Japan salutes ‘Flags’ and ‘Hula’

Watanabe, Nakatani nab acting honors

Clint Eastwood’s “Flags of Our Fathers” took home the foreign film prize at the 30th annual awards from the Japan Academy on Friday, while local fave “Hula Girls” was the big winner with four trophies.

“Hula” was awarded the best picture, director (Lee Sang-il), screenplay (Sang-il and Daisuke Habara) and supporting actress (Yu Aoi).

Actor went to Ken Watanabe for his turn as an Alzheimer’s-afflicted adman in “Memories of Tomorrow,” while Miki Nakatani won actress honors for her perf as the much-put-upon heroine of “Memories of Matsuko.”

Yoji Yamada’s samurai drama “Love and Honor” scooped three prizes, including supporting actor (Takashi Sasano), cinematography (Mutsuo Naganuma) and lighting direction (Takeshi Nakasu). “Love and Honor” star Takuya Kimura was nommed for actor, but withdrew since his agency, Johnny & Associates, has a policy against its talent accepting prizes. 

Mamoru Hosoda’s “The Girl Who Conquered Time” scooped animation honors — the first time the prize was awarded. The victory was particularly sweet for Hosoda, who had been fired from Studio Ghibli’s 2004 hit “Howl’s Moving Castle,” to be replaced as helmer by studio co-founder Hayao Miyazaki.

Ghibli’s “Tales From Earthsea,” directed by Miyazaki’s son Goro, was also nommed, but lost to Hosoda’s toon, despite being the biggest B.O. hit of 2006.

“Hula Girls,” a drama about a hula dance troupe in a northern Japan mining town in the 1960s, is distribbed in Japan by Cine Quanon. It grossed $11.6 million following its September release. Internationally, the pic is repped by Fortissimo Films.

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