Tuesday, July 30, 2013

G-FEST 2013 Convention Report (Part 3)

Even with not staying up to see the late night Pickwick Theatre screenings on Friday (Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla) and Saturday (Godzilla vs. Megaguirus), by the time Sunday morning came around, I was pretty G’d out. But I rallied myself to make the trek one last time, even getting there in time to catch the latter half of Robert Scott Field’s “Japan Update” panel.

Full disclosure: I’ve been to a lot of conventions at this point, and so the notion of someone being called a “celebrity guest” in spite of the fact that they’ve really only done one or two films isn’t as big a surprise anymore. However, I also take it with a grain of salt and don’t necessarily make a point of seeking those celebrities out. Because of this, I didn’t spend much time chasing down Field last year and had followed the same pattern this time around. I mean, yes, I like Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (in which he played android M-11), but that's about it. As a result, I was completely unprepared for the sheer awesomeness that is Robert Scott Field and I’m SO glad I got to his panel that morning.

Sure, he may only have one film credit to his name, but this former baseball player turned Japanese schoolteacher has been an incredible force for good, both here in the States during his annual G-FEST sojourn (where he often serves as the de facto interpreter for the Japanese guests) and at home in Japan where he has been a physical fitness instructor, a tireless volunteer in the earthquake relief efforts, and an adviser to the national education board. This guy kinda rocks.

I spent the rest of the morning wandering around the rapidly disappearing art displays

And the dealer room

Watched the special guests meet, greet, tickle, fistbump, bow to, autograph and photograph with their fans

Sat in on Stan Hyde’s dissertation on Sonorama books, a neat childhood nostalgia item that not only had a plastic 45 rpm record version of several (abbreviated) kaiju films, but photos depicting how the monsters' strange physiognomy actually worked.

J.D. Lees had his annual “accountability” panel, where people could ask him questions about the convention and the magazine – I was amazed to learn that he does not actually assign articles for G-FAN, but that people just regularly contribute items that are of interest to them – but what most people seemed interested in was the notion of another G-Tour. In August 2011, 35 G-Fans from around the globe partook in a pilgrimage to Tokyo. In addition to an actual tour of Toho Studios – touching props and meeting the stars of numerous stars of these beloved films – the group also toured Japan, visiting many cultural touchstones and locations significant to kaiju fandom. (Lees’ day-by-day journal of their odyssey can be found in G-FAN #97). Obviously, this kind of adventure doesn’t happen every day (or even every year), but plans are afoot for a trip in either 2014 or 2015. Stay tuned.

As the sun slowly set on G-FEST XX, it was time for..KAIJU KONFESSIONS. Mr. Hyde had as long a weekend as I, so he certainly earned his "indefatigable" title as he led the time-honored G-FEST tradition of sing-a-long versions to dozens of ditties from or inspired by these grand, goofy films. In enthusiastic off-key fashion, we got environmentally conscious with Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster’s “Save the Earth,” kicked it Danish style with “Tivoli Nights” from Reptilicus, gyrated to MST3K's Gamera tunes, and took it home with a call and response version of Blue Oyster Cult’s eponymous “Godzilla.”

The irony is that you don’t actually have to confess anything at the time. It’s only later that you have to admit that:

Yes, you rolled on the ground

Yes, you played a mean air guitar

Yes, you danced the Minya Shuffle

Yes, you sang along with Kipp Hamilton’s ear-shattering rendition of “Feel in My Heart” from War of the Gargantuas

Yes, you got a little misty when Stan said that this was the last song.

Many thanks to everyone who made this year’s G-FEST what it was. It will be interesting to see what effect the new Legendary Pictures Godzilla has on the convention next May. If it’s a hit, there might be a huge new influx of new fans...which could create a more crowded venue and a rift between “classic” kaiju fans and a wave of folks for whom 2014’s monster pic might be their first exposure to the Big G. I’ll admit, I’d like the show to stay the small, tight-knit family affair that it currently is. G-FEST has heart. It has personality. It comes from a place of true fandom as opposed to commerce. Nobody wants that to change, but with the show’s popularity growing every year (attendance was up 20% from 2012 alone), growing pains are undoubtedly in order. Even so, as in all things, we have the power to create the world we want, and hopefully G-Fans will continue to create the G-FEST they deserve.


Sayonara for now! See you next year.

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