Wednesday, October 01, 2008

I, THE AUDIENCE: King Kong vs. Godzilla 

I remember the first time I ever heard of "King Kong vs. Godzilla."

I was probably about eight years old, rummaging through the TV Guide to see what Channel 4 (in Indiana) was showing in the way of monster movies over the weekend, and there it was: "King Kong vs. Godzilla."

I think I decided right then and there that it was not only my favorite movie, but it also HAD to be the best movie ever made. I hadn't even seen it yet!

But it was right there in the title. This movie had King Kong AND Godzilla! What else do you need?

So I watched it, and, yes, there was a time in my life when this movie was the ultimate accomplishment of world cinema. Yes, I was just old enough to recognize that the film has its flaws, notably the inadequacies of the Kong suits - especially the one they used for close-ups. And I knew that Godzilla was much, much bigger than the classic King Kong of the 1933 film. (Not to mention: Kong died in the 1933 film. Come to think of it, Godzilla died, too, in his first movie! These Hollywood types are pulling a fast one!)


"King Kong vs. Godzilla" is a profoundly silly movie with very few action scenes, bad ape suits, lots of talk, natives played by Japanese extras in black face, King Kong drunk on juice made from giant berries, lovely Japanese miniatures, great scenes of panicky Japanese fleeing the monsters wandering around their islands, amusing scientific explanations and some nice shots of Mt. Fuji.

And King Kong shoots lightning bolts ... for some reason.

And it has Mie Hama and Akiko Wakabayashi, two Japanese actresses that we here at MMC love because they are in so many of our favorite 1960s films. (Both are in "You Only Live Twice" and "What's Up, Tiger Lily?" Hama is in "King Kong Escapes." Wakabayashi is in "Ghidrhah, the Three-Headed Monster." That's just off the top of my head.)

I have heard that "King Kong vs. Godzilla" is the most profitable Japanese movie ever made. It was probably true as recently as ten or twenty years ago. (I should probably look this up.)

There are so many reason to love this movie that its negatives are quickly averaged out of contention.

Some time ago, I mentioned that I was having a hard time picking my favorite Japanese movie. There are so many from which to choose! And part of the problem is that some of them are favorites from childhood that I haven't seen for a long time.

I finally got back to that film festival I was talking about. I got a couple of these films from Netflix and some from Amazon (I decided I needed my own copies of "King Kong vs. Godzilla" and "Ghidrhah, the Three-Headed Monster.") and over the next few weeks, I'm going to mull it over.

My nominees:
"Tokyo Story"
"The Seven Samurai"
"Female Convict Scorpion: Prisoner 701"
"Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41"
"Lady Snowblood"
"Sex and Fury"
"King Kong vs. Godzilla"
"Ghidrhah, the Three-Headed Monster"
"Destroy All Monsters"
"Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster" - (This really shouldn't be a contender, but I have a considerable soft spot for it because it was the first Godzilla movie I saw in a theater. And it aspires to a rare kind of goofy cinematic greatness.)

If anybody is outraged by what I might have left out, please drop me a line. You may know of something I've forgotten, or you may know of something I haven't seen.



Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sarah Palin: Did the Repugs pull a fast one? 

The choice of the woefully-unprepared Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the running mate for GOP Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has me - and many others, for all I know(*) - wondering if the GOP has something up its sleeve.

Is it possible that the Republicans could REALLY be this inept? Are they REALLY so shamelessly irresponsible that they would hang such an artless, untalented nitwit albatross like Gov. Palin around the neck of Sen. McCain? (Yes, I know they continually show themselves to be irresponsible in the way they treat our country and the troops, but they usually protect the party a little better than that.)

Such incompetence is endemic in they way they govern, but they usually campaign better than that, aiming as they usually do at the stupid Americans who vote for them enthusiastically, and trying to come with sophistry that makes a little bit of sense to the uninformed independent voters who fall for lame stunts like the Purple Heart band-aids that the Republican delegates were wearing so proudly at the 2004 GOP convention despite how insulting they were to the men that the GOP likes to send overseas to die for no very good reason.

So the Palin misstep seems a little out-of-character. Are they really THAT lame? Or are they up to something?

I have a theory ...

Sarah Palin is not the real choice.

The GOP strategy is based on grandstanding and photo-ops and drama - why should this year be any different? - and they are going to lay another stunt on us in the next few days. McCain will soon announce that Palin is dropping out for family reasons. (This will serve two purposes: 1) They can get Palin out of the way; and 2) they can blame those mean liberals - in the media and politics - for just being so rude and uncivil that far too many qualified and brilliant citizens - such as Sarah Palin - feel they can't participate in national politics. (Watch them try to keep a straight face as they cover for Palin ... then start repeating their lame talking points that Obama: 1) is the black Hitler; 2) is a black radical Christian separatist; 3) is the most liberal senator in the history of the wooooorld!; 4) is an elitist who hates coffee and regular lettuce; 5) is the Anti-Christ; 6) is the liberal messiah; or 7) fill in the blank with the GOP sophistry de jour.))

Then they announce the real candidate.

I don't know who it is. But this is where you see the real brilliance of the tactic. ANYBODY looks like a great pick compared to Gov. Palin! She set the bar so low that even George W. Bush by comparison approaches an illusion of coherence.

So ANY of those other corrupt, transparent, dishonest dimwits that the GOP was trying to pass off as presidential material will look positively statesman-like in the wake of the Palin debacle. Mitt Romney, Rudolph Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Mike Huckabee ...

Well, maybe not Huckabee.

But the others will fit in quite nicely, and having a vice presidential candidate who can string words into a sentence and can name a Supreme Court case other than Roe v. Wade may give McCain just the boost he needs with voters who are smart enough to see through Palin but not smart enough to figure out what a hollow sham the Republican Party is as a whole.

Even Joe Lieberman will look good. At least he doesn't look at you, weird and shocked, when you seem dubious about the proposition that proximity to the most remote part of Russia gives you automatic foreign policy cred.

(*) Special thanks to Jonah Goldberg for this neat trick. I slyly qualify my statement with "for all I know" so that my original statement becomes part of the narrative, but I've given myself a little cover in case somebody calls me on it.


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