December 16, 2012

MOVIES: "SKYFALL"



I am not a particular fan of James Bond movies (and not acquainted with anything more than their most superficial lore, although I have been doing some research). Neither am I a fan of Daniel (That’s Acting?) Craig (although he’s a fantastic runner). However, I found “Skyfall” mostly entertaining with an interesting back story/storyline, a theme of old-spy-world-and-technologies vs. new-spy-world-and-technologies, with one twisted-up psycho-villain.

The story was well-crafted because it incorporated the closest possible ties of family and home, making everything personal. Despite sleek, consistent set design; an organic, diverse and smooth soundtrack under sleek cinematography, the initial plot and dialogue (despite groovy action scenes: motorcycle chases on Istanbul rooftops and speeding-train-top-wrestling) were distastefully obvious, cheesy and just plain dumb. BUT everything changed when Bond has a sophisticated exchange with Severine (Berenice Marlohe) about fear, which serves as a foreboding, foreshadow-y introduction to very bad boy Silva (an exquisite Javier Bardem). Why is Silva such a “good” villain? Because he was a former operative of the British government and has a mother-fixation on “M” (Dame Judi Dench), his former boss and Bond’s present boss.

The insinuation of “Skyfall” is that Bond is getting too old for the job, too old for the field, at least (and so is “M”). Their outmoded ways of thinking/doing things are grossly inadequate for the new anonymous, ubiquitous, omnipotent cyberwarfare. Or are they?

THEOLOGY OF THE BODY AND WOMEN: Nudity, sex scenes (gratuitous or otherwise) are minimal, maybe because the tone of this Bond movie is so very grim (think “The Hunger Games,” “The Walking Dead,” and other extremely bleak purviews of   entertainment du jour). Bond beds some nameless woman during an exotic island getaway. Bond hops in the shower with Severine. That’s it. A few seconds each.

The women may be smart (“M,” Agent Eve, Severine),
but they are either quasi-men (“M,” Agent Eve)
or total and complete objects (Severine).
Where are the real women in Bond films? There’s a reason they’re called Bond GIRLS not women.

Evidently, violence done TO women (with very little chivalry to prevent/protect on Bond’s part) is par for the course in Bond movies. I took note of this in “Skyfall,” and then in my research found out it was standard fare. Ian Fleming—writer of the novels—was an unabashed misogynist. In a conversation with a friend, he once compared women to pets or dogs. In the 1953 “Casino Royale” novel, Fleming has Bond think to himself (when he is assigned to work with a woman): “Women are for recreation. On a job, they get in the way and fog things up with sex and hurt feelings and all the emotional baggage they carry around. One has to look out for them and take care of them.”


One extremely disturbing and unaddressed fact of “Skyfall” is something truly heinous that “M” did to Silva which made him the monster he is. Is it all part of “the game”? Which humans are precious and which humans are bargaining chips? What about loyalty and honor? Isn’t that what serving one’s country is all about? “Skyfall” makes MI6 seem very similar to the Mafia, and/or people working out their own dysfunctions on their own friends, their own tribe. This one action of “M” seems to dismantle and undermine everything “M,” Bond and England stand for, and the whole basis of why one sides with the “good guys” at all.

OTHER STUFF:

--If you think “Skyfall” refers to Bond’s tremendous fall to his “death” at the beginning of the film, you are mistaken.

--Lots of British expressions: “Yes, Mum.” “Appaling.” “Carry on.” “Vexing.” “Keen.” “Put your back into it.”

--Several long, slow scenes with general mugging, posing and mis-en-scene-ing and very little else  happening.

--Is Bond supposed to be APPEALING to women? Cuz DC is not. Just sayin’.

--Is Bond supposed to be SUAVE and rock the formalwear? Cuz DC is/does not. DC looks soooooooo uncomfortable in a suit and anywhere near a cocktail party. Just sayin’.

--Watch “Tough Guise” media literacy documentary about the changing male image (more and more violent) in films through the years.

--PG-13 is pretty accurate if your kids are used to the “usual” TV/movie violence.

--Appropriate and amusing introduction of “Q,” a young, comic-relief, upstart geek on 007’s team.

--All through “Skyfall,” the new challenges the old, but eventually learns to overlap, blend, harmonize (and vice versa). The old and new need each other.

--Those rumors  you heard about a “priest hole” (hiding places where Catholic families would put priests persecuted under Elizabeth I) in the Bond family manor are true, and one of the final scenes is in the Bond family chapel. The Catholic priests of the Anglican Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham were all a-Twitter over this: “007’s family heritage is Catholic!”

--FROM Adele’s gorgeous, sui generis, husky and plaintive vocal stylings for the impressive mixed-media opening credits sequence TO Ralph Fiennes TO British bulldogs TO reciting Lord Tennyson, this is a celebration of many things British.

--THINK ON YOUR SINS

--Why didn’t 007 have the shrapnel in his shoulder tested immediately?

--Could have done with less DC shirtlessness.

--What do cybercrimes effect? EVERYTHING: bank accounts, identities, stock markets, corporations, governments, elections, multi-nationals….

--Watched “Skyfall” with Ma. Ma was very into it, exclaiming as needed: “Disgusting!” “What a terrible driver!” “Darn!” “Ooops!” “Watch out!”

--Dame Judi Dench: the ultimate Bond girl? Why? Because she is more ruthless than anyone? “Why Can’t Women Be More Like Men?”

--How does Hollywood get REAL news personalities (like Wolf Blitzer) to do “fake news” for movies? Do they get permission to use already-aired clips of them speaking where it just fits? Does not this cheapen “real” news? Or is “real” news also entertainment? (Rhetorical questions all….)

--Drop-dead picturesque, rugged English moor in Act 3!

--Big story, but little at the same time. Poignant, universal symbols everywhere. Good storytelling.

--“Sometimes the old ways are the best.”

--“To hell with dignity. I’ll leave when the job is done.”

--“Skyfall” is a bit of a cyberthriller, BUT in a THEOLOGY OF THE BODY way also illustrates that “bodies are not optional.” Technology can never dispense with bodies, or rather bodies using/programming technology will always be the bottom line.

--James Bond movies are more than twice as violent as they used to be, according to a study in New Zealand. Researchers fear that exposure to such violence can contribute to aggressive behavior among children. Violent acts in Bond films were more than twice as common in 2008 film “Quantum of Solace” than in the first 1962 movie “Dr. No,” according to research from University of Otago. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Entertainment/Hollywood/James-Bond-movies-becoming-more-violent/Article1-971453.aspx

6 comments:

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  2. A very nice movie by Daniel Craige (The James Bond). I like this movie very much.

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  3. Correction: Not English moors, but Scottish Highlands! Glen Coe, to be specific. I live in Scotland, and the cinema full of Scottish university students at the screening I attended cheered when Bond headed up past the (northern) border. http://surprise.visitscotland.com/whats_new/skyfall.aspx

    Although apparently the actual land directly surrounding the Skyfall estate, though it looks like an English moor, was actually in Surrey: http://omg.yahoo.com/blogs/visit-britain-us/real-british-locations-behind-skyfall-004408451.html

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  4. Again, thanks! The highlands are G-O-R-G-E-O-U-S. They looked rougher than the English moors I've seen in films. I supposed I could figure these things out if I did a little more homework (or paid closer attention during the film)!

    So, is that in keeping with the Bond legend: his family hails from the North--and recusant Catholic heritage? (Or does recusant really only refer to the British)?

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  5. I think 'recusant' would refer to both Scottish and English Catholics, since both countries became Protestant during the Reformation (Scotland Presbyterian, and England Anglican). (Scots and English are both British - though perhaps not for long, as Scots are voting on independence next year!) Apparently Catholicism hung on with more tenacity in the Highlands (just like, in England, places like Lancashire were bastions of recusant Catholicism).

    This film was the first I'd heard of Bond's recusant Catholic heritage, and I loved it! It would be even better if the secret passage in the house were a Br Nicholas Owen SJ priest-hole.:-)

    http://www.jesuitvocations.org.uk/st-nicholas-owen-sj/

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