Category Archives: Critique

The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?

In my current screening of plays for a potential spring production I recently re-read Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? What a fantastic play. Having always been a fan of Albee, I never cease to be amazed at his particular tone, clarity, and uncompromising perspective.

In general, I am a sucker for fiction that takes extraordinary situations and deals with them very realistically and rationally. This is one of the reasons I so appreciated the move Unbreakable. To take the notion of superhero-hood and couch it in such ordinary characters was a sort of fantastical drama that appealed to me. In the same way, Edward Albee’s play addresses the peculiar situation of a very prominent and respected man, who happens to fall in love with a goat. The events of the play concern his sharing this information with a friend, and how the unfolding of it unravels his family.

Now, with such am absurd premise, there is great temptation to devolve into baser comedy, but of course, Albee wouldn’t deign to cheapen his characters with gag humor. While the script is very funny, it is not base. It is the tense humor of very serious and rational people trying to comprehend and process their very irrational situation.

It is not that Martin (the protagonist; or perhaps his wife is the protagonist, it’s hard to be sure) is lustily engaging in rampant bestiality. Instead, he feels he has found a kindred soul in the goat, and what draws him in isn’t lust, but pure and unadulterated love, the same sort of love he feels for his wife. The issue that the play seeks to grapple with, quite explicitly in some of the later conversations, is the difference between sexual and non-sexual love, or perhaps the lack of difference. Albee almost seems to suggest that love, at its truest, is regardless of form, and it is the circumstances of our experience that circumscribe the limits of our relationships. Martin, in a moment of bucolic bliss, finds himself forgetting those circumstances and the play concerns the unfolding aftermath of society types who have stepped outside of the bounds of polite society.

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Casino Royale

Before I get into the things about the movie that left me disappointed, let me say that I liked it, and appreciated it more than any of the recent movies. It’s modern, and yet Bond is newly made a double-O agent so let’s just say that James Bond is timeless, or rather that the character and his narrative lives in a space outside of time.

The movie starts gritty, and this is good. It has style and energy and an edgy realism to the fighting. It is not gimmicky, the way many of the begining sequences are. It is is the tale of his first two kills, in brief, and it brings us to a new Bond and sets the standard. He is manly. There is a sequence later in the movie where a female character says that if all he had left were his smile and pinkie finger he’d still be more man than anyone she ever met, or something met (I’m paraphrasing). You get that sense. It’s a very manly Bond, and not in the smarmy, smug, never break a sweat sort of man-above-town sort of way, but in a flawed, calloused, ruddy sort of way, polished and groomed, but still ferral.

After the opening title sequence, the movie shifts to a current operation and a tail that turns into a chase. The chase is good. Frankly, it’s amazing, and may be the best technical on-foot chases ever filmed. It’s even true to character, with manly bond opting for slightly more characteristic paths than his prey. But there is a shift in tone. In the opening of the movie, there is a dramatic plausibility to the action. And the begining of the chase begins plausibly but then stretches the limits of physics and the human body more and more. There is a line in the open credits about “free running” stunts, or some such things, and I presume that they were talking about this chase. It is beautiful and interesting to watch, but by the end it left me confused as to whether this movie’s Bond lived in a world of gritty realism or suspended-wire super-heroics. Oddly, there was no return to this sort of action later in the movie.

The real problem with the movie was the story itself. The plot. I won’t get into the details, but it felt as if I was being tugged along, rather than drawn into or though the story. Aside from following the character, there was little meaningful story to enjoy. Details were provided only when necessary to motivate the next immediate transition. There were a variety of thematic touches that brought consistency to the movie, but the story often felt flat. Often times, it just didn’t feel like it was going anywhere, which I find hard to watch in a movie (unless it’s The Big Lebowski). Each scene led to the next, but there was no overall vision, or scope to it.

So, Daniel Craig, was good, and the tone and visual feel was good. It was a good Bond movie, but because it was good, I wanted it to be even better. I wanted to feel at the end as if I had just watched something complete, as opposed to just realizing the movie is finally over.

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