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Bong Joon Ho’s ‘Parasite’ wins best picture at National Society of Film Critics awards

Choi Woo-sik (from left), Song Kang-ho, Jang Hye-jin and Park So-dam as the Kim family in Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite.”
From left, Choi Woo-sik , Song Kang-ho, Jang Hye-jin and Park So-dam as the Kim family in Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite.”
(NEON/CJ Entertainment)

It ended up being a face-off between two very different stories about family: a black comedy about a clan of grifters in Seoul and a stirring tale of four sisters in Civil War-era Massachusetts.

On Saturday, the National Society of Film critics chose Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” as best picture during its 54th annual awards, but gave the award for best director to Greta Gerwig for “Little Women,” the coming-of-age tale based on the beloved 19th century novel by Louisa May Alcott.

Bong, along with collaborator Han Jin Won, also received the award for best screenplay for “Parasite.”

Claire Mathon won the award for cinematography for her work on two recent films: “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” Céline Sciamma’s tale of forbidden romance, and Mati Diop’s stirring debut feature, “Atlantics,” a tale of immigration and separation.

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If L.A. Times film critic Justin Chang had his way, there would be ten best picture nominees this year, conventional wisdom would be ignored and documentary and international film voting wouldn’t be limited to a pre-chosen short list. Here are his picks among this year’s Oscar contenders.

In the acting categories, Mary Kay Place won best actress for her quiet turn as a mother whose son is struggling with drug abuse in Kent Jones’ drama “Diane.” (“You may not encounter a more achingly human character in a movie this year,” wrote Times film critic Justin Chang in his March review of the film.)

The supporting actress award went to Laura Dern for her turns as a flashy divorce lawyer in Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” and the nurturing Marmee in “Little Women.”

A scene from 2019’s “Little Women” directed by Greta Gerwig
Saoirse Ronan, top left, and Laura Dern, with Florence Pugh, seated, Eliza Scanlen and Emma Watson in “Little Women.”
(Wilson Webb / Columbia Pictures)

Antonio Banderas won best actor for his role as an aging film director in “Pain and Glory,” a role that saw him teaming up once again with director Pedro Almodovar (and which had earlier earned him a best actor nod at Cannes). The supporting actor award went to Brad Pitt for his role as a charming scoundrel stuntman in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon A Time ... in Hollywood.”

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Last year’s best picture honors went to “The Rider,” a drama directed by Chloé Zhao that told the story of a Lakota cowboy whose dream of becoming a professional rodeo rider falls apart after he suffers an injury. Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” won for best director, best cinematography and best foreign-language film — the very same categories in which he would later receive Academy Awards.

The National Society of Film Critics has 60 members across the country. Awards are decided via a weighted ballot system and any film that opened in the United States in 2019 was eligible for consideration.

The list of winners:

Best picture: “Parasite”

Director: Greta Gerwig, “Little Women”

Screenplay: Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won, “Parasite”

Cinematography: Claire Mathon, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” and “Atlantics”

Actress: Mary Kay Place, “Diane”

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Actor: Antonio Banderas, “Pain and Glory”

Supporting actress: Laura Dern, “Marriage Story” and “Little Women”

Supporting actor: Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood”

Non-fiction film: “Honeyland”

Film heritage award: The society honored “Private Lives Public Spaces,” an exhibition devoted to vernacular filmmaking that was organized by Ron Magliozzi at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, as well as film distributor Rialto Pictures for distributing restorations of classics such as “Kind Hearts and Coronets” and neglected works by important directors, such as Federico Fellini’s “The White Sheik.”


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