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.

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Sadanoyama, who had small Twice role, dies at 79

Sadanoyama as Bond’s sumo contact in You Only Live Twice.

Sadanoyama, whose real name was Shinmatsu Ichikawa and played James Bond’s sumo contact in You Only Live Twice, died last month at 79, according to an obituary in The Japan Times.

The cause of death was pneumonia, according to the obituary. He had previously suffered a stroke, the newspaper said.

You Only Live Twice was a fantasy, involving a volanco headquarters for SPECTRE and a rocket ship that captured other spacecraft.

However, an early sequence in the film establishes a modicum of reality as Bond (Sean Connery) walks the streets of Tokyo in the early stages of his mission.

Sadanoyama provides Bond with his tickets to watch a sumo match. There, the British agent meets up with Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi), a Japanese operative who gives him instructions for the next stage of the mission.

For Western audiences in 1967, particularly those who hadn’t ventured to the island nation, the sequence helped establish what the “new” Japan was like. It’s like a little oasis, a chance for the audience to catch its breath before the spectacle that would later unfold.

According to the documentary Inside You Only Live Twice, the sumo match that Bond and Aki watch was real because sumo wrestlers don’t fake anything.

Here’s a brief excerpt from the obituary about Sadanoyama:

A native of Nagasaki Prefecture, he began his sumo career in 1956. After making it to the top makuuchi division five years later, he claimed the crown in his third tournament as a rank-and-file grappler and won a total of six championships.

After retiring as a wrestler, Sadanoyama succeeded the Dewanoumi name and took over the Dewanoumi stable. He served as chief of the JSA for three terms from 1992 to 1998.

Thanks to reader Steve Oxenrider for the heads up and the link

A few questions about the U.N.C.L.E. movie

"Illya, I hope there are more people in the theater when the U.N.C.L.E. movie comes out next year."

“Illya, I hope there are more people in the theater when the U.N.C.L.E. movie comes out next year.”

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie has a release date, Jan. 16, 2015. But, naturally, that just means more questions to deal with.

Is this good news? Not for those who wanted the movie out around the time of its 50th anniversary in September 2015 2014. And it raises questions how much Warner Bros. believes in the project.

Typically, a studio puts its big guns either during the summer season (defined as the start of May through the Labor Day weekend) or Thanksgiving-Christmas (defined as early November through the end of the year).

January is often used for movies that didn’t make the cut for the Thanksgiving-Christmas period. Last month, for example, Paramount released Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, which had been a contended for Thanksgiving-Christmas. The movie limped in at No. 4 in its opening weekend of Jan. 17-19, with U.S. ticket sales of not quite $15.5 million.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit ended up with worldwide box office of $123 million, with almost $75 million of that from international markets. The movie had an estimated budget of $60 million, according to Box Office Mojo. The U.N.C.L.E. movie had an estimated budget of $75 million, according to Variety.

Any news on a composer for the movie? Nope. But given the release date, one can’t help but wonder if this opens the door for Hans Zimmer.

Previously, Zimmer — who scored director Guy Ritchie’s two Sherlock Holmes movies — said scoring the Christopher Nolan Interstellar movie might prevent him taking the U.N.C.L.E. assignment. But U.N.C.L.E. won’t come out until more than two months after Interstellar. Perhaps Zimmer becomes an option again.

2015 will see both an U.N.C.L.E. movie and a James Bond movie (the as-yet untitled Bond 24). Has that ever happened?

Sort of. In the 1960s, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer released U.N.C.L.E. movies primarily for international audiences. They consisted of re-edited from television episodes ith additional footage for the movie versions.

The last year with a new Bond and U.N.C.L.E. *theatrically* movie was 1967, with You Only Live Twice and The Karate Killers, the sixth U.N.C.L.E. film. The former was a big hit (though not as big as 1965’s Thunderball) and the latter wasn’t as U.N.C.L.E. fervor was abating. The last two U.N.C.L.E. movies came out in 1968. (1983’s The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a TV movie that aired on CBS the same year Octopussy and Never Say Never Again hit theaters.)

Ken Wallis, Little Nellie pilot, dies

Ken Wallis in Little Nellie

Ken Wallis in Little Nellie

Ken Wallis, 97, the real-life pilot of the mini-helicopter Little Nellie has died, ACCORDING TO AN OBITUARY ON THE BBC’S WEB SITE.

Little Nellie, which appeared in the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice, was an aerial equivalent of the Aston Martin DB5 that was featured in Goldfinger and Thunderball.

In the John Cork-directed documentary Inside You Only Live Twice, YOLT production designer Ken Adam says he heard a BBC interview with Wallis about the mini-helicopter. Adam checked it out and made design changes so the aircraft could included in the fifth James Bond film. The documentary details how Wallis had to make many flights to produce several minutes of screen time for the 1967 movie.

An excerpt from the obituary:

Retired Wing Cdr Ken Wallis, who lived near Dereham, Norfolk, died on Sunday, his daughter confirmed.

Born in Ely, his first solo flight was in 1937. Thirty years later he doubled as Sean Connery’s Bond for an explosive aerial sequence in You Only Live Twice.

His daughter Vicky said her father passed away after “a long and successful life doing what he wanted”.

(snip)

Honoured with an MBE in 1996, he piloted 24 wartime missions over northern Europe in Wellington bombers, before spending 20 years engaged in weapons research in the Royal Air Force.

Here’s a sample of how Little Nellie appeared on screen:

UPDATE (Sept. 13): To view The New York Times’ obituary on Ken Wallis (published Sept. 9): just CLICK HERE.