Thursday, September 29, 2016
JUDGING ELIZABETH POLDARK
To this day, I am amazed at the level of hostility directed at the Elizabeth Chynoweth Poldark character in the two BBC series titled, "POLDARK". Quite frankly, I find this hostility to be bordered on the level of a psychotic.
Then it finally occurred to me.
Perhaps the real reason why so many fans dislike Elizabeth – and I am making a major assumption here - is that they see her as an obstacle in the road to Ross Poldark and Demelza Carne Poldark’s "twu luv" or "perfect" relationship. As far as these fans are concerned, Ross and Demelza should spend their entire marriage, projecting the image of perfect love, with nothing or no one – including themselves - posing a threat to their relationship. But there is a problem. Ross continued to harbor feelings for Elizabeth, his first love, even after his marriage to Demelza, his former kitchen maid. Even Elizabeth continued to have feelings for Ross, despite her marriage to his cousin, Francis Poldark.
However, Elizabeth has tried her best to keep her feelings toward Ross to herself. She has tried her best to work at making her marriage to Francis work – despite his insecurities and screw ups. Yet, since Francis’ loss of his fortune and mine at a card game, Elizabeth may have reached a breaking point in trying to maintain some semblance of affection toward her husband. Ross, on the other hand, seemed less disciplined in keeping his feelings for Elizabeth in check. He is in love with his wife, Demelza. There is no doubt. Unfortunately, Ross seemed incapable of moving past Elizabeth's rejection of him. There have been moments when he has either expressed his feelings or come dangerously close to openly expressing his feelings for her. The 1975-1977 version of "POLDARK" featured one episode in which Ross managed to convince Elizabeth to leave Francis and run away with him. Even after he had sex with Demelza in the previous episode. One episode in the current adaptation made it clear that Ross was in love with both his wife and Elizabeth, when he had admitted it to his cousin Verity.
Many fans of the current series had reacted with disgust or dismay over the idea that Ross loved both Demelza and Elizabeth. In fact, many fans - either forty years ago or today - seemed incapable of understanding Ross' ability to love two women. It sees as if they wanted Ross to move past his feelings for Elizabeth and focus his love on Demelza. I understand why they would feel this way. With Ross focusing his love solely on Demelza, the viewers would be presented with a simpler and cleaner romance with no pesky little issues to cloud their relationship. But thanks to Winston Graham, Ross refused to do so. And instead of blaming Ross, many want to blame Elizabeth, because it was and still is easier to do. Graham provided his readers with an emotionally complicated relationship between Ross, Demelza, Elizabeth, Francis and even local banker George Warleggan that proved to be emotionally complicated. But these fans do not want complicated relationships or stories. They want their characters and the latter's relationships to be simple - at the level of a "romance novel for 16 year-olds". However, that is NOT what Winston Graham had written in his novels.
I am also beginning to wonder if Graham's portrayal of his protagonist as a man in love with two women had led many fans of the saga to harbor an unnatural and deep-seated hatred of Elizabeth. Not only do they seemed to be upset over Ross' continuing love for her, these fans seem to regard her as unworthy of Ross' affection, due to her rejection of him, following his return from the American Revolutionary War. For some reason, these fans seem incapable or unwilling to view Elizabeth as a complex woman with both virtues and flaws. And due to their excessive worship of Ross and Demelza’s relationship, they seem incapable of viewing those two as complex people with flaws … especially Demelza.
I never understood why so many have described Elizabeth as some fragile, delicate woman, who was too weak to be her own woman, let alone stand on her own two feet. Yes, Elizabeth could be rather conservative in the manner in which she had chosen to live her life. I believe that this conservative streak had developed from her penchant for practicality. In fact, I believe that at times, she was too practical for her own good. This practical streak led her to desire financial stability just a bit too much - to the point that led her to engage in two questionable marriages. Elizabeth has also been accused of being cold and emotionally closed off from others. Hmmm . . . sounds like the typical complaints many have made about reserved or introverted individuals. As an introverted person myself, I speak from personal experience. I suspect that many would have admired her if she had been more like her cousin-in-law, Demelza Carne. Fans seemed to have gone into a tizzy over the former kitchen maid with a fiery temper, sharp tongue and even sharper wit. Demelza seemed to be the epiphany of the ideal woman - openly emotional, beautiful, earthy, and witty. Elizabeth Chynoweth Poldark may not have been some female walking ball of fire, but she was certainly not some refrigerated hothouse flower, frigid bitch or limpid Stepford Wife. She was a living, breathing woman with her own passions, virtues and flaws. The thing with Elizabeth is that she was a reserved and private woman who believed in keeping her emotions to herself, due to 18th century society's demands for women and her own quiet nature.
I realize some might respond that Elizabeth should have been more open with her emotions . . . a trait that many seemed to regard as ideal for a woman. I would disagree. Elizabeth had to be her own woman. And if that meant being a reserved or private one, so be it. Besides, when did it become a crime for a woman - any woman - to be shy or reserved? Why is it so terrible to keep one’s feelings to oneself, especially if one is a woman? Why does a woman, especially a woman character, have to be outgoing, witty, sharp-tongued or "feisty" to be considered worthy of society? Am I supposed to regard myself as unworthy, because I am a reserved woman?
I do get tired of the public either idealizing female characters that they like/love and castigating other female characters who do not live up to their ideal of what a woman should be. Especially a woman character like Elizabeth Poldark who was created by a 20th century or early 21st century woman character … even if said character is from a story set in a different time period. Male characters are not subjected to such narrow-minded thinking. They are allowed to be complex. It is amazing that despite the fact that we are now in the second decade of the 21st century, this society is still held back by some rampant patriarchy that refuses to leave - even among many women of all ages. And that is pretty damn sad.
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Below are images from "SUICIDE SQUAD", the recent adaptation of the DC Comics series. Written and directed by David Ayer, the movie stars Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman and Viola Davis:
"SUICIDE SQUAD" (2016) Photo Gallery
Monday, September 26, 2016
"THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH" (1999) Review
I must admit that when I first saw "THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH" in the theaters nearly seventeen years ago, I was not impressed. Well, to be honest, I did not like the movie at all. But after many viewings, I could not help but wonder if I had allowed my mild dislike of the previous Bond entry, "TOMORROW NEVER DIES" to spill over in my view of the Bond franchise’s 19th entry.
Although the movie’s title comes from the Bond family’s motto, first revealed in the 1969 movie, "ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE", its story started with the murder of a British oil tycoon and old friend of M’s named Sir Robert King, inside MI-6’s London headquarters. Bond traced the assassination to an anarchist terrorist named Renard, who had once kidnapped Sir Robert’s daughter, Elektra King. Fearing that Renard wants revenge for his failure at profiting from Elektra’s kidnapping, M assigned Bond to act as her new bodyguard in Uzbekistan. To make a long story short, Bond and Elektra formed a romantic relationship . . . before he learned that she had been behind her father’s murder and MI-6’s humiliation. Elektra was also behind Renard’s theft of a quantity of weapons-grade plutonium from a former Russian ICBM base in Kazakhstan. After using some of the plutonium to blow up part of the King pipeline in order to avoid suspicion, Elektra and Renard planned to introduce the remaining plutonium to a stolen Russian submarine's nuclear reactor in order that it will overload and cause a nuclear meltdown in the Bosporus at Istanbul. Not only will this kill countless thousands of people, but also contaminate the Bosporus for decades. The effect would prevent shipment of Caspian Sea petroleum through any existing route, because all Caspian region pipelines terminate at the Black Sea, requiring that tankers go through the Bosporus; the only alternative would be the King pipeline. Disguising himself as a nuclear physicist, Bond sneaked his way onto the base to stop Renard and ended up escaping from near death, along with an American nuclear physicist named Christmas Jones, played by Denise Richards. Even worse, Elektra lured M to Uzbekistan and kidnapped the latter to be destroyed with the rest of Istanbul’s citizens. With the help of Dr. Jones and former KGB-turned-entrepreneur Valentin Zukovsky, Bond managed to save the Bosporus region and M and kill both Elektra and Renard in the process.
In 1998, Pierce Brosnan won a Saturn Award for his performance as Bond in "TOMORROW NEVER DIES". But after seeing his performance in "THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH", I have come to the conclusion that he had won his award for the wrong movie. Unlike "TOMORROW NEVER DIES", in which Brosnan’s performance seemed mixed, "THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH"’s script allowed the Irish-born actor to portray a more human Bond, who finds his façade almost stripped away and his emotions exposed by his interactions with the manipulative Elektra King – a process that seemed to have began with the death of Elektra’s father at MI-6 Headquarters. One of Brosnan’s best acting moments occurred during a scene at Zukovsky’s casino, where Elektra “unnecessarily” loses a million dollars to the former KGB operative. Brosnan managed to convey Bond’s concern, confusion and sparking suspicion about the late oil magnate’s daughter, all in one swoop. Great acting on his part.
Fortunately for Brosnan, he was supported by a strong cast – especially by Sophie Marceau, who portrayed the enigmatic Elekra and Robert Caryle as the ruthless yet passionate terrorist, Renard. Marceau was especially impressive as the former kidnap victim-turned-villainess, whose complex and manipulative personality seemed to have kept everyone – Bond included – in a state of flux. Carlyle came off as surprisingly sympathetic as the love-struck Renard. Most Bond fans would flinch at the idea of a Bond villain like Renard, but after the stream of cold-blooded opportunists and megalomaniacs, Renard almost came as a relief. Unfortunately, all not were wine and roses in Marceau and Carlyle’s performances. Carlyle’s repeated line about how Bond or anyone else ”cannot kill him because he was already dead” threatened to turn his role into a cliché. Personally, I never could care less about his injury. If he could still die from a bullet in the heart, he was not impregnable, as far as I was concerned. As for Marceau, it saddened me that her exemplary performance ended on such a bad note for me. If Connery’s Bond in "GOLDFINGER"had struck me as the ”dark side of masculinity”, then Elektra King’s insistence that Bond or no other man can resist her struck me as the ”dark side of femininity”. To be frank, the villainous Elektra in her last moments got . . . on . . . my . . . last . . . nerve. So much so that I found myself sighing with relief when Bond finally killed her.
And then there was Denise Richards as the American nuclear physicist, Dr. Christmas Jones. I realize that I might be castigated for saying this, but I honestly found nothing to criticize about Richards’ performance. I will not insult anyone’s intelligence by stating that she was just as good as Marceau and Caryle. Of course she was not as good. At best, Richards is a competent, though uninspiring actress. But she did portrayed Dr. Jones (no Indy jokes, please) as an intelligent and observant woman. She handled the techno babble quite well. Nor did she seem slightly wooden like Lois Chiles in "MOONRAKER" or Barbara Bach in "THE SPY WHO LOVED ME". I think that many fans and critics had simply took a look at Richard’s face, age (she was 26 or 27 when she shot the movie) and boobs and decided that she was unfit to portray a young nuclear physicist. It was nice to see Robbie Coltrane as the former KGB agent, Valentin Zukovsky, again. Although he was just as funny as he was in "GOLDENEYE", I must admit that he seemed a bit more imposing in the 1995 film. In "THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH", there were times he seemed to be in danger of being viewed as a bit of a joke . . . until his final scene.
Judi Dench gave her second best performance as M (her first would be seven years later in "CASINO ROYALE") in "THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH". In this particular outing, she becomes emotionally handicapped by the death of her friend, Sir Robert. This allows Elektra to take advantage of the MI-6 chief - who had advised Sir Robert not to pay the ransom for Elektra’s kidnapping – and seek revenge. One of the highlights of Dench’s performance was watching her express . . . and suppress M’s guilt, when Bond exposes the debacle over Elektra’s kidnapping. Other cast members such as Michael Kitchen, Colin Salmon and Samantha Bond do their usual routine. "THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH" marked Desmond Llewellyn’s last appearance as MI-6’s armourer – Q and John Cleese’s first appearance as his future replacement. Although the sight of Llewellyn in the movie tugged the heartstrings a bit (considering his death in a traffic accident about a month following the movie’s original release), I cannot say there was anything memorable about his performance. Cleese, on the other hand, was his usual biting self, although I could have done without his clumsy antics.
"THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH" not only boasted pretty good acting by the cast, it also possessed an interesting script that maintained its quality . . . until the finale. The story started out fine with Sir Robert King’s mysterious murder, followed by the increasingly complex triangle established between Bond, Elektra and Renard. But once Renard had sabotaged one of the King pipelines and Elektra kidnapped M, the movie sank into a typical Bond movie that ended with a wet and tiresome showdown between Bond and Renard inside the stolen Russian sub. Aside from its cast, one of "THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH"’s strengths were the movie’s dramatic scenes – including Bond’s accusations regarding M’s participation in Elektra’s kidnapping, Elektra’s loss at the gaming table, Christmas’ exposure of Bond at the ICMG base, Bond accusing Elektra of being Renard’s ally and Renard’s jealousy over Elektra’s relationship with Bond. Ironically, I cannot say the same about the movie’s action sequences. One or two were pretty good – the opening sequence (which I admit seemed a bit too long), and Bond and Christmas’ escape from the ICMG base, and their escape from one of the King pipelines. But the ski chase, the confrontation at Zukovsky’s caviar facility and Bond’s showdowns with both Elektra and Renard simply did not move me. And the finale inside the Russian sub simply struck me as tedious.
If there is one major weakness that "THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH" did suffer, it was the movie’s locations. Quite simply, they were uninspiring. It seemed sad that the movie’s most exotic looking location happened to be London, along the Thames River. It seemed even sadder that this took place in the movie’s pre-title sequence. As for the movie’s theme song by Garbage . . . well, it was not the best Bond song I have ever heard. In fact, I did not even like it when the movie was first released. But for some odd reason, the song has grown on me, and now it is a personal favorite of mine.
But despite uninspiring locations and action sequences, "THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH" can still boast enough strengths that allowed director Michael Apted to provide a pretty good Bond movie . . . good enough to be considered Brosnan’s second-best. And a recent viewing has allowed me to realize that it was better than I had originally surmised.