Die Another Day [2002)

CGI, like fake boobs, does not age well.  But let us back up to all of the ridiculous indoctrination which precedes the failed geekery of late in the film.  This James Bond movie has many reeducation moments, but they emanate not from the North Korean characters but rather the film’s shadow auteurs.  Let me demonstrate.

“North Korea bad.  England good.  England also known U.K.  [ooga booga]  America friend U.K.  North Korea torture.  America and U.K. not torture.  [ooga-booga]”

Yes, dear friends…Hollywood considers you a bunch of fucking chimps.  And when it comes to films with a lot of heavy weaponry, you can bet the transnational military-industrial complex had a large role to play in the production.

North Korea hacked Sony?  Gimme a fucking break!  That was a self-inflicted publicity stunt.  The only problem is the collusion of intelligence services which are always tasked with finding the next suitable enemy.  The CIA, MI6, NSA, and every other alphabet agency in the Anglo-American “five eyes” network have become nothing more than glorified traffic cops…fulfilling their ticket quotas.

Why will the new world order fail?  Because they do not employ the best artists.  Sure, there are forgery artists on staff of these intel agencies, but not the artists needed to fool the world.  There are no Charlie Chaplins, no Orson Welles, no Pablo Picassos, no Igor Stravinskys…  And so the global elite circuitously churn out these propaganda films which age as fast as Cheez Whiz or Silly String. They count on audiences being stupid…both uneducated and willfully stupid (in combination).

Lee Tamahori actually does a worse job directing than Michael Apted did in the last half of the previous Bond film, though sadly the mise-en-scène is almost indistinguishable.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system (yay! free speech), let’s talk about what is salvageable.  Zao.  Diamond acne.  That’s pretty good.

Torture in the opening credits.  Very innovative (and true to the spirit of the first Bond novel Casino Royale).  Bond’s dereliction of duty (if it can be called that) echoes the wonderful message of License To Kill (1989), yet what follows is mostly hackneyed storytelling.

Halle Berry’s emergence from the ocean like the reincarnation of Ursula Andress circa 1962 seems to bode well, but it is simply a rare moment of excellence in a sea of shite.

Further indoctrination follows in that Berry is supposedly an NSA agent.  In all my years reading about the NSA (from James Bamford to Wayne Madsen), never have I encountered even a hint of the kind of agent she is purported to be.  This leads me to believe that the whole purpose was to make No Such Agency seem cool and acceptable knowing that the PATRIOT Act was now letting them eavesdrop the shit out of your lives.  They knew such a steamroller approach would eventually result in public backlash.  And it did.  NSA agent…  Gimme a fucking break…

And then of course there’s the nice little mention of Sierra Leone.  We’d be revisiting that country as “liberators” from a biowarfare agent called ebola before too long.

Yes, I know, dear reader:  these sound like the thoughts of a raving lunatic.  I urge you to investigate…really investigate.  Investigate to the point you are scared…and then investigate some more.  Can you afford it?  We dispossessed of the earth have nothing to lose.

I could talk about Madonna’s bad acting.  Actually, I like Madonna.  It’s just horrible fucking directing.  To the director’s credit, the scene seems pressured from above…like a goddamned product placement.

Graves ice palace looks like a cross between the Sydney Opera House and a frozen McDonald’s.  What a pathetic piece of set design.

Conversely, kudos to the thinkers behind the hypersonic wedding ring.

But these fucking car chases…it’s like Top Gear.  What a load of uncinematic crap!

It’s a pity Rosamund Pike had such a bollocks role.

This is just atrocious filmmaking.


The African Queen [1951)

For people who try to do the right thing, the world is a cruel place.  Ebola virus disease was named after the Ebola River in what is today the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Near the start of this film we see a hurried burial of the Methodist minister Samuel Sayer (played by Robert Morley).  That scene was filmed near the village of Biondo (DRC):  about 450 miles from the Ebola River.

In 1951 (and ostensibly 1914) it was the Germans who came to burn huts and round up the villagers of Rev. Sayer (most likely forcing the natives to become soldiers). In 1976 it was a strange virus which came to the region near the Ebola River to inflict terrible and mysterious suffering.

This tangent serves the purpose of relating our subject (an amazing piece of cinema) to the present times.  Our principal players (Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn) gradually made their way about 300 miles northeast to Lake Albert (actually further…to the Ugandan side), but not before many real and fictional travails.

Reality and fiction…  The Ebola River is the headstream of the Mongala River.  Fact.  The Mongala River is a tributary of the Congo River.  Fact.  Scenes of the African Queen (the boat) going over the falls were filmed at Ubundu (formerly Ponthierville) on the Lualaba River in the DRC using a model with tiny Bogart and Hepburn figurines.  Fact.  The Lualaba River is the greatest headstream (by water volume) of the Congo River.  Fact.  Ebola virus disease is a naturally occurring phenomenon.  Definitely maybe.

Everyone needs a little help from their friends.  Hollywood makes no pretense to being anything but a pretense–except when the projector is rolling.  The suspension of disbelief which is at the essence of fictional films requires audience participation.  Rarely have directors taken a different approach to the process, but one notable exception was Roberto Rossellini.  His version of Neorealism created a tributary in reverse (flooded by directors like Godard) which traced cinema’s roots back to the source:  truth.  Twenty-four times per second (historically) a frame was given its moment to shine.  The shift was imperceptible.  Through the phi phenomenon we perceive motion on the screen.

We see Charlie Allnut scratch his steamer beard.  We see Rosie Sayer transform from a teetotaling harmonium pumper into a war strategist for improvised explosives.  We laugh when Bogie monkeys around.  We swoon with the romance and gravity of it all.  We relate to Sisyphus as skipper–mired in mud and pulling his own ship with a rope.  After the Spar torpedoes eventually serve their purpose, we believe that our heroes swim to safety in Kenya.

But what we really learn is to not drink the water.  For director John Huston and Bogie it was whiskey all the way (while filming on location in Africa).  They were the only two not to succumb to dysentery.  Hepburn had to play the pump organ with a bucket nearby (in case she got sick).

Through immense struggle we learn not to drink the Kool-Aid.  I bet Humphrey Bogart wouldn’t have dismissed Dr. Leonard G. Horowitz without giving Emerging Viruses (1996) a fair shake.