Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection
With only a week and change having passed since the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we no doubt feel the question living fresh in our minds: can we ever judge a remake without considering its predecessors? The conversation about the stark contrast in critical favor between Marc Webb's release and Sam Raimi's trilogy (the second installment of his franchise in particular) buzzed loudly, and we imagine the volume will keep in regards to Gareth Edwards' Godzilla. But it'll be a different sound altogether.
The original Godzilla, a Japanese film released in 1954, reinvented the identity of the monster movie, launched a 30-film legacy, and spoke legions about the political climate of its era. The most recent of these films — Roland Emmerich's 1998 American production — is universally bemoaned as a bigger disaster than anything to befall Tokyo at the hands of the giant reptile. With these two entries likely standing out as the most prominent in the minds of contemporary audiences, Edwards' Godzilla has some long shadows cast before it. And in approaching the new movie, one might not be able to avoid comparisons to either. It's fair — by taking on an existing property, a filmmaker knowingly takes on the connotations of that property. But the 2014 installment's great success is that it isn't much like any Godzilla movie we've seen before. In a great, great way.
This isn't 1954's Godzilla, a dire and occasionally dreary allegory that uses the supernatural to tell an important story about nuclear holocaust. A complete reversal, in fact, first and foremost Edwards' Godzilla is about its monsters. Any grand themes strewn throughout — the perseverence of nature, the follies of mankind, fatherhood, madness, faith — are all in service to the very simple mission to give us some cool, weighty, articulate sci-fi disaster. Elements of gravity are plotted all over the film's surface, with scientists, military men (kudos to Edwards for not going the typical "scientists = good/smart, military = bad/dumb" route in this film — everybody here is at least open to suggestion), doctors, police officers, and a compassionate bus driver all wrestling with options in the face of behemoth danger. The humanity is everpresent, but never especially intrusive. To reiterate, this isn't a film about any of these people, or what they do.
Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection
The closest thing to a helping of thematic (or human) significance comes with Ken Watanabe's Dr. Serizawa, who spouts awe-stricken maxims about cryptozoology, the Earth, and the inevitable powerlessness of man. He might not be supplying anything more substantial than our central heroes (soft-hearted soldier Aaron Taylor-Johnson, dutiful medic and mom Elizabeth Olsen, right-all-along conspiracy theorist Bryan Cranston), but Watanabe's bonkers performance as the harried scientist is so bizarrely good that you might actually believe, for a scene or two, that it all does mean something.
Ultimately, the beauty of our latest taste of Godzilla lies not in the commitment to a message that made the original so important nor in the commitment to levity that made Emmerich's so pointless, but in its commitment to imagination. Edwards' creature design is dazzling, his deus ex machina are riveting, and the ultimate payoff to which he treats his audience is the sort of gangbusters crowd-pleaser that your average contemporary monster movie is too afraid to consider.
In fairness, this year's Godzilla might not be considered an adequate remake, not quite reciprocating the ideals, tone, or importance of the original. Sure, anyone looking for a 2014 answer to 1954's game-changing paragon will find sincere philosophy traded for pulsing adventure... but they'd have a hard time ignoring the emphatic charm of this new lens for the 60-year-old lizard, both a highly original composition and a tribute in its way to the very history of monster movies (a history that owes so much to the creature in question). So does Godzilla '14 successfully fill the shoes of Godzilla '54? No — it rips them apart and dons a totally new pair... though it still has a lot of nice things to say about the first kicks.
Oh, and the '98 Godzilla? Yeah, it's better than that.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
It's become an integral part of late October, like costume shopping, binging on tiny little candy bars, and watching Courtney Stodden pose practically naked in a pumpkin patch. Yes, of course I'm talking about the annual Halloween episode of every series under the sun. This spooky holiday didn't always scare up as much attention as it does now, where every sitcom, cop show, and Ryan Murphy gay-centric singing and lesson-teaching extravaganza feels the need to have a special episode to celebrate the creepiest of days. It's as if we haven't lived until we've seen our favorite characters in outfits so ridiculously elaborate that no one without a wardrobe department (or a massive budget) could do it on their own.
There was a time before Halloween specials. I know, I know. It's harder to imagine than it is to get rid of the Dum-Dums at the bottom of your plastic Trick-Or-Treat pumpkin, but it's true. From my extensive research (which mostly entailed Googling, reading Wikipedia, and wishing that I could go back in time to watch TV waiting for a Halloween special to eventually show up) I have found the first special devoted to America's second favorite holiday (and gay men's first).
The first TV Halloween episode was a 1952 episode of The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet that addressed the boys having a Halloween party at school and their parents throwing one for their friends. (The did a similar radio show four years earlier.) The costumes are quite simple, the gags are quite old (this thing is 50 years old), and no one wears anything as intricate as what you would see on a network sitcom these days (did you catch all those outfits on Modern Family last week?). The best gag of the episode is a joke about Ozzy's neighbor getting so drunk last Halloween that he tried to climb a tree, pretty racy for this notoriously goodie-two-shoes show.
Several series followed suit after Ozzie & Harriet, including The Honeymooners in 1953, Zorro in 1957, Lassie in 1958, Dennis the Menace in 1961, The Beverly Hillbillies in 1962, The Andy Griffith Show in 1963, and The Lucy Show (the follow up to I Love Lucy) in 1965, but it was a slow trickle to respectability and mainstream acceptance for this most pagan of celebrations.
1964 was a very important year for these spooktaculars, because that was the start of an annual holiday tradition for one particular show. Bewitched started to do an annual Halloween-themed episode, witch was fitting since, well, there were witches and devils and disappearing Darrens and all those things that creepy-crawlers love. This continued until 1969, two years before it was canceled. The show's first foray in the jack-o-lantern territory, "The Witches Are Out," is below.
Now Halloween episodes were becoming more common, but the trend really started with a very special, well, special. In 1966 CBS aired It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown which would become a childhood staple for generations. It's aired every year since then, on CBS until 2000 and then on ABC starting in 2001. It still continues to this day, like Lucy ripping the football out from under Charlie Brown's foot, but with a much more satisfying finale.
Charlie Brown started a cavalcade of Halloween specials geared toward children in the '70s like The Halloween That Almost Wasn't, Raggedy Ann and Andy in the Pumpkin Who Couldn't Smile, Witch's Night Out, Bugs Bunny's Howl-oween Special, and let us not forget The Paul Lynde Halloween Special, proving once again that October 31 really is Gay Christmas.
One that has been forgotten is Halloween is Grinch Night, a frightening special about the Grinch hating another holiday before his heart grew three sizes that one Christmas, even though this was aired 11 years after How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Guess we have to call it a prequel.
In the '80s everyone jumped on the Halloween bandwagon (broomstick?) and every show from The Cosby Show to St. Elsewhere got into the holiday spirit. It was the end of the '80s that brought us to the modern era of Halloween entertainment. While they were widespread, most shows only tackled the theme once or twice. Roseanne, groundbreaking in so many ways, picked up where Bewitched left off and started a Halloween tradition of doing an extravagant show every year around the end of the month. It was one of the first times the audience knew and looked forward to an inevitable Halloween episode and it became a series trademark. Below is the first episode from season two, where Roseanne and her husband Dan try to outscare each other.
The next year, in 1990, The Simpsons started their famous "Treehouse of Horror" episode that has become synonymous with ghostly programming and is television's longest-running annual special episode, airing their 23rd (or XXIII if you want to be classy about it) special this October. The most recent one is below (you try finding Simpsons clips online, it's harder than getting Maggie to say something).
And the tradition continues today on shows like Glee and The Office, where Halloween is as much a part of the characters' lives as it is ours. Just wait for the next 50 years, where, to keep up with the trend, there will have to be at least one show where it is October 31 for the entire season. We can all thank the Great Pumpkin.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: United Features Syndicate]
More:13 Of The Best Halloween Costumes of Television PastYou Can Now Watch The Full 'Happy Endings' Halloween EpisodeNBC Celebrates Halloween with 'Community', 'Parks and Recreation' and 'Whitney' Clips
From Our Partners:
Tom Cruise’s $50m Defamation Suit Over Suri Abandonment Claim: What Are His Chances of Winning? (INSIDE STORY) (Celebuzz)
Levi Johnston Marries Sunny Ogelsby in Alaska (Celebuzz)
Television fans are a unique set. We're the type of people who devote hours upon hours a week to our fictional, televised friends. We laugh at their jokes and cry when they cry because our favorite shows are just so darn good. But the intensity of the laughter and the tears is all thanks to the fact that we regard these characters as something of a family. We know them. We understand them. We love them unconditionally. And actors deserve recognition for being able to elicit that level of a reaction from their fans. Naturally, when they're not given their due, we're forced to react, well, emotionally. How, exactly, will we react? That depends on the actor in question. First up is the woman, the myth, the legend: Miss Leslie Knope, the savior of Pawnee's small-town government on Parks and Recreation. Normal people may refer to her as Amy Poehler.
Heartbreak hit Parks and Recreation fans hard at last year’s Emmys, when the series and its stars failed to take home any winged statues. And then once more, our tiny little hearts were eviscerated when our heroine, Amy Poehler (she’s the real life counterpart to Leslie Knope, in case you’ve got your nose stuck resolutely in the anti-reality of television), and her handsome prince Will Arnett (GOB Bluth, that funny dad from Up All Night, or the guy who competes in whisper contests with Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock) separated and our collective notion that true love really did exist vanished almost immediately. Now, we, the dedicated fans of the comedic genius that is Ms. Amy Poehler, have but one glimmer of hope: The 2012 Emmys. Naturally, we’re pretty passionate about who winds up taking home that Best Lead Actress in a Comedy statue. And it should be Poehler. That is our one demand, and we’re prepared to fight for it. Poehler’s Leslie Knope is a character so incredibly wonderful, heartwarming, hopeful, and hilarious that she deserves to join the ranks of greats characters like Liz Lemon, Murphy Brown, Mary Richards, and Grace Adler. Poehler, who learned the comedy trade alongside Emmy winner Tina Fey at Chicago’s Second City improv theatre before becoming a founding member of the Upright Citizens Brigade theater, lives and breathes comedy. And while the comedy world clearly understands this and holds her up as an exalted member of the club, it’s about time Poehler got her due on the larger, more centrally located stage. This devilishly funny woman deserves her Emmy, already! As someone who cried my own tears when Ron Swanson and crew presented Leslie with her very own Gingerbread model of the Parks Department, and when everyone decided to help her run after her relationship with Ben lost her her campaign backers, and when she bested Bobby Newport in the election, I’m prepared to do at least a handful things I’m going to be ashamed of should the Academy deny Poehler her rightful trophy, come Sept. 27. (And for the record, I also cried when she and Ann had that drunken fight after insert remarkably high number here shots of Snork Juice, but those were happy, laughter-induced tears.) Just how ashamed will I be on Sept. 28 if Poehler doesn’t win? Well, to start the day, I will rock up to a diner and eat plate after plate of waffles doused in entire cans of Reddi-Whip until I hit a carb coma and pass out. (And I’m just getting started, my friends.) When I wake up, I’ll stumble into the nearest coffee house, where I will buy sugary “energy” bars and a 20-ounce blended mocha with three times the recommended amount of whipped cream. I will demand chocolate sprinkles should they be available at said establishment. I will then consume these tasty treats and allow the combination of caffeine and sugar carry me into an energetic frenzy that is sure to drive my friends and coworkers to skip lunch in favor of a stiff drink. While on said energetic high, I will proceed to plan a belated birthday extravaganza, complete with balloons from ceiling to floor in the office, for the only coworker (you know who you are) who wouldn’t let us do something for his birthday. He will not enjoy this. However, that caffeine and sugar rush won’t last. I’ll need to bolster my energy the only logical way I know of: eating a freezer-sized Ziploc bag full of candy necklaces. (Pro-tip: these are perfect snacks for a stakeout.) With that verve, I’ll cook up an idea for an expansive, probably impossible new project, accomplish it, and execute a plan to set my beautiful tropical fish of a best friend up with a man who does not work at Pizza Hut or go by a nickname synonymous with “tool.” Of course, while that last part sounds nice and thoughtful and everything, I will follow it up by visiting my friend’s alcohol launch party, and I’m a light-weight, so I’ll be drunker than a tiny actress at the Golden Globes by round three. I might dance up on someone whose name sounds oddly similar to Ralph Macchio, have a circular argument with my best friend, and then cry about it on camera. That may or may not happen. Of course, I won’t remember any of this and the next day my hangover will be so bad, I’ll probably sleep under my desk until my boss comes in with a bag full on nondescript, greasy hamburgers as a cure. In the cold light of day, I will be forced to reexamine myself and my reactions to sensations like disappointment and sadness. And yet, after all of those permutations of emotion, my supreme disillusionment with the entire practice of awarding Emmys will remain completely and resolutely in place. I may never be able to believe in anything ever again. And that, members of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, will be on your shoulders. Your move, voters. Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler More: TV Network Swap: What if 'Parks and Recreation' Were on CNN? 'Parks and Recreation' Blooper Reel: Andy Loves No. 2 - VIDEO 'Parks and Rec' Writer/Producer Dan Goor on Season 5 and Emmy Nominations