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12 Movie Moments of 2012: Shared Pop Culture History (Ted)

As well as counting down the top twelve films, I’m also going to count down my top twelve movie related “moments” of 2012. The term “moment” is elastic, so expect some crazy nonsense here. And, as usual, I accept that my taste is completely absurd, so I fully expect you to disagree. With that in mind, this is #2

When it comes to end of year “best of” lists, comedy seems to draw the short straw as a genre. Like some of the less earnest genres, comedy is far too easily overlooked in favour of something more “worthy” of attention. Seth MacFarlane’s Ted has been something of a contentious film this year. Depending on where you sit, the film is either the epitome of everything wrong with American comedy, or it was a refreshingly profane yet heartfelt breath of fresh air. I lean more towards the latter than the former, and I appreciated the way that it played to MacFarlane’s strengths – concealing a surprisingly sincere sentiment behind a cynical and glib exterior.

As such, it’s no surprise that the most effective sequence in the film – the opening credits – managed to play to both that side of MacFarlane and also to his wonderful ability to channel pop culture as something of a shared collective history. Call me sappy, but there was something wonderful about seeing Ted interact with Johnny Carson and watching Ted and John queue for The Phantom Menace in costume, that created a tangible sense of back story between the characters.

ted10

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My 12 for ’12: Skyfall & Balancing Bonds…

I’m counting down my top twelve films of the year between now and January, starting at #12 and heading to #1. I expect the list to be a little bit predictable, a little bit surprising, a little bit of everything. All films released in the UK and Ireland in 2012 qualify. Sound off below, and let me know if I’m on the money, or if I’m completely off the radar. And let me know your own picks or recommendations.

This is #11

The wonderful thing about a pop culture commodity like James Bond is the flexibility that the character affords those looking to tell stories using the iconic character. Want to tell a story about high-stakes gambling? We can do that. What about averting a war between China and Great Britain? We’ve got it covered. Want to knock off Star Wars? Why not? How about pitching the character against Fu Manchu? We’re way ahead of you. Bond is flexible, and it’s one of the strengths of the character. Don’t like Roger Moore’s interpretation? Here’s Timothy Dalton. Tiring of Pierce Brosnan? Daniel Craig will be along to kick things into action.

While this makes for a fascinating study of the flexibility and adaptability of a cultural touchstone, it does create a bit of a dilemma when trying to celebrate his fiftieth anniversary. Given that Bond is so many things to so many people, can he be everything at once? Skyfall does an impressive job balancing the old and new, while managing to focus on the character at the heart of one of the most enduring cinematic franchises.

skyfall15

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A View to a Bond Baddie: Ernst Stavro Blofeld

To celebrate James Bond’s 50th birthday on screen, we’re going to take a look at the character and his films. We’ve already reviewed all the classic movies, so we’ll be looking at his iconic baddies, and even at the character himself.

Blofeld is unique among the Bond villains for his capacity to keep turning up. He’s appeared in more on-screen adventures than any other Bond baddie, and he survives in the popular imagination, with a lot of gossip about the next Bond film likely to debate whether or not they’re bringing Blofeld back. The character has endured in the public imagination as the Bond baddie, and he’s perhaps best immortalised as Micheal Myers’ Doctor Evil from the Austin Powers movies. However, watching his appearances again, I’m actually struck by how little consistency there is in the portrayal of his character, and I can’t help but wonder if the reason he endures is because of his versatility as an adversary.

Bond movies have a remarkable adaptability. They can be serious, campy, ridiculous, sombre, mature and juvenile, often all at the same time. As far as Bond villains go, Blofeld’s really the only villain who can compete with that.

He looks like the cat who got the canary…

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The Six Faces of 007: Daniel Craig

To celebrate James Bond’s 50th birthday on screen (and the release of Skyfall), we’re going to take a look at the character and his films. We’ve already reviewed all the classic movies, so we’ll be looking at his iconic baddies, and even at the character himself.

The Daniel Craig iteration of James Bond is the first time that a change of actor has been explicitly confirmed as a new character, rather than a continuation of the same character. (Unless you count Lazenby’s ad-libbed “this never happened to the other fella” bit.) Going back to the first of Fleming’s novels for his first film, Casino Royale, there was a conscious effort to bring the character back to basics, but also an effort to humanise him considerably. The result has been somewhat contentious, but I think Craig has managed to put his own stamp on the role and to define it in his own terms that are respectful to his five predecessors, but also define the character as his own.

All-time high?

Note: As a look at Daniel Craig’s take on the iconic character, this article contains spoilers for Skyfall. Consider yourself warned.

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The Six Faces of 007: Sean Connery

To celebrate James Bond’s 50th birthday on screen (and the release of Skyfall), we’re going to take a look at the character and his films. We’ve already reviewed all the classic movies, so we’ll be looking at his iconic baddies, and even at the character himself.

Ian Fleming created James Bond. However, he crafted the character as a “blunt instrument”, a relatively bland character that might serve as a vehicle for all manner of adventures. It’s fair to argue that a lot of what modern audiences take for granted in the character of James Bond came from Sean Connery, the tall Scotsman who played the character for the first five films in the series, before returning once officially (and once more unofficially). Connery’s portrayal of the secret agent was so definitive that even Fleming himself retroactively gave Bond Scottish roots in tribute to the actor.

The name’s Connery, Sean Connery…

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A View to a Bond Baddie: Aristotle “Aris” Kristatos

To celebrate James Bond’s 50th birthday on screen (and the release of Skyfall), we’re going to take a look at the character and his films. We’ve already reviewed all the classic movies, so we’ll be looking at his iconic baddies, and even at the character himself.

For Your Eyes Only is often overlooked when discussing Roger Moore’s time as the iconic secret agent. Positioned between the camp excesses of Moonraker and the rather disappointing blandness of Octopussy, Moore’s fifth film in the role is arguably the actor’s best. It distinguishes itself from its peers in several ways. Most obviously, it’s a relatively low-key espionage thriller, rather than a spectacular action film. The narrative is driven by mystery and intrigue at least as much as it is by action and adventure. The stakes are relatively grounded when compared to those in Moore’s other films. There’s no planned genocide here, not even the immediate threat of nuclear war. It almost feels like a spiritual companion to the Timothy Dalton films, or the early Sean Connery adventures. And yet, despite the fact its tone feels a little out of character, For Your Eyes Only really feels like it plays to Roger Moore’s strengths. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the villain, Aristotle “Aris” Kristatos, who serves as the best foil for Roger Moore’s Bond in any of Moore’s seven films.

One to cross(bow) off the list…

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Non-Review Review: Never Say Never Again

Never Say Never Again has quite a lot weighing against it. Most obviously, there’s the fact that we already say this story at the height of the film franchise’s popularity, but there’s also a whole host of other issues that arise due to the attempts to distinguish this iteration of the character and story from the EON productions. There are times when the film can’t seem to decide if it is or isn’t Thunderball, just as there are times when it can’t decide if it wants to acknowledge the “other” Bond films, or ignore them completely. Despite that, there’s some good stuff on display here. The film famously opened against Octopussy, losing the box office battle. While neither is “vintage” Bond, I think that Never Say Never Again is the stronger of the two films. At least it serves as a better swan song for Sean Connery than Diamonds Are Forever.

The Bond who came in from the cold…

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The Six Faces of 007: Roger Moore

To celebrate James Bond’s 50th birthday on screen (and the release of Skyfall), we’re going to take a look at the character and his films. We’ve already reviewed all the classic movies, so we’ll be looking at his iconic baddies, and even at the character himself.

I always feel a little bit guilty when I concede that I am not too fond of Roger Moore’s time as James Bond. After all, Roger Moore seems like a truly wonderful person, and a great ambassador for the franchise. Of all the actors to play the role, he’s the one most likely to appear on television or in print to share stories or anecdotes about he time in the role, to defend the latest lead actor to come under fire, or even just to make some wonderfully wittily self-deprecating remarks. My Word is My Bond is a great deal of fun for any fan of the character and the films. So, to be clear, I love Roger Moore. I just don’t really like him as James Bond.

What’s not to love?

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The Six Faces of 007: Pierce Brosnan

To celebrate James Bond’s 50th birthday on screen (and the release of Skyfall), we’re going to take a look at the character and his films. We’ve already reviewed all the classic movies, so we’ll be looking at his iconic baddies, and even at the character himself.

I have a great deal of affection for Pierce Brosnan’s term as James Bond. I think the actor easily portrayed the most rounded James Bond since Connery, capable of being an angel or a killer as the script demanded it. His run got off to a solid start with (for my money) the most consistent two-fer in the franchise’s history. (Taken together, I’d argue that GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies are the perfect revision and update of the Bond mythos.) While the last two films of his tenure were awkward and uneven efforts, Brosnan never gave the role less than his all. He has gone on record as being disappointed that his term as James Bond didn’t last longer than four films and, despite the mess of Die Another Day, I can’t help but agree with him.

I was quite shaken by his departure…

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A View to a Bond Baddie: Francisco Scaramanga

To celebrate James Bond’s 50th birthday on screen, we’re going to take a look at the character and his films. We’ve already reviewed all the classic movies, so we’ll be looking at his iconic baddies, and even at the character himself.

You see, Mr Bond, like every great artist, I want to create an indisputable masterpiece once in my lifetime. The death of 007 mano a mano, face to face, will be mine.

You mean stuffed and displayed  over your rocky mantelpiece?

That’s an amusing idea,  but I was thinking in terms of history.  A duel between titans. My golden gun against your Walther PPK. Each of us with a 50-50 chance.

Six bullets to your one?

I only need one.

Scaramanga and Bond

Was there ever a better Bond villain wasted in a more terrible film? Okay, maybe Christopher Walken as Max Zorin comes close, but Christopher Lee as Francisco Scaramanga feels like the only potentially redemptive aspect of the tonally mismatched The Man With The Golden Gun, a movie about a duel to a death that involves a karate school, secret lairs, giant frickin’ lasers and a slide whistle. Scaramanga is easily the most compelling thing about the whole film, and that might explain the contempt that many people hold for it. After all, the eponymous assassin is missing for most of the middle section of the film.

The eyes of a killer…

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