On Lost In Translation

THE YEAR IS 2003. 

Following the largest global anti-war protest in human history, The Dixie Chicks voice their anti-war stance, saying: “We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas” in front of a London audience. This results in horrific backlash, accusations of treason and death threats in America, the burning of their albums and their blacklisting from radio. (Ironically, their #1 single at the time they were booted off radio playlists was “Traveling Soldier” about a boy being shipped off to war and dying.)

Dangerously In Love, Beyonce’s debut solo album, drops spawning two #1 hits: “Crazy in Love” and “Baby Boy”.

After Crossover, his short documentary collaboration with the Japanese American National Museum, about the Japanese American Basketball Leagues from the 1930s, Justin Lin (of Fast and Furious fame) also makes his solo debut as a director with Better Luck Tomorrow. The film made headlines after its Sundance Film Festival debut the previous year when, during a contentious audience question about positive representation, noted film critic Roger Ebert stood up and decried the notion, stating: “What I find very offensive and condescending about your statement is nobody would say to a bunch of white film-makers, ‘How could you do this to your people? This film has the right to be about these people, and Asian-Americans have the right to be whatever the hell they want to be. They do not have to ‘represent’ their people.”

In August, a power surge originating in New York triggered the second largest blackout in history, impacting over 55 million people across the northeast United States and Canada.

And Madonna creates headlines yet again at the VMAs when she kisses Britney Spears and Christina Agulara during the show’s opening performance.


Lost in Translation is released in the US in September as a very small film. Made for a scant $4 million, and shot in a run-and-gun guerrilla style, it became a massive success, taking in $44 million domestically and ultimately taking in nearly $119 million worldwide—far and away Sofia Coppola’s biggest hit.

It also garnered her an Oscar win for Best Original Screenplay, and nods for Best Director, Best Film and Best Actor for Bill Murray. Murray also won the Golden Globe that year, a BAFTA Award and the Independent Spirit Award for Best Actor. 

Editor Sarah Flack, who had worked with Steven Sodenberg prior, got her first ACE nomination from this film and won the BAFTA for editing. Fun fact, she was an assistant editor on Romeo + Juliet, Swing Kids and—a personal favorite—Double Impact, with Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Costume Designer Nancy Steiner, who did extensive work on music videos with directors like Kevin Kerslake (Nirvana, STP, Rolling Stones), Michele Gondry (Bjork, Foo Fighters), and Roman and Sophia Coppola for the video for Air’s “Playground Love” (featured in Virgin Suicides), did the costumes for this film. 

John Kacere, Diane, around 1977

The opening title sequence was based on the works of the artist John Kacere, a former Surrealist turned Photorealist. Scarlett Johansson was really skeptical about wearing the sheer underwear in the opening shot. She said in interviews that this film taught her how to dance around in her underwear in front of a whole crew of Japanese men, which is a skill that she will never use again.