This was the second year I got to celebrate a Jewish Christmas. It's mostly a New York thing, from what I gather, but basically it involves movies and Chinese food. Some people do this on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. My kind response is that this is a regional variation; my unkind response is that these people don't understand the true spirit of Jewish Christmas.
My girls wanted to see Les Miserables. Whatever- I can wait until the DVD release. For my part, I chose Skyfall, the latest in the James Bond canon. That day, I realized this was the first time I'd seen a James Bond movie in the theater. Truly, a momentous Jewish Christmas.
Here's what didn't work: Skyfall was trying to be "better" than a James Bond movie. I don't understand this. People love James Bond movies; I love James Bond movies. We're not there for, you know, character development and plots that make sense. We watch them the same way other people watch Star Wars movies: completely uncritically (and yes, I realize there is an overlap of those audiences). I bet I'm not the only one who was introduced to the franchise via the ABC airings in the Seventies and Eighties. Do you know how much editing they did on those things? Most of the time I had no idea what Bond doing; what was important was that he was badass doing it. So that they would go to the trouble to not just have a discernible plot but one that was interesting to "mainstream" audiences seems like silly overkill.
And what is the plot? I'm not going to give it away (even though it's been out for almost two months at this point), but it's not a stretch to say that it's one of the classic quasi-psychological plots. Yes, "family" and origin issues- but if you saw Casino Royale a few years ago, you knew this was coming. Throw in a little yuckiness with a Komodo Dragon (I think that's what it was), a survivor of the Macau sex trade and a literal deus ex machina (or is it deus ex aqua?) and yeah, that's the movie.
The villain? Javier Bardem does a really good job... with the role they gave him. I'm going to tell you his character Silva is bisexual; now you're going to fill in every stereotype about someone with that orientation and you'll understand his character. He's creepy; he's untrustworthy; he's lascivious; he's grotesque; he's brilliant; he's out for himself; he's misunderstood; etc and so forth. Er, nice to know Sam Mendes kept some of the Bond canon?
So why did I like this? Because:
Daniel Craig. He's symptomatic of the overdevelopment of character, I think, but he's also a really good actor. Despite myself, I do want to know why he's so broody and snappish.
James Bond. Bond is Bond, even when he's a little compromised. And this was the first time a James Bond movie made me genuinely laugh. When Silva comes onto a bound Bond (heh- and please, you knew that was coming) and tries to unnerve him, Bond is cold as ice. "What makes you think this is my first time?" Perfect because 1) Bond is obviously trying to show Silva how unintimated he is and 2) it's a wink to the audience. "Since I've bedded almost everything in a skirt, why would you think I wouldn't have touched something in pants?"
The weapons- or lack thereof. In the aftermath of the countless shootings the last few years have brought to the US, it made me smile to see Bond protected by a weapon that wouldn't fire. I also nodded when Bond (and company) had to take down a small militia of criminals with much more limited gunpower. As I've said elsewhere, what's cool about Bond and guns is that he knows how to use them- not that he has rooms filled with them.
Naomie Harris. Bond girl? Oh... maybe.
Ralph Fiennes. A good enough actor that even when I didn't know where his character was going, I still wanted to watch.
Ben Whishaw. Because Q always makes me smile- particularly when he's admonishing Bond to bring back the goods unharmed.
And of course Judi Dench. Damn you, Dame Judi- must you make me care about M?
So if you're a Bond fan, go see this. (Of course, I say this about everything except maybe the Timothy Dalton movies, so maybe you should take that with a grain of salt.) Yes, it's silly, sexist and really just a British action movie with good looking characters. But isn't that what you want in your Bond movies?
Deb in the City