Had Bong Joon-ho not won multiple Oscars earlier this year for “Parasite,” including Best Director, it’s unlikely that we would have gotten an opportunity to see a remastered version of his second film, “Memories of Murder,” made in 2003. Now considered a crime masterpiece, Fathom Events released it on the big screen for two nights this month, and it is available video on demand, as of Oct. 27, and we are fortunate filmgoers.
Loosely based on the true story of South Korea’s first serial murders, which took place between 1986 and 1991 in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, “Memories of Murder” details a frustrating investigation as more young women are raped and murdered.
Two inept local detectives, Park Doo-Man (Song Kang-ho) and Cho Yong-koo (Kim Roe-ha), struggle to find a culprit after a second young woman is found dead, so a detective from Seoul, Seo Tae-Yoon (Kim Sang-Kyong) joins them, realizing they are searching for a cunning serial killer.
As the mystery unfolds, the details engulf us in much the
same way they get in the detectives’ heads, and the small-town setting, with
its police force unable to meet the rigorous demands of the cases, heightens
And adding to the intrigue, the real murderer was caught
last year – although the film does not reference this in the epilogue. Lee Choon-Jae
was convicted for the brutal rape and murder of his sister-in-law in 1994, and with
DNA evidence, confessed to the Hwaesong murders – nine identified women — and
Although Joon-ho made this film 17 years ago, and he’s been
perfecting his craft ever since, his distinctive style was emerging in a noticeable
way. He makes room for comic relief and references pop culture, which we now know
is a signature move, and he mashes up genres that enhance his storytelling. In
addition to directing, he co-wrote the screenplay with Shim Sung-bo, based on
Kim Kwang-rim’s play.
For anyone intrigued by crime drama, this film is a treasure
trove – a police procedural that Joon-ho turns into a character study on
detectives and a blistering indictment on small-town prejudices. He also effectively
builds suspense as women are targeted by an unseen predator.
The murders are brutal, as the women are found raped, tied and gagged with their own underwear. Because the town’s two detectives, Park and Cho Yong-koo, are bumbling hot-heads who torture suspects trying to get them to confess, their methods are under attack. The police chief calls in detective Seo, who is smart and practical. When he cracks some of the clues, friction develops between the Big City hot shot and the locals lacking in technique.
How they change on the hunt of the killer is an interesting – and chilling – aspect, and all three actors are superb. There is a madness to these methods. You might recognize Song Kang-ho as the dad in “Parasite,” and he has acted in many of Joon-ho’s films.
The technical elements enhance the bleak story, with brilliant
cinematography by Kim Hyung-ku, editing by Kim Sun-min, and a stirring score by
The film is an engrossing look at cruelty and breaking points, with its last shot a haunting reminder of the devastating effects of criminal minds.
“Memories of Murder,” a suspense-mystery-thriller set in South Korea, was directed by Bong Joon-ho in 2003. It starred Song Kang-so, Kim Sang-Kyong and Kim Roe-ha. Not rated, this remastered version has English subtitles, and its run time is 2 hours, 11 minutes. Available Video on Demand. Lynn’s Grade: A.
By Lynn Venhaus
We still have a race for Best Picture and Director, as we try to gauge the
momentum going into Sunday. Will it be “Parasite” or “1917,” or will fading
frontrunner “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood regain its luster? After all,
Hollywood loves movies about Hollywood.
The 92nd Academy Awards take place Feb. 9, with
ABC broadcasting red carpet live coverage at 5:30 p.m. and the ceremony
underway at 7 p.m. CST. This year is the second in a row where there is no
host, and it seemed to speed up the proceedings last year. We shall see.
The acting Oscars were apparently sown up weeks ago, as
awards season began. If there is any movement, it may be in Supporting Actress,
where newcomer Florence Pugh is coming on strong.
The shoo-ins this year? You can safely bet on “Parasite” as Best International
Feature, Brad Pitt as Best Supporting Actor in “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood,”
his fourth performance nomination (and he’ll likely give the best speech of the
night) and Roger Deakins as cinematographer for “1917.”
Will there be surprises and upsets? Or will it be as the
pundits predict? Only time will tell. Let’s just hope it’s a fun watch and
deserving wins to put the finishing touches on 2019 in film.
And afterwards, we’ll have memes, fashion debates and acceptance
speeches to remember.
Here are my picks for the 24 awards:
1917, Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, JoJo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood and Parasite
My original frontrunner, “Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood” has faded, and the big momentum is with either “1917” or “Parasite.” I think Oscar voters, with the older voting block, will go with the heart-wrenching World War I epic and be content for “Parasite” to win Best International Feature. While there is always the possibility of an upset, I think the massive endeavor “1917” is deserving.
Sam Mendes, “1917”; Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman”; Todd Phillips, “Joker”; Quentin Tarantino “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” and Bong Joon-Ho, “Parasite”
I am in the “Sam Mendes is a genius” camp but Bong Joon-Ho’s work in “Parasite” is worthy too. Both are innovative, visual artists. I’d like a tie, like Critics Choice Association. I’m going with Mendes, as he won Directors Guild of America, the big prognosticator.
Antonio Banderas, “Pain and Glory”; Leonardo DiCaprio “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood”; Adam Driver, “Marriage Story”; Joaquin Phoenix “Joker”; Jonathan Pryce “The Two Popes.”
Hands down, Joaquin Phoenix. He gave us pathos as he showed
Joker’s pain behind the façade and made his descent into madness frightening.
Nobody is more fearless working in film today. Adam Driver would be a close
second for his acting showcase in “Marriage Story.”
Not a fan of Renee Zellweger’s “Judy” but she has won all
earlier awards, and I see no reason why she wouldn’t. However, my pick would be
the radiant Saoirse Ronan for “Little Women.” If there is an upset, Scarlett
Johansson – finally nominated – would be a worthy winner for her tour de force
in “Marriage Story.”
Best Supporting Actor
Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”; Anthony Hopkins, “The Two Popes”; Al Pacino “The Irishman”; Joe Pesci “The Irishman”; Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.”
Perhaps the only sure thing Oscar night, Brad Pitt is a
lock as stuntman Cliff Booth. He’s not just deserving but overdue. Besides,
he’s certain to give the best speech of the night, given his track record this
While I think the acting Oscars have already been nailed
down, this might be the upset category. Laura Dern as the shark lawyer in
“Marriage Story,” obsessed with winning at all costs, is my pick, and she was
also terrific in “Little Women,” but Margot Robbie’s ambitious Fox News staffer
could edge her out or first-time nominee Scarlett Johansson could finally get
Oscar love as the mom in “JoJo Rabbit.”
Best Adapted Screenplay
Greta Gerwig, “Little Women”; Andrew McLaren, “The Two Popes”; Todd Phillips,
“Joker”; Taika Waititi, “JoJo Rabbit”; Steve Zaillian “The Irishman.”
My favorite is Taika Waititi for the sharp social satire
“JoJo Rabbit,” but the revered Steve Zaillian’s adaptation of “The Irishman”
could be the film’s only win for its masterful storytelling.
Best Original Screenplay
Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns, “1917”; Noah Baumbach, “Marriage Story”; Rian Johnson, “Knives Out”; Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood”; Bong Joon-Ho and Han Jin Wan, “Parasite.”
1917, The Irishman, Joker, The Lighthouse, Once Upon a Time…in
What Roger Deakins did with “1917” is remarkable and propels him to his second win in three years. He had been snubbed for decades for his tremendous work in Coen Brothers’ films, then started working with director Denis Villeneuve a few years back – and finally won in 2018 for “Blade Runner 2049.” What he achieved with making “1917” appear to have been shot in two takes is incredible.
Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, JoJo Rabbit, Joker, Parasite.
How can “1917” be omitted here? I think a bone should be
thrown to crowd-pleasing “Ford v. Ferrari.” This film was a challenging shot,
and the editors captured both the thrill and danger of endurance racing.
Best Production Design
1917, The Irishman, JoJo Rabbit, Once Upon a Time…in
For its meticulous research and replica of 1969 Hollywood, it must be “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” However, the house in “Parasite” and all the trenches and realistic war landscape in “1917” make the case for those films.
Best Music Score
1917, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, Star Wars: The
Rise of Skywalker.
Previously, I thought it was a battle between the Newman generations – Randy for
“Marriage Story” and Thomas for ‘1917.” But now I’m in support of Hildur Gudnadottir
winning for “Joker.’ From Iceland, Gudnadottir won the Emmy and Grammy for HBO’s
“Chernobyl” and the Golden Globe and BAFTA for “Joker.” She’d be the first solo
woman to win this Oscar, and I can get behind that.
“I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away Again,” Toy Story 4; “I’m
Going to Stand with You,” Breakthrough; “Into the Unknown,” Frozen II; “(I’m
Gonna) Love Me Again,” Rocketman; “Stand Up,” Harriet.
After much debate — and enjoying the Panic! At the Disco
version of “Into the Unknown” a lot, I’m now resigned to Elton John winning for
“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” his fourth nominated song but his first with
longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin.
Best Costume Design
The Irishman, JoJo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Once Upon a
“Little Women,” of course.
Best Hair and Makeup
1917, Bombshell, Joker, Judy, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.
“Bombshell” for making the actresses look uncannily like the Fox women they portray, and for turning John Lithgow into a convincing Roger Ailes.
Best Sound Mixing
1917, Ad Astra, Ford
v Ferrari, Joker, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.
“1917” is the likely winner but “Ford v Ferrari” would be a justifiable winner.
Best Sound Editing
1917, Ford v Ferrari, Joker, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker.
Ditto as to what I said about sound mixing.
Best Visual Effects
1917, The Avengers; Endgame,” “The Irishman,” “The Lion
King” and “Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker.”
“The Avengers: Endgame” was so smooth and seamless, and the CGI not overdone, that I can’t imagine another movie winning. But there is that ninth little movie in a galaxy far, far away.
Best Animated Feature
The Hidden Link, How to Drain Your Dragon, I Lost My Body,
Klaus, Toy Story 4.
The fitting and grand finale to one of my all-time favorite franchises, Pixar’s
“Toy Story 4” should win, especially since “Frozen II” was snubbed. But Laika’s
“The Missing Link” is adorable and the final chapter of “Dragon” is its most
Best International Feature
Corpus Christi, Honeyland, Les Miserables, Pain and Glory, Parasite.
The safest bet is South Korean’s “Parasite.” What a
genre-bending masterpiece – its mix of comedy, drama, thriller and horror is
one that will linger in your head for days.
Best Documentary Feature
American Factory, The Cave, The Edge of Democracy, For
Without the magnificent “Apollo 11” even nominated, I’ll
give “American Factory” the edge, although “Honeyland,” about ancient
beekeeping traditions in has a lot of love (which I don’t share). Netflix’s “American Factory” is about a
re-opened plant in Ohio now owned by Chinese businessmen, and the culture clash
that develops. It is produced by Michelle and Barack Obama’s company Higher
Best Documentary Short
In the Absence, , Learning to Skateboard in a War Zone if
You’re a Girl, Life Overtakes Me, St. Louis Superman, Walk Run Cha Cha.
As much as we’d love to see “St. Louis Superman” get national attention, it does have a questionable ending – and really, “Learning to Skateboard in a War Zone If You’re a Girl” appears to be headed for the win.
Best Live-Action Short
Brotherhood, Nefta Football Club, The Neighbors’ Window, Saria, A Sister.
This is one of those Oscar pool contest busters –usually the wild card. Although I’ve read “Saria” is gaining traction, I’m going with “The Neighbor’s Window” because, while its less of a gut-punch than the others, it seems the most unconventional. Overall, it’s a really depressing bunch. Best Animated Short
Dcera, Hair Love, Kitbull, Memorable, Sister.
Often whatever Pixar short is before Disney’s blockbuster
is the safe choice, but the studio didn’t put anything before “Toy Story IV” or
“Frozen II.” Pixar’s “Kitbull” is hand-drawn and about the friendship of a
kitten and an abused pitbull. Adorable, right? But “Hair Love,” about a dad’s
effort to braid his daughter’s hair, which was shown before “Angry Birds 2,” is
my choice for the gold.