Skyfall is a smash hit, well on its way to being the biggest Bond film of the modern era. But what does it mean and where does it fit in the Bond canon and the current scene?
Please be advised that there are massive spoilers ahead. There's no other way to unpack this film without discussing them and their meaning. Incidentally, my archive of articles related to Bond at 50 can be found here.
Frankly, it's the sort of film I had hoped for in this 50th anniversary year of the Bond film franchise.
Some of the scenes in Skyfall are literally breathtaking. The cinematography is great, the casting is outstanding, the performances excellent, the action stunning. It's a deeply resonant movie in terms of contemporary and timeless themes and the continuity of the series.
Bond stands atop the Department of Energy and Climate Change looking out over a stunningly patriotic London skyline in Skyfall.
After opening big in dozens of markets around the world, Skyfall took in $100 million in North American box office over the four-day Veterans Day weekend. It's well on its way to being the biggest spy movie of all time, both in domestic box office (where it will eclipse Matt Damon's The Bourne Ultimatum) and in global box office (soon to top Tom Cruise's Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol). It's also on track to be the biggest box office hit Britain has yet seen, closing in on the James Cameron epic Avatar. That's not accounting for inflation, in which case Thunderball and Goldfinger from the '60s rule the roost. Of course, there were far fewer entertainment options in those days. Skyfall may just become the first billion dollar Bond.
We are in the midst of a golden age of Bond films, the best since the 1960s. That's thanks in large part to savvy casting decisions by producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, who may have let one of the best Bonds, Pierce Brosnan, go a little too soon but guessed very right in their next Bond, one Daniel Craig. The best Bond since Sir Sean, and maybe the best period, especially if one likes the Ian Fleming novels, as I do, period though they are, Craig is every bit the action hero that Connery was, and perhaps more athletic to boot. Though Connery still has the edge in rakish charm.
Skyfall abandons the storyline of the past two films around the still mysterious global power brokering organization called Quantum, a more realistic version of the easily parodied old SPECTRE. In a sense, that's unfortunate, as I like that storyline. But after a very effective reboot of the series in Casino Royale, taking the story back to its beginnings in the very first Ian Fleming novel, which had never before been made as a feature film, updating its Soviet villains to a transnational network, the follow-up Quantum of Solace showcased Bond on a mission of revenge for his tragically compromised love, Vesper Lynd. Memorably played by Eva Green, Vesper casts a long shadow over Bond in both films, explaining why he becomes a more cavalier sort of man with women, though he'd avoided any hint of commitment prior to meeting her due to, well, due to reasons we get at in Skyfall.
But Quantum, though better than many vociferous fans would have it be seen today -- and boasting one of the very best Bond girls in Ukrainian supermodel Olga Kurylenko's daring Bolivian/Russian agent Camille Montes, who is on a mission of revenge all her own -- took the series down a cul de sac. And not just in terms of its overly choppy Bourne-esque handheld camerawork and editing. (I'd love to see the film re-edited so it could breathe more.)
Like Licence to Kill, starring the under-rated Timothy Dalton, Quantum of Solace was a somewhat grim revenge flick set largely in Latin America. Although it does have a few moments of great glamour and elegance, notably the opera sequence in Austria, not to mention one of the most alluring of all Bond girls in Kurylenko, there's not a lot of pop in Quantum.
Pursuing the storyline of the Quantum organization would have made it harder to do the 50th anniversary Bond film as a celebration of the franchise and its principal character, instead shackling Bond to a third iteration of something we've already seen. Quantum can always return, like SPECTRE.
Instead, in Skyfall we have a film that is not about filling in the blanks of some nefarious mystery organization but a film that is about Bond and his own institution, MI6, his boss and in some ways surrogate parent, and the nation that gives rise to them all.
We get Bond and his troubled background (not invented for this film but drawn from Ian Fleming). Bond turns out to be much like Don Draper in Mad Men. He dislikes his family background so much that he never went back, creating his own new reality and identity. We get a virtual co-lead character in the great Judi Dench, who won her Oscar playing the queen in Shakespeare in Love, as M in the twilight of her time at the helm of arguably the world's best espionage agency. We get MI6 in transition and under siege in a changing world. We get Bond's twisted mirror image in one of the best of all the Bond villains, former star MI6 agent Raoul Silva, spectacularly played by Oscar-winner Javier Bardem.
And we get a Bond film that, for all its spectacular and flavorfully cosmopolitan settings -- Istanbul, Shanghai, Macau, a post-apocalyptic island in the South China Sea (which is actually off the coast of Nagasaki) -- is largely set in Britain. Which is only fitting in this year of the London Olympics, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, and the 50th anniversary of the Bond films.
Skyfall takes us from the past through tomorrow for Bond, literally going back to the future in the film's lovely coda.
In many respects, Skyfall is about resurrection, both for Bond himself (metaphorically in a time when what he does is in danger of devaluation and literally in terms of his experience on-screeen) and for the British role in a tumultuous new world order.
In the original Ian Fleming novels, which the former naval intelligence officer began writing not 50 but 60 years ago, Bond was born as a full-fledged character in late imperial Britain, with the UK triumphant after the hard-fought victory of World War II but on its ass from the tremendous cost of that victory. The sun was setting fast on the the British Empire, the first in world history on which, as the famous saying went, the sun had never set.
Bond and Queen Elizabeth II opened the London Olympics in Happy and Glorious. These corgis belong to the Queen, not California Governor Jerry Brown. Bond is played by Daniel Craig, the Queen by Elizabeth Windsor.
There were suddenly two superpowers, and neither of them had grand old London as its capital.
But if Britain could not be a superpower, if its proud empire was being fast divested -- or was rapidly divesting itself -- it could be a clandestine power, a secret power, a power of expertise and daring. Enter James Bond, the fantasy wish fulfillment for what Britain was trying to do in the real world. (And what Fleming, a confidant of much of the British power elite -- Prime Minister Anthony Eden went to Fleming's home in Jamaica for R&R after the 1956 Suez debacle, one of Britain's last great old-style power plays on the global stage.)
Skyfall posits a new beginning for the British role in geopolitics. If this is a world of increasingly asymmetric conflict, in which nation-states can be hamstrung, can be brought low, by small bands of transnational terrorists -- and if even more havoc can be wreaked from a laptop computer (as the new Q, well-played by Ben Whishaw, boasts) -- then the fact that Britain is not a conventional superpower becomes less relevant.
Judi Dench as M lays out the stakes, that in today's post-Cold War and post-9/11 world, shadowy forces of all stripes can strike, in a multiplicity of modes, be they in the physical world or the virtual world.
As Gareth Mallory, Ralph Fiennes portrays the new chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, the powerful real world body of members of parliament appointed by the prime minister to oversee the UK's Secret Intelligence Service (known colloquially as MI6, for which Bond works), the Security Service (known as MI5) and GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters, the British equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency, in charge of signals and electronic intelligence). The current chairman of this committee, which has no equivalent in the American system, is in real life a former minister of defense.
Mallory is still forming his view but as we begin to get to know him seems to agree that sigint (signals intelligence) is superior to humint (human intelligence), which would make MI6 increasingly superfluous.
The techno-boffins imagine that their world is all. But there is no real substitute for human analysis of all that "take." And there is no substitute for human judgment and ultimately action. Or the decision not to act.
As Bond says to the new Q, a young cyber-whiz, who pointedly meets with 007 for the first time in the National Gallery before J.M.W. Turner's The Fighting Temeraire -- a magnificent painting depicting the Age of Sail giving way to the Age of Steam and industrialism as the great ship of the line from the Battle of Trafalgar is hauled away to its final resting place -- it takes a sophisticated person not only to pull a trigger, as Q suggests, but to know when not to pull a trigger.
And therein lies a short precis on why reliance on drone warfare can be extraordinarily problematic.
Adele's theme song for Skyfall, and the film's opening credits.
Turner's The Fighting Temeraire, not incidentally, is widely regarded as the greatest painting on British soil, emblematic of the 19th century Victorian Age greatness of Britain.
Turner is not the only icon of Britain's past greatness trotted out to telling effect in this anniversary year.
Tennyson, whose famed poem Ulysses is quoted to great effect by M during the parliamentary inquiry into the metastasizing crisis of her tenure at the helm of MI6, is Britain's great poet laureate of the Victorian Age.
Testifying before a critical parliamentary inquiry into her tenure at the helm of MI6, M quotes Tennyson's Ulysses, which in the U.S. was a great favorite of Robert F. Kennedy in his last campaign:
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
In the Craig era of Bond, Casino Royale rebooted the original story, giving us Bond from the beginning. Quantum of Solace, better than many think, though disappointingly choppy, is best viewed in tandem with Royale since it literally begins only minutes after the end of the former.
In it, Bond tells Camille that Quantum villain Dominic Greene, posing as an environmental philanthropist, tried to have a woman he cares about killed, "But it's not what you think."
"She likes to think so," quips Bond about M.
M is clearly fond of Bond but barely hesitates to treat him as potentially expendable when the fate of the mission is at stake.
This first teaser trailer for Skyfall indicated that the 50th anniversary Bond film was likely to be special.
She'd first said this to Pierce Brosnan's Bond in GoldenEye when the series was rebooted for the post-Cold War era in 1995 when, after calling him "a sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War," she tells him that if he imagines that she hasn't the balls to send him to his death, he has another think coming indeed.
When she first interacts with Craig's Bond in Casino Royale she calls him a "blunt instrument."
But never before have we seen her give a direct order that has at least a 50-50 chance of resulting in Bond's death.
M's home in the film, incidentally, where a semi-sober Bond rather blearily announces that he is back from the dead "reporting for duty," is actually the home of composer John Barry, who established the trademark Bond sound and passed away last year.
But M's truest home, as a figure of duty, is MI6, and that home, the famed Vauxhall Cross location, is wrecked as a result of her cyber-vulnerability to Silva. Which occasions another moment redolent with historicity. "Welcome to the new MI6," says MI6 chief of staff Bill Tanner to the resurrected Bond as they enter headquarters for his evaluation. The service has decamped to the underground bunkers used by Winston Churchill as part of his command complex during World War II.
A fitting locale for M, whose dedication to duty and admiration for the iconic British bulldog mirrors that of Britain's greatest wartime leader.
In Skyfall, after ordering Eve to "take the bloody shot" even though she may (and does) hit Bond, M and Bond end in their own sort of buddy picture. That is, if your buddy is your rather ruthless mom who doesn't hesitate overmuch to send you to your death and prefers not to dwell on how she ruined her previous favorite agent's life by giving him up to the Chinese in exchange for half-a-dozen captive agents and a smooth handover of Hong Kong to the PRC back in '97.
Still, it's quite affecting when Bond, having chased the just escaped (precisely as he'd planned) Silva through the London Tube to, naturally Westminster station, rescues M with the help of Eve and Mallory.
Changing vehicles from M's ministerial Jaguar to a certain car he'd won playing poker in the Bahamas, which oddly seems to have the same ejector button as when we first saw the model in Goldfinger, the two venture to a far-off land.
"Where are we going?" asks M, after amusingly urging Bond to eject her when he is taken aback by her protest that the venerable Aston Martin DB5 isn't all that comfortable.
After proving a smash hit in international markets, Skyfall went wide across North America last weekend.
"Back in time," Bond replies, as the smoothly purring vehicle makes for his ancestral Scotland. And Skyfall, the name of his ancestral Scottish home. There, amidst stunning visuals, beneath the iconic stag figure and Skyfall lettering, we see the gothic pile in which Bond grew up.
"Christ, no wonder you never came back," M remarks as she gets out of the Aston.
There they meet the gamekeeper Kincade, played by Albert Finney, a five-time Oscar nominee who was up for Bond himself back in the '60s. Terrific as Finney is -- "Welcome to Scotland!" -- it's a role that seems tailor-made for Sean Connery.
Connery was great as Indy's dad in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, achieving great humor and ultimately warmth working with Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones, the adventuring American archaeologist that George Lucas famously said was "better than Bond" when Steven Spielberg told him of his desire to direct a Bond film. But unfortunately Connery has retired from acting, making the fourth Indiana Jones picture the poorer for his absence. It may be just as well, for he is so strongly identified as Bond himself that his presence in Skyfall might have taken the audience out of the picture.
Bond pulls a Don Draper and beyond at Skyfall, blowing up the ancestral home as part of his defense against Silva's mercenaries after saying he'd always hated the place. Only the destruction of his car by Silva's hovering helicopter causes him pain. Actually, Bond acts like the Mad Men protagonist at the beginning of the film, too, when he decides after M's betrayal to play dead, boozing it up and screwing around in a little beach community which looks like it's somewhere outside of Izmir, Turkey's "Pearl of the Aegean" across the country from Istanbul. Hence the Greek playmate we see Bond with as he sips from his beer, hand blocking the label. Yes, it's a Heineken, the only time we (barely) see it, and I'm remembering the endless media fuss made when the firm's sponsorship of Skyfall was revealed, with attendant claims by many that Bond was ditching the trademark martini for beer. With entire columns and posts written about what it meant. As it was totally false, of course, it meant nothing.
Skyfall took the shot last weekend in theaters across North America. It worked out far better than it does in this scene.
After Bond finally dispatches Silva, the villain being in the process of trying to force M to kill them both with a single shot through the temple, we do not get a happy ending. For M, wounded in the earlier gunfight before escaping through the mansion's old priest hole and across the moor with Kincade to a church, passes away in Bond's arms not far from the graveyard where his actual parents, Andrew and Monique Delacroix Bond, killed in a mountaineering accident, are buried.
It was M who wrote Bond's obituary, which they discuss as they prepare to do battle with Silva's men. Bond hates it, finding it "appalling," though he does admit to liking one bit after M prompts him with it: She did call him "the exemplar of British fortitude."
Early in the film, we saw M beginning to compose the obituary, which we never see finished. In it, she types the header for the late 007 as "Commander James Bond, CMG, RN." It's actually the first time that Craig's Bond is referred to as a former naval officer, which he always was since the Ian Fleming novels. Up till this film, however, the Craig Bond has seemed more the "ex-SAS" type that Vesper calls him, with no correction from Bond, when they first meet in Casino Royale. (The post-nominal letters CMG and RN, incidentally, stand for Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, and of course Royal Navy.)
M's "exemplar of British fortitude" line foreshadows the film's coda, in which she bequeaths her desk paperweight figurine of a British bulldog to Bond, who had scoffed at its prominent place on her desk. The china bulldog, named Jack by its makers, for it wears a Union Jack flag on its sturdy back, became popular due to its association with the fortitudinous Churchill. And it's clear that Bond, for all his joking about it, will cherish the wretched thing going forward.
Of course, M is the real "Bond girl" of the picture. The other leading women characters make their mark, but don't have near the claim to attention this time round.
As Severine, the exquisite Eurasian beauty taken from sex slavery by Silva as his ill-starred mistress, Berenice Lim Marlohe makes a strong impression marked by a shockingly quick and coldly dismissive exit from the story.
Naomie Harris is delightful as Eve. A very bright and game field agent, though not perhaps a crack shot with a rifle, she cuts a very fit figure in the field and a fetching presence in the club. Her giving up field work to become executive secretary to the new M, of course revealing as she does that her last name is, er, Moneypenny, could be a disappointment in service of the series' old formula, which in Skyfall sees the familiar characters slotting at last into place as they were in the '60s, albeit all updated for the 21st. But for the fact that, like Eve, the new M, despite his very familiar leather and wood office, practically out of the old Universal Exports set, is a different sort of figure.
Unlike Bernard Lee's retired Navy admiral, Mallory as played by multiple Oscar-nominee Ralph Fiennes is a former lieutenant colonel in the SAS (Special Air Service), Britain's elite commando unit which has served as a model for special forces around the world.
When Silva and his gunmen burst into the Whitehall hearing room where M is being raked over the coals by a Cherie Blair analogue, it's Mallory who shields M from certain death. Moments after playing the silkily polished politician in the committee hearing, upon Silva's arrival he bursts from his chair like a sprinter out of the starting blocks, vaulting over the table and leaping in front of M to take the surprised Silva's shot in his shoulder. When Bond arrives to save the day, he does, but only just, and only with plenty of help from Eve and Mallory, both of them quite adept with pistols.
James Bond meets his new quartermaster while viewing Turner's The Fighting Temeraire in the National Gallery in London.
I have a feeling we'll see all three of them in action in future Bond films. This is not a Moneypenny likely to be satisfied pining away for her wayward James back at the office while waiting to take M's dictation. After all, he seems perfectly capable of typing his own bloody correspondence on his laptop.
Fiennes is a great choice going forward. In addition to his notable roles in serious dramas, he has also played T.E. Lawrence in A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia, which is fitting since Lawrence of Arabia, which came out in 1962, the year the Bond film franchise began with Dr. No, glorifies the sort of individual figure that Bond has come to represent. Fiennes also essayed another similiar English archetype as John Steed in the film version of the classic TV series The Avengers. And, of course, he is Lord Voldemort in some movies about a sort of boy magician or what not.
Another flavorful bit of casting, albeit in a much briefer role, is that of Helen McCrory as the politician who so hectors M in the parliamentary inquiry. Not at all coincidentally, she played former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's very formidable wife Cherie Blair in The Queen and The Special Relationship. McCrory is also married in real life to Damian Lewis, the Emmy-winning co-star of Homeland. (Pierce Brosnan provided an earlier twisty Bondian tip of the hat to the Blairs in The Ghost Writer, Roman Polanski's roman a clef in which Brosnan's former Prime Minister Adam Lang proves a CIA asset unwittingly run by his wife.)
But it's not just the cast that makes Skyfall such an impressive film.
I worried about composer Thomas Newman. David Arnold did an outstanding job with the music of the series from Tomorrow Never Dies through Quantum of Solace, catching the spirit of the classic John Barry scores while updating them, all the while giving them a brassy swagger.
Newman's experience hasn't been in action, and his style isn't naturally all that congruent with Barry and Arnold. But director Sam Mendes wanted him. And I must say I like the results. It's not all what I associate with Bond, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. More to the point, it works, both in the film and as a separate listening experience.
Adele's theme song is appropriately soaring and elegiac, though in my view it doesn't reach the classic heights of Shirley Bassey's efforts for Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever, or Paul McCartney's great pop burst of Live and Let Die.
Cinematographer Roger Deakins helps make this the most beautiful of Bond films. Many times nominated for the Oscar, he clearly deserves to win this time out.
Dennis Gassner, Oscar-winning art director for Warren Beatty's Bugsy, provides a heightened sense of production design without overwhelming the scene as Ken Adam's iconic '60s concoctions, memorable and fun as they were, tended to do.
John Logan, a three-time Oscar nominee for Gladiator, The Aviator, and Hugo polished up and made adjustments to the original script written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, scribes on the past five Bond films. It's never easy to say who wrote precisely what, but the script is consistently intriguing and the characterization provocative. Logan is now writing the next Bond film.
Bringing it all together is director Sam Mendes, Oscar-winner for American Beauty. A many times Olivier Award winner for his work on the London stage, his strength has always been working with actors and characterization. He'd never done a huge action film before, and many doubted the choice. Well, he certainly pulled it off.
"You made such a bold entrance into our little drama." Skyfall, the 50th anniversary Bond film, enjoyed a smash opening across North America on Veterans Day weekend.
Where does Skyfall rate in the Bond film pantheon?
I have to say that I found it thrilling in ways that recalled my first viewings of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Goldfinger. Not to mention intellectually engaging.
Best ever Bond? I think it takes time to determine that. But definitely one of the three best Bonds of all time, along with Goldfinger and From Russia With Love. Of course, the first movie I ever saw was Goldfinger, so I'm not entirely objective.
From Russia With Love, the second Bond film way back in 1963, took the iconic if rather shaky makings of Dr. No and turned them into a credible intelligence thriller filled with glamour and crunching action. (If the James Bond theme plays rather too often as Bond strides through the airport, consider that it was an era in which air travel was somewhat exotic, rather than the irritating chore it's become since 9/11.)
The next film, Goldfinger, turned Bond into a global sensation, the film itself the ur-action blockbuster. The whole thing was big, swanky, and spectacular -- with Bond an assured enough iconic figure as to mock the Beatles and seem cool in the process -- even though Bond himself was surprisingly fallible, a prisoner for much of the picture. But it has the fabulous Aston Martin DB5 and Bond's assured if misogynistic way with the ladies. The great villain Goldfinger ("This is gold, Mr. Bond. All my life, I've been in love with its color, its brilliance, its divine heaviness." ... "Do you expect me to talk?" "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die") and his memorable henchman Oddjob (if his karate doesn't get you, his bowler hat will). There is Honor Blackman's Avenger-esque heroine: "My name is Pussy Galore." "I must be dreaming." And the jaunty opening ("Shocking, positively shocking") not to mention the nuke ticking down to 007 seconds. It all combined to create a sensation.
Skyfall, while recalling those 1960s heights, vaults forward into the 21st century, putting the series on a strong path for the future. But as it does so, the resonance between Bond and Batman becomes all the more apparent.
It's always been there, of course. A lone figure, a glamorous anti-hero with major resources and technology at his fingertips, the biggest difference between the two has been that Bond operates on a global stage to protect England while Batman has stayed in the city to protect Gotham.
But the two have come much closer together with the reworking of the Batman/Bruce Wayne mythos by director Christopher Nolan. Who is not coincidentally yet another Brit.
If Skyfall borrows from, or at least resonates with, Christopher Nolan and the last two films in The Dark Knight Trilogy, it's only fitting. After all, in Nolans's hands, Batman has had a distinctly Bondian cast, with a global scope missing from the earlier film series and his very own Q in the form of Morgan Freeman's Lucius Fox.
In director Christopher Nolan's hands, the rebooted Batman series took on a more Bondian global scope.
As I pointed out in "Considering The Dark Knight Trilogy," The Dark Knight Rises has essentially the same major plot twist as the last Bond film of the '90s, the under-appreciated The World Is Not Enough. There Bond discovers, as Bruce Wayne finds out the hard way, that his glamorous and super-rich lover is actually the arch-villain behind the intimidating mercenary who's been wreaking havoc throughout the picture. And that said mercenary is actually hopelessly in love with our finally unveiled femme fatale.
Nolan even goes so far as to match one leading French movie star, in The World Is Not Enough's Sophie Marceau, with another in Marion Cotillard, who had just starred in another Nolan film with Bondian tropes, Inception. (Think the idea implantation theme and sweeping Alpine action scenes of On Her Majesty's Secret Service.)
In Skyfall, it's not just the Dark Knight style musical cue as Bond leaps to catch the bottom rung of an ascending elevator and undergoes a very vertical experience.
We see the Bond with a scarred childhood.
We learn of Bond enduring shaping experiences in a small enclosed space.
We watch Bond having to overcome physical decline and injury, trying to come back when he is still nowhere near his best.
We have a villain who is horribly scarred (his deformity hidden at first in Skyfall, but this time we get a direct explanation and, hence, motivation).
We have a villain whose plan is to be captured in order to disrupt more deeply.
And we have a villain who is much like the protagonist (Bond and Batman are more anti-hero than hero) but for a twist.
The Dark Knight had the Joker; Skyfall has Raoul Silva.
Bardem's Raoul Silva (real name rather than work name is Tiago Rodriguez) is to Craig's Bond as Heath Ledger's Joker is to Christian Bale's Batman. But for a few twists of fate, very similar breeds of cat.
Silva, who has been compared to Julian Assange but is really much more like Philip Agee, gets the list of all NATO agents embedded in terrorist organizations and then uses it via YouTube to out five every week. He captures Bond and, notwithstanding his stunning Eurasian mistress, makes a teasingly intimidating sexual play for 007 which makes for some provocative dialogue. He also hacks his way into MI6 for several purposes, not the least of which is to blow up its headquarters.
Silva, blonde like Craig's Bond, is the other side of the coin of Bond as the Joker was the other side of the coin of Batman.
Just as Skyfall, in so many ways, is the other side of the coin of The Dark Knight. Or is it vice versa?
We're talking classic films in either case, in which always powerful genre material has been elevated into greatness through the application of talent. And that's cause for celebration in any event.
You can check things during the day on my site, New West Notes ... www.newwestnotes.com.