Why the darkest and most intense director working today will never win an Oscar.
Nakashima has a lot to say about victims, violence, revenge, living a worthwhile life, parents and their children, and he says it all while never taking sides or pointing fingers. Instead, he wants to illustrate how far we can go, and how much damage we can do, when we're convinced that we're right. Confessions blew the box office wide open in Japan, remaining in the No. 1 spot for three weeks last summer and earning Nakashima comparisons to Kubrick. Watching it feels like being run over by a glacier: monumental, powerful, and extremely painful.
While Kamikaze Girls was picked up by Viz Films, a label specializing in anime, American distributors were too scared to pick up Matsuko, a musical about a woman being beaten up by her abusive boyfriend, and, as for Lala Pipo, which features a chronic masturbator, a mother-daughter porn act, and a talking penis, forget about it. Confessions will probably find a small distributor who'll label it "Asian cult revenge film" and dump it on video-on-demand. And since Japan took home the Oscar in 2008 for Departures, it's unlikely Confessions will win this year. * But there's another reason Nakashima would never win an Oscar: he's a Hollywood heretic.
Nakashima uses the bright lights and big colors of the victory movie to show people in defeat. His underdogs don't get their moment in the sun: They spend their lives in shadow, finding relief only in their delusions and daydreams. There is no last-minute victory, and they're full of hope only because they don't have any other option. And that's why on Feb. 27, someone else will cry and gasp and thank a bunch of people in a foreign language and Nakashima's Confessions will just be another beautiful loser.
Correction, Jan. 25, 2011: This article originally misstated the year that Departures won an Oscar. It was 2008, not 2010. (Return to the corrected sentence.)
Grady Hendrix is one of the founders of the New York Asian Film Festival and he writes about pop culture on his blog.