Tag Archives: feminism

For Your Eyes Only

 

MV5BOTEwNzY5OTgyNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDAxNzczNA@@._V1_SY1023_CR26,0,630,1023_AL_This review is part of Project Bond, wherein over the course of 2014 we watch all of the James Bond movies in production order.

Summary: in which Tywin Lannister Charles Dance has a non-speaking role as a thug, Walter Donovan Grand Master Pycelle Julian Glover is a double-dealing villain, and James Bond refuses to have sex with a young woman. There’s a plot in there somewhere, too.

Alex: First of all: WHAT THE HELL is with that promo poster?? There is… I can’t… there are no words.

james-bond-for-your-eyes-only-1981-title-stillSecond of all: I’m really sorry, Moonraker. It turns out I maligned you, because there is a worse theme song than yours, and it’s this one. I don’t remember 1981 except that I got a brother, so I don’t know whether Sheena Easton was just All That, but this is the first (…and only?) Bond in which the singer actually makes an appearance in the credits sequence (I was going to say that she’s lucky to be wearing clothes, because none of the rest of the women are, but actually I’m not sure I can say, definitively, that she is). And it’s just… forgettable.

This movie has perhaps the oddest, and weakest, opening of any Bond. Bond goes to put roses on Theresa Bond’s grave, and then his helicopter is hijacked by a bald man whose face we never, in a wheelchair. This is clearly meant to be Telly Savalas’ Blofeld, and I guess that means Bond throwing him (wheelchair and all) down an industrial chimney is meant to be just retribution or something? It’s weird, and without context quite uncomfortable. The helicopter aerobatics, and the cinematography of that section, is indeed spectacular.

Anyway, the film itself is about attempts to recover an ATAC – device that orders submarines to launch ballistic missiles – from the ocean floor off Albania. Of course the Russians want it as much as the Brits want it. This leads to the Havelocks – underwater archaeologists – being killed, in front of their daughter Melina’s eyes, which in turn leads to this masterclass in acting (you have to imagine the camera steadily getting closer in):

ForYourEyesOnly_2… and also leads Melina to declare that Greek women, “like Elektra,” always want revenge. Because that worked out so well for Elektra.

1857-3Bond ends up working with a Greek businessman, Kristatos (Julia Glover), who tells him that his former comrade in arms (Columba, played by Topol) is responsible. But surprise! It turns out to have been Kristatos all along! Columba is just an honest smuggler – he would never deal in heroin, or deal with those Ruskies. While we’re here: Columba is totally adorable. Always with the munching on pistachios!

I’m a bit worried that I am acquiring an immunity to Roger Moore, because I actually rather liked this film. This feels like a problem. There were still lots of issues – I’m getting there! – but the plot itself mostly worked (except for Melina leaving an oxygen tank on the ocean floor for no reason at the start of the film, and then OH LOOK it’s there when they need it at the end… oh right, and that bit where the parrot disclosed where the villains were heading). The pacing was pretty good, and – oh heck – even Moore was ok. In the accompanying features, Michael Wilson makes the point that they felt like Bond needed to literally and figuratively “come back to Earth” after Moonraker, and so they made this… dare I say it… grittier. So perhaps this is approaching the feel of my first Bond, Brosnan? Or yeh, maybe I’m infected with something.

1981-bibi-lynn-holly-johnson-for-your-eyesBut it’s not all sunshine and skittles! Of course I got cranky! Where to start… hmm… how about Moneypenny? Sprung putting on some lippy at the time she’s expecting Bond. Now I love Lois Maxwell a lot, but she has aged a lot since she started as Moneypenny, and while I have no problem with older ladies flirting with anyone they like (in a responsible, consensual manner), I do have a problem with the writers making her look pathetic at lusting after a man for nigh on 20 years, like this. She’s better handing out the snark and being arch. Then there’s Bibi – oh Bibi. A young, bubbly, blonde, ice skater – Kristatos’ ‘protege’ (aaaand all the eyebrows shoot up). Lynn-Holly Johnson is a fine enough actress given the circumstances, but Bibi actually has no role in this film. Actually no role. She serves no plot purpose. She does two things for characters: first, she makes Bond look marginally less like a womaniser because he refuses to sleep with her (oh so magnanimous), and then – when we already know Kristatos is the villain – she has the throw-away line “I know what you want. You’re too old for me.” So she makes one man look good, and one look bad. But those things are already established by other aspects of the film, so she’s irrelevant. Except, as James points out, as eye-candy…. There’s a “countess,” Lisl, whose role consists of sex for Bond and a bit of information on the side, and then she’s killed. The main woman, though, is Melina. She gets involved because she wants revenge (see above); she helps Bond out of difficult situations a few times, and he rewards her by bullying her out of her plans. I would have no problem with Bond saying “look lady, I’m trained for this, plus I have no compunction about killing, so maybe I could help you not die in getting revenge?” But Bond ordering her to leave, without explaining who he actually is – yeh, that’s just rude and high-handed. I was also cranky at the scene in the sleigh where they’re giving conflicting orders to the driver and the driver listens to Bond. And when they stop arguing, he looks over his shoulder and sighs “Amore!” um NO. Really NO. Anyway, she gets to be competent – she’s a skilled scuba diver, she knows her father’s codes, she navigates the 2-man sub, and she’s a dab hand with a cross bow. So that’s something.

Worth noting: M is “on holidays” while these events take place, so Bond has to deal with the Minister and some random flunky. And this is because Bernard Lee died at the start of 1981, so presumably he was already sick and/or too old while filming was going on. Very sad, and I’m therefore on fire to see whether/how they replace M for the next four movies, given the glory that is Dame Judi Dench with Brosnan.

James: Is this the part where I write about all the awesome stereotypically boy parts of the film which Alex has neglected ? Why yes it is.  Basically this is everything that happened in the film anyway. First the car … a For_Your_Eyes_Only_-_The_Lotus_explodesLotus Esprit Turbo which meets a quick end in the film when one of the thugs trips the ‘car alarm’ and self-destructs the car – angular, 80s and cool.

Next we have a winter sports montage chase scene where Bond and his pursuers take part in four or five winter olympic events on a mix of skis, motorbikes and feet; the ski jump and the luge are the highlights.  Out of the snow and into the water via the for-your-eyes-only-neptune-submarineNeptune mini sub searching for the secret (but tracked by the Russians and quite obviously not secret) British ship with the ATAC – this section of the film culminates in a hilarious fight against an enemy with a comically HUGE diving suit getting his head literally blown off by a limpet mine Bond just happens to have from the ATAC unit.SUPERSUIT  Finally we get some modern technology too in the form of Q’s new identigraph-blog-hostalia-hostingidentigraph system which takes a series of very Tron (or is it logo writer) graphics and suddenly punches out a face on a 9pin dot-matrix impact printer using nothing but ASCII characters (with the identity and dossier also of course).  The movie finished up with a suspense filled infiltration of a cliff top monastery, culminating with a dying 500px-For_Your_Eyes_Only_-_Kristatos_gets_knifed_by_Columbo.Columbo saving Bond and Melina from Kristatos, saving her from the previously mentioned revenge task of digging two graves.  Oh, wait…  vlcsnap-2012-10-20-16h50m05s64Bond and Melina kiss at the end; come on it’s James Bond people.

2.5 Martinis

Secret Lives

L. Timmel Duchamp says that Love’s stories consist of “fairly plain words (and never very many of them),” in her introduction to this collection. That might sound like faint praise indeed, except that the rest of the introduction praises those same words’ “amazing, amusing magic” – and she’s right. It’s also why, when Alisa Krasnostein (of Twelfth Planet Press, who put this collection out – yes, fair dealing, she’s a friend) asked what I thought of it I had to pause, and think through my response. Which initially concerned her, I think, but my hesitation wasn’t about “how do I tell my friend I didn’t like the book?” but “how do I my feelings into words?” It was compounded by the fact that I read the collection in very fast time (two and a bit tram rides, to be exact) – it is only 80 pages long, in the cute little format that all of the Twelve Planets have come in.

SecretLives-cover-01-115x188So what did I think? Well, most of the stories feel pretty easy to read, thanks to that simplicity of prose Duchamp identifies and the fact that there’s no padding in any of them. Most of them, though, are likely to sneak around to the back of your head and whack you one to make you realise that simplicity of prose is by no means the same as simplicity of purpose, or theme, or consequence.

“Secret Lives of Books” has the most straightforward narrative structure of the stories here. Ritchie is dying, and his books have always been of far more importance to him than human relationships. So, simple: after death, go live with the books. In the books. But as he whispers to his ex-wife Luisa: Books suck your blood. How will they respond to this invasion, and how will they react when their existence might be threatened? And when they find out about the internet? … A simple narrative, yes, but a provocative probing into our relationship with books and with other people, and with the concept of knowledge. I read once a (mostly tongue-in-cheek) suggestion that humanity was the weapon grasses like wheat utilised in order to fight the trees. I was reminded of that, here.

True fact: I have never heard of Kiddofspeed. Turns out this is a real thing, a website where Elena Filatova discussed riding a motorbike through the area around Chernobyl, post-disaster. In “Kiddofspeed” Love does a glorious job of interrogating the question of fact v fiction, and especially the question/issue of how the internet makes the casual reader’s understanding of the line between these two things so much harder. If it’s on the internet it’s true, right? If I say it is? (I’m put in mind of this article suggesting/explaining that Tom Cruise did not, actually, jump like a mad thing on Oprah’s couch – well, not how most of us “remember” him doing so, anyway.) Love also has a dig at some of the wilder “theories” about Chernobyl, and shoots them down in very few, scathing, words.

A qasida is “a form of lyric poetry from Arabia about the pain of lost love” – at least so says the prologue to the story of the same story, and coming straight after “Kiddofspeed” there is part of me that pauses and wonders whether the entire collection might be playing some sort of grand didactic prank… but surely not. (Right?) This story flicks between Bronnie, living now and with the knowledge that Mars-obsessed Del is lost, and Livia Wynne – general fixer for the British Empire in its last gasp, after the First World War. I could completely spoil the narrative (Del is on Mars) and not spoil the story. I haven’t, promise. (And because it’s on the internet….) Relationships, the quest for knowledge, the (im)possibility of cross-cultural understanding, the drive to go, the complexity of language: all of these are touched on, lightly but generally profoundly.

“The Kairos Moment” is probably my least favourite story. I don’t dislike it, it just doesn’t work for me like the others. ‘Kairos’ is the Greek term (apparently… who me, paranoid?) for a moment of something wonderful happening. The narrator theorises that music is one method by which to achieve a kairos moment, and proceeds – as part of her research (I just realised I’m assuming it’s a her – I don’t think it’s revealed) – to try and create one. It’s not entirely straightforward, nor entirely a healthy experience for some.

The final story is

The slut and the universe

or

The relations between feminism, global warming, global financial meltdown,

asteroid impact, the nuclear arms race and the mass extinction of species.

or

How feminism got to be both the root of all evils and the means of salvation from them.

It opens with “One upon a time, there will be a young girl who live with her family in the middle of the woods.” Can you tell this is my favourite story? Marysa lives with her mother and her grandmother. They argue about the clothes she wears, with the word ‘slut’ bandied around – “Not that they mean Marysa is a slut… [but that she] has chosen to dress like a slut, and therefore… people she meets… will treat her like a slut and TAKE ADVANTAGE” (68). A condemnation of slut-shaming in a page of prose, hell yes. And then they get on to the patriarchy and all of the things suggested in the multiple titles. With Gaia along to stir up the conversation a bit. The narrative is tenuous, true; there are hints of a world that has gone bad (worse than ours at the moment anyway), and the relationships between the three generations. The focus is absolutely on conversation and argument between the four. It’s a place for Love to set up ideas and be provocative and maybe even extreme, and I loved it.

This collection is awesome. You should buy it. 

Moonraker

This review is part of Project Bond, wherein over the course of 2014 we watch all of the James Bond movies in production order.

Summary: in which, space. And Jaws. But no sharks.

bond3Alex: still not a fan of Moore. However, there were some parts of this film that I actually liked. It’s definitely better paced than the earlier Moores, and who doesn’t love a good giggle over the hilarity of 1970s space stations? It does, however, feature my least favourite Bond theme. Sorry Shirley, it does nothing for me.

The prologue introduces us to the shuttle, Moonraker, as it gets hijacked. We also see Bond encounter Jaws again, henchmanning for some random villain, and then they both end up out of a plane sans parachute. This section had some truly awesome cinematography, and the feature on the DVD about how it was shot is definitely worth watching.

bond4The shuttle was built by Drax Enterprises, and himself is pissed that the British lost his shuttle. So Bond is off to California to snoop around, see who might be responsible for it going missing. I WONDER WHO IT COULD BE? Oh wait, Drax is dressed almost entirely in black and speaks with a slight accent and in a monotone! Nothing suspicious here! No visible deformities, anyway, which is just about a first for this franchise. He does have two Lady Friends, one black and one white, who don’t speak; and two perfectly trained Dobermans; and a Generic Asian Servant. And yes, I really do think those three things can be listed as about equal, from the film’s perspective.

Drax graciously allows Bond to meet one of his chief scientists, Dr Goodhead. Who is, surprise! Female. Bond, condescending: “Are you training to be an astronaut?” Goodhead, I Am So Used To This Crap: “I’m fully trained, on loan from NASA.” What follows would be termed willy-waving if it were between two men, but because it’s between a man and a woman there’s the mandatory sexual frisson – from Bond anyway – as he tries to demonstrate to the woman WHO HAS AT LEAST ONE PHD that he knows as much as her. Because showing you’re smarter than her is a sure way into a woman’s pants. Or something. Still, hurrah for a competent female scientist! She may be my favourite woman from the Moore era yet, which still isn’t saying a whole lot because I didn’t love her. As an actress I found her boring and wooden; as a character she started off well but, as always, goes downhill after she (inevitably) succumbs to Bond’s irresistible charms. Not only does Bond have an ORGAN I CAN’T MENTION that turns women from evil to good, it also apparently saps the competency from them.

bond6Anyway. Bond chases Drax’s establishment to Venice – hello gondola chases – and has a tour through a glass museum, which as soon as it comes on screen you just KNOW is going to be the scene of a horridly destructive fight. And it was. Then Bond goes to Rio, as far as I can tell just so that he can sleep with the local MI5 contact and the film can showcase Carnevale. And then he and Goodhead, who have now teamed up because she’s actually CIA, are off down the Amazon and there find Castle Anthrax. Seriously. All the astronauts in training there are beautiful and lissom and – it turns out – paired to one another, because Drax’s goal is to sterilise the Earth and bring back his genetically perfect humans to Rule The World! They all end up in space, and eventually, after some pretty cool null-grav scenes, Bond escapes and destroys it.

Brief space rant now. It can’t be that far out in orbit because it doesn’t take that long to reach it in their shuttles. How did they avoid detection? Well, Drax has developed a cloaking device (basically) that prevents radar from detecting bondthem. Ta dah! … but wait – what about the astronomers?? This is pre- any space telescopes. It’s also a time when, I presume, the light pollution wasn’t nearly so bad as it is today. I can guarantee that amateur astronomers would have spotted it, let alone the pros. Heck, I’ve followed the ISS in a telescope by moving the scope manually, and you can see the shape quite easily. This space city is meant to be much bigger than the ISS.

/end rant

That  issue aside, the end of the space city is actually the most terrifying part of the whole movie because US-trained space troops fly up to occupy it (once they know it’s there): they know how to fight in space, and they have laser guns. This is what the 1980s feared with discussion of the militarisation of space. And I can well understand the fear.

Weird moment: the code to get into a secret lab is the signature motif from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

From a racial perspective: Generic Asian Servant gets to beat up Bond a bit, but of course can’t win. There are some non-white astronauts in Drax’s plan for perfecting humanity, so that’s awesome – but it is overwhelmingly white.

From a feminist perspective: Goodhead isn’t bad; she takes a while to succumb to Bond, and she is blunt about her lack of trust in him. She stays mostly competent when she’s allowed to demonstrate it. There are three other “Bond women.” He’s smooching one at the start, who then pulls a gun on him – hilarious, but she is then nowhere while the fight takes place, and given it’s on a plane that makes no sense. Then there’s Drax’s helicopter pilot. Bond kisses her, she responds with “You presume a great deal” – and then kisses him back. She dies. The Brazilian contact is attacked by Jaws in a clown outfit.

Jaws! How remiss of me not to mention: Jaws gets a girlfriend! Aww… they meet when he’s just finished destroying a cable car with Bond and Goodhead on board. They both end up on the space city, and Jaws actually helps Bond when he realises that neither he nor Braids meets Drax’s standards of human perfection. And he even gets to speak, which I’m sure meant that he had to take out the metal teeth.

bond5JStar Wars Theatrical Posters Around The World in 1977 (1)ames: Classic movie poster – almost as awesome as the vintage Star Wars ones.  It might be my favourite part though.  The effects are improving as we move forwards in time too but like Alex I’m bored with Moore and ready to move on.  More space, more lasers – I had never really noticed in the past how central space, orbital weapons and lasers are to Bond (and it’s not about to stop yet…). 2 Martinis.

 

 

 

North Wind

I did not manage to finish the book prior to this one, Gwyneth Jones’ White Queen. I am slightly surprised that I finished this one, in that light, but the structure of this novel is definitely easier to cope with, and I think the plot is slightly more straightforward too.

So in White Queen the aliens arrive and it turns out they’ve been living amongst for rather a long time. The world is a difficult place in which to live anyway – environmental stuff etc – and when the aliens finally decide to make contact there’s a conference on women happening … and for whatever reason, the aliens decide that that is the world government. Which means that all of a sudden (ok, I think it makes months or years) there is an actual real Sex War, at least partly because of the aliens. Stuff happens… etc.

9780312859268North Wind is told from two main viewpoints. Sid is a human liaison to the Aleutians – the aliens. Bella, also known as Goodlooking, or the librarian, is an invalid Aleutian. Their experiences of the world are very different: because of their expectations of gender, because of their expectations of humanity, because of their expectations of family and other social interactions. Their interactions with each other are immensely complicated for all of these same reasons, and because of the circumstances in which they find themselves.

This novel could have been relatively straightforward. It’s an attempt to figure out what is indeed a complex problem, but the actual events along the way are not that Byzantine.

Jones, however, was not interested in writing a relatively straightforward novel. And that’s perfectly fine; just don’t expect it to be one. Because Jones used this novel to explore concepts of gender, in particular, in detail and in complexity that you don’t often get in novel form. Not from widely popular novels that get nominated for the Clarke Award (in 1995) necessarily, anyway. The Aleutians have a very different concept of gender from most of humanity, and the intersection between the two species’ expectations and lived experiences highlight, in particular, humanity’s limitations.

I found this a difficult book to read partly because of the switching of pronouns, which takes some getting used to; partly because Jones uses narrative ellipses to imply things and sometimes I wasn’t fast enough on the uptake. Probably I missed some subtleties from not finishing White Queen (like the issue with Johnny, but that is eventually explained). It’s a clever book, and it’s an important book, and I want to say it’s an ambitious book but so often that phrase gets used in a condescending tone and I really don’t mean it like that. I really mean that Jones is doing ambitious and difficult and passionate things. But… I didn’t love it. I think it was too difficult for me. I won’t be rushing out for Phoenix Cafe, the third in the series. Which makes me a bit sad because I had intended to read all of Gwyneth Jones’ work, but I don’t have to like everything, I’ve decided.

Yet another book off the TBR shelf! Go me!

Galactic Suburbia 101

GoogleSquiggleIn which we emerge from our cake coma to discuss awards, speeches, hashtags and online activism. And, okay, more cake. You can get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

News

Norman Hetherington’s birthday celebrated by Google: Australians love Mr Squiggle!

Nebula award winners announced.

N K Jemisin’s GoH speech and Hiromi Goto’s GoH speech at Wiscon

Alisa’s post: If You Aren’t Part of the Solution

Discussion of #yesallwomen and #notallmen

Charles Tan’s important essay on Bigotry, Cognotive Dissonance and Submission guidelines

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Alisa: Total Devotion Machine, Rosaleen Love; Perfections, Kirstyn McDermott; The Lady Astronaut from Mars, Mary Robinette Kowal
Alex: A Pursuit of Miracles, George Turner; Black Ice, Lucy Sussex; Jane Bites Back, Michael Thomas Ford. Project Bond.
Tansy: X-Men Days of Future Past, Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction, Robotech Rewatch

Galactic Suburbia Scrapbook
– is still a preorder which means if you go ahead and preorder, we’ll send you a copy of the book when it drops, glitch with the Paypal means it charges you 1c on preorder but Alisa refunding those. And also, all sales for the Scrapbook will go towards running costs for GS.

PS we have a donation button on the Podbean site, which we thought we would mention because we got scolded by email… if you want to throw us a donation towards our hosting fees, we will be very grateful!

Check out our Pinterest board for the entries in our cake logo contest! We haven’t been able to choose, so we’re asking for feedback from our listeners. Vote for your favourite by emailing us – and remember it’s not about how much you like the look of the cake itself, but which picture you think makes the best logo to represent us for our next 100 episodes.

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

The Spy Who Loved Me

This review is part of Project Bond, wherein over the course of 2014 we watch all of the James Bond movies in production order.

Summary: in which Russia’s best agent is a woman, someone is stealing submarines, cars turn into submarines and Bond visits Egypt. All to a very groovy 70s version of the Bond theme.

images-6Alex: well, it turns out that James was right. There are a lot of Bonds I haven’t seen! … most of the Moores, in fact. And you know what? I am not sad about that fact. Because if I had, indeed, seen these movies before, then I would now have sat through them at least twice each, and I’m just not going to live that long.

I’ve figured out how to make a decent Roger Moore Bond. Take this plot, make Christopher Lee play Stromberg, and Jane Seymour Triple X. Ta dah!

Back in From Russia with Love, we were introduced to the idea of a Russian agent being female. The prologue here opens with the Russians deciding to put their best agent onto the case of a submarine going missing – then cutting to a bedroom scene – and it turning out that Triple X is actually the woman. Surprise fake out! Amusingly, this is then replicated with the British doing the same thing and, of course, cutting to Bond also in bed. He then escapes from dastardly Russians via a parachute with a Union Jack on it…

The credits feature an astonishing number of nude women in silhouette. And Carly Simone, whose “Nobody does it better” has grown on me a lot since I’ve stopped automatically associating a real estate agent with it.

images-3We meet the man responsible for the disappearing subs very quickly, and the fact that he’s ruthless immediately: he kills his lover for apparently giving away secrets, and for I think the third time? is a villain with a penchant for sharks. He, too, continues the villain-as-deformed theme, although less obviously than some: his thumb and forefinger webbing is very pronounced. I guess this is meant to account for his love of the life aquatic? Or something anyway. Writing that I realise that other villains have a thing with water – Dr No, and the guy in Thunderball I think? Stromberg gets the coolest looking lair to this point, although it’s spoiled by the narcissism of calling it Atlantis. Stromberg’s villainy is further amplified by, of course, his henchmen. Let’s just glory in the fabulousness that is Jaws for a moment:

images-4

Yup, fine specimen of a henchman. To my everlasting joy, the film managed to combine both Stromberg’s love of sharks and Jaws’ ability and willingness to bite anything and everything by featuring a fight between a great white and the metal mouth himself. You know who wins already.

There is actually a plot here, and I think it’s a better one than the previous two – so surely that’s a good sign, right? The first was rock bottom, the second clawed its way out of despair, this one is almost conceivably bearable? Almost? Bond and Triple X (who is named at some point, I know, but I missed it and anyway the code name works) end up in Egypt chasing down the owner of a microfilm with details about the sub-thief. Bond turns out to rock pseudo-Tuareg gear and to speak Arabic, as well as having an old Cambridge chum who sets him up for the night in a totally Lawrence of Arabia tent and a member of his harem. Then, getting back to the point, Bond continues searching and manages to get a third woman killed by a bullet intended for him. There’s some killing, some arguing, and then Bond and Triple X find themselves having to work together when Jaws makes off with the microfilm.

To James’ eye-rolling, I must stop here a moment and squeal about how awesome it was to see Bond on location in Egypt, having been there myself. I’m astonished they let them film in Karnak, but I guess the 70s was a different time. The most hilarious bit, though, is when they’re at the Sound and Light show at Gaza… because the voice-over from 1977 is exactly the same one that I heard in 2013. Exactly.

Bond and Triple X fight Jaws at Karnak; there’s a hilarious moment where Triple X can’t get their escape van into gear, because everyone knows that women can’t drive, especially not manuals! Ha ha! And then neatly reverses into Jaws. Bond notes “You did save my life;” she tartly replies with “Everybody makes mistakes.” And then they walk in the desert, because the van breaks down, and they seriously, no jokes, do so to the strains of the Lawrence of Arabia theme. My eyes rolled so hard it hurt.

And then Triple X and Bond discover they have to work together. Gee, thank bosses. Off to Sardinia they go, via a train trip featuring Jaws in Triple X’s wardrobe (Bond electrocutes him, she falls into Bond’s arms afterwards) and the discovery that Stromberg is capturing nuclear missiles in order to blow up both the USSR and the USA so that he can start the world anew… apparently under water or something? Isn’t this all sounding very familiar, a la Blofeld? I guess there are only so many supervillain prime motivating factors to go around, and wealth is not Stromberg’s concern at this point. Anyway, Bond foils the plot, making the nukes blow up the subs instead… which still means that there were two nuclear explosions in the middle of two oceans, but apparently we don’t care about that. Triple X is taken by Stromberg back to Atlantis and forced to wear an outrageous dress; Bond rescues her and they get away in a bachelor pad escape pod, complete with Dom Perignon 52:images-5

I really liked Triple X most of the time. She has a lovely line in snark, is well aware of what Bond is about, and is mostly allowed to be competent. Blowing sleeping powder in Bond’s face when he gets amorous? Priceless. Apparently getting over her dead lover very quickly is less so. Vowing to kill Bond after the mission, when she discovers he killed her lover, was awesome – I love her professionalism in agreeing to finish the mission before killing him. And she didn’t blow their cover as his ‘wife’ even when Bond tells her “don’t be a bother” when being shown around Atlantis. Reneging on that vow to kill him – without even trying! – was disappointing. I would have liked her to put up more of a fight.

Bond continues to be a snob and ludicrously knowledgable. He poses as a marine biologist, he knows Arabic, he gets a detonator out of a nuclear bomb, and he can reprogram computers.

James:

Underwater car … one of the coolest Bond cars yet? Another lukewarm film otherwise.  The opening ski chase is classic bond and Triple X is a nice evolution for Bond as a franchise but there was still more cheese than a 1970s fondu set.  Great music.

2 Martinis

images

Galactic Suburbia is 100!

Alisa, Alex and Tansy invite all our listeners to join us as we celebrate our 100th episode of Galactic Suburbia in time-honoured tradition, with cake! We can be found over at iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

Alisa is eating Golden Gaytime cheesecake. Tansy is eating orange sour cream cake. Alex combined them both to create chocolate orange cheesecake! Let us know what kind of cake you ate while listening to the podcast! If you’d like to enter our cake logo contest, please send a picture of your Galactic Suburbia themed cake to us by email or Twitter by the 27th May!

NEWS

The Norma Shortlist includes some Twelfth Planet Press books!

Alisa recently announced the Kaleidoscope TOC, and may be launching Rosaleen Love’s book Secret Lives of Books at Continuum.

Hugo Packet – Orbit UK not including the novels.

Tansy news: upcoming Tor.com reread column & web serial

The Galactic Suburbia scrapbook available soon for download.

Listen to the episode for giveaway codes. Free books!

Limited editions second print run for Love & Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts. Let Alisa know now if you want one of these – she’s printing them for London.

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Alex: Hav, Jan Morris; Graceling, Kristin Cashore; so much Fringe. And Orphan Black. No more Comixology for me.

Tansy: Captain America: Winter Soldier; Gravity; Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Saga 3

Alisa: OMG I AM IN EDITING/PROOFING ARMAGEDDON – Kaleidoscope almost ready to drop and Secret Lives of Books! And …. Tea and Jeopardy

Galactic Suburbia highlights.

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The Man with the Golden Gun

This review is part of Project Bond, wherein over the course of 2014 we watch all of the James Bond movies in production order.

images4Summary: in which Bond meets his assassin-y match and there’s something about solar power? Also, Bond seems surprisingly disinterested in teh ladeez. With bonus Christopher Lee!images

Alex: another Bond that I’d never seen before! So that was exciting! … which was something, at least, since this is another film that took us two sittings. Partly that was tiredness on our part, but partly that was because this film so soooo slooooow. Better than Live and Let Die, but slow nonetheless. Probably the most exciting part of the entire film was thinking, “hey, Scaramanga looks familiar. He actually looks a bit like Christopher Lee!” And then realising omg it IS Christopher Lee!!

I’m being slightly unfair, I guess. Let me start then with ways in which this film shows its cleverness. I had always thought that the theme song for this, sung by Lulu (does that make it the most pop song of the lot? does she beat Madonna and A-ha?), was an amusing conflation of the villain with Bond. Turns out that all of the lines are actually applicable to Scaramanga, right down to the “Love is required/ Whenever he’s hired / It comes just before the ki-ill.” But the entire film is actually intent on making the similarities between Scaramanga and Bond quite clear. Scaramanga himself draws the parallel – “Ours is the loneliest profession” – noting somewhat tartly that the main difference is that he makes good money from it, as opposed to Bond. Bond of course defends himself by saying he only kills on HM’s government’s orders, but that’s after quite a strong assertion of kinship from Scaramanga, and I must say Bond comes off as less than convincing. So I do really like that the film is problematising Bond’s position as ‘licensed to kill’.

images2Let’s talk about Scaramanga, since we already are. He’s shown in the prologue and immediately established as evil, because he’s physically different from the norm: he has “a superfluous papilla or mammary gland,” as Bond – that supercilious snob – so pretentiously puts it (he means a third nipple). He also has a servant named Nick Nack, a cordon bleu-trained chef who happens to be a dwarf.  Again, this clearly places Scaramanga in the villain category for the Bond universe, because who else would tolerate a ‘freak’? This sort of ableism and Othering is really, really wearing. Anyway, from a narrative perspective Scaramanga and his servant are intriguing. Nick Nack allows an assassin – whom he’s paid – into Scaramanga’s inner sanctum. The assassin and Scaramanga proceed to play hide and seek, with Nick Nack sadistically commenting from behind the scenes. Turns out, this is a game they play – Nick Nack will inherit everything if Scaramanga is killed. So Scaramanga is fearless and rates his own abilities, but is also very keen to keep honing his skills. And he’s obsessed with his beautiful hand-crafted golden gun.

Backtrack: to plot. Bond takes on the task of chasing Scaramanga down when a golden bullet with ‘007’ inscribed on it arrives at HQ. Scaramanga turns out to be connected in some way to Bond’s earlier assignment, tracking down a solar energy scientist, who appears to have gone rogue and maybe defected to the Chinese? This was unclear to me. There’s also a Thai businessman, Hai Fat, somehow connected to everything; his appearance really confused me because I thought Bond went from Macau to mainland China, but it turned out that he went to Thailand. Hai Fat ends up dead, Bond and Scaramanga fight – partly over who’s a better assassin, partly over who is better – the one who makes money or the one with ‘morals’ – and partly over Scaramanga having access to solar power that will not only power lots of batteries but can also (natch) be turned into a laaaaaserrrr. Um, the end. Oh, except for Bond zipping Nick Nack into a suitcase, because that’s always hilarious.

imagesThere are three women in this film, and they have far less significant roles than in the last couple of films. They’re even more boring than Solitaire, who at least got reasonable airtime. There’s Goodnight (yes, seriously), an MI6 agent that Bond’s slept with previously. At one point she gets feisty, declaring “Killing a few hours as one of your passing fancies isn’t quite my scene” – but it’s ruined by the incredibly thick layer of Vaseline on the lens, and that she ends up in his bed very soon thereafter (“My hard-to-get act didn’t last very long” – I kid you not, that’s what she says). This in turn is ruined when Ms Anders walks in. She’s Scaramanga’s latest lover, who is actually responsible for the 007 bullet. She initially seems to be awesome – Bond surprises her in the shower, but she gets out all cool and calm with a gun in hand, demanding her robe – but goes all to pieces quickly. Mind you, this is after Bond has been very rough with her, so maybe I’m being too harsh. When Anders walks in, Bond puts Goodnight in the cupboard… then when Anders leaves, Bond apologises with “next time.” Goodnight is further shown to be incompetent when she leans on a master override switch that will destroy Scaramanga’s base, with her and Bond still left inside – Bond gets very cranky, as if she did it deliberately. The other woman in the film? A bellydancer, from whom Bond plucks a bellybutton charm with his mouth. Yes, really.

Racially… well, again we at least have non-Anglos being played by non-Anglos. I really enjoyed Soon-Tek Oh, playing a Chinese agent in Macau and Thailand (even if Oh is Korean…) – he was great, even if they did give him some cringe-worthy stereotyped moments like he and his nieces being ace karate experts. He’s a good sidekick and hurrah! doesn’t die. Richard Loo, playing Hai Fat, does die but he’s a villain and is done in by his ally, and what do you expect anyway? I don’t think there’s anything mean said about him for not being white, which is at least a bare minimum. Oh, and as befits Bond the Great White Messiah, he’s quite good at fighting karate experts – he ignores the expectations of respect, and kicks his opponent while he’s bowing. images3

The very weirdest thing about this entire movie is the inclusion of JW, the absolutely appalling, tobacco-chewing/spitting, nigh-unintelligible good ol’ southern boy sheriff from Live and Let Die. How is it even possible that he was popular enough as a character to be worth imagining as someone who would take a trip to Thailand? So that he could see Bond and end up ‘helping’ him? Every scene he was in made me want to throw something at the screen.

James: slightly less awful1 weak Martini.

Graceling

Reading this was like eating M&Ms. Stopping was very hard. I began it one evening at 8pm. I finally forced myself to go to bed at 10pm. I had read about 200 pages. The prose is just that easy to read.

Unknown-1This secondary world of Cashore’s isn’t a place where magic happens. It is, though, a place where some people are born Graced: they have a skill, or a thing, that they are superbly, unbeatably, good at. You might be a Graced chef, or a Graced archer; be Graced with mind-reading, some sort of prescience, or being able to eat rocks. I was about to write that I would like to be Graced with memory, but then I remembered the books I’ve read where characters never forget anything and I realise that would be appalling. Perhaps I would like to be Graced with pastry-making. Or with patience. Perhaps pattern recognition.

Anyway, you can tell someone is Graced before they act because they have eyes of different colours. Sometimes this happens as soon as the baby is born; sometimes it takes months, even years, for the eye-colour to settle in. In most parts of the Seven Kingdoms, those who are Graced are automatically feared, and become the property of the King. When you are already the king’s niece and your Grace is fighting… well, Katsa was screwed from the moment she threw her first punch as an under-ten. She’s been fighting for, and being a one-person bully gang in aid of, her uncle for a long time now. But she’s starting to try working around and under the king – helping out people where she can – and this has to come to a head at some point.

The story is a quest for knowledge and for self-identity. Katsa’s age is unclear – she’s certainly late teens if not 20s – and it’s not quite a coming-of-age; she’s cynical and knows about the world already. But while embarking on a quest to help a friend discover the truth about a family member, she definitely learns more about herself and how to be in the world. This search for identity is a current through the whole story, but it’s not overwhelmingly dominant; there are some reflective moments, but there are a lot of moments of action too, for readers like me who usually prefer that sort of story. And the actual quest means that Cashore gets to introduce us to bits of the Seven Kingdoms, which is always fun. I enjoyed the developing friendship between Katsa and Po, I liked the secondary characters, I liked that there were a few plot twists and that while it’s not a light and breezy story, it’s also not grim and gloomy (I have no problem with either, I just like that this one was at the lighter end).

There are a few failings. The ten-year-old is unbelievable enough that I thought she was going to end up being Graced with something that made her wiser than her years. Some of the secondary characters, especially Katsa’s cousin, could have withstood a bit more character development. Over on Goodreads I briefly saw two complaints. One is that it’s an enjoyable book except for the “raging feminist agenda.” I am bewildered by this. Is it a raging feminist agenda to have a supremely competent female lead, to suggest a woman can be a monarch, to not have a female character desperate to get married, to allow characters sex before marriage, to have female characters who don’t care that much about clothes? If so, AWESOME I WANT MORE. Me, I just see that as, y’know, reflecting the real world. The other complaint is about the romance – spoiler! There is one! (If you didn’t know that, you could read the cover quote which claims it has “a knee-weakening romance that easily rivals that of Twilight” … Thanks, LA Times. I have nothing to say.) That reviewer, I think, has an interesting point to make which is that (SLIGHT SPOILER HERE) Katsa’s refusal to consider marrying Po means that what they have isn’t really love, because love is meant to be sacrificial. She is NOT saying they ought to just get married – at least as far as I understand it (here, read it yourself – it’s the one written by Miss Clark). However, while I see her point, I think I disagree. I think Katsa is willing to be with Po forever, and that especially at this point it’s not not-love for her to be keeping her options open, and being wary. Or maybe I’m just too dewy-eyed.

There are two other books in the not-quite-series, but I don’t think I will hurry to get either. While I loved this book, it’s the writing and the characters that I adored. I’m not so fussed about other people in the world and their carryings-on.

(Another books from the stash of unread books, busted!)

You can get Graceling from Fishpond.

Galactic Suburbia

Galactic Suburbia the John Campbell Memorial not a Hugo Episode

In which we do discuss the Hugo shortlists both Retro and Current, but this is not an episode. Not at all. For… administrative reasons. We’re on iTunes or over at Galactic Suburbia.

Retro Hugo Shortlist 1939.

Hugo Shortlist

Brandon Sanderson says interesting things about fandom groups, and the Wheel of Time nomination.

Some gender notes on the Hugo shortlist

Tansy’s Hugo links post

Tansy & John DeNardo of SF Signal discuss the shortlist on Coode Street Podcast

THANK YOU EVERYONE WHO NOMINATED GALACTIC SUBURBIA FOR BEST FANCAST, WE LOVE YOU TOO. WE LOVE YOU SO MUCH WE WOULD GIVE YOU FIVE STARS ON ITUNES.

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