Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #827: Operation: Oscar Bait

His name is Bond, James Bond.

But if the rumors are true, director Sam Mendes wants to change his name to "Oscar."

If you haven't already heard, director Sam Mendes, the man behind indie dramas American Beauty and Revolutionary Road is rumored to be axing the action from the 23 James Bond picture, tentatively titled Skyfall, in the hopes of making it all about acting, and winning him some Academy Awards.

If these rumors are true, and I hope to hell they aren't true, there are three possible reasons for Mendes to take this course of non-action.

1.  He's delusional.  He has gone off whatever medication he's either on, or should be on, and somehow thinks that the narrow minded and hidebound Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is somehow going to change almost 50 years of precedent and start acknowledging the Bond films beyond the rare technical nominations.  Then maybe soon to be ex-wife Kate Winslet will take him back, and everything will sunshine and unicorns.

Well, if that's the case, take a reality pill, because going down this path will only serve to hurt everyone involved.  The Bond franchise will suffer financially, the Academy will ignore it, simply out of habit, and Mendes will will suffer as the man who sank James Bond, critics will see it as self-important egomania, and I don't see Kate Winslet taking back a loser.

2.  He's lazy.  Mendes is a Performance Director.  His films are all about actors and letting actors shine by bringing out all that suburban angst.  That's all nice, and it give the Academy something to vote for, and if you're already good with actors, it's easy.

Directing a good James Bond movie is hard.  Really hard.

The Bond franchise needs more than just a Performance Director, or even a Visual Director.  The Bond franchise needs what I call a Narrative Director.  There's a story to be told, and it needs to be told in an exciting way that ultimately makes sense to the viewer.  That means bringing together acting, script, and visuals, and working at a level of detail that is a hell of a lot of work.

Better to just ditch all the complicated and hard stuff, and just stick with what's you know, what you're comfortable with, and what you find easy.

3.  He's scared.  As I said before, directing a James Bond is a lot of work, and Mendes may be having an attack of the pesky self doubts.

The sort of self-doubts that tell him that he's a hack who got lucky by casting good actors and that's why he's been having diminishing commercial, critical, and award returns since his explosive debut with American Beauty

So what does one do? Too plagued by fear to face the creative challenges of making a Bond movie, he goes the cynical route. Claims he's going to bring "art" to the franchise in the hope that its failure can be blamed on the ignorance of the audience, and not on the filmmaker.

Which is why I hope these rumors aren't true.  Making a good Bond film isn't easy, but that's sort of the point of making such a film, besides the fee they're paying you. Every director who is known for a certain style or method needs to take every opportunity to step out of their comfort zone and do something really different from everything they've done before.

Face the challenges presented to you with skill and imagination, and you can only improve as a filmmaker. However letting insanity, laziness, or fear make you try to force this project into the mold of just about everything else you've ever done, you will not only the film, but yourself as well.

So let's hope these rumors are just that, silly rumors.




  1. Tuning 007 into Oscar Bait, it is official Hollywood has lost it's collective mind. MGM which had this franchise put on ice because of MONEY problems is greenlighting this.

  2. Here is my question for today. Why do movie people take an IP, for which they presumably pay money, and then screw the pooch with the franchise? I mean, the idea behind an IP, one would think, is that it has a ready-made loyal audience. But if you are not fulfilling that audience's expectations then WTF?

    The Bond 23 remarks you make here are cogent. Another example I'd like to point out is the He-Man movie. Why take this IP and rip it out of the He-Man universe? Plus dump the franchise's comedy relief (Orco) and replace him with a gnome? I'm not even a He-Man fan, but I could see the movie had little to do with the license.

    Is it because the company gets the license, then hands it over to a team that doesn't respect it? Doesn't anyone with deep pockets oversee the procedure?

  3. Let's play a little game. What were the big Oscar-buzz films in 1964, the same year that Goldfinger - ostensibly the most iconic of the Bond films - came out?

    Well, there was My Fair Lady, which won, but also Becket, Mary Poppins, Zorba the Greek, Dr. Strangelove, Marriage Italian Style, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, The Pumpkin Eater, Seven Days in May, Seance on a Wet Afternoon and Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte.

    Some are considered classics (Strangelove,) some are evergreen family favorites (Mary Poppins - thanks to Disney's unrelenting marketing machinery,) some are remembered fondly but watched rarely (Zorba,) and the rest are footnotes or the kind of thing that you'd watch of an afternoon on TCM out of idle curiosity.

    None are as relentlessly popular - or profitable - as Goldfinger, which has probably had more cinematic re-releases and home video incarnations than most of the list put together. I'm sure you could probably say the same thing for almost every other Bond film, compared to the year when it was released, right up until the Pierce Brosnan era.

    Someone should have pointed this out to Mendes and said "You re-made The Swimmer. How nice for you. Now how about you try to make a film that people will still be watching in fifty years, hmm?"

    Artists. Pfft. Fuck artists.