“MAD MEN” Season Two Quibbles

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Within a few months, I managed to become a big fan of the AMC series, ”MAD MEN”. I became a fan so fast this past summer that after watching two episodes of Season Two, I purchased a copy of the DVD set for Season One. And fell deeper in love. As for Season Two, I thought it was excellent. In fact, I consider it a slight improvement over Season One. But . . . I do have some quibbles about it:

 

“MAD MEN” Season Two Quibbles

1. Duck Phillips – I had once complained on the “Basket of Kisses” site that by the end of Season 2, Duck Phillips (portrayed by the superb Mark Moses) seemed to resemble a minor villain that Don Draper had to defeat. Someone responded that Matt Weiner never intended to portray Duck Phillips as some kind of villain. After reading two interviews that Weiner had given, I now see that I had been right to accuse him of such a thing in the first place. How disappointing.

2. Don’s Approval For Pete – Why did Pete Campbell need Don Draper’s approval? What on earth for? Pete is a grown man in his late 20s. His existence at Sterling Cooper should have meant more to him than acquiring the approval of someone as flawed as Don. He did not need Don’s approval. He did not need anyone’s approval to exist. And the fact that he gave up a promotion to snitch on Duck – all for Don’s approval – makes me realize that Pete has not matured one bit.

3. Bobbie Barrett – Matt Weiner’s comments about Bobbie Barrett made me realize a few things about the show’s fans. Judging from the comments I have read about Bobbie over the past few months, I get this feeling that most fans viewed Bobbie’s sexual desires and aggressive personality in the same manner that Joan’s fiancé, Greg, had viewed Joan’s sexual history. And since these fans certainly could not drag Bobbie to the floor and rape her, they resorted to calling her every bad name in the book and then some.

After 46 years, our society has barely changed. It seems as if even in the early 21st century, we have maintained a whore/Madonna complex about women. Even Weiner labeled Bobbie as ”that woman” in his interviews about Season Two. He also claimed that it had been wrong for Don to sleep with Bobbie. I do not understand this comment. What was Weiner trying to say? That it was it wrong for Don to have sex with Bobbie and not wrong for him to cuckold Betty with women like Rachel Menken, Midge Daniels and Joy?

4. Paul Kinsey and Sheila White – What on earth happened to the storyline featuring Paul Kinsey’s romance with Sheila White? The season’s second episode – (2.02) “Flight 1” – reveals that Paul is involved in a romance with an African-American woman named Sheila White. This revelation causes a rupture in Paul’s friendship with Joan Holloway, when the latter makes racist comments about the romance. Two episodes later, the romance is hinted again when a visiting Sally Draper finds a photo of Sheila on Paul’s desk. In the episode (2.10) “The Inheritance”, Sheila makes another appearance on the show. She and Paul have a fight over his reluctance to join her in Mississippi for a voter’s registration campaign. He eventually joined her after being pushed out of a trip to California by Don Draper. When Paul returned to New York in (2.13) “Mediations in an Emergency”, Paul informed his co-workers that Sheila had dumped him after three days.

All I can say is this – WHAT IN THE HELL HAPPENED? What led Sheila to finally dump Paul? Unfortunately, Weiner never revealed her reason. He simply ended the romance on a vague note. What makes this move even more annoying to me is the fact that many fans did not question the vague manner in which the romance ended. Instead, they crowed that Sheila had dumped Paul because of his pretentiousness.

One aspect of good cinematic storytelling is that one should ”show” what happened and not tell. Weiner ”told” the viewers what happened to Paul and Sheila . . . and he failed to tell the entire story. This makes me wonder if Weiner had decided not to continue exploring Paul’s relationship with Sheila in order to please the fans. If most of them had defended or made excuses over Joan’s racist comments about the pair’s romance, it really is not that hard for me to come up with this possibility.

5. Peggy Olson’s Meteoric Rise – Could someone please explain how a young woman between the ages of 20-22 or 23, managed to rise from a secretarial school graduate/secretary to the senior copywriter for Sterling Cooper in less than two years? I realize that Peggy was a natural talent in the advertising business. Both Freddie Rumsen and Don Draper recognized this. And I had no problem with Don promoting her to junior copywriter in the Season One finale – (1.13) ”TheWheel”. But what on earth made him promote her to senior copywriter around the end of Season Two’s (2.09) “Six Months Leave”?

One, Don was rather peeved that Peggy had failed to inform him about Freddie Rumsen’s drunken “accident”. And two, there were other copywriters at Sterling Cooper who were capable of assuming Freddie’s position as the senior copywriter. Who? Well, there was Paul Kinsey. I realize that Paul’s pretentiousness and romance with Sheila White made him unpopular with many fans. But Season Two also proved in the episode, (2.06) “Maidenform” that he was just as talented as Peggy. He also has more experience than her, which would have made him the perfect candidate to replace Freddie. Personally, I believe that Don had allowed his mentoring of Peggy to get the best of her and promoted her at a time when she did not really deserve it.

* * * *

Aside from the above quibbles, I thought that Season Two of ”MAD MEN” was excellent. I would go as far to say that it was actually an improvement over Season One. I would be very surprised if it ever failed to earn an Emmy nomination for Best Drama, next August.

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“CAPOTE” (2005) Review

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”CAPOTE” (2005) Review

I finally got around to watching the first of two movies about writer Truman Capote and his work on the non-fiction novel, “In Cold Blood”. This particular movie, “CAPOTE”, starred American actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who eventually won a SAG award, a Golden Globe award and an Oscar for his performance.

Penned by actor Dan Futterman and directed by Bennett Miller, “CAPOTE” turned out to be a more somber affair than its 2006 counterpart, “INFAMOUS”. Miller had once commented that he wanted to create a more subtle portrait of the flamboyant author in order to emphasize on Capote’s lonely and alienated state . . . despite his relationships with authors, Nelle Harper Lee (Catherine Keener) and Jack Dunphy (Bruce Greenwood); and his popularity with New York high society. This subtle approach not only permeated the movie’s tone and pace, it also affected the cast’s performances – especially Hoffman and Clifton Collins Jr., as Perry Smith.

I do not know if I would have automatically given Philip Seymour Hoffman that Oscar for his performance as Truman Capote. I am still inclined toward Heath Ledger receiving the award for his performance in “BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN”. But I must admit that Hoffman certainly deserved his nomination. He managed to skillfully portray Capote’s ambition and determination to create a literary masterpiece from the real life murders surrounding the Herb Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. Hoffman also revealed how Capote used his charm to manipulate others . . . especially Perry Smith.

Catherine Keener earned both BAFTA and Academy Award nominations for her warm portrayal of “To Kill Mockingbird” author, Nelle Harper Lee. Granted, she deserved her nominations and I especially enjoyed how she managed to project a mixture of friendly warmth, reserve and moral fortitude in her performance. But I could not help but wonder if she could receive acting nominations, why not Clifton Collins, Jr.?

It seemed a shame that more praise had not been heaped upon Clifton Collins’ shoulders for his portrayal of the intense and soft-spoken convicted murderer, Perry Smith. His scenes with Hoffman gave the movie an extra bite of emotionalism that saved it from being too subtle. Like Daniel Craig’s performance of Smith in “INFAMOUS”, Collins brought an interesting balance of soft-spoken politeness and intense danger in his performance. Well . . . almost. The real KBI investigator in charge of the Clutter case, Alvin Dewey, had once described Perry Smith as a quiet, intense and dangerous man. In “CAPOTE”, Smith’s own sister had warned Capote that despite her brother’s quiet and polite demeanor, he was easily capable of committing the crimes against the Clutters. And yet, I never did sense any real danger in Collins’ performance. Not quite. Except in two scenes – namely his confrontation with Capote over the “In Cold Blood” title; and the flashbacks revealing the Clutters’ murders. The ironic thing is that I suspect that Collins was not to blame. I suspect that Miller’s direction and Futterman’s script simply did not really allow Collins to reveal Smith’s more dangerous aura.

All of this led to what became my main problem with “CAPOTE” – namely the somber subtlety that seemed to permeate the production. Not only did the director’s desire to create a subtle film seem to mute Collins’ potential for a more balanced portrayal of Perry Smith, it also forced Hoffman to hold back some of Capote’s more flamboyant traits. I am quite certain that this was both the director and the screenwriter’s intentions. But I also feel that this deliberate attempt at subtlety may have robbed both the Capote and Smith characters of a more balanced nuance. It also denied the audience a deeper look into Capote’s New York lifestyle and bogged down the movie’s pacing in the end. During the last thirty or forty minutes, I found myself begging for the movie to end.

But despite the movie’s “too somber” mood and pacing, “CAPOTE” is an excellent movie and I would highly recommend it for viewing.

8/10

“On the Analyst’s Couch” – 6/6

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Here is the sixth and last chapter of “On the Analyst’s Couch”:

ON THE ANALYST COUCH – Part 6

A month following Phoebe’s first session with Dr. Linnbakker, the latter receives a surprise visitor. Cole Turner.

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CASE #61822 – COLE TURNER (SEPTEMBER 8, 2002):

DR. LINNBAKKER: (Stares at the new visitor in shock) Well! This is a surprise! How did you . . . how did you get away from the Wasteland?

COLE: (Laughs slightly) I do manage to escape once in a while. If all goes well, I might be able to stay away, permanently.

LINNBAKKER: Hmmm! Good luck! (Pauses) So, what brings you upon my doorstep?

COLE: To talk. I haven’t talked with anyone in quite a while. Not since that incident with the witch . . .”

LINNBAKKER: You mean, Agent Jackman? (Nods) I heard about that. Of course, I must admit that I’m surprised you sought me out just to speak. You’ve always been a chronic loner.

COLE: Well, that was before . . . (Pauses) I mean, I haven’t really been one in nearly two years.

LINNBAKKER: And so you just decided to seek me out, after two years? I haven’t seen you since those months, following the Triad’s destruction. (Doubt tinges her voice) And you’re telling me that you came to see me, because you’re lonely for company?

COLE: (Sighs) Okay, Doc. What do you want? Do you want me to tell you that this visit has to do with more than just me being lonely?

LINNBAKKER: (Sarcastically) Now that would be a nice step in the right direction.

COLE: (Glares at the doctor) This is more than about me being lonely. Yes, I’m lonely. But I’m also frustrated, angry and . . . and a little resentful.

LINNBAKKER: Oh? About what?

COLE: (Sighs) About Phoebe, okay? She wants to get a divorce.

LINNBAKKER: Yes, I heard about that. And I gather you don’t want one.

COLE: (Sarcastically) Considering the fact that I’m frustrated and angry, what do you think?

LINNBAKKER: You know, when I first heard about it, I thought it was a bad idea. I even told Phoebe.

COLE: (Uneasily) And now?

LINNBAKKER: Well, think about it. As far as you and Phoebe were concerned, it was a marriage in name only. She was really married to the Source (Pauses) and under false pretenses. Do you really want to continue a marriage that began under such circumstances? Why don’t you give her the divorce and start over, again?

COLE: (Frustration builds in his voice) Because I have a bad feeling that she doesn’t want to start over, again. I think Phoebe wants to end it between us. For good.

LINNBAKKER: Can you really blame her? She’s been through a lot, lately.

COLE: (Angrily) She has . . . What about me? Have you any idea what the past year has been like, for me?

LINNBAKKER: (Gently) Why don’t you tell me?

COLE: (Takes a deep breath) Okay. First, Prue gets killed and I had to deal with a grieving Phoebe and Piper, who became possessed with hunting daemons. A new sister joins the family – namely Paige. And when she found out that I was Belthazor, she gave me nothing but grief. I lost my powers and had to deal with being – unsuccessfully, I might add – a human for two months. Worst of all, the Seer tricked me into using the Hollow to save Phoebe and her sisters, and I end up getting possessed by the Source. (Sighs) That was the worst.

LINNBAKKER: What was that like? Being possessed?

COLE: (Looks away) It was crap. Just imagine the idea of your soul being trapped within your body, while another takes possession of it. (Pauses) I hated it. I hated being powerless to do anything, while the Source used my body to court Phoebe. Marry her and . . . (Sighs heavily) Well, you get the picture. There were times I felt like screaming, but I couldn’t do anything about it.

LINNBAKKER: You managed to . . . at times. (Flips through Cole’s file) I believe you managed to save Paige, twice. After that Lazarus daemon had seriously wounded her. And when she had been possessed by that power broker. You saved her twice. Despite the Source’s best efforts.

(Cole grunts.)

LINNBAKKER: What? You have a problem with the idea of saving Paige?

COLE: No. I mean, I certainly didn’t want to see Phoebe grieve over another sister. It’s just that . . . Christ! It’s Paige. She can be so damn annoying with that holier-than-thou attitude, sometimes. Even before the Source took over me. Prue was nothing in compare to her. I mean, I can understand why all of them would be uneasy having a daemon in their midst, but haven’t they ever heard of giving someone a chance? (Sighs) I remember when I prevented Piper from killing that innocent, when she became a fury. I mean, I could have killed her very easily. But instead of being relieved that I stopped her from making a big mistake, Leo went into a hissy fit, because I used a fireball on her. (Pauses) And you know what really annoys me? They’re only willing to tolerate me, because of Phoebe. They’ve never bothered to get to know me. Well, I think Leo did, once. (Sarcastically) After I lost my powers.

LINNBAKKER: You can’t make them love you.

COLE: (Annoyed) I know that. But it’s not only for Phoebe’s sake that they tolerate me. They don’t mind having me around when they need information on other daemons. Or if they need a demonic fireball to save their asses.

LINNBAKKER: My, we do sound bitter, don’t we?

COLE: (Sighs) Okay, maybe I am a little . . . bitter. I just . . . I don’t know! The Halliwells can be pretty damn self-righteous, at times. And Paige! (Rolls his eyes)

LINNBAKKER: Then why do you want to go back to them?

COLE: It’s not about the family. It’s about Phoebe. Remember Phoebe? The love of my life, who happens to be part of that family?

LINNBAKKER: (Sarcastically) Are we referring to the same love of your life that wants to divorce you?

COLE: Like you said, she went through a lot.

LINNBAKKER: (Stares at Cole with disbelief) Well, I’m blowed! Five minutes ago, you were upset over Phoebe’s attempts to get a divorce. And now you understand? (Pauses) You’re not developing some kind of obsession over her, are you?

COLE: (Rolls his eyes) No, I assure you. Look, I’m not about to lose the woman I love, because that son-of-a-bitch, the Source, wanted to use my body to conceive some spawn of evil. Can you blame me for trying to fix my relationship?

LINNBAKKER: (Sighs) No, I don’t. But Cole, what if you fail to win back Phoebe? (Pauses) Okay, say if you finally got that chance to talk with her. And she still wants to go ahead with the divorce and a permanent break-up. Are you prepared to accept that? To move on?

COLE: (Stares at the doctor with mouth hung open) Are you saying that Phoebe will go ahead with the divorce?

LINNBAKKER: (Shrugs) I don’t know. Only time will tell. But what if she decides to permanently break up with you? What are you going to do? Continue stalking her, until she changes her mind? Turn into another Leo, so you can win her back?

COLE: (Sarcastically) God forbid. (Sighs) I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m going to do without her. Hell, I sound so pathetic!

LINNBAKKER: Yeah, you do. (Cole glares at her) I realize this is the first time you’ve ever been in love, but maybe you should take it easy for a while.

COLE: Take it easy? What do you mean? Give Phoebe what she wants?

LINNBAKKER: Why not? Like I said before, you two were married in name, only. She was really married to the Source.

COLE: And what happens, after the divorce? What do I do? Fight for innocents on my own? That’s not exactly my style.

LINNBAKKER: Really? You did a good job of helping innocents between the time you and Phoebe started dating and the Source took over you. Saved Paige’s life, twice.

COLE: (Sighs) I only did that for Phoebe’s sake. You know that.

LINNBAKKER: Okay. (Examines Cole’s file) Then what about Amanda Kuhl? She was a powerful witch you were supposed to kill in Seattle, 1948. Instead, you faked her death.

COLE: (Looks alarmed) How did you know . . .? Not even the Source knew about that.

LINNBAKKER: The Elders did. Apparently, Miss Kuhl had told her whitelighter, who was going to inform the Elders. Only less than a week later, the whitelighter was killed by a darklighter before she could spread the word about the mighty Belthazor’s compassion.

COLE: (Still looks rattled) What . . . uh, is she still alive? Miss Kuhl, I mean.

LINNBAKKER: Oh yes. Under another name, of course. (Pauses) Why did you do it? Save that witch? Were you in love with her?

COLE: Huh? Uh, no. No, I . . . I felt sorry for her. The Triad had already wiped out the rest of her family. I don’t know why. Perhaps the, uh (Takes a deep breath) . . . the Source saw her family as a threat in the future. (Looks away) It was a moment of weakness. I felt sorry for her. (Pauses) Why didn’t you bring this up, two years ago?

LINNBAKKER: The Source was still alive at the time. And you had bounty hunters on your trail. (Examines Cole’s file, again) And then there was Charlotte Warren.

COLE: Huh?

LINNBAKKER: You remember her, don’t you? The mother of Melinda Warren. While that woman, Ruth, had her laying on that bed like a sack of potatoes, you offered her a little comfort.

COLE: (Clears his throat) Oh yes. Now I remember. Sixteen-seventy Virginia. What about her? You know, I was prepared to help Ruth turn that baby into evil.

LINNBAKKER: And yet, you offered her a little comfort, while she was pregnant. You even expressed regret at the possibility of killing her.

(Cole shifts uncomfortably in his seat.)

LINNBAKKER: And of course, there was the Brotherhood of the Thorn.

COLE: (Sarcastically) Are you going to say that I offered comfort to them, as well?

LINNBAKKER: Don’t be a smart ass. No, I’m wondering why you bothered to tell the Halliwells about them? You could have kept your mouth shut, after Phoebe killed your brother daemon. Instead, you not only told the Charmed Ones about the Brotherhood, you even suggested going after them. Even when Phoebe didn’t want you to. Why? You didn’t have anything to prove by then. Even Prue was beginning to accept you. Why did you feel the need to tell the Halliwells about the Brotherhood and go after them?

COLE: (Rolls his eyes) What are you getting at?

LINNBAKKER: That perhaps you don’t need Phoebe to be the compassionate man, you’re capable of being. Or a man with a conscience. Cole, all you have to do is reach inside yourself. All the compassion and goodness is there, within your heart. Why can’t you just help someone without worrying about what Phoebe or the others might think? Don’t you get tired of trying to be good for her sake?

COLE: (Opens his mouth and closes it, again) I . . . I’m not . . . I don’t . . .

LINNBAKKER: You don’t what?

COLE: (Blinks) You think I revolve my life around Phoebe?

LINNBAKKER: Well, let’s take a trip down Memory Lane, shall we?

COLE: (Sighs) Is this going to take long?

LINNBAKKER: (Sharply) No! I just want to discuss your life with Phoebe, after your little trip to the Old West with Prue. Is that why she didn’t want you to use your powers? Because of what Prue had witnessed between you and that cowboy?

COLE: (Rolls his eyes) Oh God! Are we going to go through that again? Okay, I realize that what I did was wrong. And that I could have just shimmered away, instead of fireballing that moron’s ass. (Pauses) I guess Prue must have told Phoebe.

LINNBAKKER: Did Phoebe bring up the subject?

COLE: No. But she did insist that I not use my powers. (Sighs)

LINNBAKKER: Frustrating?

COLE: Very. I nearly went out of my mind.

LINNBAKKER: Maybe Phoebe was afraid that you would succumb to evil if you used them.

COLE: I know that! She didn’t understand that it didn’t matter what powers I had, but how I used them. But she refused to listen.

LINNBAKKER: At least she is aware of that, now.

COLE: (Mumbles) Much good that does me.

LINNBAKKER: (Sighs and examines Cole’s file) Let’s see. What about . . . Raynor? Meeting him again, must have been difficult.

COLE: (Coldly) I don’t want to talk about that son-of-a-bitch! He nearly ruined it between Phoebe and me.

LINNBAKKER: It’s a good thing Phoebe finally realized that Raynor had put that spell on you, forcing you to kill that witch. (Flips through Cole’s file) And speaking of dead witches – remember Emma? The girlfriend of that witch you had killed?

COLE: (Tenses up) Yeah, I remember.

LINNBAKKER: It’s funny how the past can come back and haunt you. When Emma had used that power stripping potion on you? Must have been very traumatic.

COLE: (Mumbles) Very.

LINNBAKKER: I thought Phoebe had got rid of that power stripping potion, after Prue’s death.

COLE: So did I.

LINNBAKKER: And yet, (Sighs) she had it around, all that time. I wonder.

COLE: (Stares at her) You wonder what?

LINNBAKKER: I wonder if Phoebe had really forgotten about that potion. Perhaps subconsciously, she wanted to keep a bottle around. Just in case. (Notices Cole staring at her) What happened after you lost your powers? How did you feel?

COLE: (Pauses momentarily) Lost. Incomplete. (Shakes his head)

LINNBAKKER: What?

COLE: I was remembering that time right after I had lost my powers. Phoebe had decided to arrange a little party to celebrate. I guess I wasn’t in the mood, between the loss of my powers and her rejection of my marriage proposal.

LINNBAKKER: Rather insensitive of her, wasn’t it?

COLE: What are you talking about? Phoebe isn’t insensitive.

LINNBAKKER: If you say so. Of course, how do you explain the celebration? You know, the one you weren’t in the mood for, after a traumatic experience. Weren’t you annoyed?

COLE: (Sighs) Okay, maybe I was a little annoyed.

LINNBAKKER: Hmmm. And how did you feel about being human?

COLE: Well, I hated it. I hated losing my powers. I guess I felt . . . I don’t now, incomplete. Like some damn headless chicken. Or an enuch. It’s strange. I thought being human would make life more easier. Simple. (Pauses) Well, Phoebe seemed thrilled. I just couldn’t share her feelings. And in the, my life became even more difficult, instead.

LINNBAKKER: Hmmm. And now that you’re demonic again, she wants nothing to do with you.

COLE: Look, it’s more than that. After all, I was the Source of All Evil for heaven sakes. And after what Phoebe had endured, can you blame her for how she feels?

LINNBAKKER: What about you? I’m sure that Phoebe now knows how you were tricked by the Seer to use the Hollow. And yet, she seems to blame you for everything. Doesn’t that bother you?

COLE: (Exasperated) Of course, it does! There! Are you happy? I’m pissed beyond belief, because not only has my relationship been blown to hell, I’m being solely blamed for a lot of stuff that was beyond my control! And I’m also pissed off by the unfairness of it all. Last, but not least, I’m getting sick and tired of the Charmed Ones’ damn two-faced morality!

LINNBAKKER: Then why in the hell are you trying to win Phoebe back? (Gives Cole a hard look) Why in the hell do you even bother trying to stay with a woman incapable of understanding you? A woman incapable of accepting you for yourself?

COLE: (Looks upset) Because . . . because I love her.

LINNBAKKER: That’s admirable, Cole. But I think Phoebe was right about one thing. Love is not enough.

COLE: (Frowns) What do you mean?

LINNBAKKER: I think Phoebe loves you, in spite of herself. But it’s obvious that she wants to be with someone whom she feels can make her feel secure. And because of that, she tried to turn you into something you’re not. How can you be happy with a woman who will not allow you to be yourself?

COLE: (Pauses briefly and sighs) I don’t know. I’ve got to . . . I just can’t give up on her.

(Cole’s figure fades slightly.)

LINNBAKKER: (Stares at him) What’s wrong?

COLE: The spell I had used to bring me here, is breaking up. I have to leave. (Slips off the chaise and stands up)

LINNBAKKER: The next time you’re able to escape the Wasteland, give me a call?

COLE: (Nods) Yeah, I will. Maybe next time, I’ll be able to escape permanently. See you around, Doc. (He disappears)

LINNBAKKER: (Murmurs) See you.

(Dr. Linnbakker stares at Cole’s file and shakes her head. Then she stands up and walks over to her file cabinet.)

END OF CASE #61822

THE END

“GOLDFINGER” (1964) Review

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“GOLDFINGER” (1964) Review”

Ever since its release in 1964, the movie, GOLDFINGER has been regarded as one of the best Bond movies ever. In fact, it is considered by many Bond fans as the franchise’s definitive film, considering that it more or less created what is known as “the Bond formula”. The 1959 Fleming novel that it is based up, is also highly regarded by some fans, while others believe that the movie is an improvement on the literary version. While I agree that the movie, GOLDFINGER is an improvement over the novel, I have a low opinion of both versions. However, I’m here to comment on the movie and not the novel.

As I have stated before, GOLDFINGER is without a doubt one of my least favorite Bond movies of all time. Not only did Bond seem to act like an oversexed adolescent, culminating in that ridiculous scene between him and Pussy Galore in Goldfinger’s barn, the movie is hampered by a weak Felix Leiter, portrayed by Canadian actor Cec Linder (who seemed more like a sidekick than an ally) and major plotholes that included:

1) Goldfinger’s reason for keeping Bond alive – why the man didn’t think to find out what exactly Bond knew about “Operation Grand Slam”, I don’t know.

2) The method Bond uses for convincing Ms. Galore to betray Goldfinger – it’s bad enough that Bond had to assert his masculinity over the cool and professional Ms. Galore, the writers have us believe that he used sex to convince her to betray Goldfinger. Why? Why not have Bond convince her that Golfinger was simply a fruitcake? I guess the writers wanted an excuse for Bond to use the “magic penis”. The entire barn scene left me feeling disgusted and less impressed by Pussy Galore.

3) Goldfinger’s murder of the Mafia bosses – This was so ridiculous and unecessary. Many Bond fans have claimed that the reason Goldfinger told the Mafia bosses about his plans for Fort Knox before murdering them, was because he wanted bask in the enjoyment of letting someone know about his plans. If that was the case, why not have Goldfinger tell Bond before attempting to kill the agent or leave him for dead? What makes this scenario even more ridiculous is that when Mr. Solo decided that he wants nothing of the Fort Knox plan, Goldfinger sent him on his way with a gold bar . . . before Oddjob kills the man and crushes him inside a car. Why not simply leave Solo with the other gangsters and kill them all? Without having to reveal his Fort Knox plan?

Are there any positive aspects about GOLDFINGER? Why . . . yes, or else I would consider this entry in the franchise as the worst. Thankfully, the movie’s cast included Gert Frobe as Auric Goldfinger. Although my opinion of Goldfinger’s intelligence has diminished over the years, I remain impressed by Frobe’s commanding performance. And there is the talented and classy Honor Blackman (who was already famous in the U.K. in the TV series, THE AVENGERS), playing the tough and intelligent Pussy Galore. I enjoyed Ms. Blackman’s performance so much that it seemed a shame that her character was ruined in that Galore/Bond wrestling match inside the barn. Shirley Easton made the most of her brief appearance as one of the doomed Masterson sisters, Jill. And let’s face it, no one will ever forget the last image of her gold-painted body spread out upon the bed inside Bond’s Miami hotel room.

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Last by not least, there is the movie’s theme song, performed by the talented Shirley Bassey. After all, it is considered one of the best Bond theme songs ever. And that is an opinion I do share.

Despite some of the movie’s positive aspects, I have always had ambiguous feelings about GOLDFINGER for years. In the past, I tried to accept the prevalent feeling that it was probably one of the best Bond movies. But after watching it the last time . . . Well let me put it this way, whether or not it was responsible for creating the Bond formula, I finally realize how much I truly dislike it.

3/10

“DISTRICT 9” (2009) Review

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I saw the new science-fiction thriller, “DISTRICT 9” today. And this is what I have to say:

“DISTRICT 9” (2009) Review

I had been looking forward to this movie for nearly two months. Ever since I heard that Peter Jackson (of the “LORD OF THE RINGS” fame) had produced a film directed and co-written by Neil Blomkamp about aliens living on Earth, I wondered if I would finally see a movie about aliens being oppressed or victimized by humans. Then I remember that I have seen similar concepts in other movies like “ALIENATION” and “E.T.”.

However, “DISTRICT 9” was also supposed to be allegory about the apartheid system that Blomkamp had lived under, during his youth. In the film, aliens find themselves stranded on Earth and are forced by the South Africans to live in housing districts that practically resemble slums. When a bureaucrat from a private company that has been contracted to deal with the aliens is exposed to their biotechnology, he begins to transform into an alien . . . and finds himself being hunted by the private company so that he can use the weaponry they had confiscated from the aliens.

I must admit that Blomkamp had a great concept. And I also thought it was clever of him to use documentary-style filmaking to describe the aliens’ arrival on Earth. Also, he was fortunate to get actor/writer Sharlto Copley, who gave an excellent and complex portrayal as the unfortunate bureaucrat, Wikus van der Merwe. I also enjoyed the film’s special effects and some of the cinematography. But in the end, I believe that Blomkamp had tripped himself with some questionable plotlines and his portrayal of the Nigerian gangsters.

There are some aspects of the plot that bothered me. One, how did the South Africans managed to board the mother ship from helicopters? And two, how was the mother ship able to hover over Johannesburg for nearly three decades without any liquid fuel or command module (which had dropped from the ship years earlier) to move it or keep it up in the skies? I also found the action sequences featured in the movie’s last half hour to be rather over-the-top at times. Blomkamp seemed to have read Michael Bay’s handbook on filming action sequences. And then there were the Nigerians.

Blomkamp’s allegory about apartheid was certainly given full support from his portrayal of the white and black South Africans’ intolerance toward the stranded aliens. But he had underminded his message with an offensive portrayal of the Nigerians. The gangsters are led by a wheelchair-bound Nigerian, who is told by his shaman (called “witch doctor” in the film) to consume the flesh of aliens in order to regain his health. In fact, a white South African female in the movie’s mockumentary informs moviegoers that the Nigerians’ “superstition” that the aliens’ flesh would be able to cure many of humanity’s ailiments. And the only females willing to have sex with another species – namely the aliens – are Nigerian women. It was quite clear in the film that no white females willing to commit such an act. As I had stated earlier, the Nigerian gangster’s shaman is referred to as a “witch doctor” – a term that many non-Christian or non-Muslim Africans would find offensive. In fact, I found the movie’s portrayal of the Nigerians to be very offensive. And as a relative of mine had pointed out, the Nigerians portrayed in “DISTRICT 9” may have regressed the motion pictures’ portrayal of blacks a good five hundred years.

I wish I could say that I liked “DISTRICT 9”. As I had earlier pointed out, Blomkamp’s decision to use the relationship between the stranded aliens and their South African hosts could have served as a perfect allegory to apartheid. But the plotlines leading to the humans’ internment of the aliens, the drawn-out action sequences in the movie’s last half hour and its portrayal of the Nigerians turned me off. I found “DISTRICT 9” to be a disappointing film.

“CHARMED” RETROSPECT: “Consequences of a Crime”

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I wrote this little RANT about what happened . . . or what did not happened to Piper at the end of the Season 2 episode, (2.12) “Awakened”.

 

“CHARMED” RETROSPECT:  “CONSEQUENCES OF A CRIME”

In the Season 2 episode, (2.12) “Awakened”, Piper had deliberately purchased an illegal fruit from South America called “kiwano” – fruit that had NOT been inspected by the U.S. Customs – in order to get it at a cheap price for her customers at P3.

However, Piper had sampled the kiwano and became ill with a deadly and uncurable disease called Oroya Fever. Phoebe and Prue used magic to cure her by transfering the disease into a borrowed Ninja doll. Unfortunately, a consequence arose when the doll became animated and ended up infecting several patients at the hospital. The sisters realized their mistake and transfered the disease back to Piper, using another spell. But this time, Leo prevented Piper from paying the consequences of her actions, when he heals her. The Elders punished him by clipping his wings. But what happened to Piper?

[Scene: P3. Piper gives a box of fruit to a guy.]

Piper: These haven’t been inspected yet. Put them in the back. We’re returning them to the supplier.

(She walks up to Prue and Phoebe.)

Phoebe: Looks like someone learnt their lesson.

Piper: Yeah, the hard way unfortunately.

Prue: Still, the clubs doing okay. Doesn’t look like quarantine ruined business too much.

How peachy! Piper learned her lesson. Unfortunately, she failed to face any consequences for her actions. Or should I say her crime? Piper had committed a felony. Even Dr. Williamson, her doctor, knew this. Piper should have been facing some serious fines for her actions. Or the Federal government should have closed down P3. Yet, by the end of the episode, P3 had reopened. Nor did the episode point out that Piper would be facing a court trial or fines for her crimes.

What the hell is this crap?

”MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” (1974) Review

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Below is my review of the 1974 adaptation of one of Agatha Christie’s most famous novels – “MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS”:

 

”MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” (1974) Review

Whenever the topic of Agatha Christie novels pop up, many critics and fans seem to rate her 1934 novel, ”Murder on the Orient Express” as among her best work. This stellar opinion seemed to have extended to the 1974 movie adaptation. After all, the film did receive six Academy Award nominations and won one. Is ”MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” the best adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Is it my favorite? Hmmm . . . I will get to that later.

But I cannot deny that the movie, also produced by John Bradbourne and directed by Sidney Lumet, is a first-class production. One could easily see that Bradbourne and Paramount Pictures had invested a great deal of money into the production. They hired the very talented and award winning director, Sidney Lumet; along with an all-star cast led by Albert Finney; cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth; production and costume designer Tony Walton; and Paul Dehn to write the screenplay.

One of the most unique aspects of this particular movie is that it started with a haunting montage featuring newspaper clippings and newsreel footage of a tragic kidnapping of a three year-old girl from a wealthy Anglo-American family named Daisy Armstrong. The kidnapping of young Daisy would end up playing a major role in the true identities of the murder victim and the suspects. The movie soon moved to Istanbul, five years later, where famed Belgian-born detective, Hercule Poirot (Albert Finney), is about to journey back to England via the Orient Express. Despite the unusually heaving booking in the train’s Calais coach, Poirot manages to secure a berth aboard the train thanks to an old friend, Signor Bianchi (Martin Balsam), who happens to be a director for the Orient Express’ owner – the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits. After the train departs Istanbul, a mysterious American art collector named Ratchett (Richard Widmark) informs Poirot that someone has been sending him threatening notes and asks for the Belgian’s protection. Due to Poirot’s instinctual dislike of Rachett, the detective refuses to help. And after the train finds itself snowbound in the Balkans, Rachett is stabbed to death in the middle of the night. Signor Bianchi asks Poirot to unearth the murderer.

“MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” turned out to be the first screen adaptation of a Christie novel to feature an all-star cast. One that only included screen stars such as Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Jacqueline Bisset, Michael York and Jean-Pierre Cassel. The cast also included stage luminaries such as John Gielgud (who was a bigger star on the stage), Wendy Hiller, Denis Quilley and Colin Blakely. And all of them gave solid performances, although I do have a few quibbles about a few members of the cast.

Critics had been especially impressed by Finney’s interpretation of the Belgian detective and Ingrid Bergman’s role as a shy and nervous Swedish missionary. Both received Academy Award nominations and Bergman won. Personally, I am not certain if both actors deserved their nominations. They gave pretty solid performances. But I found nothing extraordinary about Bergman’s Swedish missionary. It was a first-rate performance, but not worthy of an Oscar nomination, let alone an Oscar. And although he gave a superb performance, there were times when Finney seemed to drift into some kind of parody of the Continental European. This is why I believe that actors with strong European backgrounds like Peter Ustinov and David Suchet should portray Poirot. But . . . I cannot deny that he gave a very good performance. And he also conveyed certain aspects of Poirot’s personality that I have never seen in Ustinov or Suchet’s portryals – one of them being a talent for manipulating others into revealing themselves during an interrogation. I also enjoyed his brief scene with Jeremy Lloyd, who portrayed an obsequious British Army officer that served as Poirot’s escort during the crossing of the Bosphorus Strait.

And there were times when some members of the rest of the cast seemed to be in danger of drifting into hammy acting. Sean Connery sometimes came off as heavy-handed in his British Army officer routine. And Anthony Perkins’ parody of his famous Norman Bates role irritated me to no end . . . especially since the literary version of his character – Hector McQueen – came off as a completely different personality. However, Perkins had one really good scene that featured no dialogue on his part.  But three performances did strongly impress me – namely Jean-Pierre Cassel as the rail car attendant, Pierre Michel; Rachel Roberts as a German lady’s maid named Hildegarde Schmidt; and Colin Blakely as Cyrus Hardman, an American detective masquerading as a talent scout. Unlike some members of the cast, these three managed to give subtle, yet convincing performances without sometimes careening into parody. And Blakely provided one of the most poignant moments in the film when Poirot revealed his character’s (Hardman) personal connection to the Daisy Armstrong kidnapping case.

As for the movie’s screenplay, I must admit that Paul Dehn and an uncredited Anthony Shaffer did an excellent job in adapting Christie’s novel for the screen. They managed to stay true to the novel’s original plot with very few changes. Their only misstep was in making the Hector MacQueen’s character into a parody of the Norman Bates role from ”PSYCHO” (1960), due to Perkins being cast into the role. Or perhaps the fault lay with Lumet. Who knows? However, I cannot but express admiration over the brilliant move to include the montage that featured Daisy Armstrong’s kidnapping and murder at the beginning of the film. It gave the story an extra poignancy to an already semi-tragic tale. Despite these changes, Dehn and Shaffer basically remained faithful to the novel. They even maintained the original solution to the mystery. Granted, the solution made ”MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” one of the most unusual murder mysteries in the history of Hollywood, let alone the literary world. And although the revelation of the murderer(s) came off as somewhat inconceivable, it made the movie memorable . . . aside from the flashback that revealed Rachett being murdered. That seemed to last longer than necessary. I also have a different opinion regarding the fate of the murderer(s). When I had been younger, it never bothered me. Now . . . it makes me slightly uneasy. If you have read the novel or seen the movie, you will know what I am talking about.

Richard Rodney Bennett had received a great deal of praise and an Oscar nomination for his score. I thought it meshed beautifully with the scenes featuring the Orient Express’ departure from Istanbul . . . and its continuing journey at the end of the film. However, there were times when I found it a bit over-dramatic and slightly out of place for a murder mystery. I really admired Tony Walton’s production designs for the movie. I thought it truly invoked the glamour and magic of traveling aboard the Orient Express in the 1930s. And it also conveyed the claustrophobic conditions of traveling by train, beautifully. Surprisingly, he also designed the movie’s costumes. I can only assume he was trying to adhere to Sidney Lumet’s desire to recapture the old Hollywood glamour from the 1930s. Unfortunately, I felt that Walton’s costumes for most of the characters seemed a bit over-the-top. But I must admit that I admired his costumes for Jacqueline Bisset, Ingrid Bergman and Vanessa Redgrave’s characters.

In the end, one has to give Sidney Lumet high marks for putting all of this together to create a classy adaptation of an unusual novel. Granted, I have a few qualms with some of the performances, characterizations and the plot’s resolution. And there were times in the middle of the movie when Lumet’s pacing threatened to drag the film. In the end, Lumet’s direction managed to maintain my interest in the story. And ”MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” remains a favorite movie of mine after 35 years.

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