Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanks-gabbing 2012!

Werth: Happy Post-Thanksgiving, Wise!

Wise: Happy Post-Thanksgiving, Werth! Are you ready to give our Film Gab readers a dose of tryptophan-laced movie thankfulness?

Werth: I am indeed—and it's not just one movie—it's 23 of them! 
This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the film release of Dr. No (1962), and from his first screen appearance to this year's Skyfall, Bond, James Bond has been thrilling film audiences around the world. 
The Bond Formula is simple: Take one dashing English actor (Scottish if you like), add in a variety of scantily clad vixens (some on your side, some not), an ample dosage of scenery-chewing super-villains, a smidge of techno gadgets that can kill 
you while looking like 
something totally innocuous (don't get me started on the aqua-car from The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)), and a pinch of spy-thriller action adventure, and you've got a Bond Movie.

Wise: Sounds like a much more appealing recipe than this crackpot desecration of Thanksgiving leftovers.
Werth: The Bond Films have always been an easy watch—and the change-ups in actors that played Bond have been a wonderful source of entertainment—not the least of which watching Bond geeks argue who the best Bond is.  
While this year's Skyfall puts Daniel Craig in the running for the top spot on that list, the movie also does something much more ingenious to the Bond formula—it adds depth. Most Bond movies move quickly from exotic locale to exotic locale with the stylish plot points speeding you towards the imminent saving-of-the-world ending with short stop-offs to get busy with a couple high-test hotties. 
But director Sam Mendes was not content to just follow that time-honored script. Skyfall starts off with an amazing adrenaline-infused Turkish car/train chase, but after Bond is "killed" Mendes works to explore this enigmatic character and his relationship with the boss he calls "Mum" (Judy Dench). 

Wise: Hopefully it's a bit less fraught than the relationship between Norman Bates and his mom.
Werth: It was really a shock to watch these iconic characters go a little deeper, and by the time Bond visits his old childhood home, we get the feeling that for the last fifty years, we never knew Bond. 
Mendes leavens thrill-ride-worthy action sequences with amazing, stop-and-take-a-deep-breath cinematography to make Skyfall feel like a fuller, richer, more "serious" Bond film. My lil' ol' cinematic heart is at odds with this, though. 
The film is great (it could stand a bit of editing to make it less time-consuming) but I wonder if a Bond film is supposed to be as deep as American Beauty
Part of the joy of the previous Bond flicks was that no matter how well (or not so well, Timothy Dalton) they were executed, they were just plain, old fun. We didn't have to worry about getting too emotionally involved with Bond, Pussy Galore, Blofeld or M. But we do here, and not since the ending of On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) have I felt the need to reach for my Kleenex in a Bond film. 
And I'm not convinced I should have to do that. But I am convinced that Skyfall is a superbly unique addition to a film franchise that I couldn't be more thankful for.  

Wise: I needed a whole box of Kleenex to make my way through Stephen Chbosky's adaptation of his own novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  A coming-of-age story about silent, awkward Charlie (Logan Lerman), whose best friend killed himself leaving Charlie to face the tribulations of high school stigmatized and alone.  Eventually, Charlie falls in with a crowd of misfits—including Patrick (Ezra Miller) who rides hell for leather into fabulousness and his stepsister Sam (a transcendent Emma Watson)—and eventually comes to realize that his social ineptitude is actually an asset.  

Werth: Like when I realized a perm and shorts with loafers were an asset.

Wise: While the novel is told in a series of letters to Charlie's unnamed confident, Chbosky, who also directed, wisely opened up the film by only using the letters as a frame and allowing Charlie—and the viewer—a bit more freedom from his neuroses. 
Most notably, a tragedy in Charlie's past which feels almost insurmountable in the book becomes much more manageable in the film by the respectful distance provided by the camera.  
The film also allows Charlie's friends to come much more vividly to life, particularly Miller's Patrick who is the first cinematic teen I have ever witnessed to embody both the frenetic joys of adolescence as well as the sorrows without indulging in caricature.  

Werth: What about Molly Ringwald?
Wise: The supporting cast is almost uniformly excellent, particularly Paul Rudd as a sympathetic teacher, and Dylan McDermott and Kate Walsh as Charlie's concerned but loving parents.  Joan Cusack has a few good moments at the end of the film as a psychiatrist who helps Charlie face a painful revelation.  
Werth:Joan Cusack always has at least a few good moments in anything she's in.

Wise: The film is also a love letter to Pittsburgh and the pleasures of being a teen in the early 90's when there was a inkling that a good song on the radio and the opportunity to drag it up at a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show might make high school bearable after all.  

Werth: The only thing that could have made high school bearable for me was knowing that I'd get to live in NYC and write a film blog with a brilliant wallflower like you.

Wise: And that's something for us both to be thankful for. Join us next week for turkey leftovers and more Film Gab!


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