Die Another Day: “Skyfall” and the Nolanization of James Bond

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skyfall-movie-screencaps.com-26My contempt for the Bond formula has been extensively chronicled, especially my blame against Goldfinger for starting it all. It was thrilling, therefore, to see Casino Royale go in another direction, a very “back to basics” version of the franchise that was reminiscent of even earlier entries in the series, Dr. No and From Russia with Love. In those films, action, plot, and character were balanced precariously, yet perfectly. And in Casino Royale, that balance was brought back; Bond was suave without being a superhero, the political context was intact without being a punchline, and the stakes were high enough without a muddled plot.

Skyfall went somewhere else. It is unlike any other Bond film in the rest of the franchise. It literally is something else. And James Bond is someone else. At its core, it resembles 1995’s GoldenEye and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, but I’d hesitate to call such a comparison disingenuous because the former is one of the best Bond films, and certainly Pierce Brosnan’s best entry, and The Dark Knight is one of the strongest superhero films in recent memory. It’s that tone of morbidity of the latter, and its re-envisioning of its character, which seems to inform how many perceived what some might call The Nolanization of James Bond. Read the rest of this entry »

The Cool Girls Strike Back: On Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” and Gone Girl

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the lookIt seems relatively fair to posit that Taylor Swift has made some of her career based on the image that she’s America’s Sweetheart, the Girl Next Door, and any number of very gendered archetypes which put her into a box of Innocence and Purity. In David Fincher’s Gone Girl (written by Gillian Flynn and based upon her best-selling novel),  Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) similarly has that kind of porcelain face, and, even more so, has had to live up to the same standards that society has set for her. Hiding behind those masks, though, is something else. All you have to do is watch the video for “Blank Space” and Gone Girl. Read the rest of this entry »

Torture Worn: Martyrs

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As Anna (Morjana Alaoi) walks tepidly down the uncomfortably clean, chrome hallway, the overhead lights go on, one by one, revealing something akin to a claustrophobic passageway to Hell. There are pictures, blown up, on the wall. On them are bodies, gaunt, beaten, broken down, aesthetically comparable to Mengelian victims of experimentation. Up on the wall are “real life” martyrs, women and children who have submitted their bodies completely to pain. Their eyes are open, accepting not only every ounce of cruelty made upon them, but, seemingly on humankind in general. Read the rest of this entry »

Same Blood: ‘Let the Right One In’ and Young Queerness

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large let the right one in blu-ray11Oskar, the pre-pubescent protagonist of Let the Right One In, is about as pale as the snow that blankets the frigid landscape around him in Stockholm, Sweden. His hair is technically blonde, but looks so drained of its color it might as well be just as frosted as his skin. He’s emaciated, seemingly all skin and bone with no muscle to be found. His lips look like faint, thin grey lines on his face. He is, most importantly, androgynous looking. All of these elements that make of Oskar’s character, not to mention his slight personality, so timid and naïve, are enough to give the bullies at his school reason enough to violently harass him. Even at the tender age of 12, the roles in this society are set: if one does not demonstrate the perceived standard for masculinity (or, conversely, femininity, such as in Carrie), one is immediately ostracized. It’s nothing new. Oh, and Oskar just might be a young person in search of his queer identity. Read the rest of this entry »

The Eye in Team: The Gaze of ‘Foxcatcher’

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Foxcatcher either doesn’t care or doesn’t want to establish exactly from whose perspective the film is, which is, in a way, a double edged sword. So much of the film takes pleasure in lacing every frame and action with ambiguity that it does, understandably, get frustrating. It at once wants to become intimate with its characters – Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and David Schultz (Mark Ruffalo), two Olympic gold medalists in wrestling, and John du Pont (Steve Carell), the “rich old guy” that recruits both of them to help his Team Foxcatcher to become best in the world – and get inside their heads, but these characters seem to push back against that very idea. So far as understanding them, we get nothing, which is a good thing. Read the rest of this entry »

NYFF2014: The Long Good High – ‘Inherent Vice’

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A haze of smoke uncoils and dances in the air, slinking out from of the mouth of Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix), part-time private investigator and, ostensibly, full-time pothead. So light and loony this character (and film) is, Inherent Vice almost comes as a surprise to those following the career of Paul Thomas Anderson, whose last few films have fit, for the most part, comfortably within a mode of seriousness. Vice, while hard to describe as frivolous, is not as married to that tone, instead taking on something goofier, funnier, and consistent with Anderson’s work; something enjoyably off-kilter.
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New York, New York Film Fest

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In case you didn’t already know, I’ve been in New York covering the 52nd annual New York Film Festival! I’m having an amazing time! Meeting awesome people, seeing awesome films. You can catch up and track my coverage over here, including my review of David Fincher’s Gone Girl. Hope everyone is well!

- Kyle