Friday, September 22, 2006

Oscar Time - No Clowning Around

KOFIC announced yesterday that THE KING AND THE CLOWN is Korea's nomination this year for Best Foreign Language Award at the Academy Awards. Oh joy.

THE KING AND THE CLOWN was the big surprise hit of the year. It came out at the very end of 2005 and little was expected of it. TYPHOON, BLUE SWALLOW and DAISY were the heavyweights. Even Hollywood was keeping its distance. But surprise, surprise -- Typhoon turned out to be a faint gust, and Blue Swallow was a dead parrot. And Daisy was not even released until some time later. That left THE KING AND THE CLOWN with very little competition.

Even though TKatC opened on just 200 screens (pretty small these days in Korea), it got some amazing word of mouth. It just took off, and by the end of March, it had become the biggest film ever in Korea, selling over 12.3 million tickets.

That success was doubly surprising considering CLOWN had some strong homosexual themes in it. In case you do not know, TKatC is the story of two entertainers back in the early Joseon (Chosun) Dynasty who get in trouble for mocking the king. But after they are able to make the king himself laugh, they become entertainers in the royal court. The king takes quite a fancy to one of the guys, who is quite effeminate and known to turn tricks to help feed the two of them. Both of them then get drawn into the palace's politics, and bad stuff happens.

Anyhow, KING AND THE CLOWN beat out Kim Ki-duk's TIME and Bong Joon-ho's THE HOST, so it is not like the competition was overwhelming. But still, I wish Korea could have done better. Just becoming Korea's pick is no guarantee that it will become one of the five Oscar finalists. And considering how clueless the Academy is each year (doubly so in the foreign language category), is this a prize you really want to win?

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