Tuesday, April 7, 2009

My dog says Wow...... Bow Wow.....

Every Saturday, my son, Benjamin, and I (and excuse this interruption, but can we please have a quick wave of appreciation for the appositive? I think later today, I'm going to nominate it for the Pro-Am Bloggers' Association MVP for the month of April--Most Valuable Phrase. It's one elegant piece of language, the appositive, and so useful. Seriously, you just try setting yourself off with commas for the rest of the day, and see if it doesn't give you enormous game.)

Where was I? Right, so my kid and I have this great Saturday ritual. it turns out that pre-PG-13 James Bond movies are manna from heaven to a red-blooded 8-year-old boy--there's a reliable supply of cool gadgetry, several flicks end in a Battle Royale in which a bunch of guys in jumpsuits and hardhats are bloodlessly mown down, and at this stage, the romance is still nauseating to the Third Grade loin. Thanks to Netflix and, much as it pains me, a national video-renting chain that will remain unnamed, we've almost worked through the canon, and it's been fun for me to rediscover secret-agent-camp at its zenith. Benjamin snuggles into my lap, and holds a pillow at the ready--he's very adept at self-editing the parts that he finds scary. Only once or twice have I felt the urge to cover his eyes. We go on the adventure together, and look forward to it all week, periodically belting out Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die" just to get psyched up. Add stove top popcorn, and you've got yourself great late-afternoon father-son "bonding."

Last Saturday, it was For Your Eyes Only, with a diaphanous Sheena Easton theme ballad, a submerged detente-altering encryption machine, Q turning up in a Spanish confessional, a long haired actress whose principal contribution is handiness with a crossbow, and the inexplicable presence of an un-sexy, jailbait Bond-chasing Olympic ice skating hopeful played by a truly awful Lynn-Holly Johnson.

The real bonus, however, was the mysterious Columbo--a Chessire grinning Topol, our perennial Tevye--as a sort of Basque badass, who feasted mightily on the cellulose and provided much of the fun, particularly in a late-night wharf-side shoot-em-up in which his good-guy credentials are cemented when he and his band of Basque buddies assault a bunch of other guys in blue shirts who wind up all kinds of dead. Benjamin was thrilled when he saw Topol's name on the DVD jacket, for we had just seen him live in the 34th "Farewell" tour of Fiddler on the Roof at NJPAC. I can tell you, in his late 70s, the man still fills a theatre.

Back to FYEO...later, there's an assault on a mountain monastery, and I have to say I appreciated the detail with which they handled all the pieces --- turns out it's not that easy to scale a sheer cliff... Roger Moore, with a good bit of labor, lays in no fewer than three climbing points, and then one of the bad guys starts to knock them out, one by one, through quite a lot of effort of his own. When Bond finally makes it to the top, he winches up Topol & Co. in the slowest moving wicker basket ever to appear in an action flick, and you know what? The sucker's not big enough for the whole crew, and we actually wait for the basket to make a second trip. For a minute there, I thought we were watching Bridge over the River Kwai or a pyramid-building re-enactment on The History Channel.

Another interesting throwaway--from one of the better Bond movies you haven't thought about in ages--when the rogue Russian general shows up via whirlybird at the film's conclusion to collect his scale-tipping ATAC thingy, Bond ultimately tosses it off the mountain top and it breaks into smithereens. "Now you don't have it, and I don't have it," he tells the empty-handed general, who instead of wasting everyone in sight with superior firepower on pure principle, merely shrugs, and clumps good-naturedly back to his chopper. It was like Sam the sheepdog and Ralph the wolf punching the time clock after a typical day at the office. The cold-war message? In the end, we needed the Russians and they needed us.

Design-wise, a bit of a bummer--the football for which everyone is playing is a sad, chunky keyboard console that makes the TRS-80 look chic. The most ingenious gadgetry is perhaps the right-angle forearm cast that obliterates an unfortunate dummy in Q's lab. Oh, and there's the notable opening sequence--you actually see the girl paddling about in all those bubbles, and it's Sheena Easton... she not only sings the song, but she's the babe at the beginning, too.

At this point, Benjamin and I only have On Her Majesty's Secret Service, The Man with the Golden Gun and Never Say Never Again in our ongoing Saturday Bond Film Fest, before we run up against the hard, cold reality of PG-13.... and for that, he'll have to wait a few years. For my part, I'm looking forward to a meditation on the finer points of Timothy Dalton, continued delight with Desmond Llewelyn's paternal scolding, and Benjamin's further education in secret-agenting.


  1. Oh man, you are so coddling the boy. I saw Robocop in the movie theater when I was nine and all it did was scar me for life so that only the most depraved and bizarre forms of entertainment would satisfy me. Is that so terrible?

    That said, keep him away from License To Kill. Sharks are scary.

  2. FYEO is my favorite Roger Moore Bond film.

    I am very very interested in this kind of analysis, not only of the film itself, but of the whole experience of watching it with your kid. Elijah is only 3 and already I am struggling with an impatience to watch with him movies that really are not appropriate. It was a revelation to me that 1950s b/w monster movies with jerky stop-motion animation was too intense for him!

    He loves comic book heroes, but none of their cinematic incarnations are appropriate for him now as far as I can tell.

  3. Yeah ---- movie appropriateness is a classic parental conundrum. Once, in the car on a long trip, I told him the entire synopsis of the Star Wars saga, and then we started watching them. I started with Episodes 4--6 first, not only because they're better films, but because that's the order in which they were made. Then we we eased into Episode I, and I made him wait a little before Episode II--the summer that he turned 7. We still haven't gotten into Episode, III, mostly because of the upsetting scene when Anakin slaughters the younglings at the Jedi Academy. It happens offscreen, but it's just more dark than is necessary for an 8-year-old, or at least my 8-year-old. Plus it builds the antcipation for him. After all--we had to wait a few years between movies, too!