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The Name's Heineken
Alessandro Tomé infiltrates the multiplex on Her Majesty’s secret service, battles lethal germs and endless ads and emerges unshaken yet strangely stirred
I RECENTLY EMBARKED on what used to be one of my least favourite pastimes: I went to the movies with Angel Wife and the Twins on a Saturday afternoon. And of all places, we went to Westfield Mall, or Centre, or Village or something. No, it must be City or Metropolis. In my kids’ lingo, it’s basically huge and full of huge people filling huge amounts of huge restaurants in order to get huger.
I kept my gloves and hat on and touched as little of anything as possible until we were seated, since I read that these places are deadly Petri dishes for flu, where even looking at a handrail, let alone touching one, gets you fully infected. In reality I wanted to keep the gloves and hat on throughout the movie as well, but Angel Wife banned it. I did make a note to myself to bring along some latex gloves next time, so I can surreptitiously slip them on once it’s dark.
Angel Wife even refused to buy extra tickets this time, but she did plump up for VIP seats, though I then found out they also have semi-private screens with extra-wide reclining seats. Perhaps next time. In any event, I cleverly placed my children on the outside seats, just in case.
We were there to watch the latest James Bond instalment and I loved it, once it started for real. I got quite confused for the first half-hour, as what I thought was the beginning of a rather disjointed movie were in fact innumerable ads about products placed in the movie, most of which want us to stretch our imagination or gullibility beyond the make-believe of even the worst sci-fi movies.
First they went for the Sony products — they would have us believe that all government departments, particularly MI6, are fully stocked with Vaio laptops and Viera flat-screens. And perversly, why would Sony want us to believe that is the case when all we hear about are major computer glitches when it comes to government?
Next in line is a telephone brand I can’t even remember. It does ring and has a touch screen, but didn’t seem to do much more than that — not even blow up or drive a car this time. Anyway, who wanted to drive that ugly BMW from a previous Bond outing, even remotely?
Joyfully, Bond reverted to British cars, even if some are Indian-owned: beautiful Jaguars and a classic DB5 on display this time. I can only delight at that.
Thankfully he also went back to his reliable Omega Seamaster. I had been extremely concerned he may have been conned into buying an Italian watch and would then keep on missing his secret rendezvous and eventually get fired by M. For that matter I was certain this would then have to be the last instalment for 007, as I could not see how Bond would survive any time-sensitive situation or explosion by using Italian time-keeping devices. Gratefully at least on this front, common sense prevailed.
I won’t even mention what a stretch it is to believe in a laddish Bond that would hang out on a lost beach somewhere drinking beer. And Heineken, for God’s sake. He just would never, ever drink that stuff. Anything exotic, perhaps, if it must be beer. Finally, can you ever imagine him telling one of his dates he’d like to go Dutch on the Bollinger bill?
But the best is kept for last: the Christmas jackpot is the 007 fragrance. Smell like Bond, get the girls like Bond is the subliminal message. Except in this movie, he doesn’t get much in the way of girls and the most intense sexual scene is with a dyed blond Spanish guy to whom he declares he may not be his first. Each to their own, as they say, but I am not sure how well this is going to sell.
Maybe they should have tried to market it as a pack with some bleaching kit for hair and eyebrows. It does open up a whole new potential market for the franchise... Next time a whole ‘Bond-age’ range, perhaps. It’s not too much of stretch: after all, there is always someone who gets bound and gagged in a good Bond movie.
All this aside, once we got past these unnecessary distractions, I enjoyed the movie particularly for the timeliness of its themes. Pride in Britishness, I feel, has been long overdue in the country as a whole and in Bond in particular.
Perhaps Mr Cameron and even more so his ‘Liberal’ cabinet should be made to watch it over and over again to remind themselves of the country they are trying to lead and perhaps help them be proud of it again, rather than trying to make it look and feel and sound like somewhere bland and characterless. They should all be given copies of M’s bulldog trinket to put on their desks.
Pride should make us want to try to swing the pendulum back from youth-and-technology obsession and start urgently appreciating the want and need for physical human interaction, for touching and feeling and hearing, not just focusing on the watching and typing we all spend time doing.
Screens aren’t the be-all of our lives and nor should we let them become so, for they will then be the end-all, too. Just like in the best scene of the movie, we will all be rats in a barrel and will continue to eat each other until there are only two left and our nature will be changed for ever. We are well on our way.
Illustration by Jeremy Leasor
ON THE NIGHT of the US presidential election, many of our expat or nearly assimilated American friends gathered in their homes or in bars to watch events unfold. The tightest contest in years, they called it. Neck and neck, paper-thin advantage to one or the other. The primaries, the punditry, the debates — we heard how the intelligent vote would go to Romney, the ignorant one to Obama. We heard it all: the good, the bad and the mostly ugly.
It came as no surprise that it ended in victory for Obama. He didn’t have to come up with any new ideas or slogans or plans — he just dusted off the ones from four years ago, as he’d achieved practically none of them. Not that I am a Romney man either; I just cannot fathom that the global exemplar of democracy is a system where billions of dollars can be wasted publicly in bribes to political candidates, while people in their own country are jobless, homeless or even starving. No wonder the storm named Sandy, aptly chosen from Grease, had an impact.
I chose to see the funny side of it all on the night, while keeping somewhat in touch with America. I went to see very beautiful, scantily clad young women strutting their stuff in a somewhat asexual way, in a shimmering mirrored tent all of velvet and gold, sipping champagne with friends. A resolutely decadent evening that enabled you to ignore the harsh realities outside, at least for a night. Just like America, it was all in the packaging. And it was called Forever Crazy — how appropriate.
HERE COMES THE festive season, and with it the frantic search for a great new source of caviar. We increasingly go for sustainably farmed caviar to help save the world while actually saving money. And the latest craze this season is for Black River Caviar from — yes, you guessed it — Uruguay.
Perhaps some bored Soviet spy satellite boffins in the late Seventies decided that the answer to the question ‘Where could you find the ideal habitat for sturgeon?’ was a forsaken corner of Uruguay. Right river, temperature, altitude and lake, so cue the soon-to-be blockbuster movie Sturgeon Growing in the Uruguay.
I haven’t been able to try the top-of-the-range Oscietra thanks to the frenzied demand, so I can’t vouch for it personally. But it’s probably worth a try, just for the story.
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