104 New To Me Movies: Sweetie(1989)

Stats

Title: Sweetie
Release year: 1989
Director: Jane Campion
Written By: Jane Campion & Gerard Lee
Recommended By: Blank Check With Griffin And David
Star Rating: 3 Stars

Review

I’ve come around to the idea that good art can make you uncomfortable, that sometimes that is absolutely necessary. But I maybe shouldn’t have gone for that on a freezing cold Sunday morning when I’m fighting anxiety over a Covid Spike? Anyway, I watched Jane Campion’s first feature film Sweetie and I did not enjoy it.

I was moved, to an extent, and certainly challenged. And disturbed, very disturbed. Sweetie is the story of a family dealing with a severly mentally ill daughter, mainly her sister…who also probably isn’t particularly well, and the way that effects and shapes the way people live their lives.

The movie is a lot. It doesn’t romanticize severe mental illness at all, which of course makes it very disturbing to watch, because severe, unmanaged mental illness is disturbing.

So I finished the movie, intrigued but disturbed, logged in my spreadsheet, with a four star rating, but then I listened to my beloved Two Friends break down the movie and it turns out it is supposed to be a comedy.

Huh.

Anyway, lost a star for that. Because while there are definitely funny moments, but more in the theatrical human behavior can be funny ways, less in the haha this is a comedy ways. Anyway, I wasn’t terribly into it.

I really am interested as I move forward with Jane Campion’s filmography. She definitely clicks into some very real and intense feelings and as her work gets more polished, I look forward to it hitting me differently. I’m not going to quit, but…oof, this one was kind of tough.

104 New To Me Movies: In The Heat Of The Night (1967)

Stats

Title: In The Heat Of The Night
Release year: 1967
Director: Norman Jewison
Written By: Stirling Siliphant, From The Novel By John Ball
Recommended By: Sidney Poitier passed away last week, AFI 100 Years, 100 Movies 10th Anniversary Edition
Rating: 5 Stars

Review

Sidney Poitier had one of the most iconic years in the history of cinema in 1967. His three most remembered roles, Mark Thackery in To Sir, with Love, Dr. John Prentice in Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner and Virgil Tibbs in In The Heat Of The Night. I’ve seen the other two movies more times than I can count. (And did watch them this weekend, upon hearing of Sir Sidney’s death.) But I’d never sat down and watched In The Heat Of The Night and decided to remedy that.

The movie is based on a novel, and tells the story of Virgil Tibbs, a homicide detective from Philadelphia who has the bad luck of waiting for a train transfer on the morning a wealthy real estate developer is murdered in a tiny Mississippi town. Eager to put the matter to bed, the local police figure picking up the strange black man in the train depot is probably fine.

Tibbs manages to keep his cool long enough to not get pinned with the murder, but does get roped into helping solve it. What follows is a beautiful structured detective story, anchored by a stunning slow burn performance from Poitier. All of his natural charm and charisma is pointed toward simmering rage and perfect bodily control.

The one moment where he loses that control, when an old plantation owner, a suspect in the murder, slaps Tibbs and Tibbs slaps him back. Now, in addition to trying to solve a crime in a place that is actively hostile towards him, there’s a bunch of people who are literally trying to kill him.

Tibbs is working with racist but filled with integrity new police chief Bill Gillespie, in a truly incredible performance by Rod Steiger.

Nothing about this movie would work if you didn’t buy Steiger in this role. And if he and Poitier’s chemistry has this really flinty perfection, and as these two men grow to respect (but never like) one another, you feel the flint spark.

The mystery is pretty standard pot boiler/rural noir stuff, but it’s a stunning example of it anchored by these two excellent performances. And I’m very glad I revisited the other two of Poitier’s epic year, to see the differences. He really was the greatest.

104 New To Me Movies: Two Friends (1986)

Stats

Title: Two Friends
Release year: 1986
Director: Jane Campion
Written By: Helen Garner
Recommended By: Blank Check With Griffin And David
To Explain: Blank Check is my favorite podcast. It has completely changed how I watch and think about movies. Plus it’s very funny. So, I’m watching along with them this year (they go director by director) and when their movies are movies I’ve never watched before? Well, I’m counting them for this project. They’re starting the year with Campion and I’ve never seen any of her movies, so, the second movie of the week for the next 8 weeks will be those!
Star Rating: 3.5 Stars

Review

OK, so I gave my little foreword, but I do have to say, that if it weren’t for Blank Check I wouldn’t have watched this movie at all, and I’d be the poorer for it. While restrained by it’s made for Australian TV format and it’s time, it’s a remarkable piece of writing that’s well directed.

Two Friends is a beautifully structured and creatively shot film, with deeply true things to say about female friendship and the ways that it builds and breaks you up.

It centers around two girls, two friends if you will. (Again, I apologize for Blankie rhetoric) Louise and Kelly, who have always been close, but when high school comes they go in different dirrections and it breaks them up, despite a beautiful feeling before that.

Where the movie gets cool, is that it moves backwards. It starts in one point. Louise settled in, as her parents fret over the death of another friend’s daughter’s death. Kelly is mentioned, but only off hand. They’re worried about her, Louise hasn’t heard from her in a while. She does eventually get a letter, where Kelly outlines what her life currently looks like. We also see Kelly’s strained relationship with her mother and stepfather, we then flash back throughout a year, showing how the girls friendship got where it is now. The real fraying point seems to be when Kelly’s awful step father decided that Kelly would not be attending the prestigious high school both girls got into.

The movie is episodic, and deeply felt and very real. I love stories about female friendship and they tend to often be sanitized, but Louise and Kelly’s friendship is anything but sanitized. They hurt each other in small ways, It’s also always cool to check out an acclaimed artist’s early work, because I can absolutely see why Campion got to move on. Even with it’s limitations this is a fascinatingly shot movie.

There’s one scene where Kelly is completely lost, having planned on spending the weekend with her father, who then ran off to hang with his girlfriend, finds herself making out with his roommate and then fleeing in terror of the adultness of that situation. Campion films Kris Bidenko, who plays Kelly, alone at an intersection, showing how the large world is around this little girl. It is absolutely heartbreaking.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to diving more deeply into Jane Campion for the next few months. Two films in and I’m already pretty happy with my project choice.

The 007 Project: Octopussy

Previously On The 007 Project: I got back in the general swing of things and so did Roger Moore! For Your Eyes Only was a wonderful return to form

Who’s Our Bond: We’re still on Moore and I like him more than ever in this run. Seriously, the movies are keeping their lightness, but have lost their Smokey And The Bandit style zaniness, and are all the better for them. I’m hoping that we enter a similar tone coming up soon in this franchise, but we’ll get to my hopes for the future in the great beyond of someday when No Time To Die comes out. Anyway, Roger Moore, still very good. I know I’ve only been through 3 on this project, but he really is my front runner favorite.

What’s The Plot: A fabrege egg has been stolen and replaced by a fake! Also the Russians are trying to get Western Europe to disengage on a nuclear level, so that they can bomb the US without reprisal. Standard Cold War shit. While tracking the assasination of 009, Bond finds himself caught up with some jewel smugglers and a weird cult, led by the Octopussy, a poweful business woman, with a stupid name. She and Bond have several, “we’re not so different, you and I,” moments and obviously wind up in love.

It is quickly learned that the fake egg is a nuclear device of some kind, and there’s some nonsense with a circus and the American base in West Berlin, but basically Bond solves the case, and he and Octopussy float off together.

Tell Me About The Girl

I really enjoyed Octopussy, as played by Maud Adams. I like that she was more mature, that she had her own concerns outside of Bond and the mission and I hate her stupid name, but otherwise, this is a real step forward, Bond Girl wise.

The Song Is The Thing

“All Time High” is actually a really rad song, performed by Rita Coolidge and hey Tim Rice wrote the lyrics. (I am, if you followed my travails in the past year, a fan of Sir Tim’s work! The Lion King! Evita! Chess!) I think it’s funny that they realized they couldn’t call the song “Octopussy” because it is such a stupid name. So stupid. I hate it so much.

Overall Thoughts

While hating the title is a big thing for me here, I genuinely enjoyed watching this movie. It’s fun, breezy, and well performed. I’ll get into it more next week, but I very much appreciate that Moore was able to ride out his tenure on a high note of three good movies.

Which brings us to next week! A View To A Kill! Christopher Walken! Tanya Roberts (RIP)! Grace Jones! Very Exciting

The 007 Project: Moonraker

I took The Holidays off from blogging. I’m back in the new year! Usually I dive into the new year with a fun new concept. This year, alas no. I’m starting new work in the next few weeks and I don’t know how much time I’m going to have so I don’t want to commit to anything. We’ll keep going with the Bond stuff though.

Previously On The 007 Project: While I am still charmed by Roger Moore, but I think the shine may be coming off soon. I also reiterate my enjoyment of Bond being in Hitchcock style romantic films.

Who’s Our Bond: Still Roger Moore. He’s starting to show his age and his boredom. I really think he brought it for The Spy Who Loved Me, but this is back to coasting. At least, fucking Sherriff JW Peppah doesn’t show up this time. I’ve discovered that the extended comedic chase scene is the thing I like the least about Moore’s tenure.

What’s The Plot?

The RAF and NASA have lost a rocket! OH NO! Only James Bond can find it. It turns out that the rocket, The Moonraker was stolen by the sinister aerospace billionair Drax, who also hired Jaws to fight Bond. Bond is aided in his search for the rock by Dr. Holly Goodhead. (SIGH) Drax wants to start life over on the moon, with himself as the sire of a master race. (COOL) Doctor Goodhead and Bond get shot into space, and they defeat Drax and that’s kind of it. (I actually got really bored watching this movie so I didn’t pay super close attention).

I’m Addressing The Problematic

I didn’t notice anything, but as I said, I was pretty bored and not paying close attention.

Tell Me About The Girl

Lois Chile plays Holly Goodhead, and, LORD that name makes me want to gouge my eyes out, but at least she’s a Doctor and she thinks Bond sucks (you know, until she doesn’t)

The Song Is The Thing

Shirley Bassey is back! Hooray! The song is not as good as “Goldfinger” (nothing is), but it’s servicable. There’s something about Bassey’s throaty belting that feels like James Bond.

Overall Thoughts

Oof, this one was rough. I kept meaning to rewatch it so that I would have more to say, but I couldn’t bring myself to. That’s why this is short. I’m going to return to the Wednesday posting here in two days, when I watch For Your Eyes Only. (RIP Tanya Roberts)

The 007 Project: Diamonds Are Forever

Previously on The 007 Project: We got a delightful romantic comedy (That ended in murder) and a Bond girl with actual agency and personality.

Who’s Our Bond:

Connery is back baby! The time off did him good. He’s much more engaged in the material here than he was in You Only Live Twice, he’s still a bit too old and he’s put on some weight, but in general it works.

What’s The Plot

We open with a pretty brutal series of scenes where 007 is hunting down Blofeld and killing each source. Tracey is not mentioned, but is my presumed reason for the brutality. Anyway, Blofeld has been changing his appearance regularly to stay a step ahead. Bond catches and presumably kills him.

M then tells Bond his next job is to stop some diamond smugglers, which annoys Bond, because like, downgrade! But he takes his orders and follows a few contacts to Amsterdam, where he meets Tiffany Case, and then they wing to Las Vegas with the gems. (There’s also a whole set piece where he escapes a crematorium). In Vegas we learn that Blofeld is NOT dead and has taken control of a billionaire’s corporation to launch a nuclear sattelite. The diamonds figure into this somehow, though I’m not exactly clear how.

Tiffany and Bond thwart the plan (Felix is around too! HI FELIX!) and then whisk off on a boat.

I’m Adressing The Problematic

Beyond the usual Bond sexism, pretty tame.

Tell Me About The Girl

Jill St. John plays Tiffany Case, and while she’s not terribly distinctive, she does wear fun wigs, and keeps trying to make sure her connection to Bond keeps her out of prison. It’s a cute bit.

The Song Is The Thing

Shirley Bassey is back for this song, which makes sense since a lot of this movie feels like warmed over Goldfinger. The song itself is fine, extolling how you can count on diamonds when people let you down, hence they are “forever”

Overall Thoughts

A middling Bond, very in line with the last few movies. The Vegas setting is super fun, I’m always happy to see 007 at a Casino, but the script is thin, the story tough to follow and Connery really really needs to be done. Which he now is.

Next week we enter the Roger Moore era. Hooray!

The 007 Project: Thunderball

Previously On The 007 Project: I forgot to edit this piece and so it’s up a day late. It’s not like this is a stressful or odd week for Americans or anything. But I watched Goldfinger, I noticed that the formula was in place. Hooray!

Who’s Our Bond:

Sir Sean Connery, RIP. He’s out for a movie after this one, and he passed away this past week. He was a singular talent and by all accounts, great to work with but a real bastard in his personal life who was OK with hitting women

People are complicated

Anyway, he’s looking old in this movie again, but the toupee is still good, he’s still selling it, he’s definitely skating along in the role.

What’s The Plot?

We’re back in the Carribean! SPECTRE is still recruiting, they stole some bombs, and Number 2, Emilio Largo, is the one Bond is pursuing. His lair is under water so there is a whole bunch of SCUBA fighting which is cool. Anyway, two french sibling, Francois and Dominique “Domino” Derval are involved with Largo, though Francois is actually dead. Anyway, they find the bombs and again UNDER WATER FIGHTING, and Domino who was involved with Largo in a vague way, now gets involved with Bond, and also Leiter is around. (Again, I’m distracted this week, I apologize for vagueness)

I’m Adressing The Problematic

I mean, it takes place in the Caribbean, and the only people of color are servants. So that sucks. Also, Largo is definitely raping Domino but we’ll get into that.

Tell Me About The Girl

Domino is played by Claudine Auger, and befitting her name she’s always in black or white or some combination. She wears some rocking gowns, and she gets to murder her rapist which is super fun and cool.

There is also the evil Fiona Volpe, played by Luciana Palozzi who does have sex with James Bond, but doesn’t turn good. She’s a SPECTRE agent, she enjoyed herself and getting him to get his guard down, but his magic dick does not work on her.

TAKE THAT JAMES BOND! They’re both really hot and again, excellent gowns in this movie.

Joe’s Bond Car Corner

LOOK I PROMISE I WILL GET THESE DONE AT SOME POINT BUT IT’S BEEN KIND OF A WEEK, IT WAS JOE’S BIRTHDAY AND HALLOWEEN AND MY BIRTHDAY AND A SUPER IMPORTANT ELECTION AND MY DAD’S BIRTHDAY AND I’M SO TIRED AND STRESSED AND AHHHHHHHH.

The Song Is The Thing

I really, really like “Thunderball” as performed by Tom Jones, rules! Like almost all of them, it seems to be about a bad break up, if you don’t know anything about James Bond. Good stuff, very fun, listened to it a bunch.

Other People’s Opinions Matter Too, I guess

This week we hear from my baby cousin Bobby, who is actually 19 years old, but he’s the baby. Thunderball is his favorite Bond movie!

Here are some things he had to say:

Me: Is this your favorite Bond movie because James Bond is dressed like all our male relatives? (PASTEL SHORTS GALORE IN THIS MOVIE!)
Bobby: Doesn’t hurt.

Here are Bobby’s actual reasons for Thunderball being his favorite:

  • Awesome song (As discussed above, I love this song)
  • Coolest villain! Wears an eyepatch!
  • Best Bond Girls. (Domino kills her rapist, Fiona does not succumb to Bond’s magic penis)
  • Underwater fights! One of which feature Domino HARPOONING HER MOTHER FUCKING RAPIST.

Thank you for your contribution Bobby!

If you would like to be featured in a “Other People’s Opinions Matter Too” segment, message me on Twitter (@fangirlsdilemma) or Facebook (The Fangirl’s Dilemma) I’d love too chat!

Overall Thoughts

I enjoyed this movie, I like SCUBA fighting, RIP Sean Connery. I have not completely lost my mind but I’m not totally sane right now.

Hope you’re all doing OK, I love you, turn off the news, watch a fun movie. Next week we dive into You Only Live Twice. What’s the deal with George Lazenby? Will I be more sane while watching and writing it up? (This depends largely on 8,000 peole in the state of Nevada, actually…) Is the existential dread of the Year of Our Lord 2020 finally destroying my brain? WHO CAN SAY?

*Update: It’s still Connery in You Only Live Twice. Seriously, my brain is complete mush. I’m sorry.

The 007 Project: Goldfinger

Previously On The 007 Project: I really like From Russia With Love and everything else is going to have to live up to it. Remember how I got with Fantasia? Or Clone Wars? Or Winter Soldier? I think this is going to be like that.

It is with this context that I dive into what my friend John, (who is a huge Bond fan) calls “The Quientessential Bond Movie.” I’ll summarize more of his thoughts and our conversation below.

Who’s Our Bond

Still Connery. Still sexy, though he’s starting to show his age a bit. He’s also even more winky, this time around. He’s very aware of himself and the character, and he is having an absolute blast and it shows. He also wears a romper in one scene and turns a lesbian. We’ll get there.

What’s The Plot?

James Bond is on vacation in Miami and Felix Leiter approaches him to explain that an German? horse breeder who also smuggles gold, Auric Goldfinger is around and they need to get eyes on him. Bond gets eyes on him and also breaks up his gambling cheating and steals his girl. It’s all very cool. The girl, Jill Masterson is then killed to send a message to Bond. He gets the message. Also it turns out Goldfinger has a huge plot of some kind, so Bond is sent with many gadgets (WE MEET Q!) to Switzerland to infiltrate Goldfinger’s operation, he fails spectacularly at it and is instead kidnapped and flown to Maryland on Goldfinger’s private jet, by his stylish private pilot Pussy Galore. (We will talk about Pussy later but she’s great, and I love her) During his imprisonment Bond learns Goldfinger plans to drop a nuke on Fort Knox, thus rendering it’s gold worthless and making Goldfinger even richer. He gets the message to Felix, they stop the plot, he and Pussy have sex in a barn, eventually Goldfinger tries to kill Bond by shooting him in an airplane which DOES NOT WORK and gets him sucked out into the sky.

There are care chases and missiles and it rules. This movie is great.

I’m Addressing The Problematic

There’s less racism in this one, besides just like, everyone being white, except Odd Job, (who rules) and is Korean. But let’s talk about sexism, homophobia and the dubious consent of sex with James Bond.

So, Jill Masterson gets Fridged. We meet her, she’s pretty, she has fun sexy times with James Bond, she gets murdered so that he’ll understand Goldfinger is serious. This sucks. Kind of a lot.

Also, in the novel, Goldfinger Pussy Galore is a lesbian who then turns when James Bond pins her down and bones her in a barn. This is toned down because obviously the movie wasn’t going to be able to have be a lesbian, that would be ridiculous. Instead she just tells Bond to stop flirting with her and wears fabulous pant suits, so yeah, I totally clocked that she was queer. Then, James Bond chases her into a barn, she tells him she’s not interested, he kissed her a bunch, and she kind of is into it, but not? Dunno, but it’s not, um, super great.

The pants suits however, are excellent.

Tell Me About The Girl

Jill Masterson first, is played by Shirley Eaton. She’s very pretty and fun, and she gets to sleep with James Bond, but then she gets painted entirely gold and suffocates to death and it’s a cool set piece but a bummer, as discussed above.

Honor Blackman plays Pussy Galore and it rules and she’s great, and she’s queer coded, and I love that in my head she’s a bisexual, which I understand is like completely unthinkable to the people who made this movie but rules, if you’re me, a bisexual woman who loves James Bond movies. She’s a pilot, she runs an air circus it’s the best.

Joe’s Bond Car Corner

This is our first really cool Bond Car! It’s Astin Martin DB5, and it has an ejector seat and rocket launchers which is cool. Here’s Joe’s facts about the car:

(I will edit and put this in when he gets back to me. I procrastinated asking about it!)

The Song Is The Thing

The song “Goldfinger” is performed by Shirley Bassey and won an Oscar and is SO GOOD. It’s a warning about a bad man who will always choose gold over love. Bassey belts the HELL out of this song and it’s a favorite and I have listened to it a lot over the past few weeks.

Other People’s Opinions Matter Too I Guess

My friend John Trumbull, who is a very funny comedian who also makes a great podcast about SNL that you should listen to and I chatted about Goldfinger, and I thought he said some interesting things. I have also previously been cranky about John’s Star Wars opinions and apologized a lot for that. (He’s wrong about The Force Awakens but I was being mean.) ANYWAY John likes James Bond a lot, in particular these early Connery movies, which he describes as “near flawless.” I disagree on Dr. No, which I think is kind of boring, but I get it. Here are some other thoughts from John and my conversation, summarized:

  • Bond’s crack about listening to The Beatles with ear muffs on makes sense for a grown man to say in 1964, but is a lapse in Jame’s otherwise flawless taste
  • John also likes that Goldfinger has to explain what a laser is to the audience because it’s 1964
  • In general, Goldfinger is much more time stamped than Dr. No and From Russia With Love which feel a little more free floating in the post war era. Goldfinger was made in 1964 and takes place in 1964 and that is abundantly clear.
  • Here’s a direct quote: “Goldfinger is basically the quintessential Bond film, it crystallized the formula the rest of the films followed.” I agree!

This portion of the project will recur but perhaps not every week, just occasionally.

Overall Thoughts

This movie is fun! I really enjoyed myself. I did not like it as much as From Russia With Love but I did like it a whole lot. This feels the most like the Bond movies that I know well. (Largely the Brosnan and Craig ones) And it is definitely the one most parodied.

Next week, we go to Thunderball, and we move to Wednesday! Because on Friday The Mandolorian comes back and I have recapping to write.

In The Shadow of Adaptation: Rebecca

“We can never go back again, that much is certain. The past is still too close to us. The things we have tries to forget and put behind us would stir again, and that sense of fear, of furtive unrest, struggling at length to blind unreasoning panic – now mercifully stilled, thank God – might in some manner unforseen become a living companion as it had been before.

Du Maurier, 5

I almost started this review with Rebecca’s famous opening lines, but I prefer the above quote, which I think sums up the story better. Rebecca is a story about people trying to both live with the past and outrun it at the same time, and it makes for a fantastic psycological thriller.

The new version on Netflix is not really that. It does star two actors who I have big crushes on, and does dreamy period romance and murder mystery well. It doesn’t however, do particularly well with the Gothic Romance elements of the story, which is probably my favorite part of the novel, as you can see in my review of it from a few years ago.

I’ll start with the actors. Our leads, Maxim DeWinter and his unnamed second wife are played by Armie Hammer and Lily James. Hammer has done hard work over the past few years winning me over. (The Man From UNCLE! Call Me By Your Name! Leaking kinky photos of himself post divorce! ALLEGEDLY!) and I have had a massive crush on James since she flounced into Downton Abbey with her modern ideas about fringed dresses and interracial romance. They both do well here. The movie really leans into the fact that these two very hot people want to be having sex with each other.

And they do have plenty of hot sex. And they wear gorgeous outfits and flit around Monte Carlo and that part of the movie is excellent.

Then we come to Manderley. Maxim’s ancestral home. Things are still being run by the creepy Mrs. Danvers, played with chilly precision and Sapphic repression by Kristin Scott Thomas (Mrs. Danvers and Rebecca were DEFINITELY having sex and you will never convince me otherwise.). She is appalled by her new mistress. The only scenes that nearly touch the Gothic perfection of the novel and the Hitchcock movie are the scene where Mrs. Danvers describes Rebecca in her boudoir and when she tries to convince Mrs. De Winter to kill herself. The rest feels silly and perfunctory and it’s such a bummer.

The movie does handle the section of the story where Maxim is accused of murdering Rebecca perfectly. (He is, in fact, guilty, but Rebecca was a bitch who was cheating on him, so I guess it’s OK?) It handles the conspiracy and uncovering of Rebecca’s cancer wonderfully.

It’s just a bummer because that is the portion of the story that I’m just not particularly interested in. I like the early whirlwind romance and I like the Gothic horror aspects, and this particular adaptation is not as interested in that portion. Which is fine, there are several angles to take with this story, I just don’t think this take is for me, despite it’s appealing leads and lovely costuming.

The 007 Project: From Russia With Love

Previously on The 007 Project: I was getting nervous because I didn’t super enjoy watching Dr. No and I was afraid I’d made a huge mistake choosing this as my new watch project.

But I took a deep breath, and stuck with it and watched From Russia With Love.

And you guys? I really liked this one. It is a much more fun watch than it’s predecessor. It’s cheekier, Connery gets to do more of the stuff I liked from him in Dr. No, and it’s a little bit less racist and sexist. (I mean, it’s still really racist and sexist you guys. This is not a woke franchise.)

Who’s Our Bond

We’re still in Connery land and I still love him. He’s so much fun in this part. He’s just along for this delightful ride, smirking and quipping and practically winking at the camera. He gets that this is a ridiculous game and he’s having a ball playing it. He has a few more intense and emotional scenes which he also nails.

What’s The Plot This Time

A mysterious man who’s face we never see but has a distinctive white cat (Me as we see this, *SQUEEEEEEEEE* BLOFELD!) holds a meeting with two of his operatives and declares that SPECTRE is ready for their next step, further destabilizing the East/West Cold War tensions to rise to power in the chaos that will come. The plan is to sow some seeds of distrust in Istanbul, via a Russian agent defecting, and as a bonus, killing that pesky James Bond, who got the valuable Dr. No killed. The Russian agent chosen is Tatiana Romanova, who reaches out to M, saying she has a decoding machine that MI6 wants, and that she’ll only communicate with 007. Baffled, but very into this mission, once he sees a picture of Tatiana, Bond hops a plane to Istanbul, rendevous with Ali Kerim Bey, and then Tatiana. They get the machine and head towards England (with some fun set pieces along the way) and Bond learns that Tatiana is actually taking orders from Rosa Klebb, and Klebb has defected to SPECTRE. Tatiana still thinks she’s working for Russia and is pretty pissed she was used by the rogue organization so then she defects for real. Klebb is threatened by Blofeld (who we don’t know is Blofeld yet) that he will not tolerate another failure from her.

I’m Addressing The Problematic

Ooookkkaaayyy, let’s get started. So, there is a very racist section of this movie that could be cut entirely without losing much of anything. (Isn’t that always a bummer? I mean, a whole movie being super racist sucks, but when there’s just BOOM 20 MINUTES OF TERRIBLE RACISM it’s so jarring) While in Instanbul, Kerim takes Bond to a Romani camp, (though they use a commonly used slur for folks of Romani cultural background) where they watch a sexy girl dance, and then there’s a fight between two women to win the right to marry the son of the chief. When the Russians (actually SPECTRE) attack the gathering, and Bond protects them the chief says, “SURPRISE, you James Bond are my son now and also those girls, all yours.” It is, unsettling. And then, completely unaddressed.

But again, this is a 20 minute section that you could completely skip over and lose pretty much nothing except some weird racist shit.

Tell Me About The Girl

Tatiana Romanova is played by Daniela Bianchi, and I like her a lot. She’s a loyal Russian intelligence clerk, who is chosen pretty much because of her unfailing loyalty to the state and also she’s super hot, and they want to lure James Bond and having a super hot lady around is a great way to do that. While there’s still a lot of pouting and looking pretty involved, she’s a pretty active (if reactive) character, who’s in control of her own mind and dislikes being used. She does however, enjoy sex with James Bond. (And who wouldn’t, really?) So when she defects for real, they head off to Venice and make out in a Gondola. Is great. I like it a whole lot.

Joe’s Bond Car Corner

I had to do a little more digging to even ask Joe about a car this time, because there’s only one scene with the car. This movie is much more about boats and a train. Anyway, it’s a 1935 Bentley Mark IV, it was what Bond drove in the books and honestly? I kind of forgot to ask Joe about it. Because it isn’t really featured much in the movie at all.

The Song Is The Thing

This is the first time we get a Bond Theme Song, besides the iconic orchestral theme, which does indeed rule super hard. The song “From Russia With Love” is a cool loungey ballad performed by Matt Monro. The song plays diagetically as Bond picnics with sometimes girlfriend Eunice Grayson (who he met in the casino in Dr. No) and then over the end critics. The song seems to be about a world traveler who’s decided to hang up his hat and settled down with his sweetheart. It is pretty good.

Overall Thoughts

I genuinely and really enjoyed this movie and it totally energized me going into the project, which, Dr. No had gotten me a little bit freaked out about. I had an absolute ball watching this movie and can’t wait to move forward, because, if I’m remembering correctly, things just get more campy and fun from here.

Next week, we get into Goldfinger. I don’t remember much about the movie, but the song is good.