Godzilla

Gojira: Nothing beats the timeless

This reflection of the 1956 original story of big, weird train-eating Lizard thingy is a little different.

Heartbreaking as it is, I wasn’t able to enjoy the viewing of Gojira with my seminar buddies as I was completing the last week of an internship. However I soldier on with an alternative take.

Personally, I’m a lover of anything timeless. In the current day and age we love new. We need the new technology, new clothes, new foods, new, new, new. But why? We get so wrapped up in the shiny screen or flashy fit of our recent purchase that we’re blind to the fact that our love for it will probably fade and die as quickly as its level of trendiness in our society does.

If I was to ask what your favourite song or piece of clothing was, I’d bet it’s not in the charts or trends right now. In fact, I’d almost bet it wasn’t even made in the current decade. This is my definition of timeless, the things in life that stand the test of time as the flashy and new fall to waste around them.

I’ve compared the reaction of the internet to Ishirō Honda’s 1954 original Gojira, to the 1998 and 2014 Godzilla remake, and it pleasantly justifies yet challenges my rant about timelessness.

The original kills the competition with its ratings 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, 97% on Film Takeout, and 7.6/10 on IMDb.  The ratings stoop quite magnificently with the 1998 Matthew Broderick remake, a dismal 16% on Rotten Tomatoes, 32% on Metacritic, and 5/10 on IGN.com (sad face). A surprise comes with the most recent take, fetching 75% on Rotten Tomatoes, 6.4/10 on IMDb, and 9/10 on IGN.com.

Equally as interesting was the observations made by critics and fans alike. One theme I continued to find through feedback was the poetic nature of the original flick (as poetic as a film about big, weird train-eating Lizard thingys can get), and how the reimagined films lacked the same poetic qualities. The reviews for the middle child film are hardly worth giving words to, but I’ll summarise by noting I’m not rushing to see it. To the admiration of critics the 2014 Godzilla did borrow some of its classic predecessor’s most loved qualities, making it a worthwhile visit to cinemas, but alas, it still just simply didn’t live up to the standard of the original.

I’m not here to trash the modern film industry, or the modern anything to be frank, I watch new movies, buy new clothes and new technology. I just want to explore and justify my love for anything that is too wonderfully classic to be outdone or replaced by the new versions.

Now that my rant is over, go and have a laugh at this hilariously made You Tube review of the 2014 film by the AngryJoeShow.

 

Are you a fan of the timeless side of life too? If so, what’s your poison?

Me, Myself and Japanese Culture

The Town of the Talk

In the Beginning

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I wish it was that exciting but sadly it really really isn’t. Both my parents come from the deep south of Victoria and I am the youngest of five children… so I have seen and experienced things that no one should ever witness. I guess you could say I’m as Australian as the Kerrigan family, I just love the serenity. It wasn’t until Dragon Ball Z and Pokemon infiltrated our all-Aussie home that I was introduced to Japanese culture, but that was soon to be just the beginning to this lil boy’s cultural journey.

I remember the first time I saw a subtitled movie and it was Passion of the Christ which my dear mother showed me quite prematurely but she said; “if you want to celebrate Easter you darn well better know why”. So there I was, about twelve-years-old, watching the most brutal movie I had…

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‘A Country Bumkin Confused in the Presence of Culture’

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Western culture is a hard thing to escape.

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Growing up the main contributor to my knowledge of other cultures came from the golden chalice of all morning TV programs – Toasted TV.This gem of my past may have fuelled my obsession with Nickelodeon, but it also sparked my interest in cult anime classics such as Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh, all be it the watered down ‘4Kids’ versions of the original anime. Other films such as Empire of the Sun and the Last Samurai also helped to shape my easily impressionable perception of Eastern culture, however, looking back there is a common theme across all of these narrative and that is the looming presence of western culture as many of these shows were still filmed or altered to be presented from a western viewpoint.

This western glazed frame that I viewed most cultures from was also influenced by my…

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Autoethnography – Why it’s a good thing

Let’s start with the definition that will probably be included in every blog post this week.

“Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)” (ELLIS, 2004; HOLMAN JONES, 2005).

In my own words, Autoethnography is the implementation of personal experiences and culture into the study and writing of things to help understand the researchers own personal context and the effects it will have on their interpretation of the material being studied.

I’m pretty sure I may have made it sound more complicated (haha) but this is the way that makes sense in my head. The phrasing of this is due to my personal history of extension history and research- which was all about using the information you’re given to present an argument based on your own ideas. Which I think is definitely similar to autoethnography.

After a quick flick through the Wikipedia page, it makes sense that if we want to study social aspects further, then we must look towards our own views and background to make sense of it, as well as to show new and improved concepts on past studies.

Somethings have already stood out to me as being autoethnographic-ish in this subject. Firstly, in week one with our study of Godzilla- I realised that due to my personal background, I had a deeper understanding of the Japanese culture and the importance of the signage and language format used throughout the film. I then used this in the blog post for that week to explain to other in the class, what it was in my personal context that allowed me to notice these details.

I think this is beneficial when it comes to research and the future of studying topics across cultures. It enables a better understanding of the culture being studied and also of how your own personal context can influence how you see things and interpret what you’re seeing. While more traditional research practices ask you to remain impartial and not choose sides- this is impossible and often leads you to read research papers without knowing fully the context of the writer of the work.

When it comes to the interpretation of film and media consumption- it’s beneficial and important to know the biographical details of both those who created the work and also those who are researching and passing on their opinion.

I hope this made sense, and I didn’t end up rambling too much!

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Sources:

My First Godzilla Experience

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Gojira (1954). Photo credit: The Focus Pull

I think this was the first black and white film, and first subtitled film I have ever watched from start to finish. Being a 21-year-old Australian, I tend to only watch films and television shows that originate in the US and Australia; sometimes ones from the UK sneak their way into the mix. Being exposed to a film that is as culturally diverse as Gojira, and as far from my comfort zone as can be, really opened my eyes.

While watching the film, I tweeted “what a cinematic masterpiece”… I’m not going to lie when I say I was being a little sarcastic at first but as the film went on and we were exposed to the film maker’s use of model work and post-film productions, such as the siren that alerted the city of Godzilla’s appearance, I really did start to believe that the film was kind of a cinematic masterpiece. Scenes like Godzilla destroying the obviously teeny-tiny train made me chuckle but still had me intrigued with the methods film makers had to use in times where technology was limited. Audiences from this time period probably found Gojira extremely dramatic, where a lot of us watching it in the tutorial found it quite funny.

I thought I was going to struggle to pay attention throughout the film as it was subtitled and I have a very short attention span – I think I have YouTube videos to thank for that now. I still remember sitting in my Year 9 Japanese class and not having any interest in the Japanese soap opera we occasionally watched. This, in turn, had me thinking that I wouldn’t have any interest in keeping up with what was happening and being said throughout Gojira but I found that even if I looked away from the screen for a period of time, I was still able to keep up. Most of this was due to the emotive acting and the loud sounds and near silence used throughout. I’m still quite amazed at how captivating the scenes that were entirely silent were. The overly staged and highly dramatic acting contributed to the viewing experience as it meant that I didn’t always have to rely on the English subtitles to understand what was happening in the scenes.

As someone who was never seen anything Godzilla related, I was completely ignorant Gojira‘s significant representations of historical and socio-political events. After the post film discussion in the tutorial and reading through both classes live tweets, it became blindingly obvious what Gojira, as a film and figure, stood for and represented at a time where Japan was struggling with who they were as a nation.

60 years on and Godzilla is still strong

I’m a 90s baby, I grew up watching Hi-5, The Wiggles (originals) and then grew into more sophisticated films like Mean Girls that truly understood the struggles of growing up in a white privileged society. I’ve grown up in a mostly peaceful time, and the only worries I’ve faced have been “end of the world” scares that never eventuated. As a result, the films I watched growing up were mostly light-hearted fun, adventure filled stories that never showed hard-ships.

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Godzilla (1954), image, movieboozer.com

I would have never watched Godzilla growing up, and even if I did I would have missed the underlying metaphor behind the film. This is because I’ve never lived in a time where the horror of nuclear war or death of loved ones has ever been a treat to my perfect bubble wrapped life.

 

As I watched Godzilla, I found it difficult to relate to the characters because I had never experienced anything that made me think about how my life could be affected by this. Also, my experience of films up to this point were American made or American sympathised, therefore the common enemy of those films were Russia, Japan, or Germany that had made up the Axis Powers in World War II. These stereotypes had carried across to my understanding of the world around me, and it was only until I was old enough to experience the world for myself that I found this to be this incorrect.

 

Therefore, expanding my understanding of International Film is a valuable source to understand how other countries document and make sense of hard-ships they have faced. The Japanese film industry using a nuclear, fire-breathing monster as a metaphor of the destruction the US inflicted upon Japan during the war makes this film more relatable for many different audiences, rather than if it was a more direct portrayal of the event. It ended up becoming a hugely successful formula and as a result, ironically America has released their own Godzilla films.

 

If you’re interested in a little background reading:

Here’s an article of photos of Hiroshima and Nagasaki then and now from the Guardian 

And a review of Godzilla

Gojira, an Understanding

When I first realised I would have to do this subject on Digital Asia, I must admit I was wary and disappointed. I am not really one to watch anime, or read manga, or really I’ve never been interested in it at all. I was again surprised that the first movie we were to watch would be Godzilla. I’ve never watch the original, although I have watched the latest one (Gareth Edwards, 2014), and the one where the bad hair over took the story line (Roland Emmerich, 1998). This subject is heavy on the autoethonography methodology, and it is necessary for me to relate back to the subject matter in a way that explores my own connection and contextual understanding of it. My cultural background is limited, at best. I have no real understanding of Asian media, other than the cartoons dubbed for Cheese TV back in the ’90s-00’s.

The way I have watched, understood and disassemble the movie Gojira from 1954 is through the discussion in class about the contextual and historical location Godzilla has in the film world. I never really put much thought into the big lizard, and through the discussions over twitter and in class I have learnt a lot more about where it stands as a movie.

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The movie came out at a time where Japan had lost its sense of self; the Japanese culture had lost a part of its identity due to the clashes with the West. Not so subtle inferences to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the fall out of nuclear war are echoed throughout this movie. Godzilla himself, with his nuclear breath, is the metaphor for a time where the possibility of being wiped off the map, was a reality some thought would happen. The sentiment of antiwar and anti-nuclear weapons was a powerful message to be sending out in a post-war Japan. Godzilla was symbol and exploration of the people’s fears, encased in a rubber suit.  To my understanding, Godzilla was a call for the end of this type of destruction. Godzilla speaks louder than roars, as even in modern times, the monster can be the symbol for whichever man-made disaster is occurring at the time.  Global Warming, war, nuclear power – all of these topics are easily interchangeable as a new Gojira.

My understanding of the context and importance this film has all stems from discussions in class and a larger memory of history than I thought I had. The subject matter is much richer than just a monster in a rubber suit. It is a movie that speaks up about what an entire country felt at the time and that is powerful.

Ahhhhhhhh, It’s Gojira!!!!!

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Last Thursday must have been one of the more interesting opening tutorials I’ve experienced.  It was nostalgic.  I can vividly remember seeing Hollywood productions of the same black and white era being played around midday every weekend.  Watching a monster film instead of the usual “Hi, I’m blah-blah-blah and I like blah-blah-blah” was definitely a nice change.  While I knew about the Kaiju genre of Japanese films, I had never properly sat down to watch an original.

From the outside, you could be forgiven for thinking that ‘Gojira’ is a movie without much substance.  People awaken monster, monster destroys stuff, people come together to destroy monster.  I had never given these films much thought either.  Perhaps that’s because so many of the Kaiju-esque films that Hollywood produces follow this same trope without much in the way of themes or worthwhile story.

But ‘Gojira’ needs to be viewed differently; understanding its context is important.  With ‘Gorjia’ releasing in 1954, it’s hard not to realise just how politically and culturally important the film is for Japan.  Godzilla represents nuclear holocaust, with his attacks being a reflection on the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.

Reflecting on my own context and media consumption experience, it has always been the “communists” or in more recent times those from Middle Eastern origins who have been portrayed as the antagonists in films we see in the west.  It must also be said that they are far less subtly villainised on the that the US was in ‘Gojira’.

My consumption of Japanese media is usually limited to food or fashion, so being able to view the important cultural roots of Japanese cinema was excellent.

‘Gorjia’ has really given birth to global genre, and one of the more interesting offshoots is that of North Korea’s 1985 film ‘Pulgasari’.  Why is it interesting?  Well that’s because Kim Jong-il had the man hailed as “South Korea’s Spielberg” kidnapped in 1978 to help make North Korea a film making powerhouse. Sufficed to say the plan didn’t work very well, but it made for a cult hit in the western world.

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Growing up I was never allowed to watch a lot of TV and the movies we did own on VCR were Disney, Julie Andrews films and the Pippi Longstocking movies thanks to my German mother.  Most of the content (if not all) I consume is western media, so a 1950’s black and white Japanese film was an entirely new experience for me.

I hadn’t seen any Godzilla films and had very limited knowledge on it asides from the fact that it’s some kind of monster. Because I’d never dabbled in any of the Godzilla recreations I couldn’t even conjure up an image of what Godzilla is meant to look like although I’m sure at some point I would have seen a movie poster somewhere. The name ‘Godzilla’ is familiar, but little else is.

As such I didn’t have any idea what to expect of the film. I have so little knowledge of Godzilla I wasn’t even aware the film was originally a Japanese creation, and in my mind I had the assumption that it was a more recent Western creation, when in fact the Japanese film has had over 30 remakes since the original in 1954.

Hesitations aside I was pleasantly surprised that whilst the film was something I would never watch by my own choice as I watched it I did become invested in what was going to happen. So all in all, Godzilla was an interesting viewing experience for me. Jerky transitions, dated effects and bad acting aside (Emiko always looked like she was happy whilst crying/screaming and it threw me considering most of her scenes included her in some level of distress) I was surprised that the movie was something other than what I expected and passed my (somewhat low) expectations.

What I found most interesting, and hadn’t anticipated was the political comments that the film made. The original Godzilla was released in 1954, a time when people were still recovering from the horrific events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I don’t have extensive knowledge of WWII Japan, asides from what is depicted in other popular movies; most of which are American and portray the Japanese as the enemy. However, early last year I read a short novel titled Hiroshima, a literary journalism piece that recounts the experiences of several Japanese citizens who survived the nuclear bomb in Hiroshima. These personal accounts, as relayed by John Heresy, really confronted me and gave me a whole new insight to what happened in Japan during WWII as a result of nuclear weapons. (A really good read that you can find in the New Yorker if you’re interested). This text gave me a background to the theme of nuclear war that runs throughout Godzilla. I noticed throughout the film they would show the individuals affected, humanising the numbers affected by such disasters. For example, the people in Tokyo on the train discussing the horror of Godzilla and even mentioning having avoided Nagasaki, only later to show the same people on a boat attacked by Godzilla. The focus on WWII and nuclear weapons isn’t something I expected of the film. The anti-nuclear storyline and connection to WWII that ran throughout the film are probably what captured my attention and interest most, seeing the way in which the film expressed the fears at the time through an action flick involving a giant prehistoric creature.

My main reflection is that the film ended up being a lot deeper than I though it would have been. I entirely expected some kind of monster and public panic (which there was) but what I didn’t expect were the underlying messages reflective of the time and events.

via Godzilla — Jarrah Bowley

The Message Behind Godzilla

 

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My personal context did have a very direct impact on my interpretation of the original Godzilla film.

Other than the obvious impacts, in that the film was created before I was born and thus the cinematography is dramatically different to what I’m used to. There were a few things that stood out to me that had more to do with information and language.

While I do come from a very Australian background, I have spent a very long time studying and enjoying Asian cultures and its entertainment industry (Japanese culture in particular). So there were a few things in this film that stood out for me and may have been viewed differently.

Firstly, the use of more Kanji characters in signage was important. In more modern films, and in Japan itself- most signs are written in Hiragana and Katakana- since it’s easier for the public to read and understand. It really highlighted the time-period in which this movie was created. A lot of the dialogue was also in stilted and in older format- more formal language than the Japanese you would hear in Anime’s or Japanese drama.

Another thing that impacted my interpretation of the film was my extensive study of the Hiroshima bombing that I did as my major work for my HSC. I’ve always viewed Godzilla as a warning from the Japanese people against nuclear warfare and a visual representation of the devastation that was caused to their country.

The visualization of Godzilla and the fact that he’s depicted as an unapologetic monster could very well show the view of the Japanese people towards America. Since the monster never apologized or rectified his mistakes- and to be honest, neither did America. I think that the evolution of Godzilla through constant remakes will help to enforce the ideal of a nuclear free environment (or at least a safer nuclear practice). But that could just be wishful thinking.

The films itself was not something I would usually watch, I don’t enjoy action films. However, it did make me want to look more into the progression of nuclear power and if there’s any counter measures that have been triggered by this film and the remakes after it.