The Boyfriend of the Week

June 19, 2006

Last time, when I was writing about the adorable giant that is Clancy Brown, I mentioned in passing that I thought he'd make a great James Bond. I was kidding, of course. Obviously, he's not really the Bondish type. Martinis? Can you picture Clancy Brown sipping a martini? For some reason, that just seems really "bull in the china shop" to me. So, maybe the Bond comment wasn't right on. But the timing for the Bond comment sure was. Because the next Boyfriend write-up in the hopper was this one. This one about Daniel Craig. Who is, you see, actually the next James Bond.

Now, before we get into this, I just wanted to say I know a lot of people were very obsessively following the hoopla over the selection of the new Bond after Pierce Brosnan got the official boot. But I wasn't one of them. I mean, when I heard they might select Clive Owen, I nodded and thought to myself, "That'll do." But that was the extent of my interest. Not because I'm not a Bond fan -- I actually am. I've probably seen all the Bond movies at least once, and a lot of them many more times than that. But the thing is, the part of the Bond series that keeps it interesting and fun is the fact it keeps changing up the players periodically. So, when it came time to change up again, I was happy to go along with whomever they decided ought to go next. It's pretty hard to screw up a Bond movie (even Timothy Dalton wasn't as bad as we all like to pretend he was, really). As long as they don't pick Keanu Reeves, I'm perfectly happy to go along for the ride.

That said, when I heard the final choice was Daniel Craig, I will confess I did a slight double-take. Not because I approved or disapproved, but because I'd never even heard of him, and since when are we casting total nobodies as James "Household-Name" Bond? I filed Dan's name away for later investigation just in case there was something I didn't know that everybody else knew, but I never got around to it. And then one Tuesday evening I came home from work to discover a red envelope from Netflix in my mailbox. And inside that red envelope was the DVD of the latest Spielberg film, Munich, starring none other than. . . drumroll please. . . Daniel Craig.

Okay, okay, the star of Munich isn't actually Daniel Craig, it's Eric Bana. And yeah, before you guys all email me to suggest him, I totally agree that Eric Bana's cute and stuff, and he was phenomenal in this film. But I'm still not madly in love with him, no matter how curly and floppy his hair gets over his welled-up puppy dog eyes. So, hold them emails, y'all. I'll report back after I finally get around to renting The Hulk.

Anyway, instead of Bana, when it came time to drool during Munich (and trust me, given the subject of the film, there are few times when it actually feels appropriate to think to yourself, "Damn, that guy is HOT!"), I was drooling over the blond guy playing the man with the golden gun. I'm sure you guys all know what the film is about by now, but I'll recap for those of you who are new to the planet Earth. It begins with the 1972 Olympics, in which a Palestinian terrorist group called Black September took a group of Israeli athletes hostage and entered a stand-off with the rest of the world. A stand-off that ultimately ended in the murder of every hostage, following a truly phenomenal amount of screwing-up on behalf of the German government (this part I actually learned from the documentary One Day in September, which I highly recommend, by the way).

But Munich isn't actually about the Olympics. It's about the aftermath. Outraged by the murder of their athletes, the Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Golda Meir, decides to assemble a death squad of their own to go kick some retaliatory Palestinian ass. This team of killers will spend the next foreseeable future tracking down and killing every person who was even remotely involved with Black September's attack. Daniel Craig plays "Steve," the primary gunman, and he mostly skulks around in the background looking menacing. The leader of the group is a quiet, more complex man named Avner (Bana), and after spending a year tracking down and killing Palestinian after Palestinian, only to see each leader replaced after death by another one, he becomes understandably disillusioned. How does it make sense for Israel to abandon its own sense of right and wrong for the sake of revenge, he wonders. As the killing continues, Avner comes to realize that violence only begets more violence, and that as long as people keep killing each other, tomorrow never dies; the cycle of death goes on and on forever.

The best moment of this powerful and intense film actually comes in its final seconds, in the final shot of the movie, by way of an image that is barely noticeable in the far background. I won't say more than that, because I think one of the greatest things about this movie is the fact that Spielberg, for once, didn't feel the need to whack us over the head with his message -- I'm thinking in particular here of the final scenes of Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan, both which made me gag from the unnecessary cheese and head-conking. Instead, Steve just quietly shows us how the story relates to us, these forty-plus years later, and lets those of us who notice get it, and everybody else not. I approve. I like it when directors assume I'm smart. It's good for my ego.

Anyway, as I said, Daniel's character doesn't have a huge part in Munich. He's mostly just there, steady-armed and ready to fire. But despite the fact the film is packed with handsome devils, for some bizarre reason it was Daniel I had a dream about that night. . . Now, hooooold on there, girls -- don't get all excited thinking it was something dirty. The reality is a lot more bland. Instead, the dream essentially consisted of Daniel hitting on me in a bar, and my husband punching his lights out. Yes, sir, you heard that one correctly: my husband TKO'd James Bond!

In any case, I took this as a sign, and the next morning, I looked Daniel up on Netflix and put several of his films in my queue. First to arrive was a little movie called The Mother. I had no idea what to expect from it -- I didn't recognize any of the actors and had never heard of it. But damned if it didn't also completely blow my mind.

It's about an older woman named May whose husband dies suddenly. It takes her a few weeks to realize that instead of being devastated by her loss, she's liberated by it. Deciding it's time for a change, May moves to London and begins splitting her time between her son's house and her daughter's. Mostly, she has nothing to do, wandering somewhat aimlessly around the city, but then one day she happens to strike up a conversation with a guy working on her son's house. The workman, Darren (Craig), is a young man, strong and grizzled-looking (mrrrrow!), who is also, coincidentally, sleeping with May's daughter. The two end up enjoying each other's company and soon begin having tea together each afternoon. Tea eventually progresses to lunch, which eventually progresses to lunch out, which eventually progresses to. . . ahem . . . yep, cover your ears, kiddies, S-E-X. A granny and a young man! Hoo, mama!

May, lonely and untouched by her husband for years, becomes desperately addicted to Darren and the way he makes her feel. In one touching scene, after they have gone to bed for the first time, she begins to cry and says something like, "I thought the only person who would ever touch me again would be the undertaker. . ." The two continue their physical relationship for months, and soon May is promising Darren, who is continually down on his luck, that she'll wave her goldfinger in the air and give him anything he could ever want. And this is what, in turn, begins to addict Darren to her -- the promise of an easy life, at long last. Only, when May realizes that only diamonds are forever in Darren's eyes, the relationship is brought to a painful end, made all the worse when May's two kids find out what has been going on.

This movie just broke my heart so many times, over and over. May's loneliness is palpable, and so is Darren's wrenching desire for a better, simpler life. At first you think about how tender he is to her and how wonderful it must be for her to feel wanted again. But you soon realize that both May and Darren are using each other in terribly cruel ways, however unconsciously. For sex, for money, for self-esteem, for anything but actual emotion, actual love, actual good. Their relative addictions are painful, agonizing, and ultimately, this movie totally wore me out. But it is one of the simplest, most beautiful films I've seen in quite a while.

While I'm at it, I should probably mention that it also involves a great deal of time spent with a topless Daniel Craig, and though I don't typically find the super-skinny look that sexy in men, after a few scenes involving Craig's nekked torso, I will confess I was thinking it might be time to revisit that policy. Ahem.

Impressed as I was by Craig in The Mother, I next moved on to another indie movie he'd made called Enduring Love. This one, based on a novel by Ian McEwan, opens with a young couple, Joe (Craig) and Claire (Samantha Morton) about to settle down for a picnic in the middle of a lovely grassy spot out in the middle of nowhere. As they are fluffing their blanket and sitting down, they see a hot air balloon coming their way. Hmm, curious, they think.

The balloon lands several hundred yards away from them and an older man scrambles out, leaving a young boy in the basket. The man begins to struggle with the balloon, frantically trying to hold it onto the ground, and the couple quickly realizes the old man is about to lose control of the whole thing. They leap up and run over to help, and soon about four other men have joined them -- all of them pulling and heaving in an attempt to keep the balloon from taking flight with the little boy inside alone. Just as they are about to gain control, however, a gust of wind blows and the balloon lifts into the air. For a moment, they all hang from it as it goes up, up, up into the sky. Then one hand lets go, and everyone else's hands let go, and all but one of the men tumble safely to the ground.

The last man, though, keeps a hold on the rope. Those on the ground can only watch in horror as he holds on as long as he can, but that balloon has a view to a kill, and it seems bound and determined to take at least one life with it before it goes down. The dangling man gradually begins to tire, and, hundreds of feet in the sky, his arms give out at last and he falls to the earth in a terrifying silence. He's killed instantly. A few minutes later, the little boy composes himself and lands the balloon safely on his own. A death in vain. A purposeless death. A needless death.

The horror of the whole event scares the living daylights out of everyone who witnessed it. But none is more affected by the incident than Joe, who is left shaken, wrestling with terrible guilt over the whole thing. Fortunately for us, he's doing all this wrestling in a tweed jacket and wire-rimmed glasses, and that makes even the most somber moments of the film well-worth their depressing nature. (Because, yum.)

Anyway, as Joe struggles to make sense of it all, he begins to go off the deep end a bit. Meanwhile, another one of the men from that day, Jed (Rhys Ifans), has become obsessed with Joe. He believes that he and Joe are madly in love with each other -- that the whole incident was fate. That they were meant to be together. His infatuation quickly turns to stalking, however, and this pushes an already stressed and increasingly unbalanced Joe right over the edge.

This is an intense film, and, in my opinion, it's also absolutely brilliant. I may be biased, however, because, as I said before, there are tweed jackets and wire-rimmed glasses involved, and I'm a sucker for the professorial sartorial type every time. However, that said, I do think this movie is very well done. The characters are powerful and passionate -- even their dispassion is passionate, if that's possible. This is a movie you guys should definitely all run out and rent. It's unique, different, challenging; a good combination. (Note: Mom -- this is for your eyes only -- you won't like the ending on this one, so you might want to skip it!)

Three for three, so far, I said to myself, as I sat back in my chair. Not bad. But let's pop in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and see if we can't get at least one dog out of this Boyfriend before we're done. I'm pretty sure this one is a sure-thing in terms of awfulness. And it IS really important that a Boyfriend not hit every movie straight out of the park. Perfection is so dull!

Now, to be honest, I'd actually attempted to watch Lara Croft a couple of years ago, loving as I do cheesy adventure and sci-fi flicks. I made it approximately forty-five seconds into the opening scene (which features not only a nekked Angelina Jolie in the shower, but a nekked Angelina Jolie in the shower, flipping her wet hair around like she's in one of those obnoxious "Herbal Essences" commercials) before my eyes rolled back in my head and my hand started flopping around for the remote. Must. Change. Disk. PRONTO. Or. Else. Will. Die. From. Influx of. Prepubescent. Hormones.

Despite my brush with death, however, I decided to give it another try. For Daniel's sake. Eh, you only live twice, right?

Annnnnnd, this time I made it about fourteen minutes in before the conniptions started up. Desperate to at least catch a glimpse of Daniel before my brain imploded -- for the sake of seeing what his hair looked like in this one, if nothing else -- I started to fast-forward through huge portions of the film. Finally, he appears. I'm saved! However, even Daniel's adorably chiseled face couldn't rescue this big Yeti of a movie (read: abominable). And ladies and gentlemen, if *I* am unable to watch it because it is so bad, then surely if you guys tried -- you guys with actual taste in movies -- you'd probably spontaneously combust. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Anyway, in case for some bizarre reason you're still interested in hearing more, the plot of Lara Croft has something to do with this buff chick (Angelina Jolie) trying to get some kind of artifact. And then at the end, Daniel Craig gets shot, and then he gets UNshot so he can live to die another day. Nice trick -- that'll come in handy when he's James Bond, don't you think? But blah blah blah car chase blah blah blah twenty minute fight scene blah blah blah running falling spinning flying zooming flopping shooting, followed closely on my part by: snorting regretting ruing wishing praying twiddling knitting toothflossing doodling snoozing snoring.

To sum up.

But hey, I thought to myself, I'm still three for four in this mini-Danny marathon. Not bad. And what's left in my pile of Daniel Craig movies? Another little indie called Layer Cake -- one I knew had gotten pretty good reviews when it first came out. Knowing there was a chance I might get to see Danny play a bad guy at long last, I couldn't wait to settle in and turn it on.

Alas, he's no bad guy. Well, that is, he's technically a bad guy. He works for a drug dealer, which isn't exactly a noble profession, and has amassed quite a huge fortune climbing on the backs of addicts all over the world -- see above, re: not exactly noble. At the ripe old age of whatever-age-he-is (incidentally, he also appears to be nameless, but let's pretend he's called Poindexter just for kicks), he's decided to pull one last job for the boss and then retire.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking what I was thinking, which is that any movie that starts out with the main character giving a monologue about how this is their last criminal gig before retirement is going to be a movie about a last criminal gig that goes horribly awry. Also, no movie about a drug runner who wants to retire is ever a movie about a drug runner who gets to retire. Because, as Poindexter's boss so aptly points out, Poin is making a gazillion dollars for him, so why should he let him stop?

Poindexter says, "I'll do one more job and then I'm out." But Poindexter's boss has a goldeneye, or at least, an eye for gold, so he says, "Never say never again, my short blond friend, or I'll have Colm Meaney, my ridiculously innocuous-looking evil henchman, take your head off. And while you're at it, go sell these drugs to someone else before the guy these other guys stole it from finds out we have it and kills us all. And don't bother me with details. And also, stop calling me Winston Churchill."

Or, anyway, it went a little something like that.

From there, you can probably guess what happens next. And you would be roughly right with all those various guesses. Because in terms of originality of storyline, this movie is a wee bit lacking, as Irishman Colm I'm-No-Meaney might say. Also, it relies waaaaay too heavily on monologue-y voiceovers from Poindexter's character, which ultimately started to make the movie feel like a Dorf on Drug Dealing instructional video. However, it's quirky, it's entertaining, and it's got a good sense of sarcastic humor. So, if you like these types of things, by all means.

Are we done? Did I get them all in there? I did. Except for two stragglers, that is -- Road to Perdition and I Dreamed of Africa. I didn't have time to watch those two, though, and that was partly because I didn't want to make time to watch those two -- I've seen them before and they kinda suck. That is, Road is okay -- Jude Law, and whatnot. But Africa was as abysmal as Mel's Hole, that mythological bottomless pit in Ellensburg, WA that we locals like to tell newcomers about just to see if they'll believe us. In fact, Mel's Hole wouldn't be a bad place in which to store all copies (as well as the original) of I Dreamed of Africa, and while you're at it, you can tip Kim Basinger in there with them. (Alec, you got my numbah? Cawl me!)

Okay, time to shut up and get you on your way. Here's some quick biographical information: Daniel Craig was born in 1968 in Chester, England. He grew up in Liverpool, and moved to London when he was 16. In the big city, Daniel soon began training with the National Youth Theatre, and in the early 1990s, he graduated from the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama. His film debut was in 1992, in The Power of One. And now, a mere fourteen years later, he's poised to become a huge star, having been passed the Bond torch by none other than Remington Steele himself. Huzzah!

Will Daniel Craig be the next Sean Connery? Or the next George Lazenby (yeah, I know -- who??)? Only time, and the next Bond movie, a prequel called Casino Royale due out later this year, will tell! But regardless of what the naysayers say, Daniel Craig can be the spy who loved me any ol' day of the week. I'm rootin' for ya, Danny boy. Try not to flub your lines! Say it with me: shaken, not stirred. Shaken, not stirred. SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED. Which is, coincidentally, about how I felt after watching those first fourteen minutes of Lara Croft.

MacGyver Factor Score: 97.432%. Did you guys notice all the Bond movie titles I worked into the above write-up? No? Go back and read it again and see if you can find all thirteen of 'em. Pretty clever, don't you think? Didn't it almost make waiting a whole month for this stupid write-up worth it?

Incidentally, I did this same kind of thing once in a note to my sister using Milli Vanilli lyrics. Consider yourselves the lucky ones. . .

Blame it on the rain that was fallin' fallin. . . Blame it on the stars, that shine at night! Whatever you do, don't put the blame on you. Blame it on the rain, yeah yeah!

Boyfriend-Related Links

Daniel's IMDB page
The Official Casino Royale site
The Hilarious CraigNotBond site The Lookalikes thing cracked me up
What the Heck is Mel's Hole?

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