Skyfall

Skyfall

In which Laura Straub of Vouched Books and Kate Sweeney of the True Story Reading Series discuss the trailer for twenty-third James Bond film, Skyfall.

KATE

Hi, Laura.

This preview leaves you with absolutely no idea what the plot points to expect in the associated movie. My pet peeve lies in those trailers that detail the entire movie for you, but this one goes the simpler route. Much simpler. “I am an action-adventure movie starring a handsome man!” it declares, and leaves it at that.

I don’t know if you watch Mad Men, Laura, but its weekly trailers do the exact same thing. You get the husky voiceover: “Next time, on Mad Men—” followed by a collage of really brief statements from its characters—all shot in close-up—that could mean literally anything. Seriously, want proof? Here’s this week’s preview of next week’s show, and I promise: If you missed this week’s show and don’t want spoilers, or even if you’ve never watched Mad Men at all, you’ll be on the exact same page as the rest of us, because this montage tells you nothing. No. Thing.

Don Draper: “You can’t tell anyone.” (spoken to Megan Draper as she looks briefly maybe-crestfallen)
Lane Pryce: “I’m sure there were others more deserving.”
Joan Harris: “Were you celebrating with Don?”
Don Draper: “I don’t like what we’re doing.”
Roger Sterling: “So, you’re drinking with a purpose?”
Bert Cooper: “You know, you can’t keep being the good little boy while the adults run this business.”

Hey, let’s play a game! We’ll call it: Based entirely on these lines, what do you suppose takes place in this next episode of Mad Men? How about this? The aliens have landed. But Don Draper tells his wife, Megan, their secret…They’ve made Don their king! His partner, Lane, finds out and turns up his English nose (“I’m sure there were others more deserving.”) Joan, that smart cookie, suspects that Lane knows (“Were you celebrating with Don?”)—Don, who, meanwhile, has learned about the aliens’ ultimate scheme to destroy the planet, (“I don’t like what we’re doing”). He’s guilt-ridden, his role in it all crystal clear, and he poisons a glass of water with odorless, tasteless Iocane powder and begins sipping from it, prompting Roger to comment (“So, you’re drinking with a purpose?”), and as he collapses and foams at the mouth, the last person he sees is that ever-blasé Bert Cooper, as he comments…

Or maybe not. Sorry, Laura. I seem to have gone a bit far afield. Have you, ahh, seen Mad Men, by the….uh, way? It’s a good show. Ermmm, anyway….

LAURA

I have seen Mad Men, as well as its elusive episode teasers. As someone who hates surprises, trailers in every form and fashion are a great form of self torture. It’s been a hobby of mine for years, watching and re-watching trailers, pausing and rewinding for just the tiniest hint of clues or spoilers.

Judging from the limited amount of information that Mad Men preview provides us with, here’s my take on next week’s episode:

There’s something Megan doesn’t know about Don. There is something WE know about him: HE LOVES KEEPING SECRETS FROM HIS WIVES. *SPOILER* Don Draper, in his brief time between the army and becoming a used car salesmen, attended a Clown Academy (Don Draper: “You can’t tell anyone.”). He excelled at juggling, unicycling, and balloon-animaling. The twist? He never graduated.

Somehow the Clown Academy has tracked him down and has decided to award him with an honorary degree (Lane Pryce: “I’m sure there were others more deserving.”; Joan Harris: “Were you celebrating with Don?”). Terrified at performing in front of a crowd, Don realizes at the ceremony that he’ll have to toss the old bowling pins in the ring again and can’t bring himself to do it (Don Draper: “I don’t like what we’re doing.”) So he takes to the bottle in hopes that the alcohol will soothe his nerves and let muscle memory take over (Roger Sterling: “So, you’re drinking with a purpose?”). But for once in his life- the alcohol fails him and Burt Cooper, who also led a secret life under the big-top back in the Vaudville days, is forced to save the day (Burt Cooper: “You know, you can’t keep being the good little boy while the adults run this business.”)

Whaddya think?

Also, I have this recurring nightmare that Mad Men’s Peter Campbell is really just a ventriloquist dummy. And as we know, ventriloquist dummies are terrifying. Have you ever seen a ventriloquist? Or even worse- a mime? My three biggest fears in life are as follows:

1. Giant squid
2. Clowns/Mimes
3. Driving behind semi’s loaded with lumber

What are your biggest fears?

KATE

Mine are:

1. The threat of papercuts
2. A photo my friend Doug sent me once of a disturbed, inbred white tiger
3. Those microscopic creatures that National Geographic once told me lived on the surface of our skin at all times. For the love of God, don’t Google “microscopic creatures that live on the surface of your skin.”

And you’re RIGHT! Pete Campbell is a ventriloquist’s dummy. It makes sense now. I’m going to have a very hard time looking at him ever again—since, like many sane people, dolls that approach the uncanny valley are probably number 4 or 5 on my list of fears, and he’s the unearthly parallel reaching out with perfectly-formed chalk-white papier-mâché fingers across that valley: a human being who eerily resembles a Charlie McCarthy puppet. No wonder he makes us shudder on a regular basis (besides his habitual unsavory ways, I mean).

As for surprises and twists and such, I’m okay with those. What I don’t like are those situations in which you see bad guys setting up an evil trap for the righteous main character, and then you see the righteous main character walk right into said-trap. Have you watched many movies featuring Daniel Craig? Speaking of Daniel Craig. Errr, speaking of, what was it? Skyfall? Yes, Skyfall. Because the man seems to have an almost masochistic predilection for roles that feature his own handsome, virile protagonists strolling along and whistling. Meanwhile, we, the audience, have been clued in to the disillusionment, brutalization and torture awaiting him around the next bend. Maybe it’s just The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the Bond movies—but still, it’s enough now that it feels familiar when we see Daniel Craig getting set up and knocked around, almost like its own fetishistic sub genre.

If we don’t know exactly what to expect from Skyfall—and let’s face it; we do—I’ll put money on at least one sequence of some serious Craig-degradation.

Oh, and I haven’t forgotten that it’s my turn. Here’s my go, in homage to the excellent Dinosaur Comics by Mr. Ryan North (who encourages folks to do things like this, so you should be totally in the clear, Jason.)

LAURA

Before I move on to how unfun it is to watch Daniel Craig’s face/body be beaten, I feel like this nightmarish image of Peter Campbell’s languid bitch face donned with a Howdy Doody Cowboy hat really puts any discussion of him to rest. He’s a living incarnation of E.T.A Hoffman’s Sandman.

*Shudders*

But yes, back to Skyfall and Daniel Craig. He does seem to be somewhat masochistic in choosing his roles. The Bond movies he’s performed in have all included graphic and vulgar abuse of his mysteriously charming face, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo maybe even more so. Browsing through his filmography, it’s hard to name a film of his that isn’t torturous on some level. I mean, even if Daniel Craig himself isn’t made to endure hell in Cowboys vs. Aliens, there’s a strong argument that the movie as a whole is its own kind of torture. And as we’ve previously discussed ambiguous trailers are completely sadistic in nature. Skyfall’s trailer is undoubtedly cruel in this way: not giving us any answers, any suggestion of a plot. But we have to see it, don’t we? We just have to know who gets to torture Daniel Craig this time.

We can only reach one conclusion. We’re all sadists and Daniel Craig knows it. Peter Campbell probably knows too. Dammit.