Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Jiro Ono stands in the center, with his eldest son, Yoshikazu, to his right.

The other night, I watched a documentary called Jiro Dreams of Sushi (you can watch it on Prime). It had been on my list for a long while, and I stumbled across again while in just the right mood, alone in the living room early on a Wednesday evening. I love it when the happens.

One of Jiro’s minimalist sushi.

It was quite beautiful, and Jiro, like many other masters of their craft, is quite an interesting fellow to follow around. The first half is wonderful, and there’s so much good wisdom and information to pull out. But I’d say as you get to about two-thirds of the way through – if you start to get bored, just turn it off. Because odds are, you will continue to be bored.

Here are some of the quotes I pulled as I was watching:

“A great chef has the five following attributes:

1. They take their work very seriously and consistently perform on the highest level.
2. They aspire to improve their skills.
3. Cleanliness. If the restaurant doesn’t feel clean, the food isn’t going to taste good.
4. Impatience. They are better leaders than collaborators. They are stubborn and insist on having it their way. 
5.  A great chef is passionate.”

– Food critic

“The difference between Jiro today and Hiro 40 years ago is that eh stopped smoking. Besides that, nothing has changed.”

– Food critic

“I hated it at first [when I first started training at 19]. I wanted to run away for two years.”

– Jiro’s eldest son

“I fell in love with my work and gave my life to it.”

– Jiro

“Always strive to elevate your craft. That’s what [Jiro] taught me.”

– Jiro’s son

Jiro Ono and his eldest son, Yoshikazu, working side by side.

Booksmart meets Judas and the Black Messiah

The other day, I watched a movie called Booksmart. It was hilarious, and energetic, and vibrant – too wild of a ride for me at times – but a truly great film about friendship and self trying new things.

I walked away from that movie, as I often do, with a sense of jealousy or longing for the relationship captured on screen. Whether that be friendship or romantic, I sort of have an issue with falling in love with the people or dynamics in movies.

That evening, in pondering all the many *cough* many movies I’ll *smaller cough* one day write an make, I wrote this in my notebook:

I want to make a movie / story that leaves you looking at your own life again, but now seeing the beauty in it – feeling contented. Not wishing for the ‘perfect’ friendship or relationship that was written, but rather feeling content in your own story. 

While pushing the boundaries of melodramatic, this is a point I stand by. There are beautiful stories – rare though I think they are – that display beauty, while also instilling beauty. There is a character in a book that I cannot remember right now… that is described similarly: their beauty seems to radiate and lift up those around them, rather than outshining them. Movies that don’t just show how great life could be, but how great life is if you look for the beauty in it.

Tonight, I watched a new movie called Judas and the Black Messiah – a true story of Chicago chapter of the Black Panthers during the Civil Rights movement. It was very hard to watch. It was beautiful, and beautifully made, and all the harder because of it. The movie displays the hardship Black communities have been fighting against in the United States for generations, and focusses on the brutality of the mass Police response.

I came away from this movie looking at my own life, and seeing the beauty in it more clearly. Seeing the privilege and the opportunity and the blessings I have grown up with. And seeing more clearly the pain and hurt and brutality that overshadows the lives of so many others…

I’m not sure what the point is here – but this is what I was supposed to write tonight.

A lack of graphic design in film?

This evening, I watched a new Netflix movie called The Dig, set in an English village in the months leading up to WW2. Watching it, I noticed a stark lack of any sort of design or imagery within the setting of the story. The only graphic I noticed through the whole movie was a small matchbox held up for a moment while lighting a pipe…

In contrast, Wes Anderson’s film The Grand Budapest Hotel is set in nearly the exact same time (though in a fictionalized version of our own history), and is CHOCK full of beautiful graphics. Letters, notes, books, tickets, signage.

These stories are Very different – the former is set in the country of a remote village, the latter revolves around a large hotel a quaint little city – but the difference still struck me. I think Wes Anderson uses graphics and design in a way that few other directors do, at least that I’ve noticed. I think it’s a very cool tool that I wish (maybe selfishly) was used more often in film. It’s something I want to think about more intentionally when ever I get around to writing something for the screen!

I can’t wait to see how and where Wes uses graphic design in his upcoming film, The French Dispatch.

What I watched in October

Coming several days too late… A list inspired by a series of videos that I love.

  1. My neighbor Totoro. 10/1/20 | 8.5/10
    • Animated – Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli
    • Captures the spirit of youth beautifully
    • Soaks us very thoroughly into the characters, life and beautifully mundane world in which the story is set
    • Painted backgrounds and animation are stunning
    • Very patient, warm and enduring – it feels like a nice bath
    • Enchanting music. Love the mix of realism and whimsy
    • Shows us the regular sights and sounds of life alongside fantasy
    • See The Beauty of Children’s Entertainment
  2. Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows P2. 10/3/20 | 6/10
    • Live action, directed by David Yates
    • Meh – this movie feels like it doesn’t trust its audience. Just didn’t enjoy
  3. Nausicaa: the valley of the wind. 10/9/20 | 6/10
    • Animated – Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli
    • Lot lot lot of character’s narrating dialogue – kind of painful in places
    • Interesting world building / world
    • Animations of fire and explosions are gorgeous
    • Very slow action
    • Reflecting heavily on ideas of climate change
    • Liked the trust in strong female leadership
  4. Castle in the Sky. 10/13/20 | 7/10
    • Animated – Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli
    • Fantastic opening and credit sequence
    • Weird mix of music
    • Some absolutely gorgeous sequences… that trumpet sequence at the beginning (!)
    • Production design overall is fantastic
    • Protagonist if flat
    • Pirate mom is not flat
  5. Recount. 10/23/20 | 6.5/10
    • Live action, directed by Jay Roach
    • Tacky, overexcited performances
    • Cliché music
    • Looks staged
    • Nice production design
    • Shows the worst of political division
    • Who’s our protagonist?
    • Snappy dialogue, but long

I watched far fewer movies this month than I’d like to have, and fewer than I normally do. I was also in a Studio Ghibli kick for the first time ever.
I’m striving for 100 watched this year, and I’m currently at 81… We can do this. I reached by book goal of 30 already, so that’s a plus.

I’ll be doing this every month, and at the end of the year, I’ll do my top 10 or 20 movies of this year here as well.