In Slate’s annual Movie Club, film critic Dana Stevens emails with fellow critics—this year, Bilge Ebiri, Karen Han, and Alison Willmore—about the year in cinema. Read the first entry here. Read the previous dispatch in the series here.
On Christmas night, after the gifts had been opened and the required number of fat- and sugar-based calories for the day consumed, I gave myself a gift that had been on my list for months: I sat down with my two favorite people, my daughter and her dad, to watch Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite. We watched it from beginning to end, with no personal devices, no interruptions (besides one mutually agreed-upon break for more cake), and the lights out: a proper movie. It was my third time, with both of the previous viewings having been on a big screen, and their first. To my deep satisfaction they both loved it as much as I hoped they would, and were also, as I had been each time I saw it, unsettled and full of questions.
Who, if anyone, were we meant to identify with in this story without conventional heroes and villains? Had any of us seen the dizzying perspective shifts and narrative twists coming? The main questions my 13-year-old had were of a conjectural and moral nature: In the situation of such and such a character, would you act the same way? Is it even possible to imagine what you might be willing to do in circumstances that extreme? We stayed up til after 1 a.m. talking about those ideas and revisiting the material details of the movie itself, its actors, sets, costumes, jump scares, and jokes. (We also stayed up because, for reasons I won’t spoil if you haven’t seen Parasite yet, she was nervous about what might be going on in our building’s basement.)
In my first post, I called the New York Film Festival premiere of The Irishman my most fondly remembered screening of 2019. Christmas night’s Parasite rewatch and the ensuing discussion may have surpassed it just before the end of the year, but really both viewings stand up as examples of two distinct modes of movie viewing: the public and the private, the communal and the intimate. Those two experiences exist, and deserve to keep existing, in conversation with each other.
Thank you all for being a part of Movie Club—maybe you’ll join me here next year, where we might be discussing Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, or Chloe Zao’s Marvel installment The Eternals, or Robert Downey Jr. in Dolittle (the Cats of 2020? One can only hope), or even some brilliant original property from a filmmaker none of us yet know anything about. In the meantime, with apologies to Oscar Hammerstein and Ariana Grande, I bid you farewell with a song.
Sung to the tune of “My Favorite Things” and/or “7 Rings”: