Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Decade in Review (#7).

Sofia Coppola won an Oscar for her Lost in Translation screenplay, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. Translation is a terrific movie, but that terrific-ness seems to have little to do with the script.

That script is by no means bad, but Translation, released in 2003, is all about the mood. And Coppola, who also directed Translation, definitely deserves credit for getting the mood just right.

The movie's two main characters, Bob and Charlotte (played by Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansson, respectively), are Americans visiting Japan. Bob is traveling alone, and Charlotte might as well be, as her flighty husband is busy with celebrity photography gigs. Bob and Charlotte strike up a conversation in a hotel bar and spend the next few days exploring Tokyo together and getting to know each other.

Coppola really captures that feeling of being out of your element, a stranger in a strange land. The fact that both Bob and Charlotte are outsiders in Tokyo gives their relationship (which is platonic) an intensity it probably wouldn't have had if they'd met at another place and time. They're alone together, as it were.

Murray delivers a top-notch performance, as usual. He's funny in that smart, sardonic Bill Murray way, but he's never bigger than the movie. In one of my favorite scenes, Murray sings a karaoke (it's a Japan movie--gotta have some karaoke!) version of "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding" and manages to be silly and heartbreaking at the same time. Johansson, who I generally find to be hit-or-miss, is perfect as the quiet, thoughtful Charlotte.

Also quiet and thoughtful: Lance Acord's cinematography. His Tokyo is strange and beautiful, and his work makes the city the film's third lead character.

Honorable mention: Ghost World

I'm short on time, so I'll just say that Ghost World (from 2001), another movie about outsiders, features another very good Johansson performance. And Steve Buscemi!

Tomorrow: Monday: "Have you ever fired two guns whilst jumping through the air?"

1 comment:

KidAt40 said...

No. That would exacerbate things.