Sunday, 28 October 2012

Skyfall: Bond of 2012

I recognise I break the tradition of varied comment but please find herewith my analysis of Skyfall, the latest Bond film. Anxious as ever to avoid plotline, essentially my argument is that Skyfall is tightly a product of 2012.

Bond: The Patriot

Although Bond films have often been about tradition in Skyfall unlike many of the previous films England is a real focus. M has a Doulton British bulldog on her desk, most of the action happens in London or rural Scotland. When Bond plays word association, in reply to 'country' he says 'England'. The strong sense of patriotism laced throughout the film can only have been released in the positive patriotism atmosphere of 2012. It has taken a royal wedding, a jubilee and the Olympics to make the English recognise their latent patriotism and it seems these events have enabled English film makers to join other artists (like Cath Kidston) to recognise their 'English' or 'London'ness (although these are very different concepts, not to be conflated!).

 Royal Doulton's British Bulldog

Bond: The Healthy

When you watch a Bond film you expect to see gratuitous violence, sex, Martinis and lots of gambling. Never was this more true than in Casino Royale (2006) which was mainly set in a casino (clue's in the name!). But Skyfall is quite different; there is some sex but it is limited and quite veiled. Whilst Bond does enter a casino he never actually places any bets. He does drink, and occasionally to excess, but this is viewed as part of his demise that requires rectifying rather than something to be idolised. Bond does kill in this film (and equates 'murder' with 'employment' in the aforementioned word association game); but violence is portrayed as the last resort, something that only bad guys do, the 'good' prefer detention. This reflects the health agenda particularly in entertainment; the idols must have healthy gym routines, may in fact be t-total and leave behind their complicated pasts. Being 'zen' is in, being ostentatious is out.

Bond meets Q at the National Gallery      Bond surfing the tube (neither are my images)

Bond: The Advertiser

There has been plenty of discussion about product placement in this film. The products advertised include: Sony (its a sony film though!), Range Rover, Heineken, Jaguar and Austin Martin. Some of the advertising is actually quite subtle, take Jaguar for example, its just the logo stitched into the headrest of Bond's car. There has been some upset that Bond drinks Heineken and not a Martini, I have to admit I missed this placement and I was looking for it! For what its worth, I think that product placement has always been a part of Bond films, in fact a work colleague told me just this last week that his watch was 'the same as Bond's'. Although the products, and the number needed to sponsor a film, may have changed the necessity of sponsorship is the same as ever - big explosions, wrecking cars and ensuring quality casting all cost money. And sponsors are really helpful in a recession.

Q: The youthful computer nerd

More and more the content of spy entertainment revolves around the impact of e-terror. During Skyfall I was much reminded of the last series of Spooks in which Tariq Masood the techno-geek played an increasingly important role in spy activity. This Bond's Q is the frankly gorgeous, Ben Whishaw, and he plays it modern geeky, he's got the cardigan and dark frames look going down, he is essentially an ethical hacker. His approach is quite different from Micheal Caine's, much younger and less about the gadgets, more focussed on the brain; 'Were you expected an exploding pen? We don't really go in for that anymore'. This shift away from the stuff, and towards the way in which we can use technology to help us achieve our aims seems reminiscent of the 2000+ world.

Ben Wishaw as Q (not my picture!)

As ever this Bond was high-octane, featured a surreal trailer, the words, 'Bond, James Bond', and a reference to Moneypenny. I really liked this Bond because of its focus on Bond as relational human as well as nation's superhero. Definitely one of my favourite Bonds; but then only the third I've seen at the cinema; possibly the last with Craig? See it!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

the perks of being a wallflower

I wrote this post on my phone: 2 weeks ago. Then I went on holiday. More on that in subsequent posts.

Last night I did that weird thing I sometimes do, I went to the cinema on my own to see a feel-good coming of age film, 'the perks of being a wallflower'. I was in for a bit of a shock.

The film is about a boy, Charlie (Logan Lerman) going to middle school for the first time and coming of age. Charlie doesn't fit in right away, but he's the most gorgeous misfit I've ever seen (Lerman is 20; that's almost not pervy!). Over time Charlie meets all the common characters of the high school drama, the jock (who is secretly gay), the design tech class noone can take seriously, the kooky oddball friends who turn out to be cool, and the teacher who 'like made your life'. Charlie also does coming of age things - he goes to parties, accidentally takes drugs, kisses girls, kisses boys and obviously, performs in rocky horror (!). But this story has some cruel twists which begin about half way in when his flashbacks start coming thicker and faster; what is wrong with Charlie?

(you fancy a girl so you help her with her homework - very 10 things I hate about you!)

So in an attempt to not give too much of the plot away I have decided as ever to talk about form (this is inspired by my good friend Dan Curtis). TPOBAW has good form. Set in the early 90's the cinematography has that bold colour with hints of fuzz which I remember from shows like 'Fresh Prince of Bel Air'. There was lots of echoes of other American teen films in it; in fact the dialogue that ends with Sam, 'I love the smiths' seems almost verbatim from '500 days of summer'. What does a love for the Smiths, Simon & Garfunkel signify for American teenagers of the 90's? - they'd fit right in on a Shoreditch night out!

Charlie is supposed to be an avid reader and one of the books his teacher recommends is 'The Great Gatsby'. Nick Carroway in Gatsby is often accused of being a helpless wallflower, perhaps Charlie too is a naive child initiated into adulthood. The visual scenes of party going and drug abuse in the film were reminiscent of the chaotic excesses in Fitzgerald's 'Tender is the Night' ('perverted as a breakfast of oatmeal and hashish' always being a memorable line).

 (Mad nights out - can't find any photos without old Watson in!)

So what was good? I really enjoyed watching Charlie find his freedom and the way he overcame his past and I really invested in him as a character; when sad things happen to him I felt sad. You can tell a writer of actual books has also been involved in the screen writing as the lines are poetic in places.

What was naff? Watson tries to play an American; I failed to disassociate her with harry potter and her accent was fleeting at best. Also the thing I really can't believe is that its a 12a. This certification may be because the references to sexual abuse, drug abuse and nudity are at least veiled but I will admit the film left me panicky and wanting my mum! Perhaps I've just lived a sheltered life although there was a point where I hid behind my hoody so this never will be a complete review.

All in all faithful cinematography, slightly scary plotline, generally good acting, won't change the world but a good thinking, reminiscing kinda film. I will give it 3/5.