Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Week of April 27 to May 3 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Chefs from all over the world dream of acquiring a Michelin three-star rating, awarded only to the most perfect temples of gastronomy. Two stars means a restaurant is “worth a detour” but three means that it’s “worth a special journey” to enjoy dining excellence. In all the world there only about 80 restaurants qualifying, a mere two in London and four in New York. But for Jiro Ono it’s not a dream. He already has the three-star rating. His only care is to perfect it. JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI is the appropriately titled documentary about his modest sushi bar in a Tokyo subway station.

With only ten tables gathered around a small bar, it’s not easy to get a reservation at Sukiyabashi Jiro. It’s reported that you must have a fluent Japanese speaker with you to gain the honor of a seat. Nor is it a bargain, with the bill averaging $250 per person, far more than the American ne plus ultra of Per Se or Le Bernadin. But, as Master Card would say, some things are priceless. If a movie about this appeals to you, let me give you a tip. Make your reservation at Ambrosia or Origami before you go, because the urge to consume some of these delectable rolls will be irresistible when you emerge from the film.

In the hands of American documentarian David Gelb, the movie teaches you about sushi, but more than that it’s a tribute to an extraordinary artist, a man who has obsessively devoted his life to an ephemeral art that disappears in a gulp. “At its simplest level, Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a portrait of a master. In its deeper layers, it explores what drives us to make things: Beautiful, jewel-like things, or things that delight our palate – or, in this case, both.” (Stephanie Zacherek,

While you’re contemplating the small pleasures of raw fish, TITANIC is a looming presence reminding us that the sea also taketh away, and that Hollywood’s artists like James Cameron work at a scale somewhat larger than that of a sushi chef. While the honorable Jiro has been dreaming of sushi, Cameron has been fretting over the fact that he made his seafaring magnum opus too soon, before the era of 3D. Not to worry. Thanks to more than a year’s work, and the expenditure of $18 million in a painstaking scene-by-scene digital remastering of the movie, we have it.

I’m not a huge fan of 3D, but this is the best use of the extra dimension I’ve seen so far. The amazing effects of this cinematic powerhouse now sweep us even more realistically into the watery domain of the White Star Line’s doomed vessel.

Held over are SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN, the comic drama starring Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor about converting a piece of the Arab desert into the Scottish Highland; WANDERLUST, Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd’s excellent adventure on a hippie commune; and THIN ICE, a tongue-in-cheek tale of a couple of inept con men.

On the higher culture front, Sunday brings us THE BRIGHT STREAM, live from the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow at 11:00AM EDT (7:00PM in Moscow), with an encore show at 7:00PM EDT. We no longer have to view Shostakovitch’s 1935 celebration about life on a collective farm through a Stalinist lens (which got some of his collaborators sent to a gulag), but can just enjoy its comic joy.

This Monday marks the end of the April Cult Colors classic movie series with David Lynch’s 1986 masterpiece BLUE VELVET, starring Isabella Rossellini and Dennis Hopper.

Full schedules and info at or

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