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Park Chan-wook’s ‘Decision to Leave’ leaves without an Oscars nomination

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Park Hae-il and Tang Wei in ″Decision to Leave″ [CJ ENM]
Park Hae-il and Tang Wei in ″Decision to Leave″ [CJ ENM]

Korean director Park Chan-wook’s “Decision to Leave” failed to make the final list of nominations for the Best International Feature Film at the Academy Awards in the announcement Tuesday evening, though critics say the exclusion from the Oscars nomination list does not mean Park’s work is any less noteworthy.

During the live nomination announcements for the 95th Academy Awards on Tuesday evening Korean time, Park’s “Decision to Leave” was excluded from the final five nominations. Many had expected the film to make the final list, with the Golden Globes nominating Park’s film for the Best Picture in the Non-English Language category, and Park himself having won Best Director at Cannes last year.

Variety, The Los Angeles Times and The Hollywood Reporter had all predicted that “Decision to Leave” would be on the list, but that did not happen Tuesday.

Many called out the Academy for their decision to exclude Park’s film, and a swarm of the movie’s fans protested the move on social media.

Foreign press were also caught off guard, with the Associated Press reporting that “one of the biggest surprises this year was that Park’s acclaimed romantic noir was excluded,” and Variety saying that “the Academy has ignored Park.”

Korean director Park Chan-wook poses with the award plaque after winning Best Director at Cannes International Film Festival in Cannes, France, on May. 29, 2022. [NEWS1]
Korean director Park Chan-wook poses with the award plaque after winning Best Director at Cannes International Film Festival in Cannes, France, on May. 29, 2022. [NEWS1]

“This is a missed opportunity to give one of the most reliable and prominent directors on the global stage a belated Oscar moment,” wrote Variety.

“Park Chan-wook’s ‘Decision to Leave’ getting snubbed at the Oscars across the board, and especially in Best International Feature, is really frustrating,” wrote American film critic Isaac Feldberg on his Twitter account. “Just a great work of art on every conceivable front.”

Lynda Obst, a well-known American film producer, echoed Feldberg’s comments.

“’Decision to Leave’ was by far the best international film of the year, one of the best films of the year and director Park is one of the top five directors in the world, in my humble opinion,” wrote Obst. “This is the only omission I care about.”

Critics say that the Academy Awards begs a fundamental change in the way it approaches unconventional issues.

“There is a tendency in the Academy to exclude works that are truly profound or new,” said Kim Hern-sik, a culture critic. “’Decision to Leave’ is a multicultural film at its core. It’s about what happens when Korean-Chinese people come to Korea and the hardship and social inequality they face. Perhaps the Academy is not very aware of such topics and the very complex relationship between Korea and China, or just Asia in general.”

Tang Wei in ″Decision to Leave″ [CJ ENM]
Tang Wei in ″Decision to Leave″ [CJ ENM]

The Oscars has famously been called “a local awards show” by Korean director Bong Joon-ho in the past. Kim says that the relative gap in awareness of Asia and other continents by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is reflected in the organization’s nomination lists.

“The Academy is known to go for elements like popularity and mass appeal rather than actual art,” said Kim. “’Decision to Leave’ was excluded this year in that sense, and it is a real pity.”

BY LIM JEONG-WON [lim.jeongwon@joongang.co.kr]

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