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King-Size Kong

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
Nathaniel

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How big is King Kong?

Everyone who’s heard of him knows the answer is “big,” but the real answer is, “it depends.” Because in his seven film appearances (including this week’s Kong: Skull Island) his height has varied dramatically, at times within the same film. So if we’re going to look at the history of life-sized King Kongs, we’ve got to talk about what “life-sized” means. Continue reading King-Size Kong

The Athletic Grand-Nephew of Kong: MR. GO (2013)

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
Nathaniel

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NATHANIEL:
Finally, after like four years of percolating interest, I managed to see Mr. Go, the Korean/Chinese gorilla-playing-baseball movie! And I roped you into watching it too! Now we’re gonna talk a little about how that went for us. Continue reading The Athletic Grand-Nephew of Kong: MR. GO (2013)

Merian C. Cooper, King Kong, and the Carl Denham Connection

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
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– Say, is this the moving picture ship?

– The pictures? Yeah. Are you going on this crazy voyage?

– What’s crazy about it?

                                   – I don’t know, but everybody around here is talking about that crazy fella that’s running it.

– Carl Denham?

                                         – Guess that’s the name. They say he ain’t scared of                                                  nothin’. If he wants a picture of a lion, he just goes up to him and tells him to look pleasant.

– He’s a tough egg all right.

For all the remakes, sequels, and knock-offs that followed in its wake, the original King Kong still stands apart as something special. Now sure, some of that is down to the tremendous craft involved in its creation. And some of it is down to its trailblazing place in cinema history. And some of it is down to just the dumb luck confluence of right-place-and-right-time grouping of people and resources that can be found behind the scenes of so many truly classic movies. But I think the real secret to King Kong is how personal it is. That’s right, the fantastical story of an ape-god lording over a mysterious lost world also happens to feature a fair amount of autobiography, a fact perhaps best illustrated by the fact that Carl Denham, the adventurer and filmmaker who is essentially responsible for all of the destructive events in the film, is also its hero. And that’s because Carl Denham is basically King Kong‘s director, Merian C. Cooper. Continue reading Merian C. Cooper, King Kong, and the Carl Denham Connection

King Kong Opponents

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
Nathaniel

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A few years ago when we were talking about Godzilla here at SportsAlcohol.com, in the run-up to Legendary’s 2014 film, we talked about which of Godzilla’s famous opponents we’d like to see in a future sequel. That approach doesn’t seem quite appropriate here, since King Kong doesn’t have quite as extensive or established a rogues gallery as Godzilla. Still, the trailers for Kong: Skull Island have certainly promised plenty of monster fights, so instead of suggestions for a sequel I thought we might just run down a complete list of the creatures Kong has already fought on film.*

King Kong Primer

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
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Kong: Skull Island marks the return to theaters of one of the greatest American screen monsters, 84 years (and three days) after he changed movie history in the original King Kong. He’s never had a long-running series like the ones we’ve covered for Planet of the Apes or his chief rival to the monster monarchy, Godzilla. But he’s still appeared in a handful of movies, remakes, and sequels, and spawned cartoons, books, comics, ripoffs, and even a stage musical. So it’s still worthwhile to kick off our week of King Kongtent with an overview of the career of Skull Island’s most famous resident. Continue reading King Kong Primer

Shin Godzilla (2016)

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
Nathaniel

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First things first: Shin Godzilla is here! There’s a new Japanese Godzilla film currently playing theaters in the United States and it is pretty spectacular. With a franchise that has lasted over six decades and twenty nine films, audience members will obviously approach it with a wide variety of expectations, so it’s best to know going in that it is a film much more in the vein of the original Godzilla (or 1984’s The Return of Godzilla) than the sillier alien invasion epics that characterized the 60s & 70s. It’s a film with seriousness of purpose, with the most frightening depiction of the title monster in the entire franchise (with the possible exception of the original). But it’s also a deeply eccentric film, with a strain of satire running throughout, and extremely propulsive and idiosyncratic filmmaking choices that render a talky, procedural story breathlessly involving (it’s the Contagion or Apollo 13 of Godzilla movies, or The Martian if Matt Damon was roughly 35 stories high and oozing radioactivity). The story is certainly familiar to fans of the genre, but the presentation can be dizzyingly unfamiliar. Presented in this country with subtitles, it’s an incredibly dense film, with whip fast dialogue (sure to be too talky to some) sometimes fighting for room with other onscreen text (including a running gag where every character with a line is identified by name and title/rank/governmental position, including some characters who get multiple titles as their position changes during the story). It’s a very political film, with some material that will be easily grasped by western audiences and some material that will (and, no doubt in my case, did) fly over their heads. Oh, and the monster sequences are beautiful, thrilling, and full of images that left this Godzilla fan’s jaw on the floor. So, that’s the short of it. Go see the movie! But there’s a lot more to talk about. So, if you want to go deeper, let’s get to it.

(NOTE: I’m going to talk about the story of the film in some detail below. But I’m only going to put another big spoiler warning before I discuss some details about the film’s depiction of Godzilla himself because there was some stuff there that genuinely surprised me!) Continue reading Shin Godzilla (2016)

Godzilla: King of the Hollywood Trends

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
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For one week, starting today, fans in America and Canada will be able to see Shin Godzilla, the first new Japanese Godzilla movie in twelve years. The film was a smash hit this summer in its native country, and is already proving controversial (mostly sight-unseen) with western fans for both its politics and its portrayal of the title monster. While controversy is certainly not new to the series, its existence surrounding the twenty-ninth(!) entry offers promise that there is still room to try something new as Godzilla enters his seventh decade on screen.

One area that Shin Godzilla seems to be striking new ground in the series is that it is apparently a completely fresh start, establishing its own continuity and not functioning as a sequel to any prior film. That’s right, Shin Godzilla is a reimagining/remake/hard reboot/what-have-you. It’s all the more surprising that his hasn’t happened before when you look and see that so many of the other storytelling trends that Hollywood studios have been chasing over the last fifteen years have been well covered in the Godzilla series. Godzilla wasn’t always there first, but he was usually there early, and I needn’t tell you how big those footprints are.
Continue reading Godzilla: King of the Hollywood Trends

TRACK MARKS: “Kiss” by Prince

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
Nathaniel

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In April of 2001, the struggling Arizona Top 40 radio station 104.7 ZZP  was getting ready to relaunch as 104.7 KISS-FM. The station’s format was undergoing a transition from Mainstream Top 40 to Rhythmic Top 40, and the change would be punctuated by three days of “stunting.”  Stunting is a common radio practice of abruptly airing something unusual, often used when stations change formats or owners as a way of generating listener interest and publicity. From 6pm on April 20th to noon on April 23rd, 104.7 would play Prince’s “Kiss” on a loop.

I didn’t know any of this radio business background at the time. And I didn’t even really know much about Prince. Sure, I’d seen the Batman movie with his music, missed this Animaniacs joke going right over my head as a kid, and knew Purple Rain was a thing that existed, but I didn’t have particularly cool musical tastes and couldn’t have told you much beyond that. I’d flip around hunting for songs I liked on the radio, but I didn’t buy many albums or go see much live music. What I did do, as a high school senior in Apache Junction, AZ, was go to the park on weekend evenings to goof off and play racquetball with friends until the park closed. Then maybe we’d go back to my folks’ place and bake some cookies before watching a movie or SNL. I was Not Cool, I wasn’t particularly self-conscious about that, and this isn’t a story about how Prince changed my life or anything. But one thing that was really special about him was that he made a world that was cool and sexy and kind of dangerous accessible to even a square kid sitting in the parking lot at Prospector Park, listening to that song one more time (okay, maybe two more times) before getting out to play.

I left the dial tuned to 104.7 that entire weekend. “Kiss” is pretty immediately arresting, with its stripped down arrangement, that jangly guitar lick right before the last word in the chorus, and Prince’s slippery falsetto lead vocal. It was so different, and I admit I genuinely wasn’t even sure at first whether I was listening to a man or a woman. The song is funky as hell and doesn’t even have a bass line. It also felt sexier than anything I’d ever heard on the radio, and he was mostly just singing about getting a kiss.

I don’t know how many times I listened to that song in those three days, but I do know I was genuinely disappointed on April 23rd when the world went back to normal.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baPsgmDexno

The SportsAlcohol.com Frankenstein Studies: Frankenstein (2016)

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
Nathaniel

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JESSE:
OK, Nathaniel, it’s time to talk about this Frankenstein 2016 redo that’s just come out on Blu-ray. I really should’ve sent this movie over to Rob and Sabrina with the probably foolish hopes that their contributions to the discussion could keep us from devolving into Josh Hutcherson fan fiction and analysis of the comic strip Luann, but we’ll do our best. This is such a new version of Frankenstein that it hasn’t even been added to the Wikipedia page of Frankenstein In Popular Culture (if you’re the one who updates this, please do), and it’s pretty stripped down. I’m sure some of that has to do with its direct-to-video origins, but I did see some value — perhaps more theoretical than actual — in doing up a “modern-day Frankenstein story” on pedestrian-looking city streets and sets that look a bit like redressed high school basements. Did the low-budget angle work for you, the Frankenstein enthusiast?

NATHANIEL:
Yeah, I’m often skeptical of that kind of low-budget (and modern day) approach for stories like this. But here, in restricting the adaptation and point of view primarily to the portions of the story where the creature is off on his own learning the ways of the world, they found a way in to the story that actually feels fresh for a while, and kind of appropriate spending tons of time in vacant lots and empty irrigation canals or whatever generic concrete-and-chainlink environs they shot in. It’s definitely an immersive approach, dropping you right in with a POV camera and little in the way of exposition. And I dug the way that, since this version of the creature remains pretty inarticulate, they incorporated some of the text of the novel as voiceover (or at least voice over clearly meant to invoke the novel, since some seemed tailored specifically to what we see onscreen and I didn’t have a copy on hand to compare it). But placing us so fully in the creature’s perspective, and extending his “cast out & beset upon by the cruelty of the world” period to make up the entirety of the film, ended up making it feel punishing to me. The grubby grisliness of it all (and how about the gore in this movie?) makes for some pretty memorable imagery, but it also ends up a little monotonous. And it felt a little weird rubbing up against the numerous homages to the Karloff films. Xavier Samuel really goes for it (perhaps because we watched this shortly before the Academy Awards, it brought to mind DiCaprio playing another revenant, at least in terms of drooling, screaming, and dirt eating), but he’s no Karloff. So the winky stuff made me miss the pathos of Karloff’s performances as the last half hour of the film heaped even more misery on the monster. Did that bother you at all? Or did that stuff even read as specific homage anymore?
Continue reading The SportsAlcohol.com Frankenstein Studies: Frankenstein (2016)

HALFTIME REPORT: Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
Nathaniel

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With Halftime Report, your good friends at SportsAlcohol.com revisit some of their favorite films from the first half of this decade.

Hang me, oh, hang me. I’ll be dead and gone.
Hang me, oh, hang me. I’ll be dead and gone.
Wouldn’t mind the hanging, but the laying in the grave so long
Poor boy, I’ve been all around this world.

In 2013, Inside Llewyn Davis was met by film fans with an enthusiastic array of reactions that has become fairly familiar for a new Coen Brothers film (particularly the films they’ve released since 2007’s No Country For Old Men). There’s the poring over their meticulous technique, the debates about where the latest film ranks among the brothers’  oeuvre, speculation about how much the film can be read as personal expression by the famously puckish filmmakers, the debates about how despairing or cynical the film’s worldview truly is AND the attendant speculation about how much of that is sincere and how much is a joke on audiences. This last one is something of an evolution of the charge levied against them from the beginning of their career that they hold their characters (and possibly their audience) in contempt. Like A Serious Man, with its story about midwestern Jews in the 1960s that gave critics the purchase to finally analyze a Coen picture with an eye to their biography, Inside Llewyn Davis‘s story of a man adrift after losing a close friend and artistic partner offered a critical approach that allowed people to sidestep whatever lingering questions they still have about the Coens’ sincerity. Here was a movie working through the guys’ feelings about an imagined scenario where one of them died, leaving the other to muddle on alone. It’s a pretty satisfying reading of the film, and it suggests that we can perhaps also map the movie’s take on art, commerce, and the life of an artist as a similarly personal exploration by a couple of filmmakers who have a strange and interesting outsider relationship with Hollywood. But watching it now, after those initial conversations have subsided, I was struck by the way that it employs a classic Coen Brothers shaggy dog comedy of errors structure to tell their most emotional story, crystallized in perhaps the most devastating moment in any of their films. Continue reading HALFTIME REPORT: Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)