The spoiler debate

"Rosebud is the sled."

“Rosebud is the sled.”

With yet another James Bond movie in production, the old debate about spoilers flares up again.

Over the past couple of weeks, Eon Productions has been filming a car chase for SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film. This has occurred on public streets in the capital city (Rome) of a major European country (Italy).

This is the kind of thing that draws publicity, including a video posted by The Associated Press, one of the largest news-gathering organizations in the world. Some 007 fans want to learn more. Some 007 fan sites have written about it. But others complain it’s a spoiler and shouldn’t be covered by the media at all and shouldn’t even be discussed by true fans at all.

Once upon a time, some of the biggest 007 spoilers came from the official Bond apparatus. The novelization of The Spy Who Loved Me came out before the movie’s U.S. debut. That pretty much gave away the ski jump stunt performed by Rick Sylvester in the film. Ditto the novelization of Tomorrow Never Dies, which gave away much of that film’s plot and action sequences. The only differences were changes made in the script after the novelization was written.

Nor was this restricted to novelizations. 007 soundtracks gave away key plot points. Goldfinger’s soundtrack had a track called Death of Goldfinger. Thunderball’s soundtrack had a track called Death of Fiona. You Only Live Twice’s soundtrack had a track called Death of Aki. Doesn’t leave too much to the imagination.

Still, this is the 21st century. There’s this thing called the Internet. Once upon a time, fans who experienced momentary disappointment with finding out details about a movie ahead of time had to accept their fate and move on.

With the Internet, you don’t have to worry about moving on. It becomes a big echo chamber.

As that applies to spoilers, well, people will complain about spoilers when a movie has been out for three months. (CLICK HERE for a September 2013 post on this blog and scroll down to one of the comments.) Some will even complain about spoilers seven years after a movie has come out. (CLICK HERE for a November 2011 post and scroll down to one of the comments there.)

The blog got some flak on Facebook this week for THIS POST, which embedded a couple of SPECTRE car chase videos, including the one the AP posted to YouTube. We arranged the post so, on Facebook, its preview would only show a SPECTRE logo. To actually see the videos, you’d have to click on the link itself. Still, that wasn’t good enough for some, who argued “true fans” shouldn’t even be interested in any video of one of the most expensive movies of all time filming a scene in a major European capital.

To be fair, SPECTRE is an unusual case. Because of the hacking at Sony (which will release the film in November), it’s possible to read memos and a script and get information as late as November. the Gawker website did so back on Dec. 12. (Warning: there are spoilers if you click on that link.)

In a perfect world, fans curious about the movie and those not wanting to see anything before it comes out could come to an understanding. But the Internet, for the most part, works against being reasonable. When people cry foul about movies that have been out for months and years, it’s hard to be reasonable.

Our modest proposal for the title of the newest 007 novel

Jim Murray, ace Los Angeles Times columnist

Jim Murray, ace Los Angeles Times columnist

So, Anthony Horowitz, the author hired to write the newest James Bond continuation novel, let it be known this month he’s delivered his manuscript and he approves of the cover for the U.K. edition.

It’s probably too late to make this modest suggestion for the title. It’s based on the previously disclosed information the novel is based on an Ian Fleming idea for a never-made James Bond television series and it involves a setting in the world of auto racing.

The Fleming story idea was titled Death on Wheels, but Horowitz has previously said that won’t be the title of the novel.

But what would be a good title? Well, one of the best U.S. sports writers of the 20th century provides something worth considering.

“Gentlemen, start your coffins,” Jim Murray, sports columnist of the Los Angeles Times, wrote in a column about the Indianapolis 500 published in 1966.

At the time Murray penned those words, the Indy 500 was at its height as the pre-eminent auto race in the world. In the 1960s, the 500 was so big, the stars of Formula One and NASCAR came to Indianapolis to compete in the event. In 1965 and 1966, Formula One stars won the race.

But the 500 could also prove deadly. As late the as the 1980s, The Associated Press news service would send to member newspapers a list of all fatalities that occurred during the race over the years. Meanwhile, Murray’s line for his Indy 500 column was just one of many memorable comments he wrote over a long career. Murray died in 1998.

Pinewood Studios to Open U.S. facility

Pinewood Studios plans a U.S. production facility near Atlanta, according to THE ASSOCIATED PRESS VIA HITFIX.

Pinewood is known to James Bond fans as the primary production home for James Bond films, with various exceptions such as Licence to Kill and GoldenEye.

Here’s an excerpt of the AP story:

The large-scale film complex will be called Pinewood Atlanta, and Pinewood will manage the facility under an agreement with a group of private investors. Plans call for the studio to be developed on 288 acres south of Atlanta in Fayette County and initially include at least five soundstages as well as production offices.

According to AP, Pinewood Atlanta is a joint venture between Pinewood Shepperton PLC and River’s Rock LLC, “an independently managed trust of the Cathy family” which is “known for establishing the Chick-fil-A fast-food restaurant empire based in Atlanta. The chain last year generated both criticism and support when company president Dan Cathy made comments against same-sex marriage. The company later said it would stop funding anti-gay marriage groups.”

Construction is underway and the first production work will begin in January, Andrew Smith, a Pinewood executive, told AP.

James Garner dies at 86

James Garner

James Garner

James Garner, an actor at home playing drama, comedy or a combination of both, died July 19 at 86, according to AN ASSOCIATED PRESS OBITUARY on the Los Angeles Times website. (UPDATE: You can view The New York Times obit BY CLICKING HERE.)

The Oklahoma-born Garner was best known for the 1950s Western television series Maverick and the 1970s detective show The Rockford Files. Garner’s Bret Maverick and Jim Rockford preferred to outwit rather than outfight adversaries. But neither character was to be taken lightly and could handle themselves in a variety of situations.

In both series, Garner & Co. weren’t afraid to poke fun at their genres.

One Maverick episode, “Gun-Shy,” was a parody of Gunsmoke, as Marshal Mort Dooley keeps running Maverick out of town. A sixth-season Rockford Files, “Nice Guys Finish Dead,” has Rockford instructing would-be a private eye on the art of smiling and sucker punching opponent. Meanwhile, ace private investigator Lance White (Tom Selleck) is aghast, saying a proper detective begins a fight by saying, “Put up your dukes!”

In the end, Lance White corners the villain, says, “Put up your dukes!” and knocks him out with one punch.

Garner was popular enough in both roles he participated in revivals: a one-season series called Bret Maverick in the early 1980s and a series of Rockford Files television movies in the 1990s.

The actor had plenty of other work, with other highlights including The Great Escape, The Americanization of Emily, Grand Prix (where he did much of his own racecar driving), Marlowe and Support Your Local Gunfighter.

Here’s an excerpt of a long interview Garner did about his career. It concerns the early days of The Rockford Files.

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.

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