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I am very conflicted about going to see 47 Ronin starring Keanu Reeves in theaters December 25th.
On one hand, the film seems to have little to do with Chūshingura (忠臣蔵), the original kabuki (歌舞伎) play I read in the “Traditional Japanese Literature” class I took at Sophia University (上智大学) in Tokyo. Moreover, the film has reportedly not done well with Japanese audiences.
BUT, on the other hand, I really want to support the amazing selection of Japanese actors cast in the film. And, for that reason, I’ve devised the following list…
Hiroyuki Sanada (真田広之)
- Best known for in the U.S.: Dogen on Lost (Season 6).
- Notable Accolades: He performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company and received an honorary MBE award.
- Why is he awesome?: While filming The Last Samurai (2003), he almost cut off Tom Cruise’s head (“Cruise has brush with death”).
- Film Recommendations: Sanada-san stars in my favorite samurai film The Twilight Samurai (2002). This film has only two fight scenes (one short and one long), but they are both jaw-dropping in their seemingly effortless choreography and will have you on the edge of your seat!
Kou Shibasaki (柴咲コウ)
- Best known for in the U.S.: Mitsuko Souma in Battle Royale (2000); she was slated to play Gogo Yubari’s twin sister Yuki in Kill Bill, but dropped out due to other commitments.
- Notable Accolades: She won a Japanese Academy Award for her performance in Go (2001).
- Why is she awesome?: She starred in the first Japanese television drama I ever watched called Orange Days (2004) in which she played a deaf character, performing all her lines in Japanese sign language. Plus, she’s an adorable pop singer (“KISS Shite” by KOH+).
- Film Recommendations: Shibasaki-san stars alongside Joe Odagiri in one of my favorite Japanese films called La Maison de Himiko (2005) about a young woman who is asked by her dying father’s young male lover to work in her father’s nursing home for gay men.
Rinko Kikuchi (菊地凛子)
- Best known for in the U.S.: Mako Mori in Pacific Rim (2013).
- Notable Accolades: She was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in Babel (2006).
- Wh is she awesome?: She’s the first Japanese actress in 50 years to be nominated for an Oscar! Plus, she’s appeared in a number of films with Tadanobu Asano (see below) including his directorial debut Tori (2003).
- Film Recommendations: I absolutely adore The Brothers Bloom (2009), starring Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, and (of course) Rinko Kikuchi!! Kikuchi-san silently pantomimes throughout this film and is an absolute delight to watch.
Tadanobu Asano (浅野忠信)
ONE OF MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE ACTORS!
- Best known for in the U.S.: Hogun in Thor (2011); Kakihara in Ichi the Killer (2001).
- Notable Accolades: He won Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival for his performance in Last Life in the Universe (2003).
- Why is he awesome?: Asano-san is a chameleon, changing drastically from role to role, appearing in every genre, taking on exceptionally unique characters. His friend and world-renown cinematographer (who has worked with such talents as Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh, Tilda Swinton, Colin Farrell, and Ralph Fiennes [another of my all-time favorite actors]) Christopher Doyle believes that “Tadanobu Asano is probably the best actor in the world today.”
- Film Recommendations: There are way too many recommendations I could make: Last Life in the Universe, Sharkskin Man and Peach Hip Girl, Bright Future, Survive Style 5+, Portrait of the Wind, etc. etc. etc. But the one performance that truly blew me out of the water was Asano-san’s performance in Villon’s Wife (2009).
Some of these film recommendations might be hard to find outside of Japan. If you’re having trouble finding a title and really want to watch it, message me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll see if I can help!
Also, for those of you who go see 47 Ronin, leave a comment here and let me know what you think!
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Copyright 2013 by G. E. Gallas