film

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.

You, Me and Autoethnography.

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2005. Popcorn litters the floor of a Batman Begins session. The murmuring of patrons gradually fades out into the lobby.

“Ready to go?”, dad shouts over Hans Zimmer’s thundering score.

I wasn’t. For the first time ever it had clicked in my head that cinema wasn’t just a form of entertainment, it was it’s own world. People dedicated their lives to these visions. It felt like a language I always knew existed but finally understood.

These “epiphanies” – described as “remembered moments perceived to have significantly impacted the trajectory of a person’s life” (Bochner & Ellis 1992), are essential to auto-ethnographic research. In the simplest terms when these autobiographical details of one’s life are compared to ethnographical information of a similar or opposing cultural context, the resulting research “illustrate facets of cultural experience” by familiarising both “insiders and outsiders” (Ellis et all 2011) with cultural characteristics. Overall providing an account of social science borne out of the researcher’s results.

For me, film is inextricably connected to auto-ethnographic methodology. Filmmakers re-contextualise their personal and cultural contexts, to provide the audience with a intimate glimpse at their personal beliefs and values through the story and characters. Through doing this they are able to transcend cultural boundaries, while still presenting a uniquely personal product.

A prime example of this is Sofia Coppola’s 2003 film Lost in Translation.

Though the film explores the alienation and subsequent familiarisation of Japanese society through the central characters of Bob (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), the film is ultimately a manifestation of Coppola’s own personal feelings of being lost during her twenties. In technical terms, the ethnographer injecting autobiographical information into the research to give it a personal resonance.

Autobiography: Bob is confronted with an image of himself on a billboard, surrounded by the alien streets of Tokyo.  Represents Coppola’s western context in eastern. Metaphorically representing the potential for one context to meet another, or potential for an individual to become a part of a culture.

Ethnography: Charlotte physically explores “traditional” Japan. Reference to Coppola’s attempts to connect with the culture, ultimately existing as a passive participant who quite literally observes it from afar. Represents the “process” of researchers during their investigations.

Auto-ethnography (Product): Bob and Charlotte, though never quite connecting with Tokyo, ultimately appreciate the culture that surrounds them and ultimately their place within it. Coppola coming to peace with being the outsider.

 

I believe this demonstrates auto-ethnography methodology in it’s purest and most literal form; as “both process and product” (Ellis et al 2011), but largely one of observation. Auto-ethnography is engaging with one’s own familiarities and then contrasting and comparing it to the unfamiliar to give your initial contextual framework greater definition, while having grown appreciation for the “other”.

DIGC330 has already provided this shift for me, through the screenings of Gojira (1954) and Akira (1988). While previously I felt my knowledge of film was comprehensive, these films have totally shattered my understanding of the medium. They have demonstrated that there is more to the genre then Hollywood, and by extension more than the culturally-exclusive framework I had been approaching film through.

I feel like that nine-year-old kid all over again, discovering film for the first time, my entire language being challenged. Yet this is the ideal birthing ground for auto-ethnographic research.

References:

  1. Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. 2011 ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1, viewed 10th August 2017, http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095
  2. Lost in Translation 2003, motion picture, Focus Features, directed by Sofia Coppola.

 

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

Experiencing Godzilla in 2017

Sitting in a university classroom in 2017, with my phone in my hand and my tablet on the table, I can definitely say that my interaction with the first Godzilla film, Gojira was infinitely different to that of the original audience in 1954.

Being a 20-year-old woman that has lived in Australia her whole life, how I interpreted Godzilla would have also been different to those original Japanese viewers in the 50s. For one I had to experience the dialogue of the film through subtitles, and as accurate as they can be, there are always certain emotions, ideas, and expressions that simply get lost in translation.

Not to mention that I was on my phone the entire time.

The livetweeting of Godzilla by dozens of young university students must be a novel idea of @CL_Moore. This added yet another layer that distanced us from the original experience of Godzilla. It meant that I was busy trying to keep up with my fellow students’ hilarious tweets, rather than be submersed within the cinematic experience of the film.

This meant that I missed parts of dialogue of the film, and so had to rely on my own understanding of the film and its possible conventions to figure out what was happening.

However, as an Australian in 2017, I’m obviously lacking some of the cultural understandings that the original Japanese audience would have had access to in 1954.

I have watched a few black and white films in my time, but none were ever in a language other than English. I’ve also watched a few Godzilla films, but mostly modern ones that focus on action, and generally lack the overarching moral lesson that this original Godzilla was focused on.

I also fairly regularly watch subtitled animes, but even this cultural experience did not lend me any insight into what I was missing in those moments of dialogue.

So, due to my fairly large consumption of modern Japanese animated shows and films, I can simultaneously sit on my phone and watch a subbed anime, because I can easily comprehend the conventions and predictable patterns present in this medium.

But due to my lack of exposure to 1950s Japanese films conventions, I could not draw upon my own cultural or personal framework to comprehend what I was missing in those moments when I was looking at my phone and not the film.

Overall, watching the original Godzilla gave me the opportunity to reflect on where my personal framework lacks, and how I can continue to build my cultural experiences.

Godzilla – A sign of the times.

Alright. So. I am going to be completely honest with you.

Before yesterday, I had never seen a Godzilla film.

From the 1954 original to 2016, there has been 31 adaptions of Godzilla and as an avid film lover, you would think that I would have seen at least one of the last seven, that of which were made in my life time but no.

Growing up, one of my favourite things to do with my brother was draw Manga characters. We would go to the book store and go straight to the ‘How to draw Manga’ books and go home and draw for hours. We watched Pokemon, Sailor Moon, Naruto, One Piece, Dragon Ball Z  and even Yu-Gi-Oh! But being a young child unknowing, I just saw these shows as strictly entertainment, as bright and colourful characters with really cool costumes and capabilities.

Having seen a couple trailers here and there and growing up with three older brothers who love to watch a good action film, especially if the action is produced by a ginormous dragon / dinosaur / reptile monster; I felt as though I could tell anyone the storyline despite never actually seeing the film.

This is a big reason why I never voluntarily watched any of the Godzilla franchise because to me, they all seemed to be very similar in storyline. This is how I thought: A big monster terrorises a city and smashes stuff. Civilians die and some hero character kills the monster, saving the city and everyone is happy.

This was shallow thinking. (But I wasn’t wrong to some extent).

There was so much more to behold than just some surface level plot line of the Japanese masterpiece, Gojira.

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The cover of the original Godzilla – Gojira (1954) (Photo: Geek-E.com)

After watching the original in the Godzilla franchise ‘Gojira’ (1954), I became aware of the films historical relevance in terms of cinematography and its social and political commentary.

I never knew the underlying anti war, anti nuclear message behind the film until my tutor Chris mentioned it and as soon as he said it I understood. I wasn’t sure why but I heard a line and something made me want to write it down in my book. “If we keep conducting nuclear tests, another Godzilla may appear somewhere in the world.” To me this line emphasised fears of nuclear energy and weapons testing, and some how in some way made me think of Donald Trump.

I  saw ways in which the film is a reflection of society in time. The first thing I noticed and it may just be the strong feminist in me, was the 1950’s ideologies in terms of gender roles and the distinction between men and women within society. The lead female character Emiko is, in my opinion, the stereotypical ‘damsel in distress‘.

Now, I understand there a cultural differences between Japanese films and Hollywood films. Though I could not ignore cross of over in terms of costume. I am not strictly saying that one culture copied another, like East from the West, but in regards to what I know as a naive westerner, Emikos costume makes relation to ‘1950’s American housewife’ styled clothing.

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Hideto Ogata protecting Emiko from Gojira, who at this point in the film has been defeated. (Photo: Geek-E.com)

Constantly seeking the comfort and protection from her male counterparts, whether that be Hideto Ogata or Dr. Serizawa, Emiko seems hopeless. Always anxious and scared, a scene with her either contains a scream, a wail or her crying audibly. Also she cant keep a secret.

“THE SHADE OF IT ALL. Tell him you won’t tell anyone. Nek Minut everyone knows #DIGC330” –  Lauren Mulhall (@ldmulhall)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not hating on Emiko when I say that she is over the top, because I think it is quite humorous and it makes me grateful to see how far the representation of women within cinema has come.

In terms of the cinematography,  I geeked out a lot and could go on forever so here are some scattered thoughts to end on.

I found some of the establishing / landscape shots to be absolutely stunning. Whilst watching the film, I kept thinking to myself  “Wow. Imagine if this was in colour” than I would think “I wish I was there in that moment on set”.

“Even without colour some of these establishing / wide / landscape shots are stunning #DIGC330” – Lauren Mulhall (@ldmulhall)

I totally geeked out in the underwater sequence and how they used the lightness of the smoke in contrast with a dark background to make it seem as though the man in the Godzilla suit was actually walking on the sea bed.

“I’d like to see the cameras that shot the under water sequence. Or even be there to see them shoot it in a tank. #DIGC330 “ – Lauren Mulhall (@ldmulhall)

I found a pleasure in the cuts and transitions use in the film, they were so simple yet so effective and advanced for its time (for film a smooth transition is an intricate and admirable task) and I thoroughly enjoyed that.

“Some of these old school PowerPoint style shot transitions are giving me so much life right now. So smooth. #DIGC330” – Lauren Mulhall (@ldmulhall)

Overall, my experience of the film was very enjoyable and encourage you to watch it too.

Lauren.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Asia, My New Friend.

Okay, I’ll be honest.

When I say I’m interested in Asian culture, I mean I’m interested in the Asian culture that has been presented to me through Western media. More specifically, cinema.

In the case of Japan – the first country that comes to mind when I think of the term “Asia” – most of my exposure has come specifically from a Western viewpoint. Films like Lost in Translation (2003), The Last Samurai (2003) and even Kill Bill Vol. 1&2 (2003-2004) have all evoked a sense of unrequited nostalgia and sentimentality within me for a country and culture I’ve never experienced.

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Terence Young’s Red Sun (1971), an example of the hybrid Eastern influences I’ve grown up with.

This sense of the exotic “other” has only been emphasised by my cultural context. Growing up in Australia, the product of English and Scottish ancestry – a heritage of which I often joke makes me “the whitest guy ever” – I leap at any glimpse of a different culture.

In this sense Ishiro Honda’s cult classic Gojira (1954) is both an intriguing revelation and stark reminder of my unawareness of Eastern film. First and foremost, despite being an avid film fan who would choose to take their stack of Blu-Ray’s to a deserted island over food and water, this was my first complete experience with an Asian film. I make no secret of the fact that my previous attempts to power through Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954) have been less than successful, and my promise to explore the catalogue of Hayao Miyazaki has gone unfulfilled.

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Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954). Previously my closest brush with Eastern film.

My predetermined assumptions that I’d feel like an outsider, desperately attempting to piece together intertextual references to a culture I’d never experienced went unfounded when watching Gojira. The film is not only an allegorical masterpiece, using Godzilla as a big and scaly metaphor for nuclear war, but the characters and themes are universally relevant today. If anything, this film felt more like a reflection of the world I am acquainted with than the spandex-wearing demigods of modern Hollywood.

Even from a filmmaking perspective Gojira rejected my assumption that 1950s science-fiction films were all low-budget B-grade schlock. While Godzilla is somewhat ridiculous in appearance, and the acting is occasionally a little over-the top, the film also represents some cinematic breakthroughs. The set design for one is jaw-dropping for the 1950s. My mind jumps to the climax of the film where Godzilla is crashing through the streets of the city. When you realise this wide scope of carnage and destruction is actually small-scale models mixed with footage of the actors, a technique which is still adopted by Western filmmakers today (i.e. Batman Begins), you realise that the tropes and techniques we are acquainted with all owe a great debt to this film and it’s ilk.

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The legend himself, the original Godzilla.

Gojira is a mere drop in the ocean of the Asian media I am yet to explore, but thanks to the film the floodgate is now well and truly open.

ゴジラ – Exploring Japan Through Film

I am a little behind the pack on this one, but here it is nonetheless – my reaction to watching the classic Japanese film Godzilla in class, whilst live-tweeting the experience.  The tricky thing about writing last is that all the most profound and insightful discoveries have already been stated by others, so I’ll be using my tweets to guide my response.

Godzilla, or ゴジラ as it is written in Japan, is one of the most iconic 海珠 (kaiju, or monster) films of all time.  I’ll admit that despite this, I’ve never seen the original, only the Hollywood remake featuring Bryan Cranston.  I have also never watched a black and white film outside of high school English studies – damn you, To Kill A Mockingbird!

I don’t know why I’m so surprised, to be completely honest.  As a white, atheist Australian woman with no direct links to anything across the sea, any culture I experience is new and foreign to me.  Perhaps that’s why I am so drawn to the Japanese culture, history and lifestyle – it is incredible to experience as an outsider.

I am very open to the idea of being absorbed in Japanese culture as it gives me a window of insight into the cultural nuances of Japan.  I love the works of Studio Ghibli, and I adored the J-drama series 花ざかりの君たちへ (Hanazakari no kimitachi e) when it was first shown to me by my Japanese teacher.  I tried to draw comparisons between the J-drama and Godzilla at first, before realising that they are completely different insights – it’s like trying to compare The Notebook to Transformers.

My early thoughts when watching Godzilla commented on the plot and acting, which I likened to Home and Away in its dramatics.  However, it wasn’t long before I began to notice the subtle details, such as the choice to keep non-diegetic movie scarce, and the number of women in the film.

As the film progressed, I found myself less distracted by the yelling-acting and the dated special effects, and began to appreciate the film’s nuances.  One scene in particular, with a mother comforting her two children in the moments before death that they would see their father in heaven soon, made me tear up more than it had a right to.  I didn’t realise how invested I was in the film until this point.

Once I appreciated the film and its story beyond its goofy effects, I discovered the underlying symbolism of Godzilla as the aftereffect of the nuclear bomb’s dropping on Hiroshima.  Once I understood this (around the same time as the rest of the class), the film takes on a whole new layer and depth of meaning.

I only shared one quote during my live-tweeting session, and it was the following:   “If we keep doing nuclear testing, it’s possible another Godzilla will appear, somewhere in the world”.  It’s a devastating moment in the film, where the film is trying to drive home their anti-nuclear and anti-war message.  To me, it sounds like a plea, the film asking the audience to understand the crushing realities of war.  I felt a little foolish for joking around at the beginning when the reality is that the film, for its time, must have been revolutionary.

The Art of Autoethnography: Part IV

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Below is a table detailing the assumptions I made of the assumptions I had after my first autoethnographic encounter and what was learnt through further literature research. While not all my assumptions were completely wrong I definitely still had a lot to learn.

What I am also finding is that the more involved I become in this autoethnographic study, the more interested I become in the cultural significance and background of the Bollywood film industry. this has unintentionally caused some of my research to go off in a tangent to some extent, relating less to language acquisition and more to the cultural language study of the Bollywood genre. I am finding that I either need to shift to topic of my auto ethnographic study or attempt to refocus.

Assumptions Reflection
The assumption that was made was in relation to the parameters od the autoethnographic research. Initially I set out that I would use multiple media texts in my methodology to obtain personal experience. I believe that this assumption was a little presumptuous. Even though I knew it would be difficult to learn some aspects of the language I did not realize how difficult it would be. I can to the realisation that little would be gain from this experience if I was to continue in the same fashion viewing multiple types of texts to acquire even the most basic level of language acquisition when starting from scratch. In reflection I believe that the greatest personal experience will come from focusing on one individual text and to absorb this text on a number of occasions and then focus my research around this. A number of factors play a part in the change of the parameters of my methodology. The first is the time period over which this research was conducted and the hours that could be dedicated to it. The most important factor was though the lack of a foundation of understanding of the Hindu language. Due to this I have now watched the same Bollywood film three times and each time I find myself picking up on some new words even if only for a moment and reaffirming the ones I have previously picked up. I also become more aware of different aspects of other communication aspects present in the film.
In my first notes I stated that the Bollywood movie Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani was produced using the Hindi language and that because it is a contemporary media text it would provide a context for the language that included slang and colloquial language. ‘Bollywood productions are today acknowledged as the generator of and vehicle for contemporary popular culture in India.’ (Goethe Institute, 2016). My assumption while correct was also limited and basic. The language used in Bollywood films is much complex then simply Hindi. English was used in the film not only when on location in an English speaking country but also the occasional modern words which are the same in both English and Hindi, for example the word internet. According to the Goethe Institute (2016) The language used in Bollywood films has a distinctive supra-regional integrative quality. ‘The code switches between sociolects, standard languages and distinct Persian and distinct Persian or Sanscrit features, jargons with regional variants right through to other Indian national languages such as Panjabi, Marathi, Gurarati and not least English’ This is throughout films in the Bollywood genre.
While this assumption is not related to language acquisition I thought it was important to note that when I first watched this Bollywood film something about the premise of this music seemed strange and stupid to me. Upon critical analysis of this observation I was able to gain a better understanding of why they premise of this musical seemed so foreign to me. I am used to watching musicals that are either produced on Broadway or in Hollywood. Musicals made in Hollywood and on Broadway tend to focus around entertainers because they are focused on making the musical aspect of the story seem as realistic as possible. Though according to research ‘Bollywood is not encumbered with adherence to realism’ (The Bollywood Ticket, 2016). This knowledge to make a better understanding as to why this this musical seemed so strange to me. Unconsciously I felt disconnected from the storyline because it lacked that realism that I am used to in musicals.
Never did I have the assumption that I would be able to gain a complete understanding of the Hindi language simply through studying media text produced in this language. Though I did assume that when were hear of people acquiring a language through media that it is all they have used. It is evident through the research conducted that while media texts provide a great tool in the acquisition of a language, it is simply a part of the process and other learning is needed this can take place through classes in a more formal context, though in a less formal one it could simply be researching on the internet. Aiping et. al. (2016) in the article Exploring learner factors in second language (L2) incidental vocabulary acquisition through reading, states that ‘second language incidental vocabulary acquisition through reading usually involves the process of through reading usually involves the process of learners noticing an unknown word, searching for its meaning, and elaborating upon the form meaning connection’. Learning a language through listening in this case is quite similar, it is all part of a process and in most cases further research is conducted to obtain a complete understanding of the language.

 

Resource List

Aiping, Z, Ying, G, Biales, C, & Olszewski, A 2016, ‘Exploring learner factors in second language (L2) incidental vocabulary acquisition through reading’, Reading In A Foreign Language, 28, 2, pp. 224-245, Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 29 October 2016.

Goethe Institute (2016). Multilingualism – Languages Without Borders – Projects – Goethe-Institut. [online] Available at: http://www.goethe.de/ges/spa/prj/sog/ver/en5356222.htm [Accessed 12 Oct. 2016].

Thebollywoodticket.com. (2016). Introduction to Bollywood – The Bollywood Ticket. [online] Available at: http://www.thebollywoodticket.com/bollywood/beginner.html [Accessed 11 Oct. 2016].

An Interview With Godzilla

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Starting off the semester with a lovely portmanteau, autoethnography would allow our studious minds to describe and analyse our experiences of digital Asia while including our personal context. This methodology acknowledges that people see things differently and therefore provides an insight from an outsider looking in. With our modern day access to international media whether it’s a game show from Japan or a Bollywood film from India, autoethnography shows how our own cultural bias can change our understanding of a medium while also providing a way to increase that understanding simply through describing and analysing our experiences. Ever watched Eurovision? That is one roller-coaster ride of a cultural study.

Godzilla seems to be one of those movies which stands the test of time; maybe not on a special effects level, but definitely in pop culture. Although many people, myself included, would have to admit that they’ve never seen the film (until now anyway), most would still be able to understand the reference in an everyday context. So when I found out that we would be experiencing this classic in-class, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t intrigued. Personally, I have some experience in Japanese culture having studied the language for two semesters as well as having consumed a range of media from Japan including music, anime, and TV shows. I feel that my knowledge of Japanese culture, albeit limited, still helped with my understanding of the film. Here are some of the thoughts while watching Godzilla:

  • Why is the direction of Japan on the map sideways? Not sure whether it was on purpose to display a political message, an accident by the movie’s creators or maybe it was purposefully done just to mess with the audience.
  • I expected to see Godzilla much later in the film, I feel that Hollywood prefers to create tension by keeping the audience guessing on what/who the villain is. For example, Jaws and Cloverfield both waited until the climax of the film before revealing the enemy completely.
  • Big emphasis on the H-bomb and the devastation it caused in the past. Feel like Japan is more remorseful towards their actions in WWII while, in comparison, America tends to glorify their past. History is written by the winners I suppose.
  • Hydrogen bomb testing was a terrible idea, clearly.
  • A love triangle, never seen that before in Japanese anime or film… (she says in her head sarcastically)
  • What did she see?! Points for acting skills.
  • No one ever listens to the scientists in movies! But, in fairness, a 50m beast is destroying your country and there doesn’t seem to be a way to capture him, let alone hold him captive for a lengthy period of time. Sorry Dr. Yamane, but I have to agree with the masses on this one, kill the monster!
  • It seems that both America and Japan enjoy destroying national landmarks in their apocalypse movies; goodbye Tokyo Tower!
  • Self-sacrifice is also a popular trope it seems; I’m actually having a harder time remembering a film where there isn’t at least one person willing to die for the greater good.
  • A final political message before the credits roll.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie as a one time watch and felt it was easy enough to understand for a foreigner. Of course, the more cultural knowledge of Japan you have, the more you would get out of the film especially if you were to do an in-depth analysis on Godzilla. I’m curious to go back and research the themes of the film to find out if there were any important messages I missed.

Auto-Ethnographic Experience… GODZILLA

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Let me start off by saying I absolutely love Godzilla. I think he is such a misunderstood fellow and a total bad ass to boot. How can something so ginormous and scary who possesses a destructive power of unprecedented proportion also be so gosh darn adorable?

So, putting my love of the Lizard King into perspective, you can Imagine my reaction when I entered my first Digital Asia class (on my first day back at uni), only to find that we would be spending the entire two hour class watching the original 1954 Japanese classic.. Godzilla (or Gojira in Japanese). Immediately I began to feel like I was back in high school. You know those days where the teacher is sick and the whole class would cheer as an over-sized TV on a stand is wheeled into the room. Only this time we were watching something cool.

Being unable to read Japanese I had no choice but to look at the writing in the opening credits purely from an aesthetic perspective. I couldn’t help but think to myself that Japanese writing looks so much better than English writing and then I wondered if someone was out there thinking the same thing in reverse. By the time I was done with that strange strain of thought it was time for the film to begin.

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The movie has a quite a slow beginning so as I was watching I found myself just listening to words instead of reading the subtitles. While doing this the sound of familiar words kept transporting me into flashbacks of some of my favorite animes. Every time I heard someone say san at the end of a name I would in-vision an memory of The Straw Hat Crew calling out LUFFY-SAN! in respect and admiration to their Captain.

This was also happening during the dramatic moments of the film. I have noticed that in Japanese cinema the tear jerking moments always have some kind underlying moral lesson. For example when (Spoiler Alert) Daisuke dies at the end, that wasn’t just for evoking tears, the movie was making an important message about the abuse of scientific innovation. He had to sacrifice himself to ensure all traces of his weapon would die along with him. Through out the film moments like this kept reminding me of the many lessons I have accumulated from watching Asian cinema.

The moment Godzilla appeared the graphics almost had me in hysterics. For the time they were amazing but watching them now really changes the mood of the film. I can definitely see why the film has become such a cult classic. It is funny to think that this was my first time actually watching the film when it is certainly not my first time experiencing it in some form or another. Remakes, posters, street art, music videos, cartoon references, figurines… Godzilla has saturated the environment I have grown up in. This has made me feel as though I knew the movie well, despite never having seen it.