Movie Review: Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011) #AtoZChallenge

This is my entry for “J” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Other “J” documentaries I’ve reviewed include Jane.

Title: Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Release Date: June 11, 2001
Director: David Gelb
Production Company: Magnolia Pictures

I am not interested in sushi, or fine dining, or tv/movies about cooking, so I strongly resisted watching this film.  But it was hard to find any other “J” documentaries that were well-regarded.  This film documents Jiro Ono, at the time an 85-year-old sushi master who owns the Tokyo restaurant  Sukiyabashi Jiro.  Jiro focuses on the traditional sushi practices of making fresh pieces for each customer and presenting them on a counter.

The restaurant is in a basement adjacent to a subway station and has only 10 counter stools.  A meal at Sukiyabashi Jiro can be completed in 15-30 minutes.  Nevertheless it has received the coveted three stars from Michelin, requires reservations months in advance, and the 20-piece tasting menu costs ¥30,000 (equivalent to $270 in US dollars at the time of writing).  Jiro is presented as fulfilling the stereotypes of a Japanese person who is a reserved workaholic and perfectionist with his whole life focused on making better sushi.  Very little of his personal life is revealed, and he mentions that when he sleeps he literally dreams of sushi.

Jiro’s elder son Yoshikazu works in the restaurant and is slated to take it over from Jiro (and since Jiro will likely never retire it will most likely be after his death).  Yoshikazu goes to fish market to meet with the wholesalers who are dedicated to the different types of fish and sea life that Jiro can serve.  Yoshikazu and a team of apprentices do much of the food preparation at this point, although Jiro still presents the sushi for the customers to eat and watches as they do so.  This is said to be an intimidating experience by many people interviewed. Jiro’s younger son Takashi operates a mirror-image restaurant in another part of Tokyo.  This restaurant received only two Michelin stars but is also said to be a more relaxed experience.

Many shots in the film focus intensely on food preparation at the restaurant and the fish market. Close-ups of seaweed being heated over an open flame, fishing getting chopped, and the shaping of a perfect portion of sushi (painted with a brush of soy sauce at the last moment) are strangely mesmerizing.

What Can One Learn From Watching This Documentary:

At my age I should know that something I don’t want to do is probably going to be something that’s pleasantly surprising.  While I still have no interest in sushi or fine dining, I did enjoy the movie. What I liked best about the documentary is that it is an appreciation of craft.  We live in an age where entrepreneurship is celebrated and people who do the same thing day after day are belittled.  While Jiro is always trying to make his sushi better, he primarily does so by using the same practices he’s worked on throughout his life. And he’s certainly not trying to do anything trendy.

If You Like This You Might Also Want To …:

Well, if you really enjoy this movie, then you may just want to go Tokyo and at Sukiyabashi Jiro.  The website has detailed instructions of what you need to do to prepare, and is a fascinating read in itself.

Source: Netflix

Rating: ***1/2


2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – Documentary Films, Part II

A: Amy
B: Being Elmo
C: Central Park Five
D: Dear Mr. Watterson
E: The Endless Summer
F: F for Fake
G: Grey Gardens
H: High School
I: Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.

Photopost: A Visit to the MFA, part eight

I continued my ongoing quest to visit every gallery in the Museum of Fine Arts by visiting the Art of Asia, Oceania, and Africa wings.  It’s unfortunate that the art of the two most populous continents and some diverse island cultures are all clumped together like that, especially since the MFA boasts having a large collection of Asian arts dating back to the earliest days of the museum.  Nevertheless there was quite a delightful collection of works that had me hopping around geographically as well as through time.  One gallery deliberately mixed contemporary and classical Japanese art in a provocative way.

I also took a 3 masterpieces in 30 minutes tour and got to learn about three family portraits from three different artistic styles – Sargent’s The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, a folk art portrait from the 1830s, and Steen’s Twelfth-Night Feast.

After these eight visits, I believe I’ve been to every permanent gallery in the museum.  Of course, art on exhibit is changing all the time, so I’ll have to go back and do it again.  Maybe next time I’ll have a theme like art with families or bridges or pets or something like that.

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Movie Review: Princess Mononoke

Title: Princess Mononoke
Release Date: 26 November 1999
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Production Co: DENTSU Music And Entertainment
Country: Japan
Language: Dubbed into English
Genre: Anime / Fantasy / Adventure
Rating: ****


I don’t have much experience with anime so this was a wonderful introduction.  Princess Mononoke is a gripping adventure, imaginative fantasy, and a feast for the eyes.  There are many establishing shots that look like fine works of art.  The story is centered around Ashitaka, a prince who slays a fearsome demon that attacks his village but is cursed in the process and thus has to go into exile.  Seeking the source of the demon, Ashitaka finds himself between the spirits and gods of the forest and a town of ironworkers who threaten the forest’s existence.  There’s a clear environmental message here but it’s not too heavy-handed, and I’m impressed that no side is ever seen as good or evil and the viewers sympathies keep shifting as the story goes along.  A quite excellent film all around.

Movie Review: Lost in Translation (2003)

In 2019 I found some old Word documents with movie reviews I wrote back before I had a blog. I’m posting each review backdated to the day I wrote it.

Title: Lost in Translation
Release Date: September 12, 2003
Director: Sofia Coppola
Production Company:American Zoetrope | Elemental Films

A deliberately slow-paced movie in a high-paced world.  A lot of the relationship between Bob & Charlotte does not jibe, but I can overlook that due to the beautiful filming, the great script, the brilliant acting, and funny culture clash bits.  I especially like that there’s always something going on in the background.  This movie is worth a rewatch to pick up on things missed.

Rating: ****