Although some folks were surprised by Sunday’s Academy Award wins for South Korean director Bong Joon Ho and his movie Parasite, you could see on Oscar night see that fellow nominees Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino were not among them.
Both are movie buffs, familiar with Bong’s impressive career, and clearly knew it was only a matter of time before his work was recognized on an international scale — in fact, Parasite had already won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019.
Also probably not surprised? Oscar winner Brad Pitt (best supporting actor for Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood), who produced Bong’s last movie Okja, released in 2017.
Filmmakers and hard-core movie fans have been hip to Bong for years.
“Bong’s other films have already received a good deal of recognition and praise from American critics and filmgoers,” said Jae Won Edward Chung, assistant professor of Asian languages and cultures at Rutgers University and a Bong fan. “Snowpiercer (2013) and Okja have A-list stars like Chris Evans and Jake Gyllenhaal, and The Host (2006) got rave reviews when it was released in the States.”
They’re all worth checking out, he said, but for the uninitiated, he also recommends some of the director’s early, lesser known work.
"Most people probably haven’t heard of Barking Dogs Never Bite — a quirky black comedy about a struggling academic trying to settle a score with a neighbor’s dog that won’t stop yapping,” he said. “It’s probably still my favorite film by Bong Joon Ho. It doesn’t take itself as seriously as his later works, and yet it has these wonderfully observed everyday moments that really haunt you for a long time after it’s over.”
If you want to see Parasite and some of the director’s previous movies, here’s what to expect and how to find them:
Parasite (2019). Two Korean families, one rich and one poor, intertwine in increasingly fraught ways as members of the lower-class family take jobs in the wealthy household. Starring Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, and Park So-dam. The movie is still in theaters, including the Ritz Five and Bryn Mawr Film Institute. You can also rent or buy on Amazon, Apple, FandangoNow, Google Play, Vudu, and YouTube.
Okja (2017). A Korean farm girl (Ahn Seo-hyun) lives in the mountains with a giant pig, who is removed and taken to New York, where an agribusiness CEO (Tilda Swinton) has sinister plans for the animal. The corporate agenda is undermined by animal rights activists (Paul Dano, Steven Yeun). Gyllenhaal is the TV celebrity mixed up in the ensuing media frenzy. Streaming on Netflix.
Snowpiercer (2013). Survivors of a climate-engineering disaster hurtle through a frigid future inside a train, where a revolutionary (Chris Evans) tries to disrupt the rigid class hierarchy that exists on board. With Swinton, Ed Harris, and John Hurt. Streaming on Netflix.
Mother (2009). An extremely twisted tale of a mother (Kim Hye-ja) who will do anything for her son, and a son (Won Bin) who will do anything for mom. As we see in the director’s other films, family can be murder. You can rent or buy on Amazon, Apple, FandangoNow, Vudu, Tubi, and YouTube.
The Host (2006). Chemicals dumped into a river produce a ravenous creature that preys upon local residents. A street vendor (Song Kang-ho) fights back when the thing abducts his daughter (Ko Ah-sung). A repertory classic that often turns up in midnight screenings and horror festivals. You can rent or buy on Amazon, Apple, FandangoNow, Google Play, Vudu, Tubi, and YouTube.
Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000). Residents of an apartment complex turn on each other when one man’s irritation at a noisy dog leads to an unpredictable sequence of retaliation and retribution. You can rent or buy on Amazon Apple, FandangoNow, Tubi and Vudu.