Newsletter: How ‘Parasite’ made Oscars history

A historic best director Oscar goes to ‘Parasite’ filmmaker Bong Joon Ho, the first Korean winner and only the second director to win the prize for a film not in English.


Here’s the story behind the underdog film “Parasite’s” crowning victory at the Academy Awards.


How ‘Parasite’ Made Oscars History

In an upset victory and a historic milestone, South Korean director Bong Joon Ho’s film “Parasite” took the best picture Oscar at the 92nd Academy Awards, becoming the first non-English-language movie to win the top prize. The darkly comic class satire about two families, one rich and one poor, also earned Bong the awards for best director, international feature film and original screenplay. It was the first time a Korean filmmaker had won those prizes.

So how did “Parasite” overcome “the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles,” as Bong earlier this year referred to Hollywood’s spotty record of honoring global cinema?


As film critic Justin Chang writes, the film academy’s members did something they don’t always do: “They gave the Oscar for best picture of the year to — wait for it — the actual best picture of the year.” And as columnist Glenn Whipp details, Bong’s tireless energy during awards season and adoring fans helped.

Bong Joon Ho, after his victory for best director for “Parasite,” with Spike Lee backstage at the 92nd Academy Awards.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

More About the Oscars

Joaquin Phoenix won the lead actor Oscar for “Joker,” choking up during his speech, while Renée Zellweger capped off her return to the awards scene by winning for lead actress for her role in “Judy.”

— Janelle Monáe. Billie Eilish. Eminem?! TV critic Lorraine Ali looks at how the ceremony fought its own irrelevance by drawing attention to it.

— From the red carpet: the best- and worst-dressed.


Backstage: What you didn’t see on TV. Plus: our exclusive photos.

— The full list of winners and nominees.

Sharp Elbows in New Hampshire

With the Democratic Party reeling from its voting system meltdown at the Iowa caucuses, and anxiety growing over picking an “electable” presidential candidate to run against President Trump after his Senate impeachment acquittal, the focus has shifted to New Hampshire.

On Tuesday, voters in the Granite State — 41st largest by population — will go to the polls. Pete Buttigieg, the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Ind., is riding a surge of interest after his strong performance in Iowa, though Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign plans to ask for a “partial recanvass” of the results.

Moreover, fellow Democrats have stepped up their attacks on him on the debate stage and at campaign events, highlighting his struggle to attract African American support, his lack of broad government experience and willingness to collect checks from well-heeled campaign donors.

Buttigieg struck back, hitting all five of Washington’s Sunday morning talk shows — as well as WMUR, the Manchester, N.H.-based station that becomes the most influential local outlet in the country every four years.

More Politics

— Trump has exacted vengeance against two administration officials who gave damaging testimony during the House impeachment inquiry, firing Gordon Sondland, his ambassador to the European Union, and ousting Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman as well as Vindman’s twin brother from the National Security Council.

— Sen. Lindsey Graham said the Justice Department has established a way to review information gathered in Ukraine by Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

— A federal judge in Los Angeles has issued his final judgment in a long-running immigration case, upending the way Immigration and Customs Enforcement uses local police to detain people it suspects of being in the country illegally.

Finally, Something They Can All Agree Upon

For decades, millions of gallons of raw sewage and trash have flowed from the Tijuana River to the Pacific Ocean, fouling beaches, angering Southern Californians and getting worse by the year. Finally, the U.S. government has authorized $300 million to try to stop it, as part of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement that Trump signed last month. But it took an unusual mix of San Diego Democrats, Republicans, Border Patrol agents and environmental groups to make it happen.

Chasing Colombia’s ‘Cocaine Hippos’

The only hippos known to be living in the wild outside Africa are in Colombia’s Magdalena River, thanks to the late drug lord Pablo Escobar. When police killed Escobar in 1993, zoos and private collectors acquired the exotic animals on his $63-million ranch — but not the hippopotamuses. The four were too dangerous to move. Now, there are dozens.


— In search of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed: How one journalist spent two decades on the trail of the confessed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks against the United States.

— Despite the L.A. County coroner’s insistence that harvesting body parts hasn’t harmed investigations, internal documents show that morgue employees have raised concerns for years about procurements of tissues and organs.

— The 1971 Sylmar quake is keeping veterans homeless in L.A. in 2020. That may change soon.

— California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez likes a good fight. She got it with the hotly debated AB 5, which limits businesses’ use of independent contractors.

— Columnist Steve Lopez checks in with two students who are about to become teachers and are worried about affording the rent on their salaries.


On a clear, cool Sunday morning in February 1936, flight instructor Dwight F. Petersen stopped by his hangar at Dycer Airport east of Inglewood. The door was open. His two-seater Taylor Cub aircraft was gone, and there was a note on the door that began: “Warning—This plane has been temporarily borrowed and will be returned in good condition in ten days. Any word to police or newspapers will cause me and my party to destroy the ship. By the time you receive this note, the plane will be in the San Francisco area.”

As The Times reported on this date in 1936 (and as is obvious from the photo below), the plane would be found. But how did it end up there?


— In the race to replace Rep. Duncan Hunter, who resigned from Congress last month, Trump has become the defining factor.

— Two candidates for L.A. City Council — former state Sen. Kevin de León and county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas — have declined to rule out bids for mayor in 2022. Their opponents are making that a campaign issue.

— In Joshua Tree, the town outside the national park of the same name, San Bernardino County is cracking down on vacation rentals. That’s created a backlash.

— A gust of 209 mph was recorded atop Kirkwood Mountain south of Lake Tahoe, a potential record that wowed forecasters monitoring a cold storm moving south through the state.

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Orson Bean, a veteran TV personality and master raconteur who worked on the small screen and in film while becoming a mainstay of the L.A. small theater scene, died after being struck by two cars. Theater critic Charles McNulty says that Bean’s emails to him revealed the chatty charm that made him so beloved. His death has brought mourning and concerns over pedestrian safety.

— A group that opposes modern architecture has proposed an executive order for Trump to sign that would make the classical architectural style the default design for federal buildings. Critics are aghast at the idea of such a mandate.

— The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has been a long time coming, but it will finally open Dec. 14.

— How do you dance like Fred Astaire? One ballet pro went on a complicated quest for the answer.


Taiwan is trying to keep coronavirus out, in part by severely restricting travel from China and barring mainland Chinese visitors. But it won’t be getting any help from the World Health Organization.

— Two U.S. soldiers were killed and six wounded in a so-called insider attack in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province when an Afghan dressed in an Afghan army uniform opened fire, the U.S. military said.

— Authorities say a gunman walked into a police station in the Bronx and started shooting early Sunday, wounding an officer only hours after the same gunman had shot a different officer in a patrol van.


— Adopting some of the most restrictive responses yet to the coronavirus outbreak, the Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruise lines have announced that they will bar any traveler with a passport from China, Hong Kong or Macao from their ships.

— Here’s what early retirees need to know about Roth IRA and 401(k) taxes and penalties.


— China continues to limit the NBA‘s exposure to fans, four months after the Houston Rockets’ general manager tweeted in support of pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong.

— After the Boston Red Sox got cold feet about their blockbuster trade with the Dodgers, sources say, Mookie Betts and David Price will join the Dodgers after all in a revised deal.


— The aftershocks from Trump’s impeachment are further fracturing civility and cooperation in Washington, The Times’ editorial board writes.

— The Trump administration’s expansion of land mine use by the U.S. may cause more civilian casualties and alienate allies.


— At 8 years old, David Debias was a free black child fighting for the U.S. in 1815. He was the youngest known veteran of the ship the USS Constitution. His story might have been lost to history entirely if not for the research of a Vietnam veteran. (Boston Globe)

— Budapest’s Danubia orchestra is helping deaf people “hear” Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony through touch. (Reuters)


Dave McCoy, who died this weekend at age 104, was the son of a nomadic paving contractor with a passion for machinery. As a young man, McCoy picked grapes, tended pigs, sold firewood and tied flies for fishermen. Judging from photographs, he enjoyed skiing in T-shirts and jeans, or even shirtless. He would go on to transform a remote Sierra peak into the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area.

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