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"Tokyo Cowboy" is a JapanAmerican winner

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‘Tokyo Cowboy’ strikes balance between cross-cultural comedy and fish-out-of-water tale Thirty-six years ago, American director Marc Marriott lived in Japan as a missionary and worked as a filmmaking apprentice to Yoji Yamada, the legendary director of the “Tora-san” film series. When Mariott returned to the U.S., he came across an article in an American magazine that stirred his imagination. During the late 1980s, the height of Japan’s bubble-era economy, a Japanese beef company purchased a cattle ranch in Montana to expand its operations and better serve a meat-mad Japanese consumer base. To educate its staff in the ways of American cattle farming and teach Americans about the Japanese palate, the company sent a handful of salarymen to live and work on the ranch. “That idea of this clash of cultures, Japanese cowboys on an American ranch,” Marriott tells me. “I just thought: There’s a movie in there, a great story.” At a company meeting, Hideki proposes his plan to revive the fortune

Police guitarist Andy Summers on Akira Kurosawa and photographing Japan: Japan Times

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Andy Summers captures life on and off stage in moody monochrome   With Police guitarist Andy Summers in Ginza   In 1980, one of the first music videos for then up-and-coming British rock trio The Police was filmed on the Tokyo subway. In the footage , three blond musicians — bass player/singer Sting, guitarist Andy Summers and American drummer Stewart Copeland — mug for the camera against a backdrop of anonymous Japanese commuters, lip-syncing into walkie-talkies to their aptly chosen hit single, “So Lonely.” But Summers would soon find himself on the other side of the lens, pursuing a passion for photography that he had nurtured since his adolescence in Bournemouth, England, where he fell in love with black-and-white art films from around the world shown at a local cinema, including early masterworks by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. When The Police was hitting peak popularity in 1983, Summers tracked down American photographer Ralph Gibson in New York, who helped him publish his

Niigata 2024 Redux: Is anime from beyond Japan still 'anime?' Japan Times column

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Niigata film festival showcases cutting-edge overseas talent Less than a week after octogenarian Hayao Miyazaki scored his second Academy Award, another 80-something anime legend, “Gundam” creator Yoshiyuki Tomino, greeted a packed auditorium at the second annual Niigata International Animation Film Festival (NIAFF) . Striding onstage in a funky black-and-white jacket, billowing slacks and a baseball cap, Tomino urged the artists in the audience to surpass his longtime rival, who he said had raised the artistic bar for the medium — “Let’s beat Miyazaki!”     Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino and designer Yutaka Izubuchi open NIAFF 2024     Tomino’s rousing ebullience kicked off this year’s six-day NIAFF in Niigata, a mid-sized city two hours north of Tokyo by train. Despite brisk winds and spurts of snow, the city’s welcome felt even warmer this year, with local restaurants offering specials highlighted in the program guide and a cosplay parade snaking through the central shopping d

Japanamerica interviews on Hayao Miyazaki's second Oscar

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I first interviewed Hayao Miyazaki for Japanamerica in the early aughts. I was very fortunate. It was the usual story--a friend of a friend of a friend, and so on. He was a bit tight-lipped at first but relaxed and opened up when he realized that I was no otaku .  Later I was invited to interview him live onstage at UC Berkeley in California ( video here ), and we've had a few informal chats since.  When he was awarded a second Oscar this year (third if you count his 2014 honorary statuette), I gave interviews to the BBC, CNN and The Guardian , in addition to a couple of online Japanese media. The business has undergone a revolution since our first meeting for Japanamerica . File-sharing and streaming media have made Japanese pop culture in general and anime in particular a content goldmine. The reputation of Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli has grown in prominence over the past 20 years, partly owing to its rich and unparalleled catalog of quality content, but also because of li

New Interview on BR/BL, Shoujo manga and the legacy of Japanamerica

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      "What Kelts did for manga and anime can be compared to what the late Donald Richie did to bridge Western audiences and Japanese films, creating an accessible entry point that both facilitated and commented on cross cultural communication."   Er, here .

On "Godzilla Minus One" for The Atlantic

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I used to run like hell from Godzilla movies, not out of fear but embarrassment. As a Japanese-American teenager in diversity-poor rural New England, I winced at the sight of a dude in a rubber suit stomping on cardboard cities. It looked silly and cheap, two Asian stereotypes I was trying hard to live down, so I ran even faster from the Americans I knew who actually liked Godzilla to avoid being cast as yet another Asian American nerd.   Evidently, Godzilla outran me. Japan’s nuclear lizard is now the face of the world’s longest-running film franchise, according to Guinness World Records, turning 70 this year on the heels of its most successful iteration yet. Released into U.S. theaters with scant publicity, “Godzilla Minus One” is North America’s highest-grossing Japanese-language movie ever and has surpassed the $100 million mark globall y on a production budget of under $15 million. A box office blockbuster with a price tag minus one of Hollywood’s lavish digits. It’s also an a

My thoughts on Ghibli's "The Boy and the Heron" and Toho's "Godzilla Minus One" for CNN and The Straits Times

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Two Japanese-made films premiered within a week of each other in US cinemas last December, "Godzilla Minus One" and "The Boy and the Heron," with very little publicity. Both are now huge commercial successes: "Heron" is the highest grossing non-franchise anime feature ever in the US; "G-1" the highest grossing Japanese live action film. Both are also critically acclaimed and Oscar-nominated.  For Miyazaki, a win would be his second after 2003's "Spirited Away." For the "G-1" VFX team, led by writer-director Takashi Yamazaki, a win would be a first for any film in the 70 year-old Godzilla series and would make Yamazaki the first director to win for VFX since Stanley Kubrick, who was so awarded in 1968 for "2001: A Space Odyssey." • I spoke to CNN about Miyazaki's first Golden Globe earlier this year and the chances that he will receive his second Academy Award (not that he cares all that much) at next month&