Thursday, December 29, 2005

"Winter Break," Day 1: The Savage Beast

What a randomly decadent day. Emphasis on the random. Now don't go getting some vision of velvet or flowing wine or that kind of decadence. Rather, it was just a day of doing nothing obligatory, and stuffing my body full of one Western food after another (not all of it even that good, frankly) and even a big American movie that was actually not really particularly American except it was. It was Hollywood, and New York. The movie was King Kong. You see, Peter Jackson and his little Lord of the Rings team of screenwriters/producers aren't American; they're from New Zealand, of course. But what could be more American than this remake of KONG?

I loved it. That's right, I said it. And I'll say it again. I absolutely loved it. It was like a tribute to all things film and yet not without irony. Plus there is something to be said for someone such as myself who loves New York, who thrills to the pulsating energy that drives the Big Apple, sitting in a huge movie theater in Daegu, Korea watching captive Kong atop the Empire State Building. I'm not sure what exactly is to be said for that, but there's something to be said for it.

It was certainly not a Hollywood love fest, while at the same time it gave props to what film is. I thought that it was very smart in that sense, and the way it told the tale of the theater and the vaudevillians and the starving actors desperate for work, and then this insane pursuit of filming Skull Island and the ape, which ends up destroying a theater - literally crumbling it!

Adrien Brody was phenomenal. Jack Black was phenomenal. The giant bugs weren't bad! I was kind of dreading Naomi Watts. She got on my last nerve in 21 Grams, as did that whole overrated film, but she went a long way toward redeeming herself in the purely brilliant The Assassination of Richard Nixon and I Heart Huckabees last year, and now with King Kong she may have completed her redemption. (And yes, I am aware that Naomi Watts has no need for me to like her. You see, I, too, am not without irony.)

What kind of pressure was on Jack Black, with the line: "It was beauty killed the beast." And they didn't hold back, leading up to it with all the punch-packing melodramatic build-up they could muster. I mean, that line has to be up there in the top cinematic last lines, with the likes of "there's no place like home" and "the beginning of a beautiful friendship." Go, Jack Black.

Oh, it was just great. The visuals. The thrills. The Peter Jackson-ness of it all. Good on him, you know? I say keep handing him $200 million budgets. I mean, you know, if you've got a $200 million dollar budget to hand to someone, that is.

This morning I breakfasted at Burger King on the army base with the "military wives." That's a joke, because there were actually men than wives there, and I'm alluding to the Decemberists' song "Sixteen Military Wives," which of course it really kills my allusion to have to explain, but I knew a bunch of you wouldn't get it because you don't know the clever song: "Sixteen military wives, thirty-two softly focused brightly colored eyes...cheer them on to their rivals, 'cause America can, and America can't say no, and America does, if America says it's so it's so..."

But you see, really there were two men, and one two-year-old daughter, and only one military wife, plus me, in the playland at BK talking about Koreans, and language, and English teaching. Well, and then there was the other military wife, and her child, who popped into the playland at one point, but they just had a cameo appearance.

Later I lunched with two wives at Shanghai Grill. Only I think if it's the woman who's in the military then she doesn't count as a military wife. Well, who's counting? Apart from the Decemberists, of course. "Seventeen company men, out of which only twelve will make it back again, sergeant sent a letter to five military wives, his tears drip down to ten little eyes..."

I had such a Korean day. I told my friend that this morning. "I'm having a Korean morning," I said, delighted that he knew exactly what I meant, right when I met up with him to walk onto base to go to Burger King to get coffee and watch the little one on her electric slide. That's what I kept calling the playland slide, to my own amusement if no one else's, because there was a bit of static electricity in the playland giving her a couple little shocks. Don't worry, she brushed them off, no problem.

I really feel I ran in circles around Daegu today. There were multiple thwarted bus trips, but nowhere I had to be, so what's the harm? In the morning I grabbed a cab to head over to my friends' place near Camp Walker, and the taxi driver started to drive me there but then stopped to get gas. I was like, What are you doing, buddy? It was such a typical Korean moment. He seemed totally offended that I got out, too, to get in one of the hundreds of other passing taxis.

And you know I even thought to myself, 'This is probably a mistake, to get out of this cab, despite the fact that I'm running late and this is another five-minute delay I don't need,' because the first driver actually understood where I wanted to go. I just knew that the next one would give me that look when I named my destination, that screwed-up face look that says, "What, pray tell, you Westerner, are these unintelligible sounds coming out of your mouth, because they surely can't be Korean?! Just wait, oh you foreigner you, until I finally deign to understand what you're trying to say. I will pronounce those syllables and I will pronounce them with a hair's breadth of difference from how you are pronouncing them, and I will show you just how wrong you are. Hyun-cheung-NO!"

Dinner was at Outback Steakhouse with the military family. "Will they find the solution in time, using their fifteen pristine moderate liberal minds?...'cause America can and America can't say no, and America does, if America says it's so, it's so..." I had a Foster's (Australian for beer) and I have leftover cheese fries. Glorious and true!

And then there was Kong.

"And the anchorperson on TV goes la de da de da dedadedade da..."

Here are my two random but related facts discovered tonight: 1. Peter Jackson's birthday is Hallowe'en (that just totally fits him somehow!) and 2. Peter, Fran, and Philippa (think "I'd like to thank the people of New Zealand...") are the screenwriters for the slated-for-2007 adaptation of The Lovely Bones! I hadn't heard that until today! That's amazing. If you don't know The Lovely Bones, you're missing out literarily even more severely than you're missing out musically by not knowing The Decemberists. I'm thoroughly intrigued that the LOTR peeps are writing/have written that movie.

I do highly recommend The Decemberists' album Picaresque. Get the CD, and then read War and Peace and think about how many times we really need the letter "e" in the word Decembrist/Decemberist. That's what I like to spend my days doing.

"La de da de da dedadedade da..."

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