Japanese Film

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!

autoethnography

Sources:

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

A very Different Film Experience…

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Being a 21-year-old Australian I generally tend to watch films that are contemporary Hollywood blockbuster romantic comedies, so watching the film Godzilla was definitely a diverse experience.

During the beginning, the first thing I realised was that the film was in a square format, which I am not familiar with only watching modern day movies. This along with the black and white made me question how long I’d be able to dedicate my attention to the film. Being someone who is attracted to bright colours I assumed I would lose focus fast but fortunately this wasn’t the case. Come to think of it, I haven’t watched a black and white film before other than the Wizard of Oz but that was only black and white for a short period in the beginning, hence why Godzilla was far out of my regular film choice. Fortunately, the dramatic story line kept me entertained for much longer than expected, the effects were extremely impressive for such an old film and it was pleasant watching something from a different era, although I wouldn’t do this regularly.

Comparatively, I did think there were a few issues with the film in terms of performance and editing. The scratches in the film became quite distracting and there were times there was a need for sound but it cut out unexpectedly which was a let down. Not only this, the acting was very dramatic and highly staged in comparison to the mainstream Hollywood films I watch which are generally natural and realistic and this really emphasised how ‘corny’ Godzilla was at times. Especially referring to the monster itself, who looked fictitious and artificial, specifically in the scenes where it emerged from the water and ‘breathed fire’.

The subtitles in Godzilla created a new film experience for me, being someone who hasn’t watch a film with subtitles before. I’ve never needed to as I’ve always watch movies in English and had no interest in anything else. I didn’t realise until about 5 minutes into Godzilla that all I was doing was reading the subtitles and not actually watching the film itself. They became quite distracting because I knew I wouldn’t understand what was going on if I didn’t read them, so I continued to lose focus until about midway through. From here it became easier and easier as time went on to channel my focus into the entire film experience including the subtitles, actors, scenes etc. and it surprisingly became quite enjoyable.

Out of my own curiosity to decided to research how effects were executed before we had the luxury of all these fancy computer programs. According to Harness, the approach they took to editing especially in regards to films with animation or monsterous characters like Godzilla, was very time consuming and required a lot of patience (2010). Everything had to be done in a manual manner, and discovering the effort that went into the creation of the movie really made me appreciate it more.

Something I noticed was that there was a clear difference in terms of how women were represented in this culture and time in history. From what they wore, how they acted in front of men, to how the men treated them. It opened my eyes when comparing it to cinema today, female actresses now have much more power and equal rights than during the time Godzilla was filmed.

Overall, this movie was the complete opposite of what I’d usually choose to watch and although there were parts that made me slightly cringe, it was an insightful experience to see a cultural and historic film with a thriller story line like Godzilla.

 

Photo credit: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/z6-schilling-godzilla-old-a-20140523.jpg

Harness, J 2010, Special Effects before Computers, Mental Floss, viewed 30th July 2017, <http://mentalfloss.com/article/24209/no-cgi-please-special-effects-computers&gt;

Why Godzilla is no joke.

Everything about my life is a product of western culture.

Objectively, this doesn’t come as too much of a surprise given my Australian upbringing.

Now it gets a little concerning when my only engagement with varying cultures, specifically Asian culture, has come from a completely Western viewpoint. Films like The Last Samurai and Lost in Translation, although presenting themselves as thinly veiled avatars of Asian culture, are still predominantly constructed with the western gaze in mind.

This exposure, or lack thereof, has been profoundly influenced by my cultural context. Growing up on an Australian farm during the early part of the 21st century isn’t exactly an ideal scenario for contact with culturally diverse images and messages. This not only affected the frequency with which I came into contact with these varying modes of media, but also the way in which I interacted with them when I finally did so.

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(director Ishirô Honda on the set of 1954’s Godzilla)

Take for instance Ishiro Honda’s cult classic Gojira (1954). Western audiences have spent more than half a century interacting with Godzilla as no more than a comical, far cry from the horror films constructed in Hollywood lots and locations. The monolith of Godzilla is viewed, still by many, as a joke dinosaur in a rubber suit. The overly histrionic sound effects and visuals all play into a highly-constructed camp backdrop that has western audiences viewing the film as no more than a bit of Japanese ‘trash-culture’. Even my years as a communications student did not make me immune to the comical scrutiny that I placed upon the film, commanded by my own cultural frameworks.

But constructing Godzilla as the harbinger of a man-made apocalypse isn’t just another attempt at securing audiences who are drawn to high-impact scenes like moths to a flame. The film is a sober allegory intended to shock and horrify an adult audience. The use of startling images – cities in flames, crowds in panic, helpless armed forces – would have unfortunately been all too familiar to the cinemagoers who less than a decade before would have experienced the key themes of survival and death depicted within the film. This is further developed through the highly poignant script which posed deliberately provocative questions about the use of nuclear power, and post-war power struggles.

My own cultural upbringing in the 21st century unfortunately created an initial disconnect between myself and the film. Like many blockbuster hits that I am accustomed to, I viewed Godzilla as no more than a fictive construction deployed to entertain audiences. But as the film continued on, and focuses narrowed in, it became hard to ignore the reality of the tragic story of nuclear paranoia presented before me.

GODZILLA

Before this week’s seminar, I have never really watched a Godzilla movie or found anything to do with it interesting. I knew they existed and that there was a movie franchise produced around them but I have never watched one.

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However, I have to say that watching the Godzilla movie this week was quite interesting. I enjoyed it to an extent. The most interesting part of the movie I think was seeing how different the scenes, dialogue, acting, graphics and even sound effects were. When comparing these things to this day and age there is a dramatic difference between them. It’s quite awesome to see how far film has come.

 

My high school gave us the opportunity to learn and study Japanese language, culture and history. The class opened my mind to this very different cultural identity and gave me the opportunity to explore the art of manga and Japanese films. I found that the film Godzilla gave me a different view point of Japan and especially their stance on nuclear energy. I think, however, because I was able to study Japan, I was able to make sense of the film text a whole lot better.

 

Godzilla in the film becomes a metaphor for the nuclear bombing nightmare that happened in Nagasaki and Hiroshima at the time. Images shown the film depict a raging Godzilla producing destruction in the form of a sea of flames, smouldering buildings and apocalyptic ruins. Director Honda explained “I took the characteristics of an atomic bomb and applied them to Godzilla” in an attempt to portray the atomic bomb and the effects that it produced on Nagasaki and Hiroshima during the attack. The portrayal of the character to this day can still be adapted and evolved in an attempt to portray the ideas of climate change and especially the problematic missile tests in North Korea.

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Overall I think that the film was very interesting, it brought up topics that I hadn’t considered or thought about before. Depicting the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima through Godzilla was a great way to emphasise the destruction and fear individuals felt during this time. Let’s hope that the devastation of the bombing will be enough to stop this from happening in the future.

 

My Buddy Godzilla

by
Veryisabel

 

I haven’t watched a ‘monster’ movie in a really long time, let along an international movie. I haven’t watched an old or classic movie in a really long time, let along one in black and white. Out of no fault or reason other than my movie-viewing practices, have not always been about taste or desire to see a particular movie. Rather, what was in reaching distance, what was fed to me or forced into my bubble of experience.

My background of a monster movie experience, is probably limited to the giant spider in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002).

My background of an international movie  experience, is the one time I stumbled onto a Spanish film on Netflix out of boredom and somewhat enjoyed it.

My background of a classic movie, is very faded memories of the Wizard of Oz (1939) from years ago, back when I remembered how a VHS worked.

(more…)

Gojira – The original slizzard lizard from the East.

I have never been an avid consumer of films from the 50’s but I am aware that they comprise of a particular recipe. Where does this awareness come from?! Well, luckily for me my dad is obsessed with 50’s films, so whenever I am swaggering through the lounge room I find myself quickly observing the world of 1950’s Hollywood cinema.

When I found out we would be watching Gojira, 1954, I was pretty excited, mainly because I have never seen a Japanese film from the 50’s and was interested to see if it would be any different from the one’s my dad is constantly ogling at.

While watching Gojira, I was really trying to pick up on distinct elements of Asian culture, but I just could not get past the uncanny similarities between it and the American films of that time. This was particularly obvious with regard to the composure of males and females. YES I was not really focused on the giant, mutated amphibian that was defacing the city of Tokyo and its people. I was too busy studying the actions of the characters.

The lead female character, Emiko, depicts the archetypal female of that time. This becomes pretty obvious through her conservative ‘housewife’ clothing and overall, consistent ‘damsel in distress’ demeanour e.g.

Emiko

Clinging to/being held by male figure.

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‘I can be your hero baby’ – Enrique Iglesias perfectly depicting Dr. Serizawa’s thoughts.

These kind of gender roles are mirrored in famous western movies of the 50’s era:

Kiss Me Deadly, 1955 – ‘Ugh, get off me peasant.’

Pickup on South Street, 1953 – Female figure swooning in male figures arms.

Vertigo, 1958 – Female figure demonstrates downturned, submissive eye. Male figure appears domineering and assertive through gaze and physical contact.

I also found that the sheer amount of violence made it hard for any elements of Asian culture to come through e.g. most scenes are dark and ominous to reflect the sense of doom and loss of hope that Gojira’s presence brings, however, this makes it hard to see the surrounding landscape.

Upon further discussion, I did not realise that Gojira may have been used as a tool to subconsciously instill fear into viewers regarding nuclear energy and its destructive potential. Coming out of WW2, the battle between Gojira and the military power must have been a symbol of how useless and minuscule this power is in the face of something as huge as nuclear energy. Thus the movie carries a powerful, underlying anti-war message:

“…if we continue conducting nuclear tests, it’s possible that another Godzilla might appear somewhere in the world again.”

Kyohei Yamane-hakase, Gojira, 1954.

Ultimately, this helped me to recognise the global success of the film. I can also see why the West adopted it and made their own version because it plays upon the basic, universal human emotions and actions that come about in times of crisis e.g. fear, violence, sadness and distress.

I guess my current knowledge of Asian culture caused me to predict how this film from the 50’s would have been. However, in the modern line of production, Asian culture has clearly developed a more distinct sense of style and identity e.g. Anime, Cosplay, fashion etc.

Overall, pretty cool movie;

9/10 slizzard lizards.

Alex 🙂

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOJIRA from the perspective of an uniformed italian girl

Growing up in a family of traditional Italian’s has always been interesting. I have grown up with grandparents who listen to their italian radio while cooking and doing housework, watching RAI Italia of an afternoon with them and trying to translate the The Bold and the Beautiful as a small child. All of these scenarios have shaped me to be the person I am today. However, I realise that I’ve never really been exposed to any sort of asian culture, besides some cartoons while growing up, and in more recent years with the rise of KPOP and JPOP.

So to cut to the chase, Gojira was an experience. Chris played us the original Godzilla film, which was made in 1953. Then, we were asked to live tweet our reactions. The very first thing I noticed…

The sound effects of Godzilla were really weird and unnerving. It wasn’t a sound you would typically hear in a film today. Again, my experience from watching films from this era would typically showcase amazing sound effects which are realistic.

The lead female, Emiko wears ‘1950’s American housewife’ in style clothing as she plays the stereotypical ‘damsel in distress’. Literally every scene she is in, she is either screaming, wailing or loudly crying. Emiko is constantly seeking the comfort and protection from her male counterparts, whether that be Ogata or Serizawa, Emiko seems hopeless. I guess this was a common theme in movies of the time.

Although I laughed at the time while watching, its interesting how realistic this movie is. It shows the emotions and distress that the people were feeling to have this giant lizard attacking everyone. If you’re ever told not to panic, that is when people actually start to panic. So, its really just a true reaction that humans have.

Back to Emiko, but she looked so happy while she was crying? I really didn’t know what to make of this, other than that it could be bad acting? Because I am so used to seeing perfectly executed acting and emotional scenes in modern day film, its interesting to see what these scenes are like from this movie. It’s a great contrast to what i am used to seeing.

Although this movie made me think “WTF” a lot, mainly at the model houses and the giant lizard himself (who was actually a MAN IN A SUIT?!?), it had a lot of underlying history which was explored in an interesting way. As someone who studied History in school, Gojira was an excellent way to explore the effects that the World War had on Japan. One line in the film solidified the intentions of the film, to inform people of the effects that the war had on the Japanese: “If we keep conducting nuclear tests, another Godzilla may appear somewhere in the world.” This line emphasised fears of nuclear energy and weapon testing.

Gojira in today’s film landscape can be seen as a laugh, however, at the time it was a movie based on fear and horror. It is an interesting concept and way to go about expressing the fears, but also very effective. Overall, what a great film. It has moments where you laugh, and a few when you think about how awful it would have been.

I recommend that everyone take the 98 mins to watch it, you will not regret it!

Auto-Ethnographic Experience… GODZILLA

60-years-of-godzilla

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.