How-to-do things

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The movies help us learn how to marry millionaires.

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The movies help us appreciate art…or at least steal a million dollars worth of art.

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The movies help us make sure one less person will be coming to the next family reunion.

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The movies help us train dragons.

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The movies help us make the Fortune 500 list without any real effort at all.

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Essential: THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH (1999)

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When watching this movie, a viewer quickly realizes there isn’t enough oil in the world, or enough money or enough power. And if you’re a fan of 007, there is never enough James Bond either. This was Pierce Brosnan’s third turn playing the character, and the last time Desmond Llewelyn played Q (the actor died shortly after the premiere). Despite the nonstop high voltage thrills, the story is a sobering late 20th century treatise on greed.

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Bond’s love interests are played by Sophie Marceau and Denise Richards. Marceau has more screen time and much better close-ups. As oil heiress Elektra King, she’s gorgeous and dangerous. She beds the super agent in record time, but he notices there is much more to her than meets the eye. The film’s prologue details a botched mission where she was kidnapped and then used as bait by M to draw out a Russian terrorist named Renard (Robert Carlyle). Elektra’s father had refused to pay the ransom and he was subsequently killed. We find out that his death came at the hands of his unforgiving daughter who committed patricide with Renard’s help.

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Initially the British intelligence agency is unaware of this double-cross. During the early portion of the story M sends Bond to the Middle East to protect Elektra from Renard. He gradually learns that Elektra has a twisted relationship with her former kidnapper and things become increasingly dicey. Caryle is perfectly creepy as the villain (he has a face that would have made him a star in F.W. Murnau’s silent films about vampires). He brings the right amount of understated menace to the role.

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I like how Judi Dench has considerably more to do in this installment. At one point M is tricked by Elektra to visit the site of her pipeline, which is to ensure that M will be on hand to watch the killing of Bond, before Elektra turns M over to Renard. Of course, Bond has faked his death with the help of nuclear physicist Dr. Christmas Jones (Richards’ character), and he works with a Russian casino owner to thwart Renard and rescue M. The casino owner Valentin is portrayed by Robbie Coltrane, reprising his earlier part from GOLDENEYE.

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There are many exciting action sequences. The first one involves the use of Q’s new unfinished boat which Bond races down the river Thames in pursuit of an assassin working for Renard. A skiing segment that takes place in the mountains is also breathtakingly good. And I thought the part where Bond and Christmas try to defuse a nuclear reactor was suspenseful if far-fetched.

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However, some things might have been better. For instance, I felt the gunfire and explosions became very repetitive, as if the producers were afraid that if there wasn’t a loud boom every five minutes the audience might get restless. And some of the dialogue needed fine-tuning. There was a strange line where Bond told Elektra that because of her relationship with Renard, she had suffered from Stockholm Syndrome. It didn’t feel right for him to tell her this in such academic terms. Instead he should’ve just said “you’re hung up on Renard” or “you have an unusual connection to Renard.” Viewers could’ve figured out she was experiencing the effects of Stockholm Syndrome without Bond having to tell her this for their benefit.

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I did enjoy most of the characterizations. M realizing she had caused some of Elektra’s psychological problems was excellent. Valentin turning out to be a good comrade in the end was great. And Bond understanding that sleeping with Elektra was in essence like sleeping with Renard. Brosnan played the scene perfectly– his repulsion when he figured out he had slept with the enemy couldn’t have been topped by any other actor as James Bond.

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THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH is directed by Michael Apted.

Three more Pauline Kael reviews

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Foxes and a hound

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THE LITTLE FOXES (1941)

She doesn’t like Bette Davis’ performance in this movie. According to Kael, it’s not as good as Tallulah Bankhead’s interpretation on the stage. She thinks Davis gives a dry reading of Regina and makes her too villainous.

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THE FOX (1967)

She believes the filmmakers changed the 1923 novella so that it might resemble ‘The Children’s Hour.’ She talks about the symbolism of the fox running wild on the Canadian farm where the two repressed lesbians live. She doesn’t like the explicit sexual overtones and feels the original source material was more potent when the sex was kept on the down-low and remained forbidden in a frightening sort of way.

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THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1939)

Kael likes this early Holmes flick. She calls it handsome and gripping, lauding Rathbone’s first appearance as the famed detective. She appreciates the moors and the mists, and other atmospheric touches. She mentions the fact that Holmes asks Watson for his needle. If that doesn’t give one a sense about what Holmes is really like, nothing else will. Of course Kael doesn’t need to keep hounding us about how good this film is.

Coming up in November

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Three more Pauline Kael reviews…so what else does she have to say?

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How-to-do things…the movies help us learn how to marry millionaires.

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Another conversation piece…dialogue I had with another classic film fan.

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Characters that are thankful…acts of gratitude, cinematically speaking.

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Honest writing and honest performances…when gimmicks and special effects aren’t needed to tell a story.

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Join me in November!

Essential: TOMORROW NEVER DIES (1997)

TOMORROW NEVER DIES is a cautionary tale about the future. It features powerful people who place their own interests ahead of the greater good. I would classify the film as a techno thriller. It lacks much of Bond’s trademark humor but still manages to get the job done. And though it relies heavily on action sequences, the story is in some ways more thought-provoking than what we’ve seen in earlier installments.

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It’s easy to compare this film to something like CITIZEN KANE where a media baron is using his empire to manipulate the public. Charles Foster Kane was inspired by the William Randolph Hearsts of the early 20th century. And we can infer that villain Elliott Carver (Jonathan Pryce) takes his cue from the Ted Turners and Rupert Murdochs of the late 20th century. There’s also a bit of NETWORK thrown in for good measure, where Carver’s news is more video orientated. We see events playing out like some sort of super-crazed nightmare of reality. It’s an interesting way to present a foe for Bond to deal with, because one of Carver’s ultimate goals is to push forward the headline of Bond’s demise. But like the title of this film, Bond never dies.

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The plot hinges mostly on Carver’s plan to create a WWIII-type environment which pits the western world against China. He thinks that if the Chinese are destroyed, he can swoop in and command a broader Asian market. But the Chinese will not be so easily defeated, and the British will not be outsmarted or used against the Chinese for these purposes. It is Bond to the rescue teaming up with Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh), a powerful and attractive Chinese agent.

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However, before Bond meets Wai Lin, he crosses paths with Carver’s trophy wife (Teri Hatcher). She’s a real beauty and one of Bond’s many ex-girlfriends. They reconnect and enjoy a brief romantic interlude. Paris Carver obviously realizes she married the wrong man, but she is unable to do anything about it when she is bumped off by her husband at the 53-minute mark.

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The characters played by Hatcher and Yeoh couldn’t be more different. One is considerably glamorous and the other is meant to appeal to Bond’s more heroic, action side. You could say it’s like going from showy to show stopping. A highpoint of the film involves a thrilling motorcycle chase for Bond and Wai Lin. It’s one of those exhilarating things you watch and realize this is why Bond movies still work. Because when it all ends, you know it’s been one heck of a ride.

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TOMORROW NEVER DIES is directed by Roger Spottiswoode.

Marion Crane is driving out of Phoenix

It’s Friday afternoon in Phoenix. Marion Crane is meeting her lover Sam Loomis at a hotel. Sam has a lot of debt, and until he is more financially secure, he won’t be able to marry Marion.

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After their romantic rendezvous, she goes back to the real estate office where she works. Marion’s boss is a man named George Lowery. Mr. Lowery is off meeting with an oil tycoon. When they arrive at the office, the tycoon tells Marion he’s purchasing a house for his daughter and paying for it with cash. Mr. Lowery is concerned about leaving $40,000 in the office over the weekend, so he asks Marion to take it to the bank. Marion can go home afterward.

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Instead of going to the bank, Marion just goes straight home. She is going to keep the money for herself. She has stuffed it into her purse and packs a suitcase. Then she gets on the highway and drives out of Phoenix. She drives until she’s so tired, she is forced to pull over. Marion soon falls asleep on a lonely stretch of road.

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She is awoken the next morning by a highway patrolman. The officer is suspicious of her behavior, but then lets her go.

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Marion is afraid he will remember her, so she goes to a used car lot and trades in her vehicle for a different one. As she continues to drive along the California highway, she gets caught in a fierce storm. Marion misses the turnoff to Sam’s place and ends up stopping at a quaint little motel. The charming proprietor welcomes her and offers to fix her dinner.

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Actresses marrying into royalty

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Constance Bennett was born into an esteemed acting family. She had a high profile film career and several high profile marriages. The third man she married was the ex-husband of Gloria Swanson, a French nobleman named Henri le Bailly– the Marquis de La Coudraye de La Falaise. He was a movie director in his native France, and he co-produced two films with Bennett. After nearly a decade of marriage, they divorced and she wed her former costar Gilbert Roland with whom she had two daughters.

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Virginia Cherrill‘s acting career lasted only eight years, but during this time she made the memorable film CITY LIGHTS with Charlie Chaplin. She went through husbands in rapid succession and had four of them. One was Cary Grant. Her third husband was George Child-Villiers, the ninth Earl of Jersey. She became known as Virginia Child-Villiers, Countess of Jersey.

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Geraldine Fitzgerald was born in Ireland and began her acting career in Dublin. But like so many Irish performers, she went to London to find greater opportunities. While she was in England she married Sir Edward Lindsay-Hogg. The marriage lasted from 1936 to 1946. After they separated Geraldine married again, but her second husband was not nobility.

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Rita Hayworth was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars when she walked away from movies in 1948 to marry Prince Aly Khan. There had been a year-long courtship while she obtained a divorce from Orson Welles. After they wed, a daughter (Princess Yasmin) was born to the couple. But the prince’s womanizing quickly put an end to the marriage. By 1953 Hayworth was divorced, living in the U.S. with Yasmin and back to filmmaking.

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Gene Tierney was married twice. Her first husband was fashion designer Oleg Cassini. Cassini was the son of an Italian countess and a Russian count, making him also a count. When Tierney was married to him, she was a countess. They had two daughters. After the couple broke up, she dated Rita Hayworth’s ex, Prince Aly Khan. They had a lengthy engagement but Tierney ended up marrying another man instead. Her new husband was not a member of a royal family.

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Grace Kelly gave up her screen career when she married Prince Rainier of Monaco. The prince’s actual name was Rainier Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand Grimaldi. His father was a count, and his mother was a princess and duchess. Princess Grace, as she became known, had three children. She remained happily married to her husband until a car crash took her life in 1982.