Artist. Designer. Awkward wad of nerd. Fights off existential terror and self-loathing with Godzilla films.

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Bioweapons, Bullets, Broads, and Badasses

Since last weekend, I've been on this kick of watching nothing but Japanese movies. I'm not sure what brought it about. It's been quite some time since I've indulged in some crazy foreign flicks, so I was certainly long overdue. I think part of it was picking up one or two of these on DVD somewhere and leaving them sitting for a month before coming to the conclusion that I needed to watch them? I'm not sure. Anyways, here are some quick, scattered thoughts on the 12 movies that I watched and/or attempted to watch, in the order that I watched them:


The X From Outer Space (1967)
: I’d been wanting to see this for years, had no idea it was a Criterion release, and…I’m not sure why. It’s kind of dull. I mean, when Guilala finally shows up at literally the halfway point and starts wrecking shit, it’s pretty cool, but the first half was mind-numbingly dull. The ending was pretty lousy too. Nothing really sets it apart from other kaiju movies of the time aside from Guilala’s bizarre design, and that's kind of a shame.

School of the Holy Beast (1974): I only actually watched half of this. There’s a scene where two topless lesbian nuns are forced to strike each other with whips, and I feel like that sums up the entire movie. It was way more compelling than the X From Outer Space at first, but I stopped watching after two men sneaked into the abbey dressed as, you guessed it, nuns, to have sex with one of the older women for some reason? I dunno. I guess Japanese exploitation movies aren’t quite as awesome as I thought, I never would have imagined I’d get tired of a movie that is 75% boobs.

Rubber’s Lover (1993): I had this weird realization that some bits of chapter 4 of Other Sleep were subconsciously pulled from this movie, as well as parts from a later chapter that I haven’t started drawing yet. The last 20 minutes dissolve into mindless obtuse shit, like most of these films do, but everything up to that point is pretty entertaining, and I LOVED how it was shot, like a dirty, dizzy Stanley Kubrick. I found myself pausing frequently to sketch certain shots.

Electric Dragon 80000V (2001): I fucking love this movie. Too bad I only got to watch the first half of it this time around, I couldn’t get the second half to work on the site I was watching it. I ordered the DVD and it SHOULD arrive soon. I also spent a long time hunting for music from the excellent noisepunk/industrial soundtrack. It’s all just delirious, energetic, noisy fun that makes me smile.

Meatball Machine (2005): Keita Amamiya (creator of Zeiram!) designed the “Necroborg” creatures in this movie, and the special makeup effects and gore were by my splatter hero Yoshihiro Nishimura (creator of Tokyo Gore Police!), but whoever wrote and directed this thing SUCKED. I got maybe 15-20 minutes in before being overcome with boredom.

Akira (1988): Only watched the first half or so of this, planning on finishing it later. This is the first time I’ve watched it since finishing off all six volumes of the original manga earlier this year, and I was just a bit too overwhelmed by how DIFFERENT the movie is. It’s so much more gruesome and nihilistic, lacking a lot of the more charming aspects from the manga, which is weird considering that Otomo wrote and directed this himself before the manga was even finished. Still absolutely gorgeous to look at, though.

Mutant Girls Squad (2010): Another one that Yoshihiro Nishimura was involved in, as well as, um, the dude who directed the Machine Girl and RoboGeisha? Another one where the budget was too small, it wasn’t shot well, and I just wasn’t following it. Got about 30 minutes in before quitting. I should know by now to ONLY watch splattergore films written/directed by Nishimura himself, those seem to be the only ones I really enjoy.

Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis (2001): Bought this weeks ago, had been wanting to see it since high school. Katsuhiro Otomo wrote the screenplay! Apparently it’s nothing like Tezuka’s manga, borrowing more heavily instead from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and the themes/ideas from Astro Boy, and there’s nothing wrong with those two things at all. Great jazzy soundtrack, LOTS of wide, distant shots where the architecture is just overwhelming and the characters are just dwarfed by their surroundings. I really enjoyed it.

Katsuhiro Otomo’s Memories (1995): You can tell that Akira set me on a theme, eh? Three short animations, each based on an early manga work of Otomo’s. The first one, Magnetic Rose, is by far the strongest and most beautiful piece, with the screenplay written by Satoshi Kon shortly before becoming a director himself with Perfect Blue. The second one, Stink Bomb, is hilarious, and the final piece, Cannon Fodder, directed by Otomo himself, is pretty experimental. It looked more like something out the 1980’s Heavy Metal movie or a Ralph Bakshi film than anime, like, it was kind of weird and unsettling. Maybe comparing it to some of the stuff from Liquid Television would be better, I’m not sure. Still, excellent stuff all around, and I think I like it more than Akira.

Paprika (2006): One of my favorite movies. I got a bit emotional when I read about Satoshi Kon’s death in 2010, and watching this again made me get a bit teary eyed, that someone who could create such an amazing movie is gone. I see something new every time I watch it, this time around realizing just how many classic Disney references there are, along with the fact that it really demonstrates a love for cinema in general.

Zeiram (1991): I love this movie so much. Early 90’s sci fi, cool monster and costume designs, and I realized this time around that there’s a real John Carpenter-esque sensibility to how it's shot and paced. You know, if he had directed a movie about a deadly immortal transforming bioweapon, a hot bounty hunter from space, and the two bumbling electricians that get in the middle of their battle. It’s not too far off from a kaiju movie or episode of Power Rangers, but that’s right up my alley.

Bullet Ballet (1998)
: I used to call Shinya Tsukamoto one of my favorite directors, and I still love the fact that, with most of his films, he acts, edits, writes, directs, and more, but I’ve grown weary of the frantic editing, shaky camera work, and flights into silliness that consumes most of his stuff. That said, this is definitely one of his best movies, right up there with A Snake of June. I just wish he’d learn to hold the freaking camera still, especially during the brawl scenes…

I'm probably going to watch more, I can think of at least three or four I'd like to dig into once more, and I have a copy of Wild Zero which should be coming in next week too, so consider this part 1.

[Brett]

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