Sunday, April 7, 2013

Skyfall and the Castro's Mighty Wurlitzer

On Friday, February 22, I saw Skyfall at the Castro Theater.

Skyfall starring Daniel Craig; with Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes & Naomie Harris; directed by Sam Mendes; (2012) - Official Website

By coincidence, the James Bonds series, which Skyfall was part of, was mentioned in a San Francisco Chronicle article recently.  David Hegarty, one of the organists at the Castro, Apparently, the ownership of Castro's Mighty Wurlitzer is more complicated than I imagined.  I simply thought the theater owned the organ but the article states that the owner of the "Wurlitzer Hope-Jones Unit Orchestra" is separate from the ownership of the Castro Theater.  I guess it is expensive to buy & maintain an organ.

Hegarty launched a 501(c)(3) nonprofit called the Castro Organ Devotees Association (CODA) with a goal to "purchase the organ, replace and enlarge the keyboard console, and add to the pipes."  The price tag for this project is approximately $1 million according to the article.

I will neither encourage nor dissuade anyone from donating to CODA.  I haven't decided myself whether to donate.  A nonprofit organ in a "for profit" theater seems incongruent.  On the CODA website, it is stated that they need $250,000 by May 1 to "secure the purchase of the Wurlitzer and allow CODA to start Wurlitzer organ renovations and continue implementing the full scope of the project."  The other $750,000 is needed by the end of 2013 to complete the project.  That means there is less than month for CODA to make its intermediate goal of $250,000.


In my previous post, I mentioned that I enjoyed the Joe Swanberg series at the Roxie and wish I had seen more of the films in that retrospective.  A few hours before showtime, I was still unsure if I would go to the Castro to see Skyfall or the Roxie to see Silver Bullets and Art History.  I chose Skyfall after speaking with a few co-workers.  Of course, they had no idea who Joe Swanberg was but some of the adjectives they used in describing Skyfall were intriguing.  I'm quite a fan of Daniel Craig's 007 so it didn't take much to convince me.

As the aforementioned newspaper article alluded to, Hegarty did something unusual at the screening I attended.  I cannot recall another time where he did not descend into the orchestra while playing San Francisco to the audience's rhythmic clapping.  On this evening, he descended while playing the James Bond Theme.  The crowd was quite enthused as he played the song.  I'm not sure if it was the song itself or the fact he was playing something other than San Francisco.  I thought I was watching and listening to something historic but apparently Hegarty had been doing it throughout the Bond series.


Since the film grossed $1 billion worldwide, I see no point in recounting the plot.  My co-workers had hinted that M dies so it wasn't a complete surprise.  I do like how the new M's office has the upholstered door like M of the Connery/Moore era films.  Moneypenny has also been introduced.  I think they played a little with the Bond canon.  I don't recall him being orphaned.  Skyfall seems like an odd name for a Scottish estate.

As for the performances, Daniel Craig plays Bonds as more gritty and psychologically vulnerable.  He's definitely not a hero.  I will miss Dench for her dry witted bantering with Craig but I always thought she was underutilized until this film.

Javier Bardem seems to be enjoying himself thoroughly playing the most flamboyant of Bond villains.  Our introduction to him as he slowly approaches Bond telling him a story of exterminating rats on a small island was memorable.  It's hard to believe this is the same actor as in No Country For Old Men.

Bérénice Marlohe is one of the sexiest Bond girls I can recall seeing.

The new Q (Ben Whishaw) is an interesting take on the character.  In on film, they cleared slate by replacing M and introducing Moneypenny & Q who had heretofore been missing from the Craig era Bond films.

One of Bonds' spy gadgets is a pistol that only fires if he is holding it using biometric identification.  I heard on the news that some politician was proposing biometric identification be required on all assault weapons as part of the efforts to pass a bill banning assault weapons.  Art imitating life or life imitating art?

Skyfall was a little bloated at nearly 2.5 hours and for most of the film, it didn't look like a Bond film.  The climax was decidedly un-Bondian.  The film certainly entertained me for long stretches; particularly when Bardem was on the screen.  It seems like the producers decided they needed to reboot the series (with the exception of Craig) so they used this installment to clear the decks.

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