Saturday, February 8, 2014

Nihon no eigakan

About this time every year I go on a movie binge, trying to catch all the films nominated for an Academy Award.  Well, all the ones that sound interesting anyway.  This task, which I never complete, and sometimes never even start, is especially difficult when living in Japan.  Many films are never released here, others have a delayed release of up to 6 months.

Tonight I went to see my first American film in Japan.  I have already seen several Japanese films here.  While the Japanese cineplex may appear on the surface to be very similar to their American counterpart, there are some subtle differences.

I went to Toho Cinemas which is a big chain with theaters across the country.  The first thing that struck me was the total absence of a box office.  Tickets are purchased at a kiosk not unlike something you'd find at an airport self-check-in.  I hate these machines in any venue in any country.  It removes the humanity from whatever transaction you are making.  In a country that still has uniformed elevator drivers and crossing guards this was disappointing.

Tickets seem to be a little more expensive than the US: ¥1,800 ($17.50).

The concessions are a bit more elaborate. No, there is not sushi.  There are however hotdogs and beer.  I haven't had a beer in a movie theatre since I was 16 (?) in Germany.  I think there are some cool movie theaters in Brooklyn that now serve beer and wine.  I love the idea, and of course I drank a beer tonight, but it's like watching a live soccer match after drinking a few beers: you have to use the toilet, but don't dare leave for fear of missing something.  Popcorn here comes in a variety of flavors including barbecue (?!).  I went with the traditional salt (no butter), of course.

I was hoping for something less than the advertising assault that one now gets in any American big chain movie theatre.  No.  There were a good 20 minutes of advertisements and trailers.  The ads are more focused and self-promoting.  So, if there were 10 minutes of ads and 10 minutes of trailers, 90% of the ads were for or about Toho Cinemas.  Maybe because the ads were in Japanese and I couldn't understand what was being flogged it didn't bother me so much.  A few of the trailers for American films were preceded by 30 second spots by the director introducing their latest film and hoping everyone in Japan would go see it.  Interesting.  Ben Stiller even spoke a bit of Japanese.  A good 75% of the film trailers, American or Japanese, were Action/Thriller films with insane visual effects, including a new "Godzilla" and a new "Robocop".  Really?  Yes, Hollywood has completely run out of ideas.

The house lights do not come up even half way until the very last credit has run by.

Oh, and the film - "American Hustle" - was sugoi!  Go see it.

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