Feb 28

WIT Life #361: Making Oscar History with Drive My Car

Professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03) presents WIT Life, a periodic series about aspects of Japanese culture such as film, food and language. Stacy starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she offers some interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

I enjoyed watching the SAG Awards last night and it got me excited for the Oscars, which will take place in exactly one month. Drive My Car is the first Japanese film ever to be nominated for Best Picture in the ceremony’s 94-year history! In addition, Ryusuke Hamaguchi picked up a Directing nomination, as well as one for Adapted Screenplay with his co-writer Takamasa Oe. The film’s fourth nomination in the category of International Feature Film is the one it has the best odds of winning. If the many awards Drive My Car has already picked up at Cannes and other major film festivals are any indication, Hamaguchi and his team will be going home with at least one gold statue.

Interpreting for Drive My Car director Ryusuke Hamaguchi during a remote interview last year

The last Japanese film to be nominated for directing was Akira Kurosawa’s Ran in 1986, and the last to be nominated for International Feature was Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters in 2018. Neither snagged the prize, but the most recent Japanese film to win in the international category was Yojiro Takita’s Departures in 2008.

I was honored to interpret for Hamaguchi when he won Best International Film at the local Gotham Awards last year, as well as on numerous other occasions. I feel a personal connection since we’re the same age, and I’ve been a fan since first interpreting for him when his 2015 (five-hour!) film Happy Hour was screened at MoMA. Despite his amazing talent finally getting much-deserved recognition, he remains a truly down-to-earth guy who has not let fame go to his head. I look forward to celebrating his Oscar win(s?) next month!

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