Thursday, November 19, 2015


                            Baptism by Fire
                                                           Review by Ken Burke
 While the film reviews that appear in this blog are intended to speak more actively to the content of the works involved rather than getting into other topics, including sociopolitical commentary on events of our time (although, I admit, that intention can sometimes run afoul of my personal-left-wing-opinions—such as the review of Truth [James Vanderbilt; in our November 5, 2015 posting] where I can’t say that my statements about potential problems with George W. Bush’s National Guard servicelong before he was Presidentwere nonpartisan), but given that this posting’s review is about journalistic coverage of an extremely newsworthy event (one that was able to justify what it presented far better than CBS’s 60 Minutes was able to do about the Bush story, which largely became obscured over claims and counter-claims about how the supposed-evidence was gathered) I thought it wouldn’t be too inappropriate to begin with solemn thoughts of remembrance for those who were so brutally, needlessly murdered in Paris last week, random-civilian-casualties of this continuing-global-war-of-terror whose lost lives tragically remind us who are physically (but not emotionally nor humanly) removed from a site of mass homicide how much we depend on local/national/international news services to tell us what we need to know about events in our own communities as well as in the globally-connected-arenas of others, whether such news is about uncovering scandals, clarifying how brutal assaults took place, or helping us better understand the situations that can give rise to any of these tragedies which continue to twist or terminate innocent lives.  What happened in France last week represents a different sort of blasphemy than occurred over latter decades of the 20th century in Boston (as presented in this posting's feature review of Spotlight), but it’s all part of the ongoing saga of ruined humanity which reporters frequently risk their careers—if not their own lives—to present to the rest of us, in hopes that more information will contribute to more enlightened responses to preventing such horrors from recurring (even as we know the motivations behind these crimes are difficult—if not near-impossible—to eradicate from the minds of the perpetrators).

 I’ll also note briefly that there’s certainly an existential connection between sending out love, along with hope, to those victimized/traumatized by the terrorists in Paris and the comments in a film review blog, given the rich involvement of France in general, Paris in particular, with the entire history of cinema including the early technology of film-industry-apparatus, the great contributions of French films to our realms of art and entertainment, the substantial insights of the French to film theory and criticism, so what happens there has a real link to what I do here with the heritage of this unique audiovisual art; speaking of links, here's one about movie theaters reopening in Paris although some planned releases (notably Jane Got a Gun [Gavin O’Connor], a western about a ruthless gang of criminals harassing innocent frontier settlers, leading Natalie Portman's character to take up arms against these thugs—based on a summary I've read, as this doesn't open in the U.S. for a few months) have now been moved to later dates.  What all of that in mind, 
I invite you to my review of Spotlight, a masterful study of professional determination to reveal a terrible truth that far too many didn’t want to know about.
Take care, curious readers, for plot spoilers gallop rampantly throughout the Two Guys’ insightful reviews.  Therefore, be warned, beware, and read on when you’re ready to be transported to … wherever we end up.  Please protect your eyes from the dazzling brilliance.
                               Spotlight (Tom McCarthy)
Based on a true story, during 2001 a small-but-dedicated team of reporters from the Boston Globe is encouraged by their new editor to investigate rumors of sexual abuse of children by Boston-area priests which they did find evidence of after extensive research, but the larger focus ultimately was on the clergy’s hierarchy being acutely aware of the problem but determined to just cover it up.
What Happens: Boston, 1976: an opening scene shows us how police and district attorneys routinely kept information about pedophile-priests away from the press, as well as how charges against them were not likely to even be filed.  Boston, July 2001: the news staff of the Boston Globe awaits the arrival of their new Editor-in-Chief, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), as his predecessor’s just retired; however, there are suspicions that he’s being brought in by the parent New York Times Company (acquired the Globe in 1993, later [2013] sold it to John W. Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Sox) from his previous position in Miami to oversee layoffs, change of focus, etc.  (Plus, within this Catholic stronghold he’s an unmarried Jew who’s not even a baseball fan—how unlikely a match is that?)  To the surprise of Spotlight-investigative-team-editor Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton) and his editor, Ben Bradlee Jr. (John Slattery)—a circumstance that gives this current film even more of a connection than is usually mentioned to the content and impact of another great newspaper film, All the President’s Men (Alan J. Pakula, 1976), where Bradlee Sr. presided over the Watergate revelations—Baron tasks Spotlight with digging into rumors of ongoing sexual abuse of children by priests in the Archdiocese of Boston, something that had surfaced a few years earlier in stories about defrocked-molester/former-Father John J. Geoghan but wasn’t pursued in much detail after that.  So, Robby’s team gets to work—or at least attempts to—despite resistance from lawyer Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci), representing many alleged-victims who don’t want their names in the press (he’s also wary because the Archdiocese is monitoring his actions, trying to get him disbarred); almost-total-stonewalling from another attorney, Eric MacLeish (Billy Crudup), who’d represented clients suing the Archdiocese but can’t reveal anything about those cases (further, he’s steamed that he provided information to the Globe in 1993 about 20 priests worth investigating for such sex crimes but very little came of it); resentment from Phil Saviano (Neal Huff), leader of a group of aggrieved victims of clergy molestation who are likewise angry that their stories aren’t being told, even though Saviano sent a boxful of information to the Globe 5 years ago; further, the reporters have their own concerns that the pro-Catholic Boston establishment, including judges, will impede any hope they have of getting to the truth, especially where statutes of limitation and limited damage awards weigh against witnesses’ testimonies.

 Through a consistently-effective-strategy of short, crisp scenes that feature excellent writing and delivery (easily implying further extension of their contents, given the confrontational-conversations and damning-revelations occurring but kept to the minimum so that they better maintain a driving pace along with showing the scope of this intense investigation, giving equal screen time to the other 3 members of Spotlight: Michael Rezendes [Mark Ruffalo], Sacha Pfeiffer [Rachel McAdams], Matt Carroll [Brian d’Arcy]); a focus on the time-consuming/often-frustrating/occasionally-fruitful process of gathering, then confirming, needed information (the aspect of the journalistic process that tripped up Dan Rather and Mary Mapes in Truth, but, in truth, they inadvertently found themselves working on an almost-impossible-deadline while the Spotlight team was already known for taking months to finalize a story to make it likely-irrefutable); and the chance opportunities that allow breakthroughs such as Carroll finding in the Globe’s own archives records of priests suspiciously put on leave, which often proved to be an excuse for moving them to another parish when molestation charges arose, Rezendes badgering Garabedian for help then finally getting it when Mitchell tells Mike that certain damning documents are now available about Geoghan’s misdeeds (showing that sanctimonious Cardinal Bernard Law [Len Cariou] knew about his charge’s improper conduct as early as 1984 but just continued to move him around rather than take legal action) although it still takes strenuous action on Mike’s part to get access to some of these papers, ultimately resulting in a judge’s ruling that the entire batch be made completely public (which benefits the Globe team, although Robby’s careful about letting much of this get into print, balancing proper timing for best impact—just after New Year’s 2002—with largely keeping quiet for now so as to not put the rival Boston Herald onto the trail of these new findings).

 A larger context of the environment in which this investigation takes place occurs as everything the Spotlight team’s been pursuing (including finally getting some of the abuse victims to talk directly to the reporters) is put on hold when the Twin Towers/ United Airlines Flight 93/Pentagon attacks happen on September 11, 2001 forcing Mike to fly to Florida to track down aspects of that story (flight training of some of the terrorists) before rushing back to Boston to get access to the previously-sealed Geoghan documents, forcing us to understand more clearly that newsgathering doesn’t occur in a neatly-arranged-fashion where reporters have access to all of the information they need, willing cooperation from their sources, and editors who will always support whatever time and financial needs they have in accomplishing their demanding detective work (and further justifies for me the opening of this posting with a mention of the Paris killings: what we’d prefer to focus on often exists simultaneously with something else, possibly of even bigger import, forcing divided attention for reporters and audiences alike).  The final bit of prepublication drama in Spotlight (again, giving us reminders of similar desperate attempts to nail down needed details in All the President’s Men, where the drama was built upon the dogged-determination of the reporters to squeeze needed information from their hesitant, guarded sources rather than using cutaway scenes to show actual events of the Watergate conspiracy as if the film were a police-procedural-docudrama, just as Spotlight keeps the emphasis on the reporters’ strategies and exhaustive follow-ups rather than lurid cutaways to scenes of the priests’ crimes or conversations at the Cardinal’s level about how to manage their equally-disgusting cover-ups) comes when Robby confronts the Diocesan lawyer, Jim Sullivan (James Sheridan), demanding verification of the suspected priests—all 74 of them!—finally getting it when Robby gets Sullivan to understand that they’re both Boston natives, ultimately more concerned with providing the best possible environment for their beloved community than protecting any individual power-broker within it.

 Beginning on January 6, 2002 the Globe went public with all the facts they'd discovered, leading ultimately to 600 stories published by the Spotlight team that year about the scandal,* revelations that at least 249 priests were involved with the abusive acts and the Church’s attempt to keep quiet about it, 1,000 victims going public in response to the Boston scandal followed by enormous numbers more in both U.S. and international cities as this intense publicity brought out accusations of similar crimes and tepid responses by the Catholic Church worldwide, leading to the resignation of Cardinal Law on December 13, 2002 (although he was later appointed to the prestigious Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, 2004, where he served until reaching the age of 80 in 2011—it’s often been speculated that Pope Benedict XVI [elected in 2005 after the death of John Paul II, who gave the Rome appointment to Law] resigned his high office in 2013 partially as a result of not being able to contain, clean up, and resolve the global scandal that plagued the Church as a result of these massive problems of priestly abuse and administrative refusal to address the crimes, although Pope Benedict did give enormous attention to this problem, gaining respect from many for his attempts at combatting it yet criticism from others for not doing enough).  The Globe received the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service but no mention of this is made within the summative info just prior to the film’s final credits, another mark of distinction for me about the integrity of the Spotlight film’s production team, that this presentation isn’t so much about honoring a distinguished group of reporters as it’s about the importance of what they revealed, especially against the grain of what we’re shown in the opening scene about a city where the Catholic Church wields great power, where the Spotlight team was raised Catholic and doesn’t want to diminish their own heritage unless events require them to do so, where the Globe potentially faced an enormous backlash for challenging the integrity of a city’s most-sacred-institution.

* You can read actual Spotlight articles on the sex abuse scandal from the team depicted in the film including the extensive first one**, written by Michael Rezendes, January 6, 2002 (part 1 of 2—former priest Geoghan had 130 victims over 3 decades, all grammar school boys; Cardinal Law knew about it since 1984; Geoghan was finally removed from the priesthood in 1998—this also includes links to a dozen other Spotlight articles on the topic from January-December 2002, including part 2 of this report, from January 7, 2002, written by Sacha Pfeiffer)Another lengthy article, written by Walter Robinson, says that over the previous 10 years the Boston Archdiocese settled child molestation claims against at least 70 priests while noting that Geoghan was convicted of criminal charges of sex abuse (this one also includes those same dozen other links as noted just above).  By the way, you’ve probably noticed the recurring (boring?) similarity in the photos I’m using with these paragraphs which is the fault of the promo people in terms of the “variety” provided, although in all honesty the drama of this film is all based on intensified dialogue so showing a lot of images of reporters working studiously in the newsroom is actually quite appropriate to what goes on in Spotlight where the "action" mainly comes through verbal interaction.

[** Please note that this is the first of 5 links in this paragraph and the next from the Web version of the Boston Globe; you may only be able to access these 5 before you'll get a block from them that you need to subscribe to see more so keep that in mind if you decide to click on any of the many links contained within these articles; one work-around seems to be to simply turn off your computer, reboot it, then go to another 5 links etc. within my chosen 5, but you might want to do that during a second reading of this review so that you can access the links I intended for you to see if you want more details on statements that I've made.]

So What? 
The Boston Globe’s Spotlight team’s been in operation for quite some time, functioning as the oldest continuously-operating-newspaper-investigative-unit in the U.S. (I haven’t as yet been able to verify when they started their work, although I have a vague memory that I read somewhere it was in 1970; however, you might be interested in this story from the Globe’s web edition that gives information about the Globe newspeople included in the Spotlight film along with quick biographies of the actors who portray them; if you want to go further into worldwide Church abuse scandals that have emerged since their 2002 revelations, please go here).  With this series of articles that the 2001-2002 team of Robinson, Rezendes, Pfeiffer, and Carroll (along with direction from Baron and Bradlee Jr.) wrote, these reporters accomplished something that had enormous impact in their own urban community but then opened the global floodgates for victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy to speak out, demanding that their Church (assuming they were still willing to be associated with it) admit its own sins, allow those sins to be prosecuted as crimes, and hold the higher hierarchy accountable for decades of sexual molestation of children and teenagers in any settings where Catholic clergy held sway over the daily lives of their victims.  (This likely occurred for centuries prior, but you can only do so much in trying to atone for a heritage of past abuses as we see with the continuing efforts to address contemporary inequities resulting from eons of economic inequity, sexism, racism, homophobia, colonization at the expense of native populations, etc. even though massive land redistribution and reparations prove impossible to legislate, while even the relatively-simple changing of sports mascots’ names to avoid further offense brings challenges from those who cherish the history of the team or the retirement of the Confederate flag from public use in U.S. Southern states brings furious rebuttal from those who claim cultural tradition rather than what others see as blatant reminders of slavery).

 What’s pleasantly surprising for me, though, is that in presenting the awful acts of the Church in this particular era in Boston Spotlight’s being praised for its honesty and integrity from a couple of potentially-unlikely-sources, the current Cardinal of the Archdiocese of Boston, Sean O’Malley, and the Catholic Church’s ultimate level of hierarchy, the Vatican in Rome.  O'Malley says that the Globe’s “reports prompted the church ‘to deal with what was shameful and hidden’ [… as it] continues to seek the forgiveness of those harmed, and he reiterated his commitment to ridding the church of the abusive priests.”  The Vatican Radio “described the movie as ‘honest’ and ‘compelling’ [… and] also said the Globe’s reporting, upon which the film is based, helped the Church in the United States ‘to accept fully the sin, to admit it publically, and to pay all the consequences.’” (Although there are numerous victims who’d probably say that the personal scope of these “consequences” has yet to be fully paid, that is addressed and resolved, if they ever can be given all of the psychological damage done to so very many people all over the world.)

Bottom Line Final Comments: 
As with Truth, I can’t offer a review of Spotlight without noting the truth of my own overall connections to the content of this film, which in this case is that I was raised Catholic and didn’t really fall away from the Church until the 1970s when I was in graduate school and could no longer abide by that interpretation of reality.  Further, while I never had any encounter with abuse by a priest (or nun) nor sense of such to anyone I knew when I was more actively involved with the Church (although I had some nuns in my grammar-school years that I wouldn’t want to encounter in a dark alley; most ruled their classrooms with rulers but one was quick to use a fist when she was provoked—too much of that, I agree, could also be considered abuse, especially if the punches weren't aimed at the shoulder, but my school experience was very tame compared to what priests did to these many Boston kids), I am now personally aware of priests fondling teenage girls (names withheld to protect the innocent, but this is no Fargo [Joel and Ethan Coen (1996) for the film, although the same fictional device is now used with the FX TV series] opening-graphics-hyperbole used for dramatic effect; these are people I know who don’t need to be revealed here in the context of a film review) who had no recourse but to endure it as neither the other faculty of their Catholic high school nor their own parents would believe that these “men of God” would stoop to such degrading acts.  Therefore, I have no remorse at all for whatever punishment may be given to clergy responsible for the sexual abuse of their own parishioners (although I realize that some of these priests were sick, tormented men—one whom Pfeiffer interviewed briefly admits the molestation but claims it didn’t give him any pleasure nor was it as bad as rape, which he starts to explain about in reference to being raped himself until Sacha’s chased away by the priest’s sister; such second-generation-victimizers do need their own medical/counseling help, but that doesn’t diminish the impact of their crimes against others) nor do I condone any leniency for the bishops (or higher up in the hierarchy) who did little to discipline these predators in order to quiet existing complaints without doing anything else to prevent further damage.

 If those attitudes prevent me from seeing clearly the merits/demerits residing in Spotlight, so be it but I was tremendously impressed by this film (as with Steve Jobs [Danny Boyle; review in our October 30, 2015 posting], so much so that I saw both of them twice in the space of 2 days during their opening weekends in my area), highly recommend it (1 of only 3 to date that I’ve given my almost-unheard-of rating of 4½ stars since Pat Craig [my so-far-silent-partner] and I began this blog back in December 2011) as a gripping piece of filmmaking which demonstrates how you can construct and deliver impactful drama without any fighting, weapons, car chases, or barely-clothed-superstars (sorry if that matters for a cinematic experience to work for you, but this story’s about brave-truth-seekers who throw verbal challenges rather than punches).  They aren’t made out to be spotless warriors either, especially Robinson who regretfully admits that when MacLeish sent in the info on 20 suspect priests years ago he barely took note of it, didn’t follow up, even forgot about it until Pfeiffer finally dug up the short clip of the accusations, but the others face difficulties as well attempting to get testimony from lawyers, victims, former and current members of the clergy, etc. as this was a grueling ordeal for them, not only because they all had personal connections to the Church (realizing that this abuse could have happened to them, a cruel reality made clear to Robby when he realizes that one of the abusers was at the school he attended but he wasn’t on the sports team that this priest happened to coach) but also because they faced so much resistance from victims and their families unwilling to publicize their shame even though the crimes committed were through no fault of their own.  

 This unrelenting presentation speaks volumes to the topics of abuse of power as well as abuse to the bodies of children, denial rather than the difficult honestly needed by organizations to take responsibility for egregious actions by their members, the extreme problems of revealing truths that a community (and the world) needs to hear about when legal systems allow so much to remain hidden as out-of-court-settlements seal documents from public view, custodians of the law are required by that very law to remain silent (matching the silence of the Church’s own confessional, where the sins revealed to priests are also required to be kept from further revelation, even where crimes are concerned, setting up difficult moral dilemmas).

 When I give a film 4½ stars—or 5 for the certified-classics or potential-classics-to-be (although I’ve yet to encounter one of those in the short life of this blog)I have confidence that not only am I eager in encouraging my readers to seek out this film now in order to appreciate it on a big screen but I’m also assuming that audiences years from now will be able to look back on this film as something that may have been produced in a certain era but continues to have relevance in content, presentation, or (hopefully) both for those who are long-removed from the events being depicted yet can still feel the power of how this approach to a story continues to resonate across many eras (as I believe 12 Years a Slave [Steve McQueen; review in our November 13, 2013 posting] and The Master [Thomas Paul Anderson; review in our September 27, 2012 posting] will also do, even though the former concerns events of the mid-19th century and the latter is set in the mid-20th).  I’m proud to include Spotlight in this tiny category of mine, further hopeful that it’ll be rewarded with multiple Oscar nominations and wins.  (Best Picture, Director, Editing, and Original Screenplay are all strong contenders for me, although the fine overall acting [especially by Keaton and Ruffalo] may suffer the smothered-by-ensemble-accomplishment so that outstanding individual performances may become nullified in voters’ minds when they see such excellent work by so many others in the same production [as may have happened with James Caan, Robert Duvall, and Al Pacino in The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola; a 5-star-film if there ever was one) possibly cancelling each other out for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for 1972 entries—or maybe the Academy voters genuinely preferred Joel Grey’s masterful work in Cabaret (Bob Fosse; another 5-star-experience where musicals or any other categories of films are concerned)].)  

 I’ve admitted my prejudices that may be swaying my opinion of what Spotlight so effectively exposes and challenges, but I still see this film (and, actually, could easily see it again, another aspect of my higher-star-decisions) as a magnificent accomplishment of cinematic merit (as do those surveyed by Rotten Tomatoes—97% positive reviews—and Metacritic—93%—rare highs for both of these groups; more details in the links below), which I do hope that many of you will attend and comment on in feedback to me, just so that I can better know if my personal filters are enhancing or interfering with what I’ve encountered here.

 When setting out to choose a Musical Metaphor for Spotlight I first thought of the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” (from the 1968 Beggars Banquet album), given its mock (I hope) bragging about how fallen-angel Lucifer has been gleefully responsible for a great many tragedies in human history, in that this song brings to light the darker aspects of any religion and its equally-fallen-adherents who commit grievous crimes against helpless innocents but hide under cover of institutions that purport to deliver us from evil yet become part of that evil in their self-protective-operations.  Yet, given what I’ve observed of crowd response to this song, both in the live concert I attended and in various recordings on various-sized-screens, I decided I didn’t want something that conjures up the sense of what seems to imply audience approval of the atrocities being cited with all of the boisterous crowds “woo woo”-ing along with the band, giving a sense of embrace of the catalogued chaos when my goal with this Metaphor is to highlight something that joins in with the condemnation of these heinous acts that the Globe reporters were trying to uncover in their own metropolitan-community (which touched off those similar revelations of molestation, rape, and cover-ups throughout our planetary globe).  
 Ultimately, I decided to go with a song I’ve used a couple of times before, Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” (from the 1981 Face Value album), at lwxtkIQE for a couple of reasons: (1) Despite the likelihood that these lyrics were written about bitter interpersonal feelings Collins was experiencing while going through a divorce I don’t think they could be more relevant to the crimes in Spotlight when applied to the abusing clergy as well as their silent-superiors in saying “… I was there and I saw what you did I saw it with my own two eyes So you can wipe off that grin, I know where you’ve been It’s all been a pack of lies … oh Lord [!] … But I know the reason why you keep your silence up, No you don’t fool me The hurt doesn’t show But the pain still grows It’s no stranger to you and me”; (2) Given that this video clip comes from a 1997 concert in Paris (admittedly, the crowd’s as enthusiastic as those many I’ve seen [and been part of] singing along with the Stones’ devil-tribute, but here they’re cheering on the story of someone being chastised for their evil deeds, not celebrated for them) where an audience gets to triumphantly-experience what they came to hear rather than be butchered by armed madmen (who might have been muttering to themselves something like “I don’t know if you know who I am … [even though] I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh Lord” [a word which sadly takes on its own sense of evil intention, depending on the context of whoever is invoking it against whom, in both the Boston and Paris cases I’m referencing here]) I thought it might be appropriate as a double-edged-tribute to the many private victims that this powerful film directly addresses as well as the public victims of the grotesque massacre in France that haunts me as I try to write this review.  May all those (and any connected to them) who’ve suffered any of these tragedies somehow find peace in a world where religion is often used as an occasion and a rationalization for the inhuman atrocities we bring upon ourselves and others (although I'm beginning to think that we have to go to some form of an afterlife, even just the "nothingness" of returning to pure energy, to ever find that peace given the ongoing misery that we humans have brought to our suffering planet).
Short Takes
 In a moment of personal triumph (drumroll and applause, please) I finally have a Short Takes comment that’s truly short, a response to an encouragement from Terrence Seaman, who used to post excellent film reviews but hasn’t been doing that lately until he decided to cite several shortcomings he found with the new James Bond movie, Spectre (Sam Mendes; review in our November 12, 2015 posting), recommending instead what he finds to be the best of the Bonds, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Peter R. Hunt, 1969—Terrence has some comments on it in the link noted above; see his archive list), the only one with George Lazenby as 007.  As a Sean Connery-as-Bond-snob (although I do think Daniel Craig does a fine job in the current episodes of the famed secret agent’s adventures; interestingly enough, the previous Bond actor, Pierce Brosnan, finds fault with Spectre as being “too long” with a “story [that] was kind of weak,” but is supportive of Craig’s performance), I’d refused to see … Secret Service back then, continued to ignore it over the years influenced by a lot of negative press, especially about Lazenby’s performance.  However, I decided it was time to give the only Bond movie I’d never seen a try so I did on video this week, finding it to be quite engaging in some aspects (Bond’s opening fight with 2 attempted-assailants on a beach; gorgeous Swiss scenery surrounding Blofeld’s mountaintop-lair; the choreography of some great chase/escape-scenes: two where either just Bond or James and his future bride [!] Countess Tracy di Vicenzo [Diana Rigg, one reason why I’m sure this movie has its devoted fans] on skis outrun/ outsmart Blofeld’s pursuing henchmen, another where Blofeld and Bond have a fabulous bobsled battle; and the unique twist of Bond actually marrying one of his paramours [straight from the original Ian Fleming novel of the same name (1963), as is most of this plot, a rarity for this very-long-running-series]) although overly-long in others (those same chases, which all seem to go on forever), unsettling in its use of what TV’s Seinfeld’s fans know as “the puffy shirt” (look it up if you must), as well as frustrating in extra-textual-context in that it ends so abruptly with Blofeld killing Tracy just after the wedding (same as the book again), a tragedy that’s carried over into (and resolved within, via the death of Blofeld) the next book, You Only Live Twice (1964), whereas the next Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever (Guy Hamilton, 1971), makes no mention of Tracy at all although it does conclude with a scene where Bond seems to kill Blofeld (although he’s not 007’s step-brother, as he is in the current Spectre [Sam Mendes; review in our November 12, 2015 posting]).  

 Overall, I enjoyed … Secret Service but still don’t see why some have come to laud it as the pinnacle Bond movie (sorry, Terrence), while finding Lazenby to be distracting as to me he looks a bit like Connery and has been directed to emulate some of his predecessor’s mannerisms and deliveries so I’m still not convinced of the argued-high-value of this entry in the 007 canon, although if I were to review it I’d say 3½ stars for overall entertainment value (there’s some good old-time 007 innuendo-humor in it, along with a nice broken-4th-wall-comment at the end of the opening scene as Tracy races off after James rescued her from suicide by drowning, saying “This never happened to the other fellow,” referring obliquely to Connery's catalogue).

 Finally, in yet another attempt to end this posting on a more upbeat note, given all of the necessary sobriety in discussing the content and implications of Spotlight, I’ll deviate to one more topic which is relevant to that fine film’s focus on exposing what needs to be known even at the expense of who’s being put into harsh public scrutiny (you could say that applies to George Lazenby and/or Daniel Craig as well, depending on your level of Bond-fanaticism/devotion to other avatars of 007).  Thus, we turn back to a time before Taylor Swift was the go-to-songwriter for themes of “we are never ever getting back together,” to Carly Simon’s now-archetypal-work on bruised-romantic-ego publicized in catchy rhymes, “You’re So Vain” (an ironic-self-aware-postmodern-rejection of a guy the song's not even supposed to be about; I know I already used this song with a live duet by Simon and Swift sometime earlier this year … well, I think it was this year, I make little claim for my memory anymore … but I haven’t been able to locate it again just yet to make reference to that review so if you want to listen to Carly and Taylor's version anyway here it is [well, a version with as much chatty-explanatory-commentary from the vocalists as actual singing; if what you want is just their performance try this one]), which now has been revealed by Simon as being about Warren Beatty—OK, just the 2nd verse for sure (she says the other 2 verses are about 2 other guys; my, what a life she's led)—so in tribute to Warren as the final subject of my exposé-mania this week, here’s Carly in an extra Musical Metaphor doing a solo of her biggest hit (originally on her 1972 album, No Secrets [appropriately-titled for this posting]) at https://www. (a “video” with only a single photo as imagery but it’s the original studio recording with Mick Jagger on backing vocals and the lyrics attached if you want to meditate specifically on Mr. Beatty).  That should help keep you in a melodically-catty-mood until next we meet.
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
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Here’s more information about Spotlight: (9:25 interview with director/co-screenwriter Tom McCarthy)

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By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile.    Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.


  1. Ken, a good observation about the length of the scenes, probably wise as there is only so much excitement in a scene where someone waits on legal documents! Some fantastic back history here; I learned a lot from the film and your review.

  2. Hi Jason, Thanks very much both for reading and for commenting. Ken