SKYFALL – James Bond

Fortunately, I saw this movie yesterday. Fortunately, I saw it at home where I could do other things while it played on the TV screen. Fortunately, I did not pay a penny; I checked out the DVD from the public library.

Most Bond movies have the hero on a mission or missions, accompanied by beautiful babes who assist or otherwise engage James. The game between the producer and audience is do something ephemeral, spectacular and exciting and lead the audience to the empty, impossible over-the-top climax. Spycraft be damned. It is pure entertainment pumped up by special effects.

But in Skyfall, there is a lot of dull and dead time. I don’t want to see a babe shave James Bond’s beard. I want quips, hormones and hands moving before body-on-body action! The audience has been James Bond be tested and recertified to “00” status, albeit with other actors, Pierce Brosnan and Sean Connery. At the end of Sean’s retesting, he has a fight with a very large killer whom he disables with a beaker of his own urine before killing the enemy beast. That fight scene is memorable. In Skyfall the retesting is done straight and long, as though the producers were making the hero, Henry V facing death.

James Bond will never be more than a fake, fantasy character doing incredible, indescribable feats. Keep James Bond in that segement of the box office.

The story of “Skyfall” involves an equally incredible, fantastic bad guy, a former brilliant MI-6 agent (mid-fifties) who’s mastered computers, software programing, electrical engineering and everything else about the technical world and how it works. He manages to evade customs, passport, police and security controls and agencies world-wide, much better than Matt Damon did as Jason Bourne. He attacks the Houses of Parliament (I figure that’s where a Parliamentary investigation is being held). He causes the destruction of part of the London underground with a bomb.

I only only surmise the British were asking themselves, What is to be done? It’s time for tea. Bond figures out: “We have to get ahead of this guy.” (I’ve heard that statement on American TV crime shows many times.) Apparently Bond was the only guy in Britain who thought so, and the whole country follows his plan: Don’t lay an ambush. Go into the wilds alone, virtually unarmed.

My advice to James Bond is, Don’t try to play it straight.




This movie is a satire. The setting is the wedding of a heavy-set woman. She invites three attractive, fashionable friends from high school; there is a sense of high school reunions combining with the downside of wedding preparations and parties.

The satire is about the three women (Dunst, Fisher and Caplan) who act like they are still in middle school. At a moment of sadness Dunst says, “I did everything right. I went to college. I exercise. I eat like a normal person. My boyfriend is in medical school.” She is lost in life. Caplan asks, “Are you all right?” “No, I’m fucking miserable.” All three women acting as girls are inept at human relationships, sad and unhappy.

Their conversation is juvenile. Their actions are juvenile. Their reactions are juvenile. Their judgment is absent. A seamstress is sorely needed; they run around until Fisher says, “I can sew.” But she is too wasted.

The men in the movie are surprisingly grown up and likable. The groom likes his bride-to-be. Fisher’s man was a high school classmate: She copied his French homework but only remembers she sold her pot. He refuses to sleep with her because she’s wasted: “You can’t remember my name.” The other women get unthinking sex, and one guy is in love again (previous high school romance went sour). 

The movie is less about lines, put-downs, and sit-com set-ups, it’s tone, and mostly about 30 year-olds trying to be young forever. Ageless youth of no maturing – The Portrait of Dorian Gray. The three women have avenues to escape youth. Whether they do leave is likely the stories of several dramas.


Fortunately, these are available at libraries, but why waste time.

THE SONG OF LUNCH. This movie is about Alan Rickman having lunch with Emma Thompson. He is a failing writer who works at a publisher as an editor. Emma is an old girlfriend now married to a successful writer. They haven’t seen one another for 12 (15?) years.

There is a Voice Over from Alan Rickman who looks pained as it is read. I took the Voice Over to reflect his character’s imagination, the quality of his English, the expression of his English and representing a style that would show up in the character’s writing. There are far too many adjectives. Thereupon it is easy to see why Alan Rickman’s character is a failed writer.

I wondered what Emma would do to overcome the Voice Over, carrying on while they’re having lunch. Nothing. The Voice Over is overwhelming, distracting, dull and drab. 

RESULT: I turned the DVD off.

A WRITING PROBLEM in The Song of Lunch did not happen in this film. If the story is about a character who is stupid or mediocre, the author has to write the story smart. The author cannot join the character who is stupid and be stupid or mediocre himself; that idiocy shows up in the writing. The author has to separate himself and be smart, lett the stupid player go his own way.

COUGARS. This is about middle-age women who find fun among the boys at a private boys boarding school.

Extremely poor casting. All the young men, boys, including Kyle Gallner look old. Ballner appears to be 30 plus years. His prep school buddies all look mid-twenties. When they hustle girls who look like teenagers, they struck out. Duh!

Katheryn Morris is one of the women. This is a loser of a movie; her TV show was much better. This movie suffers greatly from its format, a kindergarden script – asking questions and next writing the scene to attempt answer imperfectly through drama – extreme mediocre dialogue – and music that can be heard on any street corner.

Gallner should know if he gains another 25 pounds, he’ll begin looking like Charles Laughton. Whether the talent is there to act is a mystery. 

TIDBITS of Movies

Having read and previously posted (two weeks ago) about John LeCarre’s early novels, Call of the Dead and A Murder of Quality, I got the movies. The movie title of Call of the Dead is A Deadly Affair(James Mason). My advice: Stick with the novels.

“A Murder of Quality,” scripted by LeCarre is best but lacks the adult setting, subtle politics and society of adults. Set around a boy’s boarding school there are too many classroom scenes which convey little but expose a youthful Christian Bales as one of the boys to a grand future in the medium.

“A Deadly Affair” is Le Carre’s first George Smiley novel. It is necessary to know the novel to follow the movie. In the book not much time is devoted to George’s marriage to Ann and its dissolution, it is a big part of the movie. It seems Ann is played by a foreign actress (wrong – it is Harriet Anderson) who does not well represent Ann’s character in the book: a woman of means from gentry or nobility. There are senseless arguments between husband and wife. Indeed when husband and wife appear on the screen together, there is ridiculous bongo music. Throughout much of the music is not suited to espionage/murder, but more geared toward “The Thomas Crown Affair.” Much of the politics and pettiness in the Intelligence Community is overlooked or ignored. The script does not build to the end, but to save itself, the script slows and seems written from one chapter of the novel before going off on the screenwriter’s whim.

EXTRA. I was an extra in the now filming Helen Hunt/Robert Downey Jr. movie. I know I won’t be invited to the wrap party, but they’ll always remember me. When Helen and Robert are sitting on the park bench, I’m in the background waving at the camera.

“The Swiss Family Robinson” – When I was young, I saw this movie multiple times in movie theaters. I also read the book. I visited the tree house at Disneyland. John Mills is in it. James MacArthur, Danno of “Hawaii 50,” is in it. The guy who played and was “The Shaggy Dog” was in it, as the second son. For a scene he was wearing a Yippie Hat, something Abbie Hoffman might wear. This is very advant-garde for a Disney movie. The bad guy pirate in it was Colonel Saito in “Bridge on the River Kwai.” He wears a necklace that has torquoise. At the end there are lots of pirates to kill, as many as 150,  more than there are on Wall Street, especially after the second wave, 50 or so brigands hit the beach, off-loading from a small Chinese junk. MY CONCLUSION – This movie sucks.

“The Court Jester.” I saw this movie in Yosemite Valley at the movie theater that was there before it burned down. I remembered little about the plot, but I remember that the movie was very funny. I laughed very hard throughout. I liked Danny Kaye thereafter until I lost track of him.

Match the rhyme:       Flagon – Palace

                                     Vessel – Dragon

                                     Chalice – Pessel

Perhaps it is fond memories, but “The Court Jester” holds up. I recommend it.

I’ve read and recommend Film in the Third Reich, David Stewart Hull. In this short history Hull tells about a 1934 German movie, “Gold.” It is science fiction. In it is depicted an atomic reactor, used in an alchemy process to turn lead into gold. Hull writes,

“When the film was reviewed by an Allied censorship board after the war, the viewers wondered whether the German scientists had invented an atomic reactor long before they were supposed to have done so. An effort was made to seize every known print, and the film was put under a restricted category. It is even reported, on reliable authority, that a copy was flown to the United States to be viewed by atomic scientists to see if the machines could actually perform….” (p. 57, UC Press, 1969)

BRAVO! The film maker had his triumph – imagination over reality!  




“Titanic.” Why no sequel? Anyone with half a mind would have written and made one. Another two billion in the bank. Of course, Leonardo could not be in the second, unless he had a twin. But Kate would have been perfect, as she frequently is, unless she’s dying.

STORY: No title yet. I want suggestions.[Send your suggestions plus $25 to this blog and a return-addressed stamped envelope, and I’ll consider each.]

Kate lands in New York. (Forget about that lame-ass ending on movie one.) Billy finds her. All is forgiven. They set up the married life in and around New York City, an early version of “The Great Gatsby.” Kate find New Yorkers dull, excitable and deleterious. It’s a taxing, tiring life. Rather than an existence of “Gangs of New York” crossed with anything written by Edith Wharton, Kate is looking for “Downton Abbey” without Shirley MacLaine. She has to learn how to turn on the electric lights.

It’s rough living among upper class New Yorkers, the mucky-mucks, swells and others. She decides to return to England but promises to return. Traveling with girlfriends, they have a wild time – the usual stuff. The ladies have friends, Tom, Harry, Dick, Leonardo and Bill. The audience learns the many innuendos suggested by the adage: “A slice off a cut loaf is never missed.” A story twist – to spy on his wife Billy hires on the ship as a common seaman. Being lower class he easily gets into Kate’s circle and becomes a favorite dispensing favors.

The powers that be, the captain and upper classers are distressed by the improprieties, the improper priorities, the lack of social comportments and failures of grace. Ill-repute will be cast on the ship and the shipping company. No one wants to think of their vessel as “The Love Boat.”

The Captain calls Kate and her common seaman in. He dresses her down and upbraids him. But Billy saves the day. He professes true love for Kate, and reveals who he is.  Kate is lovey-dovey; the Captain is surprised but relents. AT THAT POINT two torpedoes hit the ship. It sinks quickly.

I don’t know who should survive this sinking of the Lusitania.  

“GRAVITY” – Sequel, Duh!

The movie, “Gravity,” got the largest U.S. box office last week. It is about two astronauts [George Clooney and Sandra Bullock] floating in space after their space craft or the space station is destroyed, or after their Virgin Atlantic spaceflight went awry. Ed Harris is in the movie as flight control, Houston, I suppose. After being in “The Right Stuff,” Harris adds credibility to any space movie. I have not seen the movie, but after the big October box office, it’s never too early to talk sequel.

Missing from Movie One because I’ve heard no ditties, is a song. This is outer space so Andy Williams or Perry Cuomo have to sing it. No one can have Janis Joplin belt it out – she’s too down to earth. The song not in the movie but should be is, “Dancing on the Atmosphere.” When an object enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it burns up. When “Gravity” causes our astronaut duo to get close to the atmosphere, they perform movie tricks, bounce off and don’t burn. That move and song are called “Dancing on the Atmosphere.”

The atmosphere is separate and apart from the burning, the chemistry, that the youngsters, Sandra and George have for one another. [This is all from press reports. We know how accurate that is. Marriage tomorrow, divorce by the weekend.]

The SEQUEL. George and Sandra have not been impaired or traumatized enough. They’re on a second space flight together, which is also jinxed. A sun flair destroys their spaceship, but [a contrivance] they avoid death by riding a wave of energy. [The accompanying music and song “Radiation Waltz.”] During the waltz they are protected in a thermal blanket, where fortunately everything including all movement remains uncover. The audience never sees the ill-effects of gamma [not grandma] rays.

Passing by a comet and our astronautic duo grabs the tail and rides. [SONG – Catch a comet by the tail.] Two songs, they ought to make this a musical. JOB OPENING: Seeking songwriter. Good platform. Lyric and music for movie/musical. Contact this blog.

After the music ends George and Sandra realize they’re going the wrong way and they’ve gone too far. They are in the Astroid Belt beyond Mars. They got off on an astroid and disagree. He wants to put all the rocks in the Belt together and form a planet; she want to return to mother earth. It’s the first time George has taken a good look at Sandra; she is shriveled. [Song: Summer Peach in the Fall] They locate a supply of oxygen in the astroid. With released energy the rock races toward Earth, the only bullseye in the Universe.[SONG: Target Earth] As they fly by the moon, hydrogen bombs explode near them. The countries with nuclear capabilities are sending bombs to blow up the astroid.


1. George and Sandra die in a nuclear explosion. [Song: Direct Hit – I love you.] This is a bad way to kill off a movie franchise. The audience wants to see George and Sandra in space again, and again, and again. Also, there’s no happy ending for a big musical flourish. 

2. It’s a nice astroid, darting among H-Bombs. It finally stops and drops George and Sandra off near a space station. [Song, Welcome Home] The astroid becomes a new earth satellite which hosts network equipment from Time, Warner Cable & Internet.

3. The most exciting ending [Song: Jump Off] As they approach Earth, George and Sandra jump off the astroid and float to a space station where they knock. They get on and watch: The astroid skirts the Earth and the atmosphere and heads for the Sun. It smacks that burning orb, [Song: Space is a Blast] causing a massive flair to stream toward earth but missing it. However, the Space Station/craft? Sequel 3.[Song: History Repeats.]

If all this sounds silly and stupid, remember it is the magic of Hollywood, and we’re talking big bucks: Platforms, actors and sequels!






The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck.

The first chapter of this novel was excellent. It is three pages long.

Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4 – at the end of that reading I had a hint, becoming suspicions, impressions and conclusions that if an editor did a hard read of this novel, they would shake 50,000 words from it, lose no content and make it more intelligible and comprehensible.

I had a sharper reaction. It seemed written by a government employee or someone working on a government program. So I checked, and I was correct. John Steinbeck spent time during the 1930s on the Federal Writers Project. No telling what he did, but government writing did do very little for him. It left Steinbeck very undisciplined. The only discipline he had was writing an outline which he followed but didn’t know how to use. This novel is the result of any government activism in the arts – poor works of literature, badly composed music, ill-conceived sculptures and paintings by applying colors identified by numbers.

Should anyone write a novel like The Grapes following an outline? It is impossible to figure out at the beginning. The length of this novel is about 200,000 words. Notating this point, explicating that point and figuring out the relationship between them is important, and how to express each, but a detailed outline [I. A. B. 1. 2. a. b.]? Idiots believe they can use microscopic analysis to make every point, identify every adverb and specify every comma and period for 200,000 words.

Indeed, reading WordPress blogs for two months, I’ve come across posts acclaiming the benefits of outlining without the writers telling what their outlines consist of, or how they are used or how the outline prompts their imaginations to produce any passage, chapter or book making the novel, story or writing memorable and excellent. Moreover, I’ve seen a blog advertise a “Storyboard” for novelists, like film writers do so they have illustrations they can show actors, art directors, directors and producers [people who do not read]. This is outlining at its worst, and removes the imagination of any writer from the process. These Storyboards reveal the accuracy and truth of George Owell’s analysis (my previous blog READ ORWELL):

“It would probably not be beyond human ingenuity to write books by machinery…Even more machine-like is the production of short stories, serials and poems for the very cheap magazines. Papers such as the Writer abound with advertisements of Literary Schools, all of them offering you ready-made plots at a few shillings a time. Some, together with the plot, supply the opening and closing sentences of each chapter. Others furnish you with a sort of algebraical formula…” (Orwell, “The Prevention of Literature,” January 2, 1946.)

Chapter 5 of The Grapes starts with 2,000 words of presentation. [Chapter 5 itself starts 10,000 words into the novel]. I suppose readers are to pay attention to identified parties – landowners, tenants, spokesmen for landowners, the Company, the banks. Steinbeck attempts to set up the relationships of all the people, and their visceral reactions to one another. In all those 2,000 words is not one character, no one to sympathize with, no one to hate, just Steinbeck’s raw, clunky social propaganda. The outcome to this outlined argument might be, tenants should remain on the land for free, although neither they nor anyone else can farm the land or otherwise live there without public assistance.

The beginning of Chapter 5 begins raw, didactic, cold and unfeeling:

“The owners of the land came onto the land, or more often a spokesman for the owners came. They came in closed cars, and they felt the dry earth with their fingers, and sometimes they drove big earth augers into the ground for soil tests. The tenants, from their sun-beaten dooryards, watched uneasily when the closed cars drove along the fields. And at last the owner men drove into the dooryards and sat in their cars to talk out of the windows. The tenant men stood beside the cars for a while, and then squatted on their hams and found sticks with which to mark the dust.

“In the open doors the women stood looking out, and behind them the children – corn-headed children, with wide eyes, one bare foot on top of the other bare feet, and the toes working. The women and the children watched their men talking to the owner men. They were silent.”

Let’s help Steinbeck out of this passage:

Tuffs of dust blew across the farms like last year, the dry earth yielding nothing to the red-brown sun. Closed cars motored among the farmhouses sited in the wide fields. Everyone knew these men, met by tenants in their yards while their women and children watched from the doorways of the houses. Men rolled down the windows and looked: the hard life in the faces of the woman and children, wide, blank eyes, some barefooted, always thinking before moving.

These seven lines pick up the substance of the dozen lines of Steinbeck and provide the same impact. If readers need the children’s “toes working,” [I don’t know why that is important other than to show the kids were minutely active], it can be dropped in later. How about “the tenant men” squatting “on their hams and found sticks to mark the dust.” Other than being unclear, it is out of place where it is in Steinbeck’s paragraphs. It should happen after the conversation has gone on a while.

But as it is written, Steinbeck has no movement by any human being, no one is uncomfortable, no one reacts to anyone else. Steinbeck paints a poor still-life. Everyone is robotic, which makes his passage and the 1500 following words inhuman. There is point after point, point-of-view after point-of-view. Purportedly, humans adhere to some of them, but how many? How are they said to other human beings in that setting? Which points-of-view bring sadness or laughter? [For readers who say none of this is important, you are not fiction writers and likely you are poor non-fiction writers. Your strengths are in law, advertising and other PR pursuits.]

In reality ending tenant relationships and foreclosing on land produced very human situations during the 1930s. No one made money with the dust, drought and kicking tenants and other farmers of the land. In the 1930s America, there were thousands of local banks, and many representatives of landowners as well as landowners themselves. Most tenant farmers and farmers were part of the small community. Tenants knew the bankers, owners and representatives. They and indebted owners knew why they were in debt and that they would have to leave. They knew they could not make the land productive. It is also true that the tenants and land owners lived in communities for years or decades, knowing one another, socializing and sharing community responsibilities: Church, government, schools, community events.

These is no indication in The Grapes that the landowners “in closed cars” knew anyone they were driving out to see. Likewise, did the tenants or debt-ridden landowners know anyone who was arriving “in closed cars.” Steinbeck conveys no community – a banker or owner having extended credit or forgiven a loan, or knowing something about the tenants, gone to school together, to church together, played sports together, knew about health problems in the family and knew about marriages and events affecting that family from the outside. The 1930s American midwest presented a cruel environment, once kind for so long and then taking away lives and livelihoods. And the bankers and owners were not detached; they were unhappy about the destruction of their local communities.

However, The Grapes fails to respond to these circumstances. The next writing from Chapter 5:

“Some of the men were kind because they hated what they had to do, and some of them were angry because they hated to be cruel, and some of them were cold because they had long ago found that one could not be an owner unless one were cold. And all of them were caught in something larger than themselves. Some of them hated mathematics that drove them, some of them were afraid, and some worshipped the mathematics because it provided a refuge from through and from feeling.”

I wouldn’t blame mathematics for a novelist’s inability to explain human circumstances within his medium. Nor would I give mathematics the burden of motivating owners, banks and companies. Mathematics are convenient to Steinbeck because they were abstract and let Steinbeck inaccurately describe the whole situation in a non-human way. Steinbeck is not a novelist. Novelists have told about much more complex situations: Riots, wars and meetings, and successful novelists relay thoughts and feelings. Steinbeck is guilty of the exact faults he attributes to the Banks and the Companies: There are no “thoughts” and no “feelings” in this passage. Perhaps Steinbeck gives those thoughts and feelings attached to characters later, but why is he repeating this passage later by adding human beings? He has to delete this passage or be consistent and delete the next.

There is a reason why Chapter 5 begins without an identifiable human being, 12,000 words into the novel. and goes on without any sense of story telling. Steinbeck merely goes from point to point. This is obviously someone used to writing for the government entities, stating out-of-date motives, craving money for sloppy work, but unconcerned about human beings.This passage displays no traits of a novel, but it characteristics are more like a government story or a textbook.

The film with Henry Fonda is far superior to this novel. Screenwriters have never had to luxury of writing distractions, big generalizations, insignificant minutae and off-point scenes. Henry Fonda was the ideal actor – bitter on demand and an instant sulk as he lived and griped his way on the road from Oklahoma to California. In some ways Henry got typecast to these roles. [I prefer Henry Fonda in “Once Upon A Time in the West.”]

For Schools, it is not acceptable to assign a fat book for students to read for any class, especially English. It the writing – use of language, characters, story, vocabulary – that should recommend a book to students. However, The Grapes is poor; students have nothing to learn from it. It should be marginalized, although it was once considered socially significant.

Today, the grapes are sour and outdated. Knowledge about debt and losing property is much better understood. Millions of people lost their houses or are now underwater. The shenanigans by buyers and sellers abused the whole system that will not be cleaned up. No one is innocent and many are completely guilty of raping a corruptible system. My favorite passing-the- buck-story was about loan forms signed by a woman in Florida through 2006, I believe. She signed thousands of loan forms, the basis for the debt instruments providing security [collateral] to the lenders. I can’t remember which bank or loaning company she worked for, but she didn’t get paid for her years of service because in 1995, she died.

Today, Steinbeck would call the banks, money givers, loan owners: MEANIES. Poor old so-and-so lost her husband just before losing her house (she’s been married six times, is eyeing number 7). She now has to work at a convenience store. Job training has taught her to smile during hold-ups. Security tapes reveal she has lost her front teeth. [Dental Care is not covered by Obamacare – screw everyone with bad teeth like Harry Reid and Ted Cruz.] The widow-lady can no longer pronounce fricatives; she walks around all day saying “uck,” “uck,” “uck.” She’s fired for swearing uncontrollably but brings a disability lawsuit for unjust unemployment. That’s the problem because Obamacare cannot fix the housing market.

MORAL to this story: It is easy to write a character even if the writing is nonsense.