'Departures' wins 10 at Japan awards

Foreign-language Oscar nominee named in 13 categories

TOKYO -- Oscar-nominated “Departures” dominated the Japan Academy Prize on Friday, collecting 10 wins from 13 nominations, including best picture.

Yojiro Takita’s quirky tale of an unemployed cellist who finds work as a “nokanshi,” or ceremonial preparer of corpses, got a rousing send-off two days before its foreign-language Oscar fate is decided.

“Even though the film is very Japanese in a way, the themes couldn't be more universal,” director Takita told The Hollywood Reporter in a December interview, prior to its Oscar nomination.

Nominated in every category it was eligible for, “Departures” also took the awards for best actor (Masahiro Motoki), best supporting actor (Tsutomo Yamazaki), best supporting actress (Yo Kimiko) and best director.

“The Dark Knight” won in the best foreign film category despite a lackluster performance ($17 million) at the Japanese boxoffice.

The best animated film award went, predictably, to Hayao Miyazaki’s “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea,” 2008’s boxoffice king with $165 million.

“Departures,” in comparison, took $33 million and didn’t even make the top 10 boxoffice list of domestic titles in a strong year for Japanese films.

Whether “Departures” wins on Sunday or not, it may be the first Oscar-nominated picture by a former adult movie director. Like many Japanese helmers, including Masayuki Suo (“Shall We Dance”), Takita cut his directorial teeth on “pink films” -- softcore theatrical productions -- during the early ‘80s.