Website says 007 cinematography of Craig era improved

Apparently pre-Craig era 007 cinematography, like this Alec Mills shot from The Living Daylights, was the work of hacks.

The Film School Rejects website, in a post last month, said the cinematography of James Bond films during the Daniel Craig era was noticeably better than its predecessors.

An excerpt:

All the earlier efforts were, with due respect, vehicles for action sequences, there was little to nothing dynamic about their cinematography otherwise, and even the action sequences were more dazzling for their production design than for the way they were shot.

But with Casino Royale, directed by Martin Campbell and shot by Phil Mehuex, the cinematography of the franchise leapt forward, becoming every bit as slick, stark, daring, and as fluidly brutal as the character whose adventures it captured. It was a pattern that continued through Quantum of Solace (dir. Marc Forster, DP Roberto Schaefer), Skyfall (dir. Sam Mendes, DP Roger Deakins), and Spectre (dir. Mendes, DP Hoyte Van Hoytema) and as a result the Craig-Bond-era has been uniquely successful for the historic franchise. (emphasis added)

A few things:

— Mehuex also photographed 1995’s GoldenEye (which was also directed by Campbell). Was Meheux a hack during GoldenEye who became an artist 11 years later? Was his photography in Casino Royale that much better than his work in GoldenEye?

–Pre-Craig 007 directors of photography weren’t exactly slouches. Ted Moore, the original DOP, won an Oscar for 1966’s A Man For All Seasons. Freddie Young, who photographed 1967’s You Only Live Twice, won three Oscars and was described by director Lewis Gilbert as one of the great artists of British cinema.

Oswald Morris, co-DOP of The Man With The Golden Gun, won an Oscar and had two nominations. (With Golden Gun, he took over for Ted Moore, who fell ill, and photographed interior sequences. Both Moore and Oswald shared the DOP credit.) Claude Renior, who photographed The Spy Who Loved Me, was highly regarded.

–Other 007 DOPs had their moments. Alec Mills, who had been promoted up the ranks until photographing 1987’s The Living Daylights, had a striking shot during that movie’s Afghanistan sequence.

The Film School Rejects’ post includes a video with a sort of “best of” video of shots from the Craig era. See for yourself.

Advertisements

You Only Live Twice: Beginning of the end of ’60s spymania

You Only Live Twice promotional art

You Only Live Twice promotional art

The 50th anniversary of You Only Live Twice isn’t just a milestone for a memorable James Bond film. It’s also the anniversary for the beginning of the end of 1960s spymania.

The 007 film series led the way for spymania. Over the course of the first four Bond films, everything skyrocketed. Not only did the Bond series get bigger, it created a market for spies of all sorts.

By June 1967, when You Only Live Twice debuted, that upward trajectory had ended.

To be sure, Twice was very popular. But there was a falloff from its predecessor, 1965’s Thunderball. Twice’s box office totaled $111.6 million globally, down 21 percent from Thunderball’s $141.2 million.

The fifth 007 movie produced by Eon Productions didn’t lack for resources.

Twice’s famous volcano set cost $1 million, roughly the entire budget of Dr. No. Helicopters equipped with giant magnets swooped out of the sky. A seeming endless number of extras was available when needed. .

At the same time, the movie’s star, Sean Connery, wanted out of Bondage. Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman adjusted his contract. But their inducements weren’t enough.

You Only Live Twice marker in western Japan

You Only Live Twice marker in western Japan

It didn’t help that Broccoli and Saltzman themselves had their own, growing differences. Broccoli didn’t want to take on Connery as another partner — the same kind of arrangement Broccoli’s former partner, Irving Allen, bestowed upon Dean Martin for the Matt Helm movies.

Finally, there was another Bond film that year — the spoof Casino Royale, released in the U.S. less than two months before Twice. However, anybody who viewed Casino Royale’s marketing or trailers could mistake the Charles K. Feldman production for the Eon series.

As this blog has discussed before, Twice has a lot going for it. Ken Adam’s sets were spectacular. John Barry’s score was among the best for the Bond series. It was also the one film in the series photographed by acclaimed director of photography Freddie Young.

In the 21st century, fan discussion is divided. Some appreciate the spectacle, viewing it as enough reason to overlook various plot holes. Others dislike how the plot of Ian Fleming’s novel was jettisoned, with only some characters and the Japanese location retained.

With this year’s 50th anniversary, the former may be celebrated more. The movie’s scope, even its posters, aren’t the kinds of things you see these days.

The longer-term importance of the movie, however, is that Twice symbolizes how interest in the spy craze was drawing to a close. Bond would carry on, but others — including U.S. television series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and I Spy — weren’t long for this world when Twice arrived at theaters.

Bond fandom in the 21st and 20th centuries

A sample of Roger Deakins' photography in Skyfall

A sample of Roger Deakins’ photography in Skyfall

Perhaps nothing illustrates how Bond fandom has evolved in the 21st century than all of the attention being paid to how Skyfall’s director of photography, Roger Deakins, has said he won’t return for Bond 24 because “I don’t know what else I could do with it, really.”

The news has discussed and analyzed on fan message boards (CLICK HERE for one example and CLICK HERE for another). Websites such as Ain’t It Cool News declared the development to be a “little bit of a bummer.”

Deakins was nominated for an Oscar for his Skyfall efforts and got a lot of praise. Skyfall director Sam Mendes said Deakins’ opening shot was so special, he just couldn’t put the gunbarrel logo at the start of the film. So, fans are wondering how his absence will affect Bond 24, which will start filming later this year.

In the early years of the film 007, a director of photography didn’t get that kind of attention. Eon Productions had a kind of “in-house” DOP in Ted Moore. It’s not like Moore was a hack. He got AN OSCAR for photographing 1966’s A Man For All Seasons.

Moore was behind the camera for the first four Bond films and did other jobs inbetween. For the fifth 007 film, director Lewis Gilbert sought Freddie Young, who he described as “one of the great artists in British cinema.” But the center of fan discussion was Ken Adam’s volcano set or Sean Connery’s impending departure as Bond.

In 1974, Eon subbed one Oscar-winning director of photography for another when Oswald Morris took over after Ted Moore fell ill. But again, it wasn’t a major top of fan conversation.

Flash forward to 2014. Nobody’s pushing the panic button, but certainly many fans are disappointed Deakins isn’t coming back. Perhaps this reflects greater artistic expectations in the fan base. Perhaps it’s also concern about not breaking up a winning team after Skyfall. Perhaps it’s a lack of much else to talk about regarding Bond 24.

Things change. The attention given Deakins is an indicator how the 007 fan world has changed.

Peter O’Toole dies; his minor 007 connection

A pair of Peters: Sellers and O'Toole in 1967's Casino Royale

A pair of Peters: Sellers and O’Toole in 1967’s Casino Royale

Peter O’Toole has died at 81. His stellar career included one very, very minor James Bond connection: an unbilled cameo in producer Charles K. Feldman’s 1967 Casino Royale spoof.

We’d try to explain, but it’s really not worth it. Feldman signed up a lot of famous actors for his over-the-top comedy. The producer opted to go the spoof route after being unable to cut a deal with Albert R. Broccoli (a former employee) and Harry Saltzman, who held the film rights to the bulk of the Ian Fleming 007 stories.

O’Toole in various obituaries (including THE GUARDIAN, VARIETY and THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER) understandably emphasized his role as the title character in Lawrence of Arabia.

That 1962 film, directed by David Lean, had a crew that would have a greater impact on the film world of James Bond: director of photography Freddie Young (You Only Live Twice), camera operator Ernie Day (who’d be a second unit director on The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker) and special effects man Cliff Richardson, the father of John Richardson, who’d work special effects on several Bond movies.

Also, Spy’s composer, Marvin Hamlisch, included a snippet of Maurice Jarre’s main theme for Lawrence for a scene set in the Eyptian desert.

Skyfall and Oscar nominations: glass half full or empty?

Thomas Newman

Skyfall composer Thomas Newman

For James Bond fans, this year’s Oscars ended a long 007 drought. Yet, fans on social media had a very mixed reaction.

On the bright side, Skyfall secured five nominations, the most for any 007 film. The previous best for a Bond movie was 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me with three. Not so bright: no nomination for Best Picture and no nomination for director Sam Mendes. In other words, fans wanted more.

Here’s a look at some of the reaction we saw among 007 fans via social media.

Thomas Newman got nominated for best score but John Barry never did for a 007 movie? Outrageous! Newman has been nominated for several movies, with Skyfall being the latest. John Barry won five Oscars but never got nominated for a 007 score, even though he established the Bond music template.

A couple of thoughts: in theory, Oscar nominators are supposed to only consider scores for a single year of movies. The 2012 nominators weren’t in a position to do a “make good” for Barry because, well, he’s no longer alive. Also, there’s probably very little overlap between those who voted to nominate Newman and those who passed over Barry in the 1960s. It doesn’t mean that Newman’s score is better than Barry’s work.

Skyfall deserved a Best Picture nomination. Why didn’t it get one? There had been a buzz that Skyfall could have gotten in. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences can nominate as many as 10 movies for the Best Picture honor. U.K. BOOKIES GAVE SKYFALL EVEN ODDS. The Whatculture Web site on Jan. 3 offered up TEN REASONS IT THOUGHT SKYFALL WAS A CONTENDER FOR A NOMINATION.

It didn’t happen. The academy only nominated nine movies. The academy tends to be pretty tight lipped. But keep this in mind: Alfred Hitchcock, Cary Grant and Peter O’Toole never got a competitive Oscar (Grant and O’Toole did eventually get honorary Oscars). With any group, such as the academy, there are internal politics, relationships, etc., that come into play. If you really believe Skyfall (and for that matter director Sam Mendes) really deserved a nomination, well, don’t let the Oscars get you down.

It’s too bad Skyfall only got technical nominations. Cinematography (where Skyfall’s Roger Deakins got nominated) and score actually are as much artistic as they are technical. (Skyfall also got nominations for best song, best sound editing and best sound mixing.)

Lewis Gilbert, in the documentary Inside You Only Live Twice, referred to Freddie Young (who photographed the fifth 007 film) as one of the great artists of British cinema. The director frames the shot, but the director of photography, though his or her lighting, greatly affects the look of a film. It’s not uncommon for DOPs to make the jump to directing. Music, meantime, has a big impact on the emotional feel of a movie.

007 questions now that Skyfall has finished filming

Skyfall wrapped up production this week, with the official 007 Twitter account uploading one last clapperboard shot as the second unit finished work in Turkey. As the movie enters the editing and post-production phase, we had a few questions.

001. Will there be a gunbarrel at the start of the movie? For all of the talking points from Daniel Craig & Co. about how Skyfall will be a classic James Bond movie, “Bond with a capital B,” etc., the subject of the traditional gunbarrel logo (Bond as seen from inside a killer’s gunbarrel, the agent turning and firing, etc.) never seemed to come up. The gunbarrel was used in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace but not at the start of either movie.

The gunbarrel is a prominent part of the teaser poster but that’s not a guarantee it will be used at the very start of the film (i.e., the traditional or classic way).

002. What is Thomas Newman going to do musically with the film? Newman is the first new composer to the series in 15 years. His track record consists mostly of dramas, including some with Skyfall director Sam Mendes. The composer recently said he’s “just brainstorming right now” on the Skyfall score.

003. Was the hiring of Roger Deakins as director of photography worth all the fuss? Based on the teaser trailer, a qualified yes. There were some striking images and colors. (One of our readers disagreed, so this is not a unanimous opinion.) Still, it should be noted that You Only Live Twice was photographed by Freddie Young, one of the best British directors of photography ever, and Twice rarely shows up in lists of best 007 movies. Photography is obviously important (it’s a movie, afterall) but you still need an engrossing story.

004. Will Skyfall really have more humor than recent Bond films? The notion that Skyfall will have a lighter tone has been one of the most frequent talking points during production. Whether that’s true remains to be seen. The teaser trailer didn’t have a hint of humor. The final trailer to the Christopher Nolan-directed The Dark Knight Rises had more humor (i.e. one joke) than the Skyfall teaser trailer.

005. How much Ian Fleming content will Skyfall have? Based on some of the spoilers that have come out, noticeably more than, say, Quantum of Solace. To put it in a non-spoiler way, screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan have tapped into Chapter 21 of Fleming’s 1964 You Only Live Twice novel, where the author presented background about his hero. The Skyfall principals really only talked about Fleming in detail once, at an April 29 news conference in Turkey. Until then, the subject hadn’t come up very much. It remains to be seen whether the movie incorporates more Fleming material or mood.

006. Was hiring of Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney worth all the fuss? There’s absolutely no way to know for sure at this point. The teaser trailer doesn’t provide an answer. An anxious Fiennes looks at Judi Dench’s M and there’s a silouhette of what may be Bardem’s villain. Bardem and Fiennes did some media interviews but didn’t say much. Some fans (as in this this HMSS editorial) have said it’s the best cast ever for a Bond movie. We won’t know until the fall whether that’s the case of if Skyfall becomes another example of The Missouri Breaks Syndrome.

007. So are you optimistic or pessimistic? We’re trying to avoid the extremes. Some fans argue you can’t criticize the movie until you see it. OK, but you can’t assume it’s great until you see it, either.

RE-POST: What was happening in 1962?

Almost a year ago, we posted about some of the events that transpired in 1962, when Ian Fleming’s gentleman spy, James Bond, made his film debut. In honor of New Year’s Day of 2012, the start of the cinematic 007’s golden anniversary year, we’re re-posting that information, about events large and small.

Jan. 15: NBC airs “La Strega” episode of Thriller, starring Ursula Andress, female lead of Dr. No, which will be the first James Bond film.

Jan 16: Production begins on Dr. No, modestly budgeted at about $1 million. Fees include $40,000 for director Terence Young and $80,000 each for producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, not counting their share of profits. (Figures from resarch by film historian Adrian Turner). Star Sean Connery tells Playboy magazine in 1965 that he was paid $16,800 for Dr. No.

Inside Dr. No, a documentary made by John Cork for a DVD release of the movie, says about 10 percent of the film’s budget went to the Ken Adam-designed reactor room set, where the climatic fight between Bond and Dr. No takes place. (Date of production start from research by Craig Henderson’s For Your Eyes Only Web site.

Jan. 17: Jim Carrey is born.

Feb 3: U.S. begins embargo against Cuba.

Feb. 20: John Glenn becomes first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth.

March 2: Wilt Chamberlain scores 100 points as his Philadelphia Warriors team defeats the New York Knicks 169-147 in a game played in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Chamberlain achieves the feat by scoring 36 baskets and, perhaps most amazingly, by hitting 28 of 32 free-throw attempts. (Chamberlain was a notoriously bad free-throw shooter.) The player averaged 50.4 points per game in the 1961-62 season.

April 16: The Spy Who Loved Me, Ian Fleming’s latest 007 novel, is published. The novel takes a radical departure from previous Bond novels. The story is told in the first person by a female character, Vivienne Michel, with Bond not appearing until two-thirds of the way through the story. Fleming, in his dealings with Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, specifies only the title is to be used for any movie. Broccoli (after Saltzman departs the film series) does just that in the 10th film of the 007 series, which comes out in July 1977.

May (publication date, actual likely earlier): The Incredible Hulk, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, debuts in the first issue of his own comic book.

June 1: Nazi Adolph Eichmann executed in Israel.

July 3: Future Mission: Impossible movie star Tom Cruise is born.

July 12: Rolling Stones debut in London.

August (publication date actual date probably earlier): Amazing Fantasy No. 15 published, debut of Spider-Man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, with cover art by Jack Kirby and Ditko.

Aug. 5: Actress Marilyn Monroe dies.

Aug. 6: Michelle Yeoh, who will play Chinese secret agent Wai Lin in the 1997 Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, is born.

Aug. 16: Future Get Smart movie star Steve Carell is born.

Aug. 16: Ringo Starr joins the Beatles.

Sept. 26: The Beverly Hillbillies debuts on CBS. In a later season, Jethro sees Goldfinger in a movie theater and decides that being a “Double-Naught” spy is his life’s calling.

Oct. 1: Federal marshals escort James Meredith, first African American student at the University of Missippi, as he registers at the school.

Oct. 1: Johnny Carson, a few weeks short of his 37th birthday, hosts his first installment of The Tonight Show. He will remain as host until May 1992. At one point during Carson’s run on the show, he and Sean Connery reference how Carson’s debut on Tonight and Connery’s debut as Bond occurred at around the same time.

Oct. 5: Dr. No has its world premier in London. The film won’t be shown in the U.S. until the following year. The movie will be re-released in 1965 (as part of a double feature with From Russia With Love) and in 1966 (as part of a double feature with Goldfinger).

Oct. 14: A U.S. U-2 spy plane discovers missile sites in Cuba, beginning the Cuban Missile Crisis. The crisis will bring the U.S. and Soviet Union to the brink of World War III.

Oct. 22: President John F. Kennedy makes a televised address, publicly revealing the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba.

Oct. 28: Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev announces the U.S.S.R. is removing its missiles from Cuba. (for a more detailed timeline of these events, CLICK HERE.)

Oct. 29: Ian Fleming begins three days of meetings with television producer Norman Felton concerning a show that will eventually be known as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (source: Craig Henderson) Fleming’s main contribution of the meetings is that the hero should be named Napoleon Solo.

Nov. 7: Richard Nixon loses race for governor of California, tells reporters “you won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore.” He’ll be back.

Freddie Young and David Lean


Dec. 10: The David Lean-directed Lawrence of Arabia has its world premiere in London. The film’s crew include director of photography Freddie Young and camera operator Ernest Day, who will work on future James Bond movies. Young will photograph 1967’s You Only Live Twice. Day would be second unit director (with John Glen) on The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.

For a more comprehensive list of significant 1962 events, CLICK HERE.