Skyfall? An Ambivalent Review

Warning – there are spoilers in this review.

Here is my slightly belated review of Skyfall. I like my Bond films. I can’t say I’m an expert, but I can say I’ve seen all of them in chronological order of their release and most of them I have watched several times. So it was obvious Darling-Chéri and I were going to watch Skyfall at launch and we booked our tickets three weeks early and stuck to it even though I had an awards ceremony lunch and party to attend for work that same day (we didn’t win anything but lunch was nice and the wine was free).

In the build-up to the release, I tried to stay away from reviews, trailers and adverts for Skyfall. I like to sit there and let the film take me where it wants, even though choosing a film just based on a title, a poster or the cast can be a risky strategy. So going into the cinema that Friday, I knew almost nothing of the story. But inevitably, I had heard in the last couple of days that this was the best of the Craig Bonds, and that Javier Bardem could be one of the best Bond villains ever. Well… Truth is, for me, neither of those statements were true. There. I said it.

What the film didn’t do that well

The pace The film starts reasonably full on, exotic locations, chases, fight scene in a casino. I thought that’s it, we’re back! The exuberant yet smooth James Bond. And then the studio ran out of money. And the film became a much more introverted, slow-moving beast. And right up to the last fight, as if frozen by the cold Scottish air, the pace never really seemed to recover.

The sexiness It’s a fine balance to strike: the macho sex machine side of James Bond, in a modern world where it’s been (finally) recognised that we can’t really objectify women the way we used to. I thought Casino Royale had it with Vesper. While Skyfall starts well, with exotic locations and a pretty James Bond girl, it all dries up rather quickly and we are left with Dame Judi Dench’s complex relationship with her former and her current protégés. The rest of the cast doesn’t really ooze sexiness either, but then it’s not really their role. There is a bit of missed opportunity for more tongue-in-cheek flirt with Miss Moneypenny, hopefully this will build up in time.

The bad guy Granted, Javier Bardem is very credible as this slightly demented villain. But the choice of a bitter ex-employee with a grudge and a loose screw as the baddie feels weak for a Bond film. Even when the man is wild enough to blow up a tube station. He still had nothing on Le Chiffre, Goldfinger or Fransisco Scaramanga.

The women I have read some rather negative opinions about the role of women in this film, one having become overwhelmed by the job and making all the wrong decisions; another turning out to be a good field agent yet choosing a desk job; the last one being mostly insignificant (I’ll let you guess who’s who). I can’t say it shocked me when I watched the film but in hindsight there is a bit of truth in this.

Saying that, and removing my James Bond expectations from the equation, I did enjoy the film.

What the film did well:

The references Dotted throughout the film were a number of nice tributes to the classic Bond films. A few moments where you’d go, “Ah. I see what they’ve done there”.

The camera work There is a lot of love for the characters. It is very well filmed, with some beautiful shots that really show off the locations, the characters and the emotion.

Appealing to a broader audienceWell one cannot deny that James Bond can alienate people. Cheesy, macho, with far-fetched storylines and unrealistic action sequences… Not everybody’s cup of tea. And I guess that’s the flipside of Skyfall not being a typical Bond – it is likely to be enjoyed by more people!

Setting up the next one Bringing on a new M, a new Q, a new Moneypenny and fine-tuning Daniel Craig’s James Bond a bit was probably needed. It’s now done. With all the characters now in place, we’re ready and excited for the next film.

The bottom line

I thought it was a strange Bond film. It didn’t really match my idea of what should be in there. However, and I know it probably doesn’t look it here, but I would watch Skyfall again. It is well put together and it feels like there’s a good chance the film will grow on me. A bit ambivalent then.

How about you? Have you seen it? What did you think?

A Splash Of Colour, 22 Pots Of Paint

My first entry in a Daily Post Writing Challenge, let’s see how it goes!

When it comes to colours, there is so much to be inspired by! Fiery autumn leaves, yellow daffodils, pure white snow, a clown’s bright outfit, turquoise sea, and the numerous nuances of grey in the English sky… Colours… What a rich topic…

Sadly for me, right now colours don’t make me feel poetic or contemplative. Right now, we’re in the middle of redecorating our house. After stripping all the lining paper off, we are getting the walls and ceilings skimmed so we are ready for the next step: painting. And painting involves… colours! Hundreds of them! I mean, 50 shades of grey, quite literally! And then repeat with the blues, the reds, the greens, the yellows… you get the drift. And I’m only talking about Dulux, but you’d also have to look at all the other brands just in case someone else has that extra shade you couldn’t possibly live without.

So Darling-Chéri and I are having all these really cool conversations at home in the evening, looking at all my lovely big paint swatches:
– Me: what do you think of “Ballgown” for the dining-room? We could use it for a feature wall (yes a feature wall) and have “A Whisper Of Choc Chip” on the rest of the room?
– DC: Hmmm… It does look good but I think “Muddy Puddle” would go better with it.
– Me: Is it not going to be too dark? Maybe “Soft Stone” or “Toasted Almond”?

Repeat for each room, each wall, each ceiling and each skirting board (thank God we removed the picture rails!)… And with all these incredible names, if anyone is spying on us right now, they may very well think that we are plotting something! I wouldn’t be surprised if MI5 suddenly turned up at our door. Although I have to admit, as a Marketing professional, I love all these names. I mean, imagine the challenge in naming a shade of red when there are so many other shades AND you need to differentiate yourself from your competitors!

And to think that choosing the colour is only one part of the issue: we still need to decide on what finish we want (flat matt, matt, sheen, silk, gloss etc) or even the type of paint (one-coat, easy clean, durable, eco-friendly, eggshell…). Of course, after all that time spent choosing, we’ll compare our dream set-up to the budget we have and we may well end up with white undercoat heavily cut with water throughout the house!
Oh joy!

Happy Birthday Blog!

I published my first blog post almost exactly a year ago, to the day. And as I blow a single candle on a tiny cupcake 23 posts and 176 page views later, it’s fair to say blogging has not been quite what I expected. But somehow, it hasn’t put me off. Maybe it’s because finally, I get to write again (albeit in English rather than in French). Maybe it’s because having to find content has pushed me to cook more new stuff, and I really enjoy that. Maybe it’s because I’m just too stubborn to admit defeat.

Either way, here is what I’ve understood and picked up over the past 12 months:

1. Blogging takes time: finding/doing things to write about, taking pictures, sometimes even doing a bit of research… Just like going to the gym, you have to really commit to it and make time for it. Otherwise, it will quickly slip to the bottom of your priority list (when blogging becomes less urgent than sorting out your spare buttons tin, it’s definitely time to re-evaluate. I mean, sorting out your spare buttons tin has made it on your priority list???)
2. Have an agenda. From your writing style to the content, it is worth thinking about what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. Of course, things will fall into place as you get going and people react to your posts, but without some kind of overarching idea, your blog can quickly become as messy as a 13-year-old teenage girl’s bedroom.
3. Planning, planning, planning. There’s a lot of spontaneous stuff that will happen in your life and if you’re lucky, it might even be worth blogging about there and then. But for those times when nothing significant has happened, or you haven’t got the time or the energy, having a handful of prepared posts means you can still keep your audience entertained. You can also write in advance of an event, say for your blog’s first anniversary for instance (yes, this post was actually written 10 days ago, and yes, despite that planning I managed to miss the actual date!).
4. Be professional. Of course, blogging should be fun. But fun doesn’t have to come with typos and grammar mistakes. It’s also important to stay professional when interacting with the readers or when commenting on other people’s blogs. Respond to comments, be polite, it all contributes to the image of your blog and whether it will make people want to come back!
5. Share! There are many channels to promote your blog these days, from Twitter to Google + to Facebook etc. And bear in mind that the internet is a big place so you are likely to find like-minded people. Visit their blogs and engage with them, participate in writing or photo challenges… It will stretch you and help you make your blog noticed.

Now I’ve talked the talk, am I actually going to walk the walk? See you here in another 12 months!

The Redecorating Project: Undecorating

I posted a while back some pics of our house on the day we moved in, which was back in December. Well, after not doing much to it for a few months, we decided that we needed to re-decorate it, and then buy furniture (it turns out our cardboard-box-based shelving system is not that robust after all!). So the first step was actually an un-decorating project: removing all the woodchip lining paper, picture rails, built in bookshelves, cabinets, wardrobes and side boards to start from scratch again. Well, it was painful, tiring and excruciatingly mind-numbing at times, but we’ve done really well since June and as a result our house now looks like a pretty building site or, as Darling-Chéri puts it: we’ve been the victims of extreme burglary, they even took the wallpaper!!

Next up, we have someone coming in to skim the walls, fix some floorboards and do some of the painting for us, and then we’ll finally get to the fun part: furnishing and decorating! I can’t wait to start discussing wall colours, decal patterns, and the merits of the Billy Bookcase with Darling-Chéri, although I’m not sure he is quite as excited!

Grow Some, Will You?

Aside from the woodchip lining paper, one of the best things about our new house is the garden. Growing up we had a lovely garden which my mother used to maintain to very high standards despite working full time. There was a rather large lawn, lots of flowers and lots of fruit trees. And I still have fond memories of picking cherries, raspberries, plums or pears, cutting mint or rosemary or checking whether the grapes or rhubarb were ready.  So here I am, a number of years later, in my mother’s footsteps (well trying to follow anyway).

A very nostalgic pic of my mother’s garden

When we moved in, the garden was extremely busy with all sorts of crap decorative pots and artefacts so I had to throw a lot of simplify things first to really see the space. As soon as things got clearer, I started wanting to plant stuff. And usurprisingly, that had to be fruits and herbs and the likes. Having taken stock of what was already there (2 small cherry trees, 1 small pear tree, 1 small apple tree, some strawberries plants and what I believe is a young peach tree), I started my own seedlings in the greenhouse the owner left behind: parsley, mint, rosemary, more strawberries, some chilies, chives, thyme and basil. The fruit trees really struggled this year, with illnesses, bugs and Mother Nature being generally a bit out of kilter. As a result we only got a few cherries and strawberries despite loads of flowers and bees during spring. Hopefully with some re-potting (yes, everything is in pots in this place) and general TLC next year will be better and I can decide which trees will actually go into the ground. As for the herb garden, we’re having a bit of a battle with slugs and weeds but everything is growing nicely in their pots, just waiting to go in the ground.

Our no-so-hot chili peppers

Thyme, strawberries, mint, parsley and chives awaiting a more permanent set-up

Our confused apple tree has started flowering again… in October!

Next step: working out what flowers I’d like. Having removed a lot of the degenerated bulbs, wild forget-me-nots and columbines that had invaded every bit of the garden, I think I’m going to have to re-populate a little! Any suggestions for a pretty garden that’s colourful most of the year yet easy to maintain?