No Time To Die: The Conflict of Bond, Not Really Bond

No Time To Die: The Conflict of Bond, Not Really Bond

Too many words have been spent on articles explaining that James Bond owes his longevity to a kind of blank-slate cross-gender appeal. He isn’t a three-dimensional human so much as a conduit. Men (and women!) want to be James Bond. Others want to watch someone look that good in a tuxedo or blue terrycloth jumper. In terms of the character’s psychological depth, we’d spent as much time ordering martinis at McDonalds as we did considering if James Bond had a Rosebud. No Time to Die, like its predecessor, provides the viewer with Ikea instructions and an Allen wrench in hopes you’ll piece together a Rosebud on your own.

Daniel Craig, No Time to Die

A grizzled Daniel Craig recalls his aborted childhood, sledding down hills and frolicking in deep focus.

So, Who is James Bond Then?

He’s quick with a pun, drinks to excess (without visible inebriation), woos women with a raised eyebrow/steely glare/Cro-Magnon sex appeal, and dutifully serves Queen and country. He’s worn many different faces and demeanors, but his superficial characteristics and the series’ consistent stylistic choices have bridged gaps between actors and filmmaking eras. And every so often, Bond experiences or lingers on personal trauma.

Bond falls in love, gets married, and his wife, Tracy Bond (née di Vinenzo), dies in under 140 minutes in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). Bond visits Tracy’s grave in For Your Eyes Only (1981). If you’re feeling generous, you could even count the subtle overtures made about marriage in Licence to Kill (1989) and The World is Not Enough (1999). Bond never felt the burden of connectivity – even when it might have benefitted the storyline. For worse – but mostly better. Mistakes get swept under the rug or dropped down smokestacks, like terrible villains.

Bond places flowers For Your Eyes Only

The extendtof Bond’s character development during the Moore years in one image. Moments later we’re dropping Blofeld down a smokestack before the title sequence rolls. Craig took almost six hours to do these very same things.

In most every movie, Bond received a mission, carried out that mission, and got the girl. Our interests lied not in whether he’d do all those things, but how. We went to the cinemas for pure escapism, unburdened by emotional baggage. We loved that structure. We loved how the Bond series played with routine.

Skyfall Suggested We Cared More About Subversion

During the Craig era, EON decided that we’d had enough fun and frolic and instead needed steamer trunks filled with ennui and disillusionment. No Time to Die perpetuates the same issues that plagued Spectre in 2015, which makes this whole conversation feel like a bad case of déjà vu. No Time to Die wants to be fun, but this character called “James Bond” can let go of his shiny new 21st-century past.

Bond visits Vesper's grave in No Time to Die

The epitaph reads: “Fun in Bond Movies / 1962-2012”

From the earliest scenes, a sense of mortality hangs around the picture’s neck like a noose. Bond takes Madeline on an Italian holiday as Hans Zimmer reimagines On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’s “All the Time in the World” – and Bond even shoehorns Lazenby’s famous final line into their idle drive-time conversation. Madeline encourages Bond to visit Vesper Lynd’s grave (shades of Bond visiting Tracy’s grave in FYEO). She wants him to put Vesper in the past so they can move forward.

No Time to Die Takes Plenty of Time to Mourn, Though

No Time to Die grounds itself in these opening moments as a spiritual descendant of OHMSS, a movie that ended with a moment of tragedy after two hours of fun adventures like skiing, curling, bobsledding, and safecracking while reading Playboy. No Time to Die wallows in moodiness for most of its 163 minutes. And that’s a problem Cary Joji Fukunaga and his screenwriting committee (Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge) can’t overcome with the relief of a few clever action sequences and quippy asides. They’ve worked a bad pun or two into this script, but they’re obligatory appeasements. I laughed because I was desperate for levity.

Rami Malek's Safin, No Time to Die

Oh look — a scarred villain with a backstory conveniently tied into everyone’s business.

Around the scant humor, we’re besieged by speechifying like “James Bond. License to Kill. History of violence. I could be speaking to my own reflection. Only your skills die with your body. Mine will survive long after I’m gone.” James, Madeline, Safin, M, and even Blofeld take turns grabbing the spotlight to perform an off-Broadway performance of Death of a Salesman. Top it off with the usual Craig-era oratories from the top down about an ephemeral, amorphous, non-descript evil that can’t be hunted and killed like those olden days of espionage when you could look your adversary in the eye.

Except, inevitably, Bond does indeed meet the vaporous villain face to face and dispatches him. Just like the olden days. So let’s stop wasting time telling me about inescapable evil and instead work on actually establishing the evil.

So Aren’t We Still Playing the Game in No Time to Die?

Maybe. If we found time for pleasantries like golf, baccarat, idle drinking and just being James Bond. Bond was never found in action beats. The script delivers dozens of referential nods towards the past without delivering much of the stuff that defined the character in the first place.

I noted Dr. No, Thunderball, and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service imagery (among others) in the title sequence. The portrait for a pre-Craigers M, Robert Brown, conspicuously hangs on an MI-6 gallery wall. The use of “We Have all the Time in the World” in music and dialogue. An almost obligatory, eleventh-hour Q-branch gadget. Bond kicking the car down on Billy Magnussen’s double agent echoed Moore’s famous cold-blooded kill of Locque in For Your Eyes Only. A litany of book references for the hardcore Fleming-heads. The multi-movie connections and broad, villainous arcs, meanwhile, take their cues from the sprawling “everything is connected” branding of the Marvel universe.

Action Craig in No Time to Die

Daniel Craig in Maze Runner, I mean No Time to Die.

No Time to Die dispenses with any attention to international spycraft, once again turning inward on Bond and his personal connections and misery. This makes for a competent Hollywood-crafted action serial, but a lackluster Bond film. Skyfall and No Time to Die suffer from these same afflictions. The latter’s worse off, however, because it’s saddled with the tentacles of Spectre’s facile cliffhangers.

But the Stories

At the end of No Time to Die, Madeline tells her daughter “I’m going to tell you a story about a man. His name was Bond. James Bond,” which is supposed to tug our heartstrings and put the “Bond. James Bond” introduction in the mouth of the (other) woman who loved him. This falls short of its intended emotional resonance.

This James Bond doesn’t really have stories. This James Bond retires more times than he’s reluctantly saved the world. He’s irresponsibly chased personal vendettas to the detriment of those around him and his country’s security. Courtesy of the multi-movie narrative arc – whereby QUANTUM was the little fish eaten by SPECTRE, and SPECTRE was the bigger fish eaten by some arb with a plant fetish. No Time to Die has, to recycle my old argument against SPECTRE, neutered the series’ Big Bad.

Christoph Waltz as Blofeld in No Time to Die

Your new informant awaits, Clarice.

If we are to give Spectre even an unwarranted ounce of credit for establishing SPECTRE as a nefarious international criminal organization bent on world domination or some such megalomania, No Time to Die erases it. The Bond producers forced SPECTRE and Blofeld into Spectre, assuming the audience’s nostalgia would fill in the part about the organization being James Bond’s long-time nemesis without establishment. One movie later, Safin cleans house. No more Blofeld. No more SPECTRE. These aren’t supervillains—they’re merely roadkill that Bond further flattens with his Aston Martin on his way to retire again.

Overwrought super-seriousness aside, Cary Joji Fukunaga displays a good sense of how a Bond movie should look and feel. Tonal and scriptural issues aside, No Time to Die is a glossy, competent action film. If it didn’t have to deal with Spectre’s matzoh balls, it might have even been a great Bond movie.

Cue the Bond theme and make this walk really sizzle.

Who Stopped No Time To Die Short?

No Time to Die’s shortcomings rest on the shoulders of the producers. The Bond team takes its cues from the top down. The burden lies with the creative decision makers who did not bring David Arnold back, who gave Sam Mendes two movies, who continued to employ Purvis and Wade as primary screenwriters despite the labored repetition of the rogue, retire, repeat cycle of the Craig era.

Hans Zimmer’s mediocre score, like the Newman scores for Skyfall and Spectre, once again resists (recoils against?) the use of the Bond theme in high-leverage sequences. Instead, Zimmer reserves the needle drop for Bond walking across the street into MI-6. I love idle-time swagger, but that can’t be your singular “James Bond” moment. Elsewhere, the score teases with Johnny-Marr-forward guitar, before abandoning the building momentum.

Martinis, Ana de Armas, competing MI6 and CIA operatives, remote-control eyeballs, and Zimmer doing David Arnold — the Cuba scenes in No Time to Die suggested the kind of movie we could have had.

When Zimmer embraces the Barry and Arnold traditions, the score rises from its slumber. The “Cuba Chase,” for example, which scores arguably the best individual scene in any of the Craig-era Bond films, contrasts Cuban strings and horns with heavy, brooding brass, perfectly setting the mood for the action on screen. No scene better represents the potential of a No Time to Die unburdened by the past. This was old Bond in a new era, a deliriously enjoyable blend of humor and action, propelled by new talent (Ana de Armas and Lashana Lynch) and mixed with Bond being Bond. 007 stumbles into a situation for which he wasn’t fully prepared and survives with a little luck, a little moxie, and a little help from his friends.

If the rest of No Time To Die had been half as concerned with creating this kind of energy and forward momentum, I’d have been more forgiving about its individual shortcomings. Instead, we’re left to wrestle with the internal conflict created by an overlong, semi-entertaining film that chose to conclude the Craig-era by nuking it all from orbit.

And after Spectre and No Time to Die, I’d be lying if I didn’t wholehearted support it. Ironically, it might be the only way to be sure that the real James Bond will actually return.

 

James Bond Will Return.

#Bond_age_versary 8 featuring the #Goldeneye25 Live Tweet

#Bond_age_versary 8 featuring the #Goldeneye25 Live Tweet

Back on December 12th, 2012, I live tweeted DR. NO and wrote a little essay about it. Two people joined me for that live tweet in support of that ongoing essay series I’d planned to write for a literary magazine. I backed into the gig because I was off running my mouth about James Bond and SKYFALL on the Twatter. Apparently, I had opinions that a few people wanted to hear. I’m certain everyone that encouraged me to start the process of writing about James Bond movies has long wished I would just shut. up. already. I’m not sure any of them are even still on Twitter. They may have no idea what kind of damage they’ve done. They certainly never wished for 24 Bond title credit sequenced remixed with Huey Lewis and the News.

When #Bond_age_ turned 1, we were neck deep in “The Wraparound” — our second live tweet through the series. The initial run had become so popular that they folks that joined midstream wanted to catch up on all the ones they’d missed. For the first #Bond_age_versary we live tweeted TOMORROW NEVER DIES. Many of the #Bond_age_ fans that joined that live tweet are still — against all odds — hanging around! They’ve become dear friends and I can’t imagine these many years without their distinct voices in my TL. I’ve even come to know many of them personally. You’re all the best. Honestly.

#Bond_age_ has sometimes become a kind of ball and chain. Life has gotten busier. My girls have gotten older (they’re 11 and 8 now!) and those once luxurious 9pm live tweet start times have become more and more difficult to make with regularity. It’s on these occasions of the #Bond_age_versary that I take a breath, look back, and appreciate how the hundreds (thousands?) of hours I’ve put into this project have fostered irreplaceable friendships that’ll last even beyond The James Bond Social Media Project. However long that may be.

We don’t draw the same kind of raw numbers to our live tweets anymore. We’ve gotten weird and made James Bond less of a focus, but that had to happen to preserve sanity and our love for James Bond. Once upon a time, however, the #Bond_age_ hashtag made the U.S. trending topics right alongside American Idol. I still think something went haywire with the Twitterverse that night, but here’s the proof… from way back when… on our Goldeneye Wraparound Live Tweet, the week before the first #Bond_age_versary.

My takeaways: At this point, the @007hertzrumble account was still my secondary, live-tweet only soapbox with 365 followers? I still hadn’t followed @MoviesSilently? What were Joel and Jessica talking about? And whatever happened to Trevor Jost?

But I digress. Back to #Bond_age_versary 8.

My final trip down the lane of memory comes with another visual aid. My very first #Bond_age_versary montage reflected the then current breadth of our live tweet universe. Only the Bonds showed up to the party.

The James Bonds celebrate the 1-year #Bond_age_versary

As we’ve expanded our live tweets and added mascots and favorite memes to our roster, the #Bond_age_versary montage has exploded. Just last week I updated this file for #Bond_age_versary 8. If you can name everyone in this new montage, you deserve something. I don’t know what, but something real nice. 

But enough about all of that. Join us on Wednesday, December 9th at 9pm ET for another live tweet of GOLDENEYE (1995). We bumped its proper 25th anniversary event back in November to celebrate our month of Sean Connery and I figured there was no better movie to celebrate 8 years of #Bond_age_ than the one that caused us to beat American Idol like a washed up, one-eyed, bow-legged henchman with plantar fasciitis.

Not James Bond Spy Films on CINEMA JUNKIE

Not James Bond Spy Films on CINEMA JUNKIE

This past week I moonlighted on Beth Accomando’s CINEMA JUNKIE podcast to discuss Not James Bond spy movies that serve as necessary escapism during our current moment of Quarantine Life. I show up and prattle on about some of my favorite spy movies and Beth does a masterful job of putting together the juicy bits of my ramblings into a coherent 45-minute segment with loads of wonderful clips.

On this episode I’ll champion everything from Top Secret! to Special Mission Lady Chaplin because I will never fail to bring up Ken Clark’s finest 90 minutes.

Listen on Apple Podcasts / Google Podcasts / Spotify

special mission lady chaplin not james bond

Japanese poster artwork for Special Mission Lady Chaplin (1966)

When she’s not talking to me, Beth hosts the most wonderful guests and you should (if you already haven’t) subscribe to CINEMA JUNKIE and add it to your roster of regular podcasts.

Of course, if you can’t get your fill of me on Cinema Junkie, you can always hear me at my regular gigs hosting the #Bond_age_Pod and the Cinema Shame podcast.

top secret! not james bond

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.

 

 

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