Last year, I recorded a podcast with my friend Ryan where we discussed our favorite movies of the year. That is not happening this year, but I wanted to put out a list of my favorite films of 2012. As always, the list could change in the future,
Last year, I recorded a podcast with my friend Ryan where we discussed our favorite movies of the year. That is not happening this year, but I wanted to put out a list of my favorite films of 2012. As always, the list could change in the future,
* = Denotes a film I had seen before this month
Now that we are in 2013, it is time to reflect on the year before. There was not a film in 2012 as fascinating and thought provoking as the latest movie by one of the great directors of the 21st century, Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master. It has suffered criticism for many reasons. People say that it is aimless and without any meaning or vision. It has been called a meandering mess by some, a bizarre masterpiece by others. I think both takes on the film have merit. It doesn’t follow any strict narrative, doesn’t take any time to truly explain itself, and doesn’t contain anyone that can be defined as a protagonist or antagonist. The characters of the film are not defined by their part in a story, but who they are, their goals and dreams. It is the most profoundly unique master work in years.
The Master fits in with films like Vertigo, Apocalypse Now, and even Paul Thomas Anderson’s previous film, There Will Be Blood. These films seem to have grown out of of an absolute desire to express something, even if they aren’t entirely sure what it is that they are expressing. These are incredibly personal films, ones that give unique insight into what makes these filmmakers tick; their passions, and their obsessions. How does The Master fit in with the rest of Paul Thomas Anderson’s work? There are three major thematic influences that have been present throughout Anderson’s oeuvre, and both are front and center in The Master, possibly shown more interest than in any of his previous works.
One of these obsessions is with sexual dysfunction and frustration. In Boogie Nights, Dirk Diggler’s life revolves around sex, and becomes more and more hollow. In Magnolia, Frank T.J. Mackey holds seminars about sexually dominating women, and both Linda and Earl Partridge lament the fact that they cheated on each other. In Punch Drunk Love, Barry Egan gets into deep water with a phone sex line, and his sexual foreplay with his girlfriend is talking about causing violence towards the other because they’re “so cute”. The biggest victim of sexual dysfunction in any of Anderson’s film is certainly The Master’s Freddie Quell (portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix), a man who is almost completely dominated by sexual desire, who may or may not be capable of fulfilling them. In the opening scenes of the film, Freddie talks about how to get rid of crabs, has simulated sex with a sand-woman, and masturbates in the ocean. He meets an attractive woman who is interested in him while working as a photographer at a department store, but we have no reason to believe he has had any true sexual contact with her. Later on, in a bizarre and remarkable scene, we see the world from his perspective at a party, where all of the women are nude. He sees them all as objects of desire, and his frustration is palpable. The closest we get to seeing him perform is with a young woman at the end of the film, but at that point he is more interested in playing a game with her. This is just one of the ways in which Freddie is lost in the world, knowing the problem, and unable to come up with the solution. Is he sexual frustrated because he is so angry, or is he so angry because he is sexually frustrated?
Another Anderson staple is characters who are haunted by the past. In his debut feature, Hard Eight, the character Sydney’s every move is driven by an act that he performed many years before. Magnolia is all about characters struggling with their own pasts, as well as how past events to characters around them have shaped their lives. Barry Egan’s personality can be partially explained in Punch Drunk Love by the obviously strained family relationship he had growing up. We don’t know if Freddie Quell was always the dysfunctional and angry deviant that he is to start the film. We learn that he was a member of the U.S. Navy during World War II, and is struggling to adapt to a world that doesn’t suit him anymore. It doesn’t surprise me to read that a primary influence on The Master is a 1946 John Huston documentary, Let There Be Light, which tells the story of 75 soldiers who have suffered emotional trauma during WWII. This thread of the story is ever present, but never over the top, hanging over the film like a cloud. His mind always seems to go back to a girl he knew back home, which we first learn about during the best scene in the film, where Freddie is “processed” by his mentor, Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman). His feelings towards this girl appear to be one of the only genuine feelings he shows towards a woman throughout the entire film. What had a bigger effect on him, the knowledge that he has lost the girl he loves, or the weight of the war?
Lastly, possibly Anderson’s biggest cinematic obsession is with fathers or father figures. Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and There Will Be Blood are all strongly driven by such relationships. Freddie Quell’s relationship with with Lancaster Dodd is one of the most complex I have seen in my lifetime. At once Lancaster serves as a father figure, a mentor, a friend, and a willing adversary. Lancaster simultaneously loves and cares for Freddie, but strives to dominate him, bending him to his will. I think his arc with Freddie is at least partially explained in in early scene, where he tells the story of a man who lassoed a dragon, wrestled it to the ground, and turned the rope into a leash. I think this is the driving force of his character’s intentions with Freddie. Freddie is his dragon, and if he can tame him, he can do anything. But are his intentions completely self serving, or is his love for Freddie genuine?
Every paragraph of those descriptions ended with questions, which leads me to the reason I love the film so much. I was left with so many questions to ponder after I left the theater, but not in a way that I found to be unsatisfying. In a time where so many films fall all over themselves trying to spoonfeed every bit of their plot and themes to the audience, The Master simply puts threads out for the viewer to pull on, and make decisions themselves. One persons view of The Master’s themes might be completely different than anothers, and both could be perfectly justified in their views. Some may view this as a negative, there not being one concrete “right” answer. I view this as great feat, something that other great films like Nashville, Walkabout, Mulholland Dr., or Werckmeister Harmonies have accomplished: to keep the viewer engaged long after the credits have rolled. There is one question that has kept me thinking for all these months since I saw the movie: Who is the titular master?
Is it Freddie Quell? He doesn’t control anybody, but he is also not under the control of anybody. “If you figure out a way to live without a master, any master, be sure to let the rest of us know, for you would be the first in the history of the world,” Lancaster Dodd says in the film. Freddie seems more like a force of nature than a man, unable to be tamed. He chooses at one pinnacle point of the film, a motorcycle ride in the desert, that he will live on his terms, which in a way makes him his own master. Lancaster Dodd is the only character in the film who is referred to as “Master”. He is the leader of many as the founder of The Cause, a group that believes in eternal reincarnation that will lead to perfect humans. He rules his people through his charm, which is a facade he puts up that slips when he’s prodded about his faith too much. Is he The Master simply because he has followers? Another interesting character is Lancaster’s wife, Peggy (Amy Adams). Perhaps Peggy is The Master, as her grasp on Lancaster is evident. She tells him what to do, and at one point controls him through another act of sexual domination. Watching the film for a second time, I felt that Lancaster would be perfectly happy to bring Freddie around, to drink with, to read his theories to, without ever asking Freddie to change. Peggy demands change from Freddie, which causes Lancaster to demand change. If Peggy controls the leader of men, does that make her The Master? Perhaps none of them are The Master, perhaps all three of them are. If you put a gun to my head and forced me to choose one, it would be Freddie, but that’s just one of many theories available. The films openness is arguably it’s greatest attribute.
One theory I’ve heard is that the film is an examination of the psychological definitions of the id, the ego, and the superego. The id is completely controlled by basic human instincts. This would clearly be Freddie, who Joaquin Phoenix portrays so expertly as a man that seems more animal than man. He follows whatever desire he’s feeling at the moment. Lancaster Dodd is the ego, which attempts to form the id, to shape it into something acceptable in the real world. Lancaster accepts Freddie the way he is, but wants to take the animal, and make it a disciple. Peggy is the superego, which controls the ego, striving for perfection. People have compared the superego to the idea of conscience. The behavior of the id disgusts the superego, much like how Peggy is disgusted by the actions of Freddie (along with most of the viewers). This is just one take on the film, and for all I know, Paul Thomas Anderson didn’t even think about these ideas as he wrote and directed the film.
Again, this is what I love about The Master. I love the great performances, I love the beautiful 65MM cinematography, I love Jonny Greenwood’s bizarre score. I love the fact that it tackles interesting topics, but maintains a sense of humor and excitement. I love the fact that I don’t know if I will ever fully understand it, no matter how many times I see it. But I love the fact that it will always give me something to think about, which is what I hope for from the best films.
* = Denotes a film I had seen before this month
In the month of November, I had my lowest output of watched movies in a while, due to preparing and eventually moving to Florida. It’s been a strange month, but I still managed to watch 31 movies, which are listed below.
As always, * denotes a movie I had seen before this month started.
Nicholas Roeg’s Walkabout seems like less of a film, and more of a living, breathing life-form. It stands as a rich tapestry of life, human and animal, sometimes running the two together. It will exist this way as long as the wilds of the Australian Outback it takes place in, a reminder of both the beauty and the brutality of nature and the city, and how people survive them. It is not a strict narrative feature; it asks you to just live in it. It plays as if it is playing out in somebodies mind, a dizzying collection of fractured memories.
The story is simple: a man from Sydney drives his children, a teenage girl and young boy, into the Outback for a picnic. As his daughter sets up the food, and the boy plays with his toys, the father begins firing a pistol at them. While they duck for cover, he sets the car on fire and shoots himself. Abandoned in the wilderness, the siblings march on, trying to make their way back to civilization, eventually receiving help from a young aborigine, who is on his walkabout.
In a title card before the movie begins, we learn what a walkabout is; a right of passage for the adolescent natives, where they strike out on their own. This is a test of their survival skills, and when you return, you are a man. Nicolas Roeg was not happy the studio made him put the title card in the film. He never liked explaining too much, feeling everything should be experienced instead of explained. I do think having this previous knowledge is helpful, but not necessarily to understand the aborigine boy’s story, but the teenage girls. After all, she is the lead of the film, and in a strange way, this is her walkabout. When she leaves the city, she is a girl. By the time she gets back, she will be a woman.
The girl is played by Jenny Agutter, a teenaged actress who fits the role perfectly not because of her talent, but her presence. She is of the age where a girl is becoming a woman, and the film isn’t shy about that. In fact, Roeg’s camera subtly relishes in her sexuality, framing shots to focus on parts of her body. In shots where she is hiking up a hill, or getting items out of the car, the shot is calculated to show us her thigh, or her school skirt hike up a bit to high. The major theme of the film is how sexual growth coincides with maturity, whether the person going through it realizes it or not.
We see examples of her increasing sexual awareness throughout the film. Early on, it’s hinted that her father has an inappropriate interest in his daughter’s body. While he sits in the car, he looks out the windshield at her, and at that moment, her skirt hikes up. Roeg doesn’t linger on it too long, but allows the audience to make the connection with a sequence of shots. As she washes her clothes in the pool of an oasis, the camera is framed to show her bare abdomen, then pulls out to show the full oasis, with her brother lounging in the water. These shots happen for a reason, as Roeg wants to make it evident that she is becoming a woman, but it is handled tastefully enough to not be crude. He doesn’t take advantage of Agutter’s body. It’s simply his way of addressing the sexual aspect of the storyline in the way he best knows how: through images.
We get a glimpse of what may await her in the future in a strange scene featuring a research team in the desert, comprised of five or six men, and only one woman. The men play with nude playing cards, and any time the woman’s pantyhose make the noise of her crossing her legs, the men quickly turn to stare at her. It’s a broad moment that the film could probably do without, but it serves as an interesting parallel to the young girl.
The sexual side of the story isn’t entirely focused on “leering” at the girl. It also takes her perspective into consideration, mostly in her relationship with the aborigine. While walking behind him soon after meeting him, the camera glances at his bare body, then cuts to her face. There is desire there, but she if far too proper to show her emotions to strongly. She views him as a noble savage, but not quite as an equal. Later, when her brother remarks that the aborigine can have his shirt, she takes a long glance at his muscular frame, before remarking that the shirt won’t fit him. She is at the age where she is aware of her sexual desires, but unable to express them.
Another major aspect of the film is the need to learn to adapt to your surroundings. Throughout the film, the wilderness of the Outback seems to swallow everything up, making it a part of the natural world. The burned out car becomes like a bizarre rock formation in the sand, aborigine people climbing on it, which is inter-cut with the three principal players playing in a tree. A discarded can of fruit quickly becomes the home of a lizard. The Girl continues to try and maintain her reminders of city life. She continues carrying a portable radio, which always seems to be talking without saying anything of true meaning. As her younger brother begins getting dirty, she tells him not to ruin his blazer, seemingly oblivious to the dirt and sand stretching to the horizon in every direction. In a late scene in the film, there is a moment where the aborigine is painting lovely and colorful images of animals on a rock wall, and she paints a drab image of a house. When they find a structure, she rubs her hand on a fence post, happy to feel metal again (the phallic imagery is not lost either).
There is a moment in the film where everyone is completely invested in their setting. While the aborigine hunts lizards, birds, and kangaroos, the girl swims naked in a large, clear pond. At this moment in time, she is free from the conventions of her previous life, and it is a direct parallel to an early moment in the film, taking place in the city, where she and her brother splash in the swimming pool of their apartment building, a stones throw away from the vast and beautiful ocean. There, they were still surrounded by the familiar glass and concrete of city life. Here, she is one with nature, living nude among the animals she is one with at this moment. This moment isn’t about her sexuality, instead being a moment of acceptance. It doesn’t stop her from pining for her city life, but it is a moment she will later reflect on fondly as a simpler time.
Roeg also makes a definite point of comparing the city to the Outback, and showing that they might not be as different as they seem. The film opens with quick shots of the city, people buzzing in the streets, while the didgeridoos from John Barry’s wonderful music score groan above. A few times in the film, we see a shot that begins as a close-up on a brick wall, then pans to the open air of the desert. As the aborigine hunts a kangaroo, and starts beating it (moments in the film will be tough for animal lovers), his actions are edited alongside a butcher in the city chopping ribs. Both the boy and the butcher remove the heart and tendons from the animal. They are performing the same task, but in different sections of the same country. The jobs might be the same, but it’s a different world. The brutality of the aborigines hunting is matched by a truck-full of white hunters, who massacre a group of water buffalo. Late in the film, we see the siblings walking through an abandoned construction site. Working their way through discarded materials and equipment, between silos, looks eerily similar to them working their way up cliffs and between rocks in the wilderness.
Walkabout is based on a novel of the same name, but there are many changes made to the story to better serve Roeg’s themes. In the book, the children are Americans, stranded by a plane crash. By instead having their father abandon them, he reinforces his theme of the pressures of the city, the animalistic nature of “civilized” mankind. He interestingly makes a point of showing that the father is still looking over his work papers (geological studies) moments before attacking his children and killing himself. We see his papers and briefcase burning next to the car. If somebody says something so much better than I could, I have to give them credit: Roger Ebert describes the character as “a man whom civilization has failed.” This says so much more about the nature of people than a plane crash ever could.
I can’t think of many directors who use editing to tell a story better than Nicolas Roeg. In his follow-up to Walkabout, the fantastic Don’t Look Now, he uses quick editing to tell the story of people who are blessed with psychic abilities. Through the editing, Roeg connects premonitions with the actions of now, allowing us to put together all the pieces, past, present, and future. In Walkabout, he compares the worlds of the city and the wild using quick edits. He also uses editing to show quick moments between characters. In the first scene where the siblings meet the aborigine, they plead for water. She says he has to help him, and places her hand briefly on his chest. We get quick shots of her hand on his chest, and both of their faces. It’s a small moment given importance through the technical achievement of the editing, where we realize that they both realize what just happened.
In the scene where they first meet him lies the groundwork of the last of the films major themes; the struggle of communication. The girl attempts to speak to the aborigine using only English, and even when he doesn’t understand her language, she continues trying, saying “We need water. I can’t make it simpler than that.” He still doesn’t understand, until the young boy impersonates drinking, which the aborigine understands right away. Later, the boy tells a long story to the aborigine as they walk together, even though he won’t understand a word. In the end, when the aborigine tries to give a dance to express his feelings towards the girl, he sees nothing but fear, and as Agutter says in the audio commentary, “his own death”, in her eyes. She doesn’t understand his intentions, and it leads to tragedy.
Nicolas Roeg began his career as a cinematographer, and Walkabout was the first film he directed by himself. His understanding of film as a visual medium from his history as a DP is evident in Walkabout, in which he also served as the DP. Few settings have ever been brought to life in a film like the Outback in Walkabout, with its big skies, its sand dunes, it’s dry canals. People always like to say that the setting is a character in certain films. I usually end up disagreeing, but wouldn’t be able to fault anybody saying that about this film. It could only take place here, where bustling city and the vast expanse of desert exist among each other. The beautiful imagery serves to build the world, pulling the viewer into it. Roeg wanted to make the film feel both real and artificial. On the commentary, he tells about how he loves brick and glass in his films, which he uses as the symbols of the city. It’s strange how similar a brick wall is to a stone cliff face, so alike but so different.
Films like Walkabout are few and far between. I do truly believe it is one of the all time greatest films, and while I have spoken much on it in this post, I don’t feel I’ve captured it at all. It is a film that has to be experienced, preferably more than once, to be fully appreciated. It’s the type of film that allows the viewer to revel in its strange beauty, while still giving them so much interesting material to puzzle over. A truly unique and special work.
While 2011 was a great year for foreign and documentary cinema, it’s list of Best Picture nominees seemed a little weaker than most years. Films like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and War Horse shouldn’t sniff a nomination in the worst of year, and yet, there they are. Looking over the list of nominees from two years ago, I was happy to see that I actually have positive thoughts about every one of the ten nominees. I decided it would be fun to rank them, from my favorite to least favorite.
Life of Pi
If there was ever a film that begs a DVD “Making Of” special feature, it would be Ang Lee’s newest film, Life of Pi. A magnificent example of visual storytelling, but I’m a little less sold on Life of Pi as a narrative film. I don’t think I’m really supposed to though, as it’s more there to be experienced, instead of understood. It’s one of the rare films that can be used in support of 3D, as the rich pallet of colors and images is nothing short of astounding. It takes a little while to get going, but eventually really sucked me in. The young lead, Suraj Sharma, deserves so much credit for bringing heart to the film in a debut performance. It’s not easy to be the only performer for this extended of period of time, and he fully commits, bringing another dimension to this wonderful film. If you’re going to ever see this movie, try to see it on the big screen!
Silver Linings Playbook
I am, if you can pardon the pun, crazy about Silver Linings Playbook. There is really no reason it should work as well as it does. It’s a formula that has been used over and over, in most cases in very bad movies, but it proves a point that I’ve tried to make many times. It doesn’t matter if your story has been done before, as long as you do it well. Director David O. Russell has brought the manic energy we’ve seen from him in movies like Three Kings to a romantic dramedy, and Silver Linings Playbook rockets through it’s runtime at a breakneck speed. It’s funny, heartwarming, and the most fun I’ve had in a theater this year. I’m not going to say it’s a better film than The Master, but it is one of my top movies of the year. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence have terrific chemistry, and give two of the stand out performances of the year, and it was great to see Robert Deniro doing good work in a great movie. All of these people should be big players in this years award season, and for good reason. Silver Linings Playbook is a crowd pleaser of the highest order, and there is a lot to love here.
Unlike most of Steven Spielberg’s movies of the past decade (discounting the incredible Munich), Lincoln actually has a pulse. It’s the work of a filmmaker that is clearly invested in what he’s making, and I know Spielberg has been wanting to make a film about Abraham Lincoln for some time now. Even so, I found Lincoln to be all the fun of a textbook come to life. It’s a dreary and dull film that is occasionally brought to life, mostly when a fantastic Tommy Lee Jones is on the screen. The film doesn’t portray Lincoln as a god, which I was afraid of, but a man wanting to make a difference in the toughest possible time. When I saw this happening, I was hoping Lincoln would be different that all these prior Spielberg films. Unfortunately, right around the corner was the wave of sentimentality and forced humor that Spielberg has become known for, and completely took me out of the film. The film is also extremely bloated, especially in its attempts to flesh out Lincoln’s family. Sally Field and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are fine performers, but their scenes here just added extra misery to a film I wasn’t enjoying in the first place. Daniel Day-Lewis will receive another Oscar nomination, which I’m fine with, but if he wins over the likes of Joaquin Phoenix or Bradley Cooper, that’s another story…
One of Roger Ebert’s favorite quotes is from the great French filmmaker Francois Truffaut. Truffaut said that nobody can truly make an anti-war film, because showing war is inherently thrilling, glorifying the thing the film is trying to condemn. Sure, filmmakers have tried to de-glamorize war by portraying is as frightening and real, in films like Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down, but the thrill is still there. The danger is palpable, and we’re seeing people suffering debilitating or fatal wounds, but our heart rate is up, and a part of our brains are excited by what we’re seeing. After all, there are recreational activities like skydiving and bungee jumping where people laugh in the face of danger. Danger is thrilling, mostly when we’re watching it happen to other people.
Director David O. Russell didn’t attempt to make war less exciting when he made his best film, Three Kings, in 1999. Instead, he took the natural allure of war, and plays it up in such a way, it nearly loses touch with reality, even in it’s attempts to show reality (most notably in sequences showing the damage of bullets on living peoples internal organs, which are fascinating and disgusting). It’s a bombastic take on the Gulf War, one of the most energetic and exciting films I’ve ever had the pleasure to see. The fact that he was able to insert in a strong message about the war in the Trojan Horse of excitement is just icing on the cake.
So many war films seem to owe so much to the ones that proceeded it. Even the highest received entrants in the genre can be guilty. Saving Private Ryan, as fantastic a technical achievement as it may be, can for long passages be a carbon copy of many other war films, with the strong but silent Captain, the barking second in command, the joking privates, and the frightened new guy. Three Kings flirts with convention, sometimes playing off the hopelessly ignorant, but wholly harmless, racist Conrad Vig (wonderfully played by director Spike Jonze) and his black fellow soldier, Chief (Ice Cube). But every time they get into it, things move in a different direction. Instead of relying on the standard scene where soldiers take turns talking about where they’re from, Three Kings gives you a taste as to who these men are in short, entertaining snippets (an early title card says that Ice Cube’s character is “Serving a 3-year paid vacation from Detroit). Another war movie cliche, the sympathetic enemy, takes another twist on it, as the man we’re asked to sympathize with also sadistically tortures one of our protagonists.
The most important cliche that they subvert is the heroism shown by the soldiers in war films. While most soldiers in war films always do good, because they know in their hearts it’s the right thing to do. They joined the military to help save Europe or Vietnam, because the world always needs saving, and they’re just the men to do it. Sure, there are plenty of great people in the world who have this mindset, but most of the world is not this way. I do believe most people are capable of doing the right thing, but not until they see firsthand what bad can happen. As Edmund Burke famously said, “All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” The four American soldiers set out to steal millions of dollars in Kuwaiti gold from Saddam Hussein’s bunkers, but in their travels realize that even after the peace treaty ended the Gulf War, many of the people are still being terrorized by the very people the Americans had just finished fighting.
One of the biggest standouts in Three Kings is the strange visual style that David O. Russell and cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigal decided to shoot it. The film simply looks bleached, the sky white. O. Russell has said he wanted the film to look like the news footage out of the Gulf War, but the bleached look also serves to slightly separate the film from reality, and play up the heat and the desolate nature of the desert. The camera whips around with infinite energy, matching the tone of the film overall. Carter Burwell’s original score is one of my all time favorites, mixing western music styles with middle eastern influences, helping drive the momentum of the film.
Three Kings is a great film, not just as a political statement, a thrilling action film, or a technological achievement. It is a great film because of it’s unmatched energy, fully taking advantage of all that the art of filmmaking has to offer.
Skyfall contains some of the cliches of classic Bond films, including negative ones, features a tad too much product placement, and it slows down for a bit after a rocking opening. Now that I got that out of the way, it is also a great action film, possibly the best one of the year so far, including The Avengers, which I really liked. Objectively speaking, it might be the best Bond film, although a film like Goldfinger has history on its side.
When MI6 loses a hard drive featuring the secret identities of undercover NATO agents, M and the rest of the department go under fire, both by the British government and outside forces. After a brief close call with death, James Bond’s abilities as an agent begins being questioned by his superiors. Is he too old, and the department a relic of the past? It’s a new world, and MI6 might not fit in anymore. But first, their help is needed to fight against a person who knows them too closely.
Skyfall is aided by adding a Oscar-winning director, Sam Mendes (American Beauty), to it’s crew. Mendes maintains a strong grasp on the subject, creating fast moving but understandable action, and a proper tone on more silent scenes. Right by his side is one of the great working cinematographers, Roger Deakins, who should certainly at least garner his 10th Oscar nomination, and possibly his first win. Skyfall is sharp and stylish, without seeming too fancy for its own good. It features the three most important aspects of a great action film: great direction, cinematography, and editing. It deserves to be spoken of along with any of the films this year on a technical level.
The idea of MI6, and Bond himself, being outdated dinosaurs was one that I found very interesting. I like classic Bond films, despite cringing at some of the aspects of them. The Bond franchise has always hung on to the aspects of the first films, which came out at a less enlightened time in the movie world. Bond was constantly surrounded by two types of women: ones that sleep with him because they can’t resist his charms, or ones that sleep with him because they want to hurt him. Unfortunately, Bond films aren’t the only movies of any genre to still work this way, the women being one dimensional foils to the more prevalent male characters. But too often, Bond movies have taken a certain pride in it. It’s their thing, and they’re going to keep it up. These ideals are outdated, so it was fascinating to see a film about the idea that the James Bond way of life is outdated as well.
The only negatives I have with the film is it’s need to reference the old films. There isn’t a prevalent female character added to the film. There’s one that’s a common thread throughout, and adds a nice surprise at the end, but she isn’t the strong character I’d have liked to see. Judi Dench is just as dependable as always, bringing a nice level of depth to M. My biggest problem is with the villain, played by Javier Bardem. He falls into the all to common cliche of Bond villains being flamboyant. Because of their homosexual tendancies, they must be the opposite of the woman loving James Bond, right? Bardem actually does bring more to the role than you’d expect even an actor of his considerable talent to do, so that’s great for him. I just think it’s time to get past the idea that the gay guy has to be the villain.
These are problems I have with a decent amount of Bond films, but Skyfall was so enjoyable throughout it’s run time, I didn’t really care about them. It’s a more stripped down Bond film, not relying on a belt turning into a grappling hook or a cuff link turning into a flamethrower or something. Instead, it relies on good old fashioned movie making to build tension, and pay it off with fantastic action. Skyfall is one of my most pleasurable film-going experiences this year.
The Bottom Line: I suggest getting out to your theater to see Skyfall, a movie that is wonderfully put together, and contains a very solid performance as a James Bond we don’t get to see very often.