My fascination with Japanese culture has its roots firmly planted in my passion for video games and Godzilla; from the first moments in the mid-eighties when I saw the Nintendo system in action, and then held the rectangular controller in my hand, a curiosity and admiration planted itself within my mind. It wasn't just the games themselves, but the origin of these works and how they came to be. My parents would spoil me on a monthly basis with a plethora of video game related magazines, and within those tomes, I would read about the latest title causing an uproar in Japan, while we had to wait for our North American release of said game later on.
We had a hand-me-down black and white television with a Betamax player connected in the basement's rec room while the colour set and VHS player were relegated to my parents living room domain. Maybe it was just availability, or an interest my father had, but we had amassed a collection of Betamax movies, both purchased and recorded off televisions, with a strong focus on Godzilla films. The syncronization in English dialogue with Japanese actors was incredibly fascinating; even being so young with no concept of a foreign film, I knew these movies came from parts of the world that I did not know about or understand, but I loved this place nonetheless.
For whatever reasons, call it fate, call it karma, call it creative bankruptcy, I believe everything happens for a reason. I believe that we were destined to get a Ghostbusters remake. It's a real shame that the dialogue around the Ghostbusters remake released in 2016 was tainted by misogyny and general vitriol from armchair critics and trogloditic neckbeards that dwell in the deepest, dankest corners of the interwebs, because it was a genuinely mediocre summer blockbuster that in most other universes probably would have have been the start of a movie franchise. Or at least, some more marketable merchandise that would have helped grease the wheels for all those involved for a little longer.
I remember being pretty sour on the general concept of a remake of the 1984 cult classic Ghostbusters. Admittedly, it has to do at least in part with the fact that this was a beloved film from my childhood. I grew up watching Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II as well as the animated The Real Ghostbusters. To this day, I will still sometimes find myself randomly singing quietly to myself or in my head the Ghostbusters theme song, or the rap song from the end of Ghostbusters II, a movie from a more civilized time when every film got the pop-rap song it deserved to play during its end credits. (Too hot to handle, too cold to hold...)
For those of us with our fingers on the pulse (and not far from the pulse and straight up somewhere very uncomfortable (no, not the back of a Volkswagen)), news of a teaser trailer for the upcoming Star Wars film was not entirely unanticipated. This past week in Chicago, Star Wars Celebration was underway, an annual expo dedicated to all things Star Wars related. With the end of the Skywalker saga slated for release in December of this year, this is prime time for the release of updates, teasers, and various other miscellaneous info to start dropping for one of the most highly anticipated films of... let me check again... ah yes, ever.
It’s entirely possible that I don’t really understand Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Upon seeing the movie in theatres a few short years ago, I felt indifference. Sure, there were beasts. Yes, they appeared fantastic. But I didn’t really understand why we were focusing on them so much, in a film where the plot didn’t seem to necessarily revolve around them. Knowing that this was the first in an ambitious series of movies set in the Harry Potter Wizarding World, I could chalk up my confusion to a few things:
“Heathers meets American Psycho” so, I guess it’s a good thing I’ve seen Psycho quite a few times over the years, and watched Heathers late last year during my project to consume the most popular films of the eighties. Honestly though, the tagline didn’t need to be said to push me there, as just a quick glimpse of the trailer, combined with the talent involved had me sold from the get go.
But when did I watch that initial trailer? Yeah, it’s practically an afterthought: apparently the film had been sitting in post-production and doing the festival circuit for a while before receiving a wide release in March of 2018. Here we are, practically a year later and I have an opportunity to watch this film.
Do you remember when I was going to take the most popular 80’s movies from Letterboxd and watch them “all” this calendar year of 2018? I do. I also remember failing at it, quite badly.
It started out well enough, even with a bit of misstep. I watched a couple of films that I thought were on the list but weren’t, then quickly jumping in with an incredible film in Nausicaa. My optimism for the project remained high, as I cherry picked films, popped that popcorn and took in movies week after week. I believe – without doing any check here – that I was on track to watch eight or nine of these eighties films every month, which would put me on track to complete the full 180 titles. Yes, I was cheating a bit by giving myself a head start in checking off movies I had seen previously but that just meant the list could be larger and more robust with 180 entries instead of something more attainable, like 90.
You may even recall the notion of a monthly post providing a quick review of each title. It would serve as a mechanism to present more content on the site, and personally, help me back into writing on a more frequent basis. Perhaps the first catalyst for failure happened here.
As January winds to a close, I feel compelled to provide you - the faithful reader - an update on my 2018 project to chronicle the most popular movies of the 1980's. Let's dive right in, shall we?
It all started on a quiet Friday evening; the air outside was cold, but the heat was on and I had two little warmers by my side in the form of my cats. I took the time to make popcorn on the stove top, a recently discovered favourite of mine, that blows away your traditional microwave variety. It is a bit time consuming, but paired with a cold soda and a blanket, it's well worth it. I spent the previous week acquiring various movies for the project, and had a couple of false starts, but this time I knew the movie was on the list, and I was ready to ceremoniously begin the Chronicle.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.
Yes, this would be perfect, with original Japanese audio, thereby forcing my attention to read subtitles throughout the duration. I'm not sure it mattered though, as this movie had me engrossed from the very beginning. It's so beautiful, from start to finish, that anything I could really say about it would be amateur-ish in the world of film critique. Everything about the movie, and the setting in my apartment was perfect that night, and I truly felt as though I had just watched the first five star movie of what should be many; although, I did knock it down half a star simply because I reserve those perfect scores for movies I've seen multiple times. For a movie that is ranked number 69 on this list of films, I figure the quality of the others must be astounding, and this project will be an absolute breeze.
It's not like me to put together New Years Resolutions, but this year - being inspired by other movie-lovers - I have decided to try one out. It had to be movie-related of course; something feasible that can be arduous yet achievable. Something that would be fun; something that would expose me to cinema I may not look for on my own. With the rash of eighties movies I have thoroughly been enjoying the past little while, I had my focus and my plan sprung into place rather quickly: I would assemble a list of the most popular films of the 1980's and watch all of them.
Utilizing my go-to, Letterboxd, I was able to sort each individual year by popularity; for numbers sake, I took the top 18 of each year and put them into one large list, resulting in a hefty 180 titles. That many movies in one year is difficult, but definitely possible (I regularly clear 200 now). The issue is that: there wouldn't be room for other movies. Fortunately, Letterboxd saves the day again in the form of my watch history, and in the list, I can quickly see that I've already seen 46% of these movies, leaving me with just over 90 films to take in to fulfill this project.
Some may be quick to point out that it doesn't count if I don't watch all 180 in one year, but let's be realistic for a moment. And if I did accept that angle, I could easily knock it in half to be the top nine from each year, effectively halving my intake and making this that much easier. But I wanted to branch past the top ten of each year, which would expose me to some lesser known material. It's also important to note that this is Letterboxd's most popular: not necessarily the highest rated, or most successful, but the most popular.
A link to the list can be found here: https://boxd.it/1lJxc
I would encourage you to take browse through the list, and even create your own Letterboxd account (it's free, you don't need to go 'pro' to mark movies watched) and see how many in this list you've watched. Add me as a friend as well!
Stay tuned for month-by-month updates of my progress through this list, with some commentary on the films and the journey.