Archive for May, 2009

A View to a Kill – Was this Roger’s Bond’s Final Mission Before Retirement?

Posted in 007, film, movies on May 25, 2009 by jamesdrax

He fought, he loved, he triumphed, and he kept the British end up.

Roger Moore’s portrayal of James Bond fascinates me. He wasn’t a mean bastard like Sean Connery’s Bond, but he wasn’t quite the hair sprayed pretty boy that was Pierce Brosnan. He was rather a caricature of the suave English gentleman. He projected that image so well, his enemies underestimated him, and women couldn’t resist him.

He had a long haul of seven films starting with Live and Let Die (1973) until A View to a Kill (1985), and even though he was in relatively reasonable physical condition in his final Bond film at 57-years-old, Moore admits his age was showing its wrinkly head by then and it was time to call it quits. But what about his character? In most aspects, it was the end of an era for Bond films, not only was it the last Moore film, it was also Lois Maxwell’s last film as Miss Moneypenny; so did Moore’s Bond retire as well after the mission against Max Zorin’s (Christopher Walken) plan to flood Silicon Valley?

To begin this deep and thorough analysis (!), it is important to understand that Timothy Dalton’s Bond is not the same character as Moore’s, as I like to think of The Living Daylights (1987) as a “reboot” in the same sense that people view Daniel Craig’s debut in Casino Royale (2006). The same can be said for GoldenEye (1995), since Brosnan’s initial outing bares little relation to any previous incarnation in terms of continuity. With that said, Moore’s Bond isn’t even the same as Connery’s. The Con finished his run in Diamonds Are Forever (1971), but picked it up again in the unofficial Never Say Never Again (1983), the same year as Octopussy (although some like to ignore Never Say Never Again and to consider Connery, Lazenby and Moore as a single line of continuity). That just leaves George Lazenby’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). It’s constantly referred to in proceeding films (The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Licence to Kill (1989), The World Is Not Enough (1999), etc.) so its purpose down the track was to provide a link to the pain in Bond’s past. Sybock would have had a field day with him.

I know, if you want linear continuity, just read the novels.

However that brings us to the end of A View to a Kill, and Moore’s long stint at playing the character calls for the question to be answered, what happened to his character after the events of this film take place? I’ve been hard-pressed to find fan fiction that deals with any of this – the best you can find is the tired old theory that MI6 gives a new agent the designated “007” and “James Bond” codes, but this is so far-fetched and overdone, it’s not worth an ounce of exploration. All we can do is speculate and ask questions as to what happened to this aging agent.

The film ends with Q remote controlling his “Snooper” (think of a mini version of the robot from Rocky IV, what a decade) into the bathroom spying on Bond and his lovely blonde companion Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts) taking a shower together. Q is an old perv. My friend Hitch told me it would have been better if Zorin made a surprise reappearance and slashed them with a knife for revenge, ala Psycho, complete with a John Barry reworking of Bernard Herrmann’s squeaky “The Murder” cue. Alas it wasn’t to be, and we’re stuck with the paradoxes of the Bond franchise. Even this alternate ending might have been preferable.

It’s probably safe to assume that afterward, Bond sent a memo to MI6 declaring his resignation from being a Double-0 agent, and why wouldn’t he? He got the hot blonde! He could have settled in San Francisco with Stacey, who would eventually become his trophy wife and live in that ridiculously nice house she had with no furniture and a small supply of rock salt and ingredients for a delicious quiche, although Bond would have had his own material possessions imported from England, a convenient coincidence!

However, maybe Stacey turned out like the other Bond girls, and he just discarded her like what happens to every other in existence (a feminazi couldn’t resist this). Another idea is that he returned to India and picked things up with Octopussy on that island populated exclusively by women. She was closer to his age, and they had something good going. Hey, they were “two of a kind”, right? He would have been in eternal paradise.

I can’t see him going back to Melina Havelock, Holly Goodhead, Anya Amasova or Mary Goodnight. They all came across as a bunch of career-minded opportunists, too stuck-up for Bond to put up with in the long haul, and Melina, well that chick had problems. Goodhead would have still been working for the CIA, so it’s possible he might have run into her again, but Anya was a Soviet, and would have become a relic of the Cold War, and far too devoted to Mother Russia – more trouble than it’s worth. It would have been funnier in A View to a Kill if Bond had run into Anya playing a cameo role instead of Pola Ivonova in the Soviet plot to thwart Zorin’s evil plans – it would have brought that part of the franchise full-circle to a certain extent. And Solitaire, eh, I doubt she made much of an impact on Bond’s memory banks besides the fact that he coerced her virginity away – you sly devil, you!

Perhaps he tossed them all aside and still lusted after young girls while on his retirement pension. His womanizing, while admirable from the perspective of the common man, was almost like a chronic mental disease, and no pills have been invented for this unique form of addiction. Come on, Jim. It was the 80’s, STDs were at the height of everyone’s fears, and you were on the frontline. Shape up or ship out, 007!

There’s also the possibility that he just returned to England and took Miss Moneypenny for a night on the town like he’s always promised. Give the old girl a break, she’s wanted Bond for years and years; she cried for Bond at his wedding to Tracy, and she cried when she overheard M talking to General Gogol that Bond was missing in A View to a Kill. They played up this unrequited infatuation in Die Another Day (2002), which was very amusing.

Someone out there write a fanfic that chronicles Moore’s Bond after the Zorin mission, someone with talent, who can capture the escapism and tongue-in-cheek humour of that era in 007 movies. This two-dimensional character does offer a lot to the imagination, and one must delve deeply into its treasures.


Writing an Essay on Film Music

Posted in film, film music, movies, music, scores on May 24, 2009 by jamesdrax

Hundreds of CDs, a few dozen LPs and a couple of books on film music. Can this prepare me for a 4000 word essay on the development of film music in American cinema? You bet it can.

The topic of the essay for the unit of study American Film and Hollywood in my US Studies course will be about the development of film music over the last century, but in particular how it just isn’t as good as it used to be, and there are people to blame for this, which I’ll get to further below.

When you’re passionate about film music and you’ve been listening to the works of composers such as Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, James Horner, John Barry, and many others from the so-called Silver Age of American cinema, you develop a certain taste and an in-built aural detector forms in your brain, connected to your ears, that makes you automatically know what separates a good film score from a bad one. Hell, even some bad film scores can have a sense of fun about them, even if they draw attention to themselves because film score aficionados are tuned into their siren-like abilities that lure us in to take notice and enjoy it for what it is. It may have a certain charm about it that makes it unique. Then you take a look back at the Golden Age film scores of Max Steiner, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Bernard Herrmann, Franz Waxman, Roy Webb, Alex North, Dimitri Tiomkin, and you realize that these guys were true musical artists working with an antagonistic studio system, but they delivered so many winners from their technical expertise coupled with their talent of recognising where music should be and what it should sound like with the most intricate of details perfectly positioned.

However, in recent times, those of us who have been closely observing the quickly changing development of film scores of the first decade of the 21st Century have noticed a disturbing trend. We’re not buying new scores like we used to. The majority of scores these days have descended into a decrescendo of unadulterated mediocrity. I blame three parties for this, first I blame audiences for not caring, even if that may not seem fair but no-one ever says “we’d like the music to be more prominent and engaging!”, but the bulk of the blame can be thrown squarely at the studio executives who think they can get away with it, and last but not least, Hans Zimmer.

Usually film composers have an autonomous working style, where they score the film by writing the music themselves with little to no additional help other than at best, handing the music to the orchestrators for instrumental translation. But Hansy fancies himself as the new Alfred Newman, only Alf was actually a good composer. Zimmer credits himself as the main composer, and credits his additional composers appropriately, fair enough – but he has created a film scoring methodology where all his underling composers continue his own lax practices, and what results is some of the blandest, cheapest and coma-inducing drones and semibreves you’ve ever heard. I’m not kidding, Adorno would be laughing his cranky douchebag head off at the nonsense that’s heard in movies these days from the Zimmer factory. Zimmer probably never meant to do this, nevertheless he is indirectly responsible, that he has exacerbated a system that doesn’t award quality or innovation, rather it treats music as just another technical aspect of the production like a conveyor-belt product that has to beat the clock before the release date. I think composers in general have just gotten lazy too.

Where is film music in American cinema headed? Who the hell knows? Even Michael Giachinno, the annointed “Next John Williams” couldn’t even come up with something for the 2009 Star Trek that could be uttered in the same breath as Jerry Goldsmith’s score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture or James Horner’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. If Giachinno is the best on offer for the next twenty years, Shaka’Re help us. As I said, we’re not buying film scores for new movies at such a frequent rate like we used to; instead we’ve been spending our money on older scores distributed as limited editions from labels such as Intrada, Varèse Sarabande and La La Land Records. I cannot thank these labels enough for providing quality music that has been previously unreleased.

No, this post is not the essay, but think of it as a footnote. A warm-up, if you will, for what I’m tackling in this monster of an essay.

Welcome to Universal Exports!

Posted in Introductions on May 24, 2009 by jamesdrax

Someone turn on the lights, it’s awfully dark in here!

I’m not going to make this a mystery story, I’m just making this up as I go, so topics discussed might be anything ranging from William Shatner’s knockout acting style to Roger Moore being the best James Bond to fingernails scratching on a chalkboard. Feel free to blow your top if I write a political post that offends you – are you going to lecture me on the wickedness of my ways? I’m pretty stuck in them. I value combative disagreements because I can just sit back and watch people hyperventilate at my power of words and suggestion (this has been my greatest talent since high school, would you like to see my scars?). In fact, my ideas seem so loopy (and yet so influential), my well-meaning Democrat friends at university in my Master of US Studies course believe they’re putting me through a conversion process like what that lizard-chick Diana in the 1980’s mini-series V does to people when they say something that pisses her off. Sounds like brainwashing to me. The United States Studies Society (USSSoc) shall consider my input invaluable, and I look forward to being able to pay the required amount the elders have asked for my membership.

If I recall, wasn’t Maddox of The Best Page in the Universe fame one of the first internet “bloggers”, even though he supposedly hates the term? Since reading that, I always thought “yeah, blogs blow”, but it took me a while to realize that his entire operation is just a whingy blog that helped make angsty dribblings of crap from random nobodies a hot commodity (although he never intended for that!). Now people are actually demanding that I create my own because my thoughts are supposedly interesting and worthy of immortalizing on a Blogger page stuck in traffic on the “information super highway”, in which I’m expecting a bloody massacre of a car chase if I’m going to stay on board.

You’ll have to trust that I can handle this contraption. If it goes by hot air, then I must.

Make it so…