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On Otaku

Elena Wang

The Japanese have a term for being deeply obsessed by the details of something – otaku – a trait shared by all of our designers at Zady, and by the exceptional craftspeople in the documentaries reviewed below.

In Architecture

How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster? (2010)

Sir Norman Foster walks us through the design processes for some of the most recognizable urban structures today.

Fun fact: Foster’s dazzling glass-and-steel Hearst Tower is New York’s first green high-rise.

In Fashion

Valentino:The Last Emperor (2008)

What does it take to become a monarch of the famously fickle world of high fashion? We’ll let the clothes speak for themselves.

Fun fact: After retiring, Valentino decamped from Rome and now calls New York home. For a tour of partner Giancarlo Giammetti’s impeccably appointed east-side apartment, see the December 2013 issue of Architectural Digest.

In Photography

Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens (2007)

Younger sister Barbara captures Leibovitz from her earliest counterculture days at Rolling Stone magazine to her high-octane life today as an icon shooting fellow icons.

Fun fact: In the fashion world, Leibovitz is best known for her fantastical collaborations with Vogue creative director Grace Coddington. For a riveting portrait of Coddington herself, see the documentary The September Issue (2009) on the making of Vogue’s most important issue of the year.

In Dance

Pina: Dance, Dance, Otherwise We Are Lost (2011)

Worth watching for the soundtrack alone, the members of modern choreographer Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal pay tribute to the legend through dance and brief, slightly cryptic soliloquies.

Fun fact: Bausch was a devoted patron of and muse for Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto. No surprise, then, that Pina director Wim Wenders also shot the documentary Notebook on Cities and Clothes (1989) about Yamamoto.

In Food

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)

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Jiro’s sushi masterpiece

Follow the kitchen staff from dawn at the vast tracts of Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market to late nights in the narrow hallway that is Jiro Ono’s Michelin three-star sushi joint.

Fun fact: Jiro disciple Daisuke Nakazawa is now running one of the hottest sushi joints in New York, Sushi Nakazawa in the East Village. Nakazawa was approached by Bronx restaurateur Alessandro Borgognone after Borgognone watched this very documentary!

In Writing

William S. Burroughs: A Man Within (2010)

One of the original Beatniks alongside Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, the irreverent author of Naked Lunch is himself laid bare in this wide-angle look at his colorful life and works.

Fun fact: The William S. Burroughs Centenary Celebration was held in New York this past April.

In Music

Let’s Get Lost (1988)

“Charlie Parker heard him playing somewhere, called up Miles Davis and Dizzie Gillespie, and said, ‘There’s this little white kid out here and he’s gonna give you a lotta trouble’”; thus commences Chet Baker’s meteoric rise to the pantheon of mid-century jazz greats.

Fun fact: Renowned fashion photographer Bruce Weber directed this film.