10 December 2010

Tell me, Mr. Taylor, where did you put your humour?

I'm surprised. I'm impressed. I'm bedazzled. I'm in love. Never knew that could happen with an actor I scorned long ago - and only because I saw all the wrong movies with him! Jesus! I'm either really narrow-minded or really snobbish - which you shouldn't be as a film freak...*utterly embarrassed expression*.

Anyway, the actor I'm talking about is none other than Robert Taylor!


A couple of months ago I watched "Camille" (1936) with Greta Garbo and Robert T., the latter playing a young, handsome suitor, and I was amazed by Robert's performance. I must remind you that I've have only seen him in some of his later movies from about the late '40s to the '50s on TCM, and I was often bored by his (let's face it) rather stiff and wooden acting in these movies. He always seemed to appear in all those stereotyp adventure films, playing a tough gunman or knight or whatever. He did nothing unusual or exceptional, he just rode his horse, killed the bad guy(s) and kissed the girl. So you can imagine I was surprised to see an eager, sensitive and expressive 'anti-Robert' in "Camille". I became very interested and started searching for other movies he made in the '30s (when he was only in his twenties). And luckily I found quite a lot. Mostly comedies which surprised me even more - and all the same made me more happier!


Gosh, I've come to adore this man! What a talent he had for comedy! I was literally gaping when I saw him jumping and sprinting across the screen like another Chaplin, being rejected (!) by girls and laughing like no one else (with a look like his) ever had! :-O

Even his more dramatic side impressed me deeply and I believe that he could pull off almost every kind of character - if he only had been given the chance. His expressions were much more varied, easy-going and natural than they were later on, and it's really such a shame that he didn't made more movies like that. I've heard some argue that it was because of the war that he became more stiff and emotionless in his later movies and that he chose more dramatic roles, wanting to get away from the cheerful roles he had had as a young actor. It's very likely that the same happened to Clark Gable, though he did pick the comedy genre again after the war and managed to pull it off. Nevertheless, it's sad how war can affect the spirit so profoundly - even or especially in those whose job literally is to act/pretend otherwise.

Well, I still find Robert's first movies his best (making him a seriously underrated actor, in my opinion!) and I'm not even finished watching the entire list, but I'm almost sure he cannot let me down after so many great performances already.


I'll treat you with a little sneak peek from one of my favorite films with him; "Personal Property" (1937):



PS. I'll be sure to update this post when I've seen the rest of the movies :)

24 November 2010

Magical Musicals No More?

Where have they gone? The musicals. Some claim the genre is now dead, and that it is only kept alive, hidden in an immortal time, and brought back from our memory when nostalgia seems to take over. The magic has died, apparently. Or has it?

Sure, musicals are still seen in our modern society – after all, Broadway still exists – so the magic cannot be entirely dead, can it?

Actually, we do have some good examples of musical creativity in this century: Rob Marshall’s successful “Chicago” (2002), Baz Luhrmann’s popular “Moulin Rouge!” (2001), and other hit-musicals such as “Dreamgirls” (2006) and “Sweeney Todd” (2007) - and even new geeky high school tv series "Glee" (2009-present) - among others. Yet, so few, compared to the number of musicals the studios once made.

"Chicago" (2002)

In the heyday of musicals, that is, about the ‘20s-‘50s, people flocked to the cinema to watch Fred and Ginger do their famous light-footed dance steps or to see Gene Kelly turn art, passion and emotions into dance. Then, during the late ‘50s and in the ‘60s, musicals started to be a bit worn out and though some had touched heavy topics from real life, the good old musicals were soon replaced by film genres that dealt with social problems and the more harsh facts of life. Time was changing and people just weren’t the pleasing kind anymore. They wanted to be slapped in the face with reality and questions of morality, sexuality, politics and ethics. There was a revolution going on; not just in the world, but also on the screen. Films like “The Godfather”, “Taxi Driver” and “The Deer Hunter” came in the ‘70s and confronted everyone with their blatant images and messages. The other side of the coin was shown. The darker, dirtier and more tabooed side. And it affected the musicals which were made in that time. Step dancing, bright colors and cheerfulness weren’t enough anymore. During the ‘70s and ‘80s, rock and pop became more prominent, bringing new dance steps to the screen and with storylines more fitted for the younger audience; some satirical, others not. You could ask yourself, if the motive of these musicals was to please the crowd; utterly pragmatic and up to the beat, or if they could still manage to capture the soul and feelings of their generation?

"An American in Paris" (1951)

Another genre that we don’t see much of anymore is the gay (lively) screwball comedy. We miss that film genre, surely? It’s not that I’m asking that we should copy what they did then (it’s not possible to even touch those magnificent pieces of film work!). But shouldn’t we at least try to dig up some of those sassy, ironic and sharp lines, attitudes and characters which were so prominent in the ‘20s-‘40s screwball days? The wonderful battle of the sexes where you didn’t have to talk about or show sex but just used your inner wipe and sexuality through guts, stubbornness and wit? Where you showed your weaknesses as well as your strengths without making it stereotype or melodramatic? Where your personality and self-irony were major contributing factors for all the bantering, flirting and falling in love? It was short, wisecracking, ironic and light, but hilarious as hell because they used wit, quirks and cleverness to get what they wanted.

"The Philadelphia Story" (1940)

Well, needless to say I miss this certain zest in our current time. I haven’t seen much of it yet, not in films at least, whereas television series, such as “Cheers” (1982-1993), “Moonlighting” (1985-1989), "10 Things I Hate About You" (2009-2010) and “Bones” (2005-present), have got the upper hand in the matter. The Brits are still running the business with their self-proclaimed self-ironic humor. It’s somehow always a blast. And the Americans are actually not so far behind, as the state of their country often makes room for a good satirical and political joke (but hey, what country doesn't?).

"Moonlighting"
Maddie Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) and David Addison (Bruce Willis)

"10 Things I Hate About You"
Kat Stratford (Lindsey Shaw) and Patrick Verona (Ethan Peck)

"Bones"
Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) and Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel)

So, perhaps musicals and screwball comedies are not so dead, after all. They’re just not … in the center anymore. The film industry is constantly changing and expanding and that’s a good sign, I guess. Yet, I still think we shouldn’t let ourselves be totally devoured by the consumerism and the norms of our society when we want to entertain, renew and please. It will rub off onto the movies, the television and the next generation. Let it not take over-hand, guys. We may swallow up some of our hidden treasures in our hurry.

16 November 2010

Looking forward to ...

"A Dangerous Method"
(2011)

A British historical biopic directed by David Cronenberg (A History of Violence, Eastern Promises), about the relationships between Sigmund Freud (played by Viggo Mortensen), Carl Jung (played by Michael Fassbender) and Sabina Spielrein (played by Keira Knightley), the woman who comes between them.

Screenplay by Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons, Atonement).


11 November 2010

The Fashion of Katharine Hepburn

I've always admired Katharine Hepburn. Not just for her brilliant acting, but also for her wonderful no-nonsense attitude and sporty, brassy style. I have always wanted to be like her. She was one of those persons who just had guts - of course, without losing her classy sense. And that was certainly reflected in her clothes. Being slender and atheltic, she wasn't afraid of experimenting with the more adrogynous or masculine side of herself and often dressed in menswear such as jackets, shirts, wide trousers and more comfortable shoes. She was one of the classic Hollywood film stars (besides Marlene Dietrich) who made it fashionable before and during the war for women to dress "casual" and practical with a masculine touch, and I believe she kept her style of fashion until her very dying day. What a gal!








Classy, stylish, original and a great icon!

09 November 2010

Audrey Hepburn - The Epitome of a Human Angel

         


Oh, sweet Audrey Hepburn will always be my favorite actress! And why is that? What makes her so different from all the other great actresses of that time, such as the other Hepburn (Katharine), Bette Davis, Ingrid Bergman or Greta Garbo? Well, the fact is that every time I watch a movie with Audrey Hepburn, she keeps surprising me. Every single time. Her integrety and commitment to her characters and the films she made never seize to amaze me. When you watch her, her intriguing facial expressions are infinite and filled with layers and questions, never  being one-dimensional or intolerant. However, the main reason for my instant love for her, besides her well-balanced, natural, down-to-earth and adorable persona, was that she was accessible. Approachable. She could connect - without much effort - and it's really no wonder people adored and loved her straight away!




At one point, Audrey was able to embody all human uncertainty and sadness in the world, but she was never afraid of appreciating life in all its bearings. A strangely paradox hereto, because in her glowing, penetrating smiles she seemed to carry all the grace, hope and joy of the world.  She had a striking vulnerability and yet an almost angelic strength and a magnetic flair, always deeply sympathetic and unpretentious in her being. She showed a unique, yet universal beauty through her mind and manner as well as body and soul, indistinguishable, and her mesmerizing persona on and off screen seemed to merge into her lovable personality. And as the most generous and unselfish gifts of all she transcended it all to us, effortless and yet with more magic than anyone will ever fathom. 

Even after this written dedication, I'm not sure I really have succeeded in describing the essence of her. The thing is, she is so many things and stands for so many feelings and ideals - glorified or not - that she is almost impossible to define and label. I just know that to me, she was and will always be an icon for all people through all time, being the most unique, genuine and captivating actress - if not person - I’ve ever seen.





PS: I haven't had the chance to see all of her movies yet, but I guess that just means that I will have a lot to look forward to, right? :) I have, however, listed my favorite films of hers so far, but I'll post the list later.

06 November 2010

Should they have won an Oscar?


When you're a so-called film fantatic (a rather self-proclaimed title, sadly), you can hardly avoid following the annual Oscar shows.  Sometimes it's a bore and quite superficial, at other times it's surprising and deep. Apart from all the celebrity stunt stuff and expensive dresses and big names, the magic still lingers on (even though, it's apparently getting bigger for every year ... I wonder what they're gonna do in year 2020 (!)). It's always a good way to get a rough picture of what's going on in the film industry of today. Of course, it's only the most prestigious award you can recieve in this industry - not just for the American cinema but for all countries - and a lot of honour and money are being put into this award show. That shouldn't, however, overshadow the point of the show, which is, basically, to praise and honour the work of art and film making.

Yet, I haven't always agreed with the choice of winners/nominees of some categories (without sounding treacherous hopefully, I've always found the panel of judges rather suspicious whoever they might be). So it happens that I - in my mind, of course - pick my own nominees or winners (not that I claim to be particularly skillful as a judge in this matter), ones that - according to me - have been overlooked or overshadowed by others though time. I often look at the actors' acting in specific moments or at their overall performance during a movie. Are they thoroughly performances, how do they come across the screen and could anyone have done it better perhaps, etc.?

I have collected many favorite magical moments of brilliant acting (many of them are listed on my page "Actors/actresses at their best"). The question is always "WHY do you find him/her brilliant/interesting...?" and so on, but I feel I could write a book about that and it would take up a lot of space. So, I'm actually more interested in your opinions and have therefore listed a few examples below:

E.g.:
Should Tom Hanks have won (or at least been nominated for) an Oscar for his wonderfully hilarious performance in "A League of Their Own?



Should Natalie Wood have got one for her striking performance in "This Property is Condemned"?



Should Paul Newman also have had the chance to be nominated for his brilliant role in "The Sting"?



Could Yul Brynner have won an Oscar for his magnificent character in "The Journey" (1959) where he played opposite beautiful Deborah Kerr?



Or what about Audrey Hepburn for her captivating acting in "The Nun's Story" and/or "Robin and Marian"?



Perhaps you can come up with other examples?

04 November 2010

Twenties Girl = Twenties Crazy!!

Reading Sophie Kinsella's "Twenties Girl" (2009), I couldn't help getting into a '20s mood - that is, I couldn't stop associating with everything regarding the 1920s that I know of! I just love when a book can do such things to you, don't you?

Anyway, I instantly remembered Theater Tuschinski in Amsterdam, Holland, when I went there with my family this summer! My God, what a magnificent and utterly beautiful building!! I was just - WOW, standing there in the middle of one of the most busy streets in the center of Amsterdam literally gaping! I have heard of and seen Art Nouveau (the artistic period at the turn of the 20th century) and Art Deco as "minor" decoration themes indoors, but NEVER as architecture! At least not the size and the beauty as of this! Well, at a distance I first thought it was some modern building housing some sort of haunted attraction, but when my mother told me what it was and that all kinds of famous people like Judy Garland and Marlene Dietrich had performed there, I just had to stop at my tracks and swallow my stupid prejudice! Pardon me, but holy smokes!! I know, I tend to get a bit overexcited when I come close to where my heroes and heroines once have walked and talked, and I guess it's a bit nerdy and silly, but I could have stayed there the rest of that day! It was just steeped in history, elegance and magic! I could almost see people all dressed up in their '20s outfits walking into the theater, chattering and laughing, while the pulsating sounds of an authentic jazz orchestra streamed out through the open doors. *Loud sigh* ~_~

The rest of my family was actually long gone at this time, except of my mother who was patiently (or not?) waiting for me until I had got my precious pictures. Sweet of her, but I wished they all had just said: "Wow, let's go in here!" ... At that point, I didn't really care if they didn't wait; an urgent need to be a part of my "historic flashback" (what I like to call it when I get caught up with classic film nostalgia) took over my self-control. I just bashed inside this wonderful building, into the main foyer (see 3rd pic below) and eventhough it was kinda dark I was already feeling as if I had stepped into one of my favorite movies - or at least taken a time machine going almost 90 years back in time! A few staff members of the theater were actually present as I stood there, alone, in the middle of the entrance, goggling, but I didn't care - I just had to get some pictures from it while I still had time. Oh, blast! What I wouldn't have given to just continue into that building of Wonderland!

The entrance of Theater Tuschinski

Absolutely amazing!

The main foyer
(Amazing! Wish I've had more time in there...)
The magical theater
(Which I, sadly, never happened to see)

*Another sigh* ... It was a magnificent experience! 

Anyway, back to the book. While reading, I started reseaching everything linked with the twenties... Art Nouveau, Art Deco, charleston etc. Of course, then I just had to go through almost all of the old silent film stars of the time like Mary Pickford, Lilian Gish and Rudolph Valentino (one of the earliest sex symbols of cinema). The latter is also mentioned in the book, and I will elaborate on his role in this later. I even watched some of Rudolph's most famous movies, "The Sheik", from 1921, and the (better) sequel "Son of the Sheik" from 1926 (filmed just a few months before his tragic death). You can't say he wasn't beautiful and sexy, I dare say! My-my! Though the acting, of course, was a bit theatrical and overdone (it often was in the silent films), the movies were actually rather good, considering the resources and experience in film industry at that time. At one point they even made Rudolph play a double role as both father and son in "Son of the Sheik" (which he must have had much fun doing) and it actually comes out extremely well! Maybe even better than later attempts to make double roles look natural and realistic. Here you can hardly tell it's two clips put together showing the same person, hehe ;)

The reason why I'm talking so much of Rudolph Valentino is actually because the love interest in the book, Ed Harrison (or 'Mr. American Frown' according to our female protagonist), is described to be a bit of a mix between Rudolph and the puppets from the old "Thunderbirds" series... Alright, I thought, how would that go together? That is, these two:


One of the most beautiful men on the
 silverscreen ever, Mr. Rudolph Valentino!
(Google him and I promise you,
you won't get disappointed!)

Virgil Tracy from "Thunderbirds"
(or any other character from
the series whom you might like)

Well, I tried finding a suitable actor who might resemble this "mix" and become a possible contender for the role (if they're ever going to make a film out of the book). So, this is what I've come up with for "Possible contenders for the character, Ed Harrison":


Ethan Peck?
(Yes, it IS Gregory Peck's grandson)

Michael Fassbender?


Montgomery Clift?
Oh, yeah, sorry, he is dead (what a shame,
would have been perfect - looks totally
like a "Thunderbird", hehe)!

Oh, shoot! When we're at the handsome dead guys, we might as well continue!

Gilbert Roland could have been a great
contender for the role as well, right?
(Ironically, also often cast as a
"Latin Lover" like Rudolph Valentino)

Alright, alright! I admit I've run out of ideas! Any other suggestions? It's obvious I'm more familiar with the dead actors than with the living ones, so I really haven't checked all of our living male actors... Perhaps you have someone better in mind?

24 September 2010

Thrills, Chills and Kills!

Are you just tired of sobbing sentimentality, gagging tear-jerkers, stereotype love, overdone poetic romance and boring everyday dramas? Then perhaps you should consider watching a new genre; something that will make your blood run cold; something wicked, unknown and - far too often - frightening real? Perhaps something like these mind-boggling, desperate and terrifying movies? If you dare ...


Sorry, Wrong Number (1948),
starring Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster

The Snake Pit (1948),
starring Olivia de Havilland and Leo Genn

Rear Window (1954),
starring James Stewart, Grace Kelly and Thelma Ritter
Wait Until Dark (1967),
starring Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin

Jaws (1975),
starring Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw

”Well, I think you need a drink, right, dear?” he said and took a long draw on his cigarette


Clark Gable and Constance Bennett
from After Office Hours (1935)

One thing that often strikes me when I watch American movies is the American idea of solving a problem. The first alternative that comes to them is: Alcohol. Tell me: Why do the Americans always need a drink when they can't find anything else to say? Why do they always go straight to the nearest bar to solve their sometimes rather insubstantial problems? Why do they always interrupt each other just to add: "Can I get you a drink?" and then a resounding silence follows, and the other part seems almost relieved and answers: "Yes, please; a gin on the rocks!"? And why do they always have one or more drinks cupboards in their homes? Is it an absolute necessity? Is it something we must take seriously when they are depressed and go to the bars, washing down “a few” drinks and talk about lovesickness with a bartender who reminds you more of an unemployed (and definitely underpaid) psychiatrist?

Dooley Wilson and Humphrey Bogart
from Casablanca (1942)
Well, it is probably a matter for the American film-makers that drinks and emotions belong together as Bonnie & Clyde; unseparable. But why? Is it really just typical American cinema - just like all the westerns, the American Dream theme and tough guys with big guns are typical style a la American?
What do you think? Why do you think alcohol somehow often plays a role in (mostly old?) American films? Does it transmit some unspoken feelings, just like e.g. smoking can give sex appeal? Does it have any certain symbolic meaning?




Being a non-smoker myself, I do not generally approve of smoking, but I have always find it fascinating in films and in the media. I do not believe it doesn't have any influence or symbolic meaning at all when smoking appears in the media, because kids do tend to copy their idols (sometimes in the most absurd ways) and if their cool idols smoke... Well, there is a pattern, don't you think?
Of course, back in those days (that is, the golden age of cinema) everybody smoked, the stars as well as the "common" people, and cancer wasn't really a subject you connected with smoking, anyway - at least not on the silverscreen or in the media. Practically all the film stars did commercials for cigarettes/tobacco back then. The awareness of the link between cancer and smoking was revealed much later and it was not until the late 1960s that an actor in Hollywood (and the first to do so), William Talman, made an anti-smoking commercial - just a few weeks before he himself died of lung cancer (!) ... That says quite a lot, doesn't it? I'd recommend to take a look at this interesting link to see more.


Still, as I mentioned, smoking cigarettes in the old black-and-white movies back then wasn't seen as something fatal and gross or as something simple and insignificant (at least it never came across that way), because when they did smoke - oh boy, it was the way they did it! Always in those smouldering, tantalizing, understated moments shrouded in mystery and looks filled with sexual power or tension (also a perfect way to skip the unnecessary talk and dodge the censorship of the time). Behind that ascending smoke a face could show everything and nothing of the owner's veiled desires and wishes and it gave both the counterpart and the viewer a good deal of time to read this mysterious face. I have always found these moments in film utterly intriguing and I seriously don't know what movies or perhaps especially film noir would have been without those little white sticks with the glowing ends.

To really give you an idea of what I mean, I'll show you one of the famous scenes from "To Have or Have Not" (1944) where Lauren Bacall lits a cigarette in a very sexy, subtle way while Bogie watches her with some very meaning looks. It's as always wonderfully direct without really being direct - because, hey, it's just a ciggy... Right? Take a look and see for yourself:



James Bond - The Phenomenon *UPDATED*



"Bond. James Bond."

007 alias JAMES BOND is a anti-hero, an icon, an artefact, created by a genius. James Bond is the epitome of coolness, elegance and masculinity. He has got the whole package: Excellent skills (e.g. cardplaying among many, many other things), guts, charm, manners, muscles, wits, intelligence, virility, good looks ...*sigh*...and the list goes on. Practically, everything the perfect spy - the perfect hero must have (and the perfect man ought to have). He is fictional, yet still a living legend. He is timeless, classic, erudite, sophisticated; a gentleman, yet not sinless; always with a wicked twinkle in his shrewd eyes, filled with sarcasm and sharp wit. He can be the devil-may-care kind of guy; incredibly dangerous, fearless, brutal and tough; an unscrupulous killer, faster than a panther and stronger than a ox. With the incredible and sought out ability to be where you least expect it; at times hidden in the shadows watching your every move, at other times in the spotlight and the centre of everyone's attention and fascination. A headache, yet a savior to his boss, feared by his enemies, loved by women, idolized and envied by men. He is untouchable, unresistable, unattainable, unpredictable, unmatched; he never seems to run out of neither weapons, gadgets, surprising new skills, sassy retorts, martinis (shaken, not stirred!), girls - nor lives. He is, sort to speak, a "man-of-all-work"; an extremely skilled chameleon who risks his life several times (though it never really is in any fatal danger) to kill the bad guy(s) and girls! He is the MAN who cannot be killed; the man with a thousand (if not more) lives and with a mischievous rumour that's arguably bigger than his experience with women...? (Uhh, well, yes, that's arguable.) His notorious relationship with women has caused controversy as well as sympathy throughout decades. No wonder with that gold-melting smile of his. Yet, no one really gets under the skin of him; he allows no one to get too close - and with good reason. Once really in love and once even married - both which ended tragically - hardened his heart, though his soft spot for women, particularly beautiful women, and, of course, Moneypenny, the Queen and country hasn't hardened. Luckily, we might say. If he wasn't who he is, who would then save the world time after time and be there whenever the human race is in need? 


The symbol, the atmosphere, the icon, the immortal subject, James Bond, captured my sweltering, eager heart already as a youngster and a cinephilia-rookie, and he will remain in my heart from this day forward.


The role as Bond has since the franchise's beginning been opted for Cary Grant - viewed by many as the ultimate Bond actor throughout time - and he even was the original choice by producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, but could (unfortunately) only be committed to one project, not the entire franchise as required. I tend to agree most of the way; Grant's elegant, witty and enigmatic persona, acquired good looks and physique, smooth charm and, of course, British nationality are all ingredients for the perfect Bond cocktail (shaken, not stirred). Yet, I have a hard time imagining him as one with a roguish streak which is also required of the character portrayal. Sure, he showed his 'darker side' somewhat in "Suspicion" (1941), but the thought of him getting down and dirty on the ground and mercilessly killing with his bare hands is something I simply never could picture him do. Even in "North by Northwest" (1959) or "Charade" (1963) - which were very Bond-esque - did he smoothly manage to avoid any major clashes of (raw) violence, as if he held himself above that kind of 'action', so to speak. Like a good ol' sport, he kept that impeccable, well-tailored suit of his intact throughout his career. Grant as Bond? Perhaps, but considering his age in '62 and that the above-mentioned 'superficial' likenesses between him and the character might not have been much more than superficial, I'm not sure he would have been that fit for the role. I'm not even sure he would have felt that fit himself. 


On that note, someone who had both the looks, elegance, charm and the right roguish qualities: My favorite Bond, of course, Sir Sean Connery. I can't get enough of that man; everything from his quick, lethal and elegant movements to his cool, laid-back mimic and expressions as if he was born for this role. Apparently, Fleming, though initially reluctant about the Scot, found himself impressed after meeting Connery on set. So impressed, in fact, that he afterwards wrote Scottish blood into Bond's ancestry. Talk about man-crush!

George Lazenby's Bond isn't bad either, as a matter of fact, but he's not as timeless as Sean's Bond - in my opinion. He had, albeit, the most classic of looks a man can have; like he had been literally pulled out from a comic book; a perfectly proportioned male specimen. There's also some resemblance to Cary Grant somewhere, isn't there? He definitely managed to carry the easy-going wit and charm that evokes Bond and give him charisma - which were a bit of a surprise since no one really expected him to be able to follow in Connery's inherently charismatic footsteps (being a Scot just gives you that quality, apparently).
However, the ones that followed were less impressive: Roger Moore was too much of a ham, getting too old for the role too quickly and never really being anything but a silly caricature of Bond. Timothy Dalton could perhaps portray one of Bond's distant, more sinister cousins, but not Bond himself (though some might argue Dalton's cynic Bond was closer to the Bond in the books). Pierce Brosnan acted well enough to some extent, managing to capture some of the old school Bond charm and humour as well as a more complex characterization, but sadly never really got the chance to explore this much further. Lastly, besides not looking like Bond at all (don't get me started), Daniel Craig does have the skills to become a quite good action-man, but again - not Bond. He is, admittedly, a better actor than the three prior colleagues, and able to carry the character into our modern world, but in my opinion he doesn't have the timelessness, panache and virility Sean transmitted as Bond, nor the lean class, elegance and obvious, mischievous charm. He is all beefy muscle and blond hair, to the point where I forget it is a Bond-movie I'm watching and I have to keep reminding myself that it is - which is really frustrating. 


Again, that's just a personal opinion. Anyhow, it's always easy to abandon the newcomers and tend to glorify the veterans, but I do feel Bond was a product of his time and though the music always was terrific (except "Quantum of Solace" - its theme is shamefully ghastly!), and, the fact that James Bond is an immortal legend, I believe that he should be kept in his original form; the archetype. I know it's a self-contradiction, because if he IS timeless, he must also keep up with time, right? However, in my nostalgic head he will always remain that wonderfully superficial, witty, well-dressed and yet fearless, mysterious, devilishly handsome, dark-haired English MI6 agent; ever the roguish gentleman and incorrigible ladies' man from the '60s, who's committed to his job and his queen and country.





I humbly thank Ian Fleming for creating such an epic icon, and the Broccolis, John Barry and everyone else involved for making James Bond come alive on the screen and thus immortalizing the phenomenon.

More gorgeous "James Bond and Sean Connery"-martini, shaken, not stirred? Then you should perhaps take a look at this interesting article (remember the second part of it)! Or perhaps this one! ;)
And last, but not least, here are some smoldering pictures of The Man himself:















Oh, and then again, not quite The End. There's a 'little' updated PS. You see, I realized I couldn't possibly write this piece with only compliments and no complaints (you know me) and leave out the fact that James Bond is probably one of the most notorious subjects of gender-related film critique.
Because, of course, one cannot look past Bond's blatant male chauvinism and basic disregard for the opposite sex whom he discards as often as he changes that impeccable white shirt of his. Not to mention, being overtly self-assured and downright smug about his own sexual prowess (he 'managed' to conquer Pussy Galore when the woman's playing for the other team - for Heaven's sake, Bond!).
"Let's not forget that he's actually a misogynist," Daniel Craig himself said about his character. That says it all, I think.
Being a self-proclaimed feminist myself, in the most diplomatic-passionate of terms, this fact has of course always nagged me in the back of my mind whenever I watched, laughed and enjoyed myself through hours of Connery-Bond's deliciously rolling Scottish lilt and glinting, mischievous eyes. The Scottish vortex of charm so easily sucks you in. As I've gotten older and embraced feminism in all of its complex aspects I've come to see James Bond in a new light since I wrote the above (rather glorifying) piece.


No matter what one has to say for the man, he is a bastard. Sure, a charming, funny and even silly bastard, but nonetheless a bastard. And it's quite interesting that these 'values' that seem to be the essence of Bond - clearly inseparable from the man and the myth - have managed to sell plenty of movie tickets throughout such tumultuous, radical changing political and social decades that followed after his arrival in the 1960s and, now, well into the 21st century. A time where critical awareness on these subjects - perhaps now more than ever thanks to new academic studies, not to mention various social and online media - has enhanced and pointed out just how outdated, unhealthy and misrepresentative these traditional, patriarchal and, frankly, stagnant views of how men are men and women are women truly are. People are simply tired of these archaic, bigoted values - especially concerning gender roles and race - still swirling in our life, culture and language. Hidden or not, they have simply stayed this way much too long and need to be reckoned with.

At least "Mad Men" (2007-2015) dared to take up this challenge; to face this 'wolf in sheep's clothes' and call a bastard for a bastard in regards to Don Draper - who is basically a James Bond type in many ways. The show - in contrast to the Bond movies - manages to draw critical lines across the ways society in Bond's cinematic birth years actually worked regarding the sexes, more so than glamorizing them (though this scale of balance can be debated).


I'm not saying that James Bond from now on should be an icon for cultural and structural change in that regard - if that is even possible, since he is and probably always will be an archetype of his time and more camp and entertainment than diversity and politics. The books were never meant to be more than that and mainly served as Ian Fleming's own subjective/selfish and partly autobiographic outlet (although he laid it on pretty thick). But I'm still prone to see icons, no matter their various contexts, as partly responsible for what they represent in the end. Especially for the coming generations. What do we want to leave on the map of legacy to guide them? And so I ask (again): Can Bond really work in the 21st century when he basically still sees women they way he does? Isn't he just too dated, too archaic in that aspect? Then again, name a blockbuster/cardboard action hero from prior decades that actually showed true esteem and respect for women with no romantic attachments developing along the way ... Nope, me neither. James Bond just predated them all and happened to have more class and style than the rest of them put together. Of course, he's the top dog. 




So, can you change the stripes of such a, uh, tiger? I don't know. I grew up adoring this man partly dewy-eyed, partly well aware of his own 'campiness' and obvious flaws, and there's still a part of me that enjoys 'a good tumble in the hay' with a good James Bond film, but now I'm a grown-up and I, inevitably, see certain things differently. 
So. You can still let Bond stay the entertaining icon he's always been as long as you keep in mind what he's actually an icon for - other than Fleming's legacy.





"Daniel Craig has not been given enough credit for taking a character who was a cardboard throwback even in the 1960s and playing him straight: as a wall-eyed, traumatised thug, a protagonist who is two-dimensional precisely because he is empty inside.

Craig animates the automaton that is Bond by asking just what it would take to make a person behave in this horrific way – and like any piece of well-done puppetry, the effect is sinister. Daniel Craig is the Bond we deserve, a Bond who takes seriously the job of embodying a savage yearning for a lost fantasy of the 1950s. It is about masculinity, yes, but also about Britishness, about whiteness and about heterosexuality, about the loss of certainty in all of these in a changing world."