20th Entertainment Division Grand Prize
ANNO Hideaki / HIGUCHI Shinji [Japan]
The first new production in 12 years from the Godzilla franchise of specialeffects movies, this is an ensemble performance in which bureaucrats and politicians face down the mythical monster as it invades Japan once more. The story focuses on government responses to the gargantuan creature’s sudden emergence from Tokyo Bay, ranging from establishment of a national crisis center to a mobilization order issued to Japan’s Self-Defense Forces. Its faithful portrayal of actual social conditions gives a documentary feel to a realistic disaster simulation that addresses the question, “How would the Japanese respond if Godzilla appeared in Japan today?” This approach, which deviates from the kid- or family-friendly style of past installments, appeals to an audience segment less interested in special effects or monster flicks. This is the first domestically produced Godzilla to consist entirely of computer graphics, and at 118.5 meters it is also the biggest in the history of the series. Viewers found themselves riveted by the sight of the behemoth careening through Tokyo, destroying buildings at whim. ANNO Hideaki, who directed such hits as Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-96), was tapped to be writer and director, with HIGUCHI Shinji serving as co-director in charge of special effects. With a 329-person cast, three directors, and four production teams (a rarity for a Japanese film) totaling over 1,000 staff, it was a truly gargantuan project.
Reason for Award
Questions were raised whether a megahit likely to receive critical acclaim in the film world really needed an Entertainment Division award. Yet this is the first work that would come to anyone’s mind in a review of 2016, and it is indisputably powerful; as such it merits recognition by whatever means. Jettisoning the sentimental elements of human drama, the film is a gimlet-eyed simulation of a “battle for the homeland.” It is gratifying to see a work of entertainment that retained the courage of its convictions from start to finish, and still became a hit. Indeed, it may signal a change in the way movies are made in Japan, and inspires hope for the future archiving of animation and special-effects documentation. This is a stunning cinematic effort that brought together the cream of Japan’s SFX, animation, and live-footage talent. Under the leadership of codirectors ANNO Hideaki and HIGUCHI Shinji with associate director ONOUE Katsuro, they eliminated all vestiges of rote habit and routine from the production process, taking it to a new stage of development. The Grand Prize is a suitable monument to this accomplishment. (YONEMITSU Kazunari)