Saturday, November 15, 2008

Will James Bond Return?

"James Bond will return." The words scroll up the screen as the last end credits song slowly fades out and the movie is over. I, along with millions of other people around the world had gone to see 'The Quantum of Solace' on opening day yesterday, and the experience left me with a mixture of joy and sadness. I have seen 'Casino Royale', and now 'Quantum of Solace', but I haven't seen James Bond since 'Die Another Day.' All I've seen in these last two films are a man that might some day be James Bond. He has high James Bond potential, but he is not James Bond.

When I was in high school, the cool thing to do was to listen to grunge rock. The point of such 'rock' (and I am using the term very loosely here) was to sound as depressed as possible, sing about how much life sucks, and make the music sound as gritty and dirty as possible. And all the high schoolers in the 90s heard it and said, "Woah, I identify with this because I feel depressed and life is hard!" And the music consequently became very popular. Epitomized by such bands as Nirvana, grunge music proved un-selfsustainable when all of it's contributors commited suicide and there was no one left to play the music.

So the Grunge fad faded from the scene and was replaced by other 'rock' movements, some with a bit more emotional range, some without (see: Emo) but the sole consolation to me was that Rock could become fun again. 'Rock' would never be that uniting force it was in the 70s and 80s, in fact you couldn't even call it 'Rock' anymore, but at least it was more fun to listen to.

Now we arrive at the early 2000s. Just when I thought we had finally seen the end of 'Grunge', the fad suddenly moves to the film world. In 2002, a movie called 'The Bourne Identity' comes out, a film that told an old and cliched story in a new way. It was dirty, it was gritty, and it focused on how much it's hero's life sucked. Hmm, sound familiar to you? Me too. I like to call this style of filmmaking 'Docu-Grunge,' as it seems to utilize the documentary style of filmmaking while applying a grunge ethos to it's visuals and content. Now, I want to pause here and say that I have nothing against this style on principle. I am not trying to make blanket statements and be a 'hater'. But I can't help but cringe when all of a sudden the word 'realistic' is commonly associated with this style, and it is implied that all other styles lack realism. Is it realistic to be depressed ALL the time? I'm not depressed all the time, does that make me unreal, or fake? The trend seems to be that in order for something to be good, it has to be uber-dramatic, dirty, and depressing. But in the long run, I'd rather watch Speed Racer than The Dark Knight.

But back to James Bond. Casino Royale was a 'reboot' of the James Bond franchise, which seems to mean that the producers looked around and said, "what's cool these days?" They found the Bourne films, and decided that in order for James Bond to be cool, he had to be presented in the all new 'Docu-Grunge' style. Gritty. Dirty. Depressed. At least when Martin Campbell directed Casino Royale, he preserved some of the visual flair that is characteristic of James Bond films with his sweeping camera movies and allowing the action scenes (though few and far between) to play out in longer shots and impress the audience with their excellence in execution. But now in Quantum of Solace, the camera has to be shaking and zoomed in as far as it will go and any one shot can't last longer than 1.5 seconds, reducing the film to a series of energetic bursts that force an intensity onto the situation instead of more subtle methods and allowing us to enjoy the scope of the visuals and appreciate the action. In trying so hard to copy the Bourne films, Bond has inherited the problems of the bourne films, and reduced itself to a bunch of camera tricks and gimmicky action scenarios. Ian Flemming intended his books to be a form of escapism, something more fun than realism, and the apple has seemingly fallen far from the tree.

Now, I don't want to sound too pessimistic here. The Quantum of Solace had a lot of things to like about it as a Bond film. Exotic locales, hints of the James Bond theme, plenty of action, and they finally re-introduced the silhouetted dancing ladies during the opening credits. But those things are only part of the combination that made Bond films awesome. Bond has always been different from other action heroes. Characteristically smooth and suave, while still calculating and precise, the way the films have been presented has always reflected this, and Bond has never had to 'compete' with other action heroes, and I don't feel like he should. Now, there are hints here and there that these last two films, since they are prequels about Bond becoming Bond, that they are slowly transitioning back into Bond being the awesomely suave and the coolest action star ever, and I dearly hope that they do, because I want my James bond back. I want the real James Bond. And I am hopeful that someday he WILL return.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A dream of mine...

(click on image for high resolution version)
Space Mountain: the movie... This is pretty much my dream movie right now, and some day I'm going to pitch it to Walt Disney Studios and make it into an awesome film that kids and adults can enjoy!

Josh and I came up with this idea while at Disneyland, and it would be a retro-futuristic sci-fi adventure with all the cool stuff in it, like space heroes, scientists, rocket trains, black holes, orbiting hotels, and Gantry 44! Pretty much all the coolest things in the universe.

Someday I'll make this movie... someday.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lost Highway

The following is an account of what happened to me on November 6th, 2008. And while memory is a fleeting and abstract thing, I have tried to remain as true to the fact as possible, not adding any details for dramatic effect. The goal here is to merely relay my experience for those who have not had the chance to hear me tell it yet.

6 PM, Northeastern Arizona. I was 9 hours into my trip to Canyon de Chelly (pron. 'shay') and half an hour from the hotel where I was to stay for a week and film the canyon and ancient Native American ruins for my employer, Finley Holiday Films. My rental SUV was loaded with my camera equipment and supplies for the trip. I had hoped to reach my destination before it got dark, but unfortunately because of daylight savings, the shorter November days, and the time zone change, the sun had gone down half an hour ago and the last rays of light had just disappeared behind the black hills.

Now it's rather difficult to fully explain my thought process as everything happened in the space of about 5 milliseconds, but I recall glimpsing in the corner of my eye the ghostly figure of a horse bolting across the road, illuminated only at the last split-second by the edge of my headlights, immediately followed by a snapping and smashing sound, and a waterfall of glass pouring over me. As soon as I had realized something had just hit me, I hit the brakes and pulled off to the side of the road. I was rather stunned, but the first thing I noticed was that a section of the windshield had wrapped itself back and was a few inches from my face, so I pushed it forward roughly back into place. In a shocking moment, suddenly all memories of what had just happened came flooding back into my head. I must have been going 60 MPH, actually 5 below the speed limit due to the darkness, but the horse had run out at full speed and collided with the front left side of the hood, it's head snapping forward and shattering the windshield before being thrown upwards by the curve of the vehicle's roof.

Sitting on the side of the road, I opened the door of the SUV with some difficulty as it had been dented in, and spit glass dust out of my mouth. As I did so, I noticed something dripping from my forehead. I was bleeding, and I hadn't even noticed. The coolness of realizing that this was what being in shock feels like was quickly replaced by the terror of not knowing how badly I was injured. I grabbed my duffel bag and snatched a t-shirt from inside and held it to my face and applied pressure to try and stop the bleeding. When the section of windshield in front of me had wrapped back upon itself, it had cut me on the left side of my face and right hand. Not to mention that the shower of glass beads had given me hundreds of tiny cuts all over my face. Fortunately the near-freezing night temperature of the high desert sped up the cauterizing process for my smaller cuts, leaving only the big ones to deal with.

At this point a family drove by and saw my condition, and told me they would drive up to the gas station nearby and call the police. Being in the middle of nowhere, it took 15 minutes for the fire department to arrive, followed shortly by an ambulance and the police. The fire department busied themselves with blocking off the road where the dead horse lay (I must have killed it instantly), and the paramedics took me into the ambulance and checked me out. No major injuries, miraculously, and other than my forehead, everything had stopped bleeding already.

So, despite the long story involved in getting home with no car (not totaled, but completely undrivable) and no cell phone reception, I realize that I was extremely fortunate that the horse had not gotten further out in the road, where a direct hit could have almost certainly been fatal for me, and I was most likely lucky that I didn't see the horse in time to try to avoid it, as a sudden swerve at that speed could have rolled the vehicle, or I could have driven into a ditch or something on the side of the road. The way the windshield had broken was in a way that I could have received serious damage to my eyes, but those had somehow remained safe as well. A kind Native American police officer drove me back to the hotel where I was going, and assured me that they had had problems with the family who owned the corral leaving gates open on their property, and that there would be no danger of them asking for compensation. Yeah, thanks. Still, that's good news, considering I wasn't technically in America at the time. The park I was going to was on a reservation and politically, the entire area is Navajo Nation.

So, after spending a night with no cell reception by myself in the middle of nowhere (the nearest town was an hour and a half away), I finally got home Friday around midnight (much thanks to the help of my employers for getting me another rental car), and was at last able to relax and rest, a much needed exercise as being in a car wreck is a very nerve-wracking experience. I never realized how much I enjoyed being around people I knew, friends of mine and familiar faces have never been so comforting. I am also anticipating even more my return home for Thanksgiving to see my family and relatives. It's not that I've taken them for granted until now or anything, but I guess near-death experiences have a way of making you enjoy the good things in life even more than you did before. Funny how that works, isn't it?