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Akira Kurosawa and the Academy Awards

With the Academy Awards handed out yesterday (what do you think of the results?), and Scorsese finally getting that prestigious 13.5 inch gold-plated statuette, I thought that it might be interesting to look back and see how Kurosawa’s films did at the Oscars throughout the years.

We are all of course well aware of how Kurosawa himself never got a “real” Oscar (he himself joked that his 1990 honorary award was given to him only because the Academy thought that he was going to die soon), but did you remember that films like Yojimbo and Dodesukaden actually gained nominations? Personally, I was also not aware that it was Out of Africa that robbed Kurosawa and a number of his crew of awards glory in 1986 — the only time when Kurosawa himself was nominated in the Best Director category.

Whatever your personal opinion is about the Oscars or film awards in general, I think that the following list that I compiled is nevertheless relatively interesting reading.

1952: Rashomon
WON Honorary award: “The most outstanding foreign language film released in the United States during 1951.” (Equivalent to the ‘Best foreign film’, a category that was officially created in 1956.)

1957: Seven Samurai
NOMINATED Best Costume Design, Black-and-White: Kohei Ezaki (lost to Jean Louis for ‘The Solid Gold Cadillac’)
NOMINATED Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White: So Matsuyama (lost to Cedric Gibbons, Malcolm F. Brown, Edwin B. Willis, F. Keogh Gleason for ‘Somebody Up There Likes Me’)

1962: Yojimbo
NOMINATED Best Costume Design, Black-and-White: Yoshiro Muraki (lost to Piero Gherardi for ‘La Dolce Vita’)

1972: Dodesukaden
NOMINATED Best Foreign Language Film (lost to ‘The Garden of the Finzi-Continis’)

1976: Dersu Uzala
WON Best Foreign Language Film

1980: Kagemusha
NOMINATED Best Foreign Language Film (lost to ‘Moscow Does Not Believe In Tears’)
NOMINATED Best Art Direction-Set Decoration Yoshiro Muraki (lost to Pierre Guffroy and Jack Stephens for ‘Tess’)

1986: Ran
WON Best Costume Design: Emi Wada
NOMINATED Best Director: Akira Kurosawa (lost to Sydney Pollack for ‘Out of Africa’)
NOMINATED Best Cinematography: Takao SaitΓ΄, Masaharu Ueda and Asakazu Nakai (lost to David Watkin for ‘Out of Africa’)
NOMINATED Best Art Direction-Set Decoration: YoshirΓ΄ Muraki and Shinobu Muraki (lost to Stephen B. Grimes and Josie MacAvin for ‘Out of Africa’)

1990: Akira Kurosawa
WON Honorary Award: ‘For cinematic accomplishments that have inspired, delighted, enriched and entertained worldwide audiences and influenced filmmakers throughout the world.’


Discussion

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Ben

Well, 1986 should have been his year… if the Academy had any sense, which they usually don’t.

I did watch last night. It was quite a boring show but they did have a salute/montage to the 50 foreign film winners. It was edit by Cinema Paradiso director, Giuseppe Tornatore.
Rashomon was shown about 5 times, Dersu Uzala was shown once.

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Vili Maunula

I actually didn’t watch the show. In fact, I had completely forgotten about the whole thing until I switched on BBC World this afternoon, and saw a short bulletin that they had on the thing. Seems like there weren’t really any real surprises to speak of.

I’ll be keeping my eyes open for that montage you mentioned. It doesn’t seem to have made it to Youtube yet.

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BMWRider

I never watch it, I think it like so many awards are a joke. I do look to see who won what with the hope of finding something decent.

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Jeremy

Think the Oscars is a popularity contest, no one who should win does. Scorsese award to me was more out of pity then anything else. The Departed is a good movie, but far from the masterpieces he has created in the past. The Oscar will not be of any help to him, in the 70-90’s when he should of won, it would allow him more freedom and power. I dont know if he wanted to win or not, but I was hoping he wouldnt, the loser list is far more impressive then the winner list.

The Oscars always award the popular, names like Scorsese and Kurosawa among many other great directors are not well known to the average movie goer or voter. You mentioned Eastwood for example and everyone recalls everything he has done, so he get rewards, despite the fact he completely talentless–in my opinion.

The Palm d’Or is the only reward with any true merit and nearly every great director has claim it, including Scorsese and Kurosawa.

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Vili Maunula

I think that awards can be a fairly interesting measure and indicator of all sorts of things of social, cultural and financial nature.

Although I wouldn’t use film awards to read too much into the actual quality of the movies, I nevertheless think that looking at the list of films that have been nominated/considered can often be a good guide for discovering interesting films. I consider them as “recommendations” for good films, rather than lists of “the best” movies out there.

This is especially true when you get to know what sort of films are nominated in what sort of prices — a Sundance film is obviously fairly different from an Oscar nominated film, which in turn is very different from a Berlinale nominated work. Once you learn to navigate your way around different awards, you can really discover some interesting work by taking into consideration these “recommendations”.

Who actually wins is not that important to me personally, but it often does make a great show, and must provide one hell of an experience for the people involved. Furthermore, winners generate discussion, which I think can only be good.

So, I wouldn’t personally ignore film awards as total waste of time, although at the same time I wouldn’t want to take them too seriously, either.

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BMWRider

Actually after posting here I looked at the international (foreign) film winners and the Academy Awards did a pretty good job. I love Pan’s Labyrinth, and The Lives of Others is on my must see list.

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Krisz

Hi everyone, it’s my first venture on the comment section of this wonderful website (I would say it even if the admin wasn’t my boyfriend, honestly!); I don’t call myself a fan of Kurosawa, but thanks to Vili, and a movie club for which I have had to translate at least 6 Kurosawa movies, I can say that he was indeed a wonderful artist.
The immediate reason why I am commenting here is that a) I also think the Oscars are mainly a joke, and a show for the “people” b) the different European movie awards, and the Sundance awards are far far more to be taken into consideration and c) I am an absolute Robert Redford and Sydney Pollack fan :D, and Bob just a few days ago scoffed at the whole Oscar business (hon, wasn’t he SOOO cool?!), so yes, I am terribly sad that Kurosawa didn’t win for Ran, but I am not really whole-hearted about this, considering. LOL.

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Vili Maunula

Hehe, hi there dear. πŸ™‚

Wasn’t it actually Redford to whom Scorsese lost the first time around when he was nominated for an Oscar in 1981? Yes, it was. Scorsese (Raging Bull) lost to Redford (Ordinary People).

It was actually one heck of a year for directors: nominated were also David Lynch (Elephant Man) and Roman Polanski (Tess). Plus Richard Rush (The Stunt Man), whose name says nothing to me at all.

Funny, in a way, that it would then be the actor who got the director’s award that year.

Not that I would say that Redford didn’t deserve the recognition.

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BMWRider

I would say that both Elephant Man and Raging Bull are superior to Ordinary People. They have both stood the test of time. But I guess the quality of direction is not always the most important factor with the Best Director award.

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Vili Maunula

I’m not so sure about Elephant Man, but I think you are right in saying that direction rarely has much to do with the Best Director award.

Not that film quality would that often have much to do with the Best Film award, or acting much with the Best Acting award, either.

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Jeremy

I believe politics have a lot to play on the actually winners. The Oscars are full of people well know in the industry, and the movies are from large studios with lots of money behind them.

Smaller venues, such as Sundance are voting on movies, that have no distributer and are from mostly unknown first timers. In that case the film is subject to be judge for the film content and not for the people behind it or whatever various politics surround the movie, such as in the Oscars case. Sundance in a sense is far more important, Sundance offers independent films a chance to get a distributer in order to go mainstream and be seen by the masses.
Oscar films have already been seen by the masses, and nothing more then a recognition award, that rarely helps the winners in any meaningful way.

To me Cannes Palm d’Or is only truly great award, that holds honor and pride. To me it appears the films are judged on the film and not what surrounds it.

Vili, great to see your girlfriend supports and finds the site wonderful…mine despises it.:)
Consider the amount of time I spend on this site, other movie sites and a car forum I moderate, cant really blame her. She is really going be mad, when I tell her, I am going out of town this weekend to race my car. If you dont hear from me again–she killed me πŸ™‚

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Ben

Yes, yup, yeah, in the end we know the films that stand the test of time in someway, even if they are lost gems.

I will just add this quick comment, since I am tired…

To me what the Acadamey does more often than not is give each popular or multi nominated film, at least one big award or several smaller “technical” ones.
I guess by doing this they feel like they can cover more ground and be somewhat fair(by award standards)to each film.

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Vili Maunula

I’m writing from Finland now, and at the moment from a Finnish keyboard (whose space key is almost dead), so forgive me for any typos.

Yes, Jeremy, it is wonderful how supportive my girlfriend is about this and other things. But then again, she is quite glued to the computer, herself. Here is one of her cinema related website, if you are curious: GerardPhilipe.com.

What sort of cars do you race?

Ben, I actually personally have the feeling that the multi-nominated films get (also) smaller awards because often those multi-nominated films are the ones that the voters have seen (or at least heard about, in which case it is about money — remember that Crash won Best Picture last year after a marketing campaign that almost equalled the budget of the movie), while they may not have seen the others. It is, in a way, stupid that the voters can vote in categories where they have not seen all the nominated movies.

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Jeremy

Just adding to whats been mention.
A lot of times the film that win are because the voters were able to see them personally in theaters on their release. The ones they havent seen and wish to see before voting are shown in small groups, on a TV usually around 20″ with the timecode showing on the bottom. A movie in a theater sure is going to have more impact then one watch on a 20″ TV among a group, no matter how much better the TV film may be. I dont know if changes I been made recently but this is the way it has been done in the past.

Currently am racing a Nissan 350Z (Fairlady Z in Japan) but have used BWM M3 and Porsche 911 GT2 in the past(dont own the Porsche its borrowed, worth way more then I can afford). I race on road track courses thought out the US within 3 classes. Not professional, as I dont do full season races, but I do race among professional drivers, in out of season, and partial circuit races. I do rather well considering, its more a hobby then anything else. I dont make any money, just spend loads of it, but it sure is alot of fun. I would like to go to Sweden and Finland as I seen and read about several really nice rally courses there, and I have access to a old Lancia Delta in Germany that could be shipped. It would however cost loads of money for just a two day event, so I dont think that will ever come to be. America is not big on rally races, so their is little chance for me to try something different.

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Ben

Yes, Vili and Jeremy, good points. Especially the win for Crash. Last year a friend of mine was interning at Lionsgate and was told repeated times that Crash would win no mater what.

Then another friend’s wife is actually in the Acadamy and voted for Crash because Lionsgate sent a screener DVD on time to vote, so it was the only one she had seen. None of the others studios sent their films in time.

The majority of people see the nominated films in this Screener format now.

Some studios have DVDs that have a code on it to become unviewable after a certain amount of views and then ultimatly do not play after a certain date.
Others just kind of do a Netflix mail thing going on andonly have a certain number of screeners to share amongst voters.
Or so I am told by several people.

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Krisz

Oh yeah, I agree, Ordinary people was not that exceptional, though when I watched it for the first time, at age 18 or so, I was stunned. Since then, I have also evolved, somewhat. I am loyal to Redford, I admire his views and his character, and I absolutely love his movie roles, probably each and every one of them. He always plays the right type of American, the type not to be found anymore. πŸ™
I also watched Crash, I found it quite ok. But not exceptional.
I think you guys are spending way too much time talking of useless movies πŸ™‚ bring up some good ones, foreign ones, worthy ones! I hunger for good movies, for really good ones. The last time I said this was a great movie was Little Miss Sunshine, and before that, Donnie Darko. (Yikes, that was a LOOOONG time ago!) At least I don’t remember more.

Yes, I support Vili’s obsessions, because they mostly coincide with mine πŸ™‚ and sometimes I even watch some football with him πŸ˜‰ but no video games yet…

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Vili Maunula

Just to put the record straight, I don’t do video games. I play (whenever I have time, which is rarely) Commodore 64 classics, and I think that there is a big difference in there. πŸ˜‰

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Krisz

sorry, love πŸ™‚ me, I don’d do either- hence my ignorance πŸ™‚

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BMWRider

Well we are blessed to have some really good movies. They generally do not come from Hollywood. I thought that Pan’s Labyrinth and Volver were great. Lives of Others is on my “to see” list. The Koreans are making great movies, and Japan is still a force. With the internet and DVDs, we really are living in a golden age. Twenty years ago when I wanted to talk about AK, I had to take a film class, now I may participate in a discussion every day.

Hollywood has gone to hell in a hand basket. Most of what they make is utter scheist. I knew they were doomed when they started mining old television shows for movies. Do not get me wrong, I see an occasional decent film from California, but it is usually under funded, unadvertised, and bombs at the box office. I did like The Pursuit of Happyness, and a couple others, but that is about it.

So we have a lot to be grateful for, the internet, region free DVD players, and online ordering.

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Ben

For me though nothing beats the theatre experience for actually watching a film.
I’ve grown up spoiled in the internet age but I’d give all that up just to be able to see wonderful films on the big screen.

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BMWRider

Hey I have an eight foot screen in my home and 7.1 surround, it is the way I see movies the way I want them.

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BMWRider

I suppose what I was trying to say in my above comment is that a home theater coupled with the options above, we can have our cake and eat it too. I like the fact that I really have a little geek arthouse theater in the comfort of my own home.

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Ben

No, I understood what you meant. And I hope I wasn’t coming off as an opposer of your comment.
Realisticaly, I don’t have that option to enjoy my own personal little geek arthouse on that scale… yet. πŸ˜‰
But I’d still opt to go to the theatre whenever possible to see a new film or a revival or retrospective.

You know we really need a message board…

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Vili Maunula

Ben, I’m working on setting up a message board. I just don’t yet know what solution I would like to implement, as none of them seem quite optimal.

In any case, I will try to do something in April when I have more time on my hands. Sorry about it taking so much time.

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BMWRider

Vili, none of us are complaining. I for one am grateful to have this outlet at all. Thank you. Ben, once you have a home theater the appeal of going out begins to wain. I only go for movies I think are huge, like Pan’s Labyrinth. Really that is more about a date with my wife, or a boys’ night with my son(s).

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Vili Maunula

I’m sure Ben wasn’t complaining, but I know my own speed (or rather the lack of it) as I feel the need to mull over things for a while. (I can tell you that the first version of this website was ready in 1998, but apart from a very brief spell in 1999, it only came online in 2005.)

It is therefore good that you guys are kicking me in action a little bit — the mere fact that someone actually visits the site and finds it useful enough to spend a moment to drop a comment is already something that has kept me going.

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Ben

No, no not complaining at all. As I typed that message I realized that we were begenning to use the comments section for.
Which is fine as there are only a few of us…
Vili, understandably you’re in the middle of a bif shift in your life, so I’m not expecting a board anytime soon, but it would be a great addition for us AK fans.

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Akira Kurosawa and the Cannes Film Festival :.: Akira Kurosawa News and Information

[…] this year’s competition, and I though that just like we did a couple of months ago with the Academy Awards, it would be a good time to remind ourselves of Kurosawa’s successes in the Cannes Film […]

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