The 100 Best Contemporary Japanese Movies - Psycho Drama has launched an ambitious project to compile 100 of the best modern-day Japanese movies from the last 2 decades or so. Featuring the best young actors of their generation - from Joe Odagiri, Takako Matsu and Tadanobu Asano, to Satoshi Tsumabuki, Hikari Mitsushima, Mao Inoue, Ryuhei Matsuda, Shun Oguri and Masanabu Ando to the current crop of exciting young talents - Shota Sometani, Yuya Yagira, Kamiki Ryunosuke, Sosuke Ikematsu, Kento Yamazaki, Fumi Nikaido and Ai Hashimoto. [ click here ]
I can't help it - this list are the actors I really love to watch and the one particular movie that defines their acting. These movies may not be their most popular, but they really bring out the best in them. Here are my first 5 ultimate actors list:
01. Joe Odagiri - Sway
I almost picked Maison de Himiko as Joe Odagiri's ultimate movie but then again Sway has more emotional impact.
As the trendy Takeru Hayakawa, Odagiri is the modern Japanese while Teruyuki Kagawa represents his conservative, traditional counterpart. They play brothers who are rivals in more ways than one. While the movie is a bit slow at the beginning, it picked up its pace after a few minutes and there's no turning back. Odagiri was exemplary in playing this role - he was adamant and self-serving, turning in his own brother because of pride, but later redeemed himself in the end. It was a role only an actor of his caliber can deliver.
Says Midnight Eye:
Sway is a film on the gaping chasms between countryside and city, between family life and 'freeter' existence, between patriarchy and individualism. Between an old Japan that refuses to go away and the young who desperately wish it would but who lack the strength and the ideas to speed up the process. The difference may only be a more glamorous shade of dull. The Takerus of this world may have turned their backs on their fathers, but they have no alternative to offer themselves or their generation, let alone the generations that are to follow. What they have is superficial, hedonistic: fashion, consumption, glossy magazines, acting cool. When the basis is unstable, the swaying starts. Miwa Nishikawa's Sway is about Japan today - questioning, investigating, challenging, perceptive. Do we call that a courtroom drama and dismiss it for not playing like an episode of Law & Order? Who's Camus anyway? [ read more ]
More ultimate list after the jump!
02. Masanobu Ando - Big Bang Love Juvenile A
The ultimate pretty boy with a propensity for violence - that's Masanobu Ando for you! As one of the inmates (Katzuki Shiro), Ando was deliberate, armed with an intensity present throughout the movie. If looks could kill, then it's Masanobu Ando!
Again Midnight Eye defines the movie:
A hand with a clapperboard appears from behind a wall. In half-light, Kenichi Endo commences a monologue, recited from several pages. A burst of red. A one-man dance performance accompanies a mentor's words that start a young boy's rite of passage. The boy grows up, masculinity with the angelic face of Masanobu Ando. He can crush prison thugs and shelter a no less angelic Ryuhei Matsuda. Around him, walled-in like in a pressure cooker, a confused, all-male concoction of desire, perversion, violence and loneliness. Authority is rigid, ghost-like, and lost in memories. Outside the walls, a rocket impatiently awaits the countdown to blast-off and endless steps lead to the top of a Mayan pyramid. [ read more ]
03. Satoshi Tsumabuki - Villain
Satoshi Tsumabuki made so many impressive movies, it was very hard to choose just one. In Akunin (Villain), Tsumabuki performed the role that clearly established his position as one of Japan's most important young actors. In the movie he played Yuichi Shimizu, a weak man with a lot of insecurities who accidentally murders a young lady he was infatuated with.
Twitch praises Tsumabuki:
As for the acting, nothing but praise. Eri Fukatsu has a tough role to play and does so with great conviction, but it's Satoshi Tsumabuki that really blew me away. His character is almost impenetrable but at the same time he's the center of the dramatic complications, so in the end it all comes back to his performance and his ability to transfer the dualities of his character to the audience. It's one of the strongest roles I've seen in quite a while. The supporting cast is nothing but perfect either, though their impact is not as dominant as that of the two main actors. [ read more ]
04. Kenichi Matsuyama - My Back Page
He was so funny in Detroit Metal City and so captivating in the Death Note series, but his intense acting in My Back Page is my ultimate Kenichi Matsuyama movie. Acting opposite Satoshi Tsumabuki, Matsuyama plays the role of Umeyama, an activist who "boasts that his group will steal arms and take action" in this movie about the radical student movement of the late 60s/early70s in Japan.
From Toronto JFilm Pow-Wow:
"My Back Page," Nobuhiro Yamashita's part thriller and part paean to the radical student movement of the late 60s/early70s in Japan, is a smart and heartfelt study of the failures, broken dreams and the not-so-noble motivations of a generation prone to reification. A certain zeitgeist seems to be hitting the Japanese screens over the least few years where exploration of this turning point in 20th century history is open game for re-examination. [ read more ]
05. Tatsuya Fujiwara - Battle Royale
Fujiwara was exemplary in the Death Note series, but his performance in Battle Royale remains his ultimate movie role. As Shuya Nanahara, Fujiwara plays one of the three main protagonist in the movie. He even said that Shuya in the movie's sequel is "standing on the side of justice" despite the fact that the main character is a terrorist. Fujiwara added that the Battle Royale II Shuya is "a good role model for young people.
A.O. Scott at the NY Times compared Battler Royale with The Hunger Games and I coiuldn't agree more!
As with "The Hunger Games," the matter of whom to root for takes on an uncomfortable intensity. It is clear enough that Shuya (Tatsuya Fujiwara) and Noriko (Aki Maeda) are destined for some kind of romantic connection, and maybe also for ultimate survival, but that leaves a lot of fast grieving and anxious, guilty cheering to be done as their classmates (and two mysterious ringers, veterans of an earlier battle) massacre one another.
American fans of "The Hunger Games" may not embrace — or even be permitted to see — "Battle Royale," which is too bad. It is in many ways a better movie and in any case a fascinating companion, drawn from a parallel cultural universe. It is a lot uglier and also, perversely, a lot more fun. [ read more ]
Do you agree with our choice of movies? Do you think there are other movies that should have been put on the list? Let us know what you think!
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