WWDC 2014 starts in about a week. I’m sure that by this time next week there will be a line around Moscone West waiting to get in to hear what new offerings Apple has for their community. I was lucky enough to have been in that line over a dozen times going back to the late 90’s when the event was held in San Jose. The event has a fairly traditional and predictable schedule for the week with some changes over the years to accommodate Jerry Seinfeld and Star Trek Voyager, for example. The usual Wednesday night festivities usually include an event called Stump the Experts. I have a particular memory from one year that still reverberates in my memory.
The basic premise is of Stump the Experts is that the audience gets to ask a panel of “experts” trivial questions from any point in Apple’s history. These questions typically center around specific minutia about software and hardware from the last 40 years. The audience regularly find the most obscure reference imaginable, ask their question, only to find that the engineer responsible for that bug or feature is actually sitting on stage. This event really changed in the early 2000s when Internet access became available during the show. Winners get their choice of a collection of arcane software or a coveted t-shirt. I have such a t-shirt in my collection but that is another story. The event usually starts on time but people tend to get there early to grab a good seat. While the crowd is gathering there is music playing overhead. This will come into play later. People in the know try to take note of what music is playing.
In 2008 the iPhone madness was just over a year old. That year’s conference promised iOS 2.0 which would allow developers to for the first time write and sell their own software. All we long we had been learning about how to take our ideas and put them on to the tiny screen. After a few question-answer volleys one developer stepped up to the microphone with his question.
Huxham: “What’s your question?” Developer: “I’d like to guess the songs played at the beginning.” Huxham: “Which one?” Developer: “Uh, all of them.”
The audience murmured in geek awe as the developer proceeded to list, in order, all the songs that had played before the event. According to Wikipedia, he got all but one correct. For me this was the event that really showed the power of this little device in your hand. The developer had used it like a Star Trek Tricorder to collect and analyze sensor data and then look up that data using a remote computing service. Today this kind of functionality was still in its infancy.
The usual question about songs played before the event was answered by a gentleman who used audio recognition software running on an iPhone to correctly identify all but one of the songs using technology from Landmark Digital Services. Another song was identified by another attendee using Shazam music ID software (a licensee of Landmark Digital Services) on an S60v3 phone.
In 2008, WWDC 2008 took place from June 9 to 13 at Moscone West, San Francisco. Apple reported that, for the first time, the conference had sold out. There were three tracks for developers, iPhone, Mac, and IT. Announcements at the keynote included the App Store for iPhone and iPod Touch, the stable version of the iPhone SDK, a subsidized 3G version of the iPhone for Worldwide markets,version 2.0 of iPhone OS, Mac OS X Snow Leopard (10.6), and the replacement/rebranding of .Mac as MobileMe. For the bash held June 12, the band Barenaked Ladies played at the Yerba Buena Gardens.
Shazam for iPhone 2.0 debuted on 10 July 2008, with the launch of Apple’s App Store. The free app simplified the service by enabling the user to launch iTunes and buy the song directly if the user was on a Wi-Fi connection (at the time, iTunes did not allow music downloads over 3G). It was also possible to launch the iPhone YouTube app, if a video was available.
I went to see the new American ゴジラ film with some trepidation. This is a character that I have watched all my life on the little and big screen. It reminded me of going to the theater in 1985 when I dragged my cousin Paul to see the Ramond Burr cut of Return of Godzilla. I’ve seen other Godzilla films on the big screen at various film festivals. In those cases I’d seen the movie on TV several times already. I grew up watching Dr. Paul Bearer introduce a weekly Saturday double feature. Every Sunday I would raid the paper for the next Saturday’s channel 44 TV listings to see what movie was going to be on. Sometimes it was just another vampire or werewolf move. But sometimes it would be good.
I don’t count the Mathew Broderick film as Godzilla canon. There’s a line in the Godzilla 2000 movie where the actors in an obvious reference to the TriStar film say that the Americans thought they had seen Godzilla in New York but they were mistaken. I like that film but it’s no Godzilla film. It’s in the same category as other kaiju films like Cloverfield, Pacific Rim, Jurassic Park, and Gamera.
So going into this film I just had to be better than the 1998 film. Better in this case means that it would be truer to the 60-year-old character. There have been 30-some films and countless TV appearances by Godzilla over the years. The movies have followed short stints of continuity. They have often rebooted the series dismissing all the movies except for the original. This new movie follows that pattern. The 1954 movie could be considered one telling of the same events at the beginning of this new film.
Right off the bat you are treated to a glimpse of the big guy. We don’t get a good look until much later in the film. I think the filmmaker wanted to reassure the audience that this would be recognizable monster. Unlike last year’s Pacific Rim, this kaiju is not afraid to come out in the sunlight and be seen. The special effects artist must have been proud of their creations and did not hide them in the rain. Gareth Edwards got the look of Godzilla and the whole movie right. I saw it in IMAX 3-D. There was good sense of depth. At a couple of points I actually thought there was debris floating around inside the theater. The sound was good throughout the film. There were several points in the movie where you were about to see something and then a door closed and blocked your view. Edwards used the same trick in his movie Monsters to hide is small budget. Here it is intended to build the suspense. It left me wanting to see more. I wanted to see Godzilla and his foes duke it out on screen. If I were to actually count up all the screen time that the kaiju have and compare it to the Japanese predecessors, I would expect that those films easily feature double the kaiju screen time.
The story was mostly good. They told a multigenerational story. I was surprised how easily Edwards dispensed with major characters. Ultimate that decision steered the story and showed that this is a disaster movie in the Hollywood sense just as much as a kaiju genre film. I felt that the main character’s story arch was a little contrived to put him in the right place in the end.
The movie score is mostly forgettable. I was expecting at least hear the recurring melody of Akira Ifukube’s theme. I did not find anything redeemable in Alexandre Desplat’s score.
I was disappointed that Akira Takarada’s small scene was cut. This would have be an nice nod to the actor who co-starred in the 1954 film. Takarada was one of Toho’s new faces actors and has had cameos in several films since.
There are nods in this film to other genre films. Watch for references to Aliens and King Kong (1933). In classic kaiju film style we get to see other monsters. There are two others on the screen to fight with our green guy. Godzilla is neither a good guy or a bad guy. He is a force of nature. This movie does a good job of portraying that. We even get to see Ken Watanabe come right out and say it at one point.
If you have any inner 12-year-old left inside you then you will enjoy this film. The big screen does do it justice. And the 3-D is does sufficiently well to even recommend the up-sell.
Jeremy Robinson’s sequel to last year’s Project Nemesis is a worthy successor. It takes the characters introduced in the first novel and turns up the volume. Instead of just one kaiju, we have five battling it out in the Washington D.C. Mall. Robinson manages to channel his inner eight year old to create fight scenes with 100 meter tall monsters that are right out of the classic Godzilla movie “Destroy All Monsters”. Just like Toho used famous landmarks like the Diet Building and Osaka Castle, Robinson lays waste to the US Capital building.
The story closes out Maigo’s story to create a complete loop. I’m not sure if a third novel is planned. There are ties to other Robinson novels. I put “Island 731” on my list.