Song of the Day #4,220: ‘Soju One Glass’ – Choi Woo-shik

Best Movies of the 2010s
#7 – Parasite (2019)

Last year was so great it has landed two films on my top ten of the decade list. It’s tied with five other years with three titles overall in my top 20. As I mentioned in the Knives Out post, I believe 2019 will be looked back on as a landmark year for cinema the way 1999 is now. I wonder if there is something special about the final year of a decade or if it’s just a coincidence. Probably just a coincidence.

My favorite film of 2019 was Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite. I seem to share that opinion with many critics and audience members alike, based on the film’s performance in top ten lists, award shows, Rotten Tomatoes and the box office. Sometimes a movie works so well you just can’t deny it.

I went into this movie knowing next to nothing about it, because that’s what the marketing and word-of-mouth suggested was best. I love the veil of secrecy that enveloped Parasite not because it has some sort of Sixth Sense-ian twist but because it is such a delicious yarn told so well that people want to protect the experience of discovering it.

Even now, six Oscar nominations and $134 million later, I hesitate to describe the plot in any detail.

Instead I’ll talk about why it’s so brilliant. This is a heist movie and a family comedy, a horror film and a treatise on class. It has heroes and villains but they swap places throughout. It has quiet domestic moments and set pieces of Biblical proportions, all executed with precision and economy by a director at the peak of his powers.

Every performance in Parasite is spot-on. When the New York Times critics created their “if we ran the Oscars” ballot, they filled four Best Supporting Actress slots with the women in this movie. When’s the last time you could say that?

Like Knives Out, Us, Ready Or Not and a few other 1999 films, Parasite is an exploration of haves and have-nots. It ruthlessly examines the relationship between the classes, taking the upstairs-downstairs concept very literally (again, a lot like Us). It asks us to consider who the titular parasite is… the poor living off the excess of the rich, or the rich living off the labor of the poor.

It’s a film full of ideas and emotions, but it plays like a whip-smart domestic Oceans 11. It’s funny, meme-able, nasty and sweet.

Parasite is so many things, all at once, but it’s always simply, beautifully itself. I wasted no time deciding this movie was destined for the top ten. My only question is whether I’ve placed it high enough.

술이 한잔 생각나는 밤
같이 있는것 같아요
그 좋았던 시절들
이젠 모두 한숨만 되네요

떠나는 그대 얼굴이
혹시 울지나 않을까
나 먼저 돌아섰죠
그때 부터 그리워요

사람이 변하는 걸요
다시 전보다 그댈 원해요
이렇게 취할 때면
꺼져버린 전화를 붙잡고

여보세요 나야
거기 잘 지내니
여보세요 왜 말 안하니
울고 있니 내가 오랜만이라서
사랑하는 사람이라서

그대 소중한 마음 밀쳐낸
이기적인 그때에 나에게
그대를 다시 불러오라고
미친듯이 외쳤어

떠나는 그대 얼굴이
마치 처음과 같아서
나 눈물이 났어요
그때부터 그리워요

사람이 변하는 걸요
다시 전보다 그댈 원해요
이렇게 취할 때면
바뀌어버린 전화번호 누르고

여보세요 나야
거기 잘 지내니
오랜만이야 내 사랑아
그대를 다시 불러오라고
미친듯이 울었어우-

여보세요 나야
정말 미안해
이기적인 그때에 나에게
그대를 다시 불러오라고
미친듯이 외쳤어

8 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,220: ‘Soju One Glass’ – Choi Woo-shik

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I too went into this film knowing nothing about it- not even that it was entirely in the Korean language with subtitles. It was probably a good thing I didn’t know that, however, as I might have taken a pass on it, and it would have been my loss.

    It will be interesting to see if Parasite takes Best Picture at the Oscars, and it may be well deserved, though my vote would go to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

    Meanwhile, not to keep belaboring the argument, but I think the fact that there were 4 other years this decade that have landed 3 movies in your decade top 20 makes my point that there wasn’t something so much greater about 2019-particularly if you give any credence to the possibility that recency is skewing your opinion. Is your top 10 for 2019 really so much stronger than your top 10 in those other 4 years? If your answer is yes, I wonder if you will still feel that way when looking back at the decade 5 or 10 years from now. I suppose your opinion about 1999 suggests you might, but, if you were to re-evaluate your top 20 films from the 90’ and 00’s now, would those from 1999 and 2009 all still be there? Ranked as high as they were in 2000 and 2010, or would movies from other years in those decades shift higher or even replace some of those end of decade spots?

    • Clay says:

      I’d say 1999 certainly remains a standout year from that decade. This year I read plenty of 20-year retrospectives on what a great film year it was. I don’t know about 2009… I haven’t investigated my “9” theory very deeply!

      But as I mentioned a week or so back, I deliberately left ’09 off of my last decade list to avoid recency bias and the two films I would have considered (A Serious Man and Inglourious Basterds) absolutely hold up ten years later. That’s one reason I decided to go ahead and include ’19 films this time around.

      Of the other years that placed three films on this list, only one had higher placements overall than 2019. That’s the year I’d call the best of the decade (I won’t say which year it is because that could spoil the rest of this list).

      • Dana Gallup says:

        I think the better measure of the strength of a year is the depth of the bench – so, not just the top 3 or so movies from a given year, but how good the rest of the top 10 or 20 was for the year compared to other years.

        • Clay says:

          I agree with that, though I think it’s a combination of the two. And I definitely notice a correlation between the years I’ve liked best and the number of movies I’ve seen in each year. The more I see, the deeper the bench.

          • Dana says:

            That’s true–and you did go quite awhile, particularly since about the mid-00’s when you had younger kids, seeing far fewer movies. So, perhaps your impression of previous years (including the “shit-storm” of 2011) would have been more positive had you seen more movies beyond the must see’s (Oscar contenders, ones your family wanted to see, etc.) in those previous years.

      • Amy says:

        Perhaps it takes a full decade for filmmakers to be inspired by a great film, move to create something new and original, get that thing down on paper, but then to find collaborators with whom to make it and a studio willing to back it, and, finally, to get it made and marketed…. so maybe there is more than coincidence at play…

  2. Amy says:

    This is a film I haven’t stopped thinking about since I first saw it. A second viewing only deepened both my admiration and my enjoyment of what is currently sitting at #2 on my list likely only because of my affection and familiarity with the talent associated with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

    Though I have to look up his name each time I want to talk or write about him, when I saw Choi Woo-shik (or it Woo-sik Choi? IMDB shows both) take the stage at the SAG awards, my face ached from the huge smile spreading across it. In fact, I only today, thanks to your SOTD, realized that he is also performing the song. If it had been nominated, I could have seen him perform it live! 🙂 If he were as familiar to me as Brad Pitt or Leonardo DiCaprio, or as the sad story at the heart of Once Upon a Time, I have a feeling Parasite would be sitting at #1 by a mile.

    And, yes, though it was for his character that I felt the most love and affection, the women absolutely slayed. I loved all the performances, but if I could select one to be nominated it would be Park So Dam (or So-Dam Park; IMDB, again, has it both ways), whose portrayal of Kim/Jessica best embodies the unease and layers of the parasitic relationships in the film.

    It’s rare that a film ends and you just sit there and bask in how original, funny, sad, and thought provoking it is. Get Out had that impact on me, and so did Parasite. I’m glad to see both on your decade best list. I’m thrilled that Parasite has been able to overcome the American aversion to subtitles so effectively called out by Bong Joon Ho in his Golden Globe speech accepting the Best Drama award (“Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,” he said). The look of delight on Dan Levy’s face, and the rousing reaction from those in attendance, when Levy read that Parasite had won the SAG ensemble award was a special moment. I’m hoping that there’s at least one more of those for Parasite before this award season ends.

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