#dunkirk

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.

If you’re going to do it then stop the damn subtlety

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What is the obsession Hollywood has of trying to either wipe history or work to overlay irrelevance to rewrite it? Quit the subtle overtones. Just explicitly state your intent and let the free market box office judge it. When it comes to factual recreations like Dunkirk what is the point of wailing there were not enough people of colour in it when history shows us 99% of those that served were white? What does this achieve? Why not complain that 50% of the cast weren’t women waiting for the boats in the film? Probably because 99.9% on Dunkirk were men.

The latest Star Wars film was all about social justice, equality and identity. It has been a flop. Why can’t we just see a movie with lasers and goodies vs baddies? Should we fear alienating the LGBT Ewok community? Perhaps the sand people are really misunderstood minorities not terrorists? Shouldn’t Jabba the Hut seek compensation for decades of fat shaming? It is insane. Funnily enough when studying the box office takings we don’t need to look far to see the winners of the “Best Picture” selected by Hollywood in recent times have far undershot records. $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 have failed to breach $75mn. So instead of Hollywood being so preoccupied with espousing politics, perhaps it should look to the audience it ‘preaches’ to and starts ‘reaching’ them instead.

These are the Oscar stats. A 40% decline in viewers over 5 years. Is this a sign of a format that is no longer sustainable? Is the disintermediation/disruption caused by video on demand such that making a ‘date’ to go to the cinema is no longer a priority? 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 continues to head south.

So Man on the Moon depicts the story of Neil Armstrong. The film leaves out the historic and defining moment of planting the flag (a sign of American exceptionalism) some 50 years ago in beating arch enemy Russia in the space race. In 1969, had a straw poll of Americans (and much of the world) been taken at that moment it would have undoubtedly reflected unbridled pride in achievement. Many around the world must have looked at America in awe. What on earth is wrong with that? It was a stunning achievement and feat of ingenuity, science and invention.

Canadian actor Ryan Gosling, who plays Armstrong, said the moon landing “transcended countries and borders.” To a degree he is right. The world stood still on that day. Walter Cronkite had tears in his eyes. Yert should Jamaicans feel guilty that Usain Bolt won the 100m & 200m finals in three consecutive Olympics? There is no doubt the world looked in awe of him grinning with shoelaces untied as he jogged to the finish line. Yet for Jamaicans it was an extra dollop of pride. Great!

However Gosling’s defence of leaving out the flag scene was to cast aspersions on America. It is part of this new breed of Hollywood loathing of everything good. Where globalism trumps national pride. If the producers of this film hate America so much why not make the movie about a conspiracy theory that the moon landing was faked? Alternatively make Armstrong a disabled, black, transgender Muslim to ensure enough PC boxes are ticked to please the apparatchiks?

CM only requests Hollywood quits with subtle jabs at success and openly embraces its quest for shared misery and the rewriting of history. Only then will they see their box office numbers judge their stupidity. Grow up! Understand that pride in one’s country, flag, job, study or whatever else is to be encouraged. We need more of it not Hollywood’s obsession with oppression.

The Dunkirk diversity police

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The sad thing about the diversity brigade is that victimology must trump historical fact. Dunkirk was a mostly white British, French, Dutch, Polish and Belgian male affair. It just was. Historical movies tend to work better when they reflect authenticity. A story of the brave putting their lives on the line to save other braves from almost certain captivity if not worse fate. To think the entire course of WW2 may have altered were the Allies to lose 330,000 troops. The Allies were mulling a conditional surrender but the success of the rescue was a massive shot in the arm for the plucky Brits and the Allies. The High Command wasn’t mulling over how much diversity was on the shores of Dunkirk, they wanted to save as many lives as possible under harrowing circumstances. The Dunkirk movie got berated for sticking to facts rather than Hollywood’s general taking liberties with them.

So spending time bleating about a lack of diversity when 68,000 Allies troops gave their lives to protect the freedoms they enjoy today misses the mark. It is typical of the ungrateful and selfish mindlessness of those who thrive on victimhood despite most cases being a function of their own actions. Victims of change rather than agents of it.

Perhaps one could argue there were too many African-Americans in the Tuskagee Airmen but common sense would be to acknowledge they were in fact African- Americans who had the enviable record of not losing a single bomber on their watch in WW2? Such was their success, the bomber crews would insist on their escort, not knowing their background. Sadly their colour was contentious at the time. Still the movie cast the correct balance of diversity based on cold hard facts.

Surely they should celebrate the appointment of a female Dr Who after 12 consecutive male time lords. One would imagine the complaint will be that the BBC could have picked an LGBT candidate of colour instead of a heterosexual white blonde.

Some may argue that the recent Hawaii 5-0 salary row was discriminatory and defends the need for hard diversity targets. The two Korean actors who often play a relatively minor role in the show complained they were paid less than the main stars. They chose to refuse the contract. Few of us are privy to the driving economic factors which draws the audiences – presumably the main stars Steve McGarrett & Danno. If the next season of Hawaii 5-0 tanks the ‘white’ producers will be fired for poor judgement. Bill Cosby had the #1 ranked TV comedy for 5 years straight and earned $40,000 per episode, the highest paid actor in television history at the time. At one point, The Cosby Show was even ranked the most profitable television show in history.

As one who has hired Jamaicans, Kiwis, Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, Americans, Canadians, Brits, Thais among countless other nations including members of the LGBT community there were three thing that were relevant – ability, hunger and passion. Nothing else really mattered. It wasn’t their diversity in background. It was the diversity in thought. Perhaps the diversity brigade should learn these lessons before crying foul at every opportunity. Some claims may have legitimacy but the dig at Dunkirk’s cast has absolutely none.