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   Now in our tenth calendar year
    PCR #506  (Vol. 10, No. 49)  This edition is for the week of November 30--December 6, 2009.

"The Fantastic Mr. Fox"  by Mike Smith
Eulogy for A Wizard  by William Moriaty
Time Warp Toy Box ’09 – Part 1  by ED Tucker
A 10-Year Look Back at the Godzilla 2000 Premiere  by Jason Fetters
Sneaker Head Sunday @ Club Skye  by John Miller
Questions About The Ufl .... Bucs Coach Fires Another Coach .... Tiger Woods Shocker! .... .... Charlie Weis Fired! .... Bobby Bowden Forced Out .... Allen Iverson Signs With The 76ers .... Nolan And Ladders by Chris Munger
Hypocrite .... Passing On .... .... .... .... .... .... .... My Favorite Films, Part 2 by Mike Smith
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A 10-Year Look Back at the Godzilla 2000 Premiere

After awhile, we were all getting bored and Eric, a fellow classmate, walked over to me in the computer lab and showed me on his Kansai Walker, the ad for Godzilla 2000. Godzilla? I knew that Japanese filmmakers were still producing those movies but I didn’t know how popular they were. When I think of Godzilla, I think of Saturday afternoons, sitting alone in a big old house that was built in 1892 in Victorian Gothic style in Port Tampa and watching the old Toho Godzilla films on Creature Feature.

Well, I was bored and anything was better then nothing and it just might be fun, yes it would be a lot of fun to see a Godzilla movie on opening night in Japan where a Godzilla movie deserves to be seen.

I even invited Justin, an annoying classmate, along to try to get him away from the computer his was hording and show him a way to get out of his gloom and doom outlook. I was going to invite Todd but one day, as Eric and I, were walking to Makino station, I remembered Todd saying: “Aren’t you guys almost 30? Isn’t that a little too old for Godzilla movies?” To which Eric and I ignored him and kept on walking. Let the cynics say what they will and wallow in their own misery because it has nothing to do with me. I can tune them out and turn off their words like turning off a facet dripping hot water slowly.

I was determined to be happy in Japan. Todd wasn’t going to send me into any particular moody direction so I didn’t ask him. Eric didn’t want him to go because we both know that he would talk through the whole movie with snide remarks and we might have to hurt him then.

We arrived in Umeda at night and we walked over to the Hep Five department store with the big Ferris wheel on top of it. We walked next door to Hep Navio and took the elevator to the top. The elevators doors opened at either the 7th or 8th floor and I saw all the restaurants, as to be expected, we agreed on where to eat and ate quickly because this was opening night and we weren’t sure how popular the big green lizard would still be in modern Japan.

After eating, we walked over to the theater and bought our tickets early. We didn’t want to take any chances. We were still early and we couldn’t begin to believe everything that we saw.

I saw a souvenir booth that contained every product that you could think off. Eric ran over there as soon as he bought his tickets. We both bought a program book that had beautiful glossy photos inside. Japan was going all out for Godzilla. I bought a pin that had a little rubber Godzilla on top of it. When you wanted to write something you gently pressed down on Godzilla’s head and the point came out. My Godzilla pen provided more than enough power for me to survive the toughest Japanese exams or so I would like to believe.

There was also a purikuri sticker booth so we looked through all the choices on the screen and Eric, as always, picked the coolest one. Then we positioned each other for the slaughter to follow. I was in front because I was the shortest, Eric was to my left, and Justin was to my right. We made our silly faces and the camera inside took 2 pictures of us and while we waited for the stickers to finish and come out there was even a Godzilla game to play. The sticker pictures finally came out and these weren’t the small stickers that generally are created; this was one big sticker with six photos on it. There were different pictures of Godzilla, a spaceship, Godzilla on fire, and two big photos of all three of us being menaced by the green machine.

After the pictures were made and equally handed out, we saw a glass case that contained colored pictures of Godzilla. Eric read the inscription and it was from a local elementary school. There must have been a contest and the best-colored ones from the winning elementary school would make it to the Godzilla premiere. I realized at that time that I had grown up in the wrong country. How could I have been born American? I started to ponder this, than I shook my head and changed my thoughts. I was out here to have a good time and I would think my own thoughts later.

There was also a huge Godzilla cardboard display. Godzilla had his claws held out and there was an opening between his hands and his body. So, like true wacky Americans we each put our heads between the hands and the body and made a horrible face of pure pain and took each other’s picture. The ticket girls and the souvenir girls just laughed at us. No one cared. I still had no idea what to expect, but after taking a picture of Eric with his head underneath Godzilla death claws, I turned and stared at the ticket line. The line was just starting to form. People were rushing in at five minutes before the start time and the whole area was crowded.

There was one thing left to do. Get our spot in line to hand in our tickets so we could run into the theater and get the best possible seat. How many times do you really get to be at a Godzilla premiere in Japan anyway?

Then the ticket girls started tearing tickets and handing back the stubs. We braced ourselves. Everyone was going to have a good time tonight. The girl took my ticket, and I rushed for the theater doors but I was careful not to push anyone but you just couldn’t help bumping into that many people crammed into that small of a place. I raced down the carpet, through the aisle and once again, Eric picked out the best seats that were near the front but not to close to the screen and we were right in the middle. We really did get the best seats and Eric was glowing like he was a 10-year old boy at the premiere of Star Wars.

Eric told me how envious his friends back in Chicago were going to be over this. He told me how they use to go to Denny’s, drinking coffee all night long, and talked about Godzilla movies. A lot of Eric’s friends were working with him for an Internet Service Provider and they took inbound calls for technical support. They were also big fans of Godzilla because they grew up watching the big lizard on TV. They formed a Godzilla club and had books that showed each monster’s strengths and weaknesses and would talk about Godzilla and buying the rubber kaiju toys.

I looked over a saw a serious looking Japanese businessman in suit and tie pondering a big Godzilla encyclopedia. It was as if he was preparing for a test.

About this time the red velvet curtains parted and the huge screen was before our naked eyes. There was my first movie in Japan and just before the lights went out, I looked around and saw that every seat in that theater was filled. Godzilla was sold out and packed and there were office ladies, salary men, school children, professionals, trades people, and college students, all the vast spectrum of human endeavor was gathered together at one place to see one thing.

The lights went out and the theater went dark and the previews began and Eric and I yelled out to get it out of our system before the movie started.

Just before the first preview started to play, I recalled how Godzilla was entertaining to watch on TV when I was 8 or 9 and then when I was 14, it didn’t have the same effect on me until I went to summer camp. There at was at 14, living in Kansas City, MO, and one day we went to the movies. I don’t even remember the first movie it was so boring, as I walked out of the theater and waited for the 2nd film to start. I bought Hershey’s chocolate, popcorn and a large Pepsi. Even if the next flick sucked at least it wouldn’t be a total loss. The next film was called Godzilla vs. MekaGodzilla and I was pulled into it instantly. On the screen Godzilla came alive, as he couldn’t do on TV. I remembered liking it so much better on the big screen.. I believe that Godzilla was made for viewing on the big screen. That is the only way to do the films justice.

I looked at the screen and a cartoon Godzilla walked out and told everyone that “Silence was Golden” in Japanese and then the little Godzilla picked up his empty popcorn box and soda cup and stomped over to the nearest trash bin and tossed everything inside. Godzilla advised everyone to do the same with his or her trash and who in the right mind wants to upset Godzilla?

The first preview started and it was for Japan’s favorite blue robotic cat, Doraemon. It looked OK. In fact, it looked like it would be easy for someone just trying to grasp the basics of learning Japanese to see so I made a mental note to myself to go see it.

The previews came and went and as I sat watching the trailers for various American movies getting ready to invade Japan, I thought about my Japanese friends and how all of them only watched American movies. They would tell me how bad Japanese films were and how they were so low budget and the stories weren’t that good. Despite what my Japanese friends told me, Godzilla was still big business.

Finally the movie started. While standing in line, Eric and I discussed how much we both hated the recent American-made Godzilla that came out in ’98. We both agreed that Toho should make Godzilla films and that America should hang it up and stick to over-the-top glorified Hollywood epics. I was hoping that Toho wouldn’t try to copy the American version because I wanted to see the real Godzilla stomp and destroy that turkey. I wasn’t disappointed.

Just before it started there was a short Toho retrospect of all the Godzilla films up to this one. The movie started and I saw on the screen a Japanese man with his family, driving a jeep that had at least 4 computers running inside it. The jeep stopped at the edge, just before going over a cliff and Godzilla’s head peered into their little window. The little girl in the back seat looked like she would cry any second. The Japanese man driving opened his mouth wide and his nostrils flared. The Japanese woman sitting next to him took a series of pictures using her camera’s flash. Well, that did it. You could see Godzilla’s breath fog up the glass and then he let out his famous roar and shattered the glass. The man pounded his foot down on the gas pedal and sped away backwards through a tunnel. Godzilla leaped out of the water and gave chase. You could see the sparks fly off the wheels as the Jeep banged up against the tunnel’s walls and then you could see the pavement rip apart and Godzilla stomped after them. It was a breath taking scene and it put away my doubts that I would be watching some kind of weird Western influenced cross between, Godzilla 1998 and Jurassic Park. The special effects were all CG now and you didn’t think you were seeing a struggling actor in a suit. All the hokey stuff that I remembered from the 60’s and 70’s was gone.

I felt like I was 8 again as I watched the big final battle between Godzilla and Orga. Orga came in the form of a mysterious spaceship that created its own monster by stealing some of Godzilla’s power. Orga was this weird mound of rock sitting on top of the waves of Tokyo Bay as helicopters buzzed around it.

After it was over and the lights came back on, Eric and I were well satisfied and we hoped to see no further American Godzilla sequels in our lifetime. We were talking to each other as if were where back in junior high. I asked Justin if he liked it and he said he did but Justin always said he liked everything. He didn’t really apply any critique at all. I think he was just glad to finally have some friends. We took the crowded elevator down and used the crosswalk on the 7th floor to stroll over to the Virgin Megastore in the building next door. At the music store we saw the Godzilla 2000 soundtrack and we also saw a CD called Destroy The Monsters that featured various indie and punk artists doing techno/rock remixes of the Godzilla themes. So going completely on impulse we both bought it. We left the music store and decided to walk around the other stores.

We walked through a clothing store to get to the exit and saw a miniature city of Tokyo with an 8-foot Godzilla next to it and I really wanted to pick it up and try to take it home on the train with me but I took 2 pictures instead.

Despite what I was reading about the Japanese cinema dying and that there were no good directors anymore it was refreshing to see the drive, desire, and passion, which the Japanese still had for Godzilla. The trains were overcrowded more than usual for even a typical weekend crowd and I think that a lot of them had seen Godzilla right along with me.

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2009 by Jason Fetters.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.