy. Even Swinton’s scene-chewing turn as a brutal enforcer of totalitarian order couldn’t place a dent in their science fiction blinders. Moreover, the recent negativity surrounding Netflix as a film distribution platform makes “Okja” a tougher sell on top of its innate oddness. Combined with its summer release and niche appeal, “Okja” would be lucky to find an audience worth appreciating its value.

Even the aforementioned “Pan’s Labyrinth” didn’t land as forcefully at the Oscars as predicted. “Okja” faces an uphill battle that might be won at a later, more accepting time. For now, it’s best chance is to make a strong impression on audiences to keep the word of mouth going. At most, its goodwill derived from festivals and home viewing could nab it some Independent Spirit Award nominations. However, if Cary Fukunaga’s heralded “Beasts of No Nation” couldn’t land a “Best Picture” nod despite its impressive SAG ensemble mention, “Okja” couldn’t possibly wiggle in. Even Oscar whisperers Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner can’t yet undo deeply rooted favoritism.

POTENTIAL OSCAR CATEGORIES IN PLAY:

  • Actress in a Leading Role — Ahn Seo-hyun
  • Actress in a Supporting Role — Tilda Swinton
  • Actor in a Supporting Role — Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano or Giancarlo Esposito
  • Original Screenplay — Bong Joon-ho and Jon Ronson
  • Cinematography — Darius Khondji
  • Achievement in Visual Effects
  • Achievement in Costume Design
  • Original Score — Jaeil Jung
  • Achievement in Hairstyling and Makeup

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And be sure to check the Oscar Predictions to see where “Okja” ranks.

CLICK THE CATEGORY TO SEE THE OSCAR PREDICTIONS:

MOTION PICTURE |DIRECTOR |
LEAD ACTOR | LEAD ACTRESS | SUPPORTING ACTOR | SUPPORTING ACTRESS | 
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY | ADAPTED SCREENPLAY | ANIMATED FEATURE |
PRODUCTION DESIGN | CINEMATOGRAPHY | COSTUME DESIGN | FILM EDITING |
MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING | SOUND MIXING | SOUND EDITING | VISUAL EFFECTS |
| ORIGINAL SCORE | ORIGINAL SONG |
| DOCUMENTARY FEATURE | FOREIGN LANGUAGE |