Sunday, 1 January 2017

Mr Bond, your days are numbered...

A very Happy New Year to fellow Bond fans!

I will be trying to write more Bond-related blog posts this year after a fallow 2016, which was, as I'm sure you will remember, a very silly year indeed.

I saw a few people the other day tweeting about the longest-serving Bond actors so thought I'd use this as a tenuous hook on which to hang my first post of 2017: how many days have individual actors spent as James Bond?

The results are above, with Roger Moore unsurprisingly out in the lead on a whopping 5,118 days.

Next up is Pierce Brosnan on 4,146 days. 

Hot on his heels is Mr Daniel Craig with 4,098 days as Bond as of today, Sunday 1 January 2017

DC will become the second longest serving Bond on Monday 20 February 2017. Mark it in your diaries, kids.

Sean Connery, with his two stints added together, comes in fourth with 3,049 days, T-Dalt fifth on 2,863, and 'the other fella', George Lazenby on 875 days.

Notes:

  • The dates I have taken are from the public announcement of an actor as Bond. Contracts will have obviously been signed before that date (Pierce Brosnan knew he was Bond a whole week before we did) and actors may have been sacked before the next one was announced, but I have used the date from which it was public knowledge that they were announced to be playing 007.
  • Sean Connery's two stints were 2,530 and 519 days respectively.
  • Sources: Some Kind of Hero - Matthew Field and Ajay Chowdhury; Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - Alan Barnes and Marcus Ahern
  • The announcements of the actors are as follows:
    • Sean Connery, 3 November 1961
    • George Lazenby, 7 October 1968
    • Sean Connery (again), 1 March 1971
    • Roger Moore, 1 August 1972
    • Timothy Dalton, 6 August 1986
    • Pierce Brosnan, 8 June 1994
    • Daniel Craig, 14 October 2005

Friday, 25 September 2015

Twenty minutes well spent?


Okay here goes… 

The Writing's On The Wall starts with a promising mix of orchestral flourishes, all swooping, brooding and haunting.

Smith's powerful voice also starts out very promising indeed. There are a few corny rhyming couplets in the first verses, which is not unexpected. And I quite like: “Unprepared for this/I never shoot to miss”.

The chorus soars unexpectedly and you think it’s going to be okay... and then that unnecessary falsetto just stops the song in its tracks. The high voice seems also to render some words completely unintelligible. My advice: pick an octave and stick to it. The chorus then limps towards to its end.

Reset: another adequate verse follows and the terrific first-half of the chorus… and then that falsetto voice. This is the point in the song where the whole thing needs to build, explode, burst - something - but it just doesn’t.

Then, without realising it, you're four minutes in and it’s almost over and you wondered what happened during that last minute of your life and what you’re going to have for your tea.

And the end is perhaps the most disappointing aspect. Smith produces this big note but: a) it’s not big enough, and; b) it’s totally unsupported by the arrangement. 
The whole song just dissipates like a fart in a big room. 

So, in summary, I think I like it but there’s just not enough of it. Not enough oomph. Too many silent moments. A Bond theme has to fill a room and fill your head - this does neither.

Yet.

And this is where I start to feel a bit better. I will say that it definitely improves on every subsequent listen. I've even started to hum bits of it. 
Also, consider this - the instrumental version on the soundtrack is going to sound great.

A classic? Not yet. But in a week you won't think it's as bad as you do now.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Not A Roger Moore, Not A Roger Less

*Definitely* Sir Roger hanging on to a real airship

Okay, so A View To A Kill isn't the best Bond film.

Sir Roger was 57 years old while making it and, without wishing to offend the great man, he looks his age. And yet we're supposed to believe he surfs over an Arctic lake, rides on top of a fire-truck and hangs on to an airship as it passes over San Francisco.

An idle conversation about AVTAK one day posed this simple question:

How much of the film features Sir Roger Moore as James Bond?

I can tell you. It's 35%.

I watched AVTAK dividing the whole film into three sections:

  • Bond on screen that is CLEARLY Sir Roger
  • Bond on screen that is CLEARLY not him
  • The bits where Bond is not on screen at all

Et voila...

How do I know this?

I watched the whole film very very slowly using an Excel spreadsheet to mark when Bond was on and off screen, and also whether it was Sir Roger playing 007. This viewing took around 15 hours. There followed a multitude of calculations (that took BLOODY ages), totting up the respective totals. I haven't slept properly for a week.

Of the total running time - two hours, seven minutes and 16 seconds - the character of James Bond is on screen for a total of 58 minutes and 32.2 seconds, and of that, it is clearly Sir Roger for 44 minutes and 48 seconds.

In percentage terms, Bond is only on screen for 46% of the film, and of that chunk, 77% was Sir Roger and 23% various stuntmen, stand-ins and hand actors.

Perhaps the most surprising finding is that the character of Bond is not on screen at all for one hour, eight minutes and 44.4 seconds - 54% of the film! And he's in almost every scene!

So now we know.

Next blog post idea... how many times *does* Tanya Roberts say "James!" in the whole film?

Yep, definitely Sir Roger...

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Thank Yule For The Music

"We're getting divorced"
"No, *we're* getting divorced"

Christmas and ABBA – what a lovely combination!

I’ve trawled through this year’s Christmas and New Year Radio Times so you don’t have to, picking out all of the films, TV and radio programmes featuring everybody’s favourite Swedish foursome.

ABBA-inspired films Mamma Mia and Muriel's Wedding are being shown alongside a healthy portion of interesting documentaries.

As Christmas is the time for repeats, the Radio 2 documentary about the 40th anniversary of ABBA's Eurovision win is wheeled out for a whopping two hours on Monday 22 December.

If you're looking for a night in watching pure ABBA, then New Year's Eve is your best bet, with the excellent Joy of ABBA starting at 9pm, followed by ABBA at the BBC, finishing at 11pm. You've then got an hour to toast the New Year before settling down for The ABBA Years on Channel 5.


Saturday 20 December

Mamma Mia
17.45-20.00, ITV3
Musical romantic comedy featuring the music of ABBA.
(repeated Wednesday 24 December 14.10-16.25)

Monday 22 December

ABBA
20.00-22.00, BBC Radio 2
Scott Mills celebrates the 40th anniversary of ABBA’s rise following their 6 April 1974 Eurovision win with Waterloo, which just five weeks later was at the top of the UK charts. With input by Bjorn Ulvaeus, Anni-Frid “Frida” Lyngstad and others.

ABBA: The Image
23.55-00.55, Channel 5
Examining the group’s costumes, album artwork and videos.

Thursday 25 December

Top of the Pops Christmas: 1978
22.30-23.30, BBC Four
Noel Edmonds presents the music show, featuring Darts, ABBA, Boney M, Gary Numan and the Tubeway Army, Squeeze, Buggles, Ian Dury, Blondie and Racey.

Muriel’s Wedding
23.05-01.15, Channel 5
Comedy drama. Deciding to escape her dysfunctional family and her small-town life, Muriel Heslop takes advantage of a blank cheque and heads off in search of adventure.

Friday 26 December

ABBA: Live in Concert
01.15-02.25, Channel 5
A 1979 performance by the Swedish quartet.

Saturday 27 December

Pick of the Pops
13.00-16.00, BBC Radio 2
An extended show in which Tony Blackburn counts three year-end charts, with the bestselling singles of 1965, 1976 and 1987, featuring The Hollies, Sonny and Cher, The Wurzels, ABBA and the Pet Shop Boys.

ABBA: When Four Became One
20.00-21.00, Sky Arts 1
Documentary examining the music careers of Agnetha Faltskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad before they joined ABBA.
(repeated Sunday 28 December 05.00-06.00 & Monday 29 December 11.00-12.00)

Sunday 28 December

ABBA: Dancing Queen
20.00-21.00, Sky Arts 1
The recording of the Swedish band’s classic 1976 single.
(repeated Monday 29 December 05.00-06.00 & Tuesday 30 December 11.00-12.00)

Agnetha: ABBA and After
21.00-22.00, Yesterday
Agnetha Faltskog’s music career as both a member of the Swedish group and a solo singer. 

Wednesday 31 January

The Joy of ABBA
21.00-22.00, BBC Four
A nostaligic look at how the the pop legends popularised the sound of Swedish melancholy in the 1970s and early 80s. By adding irresistibly catchy melodies, the glamtastic quartet were able to dominate the world’s charts.

ABBA at the BBC
22.00-23.00, BBC Four
A collection of memorable performances by the melodious chart-toppers, including their first Top of the Pops appearance in 1974, and archive chat with the band.

Thursday 1 January

The ABBA Years
00.00-01.00, Channel 5
The story of the Swedish supergroup, featuring interviews with the four band members.

(The text is the Radio Times’, by the way)

And of course, the best way to sign off a festive ABBA post is this…




Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Bond 24 - Two Words Are Better Than One (...or Three, Four, Five or Six)


So we're just hours away from learning what the real title of Bond 24 is.

Until then, let's speculate to our heart's content and listen to outlandish suggestions, like this one from one 'caller' on Radio 4's Down The Line:





But what's in a Bond film title?

Can the name hold any clue as to how profitable it will be?

No, but let's press on regardless. Got anything better to do?

My slender point is this:

BOND FILMS WITH TWO-WORD TITLES ARE THE MOST PROFITABLE.

To arrive at this startling (and frankly pointless) conclusion, I compared all 23 films' budgets with their worldwide gross box office takings, thus working out how profitable each film was.

For example, Goldfinger's budget of $3 million and its takings of $125 million give it a profitability percentage of 4063%. Compare that with Casino Royale's budget of $150 million and its takings of almost $595 million give it a profitability percentage of 296%.

(Disclaimer: the budget-to-gross takings percentage has got progressively smaller since the 60s, so that does skew the results somewhat)

Using the table (below), I then added the percentages of films with the same number of words in their title, then divided that number by how many films there were in that group.

e.g. the four-word titles are:
  • From Russia With Love (3,845%)
  • You Only Live Twice (1,075%)
  • Live And Let Die (1,705%)
  • For Your Eyes Only (598%)

The sum total of their percentages is 7,223%, divided by four because there are four of them and, la-di-dah, the mean average is 1,806%.

So in first place were the TWO-word titles with an average profitability of 2,807%

In second place were FOUR-word titles with an average profitability of 1,806%

In third place, the ONE-word titles with an average profitability of 1,265%

And so on...

Films with FIVE-word titles had an average profitability of 736%

The one film with a SIX-word title had an average profitability of 651%

And the six films with THREE-word titles had an average profitability of 505%

So there we have it - a two word title will see Babs and Michael off the streets.

Now, is it Muff Wrangler or Muffwrangler...?

TABLE:


FILM
BUDGET
($, source IMDb)
GROSS TAKINGS
($, source IMDb)
PROFITABILITY
(%)
Dr. No
1,100,000
59,600,000
5,318
From Russia With Love
2,000,000
78,900,000
3,845
Goldfinger
3,000,000
124,900,000
4,063
Thunderball
9,000,000
141,200,000
1,468
You Only Live Twice
9,500,000
111,600,000
1,075
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
7,000,000
87,400,000
1,149
Diamonds Are Forever
7,200,000
116,000,000
1,511
Live And Let Die
7,000,000
126,377,836
1,705
The Man With The Golden Gun
13,000,000
97,600,000
651
The Spy Who Loved Me
14,000,000
185,400,000
1,224
Moonraker
34,000,000
210,308,099
519
For Your Eyes Only
28,000,000
195,300,000
598
Octopussy
27,500,000
187,500,000
582
A View To A Kill
30,000,000
152,400,000
408
The Living Daylights
30,000,000
191,200,000
537
Licence To Kill
32,000,000
156,200,000
388
Goldeneye
58,000,000
351,500,000
506
Tomorrow Never Dies
110,000,000
335,332,007
205
The World Is Not Enough
135,000,000
352,030,660
161
Die Another Day
142,000,000
431,971,116
204
Casino Royale
150,000,000
594,239,066
296
Quantum Of Solace
200,000,000
575,952,505
187
Skyfall
200,000,000 (est.)
1,108,561,013
454

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Vive l’entente Bondiale!

Ou... une célébration de la contribution des acteurs français qui ont joué dans des films de James Bond



There’s always been a special deliciousness in the way French actors have delivered their lines in Bond films. Maybe it’s down to the actor, maybe it’s just the accent. Either way, they've left an indelible mark.

With the unconfirmed news that Léa Seydoux will star in Bond 24, I thought I’d look at the various contributions French actors have made to the Bond films so far.

The films’ first full-on foray into Frenchness came in 1965 with Claudine Auger as Domino Derval in Thunderball. Auger was crowned Miss France in 1958 at the age of 15 (AHEM), studied drama at the Conservatoire de Paris (as did Bérénice Marlohe - but more of her later), and gave birth to her first child aged 49. It’s a shame she was dubbed by Nikki van der Zyl, but if you want to hear her in her native tongue, here she is.

"Auger. It's pronounced 'oh-zhay'. Okay?"

The rest of the 60s and most of the 70s were a bit barren for French actors in the Bond films. That is until The Spy Who Loved Me in 1977 and Nîmes-born Vernon Dobtcheff’s turn as club owner Max Kalba (aside: how fucking annoying was the music in the Mojave Club?). He didn’t last long before Jaws bumped him off, but I’m sure someone would have done so eventually due to the club’s music policy. Vernon is still working, by the way, and celebrated his 80th birthday in August.

*VERNFACT: he played an elderly Nazi in Father Ted. Proof.

Next up is the quintessential Bond villain, Moonraker’s Hugo Drax, played by the velvety-voiced Michael Lonsdale. To the delight of the audience, Drax revels in his verbal barbs against Bond. I think he has the best one-liners of any Bond villain, among my favourites: “James Bond. You appear with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season.” Judge for yourself.

"Look after Mr. Bond. See that some harm comes to him."

Given that Moonraker was mostly shot in France, it's understandable that French actors were peppered throughout the production. Corinne Cléry gives an adequate performance as Corinne Dufour but, again, Nikki van der Zyl dubbed her real voice on-screen, but you can hear her (and see her romp around on a giant hand!) here. Fellow French actor Blanche Ravalec pops up - and almost out - as Jaws’ girlfriend Dolly.

*BLANCHEFACT: she narrated the French version of Thomas the Tank Engine.

Carole Bouquet is next up, essaying the role of vengeful Melina Havelock in For Your Eyes Only. Melina shows an understated independence from her very first scene and is quite happily bumping off her parents’ assassin before she even meets Bond. In fact, I’d argue that character gets duller from the moment she meets Bond.

*CAROLEFACT: she is the luckiest person alive, in that she no longer goes out with the dick that is Gerard Depardieu.

To the mid-80s now and France is next represented by Jean Rougerie, playing detective Achilles Aubergine in A View To A Kill. He doesn’t make it past the soup course, but does display an excellent moustache.

In The Living Daylights, French native (although half-Dutch, half Georgian by parentage) Maryam D’Abo shines through as Kara Milovy in spite of a nasty raincoat. With her awkward charm, she set my pulse raising a little above average and was the reason I took up the cello for a whole week in 1988.

"You're English?"

Tcheky Karyo’s Defence Minister Dmitri Mishkin in Goldeneye in 1995 was the only main French actor to crop up in the Pierce Brosnan years UNTIL Sophie Marceau in The World Is Not Enough.

Like Carole Bouquet, she played the wronged daughter of a murdered father, but her complicity in his killing and her ability to beguile and manipulate people around her sets her on another level. Marceau is a phenomenal actor, crowned by her butter-wouldn’t-melt half-pout, her wicked laugh as Bond chases her, and her smirking pronouncement to Bond: “You wouldn’t kill me. You’d miss me.” Pure class.

WANTED: for crimes against Dame Judi

The Daniel Craig era has continued this superb run of hiring superlative French actors. Parkour genius Sébastien Foucan gets Casino Royale off to a flying start, leaping off scaffolding as Mollaka.

But while Foucan only lasts 18 minutes into the film, it’s Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd who dominates with the sheer quality of her acting, marking her out as one of the finest talents ever to appear in a Bond film. In Mark O’Connell’s excellent book Catching Bullets (available here), he sums it up better than I could:
“Green plays Vesper as a sort of Evil Under The Sun chanteuse – all 1930s gowns, hats and curls finished off with a sort of Emo-duchess poise and Roedean accent. Enabling Craig to shape his 007, Green has the finest acting chops of many a Bond squeeze with a curious mix of Maud Adams’ grace and Diana Rigg’s balls”.
"Don't look at the necklace. Seriously, don't. It'll give the whole game away"

Casino Royale represented the peak of French acting involvement of the Bond films so far. Unfortunately, Quantum of Solace's Mathieu Amalric is not as successful as Michael Lonsdale in the Bond baddie stakes; he’s creepy but unconvincing (as I stated in a previous entry) although I concede this is more to do with the poor script and direction than to Amalric himself.

And that brings us on to our final French actor, the criminally underused Bérénice Marlohe in Skyfall. As a Bond film, it's definitely one of the best, but the character of Severine is one of the drawbacks. There’s just not enough of her, although I see how the writers didn’t want anyone to intrude on the Bond-M-Silva dynamic and that’s a real shame.

"I've got to tap the ash of this cigarette or it'll go EVERYWHERE"

I hope this upward trend of quality French actors continues. So, come on Babs and Michael: more Lonsdale, Greens and Marceaus please. 

Will Léa Seydoux join their ranks?