Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Spinning Plates Movie

If you cast a superficial glance at movie times and television schedules, you might think being a chef was just about rote culinary competitions and dudes hitting the road to get their fried food on. Jon Favreau is the latest to add to the trend with the indie charmer Chef, a film about a man who reconfigures his relationship with food by hitting the road in a food truck. It’s familiar material; television’s been giving us heaps of men hitting the road to please their taste buds for years from Feasting on Asphalt to the fan favorite Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. But of course, the world of chefs extends well beyond rumbling engines, fried foods, and manliness, and cinema’s modern crop of chef-centric documentaries is a great way to see the expanse of experiences and techniques that go into being a chef, as well as the fundamental basics they all share. Some are exciting, some are thought-provoking, and all challenge our preconceptions about the craft of food.

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Last night, at a special event in conjunction with the AFI FEST, the nominees for the 2013 Cinema Eye Honors were announced. And once again, the titles contending for the ten feature categories, all of which focus solely on nonfiction films (to make up for the Oscars’ minimal recognition), represent the year’s best in documentaries. As someone who professionally concentrates on docs elsewhere, I tend to feel kinda useless or redundant when Cinema Eye names its nominees, because now when someone asks me what’s great this year I can just point to their list of 31 features. Of course, some of these films are only up for specific honors, like those for original music score and graphic design, and may not be quite as necessary as the six up for the top award or the 10 nominated for the Audience Choice Prize (which sadly, for publicity-sake, lacks a Justin Bieber movie like last year). Also, I could name a bunch of exceptional docs that haven’t been recognized, such as This is Not a Film, The House I Live In, Under African Skies, Beware of Mr. Baker, Last Call at the Oasis, The Queen of Versailles, Girl Model (though its directors are up for Downeast) and The Invisible War. Still, I’m very excited that one of my top three nonfiction films of the year, The Imposter, is one of the most-nominated titles, while I’m even more ecstatic that the CEH could bring more attention to brilliant, lesser-known works like Only the […]

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One of the most difficult Oscar categories for pundits (let alone regular folk) to predict is the one for feature documentary. And this year more than ever it’s going to be hard to pick the five nominees, because changes to the rules of qualification and voting have given the race an extra element of complication: there is no precedent for how things turn out with this particular selection process in place. In a way, it’s a wide-open field with no certainty that higher-grossing films or more issue-oriented titles or discernibly cinematic works have the greater chance at a nod. Some expected the number of contenders to be cut in half as a result of the new rules; instead it grew, much to the chagrin of branch leader Michael Moore. And until the annual shortlist narrows them down to 15, we have 130 eligible films to choose from. But most of those docs aren’t plausible nominees. Many of the kind that Moore gets upset about for paying for a screen rental to qualify aren’t likely to go all the way. So they qualified. Now they have to be good and popular enough for people to notice.

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One of the best parts of Netflix’s streaming service is the instant access to content produced in every corner of the globe, from underground cult sensations to award-winning festival fare. For those with stronger stomachs and a thirst for genre films, Netflix now offers an ultra-violent prison film, a gut-wrenching drama based on real life serial killings and a gorgeous Chinese horror.

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This Week in DVD

Welcome back to This Week In DVD! We take a look at fifteen new releases below, and a whopping eleven of them are good to great and worth your time! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Brake A man (Stephen Dorff) awakens in a plexiglass box that itself rests inside a car’s trunk. Confused at first, he soon learns his captors are after a very specific piece of information they need to complete a terrorist attack. Can he hold out against their threats and actions? This film bears thematic similarities to 2009’s Buried, but it’s a far superior experience (at least until the end anyway). Dorff does a fine job as the highly stressed lead, the story’s twists and turns are a solid mix of the expected, the smart and the unpredictable, and there are several genuinely exciting moments. Just be sure to turn it off about two minutes before the credits roll. [Extras: Commentary, featurette, music video]

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I love sushi. Not just the taste, but the overall experience. For me, sushi is an event – there is ceremony, pageantry, and tradition that I love and respect but know is beyond me historically. It is the only eating experience that, when I receive what will always be a rather expensive bill, I’m not even sort of guilty. To me, that would be the equivalent of feeling bad for paying to see fine art, or an amazing live show. In many ways I consider myself a sushi purist; I avoid rolls with sauces and tempura-covered-whatever, and you can kindly spare me the cream cheese. Nigiri and sashimi are my presentations of choice, and I never stray. One of the vital things, to me, about the sushi experience is giving deference to the sushi chef. When I was in Japan many years ago in a hole-in-the-wall sushi restaurant with six seats, I was set straight by the not-so-jolly chef behind the immaculately clean counter. Everything was made clear via pantomime, but I gathered quickly what sushi etiquette was all about. He did not offer soy sauce, or wasabi, and I wasn’t allowed to point at anything  in request. He took my cash before seating me, and began serving whatever he so desired – and it was heavenly. Before I stood to leave he raised his eyebrows inquisitively – I enthusiastically nodded my thanks, at which point he produced a barely-friendly grunt and stepped away through the kitchen door. A master […]

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+


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