moon raker

Now hear me out:

If you get REALLY high, then Moonraker can become a decent, but not a GREAT film instead of the cocaine-fueled nightmare that is now.

What I love about the James Bond franchise is that it’s pure spectacle. It doesn’t shy away from that. In fact, it full on embraces it…at least during the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

What people don’t realize about the Sean Connery through Timothy Dalton era is that the plot DOES NOT MATTER. At all. Not in the slightest. They’re all screenplays based on story beats: 1) Cold open 2) Titles 3) Moneypenny/Q/M 4)Intro to villain, etc etc. and it always ends with the villain lair exploding and Bond fucking the Bond Girl. The facade of a story is always in service to hitting those beats.

It’s like listening to a Phil Spector produced album where the sheer scale of the production covers up the limitations of the artist.

Now Moonraker crosses the line from being spectacle to straight up insanity. It’s obvious that the producers were just throwing shit up on the screen in a desperate attempt to compete with Star Wars. But underneath all that bullshit, there is a decent James Bond film.

The scene that is often cited as being the moment Bond jumps the shark is the gondola chase. But did you know that that scene is completely useless? It advances the plot in no way. Who’s chasing Bond? Why are they chasing him? It’s assumed to be the villain’s henchmen, but that’s never made clear. As far as Bond knows, it’s just random dudes. There are no consequences for the chase either. You can cut it out completely, and nothing in the story would have been missed. Not even a story beat. The very next scene is a fight with a henchmen where a shit ton of glass gets broken. There is literally no point in the gondola chase.

Honestly, half the shit that takes place in Venice could be cut. Only two important things happen there: you learn that the villain is using a chemical agent in his diabolical plot and the Bond girl is actually a CIA agent. The death of the first henchmen takes place there, which explains the appearance of Jaws later in the film, but I’d argue that this character could be cut completely and nothing would be missed.

Could Jaws be cut out? Probably not. Unlike most things in this film, Jaws actually advances the plot. But his character could be made less ridiculous by introducing him in the Rio Carnival sequence (who cares why he’s there? It should be obvious). Unfortunately that stupid ass love interest ends up becoming useful for Bond at a key point, so that shit has to stay in. BUT all that crap afterwards can be cut out.

Now the film goes completely off the rails after Bond escapes the ambulance, and not much can be done to fix that. 007 has to go into space 🤷‍♂️. But if roughly 1/4 of the movie gets edited out, you’d have a nice little spy film.

I wish someone would make a fan edit of this.

Assthetics

When it comes to the Star Trek vs Star Wars debate, I stand firmly on the Star Trek side (the Gene Roddenberry/Rick Berman era. Not the JJ Abrams/Alex Kurtzman era). I prefer my science fiction to be a bit more grounded. Star Wars, to me, is more Sci-fi/Fantasy.

The success rate of Star Wars, in terms of quality per production, is well below 50% (Star Trek hovers at around 50%). If you think about it, there are really only TWO really good Star Wars films: Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back. The Mandalorian is alright, but it’s a bit too predictable. Nevertheless, I can appreciate George Lucas’ creation. Despite some of the terrible storytelling, when historians reflect on the artful impact of cinema, Star Wars will be to film what William Shakespeare was to the English language or Plato to philosophy.

Star Wars is so ubiquitous in modern culture that people don’t stop to appreciate how it really was a game changer. Watch a Hollywood film before 1977 and watch one after. You’ll see that film and pop culture entertainment was forever changed by it.

To be honest, I don’t think George Lucas’ screenplay (or direction) was that revolutionary. The revolutionary aspect was the production design, music, special effects, and editing (although I’d argue that the James Bond films were far more revolutionary in film editing). In this respect, Lucas was more of a CEO overseeing various departments in creating a lived-in universe. For Star Wars, the stories were always secondary. What grabbed everyone’s attention was the myths and scope: it was like watching an ancient epic being played out on the big screen in a way that films before weren’t able to capture.

So I don’t think that devout fans enjoy Star Wars because of their incredible stories and performances (unless they’re watching because of Harrison Ford). It’s purely an aesthetic experience. Make a Star Wars movie without storm troopers, Star Destroyers, light sabers, Boba Fetts, Jedis, Death Stars, etc. then you probably wouldn’t have a Star Wars movie.

You could make the argument that you can’t make a Star Trek movie/TV show without Starfleet. But fans of Trek have shown to be more open to bending its internal rules to further explore its universe.

But I don’t know dude, you like what you like.

But you know who my favorite Star Wars character is?

Admiral Piett

I hope he gets his own spin-off.

“Layer Cake”: Britain’s finest hour

Before his James Bond got blown to shit on some rooftop on a Japanese island in No Time To Die (sPoIlEr AlErT!), Daniel Craig was in what is perhaps the greatest British film ever made: Layer Cake.

While every actor (except Tom Hardy) acts their ass off and every line of dialogue is an absolute banger, the film is perhaps best known as a turning point in film history: introducing the world to Daniel Craig’s god-like body.

Daniel Craig was blessed with being able to make whatever he’s wearing look like it was tailored specifically for him. He spends much of the film wearing the same plain gray raglan t-shirt with Levi’s…an outfit that probably costs $50 total, but it looks like he’s modeling Brioni.

I couldn’t pull off that look. I tried.

Another thing Craig succeeds at is showing his “sex” gaze:

Sorry, this is the best screenshot I could find.

Not to toot my own horn, but I’m happily married now because I mastered that gaze. Now personally, I like to use the Sean Connery method of tilting my head forward, arching an eyebrow, and smiling with my eyes. But every man has to master the “sex” gaze, to knock em dead with one look, if they want to be successful with the ladies (or the fellas).

That haircut is pretty good too. It’s definitely a 60’s style throwback, echoing the aforementioned Sean Connery and his toupee during his James Bond tenure. Unfortunately I’m a balding man, have been since I was 13, so I was never able to pull off that style. But because I’m balding, I’m sort of an expert at spotting hair plugs. And Craig, in my humble opinion, probably has hair plugs. That being said, I’d pay good money to find out who his specialist is.

Another thing on Craig’s style is that pimpin purplish/maroon jacket he wears to start the film:

I’m just gonna go ahead and say it: no man has ever looked as good on film as Daniel Craig did in Layer Cake.

“We get it, you’re in love with Daniel Craig. But what about the film?”

Oh yeah, the film’s good too.

another Shot at the Title (part v)

After Christian (Bale’s) funeral, I began lamenting some of my decisions at the production studio. “Maybe I shouldn’t have asked him to gain 150lbs,” I said.

“You’re one arrogant son of a bitch,” Jeffery Greco said.

“Don’t blame me for his death!” I replied. “Chris could’ve turned down the role!”

Kat was two sheets in the wind when she spoke up. “I’m finished in this town,” she said. “Because of you, I’ll never work again.”

“Lay off the sauce, Kat,” I said. “Now pour me a drink.”

“There’s no way we can release the film now,” Kat continued. “$7 billion down the toilet!”

“Now calm down!” I interrupted. “We’ll just have to do some reshoots. I’ll step in for Chris’s role. I’m an Academy Award-winning actor too, ya know?”

“Hold on there bucko,” Greco said. “There ain’t no way the studio will let you back on the set. Not after the lawsuit with Dallas and killing your leading man. That’s to say nothing about the numerous investigations into your international holdings!”

“If the film’s gonna be completed,” Kat said, “then your assistant, Pee-Wee, will finish production.”

“Well that Machiavellian son of a bitch,” I said. “I knew he had an ulterior motive.”

“Since we are 90% finished with filming, we’ll use CGI to complete Chris’s scenes,” explained Kat. “That will considerably jack up the budget, but we have no other choice.”

“Then I guess I’m fired,” I said as I stood up. “But I still want full credit for directing this picture.”

“Not happening,” Kat replied.

“Kat, you’ve crossed me for the last time,” I said. “I’m going to the Director’s Guild. If you want a court battle, you’ve got one sister!”

TO BE CONTINUED

Christian Bale (1974-2021) 😞

Another shot at the title (part ii)

Pablo and I made the journey to Trainwreck Studios in Burbank. What a god-forsaken place. I swore to myself that I would never return.

“We’re here to see Kathleen Kennedy,” Pablo told the receptionist.

“And you are?”

“I’m Pablo Dunbar, the agent of James…”

The receptionist’s eyes widened when she saw my face. “You mean, James…”

“Yes, THAT James,” I interjected. “Tell Kat we’re here so that we can get this over with.”

“I thought you were retired…” she began to say as she stumbled through her words. “Anyway, she’s waiting for you. Fourth floor. The only way up there is through the air ducts. Elevator’s broken.”

So we climbed up the ducts into Kathleen’s office. “Damn it Kat,” I said, “when are you going to get that fucking elevator fixed?”

She turned around and was wearing sunglasses. She appeared to be somber over something.

“Hello James,” she said.

“Hello Kat.”

“Can I offer you gentlemen a glass of scotch?”

“I’ll take the bottle please.”

Kat sat down behind her desk and began to shuffle through some paperwork. Pablo and I plopped down in the leather chairs.

“So, what did you think of Antonio’s script?” she asked.

“To be honest Kat,” I said, “it needs some work. Too much talk. Film is a visual medium. ‘Show, don’t tell’ as they say. If I can do a second draft and clean up the dialogue…”

“James,” Kat interrupted, “Fart in a Windstorm is a court drama, there’s going to be a lot of dialogue. Besides, I already promised Antonio that he would get final say in the script.”

“Fine, whatever. But I need to put my stamp on it if this is going to be a film by James…”

“Look, I get what you’re saying,” Kat said. “But in agreement with the writer’s guild, he must get sole screenwriting credit. That’s going to put a limit on what you can do.”

I just stared at her.

“You don’t want to relinquish creative control to me,” I said. Out of my periphery, I could see Pablo getting uncomfortable.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Kat replied, “the studio is willing to put $1.5 billion into this project ONLY if YOU are signed on to direct. Once when this meeting is made public, Hollywood will be in a tizzy over the return of its most famous director.”

“Kat, you know I can’t make a small scale courtroom drama for anything less than $2 billion.”

She learned forward on her desk as she began rubbing her temples. She appeared as though she was about to be sick. I took a big gulp from the bottle of scotch.

“What’s with the sunglasses?” I asked her. “Did you have eye surgery? Did your husband beat you?”

Kat removed the glasses, revealing her puffy red eyes and makeup smeared from crying.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” I said.

“We haven’t had a hit since This Taste Like Ass,” she said as tears rolled down her face. “The board wants me out. I’ve become the laughingstock of this town.”

“It’s no fun when the rabbit has the gun, eh?”

“James,” Pablo said. “Mrs. Kennedy, James and I are both in agreement that this script is doable. Sure, there are problems that need ironing out, but we are committed to making this work. Right James?”

I just shrugged.

“Really?” Kat said.

“Absolutely, the gang’s back together. Let’s have a drink on it!”

We all stood up and Pablo forced a group hug. Kat’s spirits seemed to have been lifted slightly.

As we were climbing back down the air ducts, I grabbed Pablo by the ankle. “You better not fuck me out of this contract like you did last time!” I told him.

TO BE CONTINUED

leadership

As you know, I have nothing but regrets.

I’m reaching that age where some of my superiors are younger than me. I don’t begrudge them. They all deserves their spots. Some older guys I work with don’t appreciate that they got passed over, but I think it’s our responsibility…as the “elders”…to bestow upon the younger generation what wisdom we have learned (in my case, what little wisdoms I have learned).

I don’t know if this is a regret I have, it’s more like a big “what if”. I spent some time in the military. Even did three years of ROTC in college. It’s laughable to think I could have been an officer now, but it almost happened (before I realized that I loved drinking WAY more than I loved the military). Despite the abysmal failure of that endeavor, a few lessons stuck with me.

“Just make a decision,” I’d always hear, “don’t worry about if it’s the correct one.” I thought that was stupid advice at the time, especially in a military situation where people’s lives might depend on it. But it seems to make a little more sense now.

Who are the three greatest military commanders of all time? It’s obvious: Captain Kirk, Captain Picard, and Captain Sisko.

The three guys in the middle

“But they aren’t real,” you might say.

So? Real life isn’t real.

I remember Mike Stoklasa praising Bill Shatner’s acting capabilities (in a video discussing Shatner’s hatred of Mike Stoklasa). You can laugh all you want, but it’s true: Shatner is an extraordinarily effective actor. And, for better or worse, Captain Kirk is Bill Shatner and Bill Shatner is Captain Kirk.

Kirk understands that he is playing a part as Captain of the Enterprise. He has to project confidence as its leader because the survival of his ship might depend on it. Shatner, I think, understands that Kirk himself is playing a part, which might explain some of the strange speech patterns he exhibits throughout the series and films.

That’s why I think it’s great that the handlers of Star Trek (at least back then) cast classically trained thespians for the role of the Captain. Just the ability to “play the role” is necessary for the crew to rally behind, even when the leader isn’t completely confident in his (or her) decisions.

Obviously Picard is the superior Captain. No disrespect to Shatner, but Patrick Stewart knows when to dial up the acting and when to hold back (even if, in my belief, Stewart didn’t completely understand the appeal of his character or Star Trek). But what Picard does better than anyone is embrace his mission: “explore strange new worlds”. He seeks out moral quandaries and mysteries because he understands that these hold the secrets of the universe. He’s an explorer but not in the usual sense of the term.

I think to be a leader, one has to be open to that sort of exploration.

Of course, Sisko was far more grounded than either Kirk or Picard. He had a life outside of Starfleet and his job was to navigate the political complexities of a particular section of the galaxy. While Kirk and Picard were explorers, Sisko’s mission was different: he was an ambassador attempting to bring together warring factions. But just like everyone else, he had to “play the part.”

“But those were actors that had scripts,” you might say. “Real life doesn’t have a script.”

True that, but if you understand the more technical aspects of your work, in a sense you kinda already do have a script. You can’t just willy nilly your way through a job, you are confined and in many aspects you have direction. It’s just making the best decision with the options you have.

So I think it’s interesting that the three best Captains in Star Trek history each explore the three most important aspects of leadership: confidence (or the projection of), eagerness to accept challenges, and being the middle man between conflicting parties. But most importantly, “just play the part.”

“blue thunder” and “backtrack” (aka Catchfire”)

I watched two movies back-to-back (unintentionally) that had helicopter chases.

The first was Blue Thunder, staring the greatest leading man of all time…Roy Scheider. It is also the greatest movie that Paul Verhoeven never made.

No disrespect to the highly competent John Badham, but Verhoeven would have crushed the shit out of this material. The film takes place in 1980s LA and is about a police pilot and Vietnam vet, played by Scheider, who gets introduced to a military-style helicopter that the city wants to use for patrol. The villain is Malcolm McDowell, a British man that somehow became a Lt. Colonel in the US Army, who for some contrived reason wants to kill Scheider. The fascistic overtones are right up Verhoeven’s alley, and even some of the story beats would be echoed in Robocop four years later.

But the movie looks incredible. John A. Alonzo is really an unsung hero in the field of cinematography. The handheld work is really ahead of its time, and masterfully done. After watching the first scene of Scheider walking out to his helicopter, I was shocked that this came out in 1983. It’s a natural look that even films today have trouble emulating.

And that final helicopter chase was incredible. All of the concerns that Scheider’s character had regarding public safety goes out the window once when he gets hunted by fighter jets and Malcolm McDowell. Chicken factories and buildings get blown up while debris falls on the people below. Meanwhile, Candy Clark drives like a bat out of hell down the streets of LA. As far as 80s action movies go, I’m not saying that it’s up there with the Schwarzenegger, Verhoeven, and John McTiernan classics, but it is very good. In fact, I would say it was a prototype for subsequent 80s flicks.

The other film was less of a banger but no less interesting (for various reasons). It was Dennis Hopper’s Backtrack (or Catchfire, idk). There are apparently two versions: theatrical cut and a directors cut. I guess I watched the director’s cut.

Hopper himself was apparently dissatisfied with the original version and had his “directed by” credit given to Alan Smithee. Honestly, he should have taken his name off the director’s cut as well.

What’s it about? Not sure.

I think Jodie Foster accidentally sees a mob hit by Joe Pesci and Pesci tries to track her down by hiring Hopper and Hopper falls in love with her (and she with him).

Now I’ll say this because I’ve said enough about dude’s bodies in this blog and it’s time women get their due: Jodie Foster is fiiiiiiiiiiiine as hell in this movie. You could say that I was “sexually attracted” to her. It made me uncomfortable (in my pants specifically). I could understand why Hopper didn’t want to kill her.

But the problem with this movie (one of many) is that Dennis Hopper is, I’m sorry to say, not fit for the role. Hopper is at least 25 years older than Foster. There’s nothing romantic about their scenes together. They’re downright creepy. It’s a role that someone like Nicholas Cage, Mickey Rourke, or Sean Penn could have aced at that time.

That being said, Hopper REALLY makes some decisions in this movie, both in front of and behind the camera. To be honest, I don’t even know what he’s trying to do. Is that accent New York or Cajun? Does he know his lines or is he just making shit up? Now no one on God’s green earth could have saved this screenplay, but Hopper’s visual flair and strange acting decisions steal the show…almost to the point where you forget that heavy hitters like Joe Pesci and Vincent Price are also in the movie.

RIP Dennis Hopper and Roy Scheider 😔

what dreams may come

I’m a hard sleeper.

Nothing can, nothing will, wake me up. Construction, gun shots, home invasions, house fires, nuclear holocausts…nothing.

So I get to have incredible dreams. Last night, for example, I dreamt that I was a football player buried deep down the depth chart. The team boarded a plane en route to a game with the pilot both coked up and drunk. The pilot thought it would be cool to do a barrel roll in a passenger plane which caused some concern. I brushed it off and took a nap. When I awoke, the plane had to make an emergency landing onto a road but ended up crashing into an apartment building. No one was killed,miraculously, and the people in the building didn’t think anything unusual about it because it was in Mississippi and apparently things like that happen all the time. Nevertheless, one player thought this was the perfect opportunity to exact revenge…for whatever reasons…on the head coach and a few other players. So it was up to me, some nobody, to save the team.

Once when that was done, I had to book a flight home but chose to fly to London, England instead. The price came to $20,000 and I didn’t have the money. Then the dream ended.

There were dreams on the periphery, one which includes me fighting a rabbit in Monument Valley and sending it to a highly mechanized version of hell.

I guess dreams are just a hodgepodge of shit stored in our heads and when we sleep, our brains randomly throw things together which we later attempt to make sense of (or in my case, project a story onto). Does it ever mean anything? Probably not.

At least not most of the time.

But I do have recurring dreams. Not dreams where the exact same things happen, but they share similar themes, people, places, etc. I suppose that there are shreds of truth in these kinds of dreams: a revelation of regret, dread, loss, and so on.

I find the subject of dreams fascinating. It reveals the chaos that exists in our own minds. Even the purest of people will experience a gruesome nightmare. Despite their outward practices in real life, even in their minds they will produce true horror. That emanates completely from them. We try to project some sense onto our dreams, but the fact is that there isn’t any whatsoever.

We do the same thing to our reality.