Archives for posts with tag: Judi Dench

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

A chick flick truffle to induce salivation in women moviegoers made weak in the knees by tart, cockney-accented romantic comedy or who find the idea of an elderly Englishman dancing in his shower to the beat of “Le Freak” to be irresistibly hilarious, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a slick but superficial offering sure to satisfy its target audience and annoy everybody else. Full of dry wit, spirited performances, and dramatic scenes that allow for a liberal range of hues of geriatric heart-tuggery, this tale of a gaggle of English geezers who retire to live out the remains of their lives in a ramshackle Indian hotel is a more than adequate vehicle for a strong and colorful ensemble cast that includes veterans Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, and British bulldog Maggie Smith, who resembles Michael Caine in drag.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is:

6. Pro-miscegenation and pro-gay. Graham (Wilkinson) has returned to India to see his old Indian lover, Manoj (Rajendra Gupta). As a sensitive gay man, Graham is naturally more desirable to Jean (Wilton) than her heterosexual husband (Nighy). Shameless tramp Madge (Celia Imrie) spends her time trying to meet a rich Indian husband. After a woman mistakenly gets into her bed, Madge, rather than being upset, reflects pleasantly, “That’s the most action I’ve had in weeks” (cf. no. 3).

5. New age. Douglas (Nighy) is impressed with the sense of peace he feels in an Indian temple. Hindi moaning features prominently on the soundtrack. The group disposes of one of its members in a spiritually piquant funeral pyre. The film generally does its best to perpetuate the idea of the East as the place where westerners can most successfully actualize themselves.

4. Anti-marriage/anti-family. Evelyn (Dench), a recently widowed housewife, has been left with debts by her controlling husband, who never communicated with her. The Ainslies (Nighy and Wilton) are both drawn to other people, and their union ends in separation. Hotel proprietor Sonny (Dev Patel) and the woman he loves (Tena Desae) must both oppose their families’ wishes in order to be with each other.

3. Feminist/pro-castration. Evelyn’s mannish haircut is a horror. The viewer is left with the impression that Douglas will become the mincing, tea-serving common law househusband of this former housewife, now a strong and empowered woman in control of her life (cf. no. 6).

2. Globalist. The film depicts business ventures sympathetically and gives a smiling human face to the phenomenon of Third World outsourcing of jobs.

1. Multiculturalist/anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn). “Old habits die easier than we think” and “we must celebrate the changes.” Britain’s Third World influx, this film would have viewers believe, simply means more skilled professionals to serve the public interest. Wheelchair-bound bigot Muriel (Smith) is at first reluctant to be treated by a minority doctor, objecting to immigrants’ “brown faces and black hearts”, but comes to see the error of her ways in the light of Indian kindness. Sonny makes a show of Indian grace and genius with his florid speech and quotation of Shakespeare. The film opens itself to an accusation of insensitivity, however, when Douglas recommends a temple, but jokingly admonishes visitors to “maybe take a clothespin for your nose.”

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Director Sam Mendes made his fortune with American Beauty, one of the most overrated films of the 1990s.  He did something to begin redeeming himself with Road to Perdition and now continues his foray into legitimately earned accolades with Skyfall, a solid entry in the Daniel Craig James Bond series.  The action set pieces are top-notch or close, with the opening sequence being a particular doozy; and the writing team has injected a valuable uncertainty into the story by presenting a battle-damaged Bond somewhat past his prime and perhaps in over his head in confronting a foe of similar background and prowess.

Javier Bardem has fun as Silva, a quirky, almost Batman-style supervillain and hacker extraordinaire with a private army.  Silva, a former MI6 agent, has a bone to pick with M (Judi Dench), holding his ex-boss responsible for torture he endured at enemy hands.  She is also the subject of his unhealthy mother fixation, so that 007’s current favor with her irks Silva as a kind of sibling rivalry.  M is closer to the action than usual in Skyfall and gets to play with the boys a little.

Packed with lovely ladies, unusual perils, and several exotic locations, Skyfall is a film that should satisfy spy action fans.  It also functions as an interesting character study, with Bond’s psychology and backstory receiving more attention than in most of the films.  Unfortunately, this is where Skyfall strikes its few false notes, with the masculine mystique of the character done something of a disservice in overly generous revelation.  Have any Bond fans been clamoring, for instance, to see 007’s childhood home or to meet his parents’ old groundskeeper?  Happily, Skyfall‘s many merits more than make up for the few missteps, and build solidly on the previous groundwork, ensuring future adventures.

4.5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Skyfall is:

8. Anti-family.  “Orphans always make the best recruits,” M confides (cf. no. 1).

7. Drug-ambivalent.  Bond has become an alcoholic and pill addict, but cigarette smoke retains its sexiness as blown by Severine.

6. Mildly xenophobic.  The Orient and the Middle East are, as always, the lands of mystery, danger, and intrigue.  (The Turkish government must be offering discounts on licenses for filmmakers to run roughshod over Istanbul rooftops, as Skyfall is, along with Taken 2, one of two recent movies to enjoy that privilege.  Not one, but two Third World produce stands are overturned during the opening chase.)

5. Pro-slut/pro-miscegenation – a James Bond tradition.  007’s new girlfriend, fellow agent Eve (Naomie Harris), is black.  In addition to some lucky Turkish babe (Tonia Sotiropoulou), Bond’s other conquest of note is sultry Eurasian maneater Severine (winner of Tastiest, Scariest Seductress of Year 2012, Berenice Marlohe), who, particularly as costumed and colored in the Floating Dragon sequence, is exquisite.

4. Pro-gay.  Computer genius Silva is a mean one, admittedly; but gays have come a long way when they can give James Bond a run for his money.  Skyfall thus has its cake and eats it as well with regard to glorification and vilification of homosexuality.

3. Macho minus.  Craig plays Bond as the alpha male who can outrun a fireball, but the screenplay occasionally seems to want to undermine this familiar characterization, implying that Bond may have dabbled in homosexuality and that he is motivated partly by unresolved childhood trauma.  Oy vey . . .

2. Multiculturalist.  Skyfall acknowledges the contributions to international security of minorities, women, the elderly, and the nearsighted.  Javier Bardem’s hair has been dyed blonde (blonde being the color of evil) to mitigate the insensitivity of portraying a Hispanic homosexual as a villain.  London appears as a representative orderly multiracial society.

1. Statist.  After MI6’s headquarters are attacked, their operations move into the underground command center from which Winston Churchill’s war effort was directed, thus establishing a parallel between the “good war” and superpower intelligence agencies’ struggle with fourth generation adversaries today.  Now terrorists and hackers, not the Soviet Union or SPECTRE, are the primary threats to civilization, so that Julian Assange replaces Blofeld or Goldfinger as governments’ primier bogeyman.

State enterprise and covert intelligence agencies bring mankind salvation.  MI6 achieves its apotheosis when one of its worthies is martyred in a Scottish church, effecting a spook-as-self-sacrificing-savior conceit.  Bond has earlier referred to his own “resurrection”.

Gun control gets an endorsement when Bond is shown at a disadvantage in having to change clips when pitted against a terrorist’s high-capacity magazine.  Also, MI6 has invented for Bond a handgun that is palm-programmed so that only he can fire it – unlike the common firearm or “random killing machine”.  (Are mandatory consumer models next?)  The government-media complex receives a nod when we see that Bond gets his news from CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.  Picturesque Shanghai, meanwhile, puts in a good word for state capitalism, depicting in its futuristic architecture and technology the new type of society on the rise.

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