March Master

As the faithful readers of this blog (all half dozen of them) are well aware, I’m not very timely with my posts. Heck, if that was the case, I’d be posting every other day. And I had every intention of this post being on time, but well, it didn’t work out…But anyway…

Maestro Ifukube at work

May 31st is the birth date of the legendary Japanese composer Akira Ifukube (1914-2006). Maestro Ifukube is best known — with good reason — for his Godzilla film scores. Beginning with 1954’s Gojira, Ifukube composed a slew of memorable kaiju scores among his more than 250 film credits. He also created the legendary Godzilla roar, it’s said by rubbing a leather glove along a double bass with loose strings, and the Big G’s footsteps by slamming an amplifier box. So it’s easy to see why, even though he was an award-winning composer in his 20s, created numerous orchestral, vocal and other classical works, and taught for many years at the Tokyo College of Music, Ifukube is most synonymous with Godzilla.

The Maestro and his muse (a shorter version)

And why not? Honestly, I would put his military marches for the G movies up there with anything in film, including the tandem of Kenneth Alford’s “Colonel Bogey March” & Malcolm Arnold’s “The River Kwai March” (from The Bridge on the River Kwai, natch) and even Elmer Bernstein’s iconic theme song from my beloved The Great Escape. And a big part of the reason for this is my daughter.

Best of Godzilla 1954-1975

Best of Godzilla 1984-1995

Well, OK, I’ve been listening to this music since I’m a little kid, but it wasn’t until I was older that I purchased a couple of terrific CDs, “The Best of Godzilla”, which I keep in the car for easy listening when the mood strikes, or when the child wants to listen to them on the way to school. Heck, sometimes I listen to them myself! But my daughter takes it to the next level, since she knows all the words (and arm movements) to the Mothra theme. She also sings the Japanese lyrics to some non-Ifukube songs, but that’s for another discussion.

My favorite is the score for Destroy All Monsters, and the main title theme my daughter and I call “Monster’s March”.

And you can’t beat the entrance music for the Big G, or the unforgettable fight music with bold, brassy horns, lyrical strings and booming percussion. The Maestro’s last G score was for director Ishiro Honda’s last G movie, Terror of Mechagodzilla…until…he came back for 1991’s Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah. And thankfully he did, because some of his scores for the 90s G movies are among his best in my opinion. Especially the bombastic main title theme to 1993’s Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.

Or even better, next to the incomparable Ennio Morricone’s theme for Once Upon A Time In The West, one of the most beautiful pieces of film music I’ve ever heard is “Requiem” for Godzilla vs. Destroyah, Ifukube’s final film score.

But he ended his Godzilla career on a solid note, with one of the best end credits themes ever, and my second favorite next to the end credits for West Side Story. It’s a freakin shame that the DVD cuts off the credits before not only the entire music could be heard, a mix of some of Ifukube’s best moments from early G scores, but also clips of the King of the Monsters from throughout his resume. A fitting end to a stellar career for both. (Until they brought Godzilla back again…)

Published in: on June 5, 2011 at 8:27 pm  Comments (7)  
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Movies, Movies

On this occasion of Good Friday, I’m reminded of all the great Fridays I enjoyed as a kid. Because that’s the day the new movies come out. Which, when I was younger, meant Arthur Treachers, or gyros, or some other fast food joint for dinner. Then a movie. Back when it was easy to get in the first day.

I’m also reminded I’ve actually been catching up on a bunch of movies lately. Thanks to Netflix and cable, that is. Alas, going out to the movies is a rare occasion now. Not really sure why. My daughter doesn’t like to go for some reason, and the widescreen TV and nice (but modest) sound system make it cheaper and more relaxing to watch movies at home. But here are my short takes on a bunch of flicks I’ve seen recently. Why? Why the hell not!

Snow angel...how ironic (duh)

LET ME IN
Revenge of the Hat Room was right on the vampire tooth on this one. It was terrific. The Swedish original, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, is great also but I preferred the kid performances here, maybe because I loved Chloe Moretz in KICK-ASS (a must-see) and Kodi Smit-McPhee in THE ROAD (a real feel-good film…um, no). And it had an awesome 70s feel to it (always a plus in my book), even though it’s set in the early 80s. Maybe Matt Reeves (CLOVERFIELD, which had its moments) is a director to watch? Well, he’s doing the new Godzilla movie so it seems. That’ll be the real litmus test.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK
I will say David Fincher is one of my favorite modern directors. I loved loved loved ZODIAC, which to me fell way under the radar. And this one the critics loved, for good reason. It was super well directed. Liked the screenplay also, and most of the performances. Very well done all around. My only quibble would be the obvious CGI-d “winter breath” in a lot of outdoor scenes. I mean, I could be wrong (without looking it up), but boy did it look fake. Distractingly so.

THE FIGHTER
This one was good. I wasn’t knocked out like ROTHR, but that could be because Mrs. Von Luger made me shut the movie off halfway through. She simply hated the Melissa Leo and Christian Bale characters so much (not the acting, the characters), she couldn’t watch it any more. I of course finished it after she went to sleep and liked it. Bale was terrific no doubt, but honestly Amy Adams was a hundred times better than Leo.

Sorry, no nekkid pics of Violante Placido, you'll have to find those yourself

THE AMERICAN
Ah, a throwback to my beloved 70s….How could it miss? Clooney is great, the supporting cast of foreign no-names is quite good, the prostitute (played by Violante Placido, the daughter of the actress who played Apollonia in THE GODFATHER) is incredibly gorgeous and nekkid throughout, there’s not a lot of dialogue, there’s not a lot of “hey look at the scenery” shots, it’s not very uplifting, it’s directed by Anton Corbjin who directed the very good CONTROL….All in all, highly recommended. Right up my alley.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS Season 5
I seriously doubt most of the people reading this actually watch this show, but season 5 is the final season. For whatever reason, they released the DVDs before it started to air on NBC, but after it aired on DirectTV. Great, great show that really concentrated more on the characters than the football. It’ll be missed. And thanks to Netflix, Mrs. Von Luger and I already watched the entire season, commercial free, in three days.

JONAH HEX
“Watched” this last night. I put that in quotes because, while it wasn’t a complete and utter disaster, it was close. Just so boring and unorganized and poorly edited and poorly directed, I found myself surfing the web and reading the newspaper while the movie was on. You can easily skip this one. Or give it a shot just for the heck of it since it seemed like it was only about an hour long.

THE KARATE KID
Watched the remake with the family tonight. I was never a big fan of the original, but it had its moments. Which have become cliché by now of course. But the remake, while loaded with clichés, was not bad. Jackie Chan gives a damn good performance actually. Check out the alternate ending on YouTube if you can, where he gets to kinda sorta kick some ass in a Chan-esque fight with the bad guy master.

You bet your ass I'm bolting my doors!

P.S. As I post this, I’m watching John Carpenter’s classic THE FOG. Sure I’m one day late, since yesterday was the 21st of April, when the Elizabeth Dane was lost near Spivey Point some 130-odd years ago, but better late than never. One of the coolest horror flicks around, it still holds up nicely. Could have sworn I had this on laserdisc, but thanks to the Netflix Watch Instantly option, I’m watching it, um, instantly….

G-Force 7 1/2

Smart. Imaginative. Independent. Creative. Hilarious. Sweet. Stubborn. Fun. Those are just some of the words I could use to describe my 7 1/2 year-old daughter. But one of the most fun and imaginative things about her is her willingness to dive into certain shows or characters or movies and not come out of the water until she’s completed everything about it. Yes, this is normal kid behavior. Thankfully.

It started with Dora the Explorer, as it does with most little girls nowadays. Simultaneously dabbling in Clifford and Blue’s Clues. But Spongebob Squarepants changed all that baby stuff. Next up was the Disney Princesses. Then she hit the Godzilla phase. Had to watch every Godzilla movie, which of course Dad had on DVD or VHS (there are three G movies not available in the US on DVD ugh), in order natch. Then came The Simpsons phase, where she watched every available season on DVD, Seasons 1 through 13 and 20 (Yes, Dad has them all), watched all the episodes in order and quotes them endlessly bless her heart, focusing on my favorite episodes bless her heart again. Now she’s on the Pokemon phase, DVRing old episodes and newer episodes and buying cards with her own money and video games.

But the reason for this post is not to chronicle my daughter’s life actually, but mostly to share/show off photos of some awesome and imaginative artwork she created during Godzilla phase #3 (she cycles back and forth with these phases) during downtime at school. Funny enough, the only other character she’s drawn is Spongebob. Love this kid! Enjoy the pics!

Godzilla and son Milla

Godzilla's Revenge

Godzilla vs Gigan

Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla

Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla soldiers

Godzilla vs King Ghidorah

Godzilla vs Mothra: The Battle for Earth

Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla 1993

Godzilla vs Destroyah

BONUS ARTWORK:

Pokemon

Published in: on January 20, 2011 at 10:06 pm  Comments (3)  
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Kaiju Koincidence

I’m reminded today by the good folks at Bradley On Film that May 7th is the fabulous director Ishiro Honda’s birthday, a day where he would have been 99 years young.

Ishiro Honda

It’s also my daughter’s 7th birthday today. Considering how a couple of years ago she fell in love with Godzilla movies (and who wouldn’t!), it’s only fitting that she shares her birthday with Honda, who is extremely important to both my life and cinema history, having directed one of the most influential sci-fi movies ever made with 1954’s Gojira (aka  Godzilla…duh…), as well as many other kaiju films and sci-fi treats, including the mega-fun Destroy All Monsters, which was one of my favorite movies growing up (thank you, 4:30 Movie!). Happy birthday, Ishiro Honda!!

Now that's a birthday party!

Published in: on May 7, 2010 at 9:44 am  Comments (5)  
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What rhymes with “poetry”?

April is National Poetry Month.

Back in the day (high school and college), I fancied myself a poet. Reading most of my work today, I wonder what I was thinking. But hey, creativity is still creativity, no matter how mediocre, no? (And believe me, most of those poems were mediocre at best.)

I’m not one of those people who go out of their way to read poetry, or attend poetry readings, but I wouldn’t turn my nose up at either situation. If I had to pick a favorite poet, it would be Kenneth Koch. Saw him read at Queens College (the jewel of the CUNY system) during my sophomore year and he was charming, laid-back and hilarious. And his poetry, although some of it a bit long, is chock full of vivid images, straight-shooting revelations, and clever use of the written word.

My favorite work of Koch’s is The Magic of Numbers. As an assignment in a Poetry class in college my junior year, we were asked to write a poem inspired by a favorite poet, and I used Koch’s work to come up with this, one of the few poems I’ve written that I can actually look back on and say I still like. Will you agree? Beats me….(And yes, the spaces in some of the lines are done on purpose. I’m an artist, dammit.)

The Folly of Numbers 
Some think numbers
To be magic
Wondrous
But in this world
Of romance
Relationships
Sex            breasts
And colors
The only number
That counts is
Two

I know
I am twentytwo
And you are twentyone
And we could play
Twentyquestions all night
Without a word            or words
But you and he
Are the two
And I am the three
The third
The triskaidekaphobiac
The outside
Voyeur            looking in
At pink pumpkins
And red legs
Masked all year round
By magic            when
Folly is the
Actual norm

P.S. Continuing with National Poetry Month, make sure to check out this awesome site of poetic genius: Godzilla Haiku. Do it now, or The Big G will step on you. Darn, should have done that in haiku form….

Published in: on April 13, 2010 at 1:42 pm  Comments (7)  
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