Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Yesterday, Dec. 18 here in Bangkok, was an eventful day for us. It was our fifth consecutive day when the high temp only reached 80 or thereabouts. That is what they call winter around these parts. It’s been more than a week since we had the air conditioner on. Even people who have been here far longer than me think it is unusually cool.

Oh yeah, we went to the movies yesterday also. King Kong is back. Every 35 years or so he returns. Look for him again in 2040.

I did some planning for this movie outing. Last time I went to a movie, at the suggestion of my friend Jeffrey Wells at *Hollywood Elsewhere*, it turned out to be an adventure. I had no idea that the Jungle Princess had never been to a movie before. Yeah, that’s right, never in her life. Who woudda thunk it?

So this time I took charge of the planning. So nothing could go wrong, right?

King Kong opened on the 14th here and in much of the rest of Asia. There had been a publicity blitz. Full page ads, billboards, and there was a half hour show, The Making of King Kong that had been on TV more than a dozen times.

The crowds, I reasoned, would be huge. To avoid the crush I scheduled us to go to the early show on Sunday, the 18th. I invited a Chinese-Thai couple from across the street to come along and be our guides. That would avoid the confusion of last time.

Last time it was just I and Dow, The Jungle Princess. Now our immediate family was five; Bir, 15, my stepson; Phai, 12, our niece; and Kin, 8, our daughter. We also brought along a friend of the girls, a 9-year-old Korean girl from up the street. With the guiding couple that made us a party of 8.

I checked to see how many had never been to a movie before. It was only Phai. Can you imagine that? 12 years old and going to her first movie. Well that’s better than Dow who saw her first movie at 37. These poor, deprived people. How can American culture corrupt them if they don’t expose themselves to it?

I hoped we wouldn’t have a problem getting in the theatre with the mob I pictured there.

King Kong was showing on 5 screens in the Cineplex. The theatre we entered seated about 500. Our party nearly doubled the audience in attendance. There couldn’t have been more than twenty, counting us. Good thing I planned ahead.

The movie began.

First the best parts. There were some excellent action scenes. But I have seen similar stuff on the Discovery channel. The look of old New York and the tramp steamer was good. I did like the tramp steamer. The captain of the ship, Thomas Kretschmann, stole every scene he was in.

Then the rest.

There was a strange confrontation near the beginning. Jack Black plays an amoral, sometimes immoral, movie director. He is broker than broke. He is in a meeting with his backers pleading for additional financing for his movie. They have been watching footage Black has shot of jungle and natives, intended to be incorporated in the movie.

One of the backers asks why the film couldn’t be sexier. Why couldn’t there be some exposed breasts on the natives?

Black gives him a severe, moralistic dressing down. This rant was so out of character, so hurtful to what he was striving for, that it jarred me. It bothered me so much that I watched subsequent exchanges between the two, looking for hard feelings being carried forward. There were none. It was if that confrontation never happened.

I’ll come back to that. Meanwhile…

Naomi Watts played the heroine. She was nice, attractive, a decent actress, and totally Hollywood average. She was no better and no worse than 100 others that could have played the role. (Except for her juggling.)

Director Peter Jackson goes out of his way to de-sex her and yet bring more intensity and attraction between her and the ape.

That doesn’t work on two levels.

First he has her dressed in the flimsiest of costumes and then flattens her little mounds of breasts as much as he can. Right. Don’t let any nipple show through. That might cause people to come see your dumb movie. A few million dollars go out the window right there. Fay Wray was a lot sexier.

Here is a flash for Peter Jackson: You are in the business of show.

He must think he is in the business of no-show.

Then I got an insight about that early confrontation I mentioned. That scene was patched in. Someone saw an early cut of this film and made the same criticism I make here. Where’s the sex? So Jackson reassembled his actors and shot that scene to chew out that guy who made the comments. How stupid. How arrogant.

Because it is Jackson who is wrong. He did not understand the material. King Kong is supposed to be a sexy story. Everyone, throughout history knows that. Show me a picture of a great ape and a damsel in which the girl is not displayed in a sexy way.

And then Peter Jackson came along.

Peter Jackson goes for sensitivity and attraction.

Okay, the intensity of the attraction on the part of the girl works for part of the audience. Our two littlest girls and one older girl were in tears. But I don’t think it will work for guys. I’m a sensitive guy. I weep at checker games. But this didn’t move me.

So what was the problem?

Peter Jackson fell for the Hollywood theory: More is better. If one pigeon crap on a hat is funny, then ten pigeon craps on hats will be ten times funnier.

It doesn’t work that way.

In the original King Kong there was a kind of reluctant attraction on the part of the heroine. There was a mixture of abhorrence and fascination and finally sympathy.

This chick, in Peter Jackson’s movie, was going after that hairy ape full bore. She wanted that thing. Only in my dreams do women come at me like that.

So what does the hairy ape do?

He wanted to watch the sunset with her. He indicated how it warmed his heart.

This was a gay King Kong.

This was Queen Kong.

This was not a guy’s movie.


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