#007

Cinematic Correctness

Sir Ian Fleming and Cubby Broccoli are probably rolling over in their graves. James Bond 007 has been a formula that has worked. It created a franchise around a suave, sophisticated, educated, debonair and witty womanizing British spy. Whether the dashing Sean Connery, the corny Sir Roger Moore, the rigid Jeremy Dalton, the one-trick pony George Lazenby, the slick Pierce Brosnan or the moody Daniel Craig – the formula has been a massive winner. The Bond franchise has grossed $14.7bn inflation-adjusted.

There are suggestions that James Bond will be replaced by actress Lashana Lynch. The first female Bond. There is probably absolutely nothing wrong with her acting at all. The question is will the producers flunk at the box office by ripping up the script of what has always worked? It is 100% their decision to toy with the tried and tested formula but as ever, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

To be honest, Idris Elba would make a good Bond. He fits all the stereotypes of the role and fans would watch it on his ability rather than his skin tone. The producers could celebrate being woke and the franchise would retain its (relative) believability quotient.

Political correctness seems to dominate Hollywood of late. Whether complaints that not enough actors of colour were represented in Dunkirk or JK Rowling copping flak from LGBT activists because Albus Dumbledore wasn’t openly gay enough in the Fantastic Beasts film, it seems there is a push to make writers and producers conform. Why can’t films just be those made as their writers intended without enforcing politically correct overtones? Surely if there is a market for “politically correct” movies, the champagne socialists of Hollywood will be the first to jump all over it.

Sadly, many of the Best Picture winners selected at the Oscars (with elements of political correctness) in the past decade have been flops with the paying customers. It is interesting that $100m+ box offices were a cert for an Oscar Best Picture award til 2004. Since 2004 it has been hit and miss. 10 films in the last 14 have failed to breach $75mn. Real-life stories – Argo, A Beautiful Mind, Titanic and The King’s Speech – all cleared $100m at the box office. Maybe audiences can gel to the real-life aspects?

Brokeback Mountain grossed $178m because it didn’t propose to be anything other than a story set around gay cowboys. Milk, grossed $55m because it was a factual story about known gay activist, Harvey Milk. A good film by the way. Bohemian Rhapsody, the story about Freddie Mercury, has raked in over $900m at the box office. It was a factual tale and representative of a period in time.

To keep up with the times, perhaps we should demand that Meryl Streep become the next Shaft and Samuel L. Jackson portray Hillary Clinton in a movie about the 2016 election? How about Jackie Chan portray Michael Jordan in a basketball film about the Chicago Bulls? Why not cast Charlize Theron as Adolf Hitler in the next WWII film and have Arnold Schwarzenegger roleplay her wife. At least he won’t struggle with language? Perhaps do a rerun of Star Trek with Capt. Jane T Kirk? The options to rewrite history or fantasy are endless.

Why did Apollo 13 with Tom Hanks, Gary Sinese and Bill Paxton rake in $350m but First Man starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong draw in only $45m in North America? Same space theme – two different results. Apollo 13 celebrated the pride in failure as American ingenuity was able to rescue the damaged spacecraft. Maybe home audiences repudiated Gosling’s film for deleting the pivotal moment the US flag was planted on the moon. Small stuff? Don’t play with audiences. They bite.

The lack of political correctness is a drawcard to the Bond franchise. We can laugh at the double entendre and innuendo. We can marvel at the spectacular car chases, death cheating moves, his Casanova-like charm and underdog victories against evil henchmen. Will audiences believe that a woman will be able to knock out a monster of a man 3 times her size with her fists? Will we want to see a poor defenseless woman stripped naked while tied to a chair while her privates are belted with a shipping rope by a Le Chiffre type character? Or will she be promiscuous to extract information from would-be villains? Perhaps she confronts Graham Norton as the villain this time?

Perhaps the new Mr. Moneypenny will have his heart skip a beat every time the new 007 tosses her Philip Treacy on the hatstand outside M’s office. Maybe Q will design a machine gun in a Hermes Kelly handbag? Perhaps a dart firing pump from Manolo Blahnik? Perhaps the Aston Martin will be replaced by a pink Tesla so we can tackle environmental issues as half of London is set ablaze?

People fell in love with Star Wars because it was all about lasers and space ships. Not because it ticked the diversity (although the Star Wars Bar was as diverse as one could imagine) and inclusion boxes. How dare the poor harmless Jawas or Ewoks be murdered by white supremacists aboard Imperial Battlecruisers. Were the Sand People just misunderstood? What about the animal cruelty that was inflicted on the poor tauntauns on Hoth?

Maybe the franchise is testing the waters by proposing Lynch. We’ve already had Halle Berry play Jinx, the NSA agent in Die Another Day. There have been countless female villains throughout the franchise too – Rosa Kleb, Xenia Onnatop, Miranda Frost, Elektra King, Fiona Volpe, Helga Brandt, Mayday, Bambi & Thumper. All added their own spice. Yet it was always James Bond that was the drawcard.

Ultimately the box office will tell the story. Die-hard Bond fans will likely be cringing at the thought. Maybe CM is just too much of a purist and detests change for the sake of it, especially if it is just about appeasing activism.

Golden Globes stay in the gutter

The Golden Globes, after years of ratings plunges, thought working smut into the gig was a way to bring the audiences back. Where on earth were the words, “Break out the tissues because you’re going to want to masturbate to all of them” funny? CM is not trying to be a modern day Mary Whitehouse, but were Sarah Oh’s introductory remarks those that resonate with all of the “pet” causes of the champagne socialists? What happened to #METOO? Let’s talk about group self pleasure. How hilarious?! Sadder the attendees were in raptures.

We shouldn’t be surprised. Hollywood and hypocrisy are mutually inclusive terms. Why would anyone rally behind these out of touch juveniles? When they’re not in rehab they’re telling average Main Streeters to listen to their prophetic words of wisdom. They’re the very reason so many films are failing at the box office. Sure video on demand, streaming and cable has changed things somewhat but the truth is the woeful content is behind the demise.

The audience figures should tell them they are indeed the out of touch ones.

Cinema attendance in the domestic US market is back at 1993 levels. In the 1990s Hollywood made 400-500 films annually. It now pumps out more than 700. The average revenue per film in all formats continues to head south.

It is interesting that $100m box offices were a cert for an Oscar Best Picture award til 2004 after which it has been hit and miss since. 9 films in the last 13 Best Pictures have failed to breach $75mn. The 4 that didn’t miss were all about real life stories – Titanic, The King’s Speech, Argo and A Beautiful Mind. Funny that.

Instead of realizing that their interpretation of identity driven art isn’t sinking in with the public, Hollywood is now prepared to blot the history books – such as deleting the flag planting on the moon scene in ‘First Man’ – to destroy the very formula that seems to resonate with audiences.

Such is the level of extremism in Hollywood these days that people of colour and women have been summarily overlooked to suggest putting in a transgender star for James Bond 007. They’re so obsessed with identity. Why not just appreciate “talent”? Maybe Idris Elba would make a good Bond because he fits the suave, tough guy image of the films. Not because of his skin tone. People watch the Bond franchise for the formula, not to wait with baited breath to see Caitlyn Jenner in the lead role to show Ian Fleming was always a progressive LGBT activist at heart.

Maybe we should let Hollywood stick to its “we know best” attitude. Let it follow its heart and let the free market decide its fate as it is already doing. Celebrities think doubling down is the answer. No wonder they’re screaming for equal pay for equal work as the industry stumbles.

Let them preach about the dangers of climate change as they board their private jets, protest border walls from their gated mansions and stand up for gun control with their armed security guards nearby.

Maybe Sarah Oh was on the money for once about the attendees? After all the Golden Globes like many other award ceremonies are all about stroking egos inside their own tight knit club.

Why MiFID2 is like Spectre and why 007 needs Q more than ever

IMG_0586

Risk is a great leveler. Everyone has different thresholds of it. Of course when you’re young, risk is easier to take. Have a family, take on a mortgage, private tuition and heaven forbid you get wiped out in a divorce – the risk reward equation is constantly swinging. Catching up with an old client last night put a smirk on my face. In 2018 MiFID2 comes to life. For financial markets people it is the latest EU regulations which has many service providers in a blind panic. Investment clients will have to select “research” He spoke of the current equity broker market being a bit like a huge buffet. Lots of selection but hardly a Michelin star in sight. He said he’d met with many bulge bracket brokers who are all tinkering at the edges. Never before has the dangers of not taking risk been greater. While Musk might be tearing up the EV world, MiFID2 is a massive disruptor for financial services and the collective might of the alpha egos inside it can’t summon a slither of courage to be different.

It is easy to hide behind compliance. If I had my way I’d staff compliance with lawyers rather than those with a penchant for saying “no”. MIFID2 is such a huge chance yet all brokers are like rabbits in a headlight. A lawyer will tell you how far you can go. A compliance officer is more worried about protecting his own hide so maximum risk off is the safest option. So worried about compliance are finance companies in some circumstances they outnumber the people they’re assigned to police. Name me one prison where guards outnumber inmates?

The latest trend is to hire product managers. Enlightened ones who are entrusted to revolutionize the research offering. One asked what makes a good product manager? I replied one that is prepared to completely blow up the old model. More importantly one whose management will give him or her carte blanche to start a revolution and to act decisively on hiring analysts with true out of the box vision. Yet time and time again these senior managerial risk experts turn into complete novices and hire conservative group thinkers who have no desire to rock the boat. Throw on top the outsourcing to aggregators like SmartKarma and all you have is an even bigger buffet of substandard gourmet. The aggregator model will not be a success unless it reforms to have serious quality control of which it claims it has but in reality hasn’t.

MiFID2 is a bit like Spectre in a Bond film. The baddie Bond girl is like the client. The equity broker is Bond. If it wasn’t for 007’s array of gadgets from Q-branch (research) he’d be toast. The new breed of product managers (Q) are not creative enough to give equity salespeople (007) the upper hand to woo the baddie Bond girl. The problem is even worse because under MiFID 007 will be unable to use carefully rehearsed lines, expensive meals or fancy sports cars to catch his prey. So without a creative Q, brokers will end up being annihilated by the baddie Bond girl without even so much as a kiss in her death grip. Sadly baddie Bond girl needs to justify her actions to Spectre. Too. She won’t waste time in meeting M to plead her conversion. Quite frankly if 007 can’t deliver the goods she has every right to feel no emotion if he dies.

Q has always been the innovator. The one trying to stay well ahead of the curve. Let’s face it. Every Bond film we see comes out with something new to dazzle. Baddie Bond girl is never easily impressed so without properly engaging, well thought out, reasoned and in depth balanced research, 007 will die a slow death chewing on his high calorie low quality buffet which Q unimaginatively sprinkled Tabasco on.

Baddie Bond girl wants to be charmed. Like Pussy Galore ditching the poison gas canisters for a mild sleeping agent over Fort Knox, Baddie Bond girl will be only too happy to oblige switching broker repellent for commission dollars if Q makes the difference.

So to me MiFID 2 is an absolute bounty for the Michelin star research providers. Ones who give clients such a gustation experience that they can’t wait to book another opportunity to pay for another culinary experience.

In closing perhaps the biggest schadenfreude in all of this is three realization of how internal politics which have driven sell side bonuses gets exposed when next to no clients want to dine at their smorgasbord.

I’m no fan of MiFID2 but now that it is coming I see it as a huge opportunity rather than a sign to wave the white flag. Bring on January 2018.

 

Sir Roger Moore passes away

IMG_0675.JPG

Sir Roger Moore was the James Bond I grew up with as a kid. Where Sean Connery was suave, Moore was typecast as the toff deviant Casanova who always met up with Jaws. Sir Roger’s Bond films seemed more comedy than action. I was such a petrol head even then that I think I wore out the magnetic tape listening to Moore drive a stolen Alfa Romeo GTV6 to the US Air Force base in Octopussy. Who could forget him saying to the UK Minister of Defence ‘just keeping the British end up‘ as he was caught cavorting with Triple X in Stromberg’s escape pod when it landed on the back of a navy ship. Or ‘attempting re-entry’ in Moonraker or being ‘taken care of personally’ by MayDay (Grace Jones) in A View to a Kill. He made the safari suit look cool.

After Moore followed Timothy Dalton who was more of a wound up type. The kind of person that would tailgate you on a highway. Then came the dapper Brosnan and then the mysterious tough guy, Daniel Craig, we have today. Moore certainly typified the times. In a sense he was the least politically correct of the Bonds which is perhaps why he was one of my favourites, It would be nice to think the world would get off its hypersensitive victim culture and laugh at itself much like rolling the eyes at Moore’s corny one liners. Thank you for the memories Sir Roger.