Marvin Hamlisch, an appreciation

CLIP TO EMBIGGIN

A preliminary version of the poster for The Spy Who Loved Me


Composer Marvin Hamilsch has died at age 68 (click here for the Associated Press’s Hamlisch obituary via the Huffington Post). He is being remembered for a long career of film scores. He also has a special place in 007 movies despite only working on one.

Hamlisch scored two Oscar nominations for his work on 1977′s The Spy Who Loved Me: for best score and for the title song, “Nobody Does It Better,” the latter with Carol Bayer Sager.

Hamlisch’s music is often noted for introducing a 1970s sound to the movie, including his “Bond 77″ track in the pre-titles sequence. But Hamlisch also worked in an homage to John Barry. There’s a scene where Roger Moore’s James Bond and Agent Triple-X (Barbara Bach) are searching for Jaws at some Egyptian ruins. Hamlisch’s score for the scene, while using the ’70s sound of the movie, was based on Barry’s music for the pre-titles sequence of From Russia With Love.

“Nobody Does It Better,” meantime, would become one of the most popular songs of the Bond series. Even people who didn’t care for Bond appreciated the song. “Nobody Does It Better” took on a life of its own; if you glance at the “soundtrack” section of the composer’s BIO ON IMDB.COM, you’ll see it pops up a fair amount. Hamlisch may have just been “passing through” the 007 franchise, but he was still a big contributor to the Bond film legacy.

UPDATE I: Here are some other obituaries for the composer: from BLOOMBERG NEWS, from THE NEW YORK TIMES and from the LOS ANGELES TIMES.

Comparing Skyfall talking points to teaser trailer


The Skyfall teaser trailer is less than 75 80 seconds, but it is the first real chance to compare Skyfall’s marketing and talking points to excerpts of the finished product. The teaser trailer is an indication what the Skyfall principals want to emphasize. Until now, fans only had words to go by.

So, here an *early* comparison. Until there’s more to judge, this is a preliminary evaluation:

ON THE MARK:

“With Casino Royale, we started down a path, and we’re sticking with that path.” Michael G. Wilson, co-boss of Eon Productions at November news conference in London, when asked if there would be any changes of direction in Skyfall. Based on the trailer, Skyfall looks to, indeed, another Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace.

In later 007 novels by Ian Fleming, James Bond Bond suffered from a “combination of lassitude, boredom, depression, difficulty with what he’s chosen to do for a living, which is to kill. That makes him a much more interesting character, and some of those things are explored in this movie, because Daniel (Craig) as an actor is capable of exploring them.” That’s director Sam Mendes as quoted by The Associated Press, talking to the press in Turkey in April. Based on the trailer, Craig/Bond is indeed a somber chap.

“Skyfall is even a bit darker than usual.” Mendes as quoted by LaRepubblica during an April media event. Darker than Quantum of Solace? Maybe, maybe not. Darker than the bulk of the 23-film series made by Eon? Again, the trailer would seem to say yes.

LOOKING DUBIOUS

“The director Sam Mendes and Daniel are taking it back to a 60s feel – more Sean. I think that’s what the fans wanted. There’s a magical Goldfinger feel ­surrounding it all. Michael G. Wilson, as quoted in the U.K.’s The People in December, about six weeks after he said there’d be no change in direction with Skyfall. The teaser trailer didn’t appear to have much of a Goldfinger feel.

“I’m making a film that’s both a traditional Bond film, but also one that’s very personal to me.” Mendes as quoted by Shortlist magazine in late April. Skyfall may be personal to Mendes but, based on the trailer, the movie doesn’t look remotely like a traditional Bond film.

“If I agreed to shoot Bond is because I believe that it is now possible to make a film of escape, fun, but at the same time tell us something about the world in which we live.” Mendes, again quoted by LaRepubblica. Escape and fun? Not much fun was evident in the Skyfall teaser trailer.

Welcome back, Ian Fleming

It took a while, but finally 007′s creator is getting a little attention during the 50th anniversary year of the cinematic James Bond.

On April 29, Eon Productions conducted a press conference in Istanbul. It was almost six months after the early November press conference to kick off filming of the 23rd James Bond movie. Fleming, without whom the “Bond wagon” of the past half century would not be possible, hasn’t been mentioned much. Sam Mendes, the director of Skyfall, spent some time talking about the author of the original Bond stories.

Here’s the account BY SKY NEWS about the April 29 event:

Speaking in Istanbul where the new film is currently shooting, the Oscar winner said he had gone back to the original novels to look at the troubled psyche of the MI6 agent.

“What Fleming created was a very conflicted character,” he told reporters.

Here’s a quote from Daniel Craig in a Reuters story on the Web site of the Vancover Sun describing what he and Mendes discussed:

“But we couldn’t shut up. It was a chance for us to reread Ian Fleming, and we started emailing each other, ‘What about this and what about this?’, and that’s how it snowballed.” (emphasis added)

Finally, here’s a A STORY BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS VIA THE HUFFINGTON POST:

“You always go back to the Fleming because the character Fleming created over a number of novels was incredibly complex,” Mendes said Sunday at a news conference in Istanbul, where the crew of “Skyfall” has filmed.

“Some people sometimes forget in the cliche of Bond, which is the international playboy, and someone who’s always untroubled, and almost never breaks a sweat, that actually what (Fleming) created was a very conflicted character,” said Mendes, who was joined by cast members, including Bond actor Daniel Craig.

Until now, we’ve heard how wonderful Daniel Craig is, how wonderful Sam Mendes is, how wonderful Barbara Broccoli is. We’ve heard catchphrases like “Bond with a capital B” and “the money’s all up on the screen.” But we’ve heard very little about the author who actually created James Bond and whose tales were adapted, relatively faithfully, for five of the first six movies of the film series.

Could this be manipulative? Perhaps. Craig talks in 2012 about he “reread Ian Fleming” when he said IN 2008 that Fleming titles mean “very little.” That suggests Craig perhaps didn’t read the Fleming stories that closely where titles such as Live And Let Die, From a View to a Kill and Octopussy were explained.

Even if that’s the case, it doesn’t matter. Without Fleming, none of this is possible. Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman would be forgotten movie producers. Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli might have been successful, but probably not as movie producers. Sean Connery, Roger Moore and other James Bond actors wouldn’t be quite as famous as they’d end up being.

It remains to be seen whether Skyfall will be true to Ian Fleming. And, as we’ve noted before, being true to Fleming has multiple interpretations. But, at least for one day, a long-dead author got a little recognition in an anniversary year that wouldn’t have been possible without him.

Leslie Nielsen dies at 84, parodies included ‘Spy Hard’

Surely we’re not serious? Unfortunately, we are. Actor Leslie Nielsen has passed away on Nov. 28, the Associated Press reported, citing the actor’s agent.

Nielsen was a dramatic actor for years until the 1980 movie Airplane! From then on Nielsen was known mostly for comedy. A short-lived 1982 parody of police dramas, Police Squad!, led six years later to the first of three films featuring his Frank Drebin character, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!. Frank had a knack for becoming involving in international intrigue and political conspiracies, like this one:

So, of course, at some point Nielsen had to parody spy entertainment. So he did 1996′s Spy Hard, playing secret agent Dick Steele:

HMSS’s latest odds on spy movie projects

With recent developments, including bankruptcy filings and intriguing reports in the entertainment trade press, it’s time to revise our odds for spy movie projects in development once more.

Bond 23: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer filed for bankruptcy but is hoping it’s a quick trip and the company will shed that status next month. As part of its filings, the company said it wants to have the next Bond movie out in November 2012 and resume an every-other-year schedule after that.

For Bond fans, that’s been the best news in some time. Still, Eon Productions, which controls the other half of the Bond franchise that MGM doesn’t, hasn’t commented publicly. Eon’s hiring of screenwriter Peter Morgan apparently didn’t work out. We don’t really know how far along Bond 23 is and whether Eon could get a film ready for the time MGM envisions.

PREVIOUS ODDS: 10-1
NEW ODDS: 5-1 (mostly for uncertainty about time frame)

Mission: Impossible 4: When last we visited this subject in July, things were firming up, with Brad Bird confirmed as director and Tom Cruise returing to star. Filming is now underway and the filming of a stunt got a lot of publicity. Here’s a video by the Associated Press:

PREVIOUS ODDS: 3-2
NEW ODDS: Prohibitive. It would take an utter disaster for it not to happen. Paramount has targeted the film to premier in late 2011.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: In the past couple of weeks, the entertainment media has reported that Warner Bros. is negotiating with Steven Soderbergh to direct and George Clooney to star in a film version of the 1960s spy show.

At face value, that would indicate there’s some momentum building. But there also appears to be some manipulation going on. Earlier this year, there were reports that Warners was supposedly enthusiastic about a script by Max Borenstein. But under the Soderbergh-Clooney scenario, they’re starting all over on a new script. As Jerry Seinfeld said famously, “What’s up with that?”

Also, some U.N.C.L.E. fans aren’t so keen on the idea of 49-year-old Clooney playing U.N.C.L.E. ace agent Napoleon Solo. Clooney was quite fit in The American but do you want to build a multi-film franchise around him? Robert Vaughn turned 31 during filming of the U.N.C.L.E. pilot (that birthday was the same day John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas). Vaughn turned 50 during production of the 1983 TV movie The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E., which had Solo being coaxed out of retirement.

Until Soderberg and/or Clooney sign on the dotted line, we’re still wary.

PREVIOUS ODDS: 25-1
NEW ODDS: 15-1. Where there’s smoke, there’s (sometimes) fire.

New (serious) Matt Helm movie: There hasn’t been any news or even rumors for months. Usually, there’s at least some buzz before a project becomes reality.

PREVIOUS ODDS:10-1
NEW ODDS:15-1. This is basically a hunch admittedly, given lack of news.

MGM watch: Lions Gate offers to combine operations with MGM

The Associated Press IN A STORY YOU CAN VIEW BY CLICKING HERE reports that Lions Gate Entertainment is offering to combine its operations with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. Here’s how the story starts:

NEW YORK — Lions Gate is offering to combine its business with MGM in a deal supported by billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who owns stakes in both studios.

Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. said Tuesday it has sent a proposal for a combination with financially troubled Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Lions Gate said the combined company would be owned by its shareholders and by MGM’s creditors. These include Icahn.

Terms weren’t disclosed, though a report in the Los Angeles Times said the deal would give MGM’s lenders a 55 percent in the combined company. Lions Gate and MGM declined to comment.

Spyglass Entertainment on Oct. 7 began seeking support from MGM creditors for a plan where Spyglass’s top executives would take command of MGM after a “pre-packaged” bankruptcy. MGM’s secured creditors (meaning they have some sort of collateral) have until Oct. 22 to weigh in on that proposal.

For 007 fans, more fun, more complications. Remember the line in 1971′s Diamonds Are Forever where Willard Whyte played Monopoly “with real buildings”? 007′s fate depends on people like that.

MGM watch: the soap opera continues — Indian conglomerates, Carl Icahn, Time Warner

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. still has no completed deal with Spyglass Entertainment yet while Sahara India Pariwar continues to hang around, after originally being rejected. UPDATE I: And this morning there’s a New York Post report that investor Carl Icahn and Time Warner may make some moves. All of which means the fate of Bond 23 remains unsettled.

First, this week on the Sahara India Pariwar front: here’s how AN ASSOCIATED PRESS STORY ON YAHOO’S FINANCE WEB SITE published on Sept. 28 began:

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Indian conglomerate Sahara India Pariwar says that the creditors of struggling Hollywood studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. have agreed to reconsider its $2 billion cash offer for the company.

The development marks a reversal from last week, when Sahara said the creditors committee rejected the offer within hours of a conference call with Sahara chairman Subrata Roy Sahara.

The story quotes a Sahara spokeswoman as saying MGM initially rejected her company’s bid because it had submitted “documentation of its assets in rupees.” Oops.

Carl DiOrio of the Hollywood Reporter followed up the next day. YOU CAN READ THE STORY BY CLICKING HERE. Here’s an excerpt:

Lenders-side sources are uncertain how seriously to take Sahara, in part because the Indian company has dealt only with management so far and has had scant contact with the debtholders. But it’s clear the lenders would be open to reviewing a bid of $2 billion or more for MGM by Sahara or anyone else.

Early Sept. 30, News Corp.’s New York Post weighed in. You can read the entire story BY CLICKING HERE. Here’s an excerpt:

There is renewed interest in movie studio MGM from Time Warner and Carl Icahn, The Post has learned.

Time Warner last week, through back channels, told the hedge funds controlling the studio it could be willing to raise its offer to $1.7 billion from $1.5 billion. The hedge funds rejected the idea, a source with direct knowledge of the situation said.
(snip)
Meanwhile, Icahn, who already owns roughly $500 million of MGM’s $4 billion in debt, is buying more, the source with direct knowledge said, adding that he would not be surprised if Icahn, through Lionsgate Entertainment, soon offers a new proposal.

These stories need to be read carefully. Note the Post’s unnamed source is quoted as saying he wouldn’t be surprised if Icahn would make a bid, but that’s not the same thing as *knowing* the investor would make a bid. Interestingly, even though the story by Josh Kosman and Claire Atkinson begins with Time Warner, the online edition headline is, “Icahn mulls new proposal for MGM.”

If Time Warner is really interested, as the Post says, it would mark a change of attitude. Recently, Time Warner didn’t have kind words for MGM.

UPDATE II: On The Wall Street Journal’s Web site, there’s a Dow Jones News Service story quoting Time Warner AS DENYING THE NEW YORK POST STORY. The Journal and Dow Jones News Service are also owned by News Corp., the New York Post owner.

Like other Bond fans, we’re suffering from MGM fatigue. (The way we had to update this post twice today is an example.) But until it gets settled, fans will have to be content with re-watching their 007 DVDs or checking out new Bond books and video games.

MGM watch: It ain’t over till it’s over

The fate of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., which controls half of the 007 franchise, remains unsettled as one Indian company and a well known corporate investor figuratively kick the tires.

First, from a Sept. 19 Bloomberg.com story about Sahara India Pariwar:

Sahara India Pariwar is in discussions on “mutual interest” with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., a spokesman for the Indian company said in response to reports that it had bid for the studio’s debt.

“It’s too early to comment on the issue,” Abhijit Sarkar, head of corporate communications at Sahara India Pariwar, said in an e-mailed statement today. He didn’t give details.

You can read the full story BY CLICKING HERE. Two days earlier, the Associated Press had a story a version of which YOU CAN READ BY CLICKING THIS LINK. The story began like this:

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Sahara India Pariwar, an Indian conglomerate with real estate and media holdings, says it has made a $2 billion bid to buy the debt of struggling Hollywood studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.

It was unclear how MGM’s committee of creditors views the offer. A spokeswoman for the studio declined to comment.

All of this comes when Spyglass Entertainment has been reported by various media outlets as having a tenative to take control of MGM THAT WOULD INVOLVE MGM MAKING A “PREPACKED” BANKRUPTCY FILING. So far, there has been no official announcement from MGM, other than a Sept. 15 statement that the studio got another extension on making debt payments.

But that’s not the only potential complication. On Sept. 17, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES REPORTED THAT INVESTOR CARL ICAHN WAS BUYING UP MGM DEBT.

Here’s an excerpt:

Icahn previously accumulated and then sold debt in MGM earlier this year. In the past few weeks he has acquired what one person close to the situation described as a single-digit percentage in the studio’s nearly $4 billion worth of debt.

There’s no indication that Icahn wants to play a role in MGM if the company goes ahead with current plans for the top executives of Spyglass Entertainment to take over following a pre-packaged bankruptcy. The investor may just believe he can make a profit given the current trading price of the company’s bonds.

We don’t know precisely what all this means other than MGM’s fate, along with that of the cinematic James Bond, isn’t settled. Don’t make plans for attending the premier of Bond 23 yet.

Kim Yu-Na’s Olympic performance: let the 007 cliches begin

So Korean skater Kim Yu-Na did a short program at the Vancouver Olympics utilizing music from James Bond movies. What’s sure to follow from sports scibes? Well, James Bond cliches, of course.

For example, there’s an Associated Press story carried on the FanHouse sports blog that began thusly:

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Like a true Bond Girl, Kim Yu-na knocked off her rivals.

Nobody did it better.

AP also published an alternate version of the story that started like this:

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -If the Olympics are just another competition, then James Bond is just another secret agent. And Kim Yu-na is just another skater.

No Bond girl ever did it better than Kim’s record-setting short program Tuesday night at the Vancouver Olympics. The 19-year-old South Korean, who carries the weight of a nation’s infinite expectations for gold, practically carved 007 into the Pacific Coliseum ice as she skated flawlessly to a Bond medley.

Wait. AP did yet another version carried on ESPN.com. It began like this:

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Ursula Andress, Jane Seymour, Halle Berry — they’ve got nothing on the newest Bond Girl.

Nobody does it better than Kim Yu-na.

The New York Times, meanwhile, was a bit more subtle. Instead of hammering its readers with 007 at the start, the Gray Lady until the fourth paragraph in its story:

She glided onto the ice, letting a sly smile peek through as her music, a medley from James Bond films, began. Then, in the snap of a finger, she turned into a Bond girl — and turned on the magic.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 124 other followers