The 007 Project: Goldfinger

Previously On The 007 Project: I really like From Russia With Love and everything else is going to have to live up to it. Remember how I got with Fantasia? Or Clone Wars? Or Winter Soldier? I think this is going to be like that.

It is with this context that I dive into what my friend John, (who is a huge Bond fan) calls “The Quientessential Bond Movie.” I’ll summarize more of his thoughts and our conversation below.

Who’s Our Bond

Still Connery. Still sexy, though he’s starting to show his age a bit. He’s also even more winky, this time around. He’s very aware of himself and the character, and he is having an absolute blast and it shows. He also wears a romper in one scene and turns a lesbian. We’ll get there.

What’s The Plot?

James Bond is on vacation in Miami and Felix Leiter approaches him to explain that an German? horse breeder who also smuggles gold, Auric Goldfinger is around and they need to get eyes on him. Bond gets eyes on him and also breaks up his gambling cheating and steals his girl. It’s all very cool. The girl, Jill Masterson is then killed to send a message to Bond. He gets the message. Also it turns out Goldfinger has a huge plot of some kind, so Bond is sent with many gadgets (WE MEET Q!) to Switzerland to infiltrate Goldfinger’s operation, he fails spectacularly at it and is instead kidnapped and flown to Maryland on Goldfinger’s private jet, by his stylish private pilot Pussy Galore. (We will talk about Pussy later but she’s great, and I love her) During his imprisonment Bond learns Goldfinger plans to drop a nuke on Fort Knox, thus rendering it’s gold worthless and making Goldfinger even richer. He gets the message to Felix, they stop the plot, he and Pussy have sex in a barn, eventually Goldfinger tries to kill Bond by shooting him in an airplane which DOES NOT WORK and gets him sucked out into the sky.

There are care chases and missiles and it rules. This movie is great.

I’m Addressing The Problematic

There’s less racism in this one, besides just like, everyone being white, except Odd Job, (who rules) and is Korean. But let’s talk about sexism, homophobia and the dubious consent of sex with James Bond.

So, Jill Masterson gets Fridged. We meet her, she’s pretty, she has fun sexy times with James Bond, she gets murdered so that he’ll understand Goldfinger is serious. This sucks. Kind of a lot.

Also, in the novel, Goldfinger Pussy Galore is a lesbian who then turns when James Bond pins her down and bones her in a barn. This is toned down because obviously the movie wasn’t going to be able to have be a lesbian, that would be ridiculous. Instead she just tells Bond to stop flirting with her and wears fabulous pant suits, so yeah, I totally clocked that she was queer. Then, James Bond chases her into a barn, she tells him she’s not interested, he kissed her a bunch, and she kind of is into it, but not? Dunno, but it’s not, um, super great.

The pants suits however, are excellent.

Tell Me About The Girl

Jill Masterson first, is played by Shirley Eaton. She’s very pretty and fun, and she gets to sleep with James Bond, but then she gets painted entirely gold and suffocates to death and it’s a cool set piece but a bummer, as discussed above.

Honor Blackman plays Pussy Galore and it rules and she’s great, and she’s queer coded, and I love that in my head she’s a bisexual, which I understand is like completely unthinkable to the people who made this movie but rules, if you’re me, a bisexual woman who loves James Bond movies. She’s a pilot, she runs an air circus it’s the best.

Joe’s Bond Car Corner

This is our first really cool Bond Car! It’s Astin Martin DB5, and it has an ejector seat and rocket launchers which is cool. Here’s Joe’s facts about the car:

(I will edit and put this in when he gets back to me. I procrastinated asking about it!)

The Song Is The Thing

The song “Goldfinger” is performed by Shirley Bassey and won an Oscar and is SO GOOD. It’s a warning about a bad man who will always choose gold over love. Bassey belts the HELL out of this song and it’s a favorite and I have listened to it a lot over the past few weeks.

Other People’s Opinions Matter Too I Guess

My friend John Trumbull, who is a very funny comedian who also makes a great podcast about SNL that you should listen to and I chatted about Goldfinger, and I thought he said some interesting things. I have also previously been cranky about John’s Star Wars opinions and apologized a lot for that. (He’s wrong about The Force Awakens but I was being mean.) ANYWAY John likes James Bond a lot, in particular these early Connery movies, which he describes as “near flawless.” I disagree on Dr. No, which I think is kind of boring, but I get it. Here are some other thoughts from John and my conversation, summarized:

  • Bond’s crack about listening to The Beatles with ear muffs on makes sense for a grown man to say in 1964, but is a lapse in Jame’s otherwise flawless taste
  • John also likes that Goldfinger has to explain what a laser is to the audience because it’s 1964
  • In general, Goldfinger is much more time stamped than Dr. No and From Russia With Love which feel a little more free floating in the post war era. Goldfinger was made in 1964 and takes place in 1964 and that is abundantly clear.
  • Here’s a direct quote: “Goldfinger is basically the quintessential Bond film, it crystallized the formula the rest of the films followed.” I agree!

This portion of the project will recur but perhaps not every week, just occasionally.

Overall Thoughts

This movie is fun! I really enjoyed myself. I did not like it as much as From Russia With Love but I did like it a whole lot. This feels the most like the Bond movies that I know well. (Largely the Brosnan and Craig ones) And it is definitely the one most parodied.

Next week, we go to Thunderball, and we move to Wednesday! Because on Friday The Mandolorian comes back and I have recapping to write.

Magical Movies Tour: The Princess And The Frog

Isn’t it nice when the stars align and an important movie is also a good one?

The Princess And The Frog earns the first distinction, “important,” by being the last hand drawn animated feature from Walt Disney Animation and for it’s black, working class leading lady. Tiana is a waitress for New Orleans, who after being raised by a bus driver and seamstress, has worked her whole life to open her own restaurant.

She crosses paths with Prince Naveen who is transformed by the wicked Dr. Faccillier into a frog and then because they didn’t follow the rules explicitly (Tiana is not a princess) she turns into a frog rather than him turning back into a man.

It’s, more than a little convoluted when you write it out, but presented visually, Tiana and Naveen’s journey through 1920’s Louisiana is a delightful rom-com, opposites attract romp, punctuated by super fun character designs, and some catchy tunes by Randy Newman.

I really love this movie, and every time I watch it I’m only more enamored. There’s some stuff that I think could have used another pass. (There’s no real connection between Tiana and Dr. Facillier, for example, this feels like an odd error.) And as I get older and more interested in social justice narratives in popular culture, I am in awe of the decisions made with this film. Tiana is in complete control of her destiny from minute one, but this doesn’t prevent conflict or growth. There’s a variety of black faces and bodies on display, the music, that slow New Orleans style jazz is so much fun.

I’m generally on board with The Princess And The Frog getting more attention whenever possible, and am thus super excited for the upcoming retheme of Splash Mountain to a Princess And The Frog ride. I think it’s a brilliant decision that also means we’re going to get Louis Audio Animatronic, which I think fits into Imagineering’s sweet spot perfectly. Also, replacing an attraction based around something super racist, with something based around a strong and exciting Black female protagonist sends the right message.

Next time we continue down the path of magical princesses ,and see the light with Tangled. 

 

Bittersweet And Strange: Howard Shines a Bright Light on The Voice Of My Childhood

It is absolutely impossible to calculate the depth of Howard Ashman’s influence on me, and countless other people like me, who fell in love with musicals as a medium because of his work with Disney.

The new documentary on Disney+, directed by Don Hahn, who produced Beauty And The Beast is of a piece with Hahn’s equally wonderful, Waking Sleeping Beauty, chronicles Ashman’s life, from his working class Baltimore roots, to his tragic death from complications from AIDS in 1991.

The movie deals with his early work and relationships sensitively before settling into his life long partnerships, creatively with Alan Menken and his life partner Bill Pausch, both of whom tell some of the most touching stories about him.

What I like so much about Hahn’s approach here, and why I think it surpasses Waking Sleeping Beauty (which I happen to really like a lot) is that here Hahn doesn’t have an axe to grind. He wants to share his friends life and work, especially his work, with people. And the work so often speaks for itself.

Old footage of Ellen Greene singing “Somewhere That’s Green,” or Jodi Benson recording “Part Of Your World,” or an incredible demo of Ashman singing “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” or the joyous look on Jerry Orbach’s face as he listens back to “Be Our Guest” for the first time, this man wrote such wonderful, perfect, musical theater songs. There are no talking heads, narration is provided by Hahn himself, or by stories told over old photographs, which makes it much more intimate. Occasionally an old interview with Ashman will pop up, and listening to him talk about his work is transfixing.

Thinking about AIDS is something I do, and have done A LOT, in my life. I was too young for the most dangerous time of this disease, but I live in the New York area and love art, so pretty much every bit of the art I love was shaped by the disease, by the generation of men who were lost.

Watch this one with tissues, y’all. It’s going to break your heart. And be prepared for one final punch in the gut over the credits.

Magical Movies Tour: Beauty And The Beast

As much as I personally prefer The Little Mermaid (and it is quite a bit.) there’s just no way to deny that Beauty And The Beast is an outright masterpiece of a film, and should be on those lists of “perfect movies” and yet it somehow never makes it.

Beauty And The Beast is flawless, the stunning animation, the pitch perfect voice performances, the simple and yet emotionally resonant love story, those songs. My God, those wonderful, wonderful Ashman and Menken songs, “Be Our Guest,” “Belle,” “Something There,” “Gaston,” “The Mob Song,” and of course the title track, performed with heartfelt timelesss musical theater precision by Angela Lansbury and then with deeply of it’s moment pop gusto by Celine Dion and Peabo Bearnson.

I have a lot of opinions about this movie and the many pop culture conversations that have sprung up around it, and, thankfully, the conversation has turned from the “Belle has Stockholm Syndrome” narrative that dominated a few years ago. (Nope. It’s just that your high school English teachers failed you and you don’t know how to parse a pretty straightforward narrative about growth and forgiveness without taking everything so fucking literally.) But it’s difficult to somehow say that this movie is widely and universally acclaimed and yet still somehow, underrated?

It is so good though, so beautiful and special that it is somehow, universally loved and acclaimed and yet somehow underrated. Watch it again, any time you get a chance and see something you hadn’t seen before, because there’s always something.

Next week, none of us have ever had a friend like Aladdin. 

 

Magical Movies Tour: The Rescuers Down Under

There was a window of years where American Pop Culture was really into Australia. I was quite young for this but I still remember it reasonably clearly. Nerf Boomerangs abounded and The Rescuers Down Under came out. (Oddly, in my mind this movie and Fievel Goes West are linked. I looked it up and they didn’t come out near each other so I think it’s just the way time works when you’re little.) I don’t know if it was because of Crocodile Dundee or because we were all smitten with that Mel Gibson fella (boy, do we regret that one now) but we were super into Aussie crap in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Which brings me to The Rescuers Down Under, the last Disney animated flick to not be a super mega hit for about 10 years. It’s a charming little tale, and if like me you’re enamored of Bernard and Bianca, then it’s a straight hit. I don’t like it quite as much as The Rescuers because it’s technical marvels and huge natural scope are less charming than the original. Also Cody, a little boy kidnapped because he caught poacher in the act is nowhere near as endearing or well drawn a character as Penny. (He’s also a good deal less pathetic. Just a dead dad, his mom’s waiting at home for him.) Also I can’t figure out why he’s American? What the hell is an American kid doing running around the Outback?

There’s some great details here, the restaurant for critters in a chandelier in New York, the collection of animals that Cody’s befriended. (I assume the rules of this universe dictate that children can talk to animals and it’s just something we all forget as we grow up?) Bernand constantly trying to propose but Bianca getting sidetracked, an evil Geela Monster named Joanna, this is all good stuff. It’s just not quite as good as the stuff in The Rescuers.

Next week it’s onto the undisputed crown jewel of this era in Disney Animation, Beauty And The Beast. 

You’re Not One Of Them

Jo Jo Rabbit is a lovely movie. It’s trangressive as hell and wildly hilarious in places. (Sam Rockwell is a treasure and somehow knowing how great he is, and knowing how every time people talk about him they’re talking about how great he is, I still think he’s underrated.) There are a few things going on in Taiko Waititi’s satire that I think are worth discussing.

The whole movie is from the perspective of Jo Jo, a sad, lonely ten year old boy in Germany towards the end of World War II (the inevitability of Germany losing the war at this point hangs over the whole film) who idolizes Adolf Hitler and longs to belong, thinking he’ll find that belonging in the Hitler Jungon. Keeping the camera at JoJo’s height, only revealing for sure things that he knows for sure (we, as educated adult viewers can glean more nuance but it’s not in the text, deliberately and brilliantly.) makes the film more whimsical than it could be otherwise.

JoJo, like many kids, has an imaginary friend, unlike many other kids, his imaginary friend is Hitler. As JoJo’s perspective shifts, so do his interaction with Hitler, at first JoJo’s Adolf is a chummy cheerleader, by the end, he’s a bellowing lunatic. Waititi plays Hitler himself and it’s an interesting performance.

And then there’s the matter of Jojo’s ghost. His mother, Rosie (warmly played by Scarlett Johanson, in a role that she’s quite good in. I have mixed feelings on Johanson, who I think can be wonderful when a part suits her, but is limited as an actor) is working with the resistance and is hiding a Jewish teenager in their walls. JoJo learns this and decides rather than turn Else, the girl in, to use her to study Jews, and of course learns that she’s human.

JoJo Rabbit has it’s heart in the right place, is creatively shot, and masterfully performed. It addresses the really important issue of radicalizing youth, and how to break that programming. (While it is not the job of the oppressed to educate their oppressor, it is helpful for young people who’ve been radicalized to interact with those they previously considered themselves above to realize you know, we’re all human and stuff.)

Anyway, I was a big fan of the movie. I’m really looking forward to watching it again, actually, because I’m sure there’s more to analyze here.

Rankings

  1. Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood
  2. Jo Jo Rabbitt
  3. Spider-Man: Far From Home
  4. Avengers: Endgame
  5. Rocketman
  6. Detective Pikachu
  7. Zombieland: Double Tap
  8. Godzilla: King Of The Monsters
  9. Downton Abbey
  10. Joker

Trailers

Ford V Ferrari: I am so excited for this movie. I’ve mentioned before that, “well meaning adults who are good at their jobs” is one of my favorite genres, and I have a feeling this qualifies. Also, Matt Damon and Christian Bale getting to play smiling charmers is going to just be a hoot!

Knives Out!: It better be good. I want it to be good. It should be so so so so so good.

Doctor Sleep: Looking forward to this one too. I’m going to try to see it this weekend, but I make no promises.

A Hidden Life: I know Holocaust dramas aren’t always great, in fact they are often maudlin and difficult to watch. This looks kind of like that, but I’ve always enjoyed Terrence Malick’s work and also, I’ve been reading about Franz Jagerstatter in a superficial way since I could read. (Catholic culture can be weird) so seeing this story on the big screen will likely be worth it.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi

The thing about Return Of The Jedi is that I really love it a lot. I like endings, and I particularly like happy endings of the fairy tale variety. Where good triumphs, and evil retreats defeated.

So, I really like Return Of The Jedi that has that in spades, plus a strong theme of family and legacy and the things we need to take. It includes some pretty strong bullshit, (from a certain point of view) and it’s certainly a more clumsy movie than either of it’s predecessors, but I love that ending. I love Luke redeeming his father. I love the rescue sequence in Jabba’s palace.

The main thing though, that again, this project has given me is perspective on the series as an organic whole, and you can really start to see the clunkiness that is Lucas’s style take shape. Luke and Leia’s conversation where he reveals their sibling relationship is about as bad as “I hate sand.” It’s better because Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher are better than Hayden Christiansen, but the dialog itself is bad, bad, bad.

Luckily, it’s just the one scene, the rest of the movie feels more natural, clearer and is really lovely. Frank Oz is probably my favorite part of both Empire and Jedi. 

Yoda’s role in the saga is kind of ridiculously great and one of my favorite, “go by the seat of your pants” legacies of Star Wars, his prominence in the saga is something of a fluke because of the great performance in Empire. People love Yoda, so Lucas gave the people what they wanted. (You know, kind of.)

Overall it’s hard to describe what exactly made the original Star Wars trilogy work. It really, really shouldn’t. It’s hokey, and strange and  lovely, and I’m so glad it exists.

Next week we talk about Star Wars: Resistance, which I have already finished as of this writing and that I love with all of my heart.

Let The Past Die

The Last Jedi

 

*SPOILERS FOR DAYS*

 

 

Star Wars: Episode VII: The Last Jedi is a strange movie. There’s no getting around that. It’s paced oddly. (Poorly in certain spots) It’s full of weird looking creatures and off center character beats, and more weirdo philosophy than the seven movies that preceded it combined.

It’s also Carrie Fisher’s best performance of the five that she’s in, a fitting goodbye to a legend that we all love, allows Mark Hamill to play the comedy that he’s excellent at, deepens both Kylo Ren and Rey, and executes a B-Plot with exactly 0 white guys. (Seriously, the B-Plot heist is centered around Poe, Finn, new character Rose, Leia, new character Vice Admiral Holdo, and a surprise appearance by Benicio Del Toro.)

I need to see the movie again before I really evaluate it. But I enjoyed it immensely, if only for it’s truly spectacular moments. (This is why I want to see it again. I felt similarly about Revenge Of The Sith, so I want to watch it a bit more calmly.) Rey and Kylo fighting off Snoke’s guards after Kylo assasinates him. The force connection between Rey and Kylo convincing each of them that the other can be turned. Luke’s final conversation with Yoda. (Who after 40+ years is finally fed up with the Skywalker boys and their shit) The Star Wars version of the battle of Helm’s Deep. (Just when you thought there was nothing left from Tolkien for this series to mine!) Holdo’s sacrifice. Leia using the force to survive in space. That final moment between Luke and Leia. Luke brushing his shoulder off after a barrage of bullets in the battle.

The plot is what it is. There’s a maguffin, there’s a confrontation, there is, truly the best saber battle we’ve seen yet. The performances are strong, the character beats mostly work. The themes discussed including legacy, corruption and hope are well explored. It’s way too long. There’s definitely fat that could be trimmed, but for the most part it’s worth it.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say. I’ve got plenty of family time to log this week, and talking Star Wars with my family is my favorite thing.

Rankings:

  1. Wonder Woman
  2. The Big Sick
  3. Coco
  4. Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
  5. Battle Of The Sexes
  6. Dunkirk
  7. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  8. Guardians of The Galaxy: Volume 2
  9. Thor: Ragnarok
  10. Justice League
  11. King Arthur: Legend of The Sword
  12. The Dark Tower
  13. Cars 3
  14. Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

I Bet You’re Wondering How Thor Got In This Cage

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I think I’m in a minority here, so you’re about to hear a rant.

greatly enjoyed Thor: Ragnarok. I thought it was a well made, wonderfully paced movie with some stellar performances and more than a few surprise tricks up it’s sleeve. Tessa Thompson and Cate Blanchet were sublime additions to the cast. (Though I missed Natalie Portman and Jamie Alexander, not to mention Kat Dennings.) Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston are fantastic as Thor and Loki, embodying these characters as they always have from minute 1. Jeff Goldblum is a delight. Idris Elba and Mark Ruffalo kill it.

Here’s what I didn’t love. I get that Guardian of The Galaxy was a colossal monster of a hit, and very unexpected, I get that Marvel Studios has never quite known how to pitch a Thor movie. Saying, “let’s make it as much like Guardians as possible,” though? I’m not sure that worked either.

The “jokey jokes” didn’t always land for me, especially in a series that I always felt had some excellent comedy in it. (The scene in the first movie where Thor demands a dog or cat big enough to ride ALONE cements there was always humor here.) The comedy that did work for me were things like Hulk claiming Thor is “Banner’s friend” rather than his. Loki’s discomfort at being in the vicinity of Hulk, as well as Thor’s test of throwing things at his brother to determine if he had corporeal form.

The larger intergalactic plot, of Thor on Sarac, while fun and cool, didn’t engage me the way that the Asgard stuff (Odin’s death, Hela’s invasion, Heimdall evacuating the city) did. That’s always been where the stuff I liked about Thor lived though. (Well, and in his relationship with Jane, which, I get, was a necessary casualty here, because Natalie Portman, the human being, didn’t want to be in the movie.)

Doesn’t mean I didn’t love Valkyrie (Seriously, Tessa Thompson ROCKS HARD!) or most of the big action set pieces. Or our requisite shirtless Hemsworth scene. I really liked it. Marvel doesn’t make bad movies, I just don’t think this one was as drop dead awesome as the rest of the internet does.

Still really good though.

Rankings!

  1. Wonder Woman
  2. The Big Sick
  3. Battle Of The Sexes
  4. Dunkirk
  5. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  6. Guardians of The Galaxy: Volume 2
  7. Thor: Ragnarok
  8. King Arthur: Legend of The Sword
  9. The Dark Tower
  10. Cars 3
  11. Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Trailers!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi: First time seeing it on the big screen and OMG YOU GUYS! We’re so close, and it’s going to be awesome.

Black Panther: Do you wanna know what’s nice? Ryan Coogler found space for Michael B. Jordan in this movie. (Did we think he wouldn’t?) I’m not sure how to articulate how excited I am for this movie, because it’s deep in my gut.

12 Strong: Siggghhhh, I mean, I love this cast, so, there’s that. Fun that Michael Shannon gets to play a good guy. I may see it.

Movie Season, Moving Forward:

Here’s the deal y’all! I know I’ve been slack this year, it’s for a lot of reasons, but I’ve started a new day job! (This is an invariably GOOD thing. Trust me!) And I’ve got a Disney trip in just over a week! (WEE!) But, the good news is that the new day job is a lot closer to my apartment and pays me more money, so I’ll be able to close out movie season fairly strong, as the Oscar-bait movies come out. (There’s also a small independent theater walking distance from my apartment, so…yeah…)

Aless and I are trying to figure out what we’re doing for Justice League, as I’m leaving for Disney the morning after opening. We may delay by a whole week. (This is WEIRD for us, but you know, it’s DC, we didn’t even do Suicide Squad together…) Coco will for sure happen, and we’ve already got our Star Wars tickets.

 

You Completely Overwhelm Me

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I’ve been waiting a long time for The Big Sick, and the fact that I knew the story of the movie pretty much by heart before the it was even conceived, having listened to The Indoor Kids, Kumail Najiani and Emily V. Gordon’s podcast, as well as read Emily’s book and Tumblr, and listened to them on countless other podcasts.

Of course this would all be moot if The Big Sick weren’t good on it’s own, but it is. Struggling comedian Kumail meets charming grad student Emily and they fall in love, but he’s holding her at arms length, because his mother is trying to arrange a marriage for him, and he’s knows his family won’t approve of a white girl. They break up when she realizes that they have no shot at a future.

What happens next is even more wrenching, when Emily falls terribly ill and is pushed into a medically induced coma, and Kumail is forced to bond with her parents, played sublimely by Holly Hunter and Ray Ramano.

Zoe Kazan is lovely as Emily, and manages to capture the real Emily’s vibe while not doing an outright impression which is cool. Kumail also does well, and I really love the stuff with his family.

Trailers

I missed them, because I sat down in the wrong theater and sat there for fifteen minutes…I know.

Rankings!

  1. Wonder Woman
  2. The Big Sick
  3. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  4. Guardians of The Galaxy: Volume 2
  5. King Arthur: Legend of The Sword
  6. Cars 3
  7. Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales