American Splendor by Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini
If you think Americans don’t know how to make good movies then you probably don’t know their their independent films. American Splendor, title of the movie and also of Pekar’s original comics, is an excellent example of creativity. It is a mix of documentary and fiction, even adding a little comic book aesthetics. The film tells a little about Harvey Pekar’s story, a typical American looser who decides to turn his routine into a comic book. The actors are perfect in their roles, especially because we also get to see the real Pekar and the other characters on screen. The movie is just as sarcastic and ironic as Pekar’s. Highly recommend it.
Forget Tom Cruise, the star of the movie is Japanese actor Ken Watanabe. Cruise is the worst part of the film. Any other actor would have been better, but since Tom Cruise is also the producer of the film the choice was obvious. The cinematography and art direction are excellent. The soundtrack by Hans Zimmer is also good. In a samurai film it would be natural for the battle scenes to be spectacular… they are not . After Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King everything seems like a kid’s play but the movie is just about the battles. Sad and slow paced, with exception of the final minutes and an unnecessary romance, The Last Samurai is a very good movie.
story & Oscar
Cruise is Nathan Algren, an American captain hired by the Japanese to coach the emperor’s army against a rebellion the samurai. On the first battle the samurai are victorious and take Algren prisoner. He ends up learning and admiring the way of life of the samurai and becomes a student and friend of Katsumoto (portrayed by Watanabe). It is strange to see the Japan pictured here and then see the modern Japan portrayed by Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. Edward Zwick’s film is nominated for the Academy Awards in 4 categories: supporting actor (Ken Watanabe), art direction, sound mixing and wardrobe.
photo credit: 2003 Warner Bros. Ent.