Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Camelot Awards, Part 3: The Bay of Pigs Award

Welcome back for another Camelot Award celebrating achievement or lack thereof in translating Kennedy family lore to film and video!

Now it's time for the Bay of Pigs Award, presented for the worst John F. Kennedy portrayal by an actor. Tonight, that award goes to....

Patrick Dempsey, for his lame, afterschool-special-style performance of JFK in Reckless Youth.
Kennedy was far from the shallow, passive figure Dempsey embodied in this sorry attempt at docudrama.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Camelot Awards, Part 2: The Kennedy Brothers Award

Welcome back to the Camelot Awards! Our next presentation is The Kennedy Brothers Award, for the most uncanny impersonation of Jack and Bobby in a non-JFK/RFK role.

The winner is...

Guy Williams, left, and Mark Goddard, right, as Dr. John Robinson and Major Don West in Lost in Space (1965).
The JFK/RFK stereotypes are obvious---Robinson is the taller, older, cool, detached, cerebral-type; West is the shorter, younger, impetuous, hot-headed, fiercely protective-type. In addition to acting like JFK and RFK, Robinson and West sound like Jack and Bobby. I wonder if Irwin Allen deliberately encouraged Williams and Goddard toward a Kennedyesque portrayal.
More Camelot Awards tomorrow!

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Camelot Awards, Part I

Welcome to the first annual Camelot Awards, honoring the Kennedy family on film!

The first trophy we bestow is the New Frontiers in Acting Award, presented for the most uncanny JFK-like characterization by an actor in a non-JFK role. The nominees are:

Jack Lord, as Felix Leiter in Dr. No (1962) and as Steve McGarrett in Hawaii Five-O (1968)

Guy Williams, as Dr. John Robinson in Lost in Space (1965)

William DeVane, as Gregory Sumner in Knots Landing (1979) and as Secretary of Defense James Heller in 24 (2005)

Martin Sheen, as President Josiah "Jed" Bartlett in The West Wing (1996)

...And the winner is:

Jack Lord! If JFK had lived, would he have adopted an impressive "Waikiki Wave" pompadour? Probably not, but Jack Lord was the most Kennedyesque actor never to have played Jack Kennedy. Lord had the look, the voice, the speech cadence, and accent down pat. I could see JFK in his post-presidential years retired to Hawaii, chasing dames, infiltrating Viet Cong splinter cells, and battling that Comsymp, Wo Fat.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

James Bond Is a Relic

I am convinced the producers of James Bond films live in a time warp in which it is perpetually 1963, the Cold War is still on, the sexual revolution is in full momentum, smoking and drinking are cultural norms, the British Empire still plays a part in determining world affairs, and there is actually an audience willing to pay seven dollars to see a James Bond movie set in a world in which the above conditions no longer exist.

Mike Myers conclusively proved in the Austin Powers trilogy that James Bond is an anachronism in a post-1980s world. Every aspect of the 007 genre---misogyny, promiscuity, hedonism, substance abuse, unhealthy living, snobby tastes in food and drink, and a mistaken belief that judo chops to the shoulder can induce unconsciousness---is unintentionally funny to a politically correct 21st century.

James Bond was the product of specific historical circumstances---the emergence of the Cold War, the Kim Philby scandal, British envy of American supremacy, and an overoptimistic faith in technological innovations borne out of the American space program---that do not work when superimposed on a different set of historical circumstances.

007 purists assert that the series went downhill gradually when Sean Connery abandoned the role, then suddenly after Roger Moore departed. While I agree somewhat that the actors who followed Connery were unable to reproduce his success, I also believe that Connery's performances declined in successive movies, especially in Diamonds Are Forever (the first time I saw the film I could not stop laughing because Connery gained weight and used a hairpiece with a pompadour so that he looked like Alabama segregationist George Wallace).

I think the quality of the films had less to do with casting and more to do with the producers' desperate attempts to make the post-1960s Bond films relevant to contemporary events (Live and Let Die=black power movements, Moonraker=Skylab and Soyuz, Octopussy and A View to A Kill=detente, glasnost, and cooperation between the Communist World and Free World).

Ian Fleming's books are not as adaptable as William Shakespeare's plays. Bond's natural setting---London clubland, dalliances with married women in St. John's Wood and Mayfair, the pre-tourist-and-cruise-ship Caribbean islands---is infinitely more interesting than the high-technocracy of the twenty-first century, where men like "Q" have replaced 007 as the superstars of modern intelligence agencies.