Getting More Immersed with Indiewire

  The Penske Media purchase of Indiewire has resulted in an expansion of my role as crafts and awards season contributor. ┬áBeginning this week, I begin Emmy coverage of below-the-line contenders along with my usual Oscar season crafts reporting, working closely

Immersed in Blu-ray: Hitchcock and Bogart

The WB Archive Collection gets Hitch and Bogie on Blu-ray and they've never looked better for home viewing. In Kent Jones' indispensable doc, Hitchcock/Truffaut, he reminds us that Truffaut was on a mission to correct misconceptions about Hitch as a lightweight

Immersed in Books: Farber on Film

For the first time, the complete writings of film critic Manny Farber is available from Library of America, edited by Robert Polito (Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson). Manny Farber (1917-2008) was the first modernist film critic to write like a modernist.

James Bond

Favreau and Craig Talk Return of ‘Classic’ Bond

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Books, James Bond, Movies, VFX | Leave a comment

Director Jon Favreau had fun chatting with his Cowboys & Aliens star Daniel Craig about Bond 23, which begins production in November (with India confirmed as a primary location) and opens Nov. 9, 2012. Craig was naturally coy about details, but admitted that it would contain some classic Bond elements (Naomie Harris is supposed to introduce Moneypenny) and had high praise for director Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition).

“It’s a great choice because Sam has a fervor and energy to really direct a Bond movie with a capital B,” Craig enthused. “He’s read every book and just soaked up everything about it. I read the script the other day and I’m more excited about this than I was about Casino.”

Favreau admitted that he filled the gadget void with Iron Man given Craig’s grittier, more realistic reboot. Craig said that gadgets pose a challenge for Bond because they’re so ubiquitous today and that it’s harder to find something unique unless you have access to classified military hardware and equipment.

In terms of humor, Craig also suggested that less is definitely more with his Bond. In my first interview with Craig, he professed an affinity for gallows humor, which served him well as a defense mechanism in Casino Royale, so we can probably expect a continuation of this dry wit.

In fact, the highlight of the conversation was a discussion about how Austin Powers has helped kill the self-reverential Bond in this post-modern era. “It’s been killed because now you can’t wink at it — he’s double-winked,” Craig offered. “It’s like a bird that flies in smaller and smaller circles until it flies up its own ass,” Favreau quipped. It just makes it all the more challenging to layer in humor that’s organic to the character and situation.

Indeed, Bond has always been a delicate balancing act between danger and humor, trying something new and going to extremes and then switching gears and repeating the cycle. I’m smack in the middle of this right now with the chapter on Moonraker in my Bond book. So it’ll be fascinating to see how Craig continues to bring Bond full-circle back to Fleming, while at the same time being true to the franchise.

Meanwhile, Peter Caranicas of Variety reports that Steve Begg (Casino Royale) has signed on to Bond 23 as visual effects supervisor.

A Quantum of Bond 23 Casting

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, James Bond, Movies, VFX | Leave a comment

The supper baddie dream cast of Javier Bardem and Ralph Fiennes appears to be on track for Bond 23, according to the Mail, along with the introduction of Naomie Harris (Pirates of the Caribbean) as the flirty Miss Moneypenny. Nothing official yet from EON, MGM, or Sony.

But that would mean that director Sam Mendes’ darker vision is also on track (scripted by John Logan and Bond regulars Neal Purvis & Robert Wade), “where the characters are modern, mature, and challenging,” according to an earlier report from the Mail.

The mind reels with the possibilities of going deeper up the SPECTRE-like Quantum chain to discover whether Bardem or Fiennes is the post 9/11 version of Blofeld: a slow-burning, charismatic, alter ego to Craig’s conflicted 007. With the other baddie softening Bond up for the real cat-and-mouse.

As for Harris, her presence is sure to be an alluring one as Moneypenny: defusing office tension with M while being Bond’s enabler.

The still untitled Bond 23, scheduled to begin production in November for North American release Nov. 9, 2012, has already tapped naturalistic cinematographer phenom Roger Deakins (True Grit), who plans on shooting digitally on the Alexa with an optical viewfinder.

Still confirming if Mendes collaborators Dennis Gassner (Quantum of Solace) and Tariq Anwar sign on as production designer and editor, respectively, along with VFX supervisor Steven Begg (Casino Royale).

Reading Between Craig’s Lines About Bond

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in James Bond, Movies, Trailers | Leave a comment

Daniel Craig’s F-bomb littered Esquire interview was very revealing about graphic and implied violence in David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Dec. 21), the thin political veneer of xenophobia in Cowboys & Aliens (July 29), the weirdness of doing performance capture for Steven Spielberg’s animated The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (Dec. 23), and his impassioned world view of the crumbling middle and lower classes.

But, of course, he had little to say about Bond 23 (Nov. 9, 2012), except to reaffirm his delight that old pal Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition) is directing his third installment: “[People] want to know everything and I’m going, I’m not gonna fucking tell you!…We can talk about anything else, and hopefully it can be made interesting.”

And yet we can glean a few tidbits from my own previous conversations with Craig, and from the likelihood that Bond 23 will be a radical departure, and from reading between the lines here about what animates Craig (“Not everybody’s happy with their situation!”), and from the sly nature that he brings to the role. No, not necessarily that new bride Rachel Weisz (his co-star in Dream House, Sept. 30) is going to be the next Bond girl or Bond super baddie.

But certainly this will be Craig’s first fully-formed 007 — more comfortable in his own skin, ready to take on his license to kill with more discernment and maturity, and no longer just “a blunt instrument.” And perhaps with a little more pleasure in his profession, including more of that gallows humor under pressure that Craig enjoys so much: “[Bond] likes making a joke when it’s inappropriate and it gives him a kick, and, hopefully, that gives us a thrill. But you can’t force gags like that,” Craig told me.

That said, don’t suddenly expect the effortlessness of Connery either. For better or worse, Craig’s Bond is a post-modern 007 operating in a post 9/11 world. “There are a couple of simple equations that you can apply and that I have always applied to the work anyway,” he suggested. “And that has to do with fallibility, which is much more dramatically interesting. Hopefully, at the end, we ultimately see that [Bond] was right: that there was a grander plan, there was something that he was thinking about, then we’re going to be covered. But during the movie it should go either way.”

Can’t wait to see how Bond 23 unfolds next year in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Bond franchise.

Connery Transforms Dark of the Moon

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, James Bond, Movies, Tech, VFX | 1 Comment

Look closely at the new Sentinel Prime in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. The legendary, conflicted Autobots warrior, who holds the key to crushing the Decepticons, may be voiced by Leonard Nimoy, but is actually modeled after Sean Connery. Who better, right? Notice the iconic face, the commanding presence, especially the eyebrows — it’s unmistakable.

And yet the regal Sentinel Prime was not inspired by Connery as James Bond or even as the larger-than-life Daniel Dravot in John Huston’s The Man Who Would Be King (1975). Instead, he was patterned after Connery’s outraged British Army prison camp inmate in Sidney Lumet’s The Hill (1965).

“For more of the intense moments, we pulled a clip from an old black-and-white military movie [The Hill] where he had a monologue screaming at the camera,” suggests Industrial Light & Magic animation supervisor Scott Benza. “We showed that to Michael [Bay] and he agreed that was the character we were looking for. And we found the best reference from older movies of him. We did the same kind of [animation] test we did for Transformers, kind of acting explorations where we pulled a clip from one of his movies and did a side-by-side comparison.”

Of course, the whole reason Sentinel Prime’s face is more expressive — and, indeed, more human-looking — along with all the other bots in Dark of the Moon, is because of ILM’s vastly improved animation. The rig is expanded and there are a greater number of modeling plates. Plus better lighting illuminates the richer detail, which is crucial for the Avatar-like 3-D spectacle that Bay was after.


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