About genre movies fighting for Oscars love

No Time to Die poster

Studios are in the midst of their blitz to get some love from the Oscars. And that includes lobbying efforts for genre movies to gain some recognition.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, has been lobbying for No Time to Die to get awards while the ultimate goal is the Oscars. Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios are moving to get Spider-Man No Way Home some Oscar love.

Once upon a time, popular movies did pretty well at the Oscars. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), a Cecil B. DeMille schlockfest *won* the Best Picture Oscar. I like Greatest Show but there’s no denying the schlock factor.

Star Wars (1977) was nominated for Best Picture. The movie won Oscars for art direction and score among other awards but fell short of actually winning Best Picture.

In more recent decades, it’s been hard for genre movies to get a lot of Oscar recognition outside of technical awards. There were some exceptions such as Best Actor awards for The Dark Knight (2008) and The Joker (2019). Ironically, both actors involved (Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix) played different versions of the same character.

It’s kind of tough to get Oscar love for playing a hero in a genre movie.

One big exception was Black Panther (2018), a Marvel film that was a big hit while highlighting a Black cast. It got a Best Picture nomination and won a few Oscars, including best score.

All of which brings us to the current situation. MGM is pushing a bit of everything, including star Daniel Craig, director Cary Fukunaga, the writing team and, of course, Best Picture.

Meanwhile, Variety film critic Owen Gleiberman (who said he hates Spider-Man No Way Home) presented a somewhat cynical reason why the academy should nominate the comic book movie anyway.

 If you want an Academy Awards telecast that wins more eyeballs than it loses, you’re going to have to nominate some of the movies that win eyeballs. I don’t disagree with that argument, and in a sense it’s the one I’m making. But this isn’t simply about numbers. It’s about a perception that drives the numbers. Sure, if “No Way Home” gets nominated, a swath of its vast fan base might tune into the Oscars that wouldn’t have otherwise. But what I’m really talking about is the essential idea that movies are, and always have been, a populist art form. If that dimension of cinema isn’t respected, something has gone wrong.

We’ll see how this turns out. The Bond films went almost 50 years between Oscars wins (special effects for Thunderball and two awards for Skyfall). Skyfall got five nominations and won two. But the Bond series has never been nominated for acting or directing.

As for Spider-Man No Way Home? Who knows? Actors and directors love to dump on comic book-based movies but a number of stars have signed on comic book-based movies.

Spider-Man passes NTTD for No. 1 non-Chinese movie

Spider-Man No Way Home has passed No Time to Die for the title of No. 1 box office among non-Chinese movies, according to Deadline: Hollywood.

Spider-Man’s most recent global box office figure is $813.9 million, Deadline said.

Until now, No Time to Die held the mantle of No. 1 non-Chinese movie at $774 million. The 25th James Bond film has mostly ended its theatrical run. No Time to Die this week became available for sale for home video release.

Spider-Man No Way Home, essentially, is a live-action version of Spider-Man Into the Spider Verse, a 2018 animated film that featured different versions of Spider-Man in different dimensions. The new live-action Spider-Man movie features multiple Marvel Comics characters. The film was made by Sony Pictures (which has the rights to Spider-Man) and Marvel Studios.

The new Spider-Man movie was expected to do well at the box office. But since its release last week, it has performed better than expected.

Spider-Man No Way Home Becomes No. 1 2021 U.S. release

UPDATE (Dec. 20): The final U.S. weekend figures released Monday came in higher ($260 million) than the estimate released Sunday, Exhibitor Relations Co. said. The revised global box office is now $600.8 million.

ORIGINAL POST (Dec. 19): Spider-Man No Way Home seized the title of No. 1 box office movie in 2021 on its first weekend.

The Sony release made by Marvel Studios will generate a U.S. box office of $253 million for the Dec. 17-19 weekend, according to Exhibitor Relations Co., which tracks box office data.

Spider-Man also scored an international box office of $334.2 million for a worldwide take of $587.2 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The top global movie not made in China is No Time to Die at $771.3 million.

Until now, the No. 1 U.S. release was Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings at $224.5 million. The No. 1 U.S. weekend had belonged to Sony’s Venom: Let There Be Carnage at $90 million.

Spider-Man No Way Home’s opening weekend beckoned to the pre-pandemic era where blockbuster movies could generate enormous box office quickly.

The movie is the third to star Tom Holland as Spider-Man. Sony has the film rights to Spider-Man and has made Spidey films since 2002. The Holland films are, more or less, a joint Sony-Marvel effort. Holland also appeared as the character in three Marvel movies, including two Avengers films.

Spider-Man No Way Home also includes Marvel’s Dr. Strange character played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

A pedantic observation about No Time to Die

No Time to Die poster released Sept. 1, 2020

While glancing at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s website, I noticed the copyright notice for No Time to Die. It read:

© 2020 Danjaq, LLC and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

In recent years, Bond films have had copyright notices citing Danjaq and United Artists Corporation (an MGM owned brand and the name of the original studio that released Bond films). Examples include Die Another Day and The World Is Not Enough.

The first four films of the Daniel Craig era were released by Sony under its Columbia brand. So, for example, the copyright notice for Casino Royale listed Danjaq, United Artists and Columbia Pictures Industries Inc. The same thing happened with Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and SPECTRE.

Sony wasn’t involved with No Time to Die so naturally it’s not part of the new copyright notice. Why was United Artists dropped? Perhaps because the UA name was revived for United Artists Releasing, MGM’s joint venture with Annapurna Pictures, which will distribute No Time to Die in the U.S.

Hilarious 007 ‘reports’ over the past five years

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

The world is a grim place right now and we could all use a laugh. So, in that spirit, here is a partial list of questionable reports involving the James Bond film franchise over the past five years.

The Bond series will be a period piece overseen by the Mad Men showrunner!

In October 2015, the Sunday Express reported that “studio bosses” (it cited an MGM executive who wasn’t identified) had asked Matthew Weiner, the creator/showrunner of the now-defunct TV show Mad Men ” to head a new team to oversee Bond’s return to his heyday 1960s.” This would occur after the departure of star Daniel Craig.

This story, of course, appeared shortly before the debut of 2015’s SPECTRE, the most recent James Bond film.

Mad Men was set in the 1960s. One episode referred to both the 1967 Casino Royale and You Only Live Twice (as well as a 1965 episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.)

Left unanswered by the story: What happens to Eon Productions and its producers, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson? Reading the story in 2020 also is unintentionally hilarious given the soap opera surrounding the production of the next Daniel Craig Bond film.

Daniel Craig was being offered $150 million to stay as Bond!

In September 2016, an outfit called Radar Online said that Sony Pictures was offering Craig $150 million to play Bond in two more movies.

Problem: Sony’s involvement with the franchise ended with SPECTRE. The studio sought to continue the relationship but that didn’t happen.

Second problem: Paying Craig $75 million per film? Really? Some Daniel Craig fans contacted the blog to claim this made perfect financial sense. Later, Variety reported Craig’s paycheck for Bond 25/No Time to Die was $25 million.

Studio bosses want Bond 25 out by November 2018!

In December 2016, the tabloid Mirror chimed in with a story saying MGM was getting nervous and Bond 25 was supposed to be out by November 2018. (Oops).

Bond 25 will be called Shatterhand but be based on a Bond continuation novel!

There has been a long-held fan theory that Shatterhand (a Blofeld alias in the You Only Live Twice novel) would be a great title for a Bond film. But in July 2017, the Mirror had a novel twist on this.

This version said Bond 25 would be called Shatterhand but be based on a Bond continuation novel, Never Dream of Dying, by Raymond Benson. Benson said nobody from the Mirror had contacted him about the story. This was a few weeks before Craig finally announced he was coming back to play Bond in one movie.

Danny Boyle’s haunting laugh!

By now, Bond fans know the Danny Boyle saga. The director had suddenly become a contender, in early 2018, to direct Bond 25. Then, in May 2018, he was announced as the director. And then in August 2018, he was out because of “creative differences.”

In March 2018, Boyle talked briefly about the prospect of directing Bond. At that point, he was working with scribe John Hodge on a script. But around the 25-second mark of this Associated Press video, Boyle lets out with a laugh that comes across as haunting given subsequent events.

Sony, Marvel make up on Spider-Man

Spider-Man: Homecoming poster from 2017

Sony Studios and Marvel Studios patched up their differences and said they will do a third Spider-Man movie together.

The two studios said today that Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige will again produce a Spider-Man movie for Sony. You can view details in VARIETY and THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

Spider-Man: Homecoming in 2017 and Spider-Man: Far From Home this summer were made under that arrangement and were big hits.

The deal also allowed Tom Holland’s Spider-Man to appear in other Marvel Studios movies such as Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.

However, the two sides publicly said in August they couldn’t agree on how to continue the arrangement. So it appeared Spider-Man would keep appearing in Sony movies but no longer be part of Marvel films.

We’ll see if the new deal lasts beyond one movie. But both sides benefited from working together, with Sony getting a revitalized Spider-Man series and Marvel getting to use its most popular comic book character. Sony is also developing other movies based on Spider-Man characters.

Apple seen as buyer to stock new streaming service (MGM?)

Apple logo

Apple Inc., which is preparing to launch a streaming television service, is seen as looking to buy entertainment companies to get a library of titles for viewing. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, comes up on the list of possibilities.

Earlier this month, Apple said its Apple TV + will go live Nov. 1 and cost $4.99 a month, $2 less than rival Disney +. The problem is Apple doesn’t have the library of titles that Disney has, which includes projects made under the Disney, Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios brands. Marvel, in particular, is making new series for Disney + to go along with its various movie titles. AT&T, which owns Warner Bros., also is getting into streaming television.

Bloomberg and Yahoo Finance had separate stories on Sept. 13 raising the question whether Apple may buy entertainment properties to boost its supply of programming.

Here’s an excerpt from the Bloomberg story (which was picked up by The Washington Post):

Much has been made of Apple TV+ undercutting competitors, but the price was set low to make up for the fact that, unlike rival services, it won’t contain a backlog of content out of the gate. (snip)

Apple’s lack of a library argues for the company to buy a production studio. Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (which also owns the Starz premium channel), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. (known as MGM), Sony Pictures and indie studio A24 are all prospects.

Yahoo Finance interviewed Wedbush analyst Dan Ives.

“It’s a content arms race,” Ives told Yahoo. “Right now, Apple has built a house, they’ve priced it accordingly. They need to fill it with content and we think that’s going to be the next trick up the sleeve for (Apple CEO Tim) Cook in terms of bigger M&A.” That’s mergers and acquisitions for those who don’t converse in business talk.

Ives’s pecking order for potential purchases was as follows: A24 Studio, Lionsgate, Viacom/CBS, Sony Pictures, MGM Studios, Netflix “and then a potential gaming publisher (that could be incorporated into Apple’s streaming service or a separate gaming subscription service) as a wild card.”

Sony distributed the four most recent Bond films. It’s not involved with No Time to Die, which will be distributed by United Artists Releasing (joint venture between MGM and Annapurna) in the U.S. and Universal internationally.

MGM has long been one of the weakest studios, having survived various restructurings and a bankruptcy. MGM controls half of the Bond film franchise along with Danjaq, parent company of Eon Productions. MGM also owns a large film library, which includes the old United Artists library containing such titles (in addition to Bond films) as West Side Story, The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven, the Rocky series and the Pink Panther series.

Apple certainly has plenty of cash. Interesting times in show biz.

Marvel, Sony snatch defeat from the jaws of victory

Spider-Man: Homecoming poster from 2017

Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures entered in a partnership which included, among other things, the highest-grossing (unadjusted) film Sony history while Marvel featured its best known character in its own movies.

What next? Perhaps end the partnership.

That’s apparently what’s happening. This week saw numerous reports about the split. (See THIS STORY from Variety, THIS STORY from The Hollywood Reporter and THIS STORY from The Wrap, among others.)

Essentially, Marvel film boss Kevin Feige produced two Spider-Man movies for Sony while Marvel got to use the Tom Holland version of Spidey in three Marvel films (Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame).

All of the films were enormously successful. Spider-Man: Far From Home, released earlier this year, passed Skyfall in unadjusted worldwide box office for Sony. Still, things apparently not successful enough.

Marvel, owned by Walt Disney Co., reportedly wanted to co-finance Sony’s solo Spider-Man films. Sony issued a statement on Twitter that Feige is getting overextended because of the studio’s “newly added Marvel properties.”

Marvel has gotten control of the X-Men and Fantastic Four as a result of Disney acquiring most of the assets of 20th Century Fox. It’s also launching new TV series on Disney’s new Disney + streaming service.

Whatever the specifics, Sony is saying in effect it doesn’t need Marvel’s Feige to make successful films. Marvel seems to be signaling it still wants a better deal regardless of past success.

We’ll see what happens. The collaboration with Marvel was a shot in the arm for Sony’s Spider-Man franchise. Having Spider-Man in Marvel films was a boost for Marvel.

What’s more, Holland’s Spider-Man had been in position to be the “the face” of future Marvel films with the departure of Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Captain America. Nothing last forever, but this partnership may have reached a premature end.

Bond 25 questions: The Universal edition

Universal logo

With Bond 25, one of the biggest changes was how Universal, part of Comcast, would be in charge of international distribution.

For the past four 007 films, Sony’s Columbia Pictures handled all the distribution. With Bond 25, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna, through the United Artists Releasing joint venture, would handle the U.S. and Canada. Universal would deal with international distribution, which is the biggest piece of a Bond film.

With that in mind, the blog has a few questions.

Hey, what about that Bond 25 teaser trailer?

A favorite Bond fan theory was that a Bond 25 teaser trailer might be attached to Universal’s Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw, a spinoff from the studio’s successful Fast and the Furious franchise.

Well, Hobbs & Shaw is being released this week. There’s no sign of a Bond 25 trailer. Perhaps it will still happen. Still, these days, trailers debut online days before they show up in theaters. Time is running out for a Bond 25 teaser trailer to be part of Hobbs & Shaw.

What does Universal mean for Bond 25 otherwise?

It may mean the situation is more complicated. Or, as Napoleon Solo once said in an episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., “It’s a three-cornered game.”

For the last four Bond films, Columbia managed marketing and releasing. MGM was the home studio for the Bond franchise but it lacked its own distribution operation.

Now, with United Artists Releasing, MGM and Annapurna are involved in addition to Universal. There’s no single distribution/marketing point.

So?

Recall that the late April “reveal” event in Jamaica didn’t have a title for Bond 25. The MI6 James Bond website has reported there was a title (A Reason to Die) ready to go but Eon Productions and its studio partners opted to hold off. The film still has no title three months later.

Essentially, there are more parties who need to be kept in the loop. United Artists Releasing is a proxy for two different (financially struggling) studios while Universal is a Bond newbie.

Anything else?

Back in 2015, Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions said Eon really does the marketing for Bond films, its studio partners merely execute the plan.

But is that really the case this time? Or would Universal like to have a say? Perhaps we’ll see.

SPECTRE’s script: Sibling (sort of) rivalry

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s gunbarrel

SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, had more scrutiny than most James Bond films. Thanks to the 2014 hacking of Sony Pictures, at least two versions of the script and many related e-mails ended up going out ahead of filming that began in December 2014.

By the time of a 129-page, Dec. 1, 2014 draft — one week before the start of principal photography — the story was mostly locked down. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had rewritten earlier drafts by John Logan.

However, there would still be changes made before the final film.

The Dec. 1 draft, referring to the gunbarrel sequence, said: “IRIS OPENS on the eye-socket of a SKULL.

“It’s the Day of the Dead.”

The official James Bond Twitter feed in early 2015 teased this idea as part of its series of clapperboard photos.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

However, in the final film, the gunbarrel (or iris) didn’t open up on anything. The image of Bond having shot his gun went black and the words, “The dead are live” appeared. Then an image of the Day of the Dead parade (including a skull float) appeared.

The stage directions establish what audiences would see in the fall of 2015.

In this sea of RED and BLACK we pick up a MAN IN A WHITE SUIT AND BLACK MASK moving against the stream…

This is MARCO SCIARRA. An assassin.

Now the man bumps into someone — and, as he continues on, WE FOLLOW THE MAN HE BUMPED INTO…

It’s JAMES BOND. Also an assassin.

What follows is very similar to the final film. Bond is with a woman named Estrella, who he eventually ditches to go after Sciarra. However, there’s a brief exchange later that wouldn’t be part of the final film.

BACK TO BOND. Steely as he looks over Mexico. His cell phone rings.

ESTRELLA (O.S)
I thought you said you wouldn’t be long…

BOND
Something came up.

An aerial shot of the helicopter flying over the city into the setting sun.

ESTRELLA (O.S.)
Well – I hope you found what you were looking for.

He looks down…at the small ring he now holds in his palm.

BOND
It’s a start.

After the titles, Bond goes to see M. The stage directions indicate 007’s actions in Mexico are the talk of the office. “As he strides down the corridor, people fall silent. Analysts whisper.” Bond also notices new cameras being installed.

Poster for SPECTRE

In the final film, after the title things began directly with Bond’s meeting with M. In the script, the cameras would be referenced when Bond meets C.

“…cameras. You put up all the cameras,” Bond says.

“Well, you’ve nothing to hide, have you Bond?” C replies.

Judi Dench’s Return

Later, when Bond shows Moneypenny the video message he received from the former M (Judi Dench), the stage directions list the character as “M (Judi).” Her lines are in italic type.

The Moneypenny-Bond scene is a bit longer than the final film, but not substantially different. It does turn out there’s a woman in Bond’s bedroom. “James? I’m lonely…Come back to bed…” After Moneypenny departs, the woman asks Bond who was just there.

Bond goes to Rome and infiltrates a SPECTRE meeting. The script briefly introduces the movie’s villain but there are no clues yet to his real identity.

As in the final film, Bond makes his getaway in the Aston Martin he took from MI6 while SPECTRE’s Hinx follows in a Jaguar. The stage directions specify that “Dusty Springfield’s ‘SPOOKY'” come out of the Aston’s Martin’s speakers at one point.

Skipping ahead, Bond meets up with Mr. White, more or less as he did in the final film. After White kills himself, Bond is trying to meet up with his daughter Madeline Swann.

When he tracks her down, the script has a few more details. Bond says he was 11 when his parents died.

By page 61, Bond has put it together than Franz Oberhauser is behind all the villainy. “He was older than me,” Bond tells Q. “We barely spoke. But he knows me. Check his name. And check for multiple identities.”

“And what’s your plan exactly?” Q asks.

“Find him,” Bond replies. “And kill him.”

Big Reveal

Bond gives Q the ring he took from Sciarra back in Mexico City. Q begins working with his laptop. The stage directions emphasize how the previous Daniel Craig 007 films are now interlocked.

“On Q’s LAPTOP, the connections are starting to accumulate. THE IMAGE OF LE CHIFFRE IS JOINED BY VESPER LYND, DOMINIC GREENE AND THEN … RAOUL SILVA.”

Meanwhile, as in the film, C shows off to M how all of MI6 personnel are under surveillance. The script, though, has a scene where M confronts Moneypenny for aiding Bond without his knowledge.

“I do hope it wasn’t for love,” M says. “If so — you’ve been made a fool.”

“This sears into her,” according to the stage directions. “And in recoiling from that pain, she learns her answer.”

Moneypenny’s reply: “It wasn’t love. It was loyalty.”

“Conspiculously not loyalty to M,” the stage directions read. “Painful to him.”

More back and forth takes place when Moneypenny says Bond was following orders.

“Who from?” M asks.

“Your predecessor, sir.” This, of course, shakes M up.

Dad Always Liked You Best!

Bond and Madeline eventually head out to find Oberhauser. There’s a final confrontation between Bond and Hinx. The script makes it sound like Hinx dies (the script says he is “sucked under the wheel”). Also, in this script, M manages to get a telegram message to Bond. “DOUBLE-0 SECTION FINISHED — STOP GOOD LUCK — STOP M.”

SPECTRE teaser image

On page 97, Bond and Oberhauser finally meet. Their exchange goes on for a few pages. On page 102, we cut to the chase.

“Me, I was not a well child,” Oberhauser says. “But I had loving, doting parents. Then one day, they brought another boy into our home. This boy was an orphan. His parents had died in a climbing accident.”

Of course, the boy was Bond.

“I would sit in my room alone listening to my father hour after hour playing cards with this boy.”

Translation: Dad always liked you best!

Oberhauser goes on to describe the time he played poker with Bond, using hazelnuts as chips.

OBERHAUSER (CONT’D)
And the next hand I was dealt All Hearts to the King. A flush! And I pushed all my hazelnuts into the middle. And cuckoo looked at me. And he did the same. Then he reached to his wrist, and he took off his big silver watch his own dead father had given him, and he placed it on the table. And suddenly…I panicked.

Yes, young Bond bluffed young Oberhauser. Bond had a pair of threes. This was the inspiration for Oberhauser to become a super villain.

This continues on to page 106, where Bond reveals to Oberhauser the latter was really adopted. “Your name, your real name …is Ernest Serban.”

Oberhauser remains frozen. Bond leans in.

BOND (CONT’D)
Who’s the cuckoo now?

Let’s skip to the ending. Bond shoots Oberhauser three times but doesn’t kill him.

“KILL ME you coward! KILL ME!!” Oberhauser says.

“Where’s the fun in that?” Bond replies.

According to the stage direction, it’s a week later when Bond shows up and talks to Q.

As in the final film, Bond and Madeline are in the Aston Martin DB5. But there’s some addditional dialogue in the scrip.

MADELINE
Where will we go, James?

BOND
I have a few ideas. After all…
(He smiles at her.)
We have all the time in the world.

The final stage directions say the DB5 roars away “TAKING THEM SOMEWHERE…ANYWHERE….TOGETHER.”