Pop Culture Ephemera
- Godzilla: Minus One (2023) (Directed by Takashi Yamazaki): “Godzilla looks really ticked off.” – Akitsu. One year short of his 70th birthday, Godzilla returns to a bleak post-war Japan in 1946. This isn’t a Godzilla origin story. Godzilla already exists and the idea of a huge lizard laying waste to a city doesn’t appear to phase people. The story revolves around Koichi Shikishima (Ryunosuke Kamiki) and his overwhelming grief and guilt after the war. Shikishima is a “failed” kamikaze pilot who returns to a Japan trying to rebuild. He’s teamed up with a group of men who all are trying to overcome the horrors of the war. Godzilla is the atomic force that haunts them. There are portions that borrow from Jaws (1975). We are only missing someone saying that they need a bigger boat. This is a Godzilla film for those who have put in the time with previous films. Each reveal (the first appearance, the first atomic breath, the Godzilla March song) is given a special moment for fans to revel in. The effects are pure 2023 though. The atomic breath and destruction of the city are as good or better than they’ve ever been. It’s a difficult space for Godzilla to exist in a world where Jurassic Park also exists. This film carves out a spot of its own with a pathos that I’ve rarely seen in monster films. The characters are what bring this film to life and I’m excited to watch it again for them as much as for the huge lizard.
- The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) (Directed by Brian Henson): “It’s all right, children. Life is made up of meetings and partings. That is the way of it. I am sure that we shall never forget Tiny Tim, or this first parting that there was among us.” – Kermit. First read my review of the Blu-ray from 2012. I haven’t changed my thoughts on the film much. In fact, I may appreciate it more as we continue to see uninspired adaptations of the classic Dickens’ story. Michael Caine as the only real principle human actor in the film as Scrooge (not forgetting his nephew) is a great decision. Gonzo as Charles Dickens to narrate is the next best decision. Caine plays the role like he is in a Shakespeare production and Gonzo keeps the story moving forward even as it is interrupted by some great songs (including some excellent Paul Williams-penned tunes). The ghosts are well constructed and shows off the talent that Brian Henson brought to the Muppets after his father’s recent passing here. This is still one of the best adaptations of one of my favorite holiday stories.
- Sherman Brothers – “We’re the Best of Buddies” (1972) (from Snoopy, Come Home): “Buddies to the end / Whatever comes.” Is there any more pure example of friendship than Snoopy and Woodstock? As they trek out to visit Snoopy’s former owner, Woodstock wouldn’t think of not going along. The Sherman Brothers are awesome at writing these songs that illustrate relationships and manage to move the film along. Their writing in The Jungle Book (1967) and Mary Poppins (1964) being two of the best examples. Despite the wonderful friendship between Snoopy and Woodstock, this is a film mostly about belonging and identity. It is full of some truly heartbreaking observations about modern society as Snoopy is “allowed” in certain locations or to access certain services. This song anchors the best part of the film.
- Godzilla (Gojira) (1954) (Directed by Ishiro Honda): “O peace, O light, hasten back to us– that’s the prayer of peace being offered up nationwide today.” – News Reporter. Only nine years had passed in Japan since the War when this film came out. The country was still dealing with fear of their own destruction (unlike the self reflection of Godzilla: Minus One). I see this film much more in the tradition of Frankenstein (1931) and King Kong (1933) where our own post-war fears were still being processed as we debated how to handle the scientific advances of the day. This original entry into the franchise holds up well in today’s world. There is an equally strong story of a young couple finding love in an uncertain world. The cinematography is high quality. The lesson of pursuing peace over destruction is not lost in the current state of the world. The 1954 and 2023 films make great companion pieces that tell a similar story with parallel lessons.
- Godzilla Raids Again (Gojira No Gyakushu) (1955) (Directed by Motoyoshi Oda): “Even with all our weapons and collective ingenuity, we weren’t able to stop Godzilla’s frenzied, radioactivity-fuelled rampage.” – Kyohei Yamane-Hakase. The huge success of Godzilla (1954) caused a rush to get a sequel out. It shows up in the United States as Gigantis, The Fire Monster (1959). It only took until the second film to introduce the monster vs. monster format. Anguirus doesn’t hold out long here, but don’t worry, he’ll be back. This holds up better for me than the quickie sequel Son of Kong (1933). There are some pauses that bring down any momentum the story has with the monster. The original film was crafted to intertwine the monster and human stories. This film treats them as two separate entities. There is still much of interest to watch the film as the reverence for the original plot is upheld. It’s just not the turn that might have happened with longer thought put into crafting a sequel.
Best of the Rest
- I can’t let the holiday season pass without one of the best Christmas songs that doesn’t get airplay anymore.
- It isn’t a holiday ad, but the new ad from Apple for their “Personal Voice” that will replace your voice when you don’t have one is cute and touching. Director Taika Waititi lends his unique sense of humor and funny character touches to the ad.
- The song “Sunshine on My Shoulders”, the grandmother and everyone home for the holidays. I thought I was bad with the short version of this Chevy commercial. Damn you, Chevy, for making this five-minute movie that has me looking for a box of Kleenex. It will be hard to best this for the 2023 Holiday season.
Sunday Morning Tuneage Flashback
- On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 6/29/2008, it had been a “freakin’ hot” week. I took the kids to see WALL*E (2008) and I declared it a Top Five Pixar film but not as good as Ratatouille (2007). In the realm of WTF, I proclaimed that I wasn’t interested in In Bruges (2008) but something nagging was telling me to watch it. My #11 Favorite Movie Of All-Time was Vertigo (1958). Just out of the Top Ten is probably pretty accurate still today. There’s a run of Hitchcock that all fall in that #10-20 range and I like this as the best of that bunch. There wasn’t much on television except Celebrity Family Feud (NBC) and I was interested in Comic-Con ’08 Live Preview (G4). I took it in the shorts for my Coldplay Best-of list the week before but I had a better one to redeem myself.
- BEST WARNER BROTHERS CARTOON CHARACTERS OF ALL-TIME (2008)
- 10. The Goofy Gophers (Mac and Tosh): The ultra-polite gophers.
- 9. Yakko, Wakko and Dot
- 8. Pete Puma: One lump or two?
- 7. Pinky & The Brain: I love it when he’s on Jeopardy and they keep calling him Brian.
- 6. Claude Cat: The cat that DOESN’T want to eat the mice.
- 5. Porky Pig
- 4. Elmer Fudd
- 3. Foghorn Leghorn
- 2. Daffy Duck
- 1. Bugs Bunny: I would be run out of town if this wasn’t my #1 pick.
- BEST WARNER BROTHERS CARTOON CHARCTERS OF ALL-TIME (2023)
- 10. Marc Antony and Pussyfoot: The one appearance where the dog is supposed to protect the kitten is too precious for words.
- 9. Bosko and Honey: The original Looney Tunes couple is still one of the cutest. Great memories.
- 8. Yosemite Sam: Kept off the original list, he’s just got too many good lines to be ignored.
- 7. The Goofy Gophers (Mac and Tosh): The British accents just seem to fit.
- 6. Claude Cat: The neurotic cat is more relatable than any older minor character.
- 5. Porky Pig: Also one of the most flexible characters that can be the sympathetic good guy or a worthy foe in an argument.
- 4. Foghorn Leghorn: I love overly confident characters and when he’s a chicken. His quotes are still some of the best. “I say, nice girl, but she reminds me of the highway between Dallas and Fort Worth — no curves.”
- 3. Elmer Fudd: He’s so much more layered and subtle than Yosemeite Sam as a Bugs villain.
- 2. Daffy Duck: His character works well as both the trickster and as the frustrated duck.
- 1. Bugs Bunny: Still undefeated in terms of humor, attitude, and cleverness.
- I left off Animaniacs characters this time not because I’ve turned my back on the show but as a nod to the classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts that I’ve been watching. These characters have left a mark on my life with all the hours I spent watching them through the years. It’s comfort. It’s entertainment. It’s fun just to smile and laugh when I watch them. I have the memory of watching them with my grandfather and I hope to have grandchildren to watch them with myself someday.
- BEST WARNER BROTHERS CARTOON CHARACTERS OF ALL-TIME (2008)
1973 in Review
- December – Fantastic Four #141 (Marvel): Written by Gerry Conway. Art by John Buscema. There’s quite a bit happening here with the Negative Zone and young Franklin and the original group breaking up. The events take years to finally play out. This issue is featured prominently in The Ice Storm (1997).
- December 6 – Gerald Ford is sworn in as the 40th Vice-President of the United States. He accepts the position saying, “I’m a Ford, not a Lincoln.”
- December 17 – The Oakland Raiders beat the Kansas City Chiefs 37-7 with a team record 61 carries for 259 yards. The Raiders are led by new quarterback, Ken Stabler and SI Cover running back, Marv Hubbard.
What the Hell Did I Put in My Mouth?
M&M’s: Toasty Vanilla
The coloring could have been more to the holiday traditions since this is the “official” holiday flavor release for M&M’s this year. The white chocolate and vanilla make a good combination. It isn’t vanilla that I expect when I read “vanilla” on the packaging. It’s got a more complex flavor like a Hagen Dazs vanilla bean. I don’t know what the “toasty” is supposed to be, but it’s very subtle. Once again, it’s a bit like the flavor at the bottom of the bowl of melted vanilla ice cream. Not unpleasant at all but just not the holiday treat I expect from M&M’s.
Reese’s Caramel Big Cup
There hasn’t been caramel in a Reese’s cup since 2006. It returns this year in the Big Cup format and it’s perfect. There’s just the exact right blend of milk chocolate, peanut butter and caramel. It’s very easy to go overboard on the caramel in a product like this. A single cup is a snack all by itself. These belong in all of our fridges.
Mountain Dew Game Fuel: Citrus Cherry
First out in 2007 as a Halo 3 tie-in flavor, this has bopped in and out of availability. It was at Arby’s in the recent past. This current version is tied to the videogame Halo Infinite. It will be gone soon but it’s already scheduled to be part of an ambitious 2024 release schedule as another videogame tie-in. I don’t play the games but I enjoy this cherry version more than any of their other offerings. This is even more cherry flavored than the well-loved Amp Cherry Blast.
“Harmony is where it’s at
And where it’s at for you
Is where it’s at for us
Share and share alike
Is what it’s all about
And what it’s all about
Just makes us rapturous!” – Sherman Brothers