Charlie and the Chocolate Factory [2005)

I was very apprehensive.

Because I loved the original so much.

1971.

Trying to remake one of the best films ever.

An unenviable task.

But Tim Burton was bringing it all back home.

1964.  Roald Dahl.

But let’s take a step further back.

Camp X.  Ontario.

“Established” December 6, 1941.

Yes.  You read that right.

The day before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

It was established by the “real” James Bond:  a Canadian by the name of William Stephenson.

His codename?  Intrepid.

He oversaw British intelligence, MI6, for the entire Western hemisphere during WWII.

(!)

Roald Dahl, the author of the children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was one of the men trained at Camp X (today known as Intrepid Park).

So it should go without saying that we are not dealing with just any children’s author.

And herein lies the secret of Tim Burton’s success.

He reimagined.

I fully expected full-on ball-tripping excess in homage to Mel Stuart’s “wondrous boat ride” of 1971, but Burton managed to restrain himself.

Indeed, the psychedelia of this film (and weirdness in general) is evident throughout almost every part of the film…EXCEPT THERE.

And so I must hesitantly call 2005’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory a masterpiece.

Against all odds.

It’s only fitting that the lead child actor who plays Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) was born on Valentine’s Day.

Yes Virginia, perhaps some things are fated.

Highmore is fantastic in a role created by Peter Ostrum.

And though we miss Diana Sowle and her priceless rendition of “Cheer Up, Charlie”, Helena Bonham Carter is quite magnificent in her limited scenes as the cabbage-cutting Mrs. Bucket.

But Tim Burton updates our story considerably to make it more relatable to the Harry Potter generation (and the service-industry pipe dream known as the “third industrial revolution”…for the “adults” in the crowd).

Yes, we needs must only revisit Eliyahu Goldratt’s “business novel” The Goal to remember the shortsighted “local efficiencies” which factory robots can produce.

By the way:  there’s a father Bucket.  And he runs into a patch of robot trouble.

Updated.

But Tim Burton does not stop there.  Whereas the original film focused tentatively on child  spies (remember the purloined Everlasting Gobstopper?), the film under review seems to situate itself amidst the full-scale industrial espionage (and, in particular, intellectual property theft) which the United States attributes to China.

But let us pay our respects here.

David Kelly was fantastic as Grandpa Joe.  Truly a wonderful performance!  And we are sad to have lost his talents in 2012.

Reading from back to front:

-our Augustus Gloop is somewhat forgettable (save for his Lowera Bowie hair tint)

-AnnaSophia Robb is appropriately snotty as the overachieving brat Violet Beauregarde  [How did Tarantino not hire this girl for his next refried kung-fu film?!?]

-Julia Winter (who strangely has no Wikipedia page) is really special as the mouthy tart Veruca Salt

-and Jordan Fry plays Mike Teevee (though they might as well have gone with “Hacker” Mike Xbox or some such first-person shooter sobriquet).

And that leaves us with the big dog himself:  Johnny Depp.

Stepping into some very big shoes.

Gene Wilder.  Taken from us just months ago.  A truly magical being.

And so Depp and Burton needed a strategy.

And it appears it was something like, “Ok, let’s make him weirder.  Like, lots weirder.  Remember those sunglasses Keith Richards wore on Between the Buttons?  And the hair like Brian Jones.  Prim.  Proper.  Rocker.  Ok, ok…but we want the Salinger recluse thing with some Prince or Michael Jackson oddity.  Purple velvet.  Ok, yes…we’re getting somewhere.”

Most striking, however, is Depp’s accent.  Very Ned Flanders…but possessed by the thoughts of Salvador Dalí.

But the Burton touch shows through.  That macabre glee.

A little cannibalism joke here.  “Which half of your child would you prefer?”

Oddities.

Though tempered by quick-tongued childlike wonder, Depp is still a rather darker Wonka than Wilder’s fatherly archetype.

Yes, Depp could fit fairly well into Kraftwerk (especially germane had Augustus from Düsseldorf won the grand prize).

Johnny and his purple latex gloves.

Not a touchy-feely Wonka.

Doesn’t even bother to learn the kids names.  [there’s only five]

Totally off his rocker.

Makes Gene Wilder’s Wonka seem like Mister Rogers in comparison.

But this is mostly secondary to the success of this film.

Tim Burton evidently didn’t feel making a true family film was beneath him.

And so, perhaps with a bit of inspiration from Wes Anderson, he made an immensely touching picture here.

Charlie Bucket is the kid we need in the world.

The chosen one.

The needle in the haystack.

And it is Wonka’s quest to find such a unique child.

Charlie almost gives up the ticket (sells it) to help his desperately poor family, but one of his four bedridden grandparents must have read Hunter S. Thompson at some point.  And so Charlie is convinced to “buy the ticket, take the ride” so to speak.

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Enter Deep Roy (Mohinder Purba) as ALL (and I mean all) of the Oompa-Loompas.

It is in the short (!) song sequences where Burton’s debt to David Lynch emerges.

Kind of like Danny Elfman’s debt to Tom Waits.

Comes and goes.

Burton, being the mischievous connoisseur of all things dark, manages to make Veruca’s exit an homage to Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren (albeit with squirrels).

Very inventive!

Sure, there’s some crap CGI in this film (not to be confused with the even more insidious Clinton Global Initiative), but it is generally restrained.

At a few points, it gets off the rails and threatens to damage an otherwise fine film.

But I tell you this…there are plot twists here which for someone who has merely seen the first film (like myself) truly baffle and surprise.

And they are touching.

So it is with no reservations that I call this a family film.

Sure, some of the jokes are a bit obtuse.

But the framing story (the Bucket family’s existence) is indescribably magical.

It is then, only fitting, that Christopher Lee be the one to welcome the prodigal oddball Depp.

Which is to say, this film has a sort of false ending…which is inexplicable…and genius.

It is at that moment where the film finds its soul.

Family.

Love.

Humility.

Sacrifice.

Happily, Burton gives us a fairy tale ending in which the young mind can work with the eccentric master…and the eccentric master can once again know what home is like.

Home.

Wow…

-PD

Un condamné à mort s’est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut [1956)

I wanted to write last night, but the Internet fell asleep.

This is one of my favorite films ever.

But I needed to rewatch it.  As I always do.  Every movie.

Real fear.

Real danger.

A long project.

Extracting yourself from the superjail.  The prison planet.

A Man Escaped.  We have it easy in English.

But witness the fullness of the French title.

It speaks to care.  Rope.  Hooks.  Months.  Of planning.

And it all started with a spoon.

Tin nor aluminum will do.  Neither.

We must wait for iron.

Steel?

Iron.  Hardness.

It’s World War II.

Today.  World War III.

And for the CIA, World War IV.

Chemists.  Physicists.  And now mathematicians.

Computer scientists.  Statisticians.

No, that’s post-War.  Japan.

But for now we are locked in a room of our own making.

If we can only get through the door.

tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap

tap tap tap tap

tap tap tap tap tap tap tap

Which isn’t to say, taps.

We must succeed at this chess game.

Playing against an adversary with few weaknesses.

Multiple layers of defense and surveillance.

Doors and locks and gates and bars.

And silence.

It is the silence which will betray us.

And so, Dr. No, we must slip our shoes off for a little putting practice.

It is a real battle.

CIA vs. FBI.  Refereed by the NSA.

NGA vs. NRO.  Chantilly lace vs. a pretty face.

A girl and a gun.

ASIS vs. DIGO.  Or dingo.

Rich.

ASCAP vs. BM.I

But let me back up to the kebab organization known as SHISH.

Apologies to Belgium.

But it is worth noting SV/SE vs. CSIS/SCRS.

Scissors.  Suckers.  A scissor.

A pair of scissors.

He would need more leverage.  The most overused word in business.

And as meaningless as “innovation”.

What they mean is “interesting”…that’s innovation.

And by false flag, “not what it seems”.

Dear NEADS in Rome (NY) uttered collectively the phrase of Baudrillard’s lifetime:

“Is this real-world or exercise?”

But we have remembered it as simulation.

Going over his escape a million times in his head.

With poor reconnaissance.

Except the dead would-be escapee.

“He’s practically free.”

“No one’s practically free.”

Jessica Lange, incredulous.

But she’s not in this movie.

She’s headed to Roswell.

Named after Yale graduate Roswell Rudd.

A little town in New Mexico.

Out of time.  Mind.

CSE vs. GCHQ.  Or CSEC.

An animal with five eyes has no competition.

Within himself.  The owls are not what they seem.

Fifth wheel.  Hokey pokey.

Valuable antipodes.

And RCMP vs. FBI.  Horses.  Or moose.

Hippopotamus.  POTUS.  Not amused.

DND seems incorrect.

What was Fontaine in for?

And Jost?

DIPOLCAR.  Position.

MSS vs. RSS.  Seems so simple.  Really simple!  And so complex.

Pledged ΚΥΠ.

But the division.

ÚZSI vs. UZI.  Sounds dangerous.

With PET we get to canned milk or breaking wind.

A lovable Lego intelligence agency.

Of one.

Just one?

KaPo vs. capo.  Vs. ligatura.

Hitchcock’s rope vs. Bresson’s rope.

For this is Robert Bresson.  The movie.  Under consideration.

SUPO vs. sumo.

But we really get fired up by DGSE.

And it’s only appropriate.

DGSE vs. BND.

The only war which has ever been fought.

Das Fenster vs. la fenêtre.

The most delicate element of escape.

A crack in the breeze.

SIN vs. voodoo of all sorts.

GRLS.  Girls?  Gorillas?  Scalded ape?

When you need headache relief quick.  Choose BAINTELKAM!

A Buddhist temple with a surrounding population 95% Muslim.

Amazing.  Elton John.

MOIS.  Ooh…  Now we are getting serious.

Putting the me in month.

And of course “the Institute” (moving alphabethically).

Lisping along.

How will you project your escape.  Like Desargues.

And Poncelet.

The movie camera.

Go directly to jail.

Whale song matryoshka.

AISE.  Must be the coolest.  Standard issue Ferraris.  And meals in Modena.

Like Matthew Broderick’s brief moment of cool in Election.

Gid Tanner and his Skillet-Lickers…coming to the Kingdom of Jordan…real soon.

SREL.  Sreally?  That’s SRAL.  Like SalvaDali.

CISEN as sí señor.

Not quite hermeneutics.

FIB vs. SIN.

PST.  Masters of recruitment.

And FOST vs. SIE.

The big daddy ISI vs. ailleurs.

The canal of SENIS.  Central American zipper.

Could have been Lake Nicaragua.

AW 🙂 Georges Sand approaching Chopin with flowers.

He was a woman.  Mr. Sandman.

SIRP vs. usurp.

SVR vs. GRU. [now we’re making some sense]

And DEVGRU vs. GRU.

GIP is priceless.  One letter from perfection.

VOA vs. VOA.

NISA vs. NASA.  And the incomparable skills of PIS.

In joint operations with SENIS.

CITCO vs. Citgo.

Must it be?  It must be.  It MUST be.

And back to our MI6 and DIA and ONI.

These are the thoughts of a man in jail.

Where having a pencil is punishable by firing squad.

And so he builds his hope on escape.

From the mundane.

He is a true soldier.

Though he be stripped of any recognition.

Wisdom is that final step.  On a journey which started with mere data.

 

-PD

Orphée [1950)

The philosopher has very little advantage.

Because the model and reality do not match up.

One-to-one.

And the oaf stands strictly no chance.

To understand mythology transposed onto plagiarism.

In the ancient world, it was the opposite of a crime.

Get the story right.  Same with medieval scribes.

There was no author.  There was only the story.  And perfect copies.

And perhaps the occasional illumination.

The glass of water that lights the world.

It’s Cary Grant.

Something about sitting in a bowl of milk.

Impossible to tune out the bourse.

Always the radio, but never the gloves.

Mirrors, or course.

Ravel.  Versailles.  Quite proximate.

But the erudition must lead somewhere.

And it does.

Heurtebise must look on.

He must spectate.

A strange sort of unrequited love.

Like the Watchers.  Breeding Nephilim.

It’s not all Elysian fields here.

It’s Nazi death.  and Death.

Stylometry squelches outliers only through aggregative loss of dimensionality.

Whew!

I need a drink after that one 🙂

But I don’t drink.

Death doesn’t drink.

Oh, to work for Death.

Taking orders.

Reporting.

Reprimanded.

The greatest transgression in this profession?  Love.

For love seeks to reverse the natural order.

Not even necessary to go as deep as Hell.

A mere gravedigger can get the picture.

Olfactory.  Not the new one.

Pre-Industrial Revolution.

You remember, right?

The English Revolution 🙂

Oh, wait…no, that never happened.

Not yet.

Happy Birthday Betty, you old hag!

We worship you down at MI6.

That’s not the royal “we” nor even a meaningful “we”.

It’s a disembodied imagination.

Remote viewing, if you must.

From beyond the dead.  Jean Cocteau.  One of the greatest film directors ever.

Because he was a complete creator.

Squiggle graphs like Miró.

Joan was a man.  Of ark.

And Georges is just one guy in France.  In America he is two fellows.  Two chaps in U.K.

George 1 and George 2, making Georges.

Georges Bizet.

And I must mention the composer of Orphée.  Georges Auric.

One of Les Six.  Satie’s bunch.

Not to be confused with The Five (Могучая кучка).  Cui’s quint.

Mere king to Balakirev’s ace.

And so you are condemned to extend metaphors throughout all eternity.

Long, ridiculous connections.

Until at last you are free.

And whether it is a table of Inquisitors or Nazis, you can do good and receive the ultimate punishment.

You might feel compelled to do good.

In that tiny particle is the answer which we seek.

Invisible, but tactile.

Almost a splinter.

A proof of a beyond.

 

-PD

How I Live Now [2013)

I have a keen eye for bullshit.  But only in certain areas.

We all have our specialties.  We all have our areas of knowledge.

Just to be clear, this film is not bullshit.  This is quite a good film.

But there is an element of this film which is pure propaganda bollocks.

I’m very sensitive to propaganda.  Allergic, you might say.

On the one hand, I can sniff out a false-flag a mile off.

On the other, I make a habit of rewatching James Bond films.

No one is totally immune to propaganda.

It takes a deep understanding of the self to assess what is really going on.

Movies, music, literature, painting…all of these arts play on the emotions.

Artists are ALL emotionally intelligent insofar as their lexicon of emotional triggers is robust and bursting at the seams.

This does not mean that artists are well-adjusted.  Rather, the reality is often quite the contrary.

In this film, our heroine Saoirse Ronan is not at all well-adjusted.

Upon first seeing her arrive at the airport (our film’s first scene) we assume she might be some kind of pop star.

The reality is that she’s merely a spoiled brat from America who’s pilfered Devendra Banhart’s stylist.

Yes, Daisy (Ronan) has quite a look here.  She oozes “hip” from the outset.  She also oozes the angst of conflict.

An angry girl.  Never knew her mother.  Voices in her head.  On psychotropic medication.  Hypochondriac.

It is hard to confront this film without knowing that it is “post-apocalyptic” (such a buzzword in the less-talented cadres of Hollywood).

Being so informed, we notice as Daisy’s plane lands in scene #1 that Paris has been bombed.  It looks serious.

Daisy seemingly couldn’t care less.

And just where has she landed?  Somewhere in England or Great Britain.

And so off to the country to stay with cousins for the summer.  Not her usual routine.  First time to visit these relatives.

The story is powerful.  The story is lovely.  The acting is tremendous.

But slowly the bullshit creeps in and cannot be ignored.

And just what bullshit of propaganda has this film swallowed to then spit out at us?

Terrorism.  The oogly-boogly bogeyman of hidden hand terrorism.

It is all very unimaginative.  There is nothing here to indicate that the writers or directors have ever gotten their news from

anyplace other than the BBC or CNN.

Though they never say “Islamic terrorists,” the frightfully dumb premise is advanced with absolutely no critical thinking evident.

In other words, if this film was a religion, its Bible would be the 9/11 Commission Report (the layman’s title).

And so these terrorists with magical powers somehow invade an otherwise fine movie.

It is like the Red Scare.  The terrorists are everywhere.  They’re unstoppable.  Ha…

It is really sad when such hackneyed brainwashing passes for erudition.

And so, in some ways this film is no better than Fox News.  Sure, films are allowed to take poetic license and “play” on our fears.

But in our current world, the stakes are too high to sink millions of dollars into vehicles such as this which merely reinforce the lies of the fraudulent global war ON terror.

How many times must it be repeated that terror cannot be fought with more terror?

That is like aiming to eliminate the scourge of forest fires by burning the flames themselves.  Ludicrous.

But we do not simply refer to the error of approach.

The fundamental truth is that the war on terror is a charade.

There is big money to be made by blaming Islam for all the world’s evils.

And as Islamic countries are plundered we see the cowed world populace let their brothers and sisters in the Middle East be sacrificed for an inhuman system which needs total control to expand.

It really is, then, a joke to talk about free markets.

And so, to put it succinctly, we have many intelligence agencies to “thank” for our current imbroglio.

The American CIA must certainly take a bow.  The NSA likewise should be recognized for their part in the global reign of terror.

But let us not leave out Mossad.  Cui bono?

But really, it takes a village of intelligence agencies to raise the demonic child known as ISIS.  And so we must thank James Bond’s MI6.  We should likewise not leave out the Saudis and Pakistan’s ISI.

The artist formerly known as al-Qaeda (now rebranded as ISIS) has been very useful to the Western powers.

Russia and China had the opportunity to call bullshit long ago, but they squandered that moment.  And now the world really is closer to WWIII.

It is not easy to pay attention to a film which gives credence to fake terrorism.  Fake terror.  Synthetic terrorism.  False-flag terrorism.

But all is not lost.

Someone (perhaps director Kevin Macdonald) has at least read his Orwell.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, things go very badly for all involved when lies become truth.  When self-inflicted attacks precipitate martial law…

And so the British troops in this film are not portrayed in a propagandistic light.  Quite the contrary, they display the insolence of misplaced power.  Power upon which there are no checks…

The government troops in this film are paranoiacs with automatic weapons.  Sound familiar?  Yes.  We are told that such types are a menace to society (and they are).  Unfortunately, your tax dollars are paying their salaries.

But this is not about military bashing.  To extrapolate from the statements of NSA whistleblower Wiliam Binney, it’s only in the upper 15% where you see the real hardcore corruption.  What do we mean “corrupt”???

Those who would sell their own country out.  The moles in the FBI and CIA who allowed and facilitated (respectively) 9/11.  The high-ranking military and government officials who were likewise moles.  The highest level.

And so we have great sympathy for our military men and women knowing that their corrupt leaders (at the very top) have no real allegiance to country or fellow soldier.  There are exceptions, but consider the words of Binney.  The top 15%…that is where the real culprits are.  They are among the good leaders.

But this begs a question:  does one have to be a scumbag to advance to such echelons of power?  I’m afraid the answer may very well be a resounding “yes”…  And so, at the upper level of governments, intelligence agencies, militaries, etc. we are faced with finding the lesser of evils.  We would much prefer adulterers, drug addicts, etc. to psychopathic criminals.

I will be the first to admit that my diatribe is not really fair to this film.

This is quite an excellent film.  But artists cannot play with gelatinous archetypes like “terrorism” and expect a free pass.

There is glorious acting in this film (for Christ’s sake).

It pains me to write so much about the premise.

For fuck’s sake, don’t copy the fear-mongering of Fox News.  Those “journalists” will have their Nuremberg.  They will have no press passes.  They’ll be on the stand.

Don’t sully yourself in that stream.  Look at your box office.  $60,213.  Sixty-thousand measly dollars!  If you had put Ronan and George MacKay in a room together with no script they would have surpassed the trite constraints laid upon them (presumably) by Meg Rosoff’s novel. Dear Rosoff:  whatever paper you read, cancel the subscription.

-PD

Quantum of Solace [2008)

Early.  “Dame” Judi Dench.  Threat of extraordinary rendition.  Not cool.

Doesn’t seem to bode well.  Are we about to be served a helping of steaming-shit propaganda?

No.  Not quite.  Thank heavens!

Earlier.  Another fucking car chase.  God damn it, if I wanted to watch Top Gear I’d have stayed home with a cup of PG Tips!

But by the grace of all that’s good and right in the world (hyperbole watch), Marc Forster has done the impossible:  a good (not great) follow-up to the best Bond film of all-time.

As of 2006.

Tagged banknotes.  D. B. Cooper.  An alias.  It was 1973 when this bizarre skyjacking took place in the Pacific Northwest.  The FBI had the forethought to make a microfilm photograph of all of the ransom money turned over to Mr. Cooper.  That’s a lot of photographs in a short amount of time, don’t you think?  10,000 unmarked 20-dollar bills. L.  Federal Reserve.  San Francisco.  Series 1969-C.  In a matter of hours…10,000 individual photographs?

By 2008, we doubt such modes of tracking considerably less.  And so, by hook and crook, we end up in Haiti.  This is where we first meet Olga Kurylenko.  Bolivian Intelligence.

And then the subtle subplots come in waves.  We are shown the duplicity of the CIA.  To wit, a CIA which is deceiving its partners the MI6.

It is all so very applicable to the adventures of one Ms. Victoria Nuland.  But it goes all the way back (at least) to the ouster of one Mr. Mosaddegh in 1953.  Particularly, it extends to the present allegations of U.S. military (and contractors) raping children in Colombia.  It goes to the adventures of one Mr. George Soros.  It leads right up to the ridiculous pronouncement of Venezuela as a threat to American national security.

Nisman.  Nemtsov.  Shady activities to undermine democracy in Argentina and Brazil.  Warnings from Ecuador that American intelligence is attempting to overthrow any government which does not declare fealty to the United Corporations of America.

We will eventually get to Russia…or they will get to us.

São Paulo.  Veolia Environnement.  Suez Environnement.  Water.  Drought.

We tend to view very few world events as accidents anymore (knowing what we know about history).  It was 9/11 which taught us that things aren’t always what they seem.  And as we dug deeper into declassified documents, we realized how long this charade has been going on.  And now, with immensely powerful technology at their fingertips, the most unscrupulous world leaders are in a position to stage just about anything (with a little help from the military component of their industrial complex).

I must hand it to director Forster:  though the earpieces were brilliant, it was the strains of Tosca which made the mute shootout so artful.

Another soft undercurrent:  a Special Branch bodyguard protecting a member of an international crime syndicate.  No wonder the work of intelligence agencies is so difficult!  Politicians make deals with unsavory characters and thereby endanger the safety and futures of their citizens.  Oh, sure…we are made to believe that this is all in the process of pursuing the lesser of evils, but as Mary Parker Follett said, “Authority should go with knowledge…whether it is up the line or down.”  That means that in many cases, politicians should get out of the way of the NSA, CIA, MI6, etc.

It’s a shame Strawberry Fields couldn’t remain with us longer.  At least she gets a good trip in! Her death, however, is a rather unimaginative twist on Goldfinger.  Nice try, gents.

But all is forgiven because of the Mathis death which precedes this.  When seeing the old agent dead in a dumpster from a high, circumspect vantage point, we think of Bill Buckley in Beirut and even the strange death of John P. Wheeler III.  We think of the MITRE Corporation.  We wonder about all those filthy neocon roaches that have managed to keep their clawed positions in government (Nuland). But mostly we realize that death in a dumpster is the true romanticism of being a secret agent.  This is the disconnect between reality and fiction:  James Bond will never end up dead in a dumpster.  He is, actor by actor, immortal.  Or rather, his lifespan depends on the British-American power which persists.

If the Russians were to win, we might be seeing more Stierlitz films.  Though Vyacheslav Tikhonov and Georgiy Zhzhonov are gone, that spirit would procede.

In James Bond we have the remnants of the British Empire (and the American spoils of WWII known as Hollywood).

In Quantum of Solace we again find the trend which started at least as early as the excellent License to Kill (1989):  divine insubordination.  You do not have to obey an unjust order.  An unjust law is no law at all.  St. Thomas Aquinas (from St. Augustine).  Natural law.

Jeffrey Wright displays this admirably in his portrayal of CIA agent Felix Leiter.  And of course Daniel Craig as Bond…the epitome of insubordination.  Bond can get away with it because he is that talented.  Few are these mythical supermen.

Forster manages a touchingly real moment when Craig shields and comforts Kurylenko amid the flashback flames.  It reminds us of Bond’s humanity in the egg-shell poignant scene of Casino Royale when Craig joins Eva Green beneath the interminably therapeutic cascade of a distraught shower…sitting down, fully clothed…that distant, vacant look of fear in her eyes as she shivers.

And with this we congratulate the James Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli for stringing together these two films in such a genius manner.

We end in Kazan.  Not Elia Kazan.  May God spare us the dick-measuring contest of Minuteman III and Topol-M.

-PD

The 39 Steps [1935)

Oh, to be a spy.  At once the dream of the adventurous and the curse of the actualized.  Why?  Why does Robert Donat let Annabella Smith come home with him from the music hall???  Perhaps it is her allure…  Her strange foreign accent.  Once you take the first step, the case collapses to become a chute…a slide.

Perhaps Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) was simply curious.  We know how the cat ended behaving thusly…

Perhaps Hannay was horny?  It was, after all, 1935…things were lightening up a bit.  No Tinder, but still…one might luck out at the music hall.

Well, Hannay has the misfortune of true cloak and dagger.  Annabella Smith…Hannay asks if she’s ever heard of persecution mania?  Yes, a good question until she comes stumbling from the kitchen with a knife in her back.

And so Hannay sees her fears materialize before his very eyes.  Sure, she could have stabbed herself in the back, but it’s not bloody likely!  And what’s this?

Her last words…cryptic…and a map of Scotland clutched in her hand.

Hanney has become a believer.  It is that moment when hypothetical (suppose she’s right?) becomes, to a certain extent, proven.

No time to split hairs quibbling…she makes it clear with her last breath:  they killed me and you’re next.

Why trust?  Perhaps the spy becomes tired.  She is, after all, a mercenary in a foreign country.  Yes, she is protecting the Kingdom, but for a price…  Her homeland is elsewhere.

And so an act of transference occurs.  Robert Donat now bears the burden of a secret…a hint of a secret…a trail.

He has a couple of choices.  The decision he makes ends up saving his life, yet it is completely counterintuitive.

He decides to get the hell out of there.  Annabella Smith is dead on the bed.  Hanney makes a deal with the milkman (1935) and creeps off towards the train station.

To Scotland.

Things begin to go very hard for Mr. Hanney.  He is pursued relentlessly.  A daring escape from a train stopped on a bridge brings him eventually to the Scottish moors and the village circled on Annabella’s map.

On the way he must overnight with a farm couple…  The man of the house is an overbearing null…the woman, an angel trapped in an unhappy provincial cage.

This is really the beginning of the James Bond idea.  In 1935, they shared but a kiss.

Now, if you have made it this far you will be spared further spoilers…because that is not the purpose of my site.  This isn’t Cliff’s Notes.

We must talk of the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States.  Perhaps you have noticed the news element of my homepage?  It is really not fair to criticize our CIA…it is too easy.  There can be no doubt as to the difficulty of their work.

As a citizen of the USA I have dreamed of being a secret agent…just as many people do.  It would be a treasonous dream for me to wish employment by the MI6.  I am not British.  So my thoughts have turned now and again to my own country’s external intelligence organization.

Oh, I am too old to be a covert agent…too out of shape to have a fistfight with a Daniel Craig type.

But we remember certain things from our readings.  Wall Street = CIA.  This was Michael Ruppert’s assertion in his excellent book Crossing the Rubicon.  May Mr. Ruppert rest in peace.  No doubt he tried to do the right things during his time on this earth.  It was not until recently that I learned of his death.

Perhaps I began studying business as a roundabout way to court adventure.  There is no doubt that my future is not on Wall Street.  In fact, I don’t see much future at all.

Why?  Because I am like Robert Donat’s character in this film.  I can’t leave well-enough alone.  Killing in self-defense or in the defense of others can be honorable, but stretched to its limits by tenuous connection it eventually becomes murder.  When I read about the leading intelligence agencies of the world, I get the whiff of murder.  I get the scent of those who are “just following orders”…just like those good little Nazi soldiers.

It is this thirst for justice which makes me unemployable.  I know it.

And so I soldier on.  I do my cardio.  I lift my weights.  I study my texts.  I enrich my mind.

I am just a loner with my films.  I would like to contribute, but I was born of no prestigious family.  I don’t speak Dari or Pashto.

There are two camps of which I wish to be part of neither.  Camp one holds that everything America does is just and good. Camp two holds that nothing America does is just nor good.

I do not wish for a clean slate.  It is not possible.  Those who wish for the collapse of society are fools.  They are wishing for their own death and are far too optimistic about the practicality of starting over.

Now, dear film lover…you must be asking what this has to do with The 39 Steps.

Mr. Memory.

Office of Strategic Services.

Office of the Coordinator of Information.

Robert Sherwood.  movie critic.  Vanity Fair.  Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley.  Algonquin Round Table. Rebecca and Foreign Correspondent.  Hitchcock.  Yes, it is a tenuous link.

Continuing…

Admiral John Godfrey.  “M”

Centre for Spastic Children, Chelsea.

…and finally

William Stephenson (c’est-à-dire) James Bond

the Icelandic orphan

alluded to in Casino Royale (2006)

to wit

British Security Coordination

Camp X (Whitby, Ontario) [the original Farm]

Ian Fleming, Roald Dahl

Rockefeller Center (35th and 36th floors of the International Building)

under the cover of British Passport Control Office

For better or worse, CIA is MI6.  Where does one stop and the other begin?  To what extent is this a private army for the corporate members of the Council on Foreign Relations (Royal Institute of International Affairs)?

Surely we’re all playing by the Chatham House rules here, aren’t we, gents?

-PD

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.

-PD

GoldenEye [1995)

This one starts really bad.  Bollocks bad!  But let’s face it:  there may be nothing more difficult in this world than making a great James Bond movie.  Many have tried.  Few have succeeded.  It is an unenviable task because the series is so laden with baggage.  And so this installment definitely has the feel of a “comeback” (what with the six years in between episodes).  Bringing Bond into a new age is a daunting endeavor.

I don’t know if it helps or hurts that the six-year gap is accompanied by a new 007.  Pierce Brosnan starts a little vanilla, but he heats up throughout the course of this picture.  Judy Dench is powerful in her limited screen-time as M:  head of MI6.  Overall, Martin Campbell does a fine job directing this addition to the legacy.  But it’s not all roses.

Bond’s getaway stunt in the Pilatus PC-6 Porter seems to defy the laws of physics.  To wit:  the plane is flying almost straight down and yet Brosnan catches up to it in freefall.  Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the heavier object (the plane) would fall at least as fast as Bond (the other object:  human) especially since the human has no propeller attached to his head.  I am not an expert on the law of falling bodies (if you can call it that).  What a drag!  Per second, per second.

But we suspend disbelief as a matter of course for these films (or else we don’t watch).

Mercifully, a convincing villain enters the picture after some further pointless meanderings and baccarat.  Simply put, Famke Janssen is what Grace Jones should have been in A View to a Kill.  That’s no disrespect to Jones.  Grace cut a much more iconic figure, but Janssen’s sadomasochistic character and her immersed portrayal of the same make for much more enthralled viewing in this respect.

But another problem presents itself with the helicopter theft.  Supposing that Severnaya (in the film) is the same as Severnaya Zemlya (both are Siberian/Russian arctic), then we are talking about a 3000 mile trip from Monte Carlo in a chopper.  That’s a lot of gas.  It’s just a clunky bit of storytelling.

But again Famke Janssen comes to the rescue with her wargasm reaction to machine-gunning a bunch of Russian cyber-defense workers.  Yes, it’s like something out of the poetry of Ed Sanders.  In fact, her bloodlust with an automatic weapon mirrors Christopher Walken’s in A View to a Kill.

But one young programmer escapes.  All it takes is one.  Izabella Scorupco is really fantastic in this film…especially as she tries to make her way out of the destroyed space weapons base.  Her acting throughout is very convincing.

Janus.  Films.  It’s a nice touch on the part of the writer Michael France.  Kinda like Joe Don Baker.  We remember him vaguely as Brad Whitaker (the villain) from The Living Daylights, but here we see the other face:  Jack Wade of the CIA.  Sneaky device there.  Perhaps.

But most likely it was just to reward a member of the Bond family with another role.  Who can forget Maud Adams in her two Bond series roles (nine years apart).

Robbie Coltrane is great in his tiny role.  It’s kinda like the Bond girl innuendo…Onatopp.  You have to look for it.  It’s there, but it’s no Pussy Galore.

Really, it is a shock when we find out what happened to 006.

But again, the “death by Tiger helicopter” scene is pretty preposterous.  This Janus guy certainly has a moronic streak in him…even if he is creative.

Gottfried John is pretty damned convincing in this film as well.

What’s not convincing (though it is entertaining) is Pierce Brosnan driving a tank.  Or rather, how is this tank keeping pace with a powerful sedan?  The Guinness record for a tracked vehicle (tank tread) is 51 mph.  Suffice it to say that this scene really stretches the bounds of reality.  The funniest part is that Brosnan’s hair is never messed up.  It’s perfect even though he plows through walls…kicking up concrete dust.  We never see him close the hatch, yet not a speck of white on him (though the tank be littered with bricks and other debris from the endless rampage of cavalier driving).

The armoured train is a nice touch (though it only figures into a brief portion of the film).

The EMP theme is still relevant, but the film pays a strange homage to the Star Wars franchise in the end struggle on the antenna structure (a rather tasteless bit of copying).  This is balanced out with some nice fight scenes which are some of the best in any Bond film.

I should really mention Sean Bean.  He is pretty damned good in this flick.  It’s funny that he later plays essentially the same role in National Treasure.

One brilliant bit is that with the pen grenade. This might be director Campbell’s finest moment in the film.  Brosnan plays it perfectly…reminding us that attention to detail can make all the difference.

It’s too bad Alan Cumming had to be the bad guy (though his name perfectly fits the perverted Boris character).  I guess he wasn’t inwincible after all.  Haha!  And don’t forget Minnie Driver singing “Stand by Your Man” with a Russian accent.

-PD

B

The Living Daylights [1987)

It has been famously noted that it took thinkers Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell 86 pages (not to mention the entire Volume I) of their three-volume Principia Mathematica to prove that 1+1=2.  The James Bond franchise is similarly long-winded due in part to its serial nature, yet some poignant geopolitical nuggets of knowledge do “explode within the spectacle” to quote Guy Debord.  However, we are best served for this Bond installment to remember those words of Ira Gershwin from George’s “Love Is Here To Stay” that “in time the Rockies may crumble/Gibraltar may tumble.”  George Gershwin wouldn’t live to see the fruit of his labors as he died from a brain tumor at the tender age of 38 before The Goldwyn Follies (1938) was released with Kenny Baker singing the classic melody which George had crafted…

Our film begins in the skies above Gibraltar.  Yes, that strange entrance to the Mediterranean which traces its present “ownership” back to a Hapsburg pretender and the Treaty of Utrecht (1713).  Though it is a picturesque start, it may seem rather inconsequential to the movie as a whole.  However, it is a germ–a microcosm of what the film proceeds to spin out.  Down on “the Rock,” an MI6/SAS drill is “flipped” by a Soviet infiltrator.  Flipping drills (going “live”) has been a noted hallmark of false flag terror attacks in the past 15 years, however the ones doing the flipping have almost certainly been the ones running the drills (military/intelligence).  Drills serve “nicely” to provide a net of plausible deniability…i.e., “Hey, we were just running a drill.”  In flipping a drill, simulated elements (such as a fake bomb) become real elements.  [“Real bullets” as they say in The Three Amigos.]  This sort of funny business has been going on at least as early as the 1993 WTC bombing.  Other, more sophisticated operations would follow.

The salient point for our film is false flag activities.

I must take pause a moment to note that my computer shut itself down as I was delineating a particularly pithy detail of false flag operations.  This gives me pause because it calls to mind all number of the dark arts…from Stuxnet to the obviously fake “North Korean” hacking of Sony.  Ah, yes…  We all walk a thin line.  Who am I to be preaching about scruples?

Ah, well…what we have here is a film.  I was apprehensive about Timothy Dalton, but he really was superb in this (thus my fears were unfounded).  Maryam d’Abo is so stunning and adorable in this flick.  The living daylights…fear.

Scare.  Bully.  Frighten.  Sometimes a good scare can me merciful.  Kyrie.  But take a look back at the “strategy of tension” in Italy.  Take a look back at those falsely-attributed bombings (false flags).  Look up Gianfranco Sanguinetti.  Learn how Aldo Moro was threatened by Henry Kissinger.  Learn how the Italian government found out that the bombings were actually carried out by NATO intelligence.  It was called Operation Gladio.

Yes, in the service of protecting “liberty,” many atrocities have been committed.  If you have never drawn even a momentary parallel between the state of Israel and the Nazis (that would be, to clarify, the Palestinians now in the role the Jews occupied circa WWII), then your imagination may not be operational.  This aspect of imagination is not one of fantasy, but rather conceptualization.  Abstraction.  Analogy.

But really, I’m just a bloke with a crappy laptop, so what do I know?  One person can’t change the world, right?  Every platform from Facebook to WordPress is infiltrated and screened…keywords which don’t make it through the digital sieves then mark a person or blogger as insurgent.

Ah, that word.

But what we have here is a film which goes from Gibraltar to Afghanistan.  We see the raw opium.  We hear the phrase mujahidin.  We see an Oxford-educated character leading a branch of resistance against the Soviets. We see Operation Cyclone in full effect.  And thus, we see what 9/11 was really about (as regards Afghanistan).  Of course some other details must be alluded to, such as when our Soviet defector is smuggled out of Czechoslovakia via the Trans-Siberian Pipeline into Austria.  And the cherry on top would be to read today’s front page news that according to some estimates the U.S. “war on terror” has cost $14 million an hour since its inception.  Where do you think all of that money is going?

Brad Whitaker.  The character played by Joe Don Baker.  That is the final detail.  Weapons.  Arms.  Planes.  Helicopters.  Any intelligent person incapable of drawing some startling conclusions based on the simplest of displays (a double feature of Wag The Dog and J.F.K. for instance) really has a problem with logic.

Ah, but it’s no use against normative/positive purists.  The battle lines have been drawn.  What you are reading is one of the closest things to what was formerly known as “the media.”  In deference to Ralph Waldo Emerson, I will be willing to admit I was wrong (in the strongest of language) should that prove to be the case.  My zeal from watching a rather vacuous-but-enjoyable adventure film stems from an urgency that something is exceedingly rotten in “Denmark.”

I could mention a dozen books which would make The Living Daylights more poignant viewing, but none of them are film criticism.  And so I shall leave you with but one…the best on the subject.  9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA by Webster Griffin Tarpley.

-PD

The Host [2013)

Science fiction is often a metaphor…and this movie is about the national security state (whether it knows it or not).  It would be easy to fault this film for its trite trappings, but if one has reason to give the film a chance…  My reason was Saoirse Ronan.

I remember being a big fan of Thora Birch after seeing Ghost World.  [I’m still a big fan.]  The lengths to which film fans go to see their favorite players is sometimes remarkable.  My admiration went so far as to watch Dungeons & Dragons (2000).  Boy, I wish I could get those 107 minutes back!

I can’t echo the same sentiment about The Host.  This is truly a fine film.  Granted, it is a pale imitation of Hanna (2011), but I believe that Hanna will stand as one of the best films of all time.

What we do have is a dystopian “failure to communicate.”  This is essentially the problem with the national security state.  No reasonable person can seriously believe that the men and women of the CIA, NSA, and other such agencies are truly sitting around frying up babies on spits.  The problem is that the technology has far outstripped the human skills of these agencies.  For every action which is automated–every process given over to a computer…these agencies lose the war they think they are winning.

When agencies such as MI6 and Mossad no longer have popular support, their days are numbered.  The American intelligence community has failed to recognize that the war is not against “terrorists,” but rather for Americans.  “Hearts and minds” went the old phrase…  The world’s most powerful intelligence agencies are losing the human relations race almost as much as they are losing the information race.

Every once in a while there is a crack in this monolithic façade.  Not so long ago, Zbigniew Brzezinski (perhaps inadvertently) blurted out the real score of both the information and interpersonal communications races during a speech in Canada (Toronto, I believe).  It may have been a Council on Foreign Relations function, but really:  who cares?  The sentiment was echoed on the floor of Congress some years back by Hillary Clinton.  Whether explicit or not, these cracks indicate the panic of highly intelligent and heavily-invested players on the world stage.

Technology brings with it a certain uncertainty:  an undefinable amount of risk.  The same can be said of democracy.  It is no wonder that certain American Founding Fathers (Alexander Hamilton, for instance) felt ill at ease about the prospect of “government by the people.”  But this fear only shows weakness.  When power is fearful, power shows its ass.  Obverse and reverse.  We are used to seeing the obverse, but we must remember there is a man behind that wizard curtain.

Diane Kruger impressed me with her articulate acting in the National Treasure movies.  Here, she represents the sheen of the national security state.  She is like Shannon Bream on FOX News:  a neocon trophy anchor.  In truth, her character is staged in almost an identical way as that of Cate Blanchett in Hanna.  The accoutrements of power in The Host also have a ubiquitous and literal sheen in the form of mirrored-paint (chrome).  It is not far from the cheese factor of Sphere (1998).

Yet, The Host truly does have something to offer…and that is primarily due to the acting prowess of Ronan.  The major addition is the superb support of William Hurt.  In his character “Jeb” we see the dreamer mentality of American ingenuity which stretches back at least to Benjamin Franklin.  We also see in Hurt’s depiction the presence of John Wayne and other noble examples of simple morality from the American western genre of film.  What is really at issue is consequentialist morality vs. deontological morality.  Consequentialists (such as the rational aliens of our film) would argue that their ends justify their means.  Deontological circumspection (as in the case of Hurt’s character) holds that certain acts are repulsive in and of themselves (ontology) and therefore to be considered in such light.

Hurt’s character goes against the grain (Huysmans, anyone?) by refusing to kill the alien which has occupied the body of his niece.  His hunch turns out to be right:  his niece is still alive somewhere deep down inside there.  In Hurt’s character and his milieu we see the “prepper” mentality which has remained strong in America, but most of all we see the imagination to think conceptually.  Uncle Jeb is the only one to give credence to the thought which those around him spurn.  It is possible.

Much has been made about the American intelligence community’s “failure of imagination” regarding 9/11 all those many years ago, but I believe that’s rubbish.  However, the only way the U.S. will ever heal and move forward in an evolutionary way is for those “in the know” to come forward in numbers and ways heretofore unseen.  Likewise, those upset with even the most senior of the military-industrialists must be prepared to embrace the unique wisdom they have.  It is hard to talk about such things in precise terms owing to the nature of the dispute, but ultimately the powerful and the powerless need each other.

-PD