Saturday, February 16, 2013

Oscars 2013: Skyfall

Oh ... my ...
Skyfall (U.K./U.S, 2012) directed by Sam Mendes, 143 minutes
Nominated for Five Oscars
Best Cinematography
 Best Original Score
Best Original Song
Best Sound Editing
Best Mixing
I was never enamored of the James Bond franchise ... until Daniel Craig came along. Remember all the whining amongst the Bond fanboys about Craig's unsuitability as the new Bond a few years ago? Craig was deemed not handsome enough, not suave enough, with no cinematic legacy as a action hero. Who could doubt his worthiness now as the successor to the Bond dynasty in all his haggard handsomeness?

An ex MI6 agent Silva (Javier Bardem) has an agenda: the extermination of M (Judi Dench) for her perceived mistreatment of him while he served. In retaliation, Silva has been publicly releasing five names of MI6 agents, each week, who are being promptly assassinated by their enemies. 

Bardem, as Bond's latest nemesis, can do no wrong. He always seems to inhabit the appropriately creepy physical demeanor required when he plays a villain (as he did in No Country for Old Men with that bizarre Dutch boy haircut and limp). Here with his blonde hair and eyebrows and effete mannerisms, he pointedly makes us shudder. 

From the explosive beginning to the near catastrophic feel of the ending - and what an ending it is marking the death of a significant character in the series - it's an exhilarating ride. It begins with two gorgeous, suit-clad rivals, one being Bond, the other the Bond villain Patrice, fighting it out to the death on the top of a speeding train in Istanbul ... to the entire submergence of a subway train crashing into a tunnel below the system while Bond chases Silva ... to Silva stalking M after his helicopter has spectacularly crashed into Bond's ancestral home Skyfall in Scotland against an apocalyptic background of flames, explosions and horror.

Director Sam Mendes' directorial eye is stylish and gorgeously evident - our first glimpse of the new Bond girl Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe) has her juxtaposed beside an over-sized print of what appears to be Modigliani's mistress Jeanne Hebuterne. In Macau, Bond passes through a sea of illuminated red and gold Chinese dragons and lit candles against a blackened sky to reach a floating casino. Then there is the enormous Buddha strewn ruins on an abandoned island near Macau that Silva, Bond's enemy, inhabits. It concludes with the now forlorn and largely abandoned Scottish mansion, that Bond was raised in, with its hints of the former grandeur of the Bond family.

The 21st c. hints of Bond's vulnerability only enhance the character. Other MI6 agents imply that he is too old, that it's a young man's game and he should opt out. He fails to pass the test that would reinstate him as an agent - information that is concealed from him by M. His shaky trigger finger can no longer, it appears, hit the target accurately. And the sexism seems to be kept down to a minimum with fewer scenes of Bond seducing some evil temptress. It seems more concerned with the prickly emotional bond between M and 007. 

There is a kind of spiritual truth in seeing the fiendish Silva stalking M (Bond's erstwhile mother) and Kincade (Albert Finney), the gamekeeper who helped raise the orphaned boy (Bond's erstwhile father) on the decrepit burial grounds on which Bond's biological parents - Adam and Monique Bond - are buried at Skyfall. 

Yes, the franchise manifests an obsession with a boy's toys and a boy's dreams ... fast cars; beautiful, often exotically beautiful, women; spectacular explosions and a plethora of guns and other weapons; exciting foreign locales. But what of it? Don't women have their silly fantasies too?

The new Moneypenny

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