“SOMETIMES I think this is Godzilla’s world. We just live in it.”
No, that’s not an editorial take on prominent people who dominate our current political lives. It’s a remark that comes halfway through the new movie, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.”
Perusing the choices at Hoboken’s Bow Tie Cinema the other day, I was faced with “Aladdin,” (this one no, not even on cable), “Avengers: Endgame” (I’ve forgotten how the damn game even began!), “Dark Phoenix” (more “X-Men” adventures, and as much as I like Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy — because they are such good actors — I’ve seen more than I care to of Sophie Turner, late of “Game of Thrones.”) Then there was “Rocketman” the Elton John biopic, and “Godzilla.”
I decided on the monster movie with no singing.
Now, I’ve never been a Godzilla fanatic, but the original 1954 entry, which I saw at a drive-in in 1959, always stayed with me. As did several other Japanese monster movies of the era. “The H-Man,” (malevolent blob haunts the subways, melting people, but leaving their clothes behind.) And “Rodan” which actually had me crying at the end, as Mr. and Mrs. Rodan expire together in a volcano — they just couldn’t live without each other. Listen, as a child I thought it was pretty romantic!
I’ve kept track of the “good” remakes of “Godzilla” — 1998 and 2014 — but I avoided the innumerable “Godzilla and Friends” films, which seemed absurdly comedic. I guess I was just in the mood for some mind-bending CGI mass destruction and “King of the Monsters” did not disappoint.
As usual, the human characters are little more than cardboard, despite a lot of talent: Ken Watanabe … Vera Farmiga … Sally Hawkins … Kyle Chandler … Charles Dance … David Strathairn. Not one line of dialogue, particularly anything to do with science, makes any sense at all. All the jokes fall flat. I think they’re supposed to. Most of the cheesier Godzilla/Mothra/Other Monsters movies are stuffed with silly patter and over-the-top reactions.
But as a pure cinema experience the movie blows your head off. It’s gorgeous — no other word suffices — as Godzilla battles all his old enemies, and the world holds its breath. I also noted an unusually evocative soundtrack.
Listen, this is where my head is at. Pessimism has turned to fatalism. Faint hope has morphed into a despairing abhorrence of hypocrisy and stupidity on every level, from everybody in public life.
So, rather than rail against the “real” monsters and misguided monster-fighters, I’d prefer to lose myself to big scaly creatures who breathe radioactive fire and have relatively simple goals. Not once did I hear Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan or King Ghidorah say, “I’ve got a plan for that!”
Take the kids, load up on popcorn and ignore critics who operate under the impression that movies about monsters and superheros are bucking for Oscars. (“Black Panther” notwithstanding.)
THIS ‘N THAT:
“WHEN he wasn’t seeing films he was reading about them. A monthly influx of movie magazines competed to tell you the same thing: that movies were better than life, that movie stars were the most glamorous and romantic people in the world, that Hollywood was a wonderful place where all the men were always tall; all the women always beautiful. Everybody was always happily married, each time … movie stars and their friends went to the most exciting parties, and it went without saying they knew each other, which made them even more alluring. The rock on which they built their foundation was made of LUX — the soap of 9 out of 10 beautiful women in Hollywood.”
This is part of John Kobal’s introduction to his 1977 biography, “Rita Hayworth: The Time, The Place and The Woman.”
I came across this book recently during a frenetic, periodic re-arranging of my cluttered shelves. (God forbid I throw anything out! I simply dust and move the memorabilia.) I’d forgotten this one. So I reread it, and was astonishingly moved.
Kobal, a great film historian and collector of rare photos, author of many books, poured his heart and soul into the Hayworth biography — she was his passion. It is so beautifully written, so rich and compassionate and utterly correct and comprehending of Hayworth’s beauty, her allure and talent, as well as the waste of that talent, the shadow that fell over her persona and performances as she matured and life bore down upon her. One reads between the lines here, as Rita’s sometimes volatile behavior is chronicled. We know it is early onset Alzheimer’s. In time, so did Kobal, who died in 1991, four years after Rita passed.
This is a book written by a man who knows cinema, dance, acting, beauty and the vicissitudes of fame visited upon fragile personalities.
I put “The Time, The Place and The Woman,” up there with the great movie star bios — Maurice Zolotow’s “Marilyn Monroe,” Steven Bach’s “Marlene Dietrich,” Lee Server’s “Love is Nothing” on Ava Gardner, Gerold Frank’s “Judy,” David Stenn’s “Bombshell: The Life and Death of Jean Harlow.”
Kobal’s book should be reissued. Hayworth, one of the most ravishing and iconic of all the great stars deserves it. She is so remarkably alert and vivid in her early movies. From “The Strawberry Blonde” to “Cover Girl,” “Blood and Sand,” “You Were Never Lovelier,” “Gilda,” and “The Loves of Carmen.” The latter film, despite its Hollywood absurdities (Glenn Ford as a Spanish soldier!) shows what she was capable of, especially in her chilling final moments, cruel and self-destructively obstinate to the end.
Few actresses were as well served as Hayworth was by Kobal, a besotted boy who became a brilliant man — a man who adored and cherished her abilities and image. And who also understood that the real Rita — Margarita Cansino — was more often than not an indistinct rendering of her screen self; just a shy, affectionate, uncertain woman who lived in the shadow of The Love Goddess.
THIS ‘N THAT:
… I’VE been a big fan of the Starz series airing over the past several years, “The White Queen” and “The White Princess” which spring from the based-on-fact novels of Philipa Gregory. They told the tale of Queen Elizabeth of York, her husband, the first Tudor king, Henry VII, and his horrifying mother, Margaret Beaufort. Although historical events are compressed and/or rearranged, I found both series compelling. Now Starz is airing “The Spanish Princess” which purports to tell of Spain’s Catherine of Aragon, who comes to England to marry Elizabeth and Henry’s son and heir, Arthur. But she ends up with Handsome Harry (aka Henry VIII.) Production values have plummeted and historical facts are almost utterly non-existent. The show more accurately resembles the teenage-oriented “Reign,” which pretended to give us the dish on Mary of Scotland. I’m watching goggle-eyed as the pious Catherine of Aragon, whose religiosity and obstinence will one day reshape English history, is reduced to a scheming temptress. It’s so poorly done I’m kind of into it. But, really!!
… I ENJOYED Netflix’s “Dead to Me,” starring a very, very good Christina Applegate. But it falls — at least in its last episode (there will be a Season 2) — into the now familiar territory of Good Girls Going Bad Because of … Bad Men. We have it in “Claws,” “Good Girls,” and “Big Little Lies” (Season 2 any minute). It’s a thing, and quite entertaining, but on the verge of being too much of a thing.
Of course, there are exceptions. In “Queen of the South,” Alice Braga is a good girl gone wrong because of a bad woman (the fabulous Veronica Falcon.)
And in the late, very much lamented “Good Behavior,” Michelle Dockery, miles away from Lady Mary, was pretty bad to begin with, although quite appealing. (I didn’t even realize the show had been cancelled until rather recently. I missed the news that TNT had axed it after two seasons late last year. I say — give it a satisfying two hour finale on Amazon or Netflix. I miss Letty and Javier.)
There are a lot of hot, strong women on TV these days — dealing drugs, laundering money, shooting, stabbing, dumping bodies and, well, pretty much getting away with it.
It is kind of exhilarating.
… FINALLY, I am long past hoping that Shia LaBeouf, a hot number whose acting talents I have always admired, and Justin Bieber, whose pouty looks I found pleasing (but don’t ask me to ever identify Bieber’s voice in song!), will stop destroying their bodies with tattoos.
LaBeouf, apparently, recently had the entirety of his stomach decorated with a tat that reads “Creeper.” There’s some speculation that it might be fake, for a film role. Here’s hoping. There are none on his back yet. We know this because he was photographed mingling and taking selfies with fans in L.A. dressed only in boxer briefs and running shoes.
Bieber is a lost cause, like Adam Levine. Justin’s torso is now a clavicle-to-hipbone tribute to ink — as of 2016 he had 56 tattoos.
Once, years ago, I almost got a tattoo. I was out in L.A. for the Golden Globes, with a pal, a girl, who was determined to have what even then was known as a “tramp stamp.” We found a place and a mesmerizing tattoo artist on Sunset. Those eyes, that soothing voice and barely-there tank-top!
He kindly plied my friend with vodka as he worked and didn’t mind if I took a slug or two — or seven. By the time he was done with her, I was toasted enough to consider “just a little one” on my shoulder.
But hours had passed. We both had to hurry back to our respective hotels and then meet up at the Beverly Hilton within an hour. My moment had passed. I remain pristine.
Well, I don’t have a tattoo, anyway.