James Bond is a retiree’s fantasy, and Sam Mendes is a career chronicler of the Baby Boomers’ mid-life crises and suburban ennui, so there was never any doubt that Skyfall was going to be a match made in a certain kind of heaven.
Nothing makes you look older than having to insist on your relevance, which was Skyfall's chief mistake. “James Bond still matters” is not a winnable argument; you're on thin ice with “James Bond ever mattered” as it is. “Field work is a young man's game,” everyone keeps remarking to crusty ol' James Bond, as though a full quarter of the novel Casino Royale weren’t devoted to Bond wringing his hands over whether or not his dick still works*.
Nobody goes to a James Bond movie for progressivim of any kind**,which makes Skyfall's confidence in its hipness all the more cringeworthy. “Sometimes the old ways are better,” quoth groundsman Kincaid, played by Albert Finney whom I actually did believe to be dead before seeing the opening credits to this movie. WHOOPS. Ah yes, The Old Ways, like “knives” and “imperialism” and “shooting a woman in the head for like no fucking reason.”
Possibly the worst-treated Bond girl since the ’60s, which is saying something! Introduced long enough to get a first name, a backstory as a prostitute, and get shot in the face while balancing a shot of whiskey on her head, William Tell-style, two scenes later to prove that the villain is a sociopath. “Waste of a good scotch,” quips the other sociopath in that scene, whose name I’M SURE YOU CAN GUESS.***
"Hahaha," chuckles Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva over and over and over, the closest thing this movie has to a voice of reason. He is a combination of Julian Assange, Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs, and Wayne Knight’s character in Jurassic Park****, and he is easily the most gif-able character, which of course makes him appealing to me, a young person. He’s probably making gifs of himself right now. Meanwhile, hackers around the world shed a collective single tear and praise the heavens that someone, somewhere is still scared of them.
I haven’t even talked about M yet, which apparently stands for “[But] MoOoOoOmmmm!” Judi Dench has been playing M for as long as M has been doing spy shit, and she lends a real weight to M’s stuck-in-the-mudness, with, if I’m not mistaken, just a dash of J. Edgar Hooverish paranoia and self-preservation. If the status quo protects her job and her power, then by god she will defend the status quo! To the point that if I were the P.M. and all those dudes broke in and started firing guns int he middle of M’s impassioned speech, I would turn to her and sigh and be like, “This is an over-the-top way to make your point.” What a fucking puppetmaster. The ceramic bulldog IS Bond, and somewhere she probably has like a Precious Moments figurine with blond hair and that is Silva AND SHE THREW IT IN THE TRASH probably. Who’s to say.
Setting the third act at Bond’s parents’ house was pretty great. Ugh, THE SUBURBS, RIGHT? Bond goes back into the hideyhole beneath the farmhouse where once he wept for his dead parents, which is both a really obvious yonnic metaphor and also some jab at millenials I’m guessing. GET A JOB, BOND. ALWAYS ASKING FOR HANDOUTS LIKE GUNS AND CARS AND EXPLODING PENS.***** TRY HARD WORK, BOND. MAYBE AN UNPAID INTERNSHIP, BOND. IT’S A GREAT WAY TO GET YOUR NAME OUT THERE, BOND.
Things I liked about Skyfall (there are some, ok?): opening credits (that Adele song really grew on me), judiciously chosen action set-pieces (in the end, kind of the only thing they have to get right), that insane drinking game with a scorpion, komodo dragons (I feel a special kinship with them since I saw baby ones at the L.A. Zoo and decided I wanted to raise them as my own children), Javier Bardem’s wig and persistent giggling, the animated visuals that Sam Mendes thinks hackers still use to taunt their victims, Albert Finney still being alive and wearing a beard with aplomb, Bond’s childhood home which seems like a nice place to spend a weekend.
Look, I have a subscription to GQ that I got for $5 (I cannot tell you how relaxing it is to read about the finnicky details of suit tailoring and think “Not my problem”) and I read that Aaron Sorkin “internet girl” interview, so I basically have the gist of this movie, ok? I get it. And I’ll take it any day over Quantum of Solace, which I did see, but I could not now describe a single scene or image from that movie. Skyfall is not boring, thank god. In fact it was mostly great fun. But it is terribly insecure, a Don Draper “Snowball pitch” of a movie. James Bond is not a character—he’s an aspirational cipher. The minute you try to justify him he evaporates into a cloud of jingoistic smoke.
Witness Daniel Craig’s weary silhouetted walk for the obligatory end title card. “50 YEAR ANNIVERSARY, BOND WILL RETURN AGAIN.” And again and again and again. Even the ageless get old.
*Literally. That literally happens. Multiple chapters’ worth of actual, non-metaphorical castration anxiety. It’s tedious!
**Wait, do they?! Jesus, I hope not.
***And then open up a women’s fashion magazine to an ad that instructs you to do your nails like Severine, the woman who gets shot in the head for like no fucking reason! TO BE FAIR—her nail game was pretty on point.
****Look at me, playing like I don’t know his name is Dennis Nedry.
*****Don’t even get me started on the new Q. A transparent and failed attempt at pandering to YOUTHS who like, are already suspending disbelief to even be in this theater in the first place, okay? We’re here to look at the guns and cars and exploding pens, not one of “our own”, if you’re going to force us to claim that weenie. Don’t embarrass yourselves.
Man, the more I’m thinking about it now, I’m wondering if I’m just being an asshole reaching to find meaning in the depths of the Prison Pit abyss. On the surface, we get the incredibly enjoyable and somewhat mindless game of a strong guy mangling other strong guys with ridiculous violence and cursing at a ninth-grade level, but beneath that I suppose we get a blank space to bring in whatever meaning we can dig up from Prison Pit.
I wrote a thing on Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit, Book 3. Check it out if you’re into that sort of thing.
Geoff wrote a smart review on our comics blog. There’s blood and guts and everything!
Do not be critics, you people, I beg you. I was a critic and I wish I could take it all back because it came from a smelly and ignorant place in me, and spoke with a voice that was all rage and envy. Do not dismiss a book until you have written one, and do not dismiss a movie until you have made one, and do not dismiss a person until you have met them. It is a fuckload of work to be open-minded and generous and understanding and forgiving and accepting, but Christ, that is what matters. What matters is saying yes.”
luv u dave but seriously fuck that shit
A while back I wrote a piece on my old tumblr about why I find this attitude both sad and disturbing, but I want to reiterate some points about that here. Looking at the quotation above, I can’t help but notice that Eggers’ description of what made him a critic is not in fact a generalized definition of what makes a critic, but rather what makes a bad critic. Good critics aren’t jealous, angry naysayers; they are thoughtful, passionate appreciators. That doesn’t mean that it is a critic’s job to love every piece of art that comes before him/her—however it does mean that a critic is responsible for applying thought and consideration in his/her critiques. Egger’s condescending hyperbole (“do not dismiss a movie until you have made one”?!?!?!) is exactly the kind of cruel and demeaning criticism he rails against. His assumption that because he was a critic due to his jealousy and bitterness, all critics are critics for the same reason sounds a lot like he’s dismissing people he hasn’t met. Which is not a very “open-minded and generous and understanding and forgiving and accepting” attitude. Also, you know, he’s wrong.
Those people exist! Of course they exist. We have all heard them and read them and been annoyed or offended by them. But saying all criticism is bad because some of it is snarky and pointless is like saying all art is bad because some of it is vapid and offensive. Critics are not narrow-minded twerps by definition. The best critics are fans, scholars, and artists themselves. Has Dave Eggers read anything by Molly Lambert, Matthew Perpetua, or the Mindless Ones, to name several critics who apply thought, insight, humor, joy, and artistry to their work? Not to mention obvious legends like Pauline fucking Kael, one of the great champions of cinematic art, and yes, a critic.
Personally, the impulse that drives me to critiquing art is the same one that drives me to make it—something moves me, and I both want and need to respond to it. Artists and critics are more the same than different, and I am saddened that Eggers is so eager to write off his fellows in his efforts to sling shit at his enemies.
If you like it, but you hate leaving tumblr, you can find the tumblr feed here.
So for the past few months, Geoff and I have been working on this (up ‘til now) secret comics blog! Sometimes we write reviews together! Sometimes we write them separately! I am still figuring out how to write about comics without sounding like a total dunce! Read on—IF YOU DARE.