December 9th, 2006

Whale fluke

Dancing to the memory

I just did a surprisingly Beavis-and-Butthead-like dance to the Logan Whitehurst (rest in peace) song "Happy Noodle Versus Sad Noodle":

Happy Noodle led the sort of life the working stiff dreams about: driving a Studebaker, makin' pies with his wife, takin' a dip in the ol' swimmin' hole, yessir, Happy Noodle had it good and he wasn't complaining. He always waved hello and always smiled and always tipped his hat and said, "Nice weather we're having," regardless of the weather. ("Nice weather we're having!")

Now, as most protagonists do, he had an antagonist, a polar opposite bent on nullifying his happy existence. His name was Sad Noodle, a pathetic excuse for an egg and flour mixture with a little extra water just for tears. He worked in a successful firm and was under a lot of stress, and this is the story of their ultimate battle.

Happy Noodle vs. Sad Noodle! Happy Noodle vs. Sad, Sad Noodle!

Happy Noodle vs. Sad Noodle! Happy Noodle vs. Sad, Sad Noodle!

One day as Happy Noodle was out mowing the lawn with a smile and a song, an Edsel pulled up in front of the house. It was Sad Noodle. He leaned his ropy head out of the window and he said, "Look, Happy Noodle, I'm sick of being your polar opposite, you know, sad all the time and what not. It makes it hard to get along. I've come to challenge you to a duel to the death." So Happy Noodle put down the mower and obliged, saying, "If it'll make you happy," and Sad Noodle cringed. He hopped into the back seat and they were off to the gravel pit, Happy Noodle singing all the way, and Sad Noodle driving like a madman. "This will end it all," thought Sad Noodle, and they prepared for the fight. Strange sight, two noodles standing face to face, one smiling and one frowning.

Happy Noodle vs. Sad Noodle! Happy Noodle vs. Sad, Sad Noodle!

Happy Noodle vs. Sad Noodle! Happy Noodle vs. Sad, Sad Noodle!

Thinking on his feet, Sad Noodle used his head as a whip and tried to trip Happy Noodle, but he slipped and he flipped face first on the ground with a sound like a wet noodle slapping the ground kind of sound. Then, Happy Noodle wrapped Sad Noodle up around a tree and said, "See, Sad Noodle, don't you mess with me, 'cause I be the baddest noodle there will ever be."

Happy Noodle vs. Sad Noodle! Happy Noodle vs. Sad, Sad Noodle!

Happy Noodle vs. Sad Noodle! Happy Noodle vs. Sad, Sad Noodle!

So after Happy Noodle untied Sad Noodle, they got back in the car. Sad Noodle, defeated, dejected, depressed, dropped Happy Noodle off at his door and said, "You know what? I don't think that helped me very much." And Happy Noodle said, "Sad Noodle, why don't you come in for some pie?" And Sad Noodle said, "No I'm sorry, I don't like pie all that much, but thanks all the same."

Happy Noodle vs. Sad Noodle! Happy Noodle vs. Sad, Sad Noodle!

Happy Noodle vs. Sad Noodle! Happy Noodle vs. Sad, Sad Noodle!

(Lyrics found here, along with this disclaimer: "The lyrics here were written by, belong to, and are copyright Logan Whitehurst. If you try to pretend otherwise, Vanilla will beat you up.")
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Whale fluke

"Casino Royale" makes me happy

As I hope leonardpart6 and happyspector are not surprised to learn, I really really really enjoyed Casino Royale. And I'm not surprised they liked it, as well: it's solid, earthy, brutal, and non-cliched. I was seriously grinning by film's end. And the film's very opening (low-key, two-fisted, and in black-and-white (!), a first for a Bond film) is very smartly designed; it's saying "This won't be like the others." It's a confident, full-blooded piece of huge-screen entertainment.

No spoilers here, just geeking:

Before this film, I had no feelings one way or another about Daniel Craig as James Bond -- not rooting for him, not hating him, just wanting to see what he could do. But he was a highly good choice. (When even my Bond purist former girlfriend calls Craig "decent," that's saying something. She's read the original novels, where Bond is nothing like, say, Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan, and she hadn't liked a Bond actor since Connery.) Craig is perfect at portraying what M early on calls "a blunt instrument": he's not elegant in how he moves at first (watch him in the Africa construction site chase, where the man he's trying to catch is practically a gymnast, while Craig bashes his way along and barrels through his obstacles...sometimes literally), but grows more elegant as the film goes on and as he learns. He gets hurt; he makes mistakes; at least once, he only barely saves the day, and it's a strain for him to do that, too.

Casino Royale isn't trying too hard to be clever, either. Quipping about everything (as Moore could do) can have a distancing effect, leaving the character above it all; but this movie limits the quips, and that accentuates the danger Bond's facing; he's not so polished that he has a bon mot for each attempt on his life. In fact, you really feel how the characters are learning about each other as they talk (I'm thinking of when Craig meets Eva Green on the train); often, the dialogue is functional, and is still fun to hear, and has verisimilitude. People probably could talk like this in these situations. It's more than just the film having no lines that are cringe-inducing (like the final line in The World Is Not Enough); Casino Royale has dialogue that has "weight" to it, where you know why people are saying what they're saying, because you've seen what they've been through. This is a well-written movie.

I also like how smoothly the film evokes the post-9/11 world in its plot, something no Bond film's ever had to do. Terrorism certainly seems a fitting target for a modern-day James Bond. (I was going to say "MacGuffin," but that's far too flippant a way to refer to that event. "Target" makes more sense.)

And oy, how much fun is Judi Dench? Casting her as M is still one of the best decisions the Bond producers have made in the past 12 years. I love that she first appears delivering a rant, and that throughout the story she has legitimate reasons to be pissed at 007. Dench's and Craig's sparring is a legitimate pleasure, and it has a point: they're testing each other. I feel like it took a while for Dench and Brosnan to build a similarly interesting dynamic (feel free to disagree, leonardpart6), but it's already present in this first Daniel Craig film.

And I'm definitely hoping for more of Jeffrey Wright as the CIA's Felix Leiter, come later films. The chance to have some continuity in these movies is a welcome one, and could help the whole enterprise stay fresh. I've been a longtime watcher of these movies, even liking the often bombastic Die Another Day (about as huge-scale as a Bond film probably could be); I'm rooting for this team to keep up this re-imagining of Bond.

(By the way, I like happyspector's ideas for what he'd like to see in the future Daniel Craig Bond films.)

Oh, and one last thing: that's got to be the ugliest jumbo jet in history. ;-)