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Shinobu Yaguchi can make sparks fly, even off the grid

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When I met Shinobu Yaguchi at a Chicago sushi restaurant on March 1, I made my usual mistake with well-known directors: mention that I had interviewed him before. He, understandably, blanked, since the interview was 20 years ago for his 1997 indie comedy “My Secret Cache” (“Himitsu no Hanazono”) But ...

'Jackie': More pomp than circumstance

/ Mar 22, 2017

'Jackie': More pomp than circumstance

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There’s a scene near the end of “Jackie” where the just-widowed first lady Jacqueline Kennedy (played by Natalie Portman) is talking with her priest (John Hurt) about the meaning of life and asks, somewhat bitterly, “Is that all there is?” In my head, all ...

'Passengers': Futuristic, but the same old fairy tale

/ Mar 22, 2017

'Passengers': Futuristic, but the same old fairy tale

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A lot of feminists hate Morten Tyldum’s “Passengers,” and for good reasons. Though it’s set in a bright, high-tech future where luxury space travel is the norm, where women are concerned the story’s underlying sentiments hail straight from the Middle Ages. On the other ...

Marty Gross and 'The Lovers' Exile'

| Mar 22, 2017

Marty Gross and 'The Lovers' Exile'

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At various times and places in his four-decade career, Canadian native Marty Gross has been a potter, art teacher, film director and a producer, with most of his personal and professional roads leading back to Japan. On March 24, Gross will present an English-subtitled ...

The unintentional causes of 'abandonment'

Mar 15, 2017

The unintentional causes of 'abandonment'

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Six years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastated the Tohoku region, leaving more than 18,000 people dead or missing, and triggering meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant that has left a deeply embedded mistrust of nuclear ...

'Sing': Pigs can't fly but they sure can sing

/ Mar 15, 2017

'Sing': Pigs can't fly but they sure can sing

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‘Sing” is brought to us by Illumination Entertainment — the animation studio that brought the “Despicable Me” series and last year’s sleeper hit “The Secret Life of Pets.” In many ways it’s “La-La Land” with animals. In a color-filled, LA-like town inhabited by non-Homo ...

| Mar 15, 2017

Looking back on the 'trial of the century'

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Everywhere you look these days, it feels like it’s just Trump, Trump and even more Trump. It’s worth taking a moment to recall that 23 years ago many people were just as sick of O.J. Simpson when the amiable American football star-turned-TV/movie celebrity became ...

Fukada's filmmaking a breath of fresh air

| Mar 10, 2017

Fukada's filmmaking a breath of fresh air

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Koji Fukada’s black comedy “Hospitalite” (“Kantai”) won best film in the Tokyo International Film Festival’s Japanese Eyes section in 2010 and since then he has become accustomed to stepping up on stages to receive prizes for his work. Fukada is part of a new ...

A dystopian future set in the present aftermath

Mar 8, 2017

A dystopian future set in the present aftermath

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With “Homo Sapiens”, director Nikolaus Geyrhalter paints a haunting dystopian vision of civilization minus its creators. This unique documentary consists of nothing but steady, perfectly framed wide-shots of abandoned structures and wastelands. Imagine Wes Anderson doing location shots for “The Walking Dead” and you’ll ...