5 awards-friendly Japanese films to put you in the Oscars mood

By Joshua Meyer

Japan has two major motion pictures nominated for Academy Awards in 2019. When the Oscars ceremony broadcasts live in the U.S. on Sunday, February 26, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s "Shoplifters" and Mamoru Hosoda’s "Mirai" will be competing for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Animated Feature Film, respectively.

Both movies will face some stiff competition in their categories. "Shoplifters" is going up against Alfonso Cuaron’s "Roma," which is nominated for both Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film and is currently streaming on Netflix Japan. "Mirai" is going up against the widely acclaimed "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse," which finally hits theaters in Japan on Friday, March 8.

Being a movie lover in Japan sometimes means waiting many extra months to see Hollywood films. Conversely, if you’re a cinephile, this is the time of year when you might be shifting into drama mode, looking to catch up on buzzed-about films as they gain recognition on the awards circuit. Prized trophy ceremonies like the Oscars do tend to favor more straight-laced dramas over genre films.

With this list, we’ll take a look at five Japanese movies (including the two already mentioned) that have received awards recognition or other important distinctions internationally. Unless otherwise noted, all of these films should be available via one or more home media outlets like Tsutaya, Amazon, or iTunes.

1. Shoplifters (2018)


Even before "Shoplifters" received its Oscar nomination, it had already garnered significant accolades abroad. The movie’s long awards march began when it premiered at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, where it took home its highest honor — the Palme d’Or or Golden Palm trophy. In the 2019 Japan Academy Prize competition (or Japanese Academy Awards), the film is also nominated for Picture of the Year. Director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s previous film, "The Third Murder," won the same award in 2018.

Like many homegrown Japanese dramas, "Shoplifters" plays into the importance of family in Japanese culture, but it does so in a unique way, upending the foundations of the traditional and making us empathize with a different kind of family on the fringe of society. Lily Franky and Sakura Ando play Osamu and Nobuyo Shibata, the surrogate father and mother of a family of outcasts drawn together into a life of poverty and petty crime.

A sort of modern-day Fagin and Oliver Twist, Osamu and his would-be son, Shota, conduct their two-man shoplifting operation by means of strategic body-blocking and hand signals. Soon they recruit Yuri, an abused and neglected little girl, into the fold. The conventional wisdom is that you can’t choose your family; Shoplifters is predicated on the idea that even under abhorrent circumstances, some ties run deeper than blood.

This was one of the last films Kiki Kirin (who plays the grandmother) made before she passed away in 2018. "Shoplifters" will hit Tsutaya and Amazon Japan on April 3, 2019.

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© GaijinPot

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Hirokazu Kore-eda does beautiful work !

The way he intricately works the them metaphorically lay upon layer with delicate artistry.

His pieces consummately express the heart and soul of modern Japan.


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Its not hard to put the other 4 in here. Guess only one film is worthy.

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Kitano's best film is Kikujiro. Everty person I've shown that film loves it.

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