Trivia Break: Queen of the Monsters

I’d like to introduce you to actress Mie Hama. She’s a rather interesting person: born during World War II to blue collar parents, her home was destroyed in a bombing raid and she grew up poor. By the age of sixteen, she was working as a fare collector on the bus, and it was there that Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka found her and decided she might make a fine actress.

Mie Hama

Something must’ve caught his attention. Can’t quite put my finger on it…

Anyway, Miss Hama went on to become one of the most popular actresses of the Golden Age of Japanese cinema, and even to have some success outside it (more on that later). But at the height of her career she quit acting to get married and start a family, wanting only a “normal life.” She had four children and later became a popular TV and radio host, authoress, and advocate for traditional Japanese farming.

Now, Miss Hama has a peculiar distinction in the film world. As far as I know (and all things considered, I think I would know), she is the only actress to date who has been menaced by both King Kong and Godzilla, AND romanced by James Bond.

How’s that for a resume?

(To be fair, Akiko Wakabayashi also co-starred in You Only Live Twice – and plays a rather larger role – as well as having a role in King Kong vs. Godzilla, but she never interacts with either of the monsters).

Akiko Wakabayashi. Seems only fair to put her photo up as well.

Miss Hama was one of the stars of 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla, during the course of which the train she is riding is wrecked Godzilla, who then briefly (and presumably inadvertently) pursues her into a ravine, where she’s rescued by her boyfriend.

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Hama vs. Godzilla

Later, as she tries to evacuate Tokyo before the approaching King Kong, she boards another train, which unfortunately runs directly across the path of the giant ape, who does what he does. Somewhat fortunately for her, Kong notices her and takes a liking, meaning that she gets to serve as this film’s version of Fay Wray (Kong climbs the Diet Building in this one). Kong is then knocked out by gas bombs and she is rescued before the great ape is airlifted to his showdown with Godzilla.

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Hama vs. King Kong

Some five years after tangling with the two greatest monsters of cinema, Miss Hama was picked to co-star alongside Sean Connery (and fellow King Kong vs. Godzilla alum Akiko Wakabayashi) in You Only Live Twice, the fifth James Bond film. She plays the role of Kissy Suzuki, a Japanese agent assigned to pose as Bond’s wife while he’s undercover as a 6’2″ Japanese fisherman (granted, not the most convincing development in the history of the franchise). Kissy doesn’t really have a lot of screen time (she isn’t even introduced until an hour and a quarter into the two-hour film), but she manages to put what time she has to good use by steadfastly, and amusingly, resisting Bond’s attentions until the very end (“We’re supposed to be married!” “Think again, please; you gave false name to priest.”) and providing some solid back-up for Bond during their reconnaissance of Blofeld’s base. That, and spending about 90% of her time in a bikini.

Hama vs. Bond

Miss Hama later told stories of how difficult the experience of being a ‘Bond Girl’ was. Though she was a popular actress in Japan, she was still a fairly normal, down-to-earth person and so found herself overwhelmed by the publicity and pressure of the big Hollywood production. But, she said, Sean Connery – who also had a working class background – was very kind and chivalrous to her, constantly checking to make sure she was okay and looking out for her during the long shoot. Later she commented that her chief regret about the film was that she was too shy to try to get to know him better.

That same year, she tangled with Kong again as the villainous femme fatale Madam Piranha in the delightfully silly US-Japanese co-production King Kong Escapes (which is basically what happens when a King Kong film and a James Bond movie are put through the brundlefly machine together). This time around she’s a bad girl: a spy from an unknown foreign power in league with the villainous ‘Doctor Who,’ who intends to conquer the world with a mechanical copy of Kong (so, yes; it’s a pseudo-Bond film where King Kong battles Doctor Who, a Bond Girl, and MechaKong. Japan, ladies and gentlemen!).

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Be honest; would you accept a drink from this woman?

So, there you have it; the girl who tangled with King Kong, Godzilla, AND James Bond and lived to tell about it. Now that’s a strong woman!

No, this post was not just an excuse to share pictures of a beautiful woman. Not *just*…

A Housekeeping Note

I’ve shut down comments for the ‘About Me’ page because they were becoming a dumping ground for people commenting on the newest ‘Federalist’ or other external essays. I’m happy to have people comment, but as we were having input relating to multiple unrelated essays I thought it would be best to close things down before they got too confusing.

If you want to comment on a particular article, please do so on the post related to it.

Thank you

First ‘Godzilla’ Trailer Drops!

After much anticipation, the first trailer for ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ is finally here!

A few thoughts:

-I am very pleased with what I see so far: we get glimpses of all four monsters, and so far they look fantastic.

-They really show off Rodan in the second half of the trailer, and it looks like they’re making full use of him. That overhead shot of him flying over a city, with his shockwave destroying it in his wake, is excellent, as are the brief scenes of him in combat with jets. I also like that he emerges from a volcano; a nice reference that indicates this film will continue the respectful approach to the lore that the previous one adopted.

-On that subject, the trailer has a few bonuses for fans: those who know the Godzilla mythos will recognize what the flashes of yellow light mean and why it’s an ominous sign.

-There’s a brief shot of a soldier crossing himself: does this mean this film will continue the surprisingly matter-of-fact religiosity of its predecessor?

-Mothra is seen the least of the new monsters, though her reveal, with her wings unfolding until we see her iconic ‘eyes’ is incredible. Also, looks like we’re getting her full transformation cycle here. It’ll be interesting to see how she fits into this world, though to be honest I think she ought to have gotten her own movie before showing up here.

-Actually, let’s call it; this looks like a visually gorgeous film, with fantastic use of color.

-As for King Ghidorah, we get a few quick glimpses, including a really awesome final shot of him in silhouette. In addition, there are some shots of what look to be the gravity beams. Ghidorah is really the one I’m most looking forward to seeing, both because he is such an important figure in the Godzilla universe and because he’s been oddly ill-served in most past scripts, so I really want to see him presented in all his glory.

-Godzilla of course looks great; the scene of him firing his ray into the air is cool, though I wonder why he’s doing it.

-In short, I’m really excited for this one: it’s one of my most anticipated films of 2019, with only the next Avengers as a challenge. The Godzilla series is personally my top “fandom:” it’s the one closest to my heart and that I am most invested in, so the prospect of a respectful, high-budget depiction of that world and these characters just thrills me to no end. Can’t wait!

UPDATE: After writing this, I watched the new trailers for Shazam and Aquaman, and I was struck by how classy, impressive, and visually distinct this one was by comparison. It really feels like the makers of this film took it seriously in a way that the others didn’t. I’m so glad that Godzilla of all characters seems to be in the hands of people that truly respect him and his world.

In Flanders Fields

Fitting words both for the day and in relation to my last post:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
        In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.
-Lt. Col. John McCrea, Canadian Army Medical Officer

Various and Sundry Cartoon Thoughts

Most of my viewing habits lately have been directed towards cartoons. Maybe it’s because I find the rest of the entertainment world increasingly hostile, or just because I enjoy the medium, but in any case I’ve been watching a lot of animated shows lately.

Stories, I find, are like relationships: made up of thousands of individual moments adding up to an overall tone that is either positive or negative. Either you like the person and feel better for having known them, or you dislike them and would prefer to having nothing to do with them. Then again, there are the ones who simply pass you by without leaving much of an impression. So, of the cartoons of recent years that I’ve watched, here are some general thoughts:

Avatar the Last Airbender is pretty much top of the heap: less a great show than a great fantasy-adventure that happens to have an animated show for its medium. Rich, beautiful, mostly positive (some lame feminist agitprop that really doesn’t fit the setting is probably the worst of it), filled with great characters and a wonderful story almost perfectly told.

My Little PonyFriendship is Magic, of course, I love. It’s certainly an acquired taste that not everyone will like, but man it hit a note with me with its timeless setting and storytelling, complex and charming characters, and especially its strong moral emphasis. I love moralism and ethical philosophy, and this show is not only all about that, but actually seems to know what its talking about. Great humor and some beautifully creative animation add to the charm.

Phineas and Ferb is another one that really speaks to me. In a world full of despair, resentment, and pessimism, the cheery good-will and hope that forms the core of this show is a breath of fresh air. It’s all about nice people doing nice things and enjoying life, but manages to do it in a smart, hilarious, and deceptively thoughtful way so that it doesn’t come across as the least sappy or contrived. I think Mr. Disney would have loved it; it’s espouses exactly the kind of hopeful can-do optimism that he did.

Gravity Falls I have mixed feelings about. Its really well written (for the most part), and its high moments are fantastic. I laughed hard and even choked up a few times. There’s a lot of creativity, and I enjoyed the fact that the show was willing to get really dark and scary at times. At the same time, though, there’s a mean-spirited, cynical side to it that I did not like, and when it’s bad, it can be really stupid. Plus it’s kinda ugly and there are some moral issues to it that would definitely prevent my showing this to my kids. I’ll have to delve deeper into it later.

Milo Murphy’s Law is the sequel series to Phineas and Ferb, by the same crew, so you know this is gonna be good. Like its predecessor, it boasts great characters and a refreshingly positive attitude, while being even crazier and more off-the-wall, with things like time-traveling secret agents, pistachio monsters, a teacher who may or may not be a vampire, and so on. It’s more serialized than its predecessor, with more of an overarching storyline, and though so far it’s not as good as Phineas and Ferb, it’s pretty close.

-The Ducktales reboot is too young to really say for sure, but so far the signs are very positive. I didn’t really watch the original, but the rebooted series is a ton of fun, and I love that Scrooge is allowed to be an actually heroic capitalist, and even to espouse solid principles about hard-work and self-reliance. The characters are all a lot of fun, there’s some intriguing story developments in the works, and I’m honestly eager to see where they go with this. Plus it has Kate Micucci as Webby, who also voices Milo’s sister Sara in Milo Murphy’s Law, and I’m kind of in love with her voice, which is the most adorably charming croak since Jean Arthur. It also has Donald Duck as a main character: what more needs to be said? It’s Donald Duck! You’d have to work hard to make him not funny.

Danny Phantom, you know what I think of that. A decent show that could have been fantastic if they had put a little more effort and imagination into it.

Sonic Boom is not very good, but it’s kind of charming for that very reason: less like they were really trying with it than they were just having fun playing with these characters. It’s pretty funny and just kind of relaxing to put on and enjoy. I can’t say it’s a good show, but it’s entertaining and pretty harmless.

Various and Sundry

– As mentioned, I suffer from some pretty bad insomnia, to the point where I often can’t sleep even with sleep aids (they just make me more tired). I also have mild to moderate depression. The two do not mix well. Most nights I get to spend hours lying there, exhausted but unable to sleep and with nothing to distract me from the lovely thoughts of failure, incompetence, and regret chasing each other round and round my brain.

My post on beauty rather blew up: four-thousand views and over three thousand shares in twenty-four hours. Yet only twenty likes; I think I touched a nerve or two with that one.

-Some of the responses have, predictably, taken the form of the offense fallacy: if you don’t like what someone says, construe it as an insult, either to yourself or someone else. Most people will rush to assure you they meant no harm and not even notice the fact that not liking the implications of an idea isn’t an argument for its truth or falsehood. And since just about everything can be taken as an insult if you try hard enough, it’s a very handy little trick.

-It occurs to me that the mere fact that disenfranchised populations have been able to win themselves the vote rather tells against the necessity of granting them voting rights. The mere fact that they were able to successfully agitate to have the franchise extended to them shows that they were capable of affecting public policy without the right to vote. True, it was much harder and could only be done with great effort, requiring it to be reserved for matters considered of grave importance…which is another point against extending the franchise (since every change brings unexpected consequences, the harder it is to make serious changes the better). You know, more and more I find I’m theoretically against the idea of universal suffrage.

One More Thought

To add to the first thought below: There is also a difference between ‘conceptually justified’ and ‘practically justified.’ That is, something may be morally justifiable in an abstract, conceptual form, but its implementation is beset by so many moral caveats as to be practically illicit. Thus, one could make the argument that, say, slavery in and of itself  (the legal state of owning another human being) is not morally wrong, but that practically speaking it can’t be implemented without moral abuses and so should be considered immoral.