by Rob Boylan
So, if I were to say to you that we were about to watch an film about an American star stuck in Japan, a place he is too tall for and can't get a hang of the customs, to work for a big Japanese company, shoot crazy commercials where the director can't communicate properly with him, and do a talk show, you might naturally think I was about to pop in Lost in Translation. You would be confused when the beautiful mustache of Tom Selleck showed up on screen in a New York Yankees jersey, having a nightmare about striking out. But my description would be accurate, because Scarlet Johansson aside, they are basically the same film, only their professions and decade are different.
Lost in Translation - Sofia Coppola (2003)
For me, Lost in Translation is a perfect film about loneliness, about how it is more a matter of personal connection than it is a person next to you. Often times, being surrounded by people is the loneliness feeling that there is, especially in big cities, or big events. And that's exactly how we find Charlotte (Scarlet Johansson) and Bob (Bill Murray), a jetlagged pair of Americans who are separated in age by a few decades, but somehow forge a timeless connection. Tokyo is a big, sprawling place, but a tiny, cramped one at the same time. It's a place where loneliness thrives and connection barely exists. But this moment in time, in this hotel, in this city is likely the only place on Earth where they could have found the fleeting connection that they both had lost with their friends and spouses.
It is a film about atmosphere and space and distance as much as it is about the connection, aided by Kevin Shields' score and a wonderful selection of needledrop picked by Coppola. It doesn't need the qualifier "loneliness", it's just a perfect film.
You can basically find Lost in Translation at any video rental outlet. You probably already own it, you possibly have even triple-dipped it over the years between DVD, HD-DVD and Bluray.
Mr. Baseball - Fred Schepisi (1992)
As pitchers and catchers are due to report to Florida and Arizona for Spring Training starting on Monday, my mind always wanders towards the second best baseball movie ever, Mr. Baseball. An imperfect, formulaic film to be sure, but one that captured so much of the spirit of the 80s and early 90s that it forever lives on in my heart. Was that spirit vaguely racist? Sure, but it's too late for me now. Mr. Baseball is a part of my being, and the Japanese players give as good as they get. Besides, the racism is there in an effort to support the "let's all get along and be a team" style ending, just like it was in Gung Ho.
Selleck was an inspired casting choice for the uncouth, loudmouthed, pigheaded American, because he is all those things, but also a lovable rascal with a great voice. And you just can't go wrong with Ken Takakura, whether it's in a comedy like this, or a crushing drama like Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, he's one of Japan's greatest actors.