Oscars: Year of Asian Cinema Is Upon Us With ‘Parasite’ Picking Up Where ‘Roma’ Left Off?

The midpoint of October is here and the launch of the Academy Phase 1 period is just around the corner with studios positioning their films and performances on the chessboard of awards season, hoping to strike at the most pertinent moment when they can declare…checkmate!

Numbers are relocating all over The Circuit Hub (#TheCircuitHub), AwardsCircuit’s official prediction pages. We have an evolving race to watch through the lens of an impending narrative: the year of Asian cinema?

If you listen to “Circuit Breaker!,” part of the CIRCUIT BREAKER MEDIA NETWORK then you may have already heard this narrative expanded upon. With NEON’s “Parasite,” A24’s “The Farewell,” Cohen Media Group’s “Ash is Purest White,” and Kino Lorber’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” boasting the best reviews of 2019, we have films gearing up to possibly make a substantial impact on the awards races.

Beginning with “Parasite” from Bong Joon-ho, off its outstanding box office weekend, the film has long felt like a serious awards contender, beyond its submission for South Korea for Best International Feature. The film performed with a $384,216 per-theater average (source: Box Office Mojo) in its very limited three theater opening. It now ranks #21 on the all-time list of Top Weekend Theater Averages behind the likes of “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “La La Land,” “The Master,” and “American Sniper.”

Scanning through the multiple category predictions, “Parasite” currently holds the #2 spot in Best Picture (Oscars) behind Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood.”  With 99% on Rotten Tomatoes (having its long-standing 100% score broken by none other than Armond White), the film is among the very best reviewed of the year, perhaps the decade. The general feeling, shared by our friend Tomris Laffly, is “Parasite” might be able to pull off what Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” could not last year, winning the top prize from the Academy Awards, and becoming the first foreign language film to do so.

When you are playing the role of an awards pundit, you have to set up your pieces to feed the narrative you are attempting to foretell. Within the Oscar prediction chart, Bong sits in the top spot in Director (above Martin Scorsese for “The Irishman” and Sam Mendes’ long-awaited “1917“), along with Original Screenplay and International Feature. NEON is giving the film all the love and attention it needs this year, which leads to its inclusion in supporting actor for Song Kang-Ho. Co-star Jo Yeo-Jeong hopes to climb the supporting actress field and ride the wave of the movie’s support but will need the circuit to highlight her standout work more frequently, as well as critics’ prizes to go her way.

Heading its way to the next prediction update for 10/21, look for “Parasite” to join the top five in Film Editing. Categories such as production design and cinematography have been bubbling for weeks and the film hopes to leapfrog some more “traditional” Oscar-friendly selections. Included in the upcoming update, the film be added to the long list for sound mixing, sound editing, and original score, categories it’s sure to snag a few votes.

When it comes to “The Farewell” from Lulu Wang, which also holds an impressive 99% score on Rotten Tomatoes, the indie hit of the summer is making its rounds, hoping to secure its first nomination for an Asian woman in Best Director. While the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag has seemed to surround the lack of Black representation at the Academy, the dishonorable showing for Asians and Latinos has been even more shameful.

When it comes to “The Farewell,” star and standout, Awkwafina, who delivers one of the strongest performances by any actor or actress this year, will be fighting big competition in the Lead Actress field. If she were to nab the nomination, she would be just the second Asian woman ever nominated in the category, following Merle Oberon’s historic nomination in 1935 for “The Dark Angel” (Oberon was part Indian and Maori descent).

Awkwafina’s co-star Zhao Shuzhen, who plays a lovable, scene-stealing grandmother, would be just the fourth actress nominated in supporting actress; following Miyoshi Umeki (“Sayonara”), Shohreh Aghdashloo (“House of Sand and Fog”), and Rinko Kikuchi (“Babel”). She’ll be fighting the star power of Jennifer Lopez (“Hustlers”) and Margot Robbie (“Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood” or “Bombshell”), the British voting blockage of Maggie Smith (“Downton Abbey“), and the overdue narratives of Laura Dern (“Marriage Story“) and Annette Bening (“The Report“).  Not to mention the pure quality of richness provided by the young talents of Thomasin McKenzie (“Jojo Rabbit“) and Taylor Russell (“Waves”).

When it comes to “Ash is the Purest White” and “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” both well-received, they’ll be fighting the screener piles to ensure they are viewed in time for voting, which brings us to the important point about timing.

Regional film festivals are adding to the conversation that followed the conclusion of the New York Film Festival, with Hamptons and Film Fest 919 just wrapping this past weekend and the Middleburg Film Festival launching this coming Thursday (kicking off with “Parasite” and “Marriage Story”). Studios are making sure they can capitalize earlier than usual with the Phase 2 period being so short this season. Oscar nomination voting will begin on Thursday, Jan. 2 and conclude on Tuesday, Jan. 7. Official nominations will announce on Monday, Jan. 13 and then open for final voting on Thursday, Jan. 30. Before you know it, Tuesday, Feb. 4 will close up the final AMPAS voting period before the winners are officially announced on Sunday, Feb. 9. Seems exhausting.

In the awards communities, we often look to see what is happening when ballots are in the hands of voters. In the six-day voting period for AMPAS, Golden Globes winners (1/5), DGA Nomination Voting Closes (1/6), and the biggest day of all, Jan. 7 which sees the likes of PGA and DGA nominations both being announced with a 5:00 pm PT deadline for AMPAS voters. Are voters going to be waiting until the very last moment? Especially with the New York Film Critics Circle awards gala also taking place on the same evening?

After the window shuts, the National Board of Review (1/8), Make-Up Artists & Hair Stylists Guild (1/11), and Critics Choice (1/12) will all hand out their prizes before the nominees are revealed. And then there will be little time to catch up on any films. Will voters’ minds be made up about what is the “best” of the year?  Will the critics have a consensus on which film will be rewarded?

Golden Globes will show their importance, especially when it comes to category submissions as “Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood” (which we haven’t received confirmation yet on its Drama or Comedy/Musical submission) could get tripped up by a Brad Pitt switch-a-roo to Lead (only for Globes). As reported earlier, “The Farewell” which is NOT eligible for the top category at the Globes due to its language usage in the film, instead will compete in the Foreign Language category. It has not been confirmed yet whether Awkwafina’s performance will be submitted in either Drama or Comedy/Musical.

SAG Ensemble will have plenty of eyes on it as large ensembles like “Jojo Rabbit” should do well, but it’s unclear if they seem open to both “Parasite” and “The Farewell” in that category, as currently predicted.

DGA is always a funny race to watch unfold, but what’s most interesting about it this year is the FIRST TIME FEATURE category, which could be dominated by women. Olivia Wilde (“Booksmart”) and Melina Matsoukas (“Queen & Slim”) are both in the pole positions in the race while Annabelle Attanasio (“Mickey and the Bear”) hopes the positive word of mouth continues.

Check out all the latest updates on The Circuit Hub and make sure to make your own predictions in the Circuit Center and keep track of it, week to week.

CHECK OUT ALL THE OFFICIAL PREDICTIONS ON THE CIRCUIT HUB AND MAKE YOUR OWN!