Nobody Does It Better: The Unauthorized Oral History of James Bond

Nobody Does It Better: The Unauthorized Oral History of James Bond

#Bond_age_ Book Review:

Nobody Does It Better: The Complete, Unauthorized Oral History of James Bond
by Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross

 

Nobody Does It Better: The Complete, Unauthorized Oral History of James Bond coverHaving retold the oral history of Star Trek in The Fifty-Year Mission, authors Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross set their crosshairs on another target — the 58-year legacy of James Bond in Nobody Does It Better: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of James Bond. Bond fans devour 007 minutiae more greedily than the Cookie Monster devours that first box of Samoas after a cold Girl Scout-cookieless winter. The James Bond mythology takes on a life of its own, sometimes blending wish fulfillment and fantasy into the simple facts of the series’ production. Outlandish stories are often disproven, but in the James Bond universe some of those tall tales turn out to be true.

In Nobody Does It Better, Altman and Gross haven’t exactly provided an ideal reference for fact-checking (though I’ve earmarked a few dozen pages that clarify or disprove a few widely-held notions), but they’ve gifted us this immersive, eminently readable collection of stories, musings and first-hand production accounts from the men and women that made it all happen. Contemporary critics, filmmakers and James Bond obsessives also populate a portion of these 716 pages. While they offer a utilitarian, sometimes apologetic 21st century perspective. I’ll always allow airtime to James Chapman — whose Licence to Thrill is one of my go-to Bond texts — and Phil Noble, but some of the other contributors felt superfluous. Not unwelcome, necessarily, just less meaty. As someone who trades in these didactic retrospectives in the Twatterverse, I was far more interested in the stories told by the talent that turned Ian Fleming’s unlikable literary scoundrel into the world’s most famous agent of espionage.

Terence Tells All

As a well-read consumer of the Bond histories, I relished the uncensored dishing captured in these excerpts. Director Terence Young (the Noël Coward of the Bond universe?) offered a wellspring of unfiltered conversation about Dr. No and From Russia with Love in particular. Take for example this passage where he praises and eviscerates producer Harry Saltzman in the same breath:

That pre-credit sequence in From Russia with Love was a very good sequence. It was Harry Saltzman’s idea; he wanted to set the killing of James Bond in that training school. We had a lot of arguments about it, and eventually they were all in America and I shot it in the back lot at Pinewood… Harry had some very good ideas, I must say. Also, he had some of the worst ideas I’ve ever seen. If you’ve sense, you discard the bad ones, and if you’re intelligent, you keep the good ones. But he was a terrific idea merchant. That was definitely one of his best.

Young also provided subtle (but not necessarily modest) insights into his filmmaking process and the limitations placed upon the Bond production in the early 1960’s.

The only reason I used to get away with a lot of what I did was because I always used to try and make a laugh at the end of a violent scene. That was one of the traditions I set up, that you could be as violent as you like, provided at the end there was something like when he kills Grant on the train… Bond leans across and says, “I don’t think you’ll be needing this… old man,” and he takes it. It got a laugh and it took care of the censor. The censor let it through on that strength. He’d be saying, “Oh, no; oh, no!” I was there when they were running it… He giggled and he laughed and he let us get away with it.

The Blofeld’s in the Details

The authors also devote a number of pages to ephemera that might sit beyond the scope of an average Bond viewer such as the 1954 CBS Climax Mystery Theater episode of Casino Royale starring Barry Nelson, the Kevin McClory legal saga over Fleming’s Thunderball and the on-again-off-again rights to SPECTRE, the 1967 Casino Royale spoof, McClory’s production of Never Say Never Again (1983), and the MGM sale that stalled production between Licence to Kill (1989) and GoldenEye (1995). Sections like these are likely to be devoured with equal relish alongside the juicier concrete production tidbits.

If the book can be faulted for under-representing any particular area of the James Bond production machine, it’s the undocumented production time between filming the movies themselves. For example, script development and actor selection sneak into the stories in fits and spurts but rarely receive individual focus. The media circus surrounding Daniel Craig’s selection prior to Casino Royale (2006) gets a passing mention. Granted, much of this process took place behind closed doors and occurred before the 24/7 media blitz so catty quotations like Terence Young’s might not have been exactly forthcoming — or they deemed this information to be wallpaper, useful but entirely unnecessary in holding up the foundation of the franchise.

Nobody Does It Better Final Thoughts

This exhaustive and carefully curated text gives the creative (and often unsung) heroes and heroines behind James Bond a voice in their definitive story. Nobody Does It Better pulls back the curtain on the history of EON Productions and serves as a welcome reminder that nothing about Ian Fleming’s creation was pre-ordained. Talent, persistence and a lot of luck made James Bond. The authors’ adoration for the material transmits through the width and breadth of this Ken Burns-like document to the greatest film franchise of all time.

Sample each section of Nobody Does It Better in conjunction with your latest James Bond rewatch or sit down with a martini (or six) and absorb everything all at once. Casual fans might be put off by the size of the book itself, but they’d be missing an in-depth snapshot of the movie business that’s far more than just 007 fan service. Bond fans will definitely want to make (significant) room on their shelf for Nobody Does It Better.

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Nobody Does It Better: The Complete, Unauthorized Oral History of James Bond coverOrder Nobody Does It Better: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of James Bond on Amazon.com.

The Huey Lewis / James Bond Theme Song Challenge

The Huey Lewis / James Bond Theme Song Challenge

huey-lewis-james-bond-

The idea for a Huey Lewis / James Bond Theme Song Challenge came to fruition in an innocent Twitter thread about the announcement of Billie Eilish as the artist chosen for the No Time to Die theme song. Because I’m a crotchety old coot (who also happens to think Billie Eilish is pretty talented) I complained, of course, that she’d been hired strictly to sell downloads with no creative impulse paid toward selecting an artist that would best serve the movie. More of the same old same old, in other words. (I’m not wrong, by the way, and I think the song backs me up here.) Here’s the thread that made Huey Lewis the focus of this endeavor, courtesy of @willmckinley, @professormortis, @jfkenney and @HouseofGlib.

The critical point here is that Bond themes had, on occasion, been incredibly fun. When people talk about their favorite Bond themes there’s a reason that Duran Duran and Paul McCartney’s songs come up most frequently. Any artist can be a Bond artist, fun is undervalued, and where the hell did all of that go? The rich catalog of Huey Lewis and the News proved this point 24 times over. This became quite an obsession with me over the last month. Some songs were obvious fits, others needed a lot of work. I had some help, James Kenney and Allan Mott added suggestions right away. I also pulled in the assistance of a like-minded Huey Lewis fanatic @IsaacsHauntedB. I’m grateful that I didn’t undertake this madness alone because it seems somehow more sane when people other than yourself contribute to these misguided, obsessive adventures. It might also make more sense after a little backstory.

The first CD I bought with my own money was Huey Lewis and the News’ Sports (1983) sometime around 1988, but I’d been a fan long before that. I’d heard “The Heart of Rock and Roll” on the radio and immediately went to find my neighbor Bryan. He would generously dub his records to cassettes whenever he found something I liked. Bryan had the most amazing collection of vinyl I’ve ever seen. Wooden crates stacked floor to ceiling, a maze of music instead of a dining room. I told him that I’d heard a song called “New York New York” and I needed to hear more. After a few more questions he divined that I’d discovered Huey Lewis and not Frank Sinatra. The next day he handed me a tape with Huey Lewis’ Sports and the band’s self-titled debut record filling up the rest of the space on the cassette.

huey lewis and the news

(L-R) Keyboardist Sean Hopper, bassist Mario Cipollina, rhythm guitarist Johnny Colla, lead singer Huey Lewis, drummer Bill Gibson and lead guitarist Chris Hayes of American pop rock band Huey Lewis and the News in a studio session on January 1, 1983 in New York City. (Photo by Waring Abbott/Getty Images)

So, in fact, my obsession with Huey Lewis predates any of my James Bond fandom by at least a couple of years. Having recently learned about Huey Lewis’ Meniere’s disease diagnosis I had Huey Lewis on the brain and on constant rotation. His songs resist becoming relics. Impervious to the dust and decay as a result of their indebtedness to timeless R&B rhythms and doo-wop choruses, Huey Lewis and the News doesn’t feel beholden to a single time or place — which is part of the reason I think the James Bond / Huey Lewis Challenge worked so well. The music doesn’t rely on 1980’s nostalgia because it is in turn nostalgic for the simple rock, blues and soul music of the 1950’s and 60’s. People have been having a good time to this brand of music for almost 70 years. And that’s exactly what James Bond should be — a damned good time.

Vol. 1: Dr. No – “If You Love Me You’ll Let Me Go” (from self-titled)

Inspiration: I knew I wanted “If You Really Love Me You’ll Let Me” because of its frenetic pace. I could increase the speed of the dot patterns as necessary to fit the music without worrying about making human silhouettes look twitchy and unnatural.

James Bond/Huey Lewis Integration Difficulty Level: 3/10

Other Dr. No Title Credits Remixed: none!

Vol. 2: From Russia With Love – “Stop Trying” (from self-titled)

Inspiration: This was an early pairing — the first Huey Lewis song I put to a Bond title credit sequence, actually. I will tell you that I paired From Russia With Love with “Stop Trying” because I noticed that the boob shake roughly aligned with the arrival of the early rise to crescendo. I had to manipulate the speed of the first 20 seconds to make it match, but it’s a beautiful thing.

James Bond/Huey Lewis Integration Difficulty Level: 4/10

Other FRWL Title Credits Remixed: Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Suck My Kiss”

Vol. 3: Goldfinger – “Bad is Bad” (from Sports)

Inspiration: This was all about pace. I couldn’t rely on much manipulation because the Goldfinger credits used clips from the movie. I couldn’t force the match by changing the credits too much. Plus, I needed to at least come up with a trademark Huey Lewis and the News song to make people forget Shirley Bassey. “Bad Is Bad” is not perfect — but it’s in the neighborhood. I’m smitten with a the moment when Huey says “…like a chainsaw buzzin” and the musical growl that follows aligns with Bond and Pussy Galore in bed.

James Bond/Huey Lewis Integration Difficulty Level: 6/10

Other Goldfinger Title Credits Remixed: No Doubt – “Simple Kind of Life” / Bret MacKenzie – “I’ll Get You What You Want (Cockatoo in Malibu)”

Vol. 4. Thunderball – “Naturally” (from Fore!)

Inspiration: Someone (I’m trying to scan my Twitter feed for the culprit) served this idea up on a platter. Or I dreamed it? (That’s alarming.) The doo-wop wollops in “Naturally” fit the underwater frolicking. Don’t argue when inspiration happens. I did some manipulating of individual cuts to make the music fit the pace a little bit better. I still think it works. You might disagree. Take a swim. (I like this as a companion to the visuals more than the Tom Jones original.)

James Bond/Huey Lewis Integration Difficulty Level: 5/10

Other Thunderball Title Credits Remixed: Johnny Cash – “Thunderball”

Vol. 5: You Only Live Twice – “Tell Me a Little Lie” (from Picture This)

Inspiration: Another one that brought to me by my partners in Huey Lewis / James Bond crime. I asked @IsaacsHauntedB on Twitter if he had any inspiration for this project as he is also a big Huey Lewis fan. He had a few wonderful suggestions, but I think this is his masterpiece. Again, due to the graphic nature of this sequence I was allowed certain freedoms in attempting to match music and visuals. I didn’t have too much to do, however, besides sit back and enjoy. The background synth matches nicely with the lava spews. The recurring line “Tell me a little lie / to remember you by” highlights the lie that James Bond died in the opening of the film. So much to chew on here.

James Bond/Huey Lewis Integration Difficulty Level: 3/10

Other You Only Live Twice Title Credits Remixed: Pizzicato Five – “It’s a Beautiful Day”

Vol. 6: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – “Old Antone’s” (from Small World)

Inspiration: One of the title credit stragglers. I didn’t have a song I obviously wanted to pair with OHMSS. I went through a dozen potentials before just putting it to the side. As my potential options dwindled, I recognized I hadn’t found a home for any song from Huey Lewis’ Small World record. “Old Antone’s” had a certain jukebox/bar room appeal that thematically paired with the martini-themed credit sequence. I like that it’s an oddball song for Lewis matched with a Lazenby’s odd-man out Bond. The two feel right together. Signification speed manipulations required.

James Bond/Huey Lewis Integration Difficulty Level: 6/10

Other On Her Majesty’s Secret Service Title Credits Remixed: Chicago – “25 or 6 to 4”

Vol. 7: Diamonds Are Forever – “Doing It All For My Baby” (from Fore!)

Inspiration: Huey Lewis didn’t really have too many songs about diamonds. (He had zero songs about diamonds.) With diamonds being featured so prominently in the sequence, I needed to come up with something reflecting their omnipresence. That limited my options, but after a quick sift through song titles, I came up with a shortlist of semi-romantically-inclined mid-tempo Huey Lewis songs. You’d actually be surprised how many I considered. Only one -almost- fit the mid-tempo pace of the cuts. After a little finagling, this one lined up and makes it feel like an 80’s rom-com remake of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. If I rated these in terms of invisible blood, sweat and iMovie tears, this one wins, hands down.

James Bond/Huey Lewis Integration Difficulty Level: 7/10

Other Diamonds Are Forever Title Credits Remixed: Madonna – “Material Girl”

Vol. 8: Live and Let Die – “Some of My Lies Are True” (from self-titled)

Inspiration: Live and Let Die needed a pure Huey Lewis burner. His faster cuts almost all came from that wonderful, raw debut record. My options were limited and I still overshot the mark. I overestimated the rapidity of the editing on this title sequence. It actually floats from shot to shot using pans and zooms rather than quick cutting. I loved some of the ways this song lined up, however, so I waved the magic wand to helped ease the two into harmony.

James Bond/Huey Lewis Integration Difficulty Level: 5/10

Other Live and Let Die Title Credits Remixed: The Cult – “Fire Woman” / AC / DC – “Highway to Hell”

Vol. 9: The Man with the Golden Gun – “I Want a New Drug” (from Sports)

Inspiration: I didn’t have ideas so I went with extratextual thematics. I figured it takes drugs and lots of drugs to make this movie, so why not use the obviously connected Huey Lewis track. I worried about the song’s connection to Ray Parker’s Ghostbusters, but when you’re running out of truly great Huey Lewis songs it would be a crime to cancel out “I Want a New Drug” because Ray Parker beat me to it. I struggled to make this one play nice, but I think it worked out in the end. Honestly, trying to upstage Lulu with Huey Lewis was just an impossible proposition.

James Bond/Huey Lewis Integration Difficulty Level: 8/10

Other The Man with the Golden Gun Title Credits Remixed: Kanye West feat. Jamie Foxx – “Gold Digger” / Ice Cube & Parliament – “Bop Gun (One Nation)” 

Vol. 10: The Spy Who Loved Me – “Hip to Be Square” (from Fore!)

Inspiration: This one comes straight from @HouseOfGlib’s imagination. One of the greatest Huey Lewis tracks with one of the great James Bond title credit sequences. I toiled to make some of the cues in the second half of the sequence line up, but this one came together without much hassle. I probably have Allan to thank for bringing this pairing to my attention, thus inspiring this deep dive.

James Bond/Huey Lewis Integration Difficulty Level: 4/10

Other The Spy Who Loved Me Title Credits Remixed: Madonna – “Like a Virgin”

Vol. 11: Moonraker – “Is It Me” (from Picture This)

Inspiration: From the original thread in which the challenge was born, Twitter friend James Kenney (@jfkenney) immediately tossed out a couple ideas that stuck. There’s not much to say about this one — except that it just worked and the transition from spinning circus act to the simple chords opening “Is It Me” is a little bit of the sublime.

James Bond/Huey Lewis Integration Difficulty Level: 2/10

Other Moonraker Title Credits Remixed: Kate Bush – “James and the Cold Gun”

Vol. 12: For Your Eyes Only – “Do You Believe in Love” (from Picture This)

Inspiration: I’ve never done a title credit remix for For Your Eyes Only because of the Sheena head. Lyrics that didn’t match her lip syncing never sat well. Well, today I said “screw it” and pasted a Huey Lewis head over Sheena every time she appears, which I’d forgotten is almost the entirety of the song. iMovie doesn’t like to allow simple animations so I used Keynote to make a couple of clips and left each instance comically, absurdly rudimentary. I figured the easy visual gag was better than failing to produce something “good.” Other than animating five Huey Lewis heads, I didn’t mess with the pace of the credit sequence at all.

James Bond/Huey Lewis Integration Difficulty Level: 10/10 (blame Sheena)

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Vol. 13: Octopussy – “Now Here’s You” (from self-titled)

Inspiration: Another from the mind of @IsaacsHauntedB. The pace worked, almost. I singled out five different cuts and manipulated each to match the song. The juice was worth the squeeze. There’s just something about that little laser James Bond traveling across sexy lady parts that works with this jaunty Huey Lewis number.

James Bond/Huey Lewis Integration Difficulty Level: 4/10

Other Octopussy Title Credits Remixed: The Muppets – “Octopus’ Garden” / Tears for Fears – “Head Over Heels” 

Vol. 14: A View to a Kill – “Walking on a Thin Line” (from Sports)

Inspiration: Another credit sequence heavily associated with one of the absolute great Bond pop songs. Hence, I needed one of the absolute great Huey Lewis pop songs — at least one of my personal favorites — to compensate for the loss of Duran Duran. The tempo lined up and all I could do was celebrate Bond’s awkward, neon era with a new dose of Huey Lewis and the News. Note the way the line “Don’t you know me / I’m the boy next door” makes the sniper crosshairs super creepshow.

James Bond/Huey Lewis Integration Difficulty Level: 3/10

Other A View to a Kill Title Credits Remixed: Fatboy Slim – “Weapon of Choice”

Vol. 15: The Living Daylight – “Jacob’s Ladder” (from Fore!)

Inspiration: I’ve edited so many of these I don’t even know how this match came about. I had to find some way to give “Jacob’s Ladder” a title sequence. After trying it with five or six different ones that didn’t work at all, I slapped it on The Living Daylights without any expectations. Maybe it’s not ideal. But this exercise also reminded me that the actual sequence itself is pretty lackluster. “Jacob’s Ladder” actually makes it better. The opening gunshot match beguiled me. I must have played it twenty times. If only animated .gifs had sound.

James Bond/Huey Lewis Integration Difficulty Level: 3/10

Other The Living Daylights Title Credits Remixed: Corey Hart – “Sunglasses at Night”

Vol. 16: Licence to Kill – “Hope You Love Me Like You Say You Do” (from Picture This)

Inspiration: @IsaacsHauntedB’s first suggestion. Another song I didn’t even have on my radar. This is why we bring other minds in to work on these misguided schemes. A little nip here and a tuck there, but otherwise this was pre-fabricated.

James Bond/Huey Lewis Integration Difficulty Level: 3/10

Other Licence to Kill Title Credits Remixed: Paul Simon – “Kodachrome”

Vol. 17: GoldenEye – “It Hit Me Like a Hammer” (from Picture This)

Inspiration: Pure banal thematic association with Huey’s lyrics. “It Hit Me Like a Hammer” paired with ladies with hammers. It’s no more complicated than that. Of course, this required a lot more effort than most. I spent the better part of a morning tweaking this video before just ending the personal nightmare, reminding myself that no one was actually paying me to do this. The tempo’s not wildly off (not nearly as much as you’d expect) — but it’s off just enough to make this a square peg.

James Bond/Huey Lewis Integration Difficulty Level: 8/10

Other GoldenEye Title Credits Remixed: Bobby Brown – “Humpin’ Around”

Vol. 18: Tomorrow Never Dies – “Little Bitty Pretty One” (from Four Chords and Several Years Ago)

Inspiration: I wanted desperately to find a match from Huey Lewis’ cover album Four Chords and Several Years Ago. Oddly enough this turned out to be one of my absolute favorite Huey Lewis Title Credit Remixes. It’s just fun. And fun is why we did this in the first place. “Little Bitty Pretty One” was originally recorded by Bobby Day in 1957, but popularized that same year by Thurston Harris. It’s been covered multiple times over the years, including an Aaron Carter spin for Disney’s The Princess Diaries (2001). The Jackson 5 did a nice version in 1972, but Huey Lewis embraces the doo-wop more so than any of the others.

James Bond/Huey Lewis Integration Difficulty Level: 5/10

Other Tomorrow Never Dies Title Credits Remixed: Rolling Stones – “Time is On My Side” / The Beatles “Tomorrow Never Knows” / Saint Etienne – “Tomorrow Never Dies”

Vol. 19: The World is Not Enough – “The Power of Love” (from Back to the Future)

Inspiration: The last song I matched. The Power of Love scared me because it is so iconic, and so perfectly associated with Back to the Future. I wrestled with The World is Not Enough and “The Heart of Rock and Roll” for some time before throwing in the towel. @HouseofGlib reminded me to go back to “The Power of Love” and so I did. When the “Ahhhh” happens right when the inky title blob pops on screen I was sold. I sped up the dancing oil ladies… and really most every sequence. It still looks a little slow compared to the music — but any faster and the whole started to look really wonky. There may be a better song out there for TWINE — but if I swapped it out we wouldn’t have another excuse to listen to “The Power of Love.”

James Bond/Huey Lewis Integration Difficulty Level: 5/10

Other The World is Not Enough Title Credits Remixed: Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve – “Black Crow”

Vol. 20: Die Another Day – “It’s All Right” (from People Get Ready: A Tribute to Curtis Mayfield)

Inspiration: Irony. Pure and simple. Torture Bond paired with peppy Huey’s peppy doo-wop cover of the 1963 Curtis Mayfield song (written and recorded when he was the frontman for The Impressions). Etta James, Phil Collins and Steve Winwood have also covered the song. I love Huey’s version and I love this new title credit sequence.

James Bond/Huey Lewis Integration Difficulty Level: 3/10

Other Die Another Day Title Credits Remixed: Talking Heads – “Burning Down the House”

Vol. 21: Casino Royale – “Attitude” (from Hard at Play)

Inspiration: This one also came courtesy of James Kenney (@jfkenney) on Twitter. I was easily sold as “Attitude” shares a cadence and dare I say… attitude… with the Chris Cornell track. Same zip code anyway. Huey doesn’t growl exactly, but swagger. And swagger’s what we need out of the dawn of the Craig era.

James Bond/Huey Lewis Integration Difficulty Level: 3/10

Other Casino Royale Title Credits Remixed: Kenny Rogers – “The Gambler (Live)

Vol. 22: Quantum of Solace – “Your Love Is Killing Me” (from Weather)

Inspiration: I really like this bluesy track from Huey Lewis’ brand new album Weather. I didn’t have to look far for its title credit match. I listened to the album first thing this morning and knew it fit with the unpaired Quantum of Solace. There’s some nice cues on action and the brisk tempo keeps pace with Bond’s sand-based frolic. Plus the Huey Lewis / James Bond Title Credit Challenge now visits every Huey Lewis and the News LP.

James Bond/Huey Lewis Integration Difficulty Level: 3/10

Other Quantum of Solace Title Credits Remixed: Reverend Horton Heat – “The Devil’s Chasin’ Me” 

Vol. 23: Skyfall – “Couple Days Off” (from Hard at Play)

Inspiration: Oh man. I know I said this before but… this might actually be my favorite just because it plays knowingly on the movie’s opening sequences. Bond gets shot. Bond wallows in self pity on the beaches of Turkey. And all Huey Lewis/James Bond wants is a couple days off from the daily grind. This one needed some (okay — lots of) monkey business, but I knew it was going to be worth it. You be the judge, but I’ll just tell you right now it’s worth it.

James Bond/Huey Lewis Integration Difficulty Level: 8/10

Other Skyfall Title Credits Remixed: Oingo Boingo – “Dead Man’s Party” / Elvis Costello and the Attractions – “Complicated Shadows”

Vol. 24: Spectre – “Cry to Me” (from Soulsville)

Inspiration: Divine intervention. As this month-long project wrapped up, I just started shuffling Huey Lewis and the News songs on Spotify. I’d totally forgotten that the Soulsville record existed. I didn’t know any of those songs by name — but as soon as I heard “Cry To Me” I know it fit the inky, dour, tentacular opening for Spectre. Proving, once again, that anything works better than Sam Smith. ANYTHING. (Also, check out my sound mixing skills. I had to add that helicopter sound back into the clip.) Replaying all of Bond’s failures while Huey sings “Don’t you feel like crying / Don’t you feel like cry, cry, cry, cry, crying” makes my heart grow three sizes.

James Bond/Huey Lewis Integration Difficulty Level: 7/10

Other Spectre Title Credits Remixed: Portishead – “Sour Times” / Lana Del Rey – “24”

That’s it! That’s the lot of them. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little (massive) exercise in rehabilitating James Bond as a fun guy and traversing the entire Huey Lewis catalog. I regret that I couldn’t find a home for “The Heart of Rock and Roll” but I figure you’ve heard that Huey Lewis and the News song plenty. Let me know your favorite in the comments. I’m curious to see which match from the Huey Lewis / James Bond Title Credit Challenge resonates with you.

If you want to dispense with the words and just let all 24 wash over you, you can view them all in a YouTube Playlist.

No Time To Die Trailer Quick Hits

No Time To Die Trailer Quick Hits

With the release of the first No Time to Die trailer, we finally have something to talk beyond the usual uninformed conjecture. Naturally, I had some thoughts. So let’s chat Bond, James Bond again, shall we?

James Bond No Time to Die trailer

Initial Impressions

This is the first moment I’ve been on the plus side of expectations for Bond 25. The No Time to Die trailer has a real momentum and focuses on gonzo stunts. The great use of music helps — as it does in any trailer, obviously, but Bond relies so heavily on sonic familiarity. The Bond score tickles innards we forget existed.

It seems we’re again dwelling on 007 nostalgia, and that’s okay as long as it also doesn’t become creative shorthand. The trailer seems to suggest that Malek’s villain has ties to Blofeld (ugh), but also shows Blofeld acting as some kind of Hannibal Lecter. Familiarity is different that “everything is connected.” Everything is connected is contrivance. Using Blofeld as a consultant merely feels lazy. Bond did this in Skyfall with Silva. Based on the trailer, this feels like a shortcut for giving Blofeld continued relevance even as he’s (hopefully) forced to the background. I’d rather have this than all the other options, honestly.

blofeld no time to die

All of these familiar elements, the elements that have been passed on from the regrettable SPECTRE, can be used to support Craig’s final, standalone adventure. Dispense with the connectivity and try less hard to give James Bond greater meaning. Just entertain me and dispense with the rest.

Rami Malek's masked villain No Time To Die

Rami Malek’s masked villain in No Time To Die (2020).

Deeper Thoughts After Multiple, Obsessive Viewings of the No Time to Die Trailer

Car chase. Car chase. Motorcycle chase. Helicopters. “Bungee” jumps. Car chase, There’s a concerted effort to foreground the film’s action elements. I’d expect nothing less, but this trailer went out of its way to emphasize that the old man can still do the job. And Craig looks far more youthful here than he did in Spectre.

daniel craig no time to die

A sprightly Daniel Craig as James Bond in No Time to Die (2020).

Speaking of old man. We’d already prematurely labeled Craig’s Bond an old man in Skyfall. This time, we’re also falling back on some old Brosnan tricks by forcing the pseudo-retired agent back into action alongside a young 00 played by Lashana Lynch. Instead of Judi Dench’s quip about misogynist dinosaurs, Lynch tosses out some serious “OK, Boomer” vibes when she says, “The world’s moved on, Commander Bond. If you get in my way, I will put a bullet in your knee.” Let us hope that we’re not forced to deal with any more instances of internal double-crossing.

Lashana Lynch as 00-agent Romi in No Time to Die

Lashana Lynch as 00-agent Romi “OK, boomered” James Bond in No Time to Die (2020).

The line that most reflects how I feel about the No Time to Die trailer comes from Lea Seydoux’s Madeline Swann. “You don’t know what this is,” she says. No. We really don’t. Unlike the Spectre trailer which gave away almost the entire film, we’re kept wonderfully off-balance. Glimpses of stunts, flourishes of the Bond theme and flickers of old frosty relationships (“So you’re not dead.” “Hello, Q. I missed you.”) give us the backbone of necessary familiarity. The rest of the trailer treats us to interesting imagery like the mask worn by Rami Malek’s villain, glimpses of Jamaican beaches, sun-drenched mediterranean locales, and more snow (!) and ice (!!).

james bond jamaica no time to die

Bond, semi-retired, at his home in Jamaica.

It’s a perfect tease. I can’t wait to see more.

No Time to Die Trailer Quick Hits

Jeffrey Wright No Time to Die

Wright-Leiter returns in No Time To Die. Huzzah!

Positives: More 00 agents (a badass black woman!). Wright-Leiter returns for “a favor, brother.” Did I mention the snow? Malek’s villain does not appear to be Dr. No unless they’ve gone totally off the reservation. Ana de Armas fully armed.

Meh: Blofeld as Hannibal Lecter.

Negatives: The nagging suspicion that somebody is still going to double-cross Bond from within his circle (Madeline? Lashana’s Nomi?). Just let the man worry about the real, proper villains and henchmen and henchwomen, please? That used to be enough.

 

 

(Dr.) No Time To Die Another Day With a View to a Licence to Kill

(Dr.) No Time To Die Another Day With a View to a Licence to Kill

The James Bond Twitter account officially (and finally) threw us a bone(r). The title for the next James Bond movie will be…. [drum roll] …NO TIME TO DIE.

Oh, I’m sorry. I noticed you nodded off during my title recitation. I’ll try that one more time.

NO TIME–

You did it again. You fell asleep. One more time. Real quick.

NOTIMETODIE.

Indeed. The Bond producers summoned the powers of the Bond name generator and came up with a title so prosaic that nobody could possibly argue. I’ve come to the conclusion that the #Bond25 codename “Shatterhand” announcement was just an informal crowdsourcing. Based on the Internet’s violent reaction, they popped their heads back in their hole like Punxsutawny Phil and regrouped until the end of Winter. I’ll say it again — “Shatterhand” is no more bizarre than Goldfinger — but because the hive mind doesn’t recognize it as something with origins in an actual Fleming text they went to grab their pitchforks at first sight.

My first reaction to NO TIME TO DIE was complacency. There’s no real room to argue because it’s just not worth the effort. It’s a name designed to sound exactly like six other James Bond movies and instill confidence through familiarity. So familiar in fact that I felt I’d been there before. It wasn’t until author Mark O’Connell Tweeted this nugget that I understood why.

While Mark lauds the Bond-extended source of the title, I’m not convinced that it makes it sound any more compelling. NO TIME TO DIE hangs there limply, referential or not.

I’ve already read a dozen thinkpieces about what the title might mean. All I can say about that is stop. There’s nothing here to analyze. There’s no overt connections to Spectre. Take a breath and count to ten. Shatterhand had all the connotations. If you want to analyze something start there. Unless you’re feeling like the “NO” in NO TIME TO DIE has to do with a certain Dr. and then I’d say you might probably be on to something… it is set in Jamaica after all. That places us in the realm of titles featuring puns and, well… I don’t feel like commenting on that potentiality.

james bond in no time to die

I’m not passing judgment on the film based on a title. I’m not delusional. As we dissect the trickle of information coming out of the EON camp as we await the 2020 release of the 25th Bond film, however, every small piece of news contributes to a bigger picture. It’s still hazy, but I’m not overly optimistic that EON has committed to creating rather merely responding to what they think the broadest marketplace wants. That doesn’t guarantee box office dollars. It almost certainly guarantees a lack of creativity.

Every long-tenured Bond (Dalton and Lazenby excluded) has started by daring to reinvigorate the formula before devolving into paint-by-numbers and/or self-parody. Looking at the Craig era from the inside out, I’m getting the sense that we’re re-living the end of the Brosnan years in all the worst ways. After a strong sequence of films, each faced a final film to define the generation.

Consider how differently we’d feel about Brosnan’s Bond if Die Another Day had been a successful film. After we learned about the creative upheavals and cavalcade of writers on Bond 25, how confident were you? Now that we’ve got the title — NO TIME TO DIE — a phlegmatic title that emanates with the banal stink of Die Another Day, how are you feeling?

no time to die cary fukunaga

Daniel Craig and Cary Fukunaga on the set of NO TIME TO DIE.

It all depends on how much faith you put in Cary Fukunaga. That’s the one concrete plus. But then again — Lee Tamahori once carried that same type of outsider cache. No one could have anticipated that the filmmaker responsible for Once Were Warriors (1994) would produce the fever dream that is Die Another Day.

#Bond25 Update: Codenamed “Shatterhand”

#Bond25 Update: Codenamed “Shatterhand”

We learned an interesting tidbit about the soon-to-be-in-production Bond 25 this morning. Shooting begins on April 6th at Pinewood Studios under the working title “Shatterhand.”

shatterhand bond 25

Seeing as how “Shatterhand” serves as Ernst Stavro Blofeld alias in Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice novel, we can derive a few choice tidbits from this small piece of information. But first let’s rewind to talk about the goings on since my last dispatch about the long overdue Bond 25 production.

scott z burns 007

Bourne Ultimatum screenwriter Scott Z Burns has been added to the team of wordsmiths with their hand in the Bond 25 pot. Burns has been brought on, reportedly, for a rewrite on the drafts by Purvis and Wade and Haggis and maybe even Mr. Magoo, who, though uncredited, must have had a hand in crafting the perfectly sensible Spectre plot. Burns has garnered a reputation as being one of the go-to screenwriting doctors in Hollywood.

A number of sources have suggested that Burns’ involvement involves more than a polish, and we shouldn’t be surprised if he receives top billing when all is said and done. He’s done uncredited emergency surgery on films such as The Bourne Supremacy, Widows and Star Wars: Rogue One. I love the fact that EON has brought in fresh blood to “overhaul” the Bond 25 script.

shatterhand bond 25

And now what “Shatterhand” tells us about the potential direction of Bond 25.

BLOFELD IS BACK. Seeing as how the term comes from the Blofeld alias, we’re all but assured of a re-emergence of the Blofeld character. As of today, however, Christoph Waltz was still out — so the production will be returning to the amorphous Blofeld appearance which Fleming made a prominent component in his novels. The Bond films primarily made use of this element because of casting convenience. EON will once again return to the rotating Blofeld theory as a means to start fresh after Spectre, but only a little fresh.

shatterhand bond 25 (waltz not included)

GARDEN OF DEATH? In the novel You Only Live Twice, James Bond mourns the death of Tracy by retreating into an alcoholic stupor, in order to revive the slagging career of the agent, M sends him to Japan on a cupcake diplomatic mission. While in Japan, the head of the Japanese Secret Service (Tiger Tanaka) challenges Bond to assassinate a Swiss botanist by the name of Dr. Guntram Shatterhand who has been employing a garden of death to facilitate a rash of suicides by Japanese citizens. Shatterhand is, of course, the refashioned Blofeld, having undergone another physical transformation. I’ve said from the first moment EON announced the return of Blofeld that the only reason to see this character in a Bond movie again would be to film the unused portions of You Only Live Twice, i.e. the Garden of Death.

shatterhand bond 25 - garden of death

AVENGING THE DEATH OF TRACY MADELEINE. Tracy can’t be Tracy, but Tracy could be Madeleine and the last thing that Bond needs is another dead woman to avenge. Listen — we’ve seen this before. And better. Madeleine Swann pales in comparison to Vesper. Does anyone believe that Bond fell madly, deeply, truly in love with Madeleine in Spectre? Purely a contrivance to service a poorly constructed narrative. Spectre didn’t earn yet another revenge plot a la Vesper or Tracy.

I’m skeptical, too, Madeleine.

007hertzrumble’s “Shatterhand” Commentary

The Internet is already on fire because “Shatterhand” is “ridiculous” (the Daily Mail) and a “face-palm” (The Guardian). First point, before we go any further down this road. IT’S A WORKING TITLE BECAUSE IT’S NOT OFFICIAL. The working title for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 was “How the Solar System Was Won” for goodness sakes. It might be “Shatterhand;” it might not be “Shatterhand.” I for one hope “Shatterhand” turns out to be legitimate, because LIGHTEN UP, EVERYONE.

Since when did James Bond fans turn into such dour goddamn stick-in-the-muds? Line up “Shatterhand” with Goldfinger and Thunderball and it doesn’t seem out of place at all. Daniel Craig’s been a game player in this saga, but the series has lost one of its earliest and most vital components — a sense of humor. Calling your movie “Shatterhand” suggests some of that devil-may-care whimsy we’ve been missing in the Craig era — and you’d need it if you’re going to dare showcase a Garden of Death. Just because Cragiers fell on a couch in the opening sequence of Spectre doesn’t mean it actually attempted a sustained undercurrent of humor. It wasn’t there — and it hasn’t been there since Vesper died. If EON dropped the name GOLDFINGER on you tomorrow for the first time, it would be tarred, feathered, roasted and thrown in the garbage heap of Internet memes by lunchtime. “Fans” don’t know what they want, but at least they’re predictable in that they’ll hate everything.

Regarding the suggestiveness of “Shatterhand,” I’m conflicted. In order to finally witness the Death Garden on screen, the filmmakers likely will continue threads initiated in Spectre. We risk Madeleine being an ersatz Tracy Bond and dying so that we might experience yet another bit of Craig-brand “revenge.” Craig would be best served by progressing in a fashion reminiscent of the old days. When something didn’t fly with fans, EON moved on without looking back — for better or worse. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service didn’t play well with 1969 audiences, so when EON followed that up with Diamonds Are Forever in 1971 it proceeded as if it never happened at all. Proceed as if Spectre didn’t happen. Liberate your creative forces to do what they do best. Create, without being tethered to the past. And call it “Shatterhand” — because WHY NOT? I’m looking forward to a bit of color back in my Bond.

Also, has there ever been a title song more perfect for Arctic Monkeys’ self-aware lounge swagger?

Sepia, anyone?

Previous Bond 25 updates: Danny Boyle, Cary-less Whispers

 

 

#Bond_age_ Tee: DR. NO – Quarrel and Son Charter Co.

#Bond_age_ Tee: DR. NO – Quarrel and Son Charter Co.

#1. Quarrel and Son Charter Co.

Just because you own the tee, doesn’t mean you’ll be afraid of dragons. In fact, I’ve heard the opposite to be true.

This is the first in a series of 25 designs inspired by the Bond movies. I’ll go in order from Dr. No through (if it ever comes out) #Bond25. (I’m skeptical.) I’ll put all of the designs up in the #Bond_age_ Threadless and Redbubble pages for you to purchase on your favorite clothing and paraphernalia. Mouse pads, backpacks, bedding, phone cases. So much stuff you don’t need! T-shirts, however… t-shirts are essential to being.

The Quarrel and Son Charter Co. was inspired by Bond’s shepherd into Crab Key, his loyal friend Quarrel — a character who would have already been established before Dr. No if the films had gone by the book chronology. But as you well know, Quarrel met his demise on Crab Key, which meant that when Bond met with Quarrel in a later James Bond adventure (Live and Let Die), Quarrel was no longer Quarrel but Quarrel, Jr. Logically this meant that Quarrel, Jr. was around at the time of Dr. No and *clearly* an inspiration for the name of Quarrel’s Jamaican Charter and Tourism company. On a related note, Quarrel, Jr. would have been a much better cartoon than James Bond, Jr.

Look forward to my From Russia With Love-inspired design coming soon to a t-shirt near you. Hopefully I can stay on track and keep pumping out the hits, but not every single design is going to be a winner and I’m prepared for my inevitable Die Another Day of #Bond_age_ t-shirt design.

If you have any ideas for James Bond t-shirts you’d like to wear, let me know and we’ll foist them up on Threadless and Redbubble. All t-shirt ideas are good t-shirt ideas.

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