Gojira

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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GOJIRA *CLAP* DESERVED *CLAP* BETTER *CLAP*

This one is definitely one I never thought I’d be writing. Let me set the scene for you:

I am on the floor of a dingy little motel in Ipswich, Queensland. Why am I on the floor you ask? The charger to my laptop doesn’t reach the supplied workspace and to my surprise, the turtle-paced internet provided by the institution hosts a better connection down here. Welcome to my wild Saturday night in. I was called last minute to head to sunny Queensland with a motorsport team I work for, which is why this blog post comes so profusely late and why it comes from these humble beginnings.

When I thought about studying communications at uni, this was hardly what I had in mind. Yet here we are, detailing my experience of the original Godzilla film. Oh, that’s right, what you’re actually here for; Gojira.

I recently started a subject ‘Digital Asia’, and I am delighted to be analysing my consumption of the original classic as my first task. If you aren’t familiar with the film, check here for what you need to know on the ’54 original.

I have never actually sat down to watch any of the Godzilla films in any way, shape or form, so this was a first for me. Although I have never seen any of the films completely or even partially, for that matter, I had an understanding of the construct of the film and the notion of the storyline. Big, prehistoric-looking monster traumatises cityscape and destroys civilian populations and landmarks.

“I HAVEN’T SEEN ANY GOJIRA OR ANY OF THE FILM ADAPTIONS, HOWEVER, I SOMEHOW HAVE AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE TROPE ADAPTED FROM A GENERAL KNOWLEDGE ABOUT GODZILLA FROM POP-CULTURE?” –@CLAUDIALMULLER

Little did I know there were so many more layers to the dinosaur-reptile hybrid that tromped across the skyline. A monster with hidden depths? Tell me more.

I was fascinated to discover that take away the million dollar franchise and the corny special effects, beneath lies a tale detailing an entire populations’ fear of nuclear warfare, and a bleak future outlook for the world. The personification of current social concerns and atrocities in the form of an immense, nuclear beast fascinated me, and I was able to identify it through a marketing looking glass given my specialised knowledge in the area of social marketing. The personification of a negative action or activity is a common technique to help push social cause marketing efforts on the basis of developing particular emotions within the audience. There is a possibility I wouldn’t have been able to identify the effectiveness of this method if I had seen the film earlier in my childhood.

This, of course, wasn’t the first time I had seen a black and white film. Although I did come to the realisation that nearly all had been about caucasian lifestyles and glamorous women, clean-cut men and typically western ideals. I often felt a sense of shame, having not broadened my horizons earlier and ignorantly consuming exactly what Hollywood tells us we should. I doubt this embarrassment is something that the producers aimed at for a western audience. Then again, who could have predicted the concept would branch off into million-dollar remakes across the globe? Was the film ever intended to be seen by any Western eyes?

The final point of interest for me was watching my classmates, and myself, project our own current cultural references, interpreting the ’54 original though a 21st Century framework through our platforms, our memes and often also gifs. Our understanding of a digital asia, I presume, will come through our own learning processes in our online digital environment. Captured perfectly by our tutor Angus Baille:

That’s all for now, until next time.

Claudia

References:

Gojira

After going through the lecture slides, I downloaded Gojira and watched it on a Sydney to Wollongong train trip. In some ways, watching a black and white Japanese foreign film while on an Australian train provided great juxtaposition for cultural awareness. I was sitting in a carriage with fellow Australians, some in suits, some in jeans and converse, some very drunkenly slurring Aussie slang while others shielded their children’s post day care ears from such colourful language. And here I sat watching a film where even the monsters were treated with respect.

As a first generation migrant, to whom English is technically a second language, I have grown up loving foreign films. I grew up in house where children did not often watch TV. If we were watching TV it was a SBS (SBS before 8.30pm ehm ehm) family movie night – popcorn, home made Bengali and Arab sweets, world music soundtracks and subtitles. As a child I had the joy of watching and reading artsy, indie and documentarian Bengali films. As I got a little older, we would go to foreign film festivals. I moved out of home at 17 but like many familial attributes, the love for foreign film moved with me.

Growing up as a person of brown colouring in a multicultural, yet very white part of Sydney, my exposure to Western film was channelled through friends birthday parties and movies watched in school – limited to essentially The Goonies and The Rabbit Proof Fence. It wasn’t until I was in my later years of high school that I turned to Western Film for entertainment – cue The Godfather, Fight Club and Batman (I have two older brothers). Whether I was watching a eastern or western film, I was raised to question what it is the content is telling us to value, what it wants us to question and in turn, what really was the purpose of making it.

For these reasons, when I noted that Gojira the film was produced in 1954, I understood that it was a comment to the Atomic Age. I have always valued the simplicity and creativity of old film techniques. In one of the scenes in Gojira, we hear the singing of children as the camera pans the destruction of the city after Gojira’s first attack. The slow camera movement creates an emotional allusion to the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  At first the footsteps of the monster seem to be an expected film sound effect, but upon closer reflection, (as someone who has been trapped in a war zone) each step sounds like a bomb – a sound that unfortunately, would be familiar the films post WW2 audience.

How I make sense of the film is framed by by cultural, social and educational conscious and subconscious knowledge. For me the content was telling us to value peace, it wants us to question political tensions and the abuse of power. The purpose of any film is to some extent entertain, but Gojira is a reminder of what has happened and what can reoccur if we do not learn from our historical mistakes.

Gojira from the perspective of a foreign film convert

I have never been a lover of foreign films. I find myself easily frustrated by subtitles and my inability to understand the language being spoken.

This is altogether surprising to me as I come from a home where another language is spoken. While my linguistic talent is somewhat limited, despite an exchange, French or more accurately creole has been spoken both around me and to me for my whole life.

My mother’s side of the family are from Mauritius. Mauritius is a small island with a population of just over a million, that sits on the East coast of Africa. Mum was born in the capital Port Louis and moved here when she was seven. My grandmother, whom we call mémé, speaks only limited English and so for love (and our sanity) creole is the dominant language. Subsequently out of habit, mum and her siblings often slip unknowingly in and out of English and creole.

So in regards to my dislike of foreign films and especially subtitles, upon reflection, this truly is dumbfounding.

But when I think about it, creole has become familiar to me and my way of understanding the world. The Japanese language and the film Gojira however, were not. So, when Chris first told us that we were going to watch to watch Gojira which is obviously in Japanese I thought, “oh my god how? This is going to be a long two hours!”

By the end of the film I was hooked. I was personally invested in the characters and the emotional and ethical issues that the film presented. I found this surprising because my supposed dislike for foreign films assumed that I couldn’t relate because of the language barrier.

Because that’s why we all watch movies, right? Well I do. Like any story I hear, I search for what is relatable to my life.

Gojira presented so many tangents that I could think about such as historical references, romance, ethics, nationalism and so many more. There are so many different ways to access the film, which made me realise that films are layered with so many human elements that will stretch across any language barrier.

Perhaps I do like foreign films after all.

 

 

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.

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.

Godzilla

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