ALWAYS KEEPING AN EYE ON HOLLYWOOD!!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

JER'S TURN: 50 YEARS of BOND... JAMES BOND!

  JER: “My name is Bond, James Bond.” Vodka martini: shaken, not stirred. A ladies’ man. A Double- O agent for Britain’s MI6 division. The driver of an Aston- Martin DB5. A professional Baccarat and other card games’ player. His supervisor’s name is M and he is supplied with the latest gadgets by Q. I cannot say that it hard for me to believe that 50 years of James Bond is being celebrated with the release of the franchise’s 23rd film SKYFALL this year, but I am glad that the series is strong and has survived many blockades throughout the years. In fact, an affirmation is made at the end of SKYFALL by informing its audience that, in bold capitalized letters: BOND WILL BE BACK! Because of this, I feel it only right that the timing has brought me to talk about my personal favorite character and the many embodiments that have happened to bring to the silver screen: the world of James Bond.

Author & Creator of James Bond: IAN FLEMING
ORGINS: The character of James Bond was created in the mind of British author Ian Fleming in 1953. Based on research and the tales known of Fleming, James Bond would seem to have a lot in common with his creator than mere fiction would have. Fleming was a womanizer, having had many short- term affairs with women even when he was married, like Bond, he also enjoyed gin and was considered a very dashing and worldly gentlemen who spoke four different languages. Fleming also dabbled in the world of espionage and the British Intelligence.

In 1939, Fleming began a more formidable attachment to British secret service when he began working for Naval Intelligence. During the last year of the war, he traveled to Jamaica for a Naval conference. It is then that he discovered his personal tropical paradise and as soon as the war was over, he returned back and purchased property and designed his own home: he gave his house the name of “Goldeneye.”

Over the next few years, Fleming would flesh- out a character that included many of his attributes and personal/ professional experiences into a defined ‘gentlemen’s gentlemen’ role. He had to be dashing and in control, he could both woo a woman and put her in her place as he saw fit, he needed to be internationally prepared in various languages, techniques of gambling and drinks and go about without raising a suspected eyebrow. He would carry honor and the love for his country and would be prepared to do anything at the call of duty. The first literary appearance of James Bond was in “Casino Royale” which was published in 1953. The rest, as they say, was history.

Producers: (l) HARRY SALTZMAN & (r) "CUBBY" BROCCOLI
THE BOND/ SEAN CONNERY EARLY YEARS (1962- 1967): Throughout the history of radio broadcasts and film, many different variations have come about using the name James Bond. The general focus that will be placed here is on the “official” James Bond films released through Eon Productions: a private and family- owned company created by film producers Harry Saltzman and Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, based in London that also operates from the Pinewood Studios in the United Kingdom. It is a subsidiary of Danjaq LLC, the holding company that officially owns the copyrights and trademarks to the Bond character and events portrayed on the screen. Broccoli’s name is essential to the Bond storytelling, since his name virtually appears in the opening credits of every Bond film since 1962. Albert passed away in 1996, however his daughter, Barbara Broccoli, continues on the legacy by co- producing the Bond films since her father’s death.

SEAN CONNERY
The first actor to bring James Bond to the silver screen was an Irish actor named Sean Connery. Born on August 25, 1930 in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, Connery joined the Royal Navy but was discharged due to medical conditions. When he turned 23, he had a choice of either becoming a professional football player or an actor… he chose acting and said it was one of his most intelligent moves. He had a flourish career as an actor for both screen and television, but his major breakthrough would come in the way of portraying 007. The choice of casting Connery in the role was not the producers’ first, however, their attention was caught from Connery’s strong- willed temper for not standing down during points of the audition process. 
DR. NO would be both Bond and Connery’s first embodiment of the role, making its debut on October 5th 1962. Budgeted at an estimated $1,100,000.00, the film took in $59 million worldwide. Popular television actor Jack Lord (the original HAWAII 5-0) portrayed CIA agent Felix Leiter: a character that would become both an ally and a friend to Bond throughout the franchise’s story arc and the first “Bond girl” Ursula Andress as Honey Rider rounded off the cast. Andress won a Golden Globe in 1964 for “Most Promising Newcomer- Female” beating out Tippi Hedren for THE BIRDS. 
An exciting trailer for the first Bond film: DR. NO


FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963) had Sean Connery returning back as Special Agent 007 as he goes on the search for a Russian decoder machine. This is also the first film that introduces Bond enthusiasts to the evil SPECTRE organization, which will continually build a storyline arc for a number of films to come as the company that vows to destroy the British Secret Service division known as MI6 and James Bond himself. Rounding off the cast is Robert Shaw (JAWS) as the muscle- bound Russian baddie, Grant. This is also the first film to introduce SPECTRE’s evil leader, Ernst Blofeld, played by Anthony Dawson. Mike Myers would parody this character as Dr. Evil in the AUSTIN POWERS trilogy. Given a rise in budget, the production came in at an estimated $2 million dollars with a return gross of $79 million worldwide. It would seem as if Bond has created quite the name for himself with many more stories to be told!

Third time’s a charm for both Bond and Sean Connery, as GOLDFINGER (1964) is released and becomes an instant hit with the fans, some claiming to be the best of the franchise. Beginning with the popular characters that appeared in the film including actress Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore, Harold Sakata as the evil hat- throwing ‘Odd-Job” and Gert Frobe as the menacing Auric Goldfinger, the world of Bond was quickly establishing memorable villains and Bond girls to come. Making a budget jump to an estimated $3 million, the returns worldwide would appear as a lucrative $125 million worldwide. Yes, Mr. Bond, you are definitely becoming the international man you set out to be! Gold would definitely come to GOLDFINGER in the way of an Academy Award win to Norman Wanstall- Best Effects, Sound Effects.

Without hesitation, Connery would slam down the martinis and the villains in the fourth installment in the series in 1965’s THUNDERBALL. This time round, Bond’s mission is to head down to the Bahamas to recover two stolen nuclear warheads in the possession of SPECTRE. The film introduced both Claudine Auger as Domino and Italian actor Adolfo Celi as SPECTRE’s evil Emilio Largo into the world of Bond. The film used a number of different special effects and live- action photography for its underwater action sequences.
With an estimated budget of $9 million, THUNDERBALL came back with a strong $141 million. It, too, won an Academy Award: John Stears- Best Effects, Special Visual Effects.

Donald Pleasence as Blofeld
YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967) once again having Connery as 007 in this fifth installment. Bond’s mission, this time, takes him to Japan as he works with the Japanese secret service ninja force to stop a series of ‘spacejackings’ before a nuclear war is provoked by SPECTRE. The character of Blofeld returns with more enfaces placed on his evil plans for world domination. Blofeld is played by fame character actor Donald Pleasence (HALLOWEEN). Budgeted at an estimated $9,500,000.00, the film grossed approximately $112 million. After production, Sean Connery felt that he was done as James Bond and told producers that he would never play the secret agent again. With that said, producers looked into the horizon as Bond was about to take another step forward in the growth of child to adolescence.

GEORGE LAZENBY
THE BOND FILMS: GEORGE LAZENBY/ SEAN CONNERY FINALE (1969- 1971): With Sean Connery out of the picture, a worldwide search was conducted: enter George Lazenby. Born in Australia on September 5th, 1939, Lazenby made a move to London, England in 1964, after serving the Australian Army. He was cast as James Bond in 1968 based off a screen test fight scene, the strength of his interviews and fight skills. The new Bond would make his debut in ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE in 1969.

On a brand new mission, Bond takes to the Swiss Alps in ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. Bond lays down the charm with lots of thickness as he woos a mob boss’s daughter and goes undercover to find out more information about Blofeld’s secret heavily- guarded Switzerland chalet. What’s this? England’s most eligible and untamable bachelor gets married? The bride is Diana Rigg (Emma Peel from TV’s THE AVENGERS) as Tracy. The honeymoon, however, is cut short, thanks to the doings of Blofeld, this time played by Telly Savalas (TV’s KOJAK). So, how did the new Bond favor in the box office? At an estimated cost of $7 million, the film’s returns grossed about $87 million. Lazenby actually quit the role of Bond right before its premiere night, claiming he could get other acting roles as well as stating that the Bond contract was too thick and too demanding on him.
The exciting trailer for ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE


Rumor has it that David Picker, the head of United Artists at the time, made an offer that couldn’t be refused when he enticed Sean Connery to making his encore performance as James Bond in the seventh installment to the franchise. Connery agreed with the inclination that he would ‘never’ play Bond again!

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971) brings the return of 007 at his new mission in the investigation of who is smuggling diamonds, which are being stolen in the process. Ernst Blofeld might have changed his physical appearance and Bond is left wondering if he might have anything to do with the recent thefts. Television and film actress Jill St. John plays the latest Bond babe as Tiffany Case and character actor Charles Gray (“The Narrator” in THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW) as the newest embodiment of the ever- changing Blofeld rounded off the cast. How did audiences take to Connery’s return as Bond? At a budgeted $7.2 million, the gross was an estimated $116 million.

ROGER MOORE
BOND IS BACK: ENTER ROGER MOORE (1973- 1985): Roger George Moore was born on October 14, 1927 in Stockwell, England and had been an earlier contender as Bond’s successor before Lazenby’s casting and Connery’s return, but Moore’s schedule on British television’s THE SAINT (1962- 1970) didn’t allow him the opportunity to pursue the role. The timing was right when producers offered the role of 007 with Moore’s acceptance. According to Moore’s autobiography, he had to lose weight and cut his hair for the role. Although he resented it, he was finally prepared to put his own spin on the Bond character.  

Arguably, fans have debated that Sean Connery set the bar high in the representations of Bond. In agreement, there weren’t any other actors to compare his interpretations to. There is something to be said about Moore’s take on Bond: there were women for Bond to seduce in those years, Moore brought a regal and dry wit to his mannerisms and played 007with a proper English accent as apposed to Connery’s signature Scottish tones.

LIVE AND LET DIE was released on June 27, 1973. Bond’s latest adventure pit- stops in New Orleans as he investigates the deaths of several British agents. While traveling deep within the world of the Cajun community, Bond encounters voodoo, witch doctors and black magic along the Bayou way. Yaphet Kotto (ALIEN) played Mr. Big, a self-made heroin controller along with Jane Seymour (TV’s DR. QUINN: MEDICINE WOMAN) as the mysterious tarot card- reading Solitaire helped round off the cast. Budgeted at an estimated $7 million, the film went on to gross approximately $125 million in box office receipts. Looks like audiences still loved James Bond, no matter who played him… so far.

Moore’s second role as Bond would be in 1974’s THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN. 007 is led to believe that he is targeted by the world’s most expensive hit- man, Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) who charges a million dollars per job. Can Bond stop him before it’s too late? Bond deals with twice the babes with Britt Ekland as Goodnight and Maud Adams as Andrea… he also has to avoid Scaramanga’s right- hand man, Nick- Nack (Herve Villechaize: Tattoo from TV’s FANTASY ISLAND). The most expensive budget to date, the film’s cost was an estimated $13 million with an estimated $98 million in returns.

The year is now 1977 and Bond is celebrating fifteen years since DR. NO's release. To coincide, the tenth adventure is released on August 3rd as THE SPY WHO LOVED ME. (This critic’s favorite film of the franchise). With Egypt as the backdrop, Bond is united with a KGB Russian secret agent, Major Anya Amasova/ “Triple XXX” (Barbara Bach) to investigate the hijacking of British and Russian submarines carrying nuclear warheads taken by mastermind Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens). Along with Stromberg, he is joined by his henchman Jaws (Richard Kiel), the man with a mouthful of metal teeth. Moore really comes into his own as Commander Bond with quick- thinking one- liners and biting wit with the charms of the gentleman in wooing quite a few eligible Bond babes throughout the film. Raising the bar slightly, the budget inflates to an estimated $14 million and grossing a well- received $186 million! Songwriter/ composer Marvin Hamlisch provides one of the best soundtracks provided for a Bond film. 
Carly Simon's opening theme to THE SPY WHO LOVED ME


At the end of a decade, 1979 marks the release of MOONRAKER. The typical exotic locations are put aside as Bond takes to outer space in an adventure that has him investigating the mid- air hijacking of a space shuttle that leads him to the rocket’s creator, Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale). Lois Chiles is the brainy Bond babe playing Dr. Holly Goodhead along with the return of henchman Jaws, he drew popularity previously. Bond did not want to fall behind in the film industry’s love for sci- fi/ space films (STAR WARS, ALIEN) and in keeping up, the budget grew to a whopping $34 million dollars with a high- end return of $210 million worldwide… the largest return on a Bond film yet!

FOR YOUR EYES ONLY rang in the 80’s with its 12th strong entry into the series. Roger Moore returns for his fifth appearance as James Bond to date. The mission: to recover a communications device before it slips into possible Russian hands. Could this be the end of Bond’s evil nemesis, Blofeld? One needs to see the opening sequence to see for yourself… but Bond is in good company as a bevy of Bond girls make their way into his crosshairs while on his mission. Carole Bouquet is the lead Bond girl as Melina Havelock and Lynn- Holly Johnson (ICE CASTLES) is the figure- skating Bibi Dahl. The name Bond continues to present a strong draw for the box office as its estimated budget of $28 million draws in an estimated $195 million worldwide.

MAUD ADAMS is OCTOPUSSY
OCTOPUSSY was released on June 10, 1983 as Bond’s next mission sends him to the circus! A British agent is murdered and found clutching onto a priceless Faberge egg. A collector purchases the egg at an auction, but Bond becomes suspicious as the buyer meets up with a Russian General. Soon it is discovered that both men are plotting to blow a nuclear device in an American Air Force Base. Maud Adams makes a very unheard of appearance as the second time a Bond girl is repeated in two different films playing a different role. Maud Adams from THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN plays Octopussy this time, the owner of the traveling circus Bond uses to get close to the Base. Budgeted at $27.5 million, the multi- hands of OCTOPUSSY rakes- in $187.5 million worldwide.

The mid- eighties is met with the high- action adventure A VIEW TO A KILL in 1985. California’s Silicon Valley is the target of a microchip corporation headed by Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) with his private bodyguard, May Day (Grace Jones). Bond must investigate Zorin’s plans to use the chip to wipe out the Valley with a mega- earthquake. Tanya Roberts (THE BEASTMASTER) plays Bond’s lead female, Stacey Sutton. Including some dazzling effects and action, the $30 million budgeted cost brought in an estimated $152.4 million. Roger Moore made a record- breaking seven appearances as 007, the highest of any actor to portray James Bond. A VIEW TO A KILL would mark his final appearance of the secret agent… with only anticipation left for producers and fans, alike, to ask the inevitable question: Who will play James Bond next?

TIMOTHY DALTON
SHAKEN & STIRRED: TIMOTHY DALTON (1987- 1989): Next to George Lazenby’s 1969 ‘one- stop shop’ portrayal of Bond, Dalton’s would be the second shortest, but equally controversial, appearance as the famous British agent. Unlike Moore’s more playboy approach to the character, Dalton presented a darker interpretation, which may have been the cause for a premature ending to his Bond contributions…

Timothy Peter Dalton was born on March 21, 1944 in Colwyn Bay, Wales and had achieved many appearances in British television on many BBC programs as well as stage performances. Dalton was approached twice by the persuasion of the producers to play Bond before agreeing to the role, now having been freed- up from his earlier theatre obligations. The studios were ready to unveil a new James Bond for a new era!

Ironically celebrating its twenty fifth anniversary and its fifteenth installment, Dalton suited up for his first Bond appearance in 1987’s THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS. Dating itself, the film still focuses on the ‘Cold War’ with Russia as the plot deals with an arms dealer who is looking to start another world war. Locations from the exotic Morocco desert landscapes and the freezing Austrian streets paint the backdrop for the seven continents Bond travels through in his latest mission. Again, how did audiences feel about a new Bond? Estimated at a cost of $30 million, the film grossed a worldwide total of $191 million! Maryam d’Abo is the latest Bond Leading Lady as Kara Milovy. 
A thrilling trailer for Dalton's THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS


LICENCE TO KILL (1989) represents a more personal Bond story similar to ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE back in 1969. Instead of dealing with a topic of love, Bond becomes a man seeking revenge after his CIA friend Felix Leiter is left for dead in the hands of drug kingpin Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi). The story is intense with Bond even leaving the Secret Service to avenge his friend in this installment. Dalton was signed on to do three Bond films, but legal entanglements delayed production on the next film. It wasn’t until 1994 that Dalton officially resigned from his contract, much to the dismay of the producers. The understandings were presented and both parties made their clean break… it was time to revisit an old friend who had been previously approached!

PIERCE BROSNAN
21ST CENTURY BOND: PIERCE BOSNAN (1995- 2002).  Pierce Brosnan was born on May 16, 1953 in Navan, Ireland. After Timothy Dalton was unavailable the first time through, Brosnan was approached to play Bond in 1986. Obligations to his hit television show, REMINGTON STEELE, didn’t allow him to pursue until NBC cancelled the show. Once Dalton was out, the producers were ready to get back into the game after almost six years of hiatus.

GOLDENEYE was released on November 17, 1995 with much anticipation from fans. Anyone who knew Brosnan’s work on his previous television show could already see the good- looking fellow as Bond. The new adventure takes place during the closing of the ‘Cold War’ as Bond teams up with the lone survivor of a destroyed Russian research center… but Bond might finally meet his match as a former agent, thought to be dead, might be controlling the entire operation. A Bond first, as Judi Dench takes the office of MI6’s Director (and Bond’s boss) “M”… a role commonly played by male actors in the previous sixteen films. An increased budget of $58 million spared no expense in presenting action and adventure to its fullest… the payoff? How does the returned grosses of $351.5 million worldwide sound? Bond is definitely back!
Captivating Tina Turner's GOLDENEYE theme!


TOMORROW NEVER DIES marks the eighteenth Bond film and was released in 1997. Brosnan returns as Bond who tries to thwart the plans of a media mogul who is trying to provoke war between China and the U.K. only so that he can obtain exclusive rights to the coverage. Bond girls include International superstar Michelle Yeoh (CROUTCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON) and Teri Hatcher (TV’s DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES). Probably considered to be the weakest film in the series by many, the film went on to gross an approximate $221 million worldwide.

THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH marks the end of an era as the last film released in the 20th century on November 19, 1999. With the aid of Bond girls Sophie Marceau (BRAVEHEART) and Denise Richards (WILD THINGS), Bond uncovers a nuclear plot while protecting an oil heiress from a former kidnapper. The world still has not had enough of Brosnan nor Bond as the worldwide gross comes in at a healthy $225 million.

DIE ANOTHER DAY marks the return of Bond in the new millennium with a release date of November 22, 2002. This would mark Bond’s fortieth anniversary (20 films total) and Brosnan’s fourth and final appearance as 007. Bond takes a serious beating as he is sent to investigate a North Korean terrorist, however, he finds himself betrayed and captured. Because MI6 cannot interfere, Bond is held hostage and tortured for 14 months before he is set free. Bond must find out who his captures were as he finds out a diamond mogul is funding the construction of a space weapon. Joining the ever- growing exclusive list of popular Bond girls is Academy Award winning actress Halle Berry (MONSTER’S BALL) as Jinx.  One last send- off for Brosnan’s Bond? A whopping $142 million was spent on the budget bringing in a grand total of $432 million worldwide! A new Bond waits in the wings… yet again.

DANIEL CRAIG
A TOUGHER BOND: DANIEL CRAIG (2006- PRESENT). Daniel Wroughton Craig was born on March 2, 1968 in Chestire, England and is now the sixth and most current actor to play Bond. Craig is also the first blond of the otherwise dark- haired 007. Craig was considered an unfit choice by the producers by the fans… to the degree that groups were forming to boycott seeing his first entry and riddled the internet with unkind words about the upcoming Bond. The producers backed their decision and moved forward with a multi- media blast to introduce the new James Bond to the world! A re-boot, of sorts, was now taking place with Bond… denying him of his signature catch- phrase, “My name is Bond, James Bond” and providing him with more agile skills and a rough- around- the- edges demure.

CASINO ROYALE would be released four years since Brosnan’s DIE ANOTHER DAY. The date was November 17, 2006. A “prequel” of sorts, as both a new Bond and actor is introduced to his first mission (just like Ian Fleming’s first book with the same title) by winning a poker game at the famed Casino Royale in Montenegro. He plays the gambler to stop a criminal who finances various terrorists around the world. We see a Bond that actually makes mistakes, who possibly gets people killed and who even takes a beating from thugs. Eva Green (KINGDOM OF HEAVEN) joins the Bond girls’ list as Vespa Lynd, a new love interest for Bond that leaves quite the mark on him! Jeffrey Wright plays the incarnation of CIA friend Felix Leiter, as they meet and work together for the first time. Budgeted at an approximate $150 million… the fans seemed to have accepted the new Bond as the film took on a worldwide gross of $594 million! The biggest draw to date for a Bond film. Certain events occur (no spoilers here, you just have to see it for yourself…) that continue on where things get left off in the next chapter…
The exciting trailer to Craig's CASINO ROYALE


QUANTIUM OF SOLICE (2008) literally picks up where CASINO ROYALE left off… Bond is out for revenge and fueled with anger and fury. He defies “M”’s (Judi Dench) request to not pursue forth, but reluctantly agrees that Bond is the only agent who can stomp out an environmentalist from taking the country’s most valuable resources. A’la LICENCE TO KILL, Bond lets his emotions take the best of him, but he quickly learns to be the professional agent and stay on target of his mission in the end. A budget first: At a cost of $200 million, the film brings in a lucrative worldwide gross of $586 million!

We now come full circle in 2012 as Bond celebrates a landmark fifty years with the release of its 23rd film, SKYFALL released November 9th. Bond’s loyalty to both “M” and the MI6 organization is tested when several agents’ identities are being revealed to terrorists after an encrypted file with personal information is stolen. 007 must track down the person responsible, as it may turn out to be someone in M’s past in the form of a very menacing Javier Bardem (NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN) as Silva. Craig has clearly taken over the role and has brought back the famous line… with a possible return to an ‘old school’ Bond with both the celebrated Aston Martin vehicle and the classic PPK gun! SKYFALL pays many respects to Bond’s career and the times that have stripped away at him. Could Bond start to show the early signs of age? Should he hang- up the old PPK gun? Box office would tell a different tale…with an estimated budget of $200 million… the film has already grossed $161 million in just nine days of its release. Craig is contracted to another untitled Bond film set for 2014. Only time will tell as events turns the world of MI6 into a whole new underground development with new faces doting the world of Bond, James Bond… there would seem to be no end… and let’s hope there is no end any time soon!

I will now pass the baton over to my "counterpart" JOHNNY CHAZZ for his take on the subject...

 
JOHNNY CHAZZ: In response to this week's topic, I will offer my insight into the James Bond movies over the years. I cannot possibly reply with the length of writing offered by JER this week, but I will address some key points of relevance with respect to the topic.

Was CONNERY the best BOND?
The highlights of Bond films are narrow, yet probably include: "Dr. No", "Goldfinger" and "From Russia with Love". The rest remain marginal at best.

As for Sean Connery, he was certainly the Bond that everyone since has tried to live up to - and perhaps someone did. That issue remains debatable.

Pierce Brosnan as Bond was a nightmare. Bad years, bad movies, horrific scripts and lousy casting. Case closed!

The sound scores are also an issue of ongoing concern. Soundtracks for Bond films are generally worth listening to when they are instrumental only (“Goldfinger”, “Casino Royale” and “Dr. No” offer some entertaining non-vocal trifes). However, on the flip side, Tom Jones gave us a tune that was reckless to say the least in "Thunderball" and even Madonna’s efforts were abysmal later on (“Die Another Day”). I loathe at the thought of being subjected to the hard and rapturous scuff that is sung in the current "Skyfall" movie by Adele.

Roger Moore, as JER mentioned, offered that witty and polished Non-Scottish flair - one that was British: clever and very, very UK. This worked - and in all actuality, it is not surprising why most countries outside the USA preferred Roger Moore as the "true" Bond.

SEAN CONNERY stands next to the iconic Aston Martin
Bond films have weak scripts and can only feed eye-candy to audiences that require this. Fast cars, fast women and rushed cuts from one shot to another. Gadgets (the poison gas releaser grew old after the first glimpse) and car chases are boring and the casting lacks tremendously on a consistent basis. There is no "art" or "craft" really at work other than what we see captured in every other movie setting box-office records these days. How dull - how insulting.

British actor Daniel Craig’s “Skyfall” is generating close to $1 billion worldwide and some are claiming it is the best Bond movie to ever hit the screen in the past 50 years. Perhaps it is - but there is a segment that just does not care. I fall in that group.
The International trailer for Craig's 2012 SKYFALL


The truth is, everyone likes what is new and hip and this film might rank in the top 3 or top 5, but I highly doubt that when you look at films such as “From Russia With Love,” “Dr. No,” “Goldfinger”, your opinion might be compromised.

DANIEL CRAIG...not hip enough???
It appears as though we are discussing box-office revenues this week and there are two angles at which to examine that. One: Bond films make money - ok. Two: Bad movies also make money. So what is the point in discussing box-office revenues if the movies do not provide the substance that the discerning segments of film-goers demand? A mute point.

So here is the "Counterpoint". I am not into Bond movies - and never really was. The films are no longer "hip" and they can never be retro since Daniel Craig is not an old-school type and 'you just can't go home' as they say. Will I go see “Skyfall”? Absolutely not. Why? I would rather take a walk; grab a Rueben at the deli and Skype a friend. I simply have better ways to spend my time and my $10.

It sounds harsh, but there it is so, so much more in the world of film to examine that it is mind-boggling that we even think about meddling with movies such as the Bond movies - and they seem to never, never end.

JER: Harsh, indeed! No one, including myself, is trying to put the Bond films on a pedestal higher than well- deserved films that are related to both “art” and true cinema. With all due respects to my “Counterpoint” partner…I feel that there is an ignorance on your end, JC, for not really grabbing (or even trying to grab) the real essence of what the films have portrayed and continue to do so over the last 50 years.

ROGER MOORE= COOL!
The Bond films, by my perception, still represent a sense of shivery long lost in films today. 007 is a ladies man, wears the best suits and tuxedos, drinks from glasses and not bottles or cans and drives the best vehicles and has the coolest gadgets. It is hard for me to accept the fact that anyone can look at the entire franchise and sum it ALL up with the phrase: “I am not into Bond films.”

We have talked about how films that do well in the box- office do not define a film’s greatness in the past... I am not implying that by including the numbers at the end of each film’s segment. What I was trying to illustrate was the continued success the entire franchise has accomplished and the strong legs it has created to continue on with more films. So, if there is a 'segment' that doesn’t care, your number is outweighed by, thank God, people who do want to see an action film with interesting characters, villains and beautiful women… and I am proud to say I am one of them in those numbers! Should I dare say that SKYFALL is considered the best of the Bond films within the last 50 years? What would be so wrong as to say “yes”? All I can say is: don’t knock it if you haven’t seen it!

JOHNNY C brought up a good point about the soundtracks and the distinctive songs that have been a part of pop culture since 1962’s Monty Norman/ John Barry’s “James Bond Theme”. We at CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT dedicated a blog page to that very topic… if interested in reading what we had to say about it, please visit us at the following link:  http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=298232811241447037#editor/target=post;postID=8417228204175375841

Everyone is entitled to their opinions and that is what I feel makes CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT work! JC and I have two different opinions at times and we agree completely in others… we have found the right balance that makes this page work the way that it does. We are not obligated to lie or falsify our thoughts just to jump on the band wagon or by getting into the flavor of the month. More than anything, I believe that both JC and I spoke on behalf of two opposing sides that do, in fact, exist out there in the real world...those who care and those that don't...

As the reader, what side do you fall on? Do you care to see more BOND films or has the series ran its course years ago? We would like you to voice your opinions and comment back to us with your thoughts... we will always reply to every posting!

Make sure you check back with us on WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 19TH, 2012 for JOHNNY CHAZZ' END- OF- YEAR BLOG TOPIC... afterwards, we will take time- off for WINTER BREAK and return back in 2013!

ALL OF US AT CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT WANT TO WISH YOU THE HAPPIEST AND SAFEST OF HOLIDAYS THIS YEAR!



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Thursday, November 8, 2012

JOHNNY CHAZZ' TURN: "GO WEST"... THE GENRE OF WESTERNS


JOHNNY CHAZZ: We speak of genre in film and there are so many directions to turn: Drama, Foreign, Thriller / Suspense, Fantasy, Comedy, etc. This week however, we go West........

There is little doubt that Film Westerns have been a dying art over the years, and the appreciation by audiences for this genre is fading rapidly.

Westerns typically reflect American ideology more than any other genre. “Brokeback Mountain” (2005) just shows how that's changed, and perhaps there and the changes that our culture is going through in respect to more of a ‘feminist world’, per se. Are Westerns simply becoming, well…..melodramas?

JOHN WAYNE: "THE DUKE"
Heck, just take a close look at one of John Wayne's last two westerns: “Rooster Cogburn” and “The Shootist”, where giant portions of the plot revolved around his character trying to figure out how to fit in a world that includes strong women he wants to settle down and possibly have a relationship with.
 
Let’s drop some names now: John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, and Gary Cooper serve as the classic Western icons in American film. Nobody fits the bill like Wayne, a towering presence both on and off his horse. These are the icons – and the whole world once knew it well.

John Wayne, when teamed up with the likes of the brilliant John Ford or even Director Howard Hawks, delivered movie after movie, playing an idealized version of himself. Starting with the classic “Red River,” and continuing through the late 1950’s release of “The Searchers,” both the cinematography and the performances were second to none. While the “Duke” would play a variety of roles in different types of movies, it was the western for which he became an icon. In films such as “Rio Bravo,” and “El Dorado,” Wayne’s roles took on an air of humor, as the movies became a bit lighter-hearted.
Here now is a great tribute to JOHN WAYNE: "THE DUKE"


GARY COOPER
Gary Cooper starred in 1952’s “High Noon.” Directed by Fred Zinnemann, “High Noon” played out as a story of a solitary man standing up to a gang of red-neck criminals. Here is a film that changed the Western genre by itself. The score to the film, as well as both the camera shots and editing made it so revolutionary.

It was during the 1950's that the genre found its rhythm, as rough-neck cowboys like Wayne, Cooper, Henry Fonda, and perhaps the not-so-tough Jimmy Stewart rode their horses, battled Indians (funny enough: they were usually played by white men in make-up) and rode into one-horse towns with an air of sheer overconfidence.

These films were decidedly different star- making turns than the westerns of the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s. While most of Clint Eastwood’s characters in the 1970’s were memorable and distinctive, his best known Western may have been “The Outlaw Josey Wales” (1976). Here, Eastwood would play in the role of a revenge story moving the genre back into the mainstream for film-going audiences. 
Enjoy the original trailer for THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES


STEVE McQUEEN
As the decade wore on, the western basically began to fall-apart – and virtually vanish. Steve McQueen’s last western was “Tom Horn,” released in 1980, as he died months later. Eastwood would wait until 1985’s release of “Pale Rider” before people could enjoy his style on screen again. In the same year, we must also offer kudos to “Silverado”.

It has been almost 20 years since the release of Academy Award winning “Unforgiven,” and today the western has all but disappeared. The early 1990s saw two dueling variations of Wyatt Earp, the somber (and painfully slow) “Wyatt Earp” with Kevin Costner along with “Tombstone,” starring Kurt Russell.

The flops? Just take one look at the disastrous and utterly ridiculous “Waterworld” (1995) or “Treasure Planet” (2002) directed by Ron Clements. These were utter disappointments.

“No Country for Old Men,” could easily be classified as a Western – and quite a good one at that. Still, is what we call westerns today really just “Thriller / Crime Genres”? The point being, it seems that today’s Western can fit into any sub-genre category including everything from fantasy, to science-fiction and most often than not, the crime-genre. 

Perhaps audiences are just bored and need every genre to fit into another sub-genre. Is this another topic for the future on CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT? The possibilities, therefore, might be considered endless without a doubt!

Your thoughts Jer?

JER's DAD- THE COWBOY
JER: Kudos on another interesting topic brought up by the ever- resourceful JOHNNY CHAZZ! An interesting topic and summarized ‘short and sweet’ by the size of your entry. My dad was a cowboy, of sorts. He loved the outdoors as he walked about in his cowboy boots and wore his traditional hat… he even owned a horse. I recall many rides on that mare as a youngster before my dad went on to that great big corral in the sky. I miss you, dad and this one’s dedicated to you, Fernando!

Westerns marked the earliest of films leaving behind a legacy of actors known specifically for the genre. Here are but a few legends that shot- up the silver screen and left a lasting impression upon this particular critic.

TOM MIX
THE EARLY WEST: One of the true pioneers of the Western world of acting has me immediately giving recognition to Tom Mix, who started off in many genre ‘shorts’ as early as 1909. Mix was hired by Selig Pictures to provide and handle horses before making his screen debut in 1910. Along with acting, Mix was also beginning to write and direct films as well. His popularity made for an astounding 289 appearances in films until 1935, churning out almost five films a year.

Another star that comes to mind is Gene Autry, better known as “The Singing Cowboy”, because of his talented crooning performances in radio before becoming an actor. He began singing on a local radio station in 1928 and found himself starring in his own radio show and recording albums almost three years later in 1931. Three was the magic number again for Autry when he made his debut film appearance, IN OLD SANTA FE, in 1934. He is best known for singing the western anthem “Back In the Saddle Again.”
"Back In The Saddle Again" tribute by Gene Autry


Will Rogers is considered to be an American icon. Debuting in 1918, Rogers was a humorist and a vaudeville actor well before standing in front of a camera. Although he wasn’t a fully- dedicated actor of the Western genre, Rogers still made an impressive amount of films relying on talents that would help define the characters he portrayed. While living in Johannesburg, he appeared in a Wild West show where he learned to ride a horse and use the lasso. Returning back to America, Rogers’ skills landed him into vaudeville and, in 1917, landed him a starring spot in the Ziegfeld follies!

All this talk about the great western actors, one name fails to be mentioned and one that deserves much recognition is “The Queen of the West”… Miss Dale Evans, who was best remembered as the Leading Lady of Country- Western musicals of the 1940s. Making her screen debut in 1942, Evans originally began her career as a singer. She would marry rising western star Roy Rogers in 1947, only having worked with him in several films prior to their marriage. Rogers was already creating quite the name for himself and becoming widely known for his trusty and faithful companion… his horse, Trigger. Both Rogers and Trigger’s footprints are immortalized at the courtyard in front of Grumman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood!
DALE EVANS, TRIGGER & ROY ROGERS
 With the introduction of the new media known as television, Westerns could now be brought right into your living room as well! Some of the long- running shows debuting between the 1940s and 1950s were GUNSMOKE, THE BIG VALLEY, BONANZA, THE LONE RANGER and MAVERICK. Following thereafter between the 1960s through the 1980s were other memorable shows like THE WILD WILD WEST, LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, McCLOUD and THE LIFE AND TIMES OF GRIZZLY ADAMS. Other shows were still débuting within the 1990s on throughout the early 2000s included the ever- popular DR. QUINN: MEDICINE WOMAN, WALKER: TEXAS RANGER and the cult favorite THE ADVENTURES OF BRISCO COUNTY JR. starring Bruce Campbell!

It goes without saying that JC remembers and mentions such giants of the genre like John Wayne, Gary Cooper and even Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart, both of whom have had their saddle days as well.

EASTWOOD: The "LEONE" Years
CLINT EASTWOOD: JC also mentions one of the more contemporary ‘cowboys’ to cross the silver screen in the latter 20th century: Mr. Clint Eastwood. His career began in 1955, starring in bit parts and almost giving up on acting before getting his big break on TV co- starring in RAWHIDE in 1959 for six years. During his television hiatus from the show, Eastwood would make an historical decision by starring in a trilogy of low- budget Italian westerns directed by Sergio Leone: A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964), FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965) and THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966). Leone brought a whole new ‘realistic’ look of dirty outfits and stubble faces that would forever change the previous neat and pressed clean- cut look of the cowboy from yesterday.

BEST DIRECTOR/ BEST FILM= UNFORGIVEN
HANG ‘EM HIGH (1968) was made and released in America and was followed by other westerns like PAINT YOUR WAGON (1969) and TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA in 1970. By the mid to late 1970s, a new wave of westerns were cropping up known as the American revisionist westerns that included Eastwood starring in HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER (1973) and THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES (1976).

It would be almost nine years later before Eastwood would return back to the saddle in 1985’s PALE RIDER but it wasn’t until just a few years later that he would strike gold in Hollywood. That gold came in the form of an Academy Award for his double- duty turn as actor and director for the Best Picture winner UNFORGIVEN. Although keeping him extremely busy these days, with his focus mainly as a director, Eastwood would seem to have finally hung up his hat as a cowboy…for now.

1960s WESTERNS: Although the 60s paid closer attention to the Vietnam War than to a slowly- changing genre, a few memorable films were still released and recognized during this turbulent decade.

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960) based on Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 Japanese film THE SEVEN SAMURAI, the western- remake consisted of an all- star cast including Yul Brynner, Charles Bronson, Steve McQueen, James Colburn, Eli Wallach and Robert Vaughn.  The film’s plot is now the considered the cliché setting of a small village threatened and terrorized by a group of bandits who hire a band of seven American gunmen to protect the village and dispose of the villains. The film’s success spawned three sequels…none of which equaled the same financial returns. 
The original 1960 trailer for THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN


HOW THE WEST WAS WON (1962) was an epic Western that follows four generations of a family as they move westward in different stages of their lives. Henry Fonda, Karl Malden, Harry Morgan, Gregory Peck, Debbie Reynolds, James Stewart, John Wayne and Richard Widmark head up the fabulous cast.

Other films worth mentioning within the decade are: THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (1962), ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968) and 1969’s BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID.

DIRECTOR/ WRITER: SAM PECKINPAH
SAM PECKINPAH: Director Sam Peckinpah was an influential western craftsman in helping continue where Leone left off. Having been a continued director of western television shows including BROKEN ARROW, THE WESTERNER and THE RIFLEMEN, Peckinpah was ready to bring forth one of the biggest influences of modern western appearances that changed the genre forever: the year was 1969, the film was THE WILD BUNCH! Dirty, grimy and just straight- up bad-asses, THE WILD BUNCH rode in on a blaze of hellfire that introduced gunplay violence as never seen before. Using his signature slow- motion sequences, Peckinpah allowed the audience to really experience every flying bullet that either missed its target or made a direct hit. The film continues to be plagued by a series of controversial criticism. Some believe the film overly glorifies violence while others consider it a modern American classic. 
MY DAD'S FAVORITE FILM: THE WILD BUNCH
Sam Peckinpah submitted a number of Western- genre entries with other films like RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY (1962), THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE (1970), Steve McQueen in JUNIOR BONNER (1972), 1973’s PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID starring James Colburn and Kris Kristofferson and BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA (1974).

1970s WESTERNS: Hollywood took note of what directors like Leone and Peckinpah had done with the Western genre… as if they had taken it off the shelf and added a whole new layer of dust rather than cleaning it up! Because of the new look to the Western film, the 1970s embraced the rugged appearances and produced a number of well recognized movies.

LITTLE BIG MAN (1970) Starred Dustin Hoffman as a Caucasian boy raised by Cheyenne Indians during the 19th century. The film largely focuses on the behaviors of the early American pioneers and their interaction with Native Americans.

A MAN CALLED HORSE (1970) is the story of the life and times of an English aristocrat named John Morgan (Richard Harris) who is captured by a Sioux tribe. The film depicts a gruesome initiation never seen before and the rise of Morgan’s beginnings as a capture and finally gaining the respect of the tribe and rising to becoming a leader. The film inspired two sequels: RETURN OF A MAN CALLED HORSE (1976) and TRIUMPHS OF A MAN CALLED HORSE (1983) both of which had Harris reprising his role. 
A wonderful tribute to A MAN CALLED HORSE


Other films that deserve honorable mention include: THEY CALL ME TRINITY (1971), JEREMIAH JOHNSON (1972), THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN (1972), WESTWORLD (1973), BLAZING SADDLES (1974), THE APPLE DUMPLING GANG (1975), THE WHITE BUFFALO (1977) and GOIN’ SOUTH (1978).

1980s WESTERNS: Even in the center of the music television revolution, westerns still survived and thrived in the decade that brought us Madonna and Reagan-omics! Here are but a few highlighted films worth mentioning:

HEAVEN'S GATE
HEAVEN’S GATE (1980) was a heavily controversial film directed by Michael Cimino (THE DEER HUNTER). The publicized events were not centered around the plot: an epic storyline that focused on the dispute between rich cattle owners and poor European immigrants during the 1890s, but rather on the over- budget production cost in making the film. The estimated budget was at a ghastly $44 million and only drew in about $3 million at the box office during its release. This is the film that allegedly broke United Artists (the film studio) which filed for bankruptcy. The film has since gained much respect and has been highlighted at many film festivals today.

THE LONG RIDERS (1980) recalls the detailed accounts of the James- Younger gang directed by Walter Hill (48 HRS, THE WARRIORS). As a personal favorite of mine, this film is a cinematic gift in many shapes and forms. The film centers on Jesse James and his brother along with Cole Younger and his brothers as they robbed banks shortly after the Civil War. The treats begin with the cast alone, which consisted of real- life brothers: The Keaches: James as Jesse James and Stacy as Frank James. The Carradines: David as Cole Younger, Keith as Jim Younger and Robert as Bob Younger. The Quaids: Dennis as Ed Miller and Randy as Clell Miller and finally The Guests: Christopher as Charley Ford and Nicholas as Robert Ford. Hill tributes his method of directing to that of Sam Peckinpah, using only the most realistic locations, seeing and feeling the grime on the characters’ faces and an intense slow- motion shootout as the finale. A high recommendation to any fan of the genre! 
The fantastic trailer to Walter Hill's THE LONG RIDERS


Others that deserve recognition include: TOM HORN (1980), URBAN COWBOY (1980), THE LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER (1981), SILVERADO (1985), THE THREE AMIGOS (1986) and YOUNG GUNS (1988).

BEST DIRECTOR/ PICTURE= DANCES WITH WOLVES


KEVIN COSTNER: Another contemporary actor, whose roots have stayed true in the fields of the Western world is Kevin Costner. After a series of ups and downs in the acting community, Costner finally landed a role in the highly- publicized western SILVERADO, opposite such acting greats including Scott Glenn, Kevin Kline and Danny Glover. A few years later, Costner would star in, what was considered an “urban western” by director Brian DePalma, THE UNTOUCHABLES. The truly defined western would come along in 1990 as Costner made his directorial debut in the Academy Award winning Best Picture: DANCES WITH WOLVES. Others that followed included WYATT EARP (1994), THE POSTMAN (1997) and OPEN RANGE (2003). More recently, Costner was awarded a Primetime Emmy for his portrayal of “Devil” Anse Hatfield in the televised miniseries THE HATFIELDS AND THE McCOYS.

(left) Russell in TOMBSTONE/ (right) Costner in WYATT EARP
1990s WESTERNS: As previously mentioned by JC, the decade brought us the rivalry of Wyatt Earp films! In one corner, TOMBSTONE (1993) stood proud with Kurt Russell portraying the handle-bar mustached lawman with Val Kilmer’s memorable and scene- stealing performance as Doc Holiday. On the other corner we have WYATT EARP (1994) directed by SILVERADO’s Lawrence Kasdan. Kevin Costner and Dennis Quaid take on the roles of Earp and Holiday, respectfully. So, who was left standing during this gunfight at the O.K. Corral? I guess it just depends on who you talk with. (My opinion? TOMESTONE!)

Other films worth mentioning during this decade include: BACK TO THE FUTURE III (1990), FAR AND AWAY (1992), POSSE (1993), MAVERICK (1994) and THE QUICK AND THE DEAD (1995).

THE CONTEMPORARY WEST: In short, the Western is a genre like many others: it follows a string of continuous films, and then it dissipates and continues to come back in short revivals. Consider the more temporary films of the recent and the ones coming soon.

Jeff Bridges in TRUE GRIT (2010)
Leave to it the skilled craftsmanship of the Coen Brothers (Joel and Ethan) to re-make the classic John Wayne film TRUE GRIT in 2010 and still allow the film to be its own version without relying on remake values. Jeff Bridges played the one-eyed drunken U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn with a unique style and attention to character without stepping into the territory created by Wayne’s interpretation. Acknowledgements are paid towards directors John Ford, Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah in the presentation of the film, cinematography and set designs.

(left) Craig and (right) Ford: COWBOYS AND ALIENS
Director Jon Favreau (IRONMAN) took westerns in a whole new direction with the graphic novel- inspired COWBOYS AND ALIENS (2011) fusing science fiction with the Old West. Starring Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig, a spaceship arrives in Arizona: 1873 and it is up to a posse of cowboys to try to stop them by any means necessary. The film kept true to the natural appearance and feel of the Wild West while keeping it exciting by introducing alien spacecrafts and modern weapons!

Upcoming films to help keep the Western alive will be the highly anticipated Quentin Tarantino entry entitled DJANGO UNCHAINED starring Jamie Foxx. Loosely based on a series of spaghetti westerns released throughout Europe on the mid 1960s, Tarantino definitely puts his signature spin on the tale of a slave- turned- bounty hunter who is freed and sent off to rescue his wife from the hands of a brutal Mississippi plantation owner. This film is set to open on December 25th, 2012.
Official trailer for Tarantino's DJANGO UNCHAINED


THE LONE RANGER will also be bringing the spirit of the West to life in its projected July 3rd 2013 release. Produced by uber-successful Jerry Bruckheimer (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, THE ROCK) and directed by Academy Award winning director Gore Verbinski (Best Director for an Animated Film: RANGO). The story follows Native American Tonto (Johnny Depp) recounting the untold stories of the origins of how the Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer) became a man of justice. 
Official trailer for THE LONE RANGER due out July 2013


Overall, Westerns have yet to have the sun set on the genre just yet. Imagination and creativity will always draw an audience to a time long forgotten when the West was wild and the law was settled by a six shooter.

We ask you, the reader, to share your thoughts… what do you think of Westerns? Do you have a favorite and why? We always look forward to your comments and all submissions will be relied. Make sure you head- on back here again on Wednesday November the 28th, as we observe the Thanksgiving holiday and JER comes back with a great dish of a topic to be served up piping hot!
 Until then, enjoy the THANKSGIVING holiday with family and friends from yours here at CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT!


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