Tuesday, April 23, 2013

OMG! (Oh My Goldfinger!)

After watching the second Bond film, From Russia with Love, shortly after Dr. No, I got a bit hung up trying to acquire Goldfinger.  I think its central role in the Oscars tribute must have contributed to its popularity at the library because I was the 22nd hold when I first put in the request on the library’s single copy of the film.  More than a month later, I’m still number 14 in line, so we paid to rent it on our new cable plan. 

I’ve had almost a week to digest the film, and I still can’t get over how truly disgusted and appalled I am with the misogyny of James Bond.  It seems to be getting progressively worse in each film, and if I hadn’t already committed myself to this project, I feel like I otherwise would have declared Goldfinger the last Bond film I would ever watch.  Seriously, when it comes to womankind, James Bond is the enemy in this film, not Goldfinger. 

I thought it was bad when in From Russia with Love, they had two women literally fighting like animals for the love of some man, but in Goldfinger we see James Bond use a woman he’s just had sex with as a human shield (I don’t really care if she is working for the enemy); then we see the credits with images projected over parts of a woman’s body (same concept as the credits in the previous film); then he “playfully” pushed a woman away by the face while trying to talk on the phone; then he can only look at Pussy Galore as a sexual object he needs to consume even though she’s an obviously talented and successful villain and should be a serious threat to him; then he proceeds to force her into sex after she says no multiple times and physically fights with him to keep him off her and prevent him from kissing her.  How are we supposed to believe she just melts as soon as he manages to get his lips on hers?  All I could think for the next two days was, “did I just see James Bond rape Pussy Galore?”  Bond’s joke about Pussy calling Washington because he “must have appealed to her maternal instincts” was really the last straw. 

Forevermore, in my mind, Sean Connery will be the Bond who forced himself on Pussy Galore - he’s definitely not my favorite Bond after that.  Bond is no longer suave and cool; he’s just a pig.  To think that after From Russia with Love I was complaining about these Bond films being rated only PG and how I thought Bond was all about hot and sexy but we had yet to see any of that.  I honestly found Goldfinger hard to watch at certain moments because of Bond’s attitude toward sex and women.  I know it’s a long shot, but will someone please tell me that Bond evolves over time to acknowledge feminism and become at least a little more enlightened when it comes to women. 

I mean this man is completely obsessed with sex and his own sense of sexual entitlement, to the point that it’s interfering with his job.  It’s all he thinks about.  He even cracks jokes about it and at one point in the film has to take deep breaths and remind himself about “discipline” to prevent himself from chasing after a women who is speeding past him in a car.  And while his male colleagues seem to just go along with it and crack jokes about his way with the dames, I find it interesting that these aren’t always positive responses.  In some ways it comes off as jealousy; in others it is clearly a frustration with how his preoccupation obviously interferes with his work.  It’s telling that when Bond is in his most vulnerable position, that laser beam is headed straight for his crotch.  But why these enemies never just shoot him dead when he’s passed out in front of them will forever escape my understanding.

Misogyny aside, in the two films since Dr. No, James Bond--both the character and franchise-- seems to have come into his own.  The production quality is better with bigger explosions, more fire, smoke, and urgency, even if the acting and choreographed fight scenes still seem a bit stilted at times.  Watching Goldfinger in HD really helped--the colors are incredibly saturated compared to the usual drabness you get with 1960s color quality.  The iconic Aston Martin not only looks great; it does some pretty awesome stuff.  And Bond has access to more and more nifty gadgets, even though he always seems to have at least one scene where he tricks the enemy by hiding on the ceiling and attacking from above.  Bond’s international reputation and plot lines remain in place, but with Goldfinger it was either a simpler plot or I’m becoming better at following them.  Yet, of all the unbelievable an implausible plot lines and twists these Bond films have, I think Goldfinger, is definitely the worst so far.  The basic scheme that they’re working to stop just would never work.  I can’t remember the specifics of what was so unbelievable, but there were definite moments when we couldn't not laugh.

I’ve already checked Thunderball out of the library, so hopefully there won’t be as much lag time before the next update.  

Dr. No

[Originally posted to FB 3-3-13]

Last night, 2 March 2013, I watched my first ever James Bond film . . .

Overall, I was surprisingly underwhelmed by the whole experience.  This is the man whom so many men of a certain era wanted to be like?  I guess he’s sauve and attractive and clever, but really he didn’t seem like all that great a fighter, even weak and kind of inept at moments.  I mean he just takes orders from M (which I know makes sense, he’s supposed to, but I thought he’d give more pushback or something), and he tends to be easily distracted, especially by women (again, to be expected, I suppose).  Perhaps it’s because of my exposure to trailers and clips of future Bond movies or the fact that I watched a couple episodes of Buffy just before the movie, but I was really expecting more from Bond--more power, more ferocity, more something.

Definitely not as much action as we have come to expect from movies today.  I’m going to have to get used to a slower pace and less-impactful action sequences.  

The nuclear energy/reactor storyline is so 1962 awesome.  It is so era appropriate - trying to come to terms with nuclear energy, its benefits and dangers, and having no real understanding of things like fallout and radiation. Oh, and those Geiger counters!  I didn’t completely understand why a British secret agent was trying to prevent a Chinese villain from disrupting an American space ship launch from a Jamaican location, but that didn’t really matter in the end.

My initial thoughts on Sean Connery as James Bond - all I kept thinking was: ‘it’s the Highlander as Don Draper’ - or maybe it’s the other way around? - it was distracting (and, yes, kinda hot), but I’m hoping I’ll get used to it in the next three films.

‘Hmmm. . . they said Dr. No was Chinese, but he doesn’t look very Chinese.’  And then you watch the “making of” documentary and learn that all the Asian characters are actually Caucasian actors with “make-up,” which I know was common back then, but still bothersome.

As to be expected, the women are really just there as helpless playthings for Bond.  There are moments when I think they might be powerful and assertive (esp. Honey - I mean she carries that awesome knife), but they always fall flat and let Bond tell them what to do.  But man, that Ursula Andress is hot.  And I love that women back then are all natural (at least when they're not wearing girdles and all that crazy underwear). 

I really want an excuse to carry around a vintage cigarette case.  I love how sleek and cool they look, but I don’t know what I would carry in it.  I also was in love with the prison/apartment they set Bond and Honey up in on Crab Cay - I really want my future house to have a midcentury modern flair.

It’s amazing how little the Kingston airport and downtown have changed in 45+ years.  The airport in 1962 seriously looks exactly as I remember it when I was there 5 years ago.

First, Some Background

[Originally Posted to FB 3-3-13]

I come to “The James Bond Project” having never seen a James Bond film nor read any of the novels.  I am, of course, familiar with all the Bond clich├ęs and tropes that travel through general popular culture - his greeting, his sexual allure, his signature drink, the theme song.  I even felt comfortable enough with these tropes to briefly reference Bond as one model of mid-century masculinity in my dissertation.  But the closest I come to having seen a Bond film are the Austin Powers spoofs of the genre (which, frankly, I didn’t truly realize were spoofs until well after I had seen the first two Austin Powers movies). 

The first Bond films made in my lifetime of which I was aware were those starring Pierce Brosnan.  As an overly romantic teenager at the time, those were not the kind of movies I was interested in watching (the action genre still remains one that I only rarely want to watch), but it means that Pierce Brosnan is “my” James Bond.  He’s who I picture when people say that name--I even have a picture of me and some classmates with Brosnan’s wax figure (as James Bond) at Madame Tussaud’s London.  I’m curious to see how I adjust to the different actors playing this iconic figure.  

By the time Daniel Craig was cast as the infamous 007, I decided I had gone so long without seeing the films that the only way I was willing to watch any of them was if I started at the beginning, with the very first film put out in the 1960s, and watched them all in order of release.  I have turned down many a movie night invitation in allegiance to this plan.  When I saw on the Oscars last week the 50th anniversary celebration of Bond in film, I figured now was as good a time as any to get started. 

I will use this blog [originally FB, until its Notes function recently decided to stop working properly] as a forum to relay some of my thoughts on the films as I go along.  I doubt I will comment on every film, but probably will take time to record some thoughts on groups of films.  I can’t say how coherent v. stream of consciousness or analytical v. superficial each post will be, but I’ll try to offer something since I got such a positive reaction when I announced the project on FB during the Oscars.