Monday, February 25, 2013

Django Unchained

I saw a lot grisly stuff a little too early—or, let me qualify that: I saw representations of grisly stuff. My brother has five years on me and was a movie buff, so I was exposed, over his shoulder, to the likes of Natural Born Killers, Pink Flamingos (few are ever old enough to see that one, really), and, inevitably, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. In some ways, when we're talking themes and such, the films of Quentin Tarantino are for a mature audience, but as far as the tone itself goes, Tarantino makes a movie so that even your pets and house plants know it's awesome. And that's about the short and skinny of it: we can jaw all day about referentiality and the like in the works of that motormouth, but for me all that is a thin layer of ice over a deep sea of awesomeness. Depending on whether you love or loathe Tarantino, this estimation might be either laudatory or insulting. I don't mean awesome in a good or bad way, but in a static way; Tarantino is awesome in the way heavy metal is loud, the way hoppy beer is hoppy. For my age—11 or 12ish—and head space, I fell in love with Tarantino. I memorized Tim Roth's "commode story," recited Samuel L. Jackson's "Ezekiel speech," watched Michael Madson's low-key boogie to Stealers Wheel over and over again. Tarantino is, frankly, catnip for males, exciting the men in boys, and the boys in men.

Maybe chalk it up to seeing Tarantino at a young age, but the guy's films, after Jackie Brown, have felt somewhat childish to me. Or maybe youthful would be more apt. I might also attribute this new-found aplomb to a feeling of joy present in his post-millennial movies. His work lately is shot through with this exuberance. You really get this feeling that this guy loves what he does, that he makes movies like he was ringing a bell. This, of course, is usually the main point put forward by Tarantino's detractors: that his stuff is just a little too cool, too awesome, that he loves himself and what he does just a little too much. I don't have an opinion about this being positive or negative. It just is what it is. Tarantino is only ever Tarantino, and seems constantly thrilled to be so.

Maybe it's finding Christoph Waltz that has really exploded the joy in Tarantino. That theretofore unknown Austrian actor sings the guy's banter, rides the air streams of it like some raptor. But the introduction of Waltz into Tarantino's realms also points to a disquieting shift in Tarantino's work. Waltz, as the repugnant Jew Hunter in Inglorious Basterds, is beguiling and mellifluous. He steals the show. With anyone else in that role, the movie—a WW2 What If?—might not have been as well received. I imagine many more people would have been snagged on the sharp edges of the content were it not for Waltz's smoothing. Tarantino has always loved the bad guy, and made a habit of distinguishing one's job from one's character. But his previous mugs have mostly been extracted from the world of film. With Inglorious Basterds and now Django Unchained, Tarantino has been harvesting his loveable villains from the real world, first from a Nazi-sick Europe, and now from the antebellum South. As a result, it becomes a bit more difficult to love his baddies qualm-free.

Jamie Foxx picks up the role of Django, here a slave emancipated (sort of) by a German bounty hunter posing as a dentist, cheekily named Dr. King. King needs Django's help identifying a troika of nasty brothers, and from there takes him under his wing, killing white men. A friendship blossoms and King agrees to help Django find and free his lost wife, Broomhilda. Tarantino loves himself some revenge narratives, and this one might be his bloodiest. Dr. King and Django track his lost love to Candyland, a plantation lorded over by Leonardo DiCaprio.

There's egregious violence in Django Unchained. Gore is Tarantino's cowbell, if you will. And it blows the kid in me's hair back. It's thrilling, joyful violence, taken right out of some bored teenager's sketchbook. But considering the historical contexts that Tarantino is beginning to explore, a serious tension is beginning to creep in. The giddy gore is being juxtaposed with very earnest, brutal, hateful cruelty. With Django Unchained, Tarantino might be presenting some of the grossest, near-real examples of the extreme dirt we've done to one another in the past. There are some scenes here that go at your empathy with the claw-end of a hammer. It makes you sick, and it should. What does it mean, though, when violence that's a little too close to reality exists next to violence that is so far from reality as to be comical? I'm not entirely sure what balance Tarantino is trying to strike, but the lingering result is unsettling. A month after first seeing the film, I still don't know what to make of it, still don't know if I'm okay with what I saw.

I do wonder sometimes how seeing what I did when I did might have damaged my character. Time and my loved ones will ultimately be the judges of that. But a movie like Django makes for an interesting litmus. The ten-year-old me loves the look of this movie, loves the performances, loves the cool-for-cool's sake anachronistic hip-hop soundtrack, the incessant nodding to and winking at film history, and he even kind of loves the laughable jam-red melee of blood and guts. However, I take a sort of solace in the discomforting crawling I feel during the more blunt, human incidents of savagery. Tarantino's always walked the line (or the blood trail?) between the glorification of violence and the critique of it. And while it's still obvious that he relishes the special effects splatter of it all, I get the feeling that there's an increasingly adult, less nerdy discussion of that line and his role in it that he's maybe preparing to have—with himself sooner, and hopefully with us soon thereafter.

- Andrew

Friday, February 22, 2013

When this thing hits 88 miles per hour, you're going to see some serious cinema

Guelph Movie Club Episode 3: Back to the Future
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
USA 1985 | 116 minutes
Rated PG

The votes are in. Episode three of Guelph Movie Club is Back to the Future (unless someone travels back in time and changes things). Thursday, March 28, we hop in the DeLorean and head back to the year 1955. So join Doc, Marty, and the rest of us, won't you? Everyone is welcome.

As usual, we hope you'll come early and stay late to share a pint (or a Pepsi Free) in the Green Room and talk movies. After the movie, you'll have a chance to cast your ballot for Episode five, so start thinking.

Till then, see you in the future (and at the movies),

Danny W.

p.s. Nominations for the April GMC movie are in from last night's raucous screening of The Big Lebowski. What a howl it was! The short list of five films will be up for voting shortly. Watch The Bookshelf Facebook and Twitter pages for more details!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Order of Irish Monks

"His voice was the elaborately casual voice of the tough guy in pictures. Pictures have made them all like that."

Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep

There's something going on in The Big Lebowski that I was unable to fully articulate until ten years after first seeing the thing, with the Coens' Burn After Reading. Briefly, the 2008 movie is about--amongst other threads--a pair of gym employees fumbling through the blackmail of a CIA agent after finding a computer disk containing his memoirs in the locker room. The movie's not the Coens' best, but it's very Coen-y and definitely worth a look. At work in Burn After Reading--maybe more overtly than the subtler presence in Lebowski--is the sense that the action is taking place in the real world--our world--and is being acted out by people who, finding themselves in an uncanny predicament, let fuzzy recollections of TV and movies--conscious or latent--guide them. In fact, the movie even makes a subtle-ish nod to North by Northwest, the Hitchcock classic about an ad man getting mistaken for for a secret agent and subsequently dragged into that very different world. However, Cary Grant adopts his new reality with a dash more dashing competence than either Frances McDormand or Brad Pitt do in the Coens' movie.

It's an interesting question to ask yourself while watching a movie: Do movies exist in this movie? Has this spy ever seen a spy movie? Have these busty teenagers ever seen a horror movie? Has this dude falling in love with his best friend's girlfriend ever seen a romantic comedy?

It's a postmodern quagmire. How do we respond in a genuine way when we find ourselves in a recognizably fictitious scenario? One of the scratchiest head scratches of our current relationship with reality is reality television. I watched the first season of Survivor and then a few episodes of the second. Or course all the contestants of the second season had been ardent fans of the first, and from the word go aped what they'd previously seen on TV. It's gotten so bad that now that contestants on these game shows communicate in a limited mash-up of well-worn phrases. It can't be anything but surreal for these people to find themselves living in and responding to a world both foreign and entirely recognizable.

And so we have The Dude, hirsute and insouciant; by his own admittance, his career has "slowed down a bit lately." Tripped by a Hitchcockian case of mistaken identity, and a less-Hitchcockian instance of having his rug micturated upon, Lebowski is sicced on a tangle of millionaires, pornographers, artists, and nihilists. Or, to say it another way, El Duderino is pulled out of his real world and into a sort of inelegant film noir. 

But how aware is The Dude of the structure of the structure he's found himself in? There's that point in the movie where The Dude finally confronts a tail he's spotted earlier, a squirt named Da Fino who's been hired by The Gundersons to find their daughter Fawn, AKA Bunny Lebowski. "I'm a brother shamus," Da Fino explains. "Brother Shamus?" The Dude questions, "Like an Irish monk?" This Private Snoop is maybe the most on-the-nose caricature, straight out of Chandler--or else he'd like to be--and The Dude seems to be in the dark about either his origins or influence. "I dig your work," Da Fino tells him. "Playing one side against the other, in bed with everybody. Fabulous stuff, man." To Da Fino, The Dude's bumbling and scrambling to get his rug back has taken on the sheen of "a dick."

The movie is replete with real world people playing characters, pretending to be in their own personal movies: Jesus's lane machismo, Maude's affected and unrecognizable accent, Walter's heightened vet status and ultimate attempt to play the player. The result is a subtle tension in both the comedy and the story. Consider how often the flow of a movie plot is obstructed by a character's failure to complete the role of their role. Theodore Donald "Donny" Karabotsos is maybe the sole vein of unaffected realness in the movie. He's in the story, but not of the story. So it's apropos that Donny steals the end of the movie by SPOILER ALERT (jump to the next paragraph if you don't want to know a major plot point) dying of a heart attack during the final climax. This is not something that people do in movies. Sure, people are knocked out cold by a single blow, or die immediately from a gun shot, but never do they have heart attacks as a result of the clamor and clangor of a pretty basic showdown.

With all that being said, I don't even know how to factor in the fact that The Big Lebowski, for all its real/fictive chaffing, is story told by a drawly, mustachioed stranger who spends his nights drinking sarsaparilla at a bowling alley bar.

- Andrew

Friday, February 15, 2013


The films of Michael Haneke thrum with menace. An obscure, abstract, existential and--essentially--outside menace. There's the arrival of the genial and brutal Tom and Jerry in Funny Games, for instance; the surveillance videos that show up on Anne and Georges's doorstep in Cache; the gory accidents that accrue in the quaint village in The White Ribbon. These menaces can come to feel like punishments, tests, out-and-out Old Testament scourges--though only if the Old Testament had no God in it. The cart tends to come before the horse in the work of Haneke: the punishment comes first, leaving the punished to plumb their own pasts and lives for some explanation. 

In Amour, however, the menace is interior. Georges and Anne (Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva) are retired music teachers in their eighties, dividing their time between remaining culturally active and puttering around their Paris apartment. As the film opens, the couple returns from a concert by a former student to find the lock on their door broken. Unaware that they're in a Haneke film, the old folks don't seem too concerned. Over breakfast the next morning, Anne spaces out, is unresponsive to Georges. He cups her face (you'll recognize this positioning from the posters) in a manner that, in a different context, would be a romantic hold, but now Georges only gapes dreadfully at his wife. From there, Anne's health crumbles. And it's as though we, the viewers, were the ones who broke into Anne and Georges's, and are now locked in with them as struggle to bend their love to the demands of Anne's condition.

In Funny Games, the viewer is similarly trapped along with a couple (also named Anne and Georges) as they're tortured by two psychopaths. I don't think I've ever been so disturbed by a movie, ever felt so trapped. I bring this up at the risk of turning you (whoever you are) off from Amour. Because, in some ways, the gut discomfort, the emotional claustrophobia I felt in Haneke's recent film (a contender for both Best Foreign Film and Best Film at this year's Oscars) were the same. Haneke's agent of punishment here is our own makeup, our own corporeality, and this is what makes Amour especially discomforting. Chances are good that not a one of us will ever be taken hostage by maniacs in tennis outfits, but the situational confinement suffered by Georges and Anne is very real; we can't help but project ourselves and those we love into their hell.

But how can I wrap Amour up in that horrifying bow and still make an argument for it being a film about love? I think it will depend on each individual's emotional capacity to be honest about life's content. The strife for Anne and Georges is profound, but so too is their love. In some ways, in all its horror, Amour is one of the few true-blue love stories I've seen on screen. Culturally, we think of and talk about love as a feeling, some great event--which it can be--but rarely are we comfortable talking about love as daily labour, as its own challenge and reward. Amour is not so much about love as a noun, but as a verb. As a noun love is static, but as a verb it's a bit bizarre, forever changing how and why and to where it moves. 

It's this movement, this action that Haneke has captured so well, making Amour a marvellous, Muybridge-esque study of love's gaits.

- Andrew

Monday, February 11, 2013

GMC: Well, that is just like, uh, your opinion man

For newbies: Never heard of Guelph Movie Club? Follow along starting with our first blog entry.

Folks, we’re less than two weeks away from Guelph Movie Club Episode 2: The Big Lebowski. That's next Thursday, Feb. 21 at 9:00 p.m.

But for now, I want to look ahead to Movie Club Episode 3: TBD, which will happen in late March. After much counting of ballots and making of charts, we have the short list for that movie ready for your voting pleasure:
It’s in your hands now. Have your say. You can vote on which movie you'd like to see by taking this GMC Facebook poll. A few notes on the poll: You don't have to have a Facebook account to vote; just choose a movie and click Submit. You can only vote for one movie, and you can only vote once. Voting will be closed Sunday, Feb. 17 at 11:30 p.m., and results of the poll will be announced at the screening of the Big Lebowski next Thursday. May the best movie win!

Back to Episode 2: To honour the preferred beverage of The Dude himself, stop by the Greenroom or the eBar on Feb. 21 for discounted prices on White Russians. I’m going to head down early (and stay a bit late), so why not join me?

Till then, see you at the movies,

Friday, February 8, 2013

On the Road

Here's how On the Road (the novel and movie both) begins: "I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up. I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won't bother to talk about, except to say that it had something to do with the miserably weary split and my feeling that everything was dead. With the coming of Dean Moriarty began the part of my life you could call my life on the road." In some ways, On the Road picks up where The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn leaves off, with Sal Paradise--the story's Kerouac surrogate--as a kind of Huck, who, ragged from adventures and travails of "civilized" society, lights out to the territories. For a work so remembered for its fireworks, for its freedom, this animating sense of everything being dead is often overlooked. How many people ask themselves after reading On the Road, "Well, was his feeling right? Was everything dead after all?"

Like most pubertal males of a certain temperament, I wolfed Kerouac in high school. For me, though, it wasn't so much the romance of being on the bum that cleaved me to his paperbacks--I was and still am fairly lazy and predisposed to certain creature comforts--but the gallop of his language, the beatific spit polish he could give to the stubbornest of life's turds. Some fifteen years later and I still haven't fully expunged the rambling, alliterative influence Kerouac had on my prose. My falling out with that particular generation came, I think, when I grasped the full scope and implication of these lives: Cassady passed out naked and died on some railroad tracks, Kerouac kicked it fat and drunk in his mom's trailer, Ginsberg lasted long enough to become a weird old supporter of NAMBLA; of all the Beats, it turned out to be William S. Burroughs who kind of got his act together. I guess I glommed onto the Beats because, through their living and their writing about their living, they seemed to be building toward some interesting (interesting to me at that age) marriage of art as living and living as art. For the most part, these projects led to some pretty repugnant, sad venues. When it came, my split from Ti Jean and his weirdo, beardy buddies was pretty acrimonious. I had loved him so stupidly, and so began to hate him with a similar blunt vehemence.

A few years ago, I conceived of and ultimately failed to put down an essay exploring how and why Kurt Vonnegut was better than Jack Kerouac. (Both men were the same age and managed to find a voice that the relevant generation had apparently been hearing in its head for some time, etc.) I hadn't read the King of the Beats since high school, so to strengthen myself enough to suitably drag such a giant over the coals, I reviewed that old drunk's bloated corpus. Ultimately, I quit the essay because Kerouac wasn't half-bad ("Wasn't half-good, either," goes the old joke). Kerouac's project was Proustian; he imaged a day when all his works would be collected as the Duluoz Legend. Read all together according to interior chronology, there's something finally heartbreaking about that Duluoz narrative. If Kerouac hit the road to prove (to himself only?) that everything wasn't dead, in some ways he travels all that way, all the way to Big Sur, only to find that that initial feeling was correct-ish. (A morose and maudlin reading, I know, and I can imagine there are not just a few Kerouac acolytes rolling their tattered scribble books, ready to whack me.) It strikes me now that the purple, wild, benny-driven work of Kerouac is finally quixotic, specifically Quixote-ish: an attempt to vivify a moribund culture.

Because On the Road, as a fiction, is so specifically aligned with a just-as-famous biography, adaptation is a slick slope. In Walter Salles's take, Sam Riley is no Jack Kerouac, who was blockishly good-looking, swarthy, a former jock. And Garrett Hedlund is no Neal Cassady, who looked like a stuntman capable of landing Clarke Gable-type roles if it weren't for the untethered, wily look in his eyes. But this isn't a movie about Jack and Neal; it's about Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty. Sam Riley as Sal comes across as Kerouac might have felt about himself, slight and bashful, more outside than in. And Garrett Hedlund, as Dean, is the tousled-haired, man-boy heartthrob who enchants and lets down everyone he meets. When the cast was revealed, there wasn't just a bit of objection to the choices. For me, though, the casting pointed towards the possibility that Salles' movie would be an adaptation of the book, not the lore.

On the Road doesn't scream out to be adapted. It's a bit Moby Dickish. Inasmuch as Melville's prose mimics the undulations of sea travel and his structure the spates of sheer boredom of the voyage, Kerouac's scrolling voice, the back-and-forthing of his characters, and some wholly skipable passages seem to reflect the hit-or-miss nature of hitchhiking; sometimes it's the most exciting thing ever, and sometimes you just wish it would end. Salles manages to capture this dichotomy without ever having it be laborious. His film is at times a fascinating run on sentence--a Kerouacian jag--with spates of manic, Beat-y socializing, interrupted by driving. Between one or the other, the road scenes become some of the most compelling elements of the film, or at least the ones that really deserve and are improved by being put on film. The Beat Generation parties feel familiar at this point, claustrophobic shindigs I've seen plenty of in documentaries and re-creations--though I'm sure others will get a real kick out of that stuff. But this is the first time the road, and the America on either side of it, has really been done justice. These landscapes were as much a part of that generation's charge as the cramped apartments, their vastness and their emptiness at once beautiful and lonely, and, as we know, somewhat doomed.

To return to Moby Dick, one of my favorite scenes in that book is when Ishmael first boards the Pequod and meets Captain Peleg, who questions the kid about his interest in whaling. Ishmael tells him he wants to see the world, so the old man instructs him to look over the bow of the ship, and to come back and tell him what he saw. I love this:
I perceived that the ship swinging to her anchor with the flood-tide, was now obliquely pointing towards the open ocean. The prospect was unlimited, but exceedingly monotonous and forbidding; not the slightest variety that I could see.

"Well, what's the report?" said Peleg when I came back; "What did ye see?"

"Not much," I replied—"nothing but water; considerable horizon though, and there's a squall coming up, I think."

"Well, what does thou think then of seeing the world?"
I don't know if fans of On the Road will love Salles's adaptation, but for my money it's about the best anyone could have done with that book. Inasmuch as this classic is about exploration--geographical, emotional, cultural, sexual--it's also about discovering that all there is is water out there. Salles captures the thrill of exploration, but also, more subtly, the sense that the more you see, the less there will be to see.

The movie ends as I guess it has to, with Sal writing his book, as Kerouac did, on a long scroll. It's a breakthrough for Sal, artistically and personally, but there's also a creeping sense that he's had the greatest experience of his life. And maybe this is me reading too much bio into the film, but I can't help but see the ending as somewhat sad, knowing that the book will turn out, and will define and animate a generation, and destroy this skinny little boy in the process. What's left unsaid at the end of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, after Huck declares his plans to light out to the territories, is that the territories are quickly disappearing--that, for the most part, over the horizon line is more water.

- Andrew

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Club That Really Ties the Whole Room Together

First, I’m absolutely gobsmacked at the response to the first episode of Guelph Movie Club. It’s been a very long time since I experienced that great a crowd at a movie. I think we might really have something here. Thank you for being part of it. A couple of things to be aware of:

Regarding GMC episode two (February): As some of you have already heard, we’ll be showing The Big Lebowski on February 21 at 9:00 p.m. A bit of trivia: our showing of the movie falls between the fifteenth anniversaries of the limited and wide releases of The Big Lebowski.

Regarding GMC episode three (March): We’re in the process of putting together a short list from the film suggestions you made at the Ghostbusters screening. We’ll update you via email, blog, and social media when the list is ready, which should be very shortly. Once the list is available, you can simply head to The Bookshelf’s Facebook page to pick your favourite.

That’s it for now. Get your bowling ball ready, pour yourself a White Russian, and mark your calendars for February 21.

See you at the movies,

Friday, February 1, 2013


Here's Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon (credited as screenwriter on Spider-Man 2 and John Carter), from the introduction to McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales:
For the last year or so I have been boring my friends, and not a few strangers, with a semi-coherent, ill-reasoned, and doubtless mistaken rant on the subject of the American short story as it is currently written.

The rant goes something like this (actually this is the first time I have so formulated it): Imagine that, sometime about 1950, it had been decided, collectively, informally, a little at a time, but with finality, to proscribe every kind of novel from the canon of the future but the nurse romance. Not merely from the critical canon, but from the store racks and library shelves as well. Nobody could be paid, published, lionized, or cherished among the gods of literature for writing any kind of fiction other than nurse romances. Now, because of my faith and pride in the diverse and rigorous brilliance of American writers of the last half-century, I do believe that from this bizarre decision, in this theoretical America, a dozen or more authentic masterpieces would have emerged. Thomas Pynchon's Blitz Nurse, for example, and Cynthia Ozick's Ruth Puttermesser, R.N. One imagines, however, that this particular genre--that any genre, even one far less circumscribed in its elements and possibilities than the nurse romance--would have paled somewhat by the year 2002. Over the last year in that oddly diminished world, somebody, somewhere, would be laying down Michael Chabon's Dr. Kavalier and Nurse Clay with a weary sigh and crying out, "Surely, oh, surely there must be more to the novel than this!"

Instead of "the novel" and "the nurse romance," try this little Gedankenexperiment with "jazz" and "the bossa nova," or with "cinema" and "fish-out-of-water comedies..." Suddenly you find yourself sitting right back in your very own universe.
Chabon's yawlp has been the most persistent, if not the loudest, in American lit. His PP-winning novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, along with Jonathan Lethem's Fortress of Solitude, were the first--most noticeably--in a movement to re-braid the come-loose hanks of "literature" and "popular culture." (The movement had been simmering with the post-modernists for years, but it was only in the twilight of the twentieth century that it got to a boil rolling enough to attract the masses.) It was around this time that Bryan Singer, of underground The Usual Suspects fame, released X-Men--arguably the watershed movie of good superhero movies. As a pubertal fan of The Usual Suspects, it seemed odd that Singer was doing costumed combat stuff in the wake of such a patient and gritty crime film. Since X-Men, Ang Lee has directed a Hulk movie, Kenneth Branagh a Thor one, and sort-of indie darling Jon Favreau kicked the door in with Iron Man. Gradually, the types of movies you went to never expecting them to be good, were getting kind of good.

By the 90s, the Bond franchise had pretty much become a joke, being more about seeing a girl you never get to see in a bikini in a bikini. In the four years between Die Another Day and Casino Royale, tastes seemed to have changed significantly. It's convenient to hang this carpet-pulling the culture suffered on 9/11, but this is no academic investigation. As viewers, we apparently still wanted to see egregious violence and buildings falling down (insert footnote re: cultural catharsis), but couldn't stomach any of it to be frivolous. Now we wanted meaning or, in the absence of meaning, heart- and soul-sick confusion at these loops we're in. If James Bond was to exist in our world, he couldn't be Sears catalogue-handsome, like Pierce Brosnan. With his craggy, sometimes sickly-seeming face, and a coldness to his blue eyes that can make Stephen Harmer look like a dough-eyed softy, Daniel Craig made the perfect fit. This was not a Bond for whom peril was a breeze, or who was dumbly convinced about the righteousness of his job--the reliable British cheek was less a come on, more a gallows gag.

Sam Mendes is steering Skyfall. American Beauty made such a splash that Mendes's follow-ups have seemed slight in comparison. But with films like Jarhead, Revolutionary Road, and Away We Go, the director has been burnishing, within the framework of different genres, his depiction of the conflict between an individual and his or her assigned role--be it the role of a soldier, the role of a spouse, the role of a parent. In Skyfall, all of these, let's say, deeper themes have been pretty deftly folded into the tried and true Bond genre. There has been an increasing tension throughout Craig's 007 residence, as though the real world, our world, has been slowly eking into the stylized spy novel world of the characters.

This twenty-first-century movement towards more inward, meaningful, and--dare I say--literate entertainments is nothing new. It seems to me that there was this roughly twenty-year spate where the folks selling movies assumed the public was awash with boobs, dolts, and dimwits. And those who weren't mush brains, were snobs. We had movies and films, fiction and literature, and the low and high weren't permitted to consort. Slowly, we're being trusted with our own minds, with our own emotional intelligence. We want to be entertained, but we don't want to be pandered to. The purpose of entertainment, at least in my lifetime, has mostly been to disengage, to get away, but Skyfall is an apt example, I think, of the change that's afoot; the way out is doubly a way back in.

- Andrew