Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ian Fleming's Monster Ball

If the first Mission Impossible was Brian De Palma’s Mission Impossible and MI-2 was John Woo’s Mission Impossible, Quantum of Solace is unquestionably Marc Forster’s James Bond movie. In fact, with its international cast of corporate, military and intelligence operatives, ogres, trolls and troglodytes, Quantum could be easily subtitled Ian Fleming’s Monster's Ball. Mathieu Amalric, award winning French actor and film director - perhaps best known in America for his lead role in the 2007 film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - plays the chief monster, gimlet-eyed Dominic Greene, an effete megalomaniac masquerading as a deep pocketed green warrior while Joaquin Cosio and Fernando Guillen Cuervo play cruel and sadistic as would-be tin-pot dictators and Jesper Christensen reprises his role as a chief cog in the sub secret evil cabal which shall not be named (Quantum).

Filmed in Panama, Chile, Italy and Austria, the movie begins where Casino Royale left off with Bond hurtling toward Sienna, Italy, the captured Mr. White (Christensen) in the boot of his car, and gun wielding henchmen in hot pursuit. Weaving in and out of heavy traffic on tight thoroughfares while his sleek Astin Martin is perforated with machine gun fire, Bond dispenses his pursuers in typical Bondian fashion and delivers Mr. White to his boss “M” (Judi Dench) and her interlocutors. The wily and unrepentant Mr. White escapes and this sends Bond careening around the world in hot pursuit.

Quantum of Solace is also co-screenwriter Paul Haggis’ James Bond movie. Quantum explores a Crash of competing world interests intersecting where Daniel Craig’s emotionally wounded
government agent seeks mortal revenge for the death of his lost love.
It is not coincidence that linchpins of the story take place in such hot spots as Haiti and Bolivia, poor bereft countries with little to recommend them besides their utter defenselessness in the face of further exploitation.

While Casino Royale was full of surprises, ripe with rebirth and reinvention Quantum, for all its gorgeous vistas, dazzling car chases, roof top gamboling, explosive denouements and Bourne-like close quarter hand-to-hand combat, feels derivative – as if cobbled together from twenty other action-adventure movies. The movie is blunt and ruthless and there is much precision and artistry in its execution. Yet, you don’t feel exhilarated by Craig’s remorseless reckoning as much as you
feel pummeled by it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Blood and Chocolate

One of the joys of having all the movie channels is the oppor-
tunity to not only see movies you have never seen but to see
movies you have never heard of.

I was not familiar with the film BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE which took
in a whopping six million dollars at the box office. Apparently it is
based on the eponymous young-adult novel of the same name by
Annette Curtis Klause.

As I understand it, Vivian is a member of a supernatural race called
loup-garoux, werewolves, who hide their identity in the general
human populace. After her family is killed by hunters in America,
she moves back to Bucharest, where she meets a man named Aiden
who makes her question the traditions of her heritage and the value
of blood ties.

Because I was simultaneously engaged in several telephone
conversations, I watched the movie with the sound off. Wow. It was
like watching one of those V-inspired dream tableaus essayed on
HBO's True Blood.  Lots of young, lithe, pretty white people
floating through the air before morphing into vicious wolves before
waking up later, bloody and naked. Sort of like a lycanthropic wet
dream or a really special episode of Gossip Girl.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Greta and Sarah's Excellent Adventure

I was channel surfing when I happened upon Greta Van Susteran's Excellent Adventure in Alaska. As I watched her pal around with Sarah Palin's clan at their rustic chateau in slack jawed amazement, I thought I had stumbled upon a lost episode of the Roseanne show on Nick at Night. And, Lord help me, if I ever have to sit through the dueling banjos of Van Susteran's Wisconsin accent coupled with Gov Pal's Alaskan twang again, I will shoot myself.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Being There

I have been amazed and amused by the rapid ascent of Joe the
from anonymity to prominence and prosperity as the
poster boy for the Republican Party. The story is so improbable
it had to be a work of fiction.

Then, I realized it was and I had read it before - back when Joe
the Plumber was named Chance the Gardener in a book called
Being There, written by Jerzy Kosinski and published in 1971.

Chance, a simple-minded man "with rice pudding between his
ears," is catapulted from his simple life as an estate gardener
to national prominence through a chance meeting with Ben Rand,
a dying business leader and political king-maker. Rand sees
Chance as a failed though totally decent businessman down on
his luck. He also sees Chance's reference to seasons
in gardening as an insightful comment about the national
economy. Chance's personal style and seemingly conservative
and insightful ways embody many qualities which Ben admires.
His simplistic, very serious and indeliberate utterances, which
mostly concern the garden of which he stewarded, are
interpreted as allegorical statements of deep wisdom and
knowledge regarding business matters and the current state
of politics in America.

Rand introduces Chance to the President who finds the gardener's
advice so inspiring he quotes and names him on national TV. The
General Public, as evidenced by opinion polls, thinks that Chance
is simply "brilliant." The financial and political elite believe Chance
the Gardener may be their man for the next presidential election
instead of a second term for the current President.

It is Louise the maid, who has known Chance since he was a boy,
who announces that he only has "rice pudding between the ears."
She declares, "It's for sure a white man's world in America. I raised
that boy since he was the size of a 'pissant' and I'll tell you he never
learned to read nor write. No sir. Has no brains at all. Stuffed with
rice pudding between the ears. Short-changed by the Lord and
dumb as a jackass. Yes sir, all you got to be is white in America to
get whatever you want."

Fortunately some historical fiction is not prologue and some simple
verities can change.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Throwing Sarah Under the Bus

I am watching FOX News (I do enjoy their comedy stylings) and

they are reporting that John McCain's campaign aides are trying

to cover their backsides by calling Sarah Palin everything but a

competent candidate for the second highest office in America.

According to FOX (and I believe them because FOX News is
nothing if not "fair and balanced"), these aides claim Governor

Palin had serious gaps in her knowledge. They assert that she

not only didn't know the nations involved in the North American

Free Trade Agreement - she didn't know the names of the three

countries that make up North America (the United States, Canada

and Mexico for those of you scoring at home). They claim, among

other things, Gov.Gotcha didn't know Africa was a continent and

not a country. (Say it isn't so, Joe)!

While Gov Pal was clearly an individual who quickly found herself

out of her depth - I always suspected there were serious gaps

in her curriculum vitae - it is disheartening to see the swiftness

with which the long knives have come out. Sarah Barracuda is,

after all, somebody's mother, a hockey mom and all that, and

nobody's mother should be treated like this.

I mean, it is not like she was palling around with terrorists or