“Tampopo”: Now that the U.S. has caught up with the utter genius that is ramen (and finally realized there’s more to life than instant), we’ve finally caught up with “Tampopo” from 1985. The movie is an utterly charming tale of a truck driver who stops at a ramen shop, run by a beleaguered widow named Tampopo; she’s hopeless at cooking so he helps her find the perfect recipe for ramen broth. The truck driver is sort of a cross between a Kurosawa hero and the helpful stranger from the Tora-San films. Interspersed between scenes from the main plot are off-the-wall vignettes of people obsessed with food in one way or another. A must see.
“Spirited Away”: This movie steps way beyond the classification of an animated film to stand as a classic for all time. Hayao Miyazaki’s films are always worth seeing but nothing he’s done has quite reached this level, plunging us a fantasy world that is beguiling and scary, always through the wide eyes of the 10-year-old heroine Chihiro.
“The Hidden Fortress”: Although Akira Kurosawa may have the reputation as a cinema god who made great and important films, he in fact made a wide range of pictures, from comedies to dramas, period pieces to contemporary stories. “The Hidden Fortress”, starring his main collaborator, Toshiro Mifune, is a fun action-adventure story cited as an inspiration for “Star Wars”. You’ve got Mifune rescuing a princess from a hidden fortress along with some bumbling sidekicks, human versions of C-3PO and R2-D2. Then you’ve got the Princess herself, a formidable figure much like Princess Leia or Rey from “The Force Awakens”.
To underscore the connections, the trailer below is a fan-made edit set to the music of “The Force Awakens”.