Being There. I loved this movie when it came out, and liked it in subsequent viewings, as well. Yet I approach it with an odd caution. I generally dislike movies that present the masses as stupid. The question is whether Being There is one of those movies. And I’m not sure. The satirical notion (some would say the film is a bit of a one-trick pony) that a human blank slate would allow otherwise reasonable people to see themselves in the man is presented to us primarily as something only the rich, powerful and/or professional classes fall for. When the pallbearers at the end of the film decide Chance the gardener is the only person who can allow them to keep the presidency, the joke isn’t on the idiotic masses who might fall sway to Chance … it’s on the pols who think the masses will fall for Chance, simply because the pols themselves have fallen for him. It’s a fine line, to be sure, but perhaps that line explains why I still retain a fondness for Being There. And while the sexual subplot about the President could be dumped, the one about Eve and Chance should stay, since to this day, the “I like to watch” masturbation scene is perhaps the most memorable in the entire movie. #447 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time.
The Town. Ben Affleck’s latest ode to Boston has a lot going for it. Affleck has a feel for the area and he brings the audience along with him. Jeremy Renner from The Hurt Locker is terrific as a scarily off-center bank robber. (Affleck also got a great performance out of Amy Ryan in Gone Baby Gone … he’s looking like a good "actor’s director.”) And Affleck offers one classic scene, worthy of Hitchcock, involving two men, one women, and a tattoo. But the film always seem to be trying for something more profound than a simple crime drama, and it doesn’t get there (Affleck cut the film seriously to make the 125-minute cut … there is an extended version now on disc that might do a better job in this regard).
Thunderball. Better than I remembered, although still not a top Bond film. In fact, the decline begins here. After a strong start with Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger raised the stakes … they remain two of the best in the series. Thunderball wasn’t up to those two. Perhaps it was Adolfo Celi as Largo, who didn’t make much of an impression (the remake, Never Say Never Again, wasn’t as good a movie, but it had Klaus Maria Brandauer as Largo, and I am on record as claiming Brandauer was the best Bond villain of all time). Outside of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Casino Royale, nothing has risen to the pre-Thunderball level … although it is only fair to note that Thunderball was a big hit at the box office, and obviously the series remained popular for decades.