Helen Mirren Calls Out Sam Mendes and Hollywood’s Boys Club

Yesterday, Empire magazine held its annual Empire Awards in London, handing out honors for last year’s crop of movies. It was a typical British affair, with Skyfall winning Best Picture, Martin Freeman winning Best Actor for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (that’s a burn, Daniel Day-Lewis), and Jennifer Lawrence winning Best Actress for Silver Linings Playbook The Hunger Games. (Ha ha, what? Alright, sure. Whatever.) And it seems that two winners sparked some controversy. First, Sam Mendes picked up Best Director for Skyfall, and in his acceptance speech he gave a short list of his cinematic inspirations. Helen Mirren, who received the Empire Legend award (code for: "You’re old"), blasted Mendes and his list, complaining that he forgot to mention any women.

According to The Guardian, Mendes name-dropped four big names: Paul Thomas Anderson, François Truffaut, Martin Scorsese, and Ingmar Bergman. Mirren wasn’t too pleased that those names all belong to men. 

"I don’t want to unduly pick on Sam Mendes, but when he spoke about his inspirations earlier this evening, I’m afraid not a single one of the people he mentioned was a woman," said Mirren, to cheers from the audience. "Hopefully in five or 10 years, when Sam’s successor is collecting their Inspiration award, the list will be slightly more balanced in terms of its sexual make-up. In the meantime, this one is for the girls."

OH YEAH, HELEN MIRREN? NAME SOME GIRLS, THEN! Just kidding: making lists of women who should be honored isn’t the right response, because, come on, there are plenty of female filmmakers who are responsible for great movies. Of course, they tend to be overlooked for several reasons, which is a shame, especially since one could argue that Kathryn Bigelow’s work on Zero Dark Thirty was probably better than Mendes’s direction in Skyfall. Having said that: good for Helen MIrren for making a statement. Calling out the rampant sexism in Hollywood is surely seen as, well, complaining, but it’s at the same time encouraging to the women who are working hard to make excellent films and not getting the recognition they deserve.

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‘The Girl Who Played With Fire’ Might Happen Without Daniel Craig

Before David Fincher was busying himself with Netflix programming and the upcoming adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s runaway bestseller Gone Girl, he was getting all gaga over the punked-out Rooney Mara in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Based on Stieg Larsson’s trilogy (as well as the original Swedish films), the American version was supposed to blow everyone’s minds. Well, the first film was a box-office success and picked up some Oscar nominations, but everyone agreed that there was something a little disappointing in the nearly shot-by-shot remake. 

The studio execs still want to pursue the film’s two sequels, and want to keep Fincher on board. They’re less attached, however, to Daniel Craig, simply because the James Bond actor costs too much. 

Although 2011’s Tattoo made $233 million worldwide — not a bad haul for a hard-R movie that came on the heels of a wildly successful Swedish-language trilogy also based on the books by Stieg Larsson — the $90 million-budgeted film was not perceived as a runaway hit, and the studio is said to be hellbent on reducing the cost of the next chapter.

Sources close to the project say the biggest holdup isn’t Fincher’s involvement but star Daniel Craig’s. The studio has options on Craig for two sequels, but the actor is said to want a pay raise, not a cut, in the wake of Skyfall grossing $1 billion worldwide. If Sony can’t bring Craig back to reprise his role as journalist Mikael Blomkvist, the sources say the studio could write the character out of the sequel.

Rooney Mara, however, is still on board. Remember when she wouldn’t stop talking about how crazy she had to look for the movie, with the hair and the shaved eyebrows and the nipple piercings? Can’t wait to get into all of that again. 

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Rick Ross, Fiona Apple, and Eight Other Artists Who Deserved a Best Original Song Nomination

The category for Best Original Song is always a bit of a mess. The songs are rarely judged on how they sound; the importance is, of course, how the song fits into the film for which it was written. This year’s nominees are representative of the usual fare. There’s the popular choice (Adele’s "Skyfall," which will likely win, as it should), the new song for the big-budget musical adaptation (the unnecessary "Suddenly" from Les Misérables), and then there are the forgettable tunes (I didn’t even know what Chasing Ice was before today, much less the song from it). It’s a shame, really, because there were plenty of good tracks included in the list of 75 eligible songs. Here are a few that probably will have a longer shelf life than "Pi’s Lullaby."

Karen O – "Strange Love" (from Frankenweenie)

Fiona Apple – "Dull Tool" (from This is 40)

Rick Ross – "100 Black Coffins" (from Django Unchained)

John Legend – "Who Did That To You" (from Django Unchained)

Sunny Levine – "No Other Plans" (from Celeste and Jesse Forever)

Arcade Fire – "Abraham’s Daughter" (from The Hunger Games)

The Bootleggers feat. Emmylou Harris – "Cosmonaut" (from Lawless)

Florence + The Machine – "Breath of Life" (from Snow White and the Huntsman)

Katy Perry – "Wide Awake" (from Katy Perry: Part of Me)

The Black Keys / RZA – "The Baddest Man Alive" (from The Man With the Iron Fists)

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Honoring Innocent Bystanders Killed In Action Films

Maybe to notice it afresh you have to watch a PG-13 movie like Skyfall, where a huge subway train crashes horrifically and you can see quite clearly that no passengers are inside, but it’s remarkable how quickly and mercilessly R-rated action films can rack up the civilian casualties. Streaming Ronin last night (I don’t know, I fell asleep when I rented it in ninth grade, okay? Had to follow through.) was like, damn, you don’t want to be an extra in this: no sooner do you appear on camera than squibs are exploding bloodily through your winter coat.

Am I more sensitive to this carnage than I was as an angry teenager, cheering on every accidental murder? It could be I’m just more aware of how little these unintentionally farcical killings do to advance the plot, or even complicate the protagonists’ motivations. The “good guy” could grab some lightly wounded passerby and use him as a human shield and we’re not meant to feel a flicker of moral surprise. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do! The fate of the world is at stake!

But we shouldn’t be so callous. That person walking down a crowded city street who goes down in a hail of inaccurate sniper fire, spilling their brown-bagged prop groceries—that’s you. That’s the audience surrogate. Going about your normal life, minding your own mild business, when BAM, a gunfight erupts and makes collateral damage out of you. So let’s have a moment of silence for those innocents who die in violent thrillers. Because you never know who’s next. 

The Movies That The New James Bond Movie Is Like

Let’s get the obvious ones out of the way first: The 39 Steps, because trains and chasing a MacGuffin piece of information and the moody moors of Scotland. Then there’s that straight-up Blade Runner sequence in the Shanghai skyscrapers and mirrors and oh man, the neon. Then a guy falls from the hundredth floor or whatever, so the new James Bond movie is also like Die Hard.

The new James Bond movie is mostly like a mix of Batman Begins andThe Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, actually, with one part where a subway train crashes like toward the end of Speed. Remember, when Speed had the train part at the end? Additionally, the end is like Apocalypse Now, pretty much.

You know what else this movie is like? Other James Bond movies. The similarities are endless: guy named Bond, komodo dragon pit, etc. There was the rogue former MI6 agent, just like in GoldenEye—and that was only six Bond movies ago! Man, if there’s one thing you can count on in a Bond movie, it’s that Bond you Bond Bond Bondily Bond, that’s for Bond. “The name’s Bond: Bond Bond.”

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Am I Really Going To Have To See ‘Skyfall’ Now?

I like James Bond. I really do. I don’t, however, cotton to this trend in modern cinema in which Very Serious Directors reboot classic movie franchises, strip away everything that makes then fun and endearing (read: the silliness and the camp and the sex), and then make them long, boring epics with Very Important Actors and scores usually provided by Hans Zimmer and a slew of vuvuzelas. Christopher Nolan made me excited for the prospect that there might never be another Batman movie, and that new Superman movie for which the trailer was too long and only featured Clark Kent, like, driving around a field? (Yeah, that seems FUN.) So I don’t really care that the guy who directed American Beauty (which, in retrospect, everyone should know is a piece of shit) is in charge of this new one. 

But apparently people are enjoying it! All of my friends are tweeting stuff like, "I don’t even like James Bond but I liked Skyfall." Which, you know, is a pretty good indication that I will not like it. Why make a genre film for people who are not fans of the genre? Because doesn’t that make it not a genre film, and just an action movie with a character whose name recognition can carry a lot of advertisers and convince people that making more bloggy lists called "The Best Bond Theme Songs" and "The Ugliest James Bond Girls" is a really good idea? Can’t we, like, either do something NEW or just make it the same as it was before? Is that too hard to ask?

Because, look. Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig’s James Bond is a dour figured compared the groovy (and, let’s face it, funny and personable) guy that Roger Moore and Sean Connery portrayed. Even Pierce Brosnan’s Bond was someone you’d want to hang out with! But nooo, we’ve got to go with the dark and gritty and, honestly? The boring. I can nap at home for free with Adele’s theme song playing on a loop on iTunes. That’s, I must admit, seems a lot more exciting to me.

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What Each Upcoming Blockbuster Movie Makes Me Think Of

The marketing for end-of-the-year Oscarbait and big franchise films is already in circulation, but it’s about to get relentless. As of today, though, what pre-impressions have these upcoming releases left upon a passive viewer? I’m going to do a little word association to find out.

Argo: “Beard.” My brain apparently considers this a movie about beards.

Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day“Ghosts.” Alternatively, Led Zeppelin could be holograms in this.   

Paranormal Activity 4“Led Zeppelin.”

Skyfall“Alone.” Thanks a lot, Quantum of Solace, now my wife will never watch another Bond film with me.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2“Contractual.” Nothing better than a sequel made by a bunch of people who’d rather move on with their lives!

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning“Fantasy.” Holy shit, they made another Universal Soldier movie? AWESOME.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey“Costumes.” Here is a midnight premiere to avoid.

Zero Dark Thirty“Controversial.” This thing about killing Osama bin Laden is going to get people all riled up—if someone could burn down the internet that week, that’d be swell.

Les Misérables“Cabaret.” Because Les Misérables only and ever conjures up the saddest community theater cabaret night. With the performers sadly sitting in the audience. And sad little votive candles at each table.  

Jack Reacher“Poison.” I’m not kidding when I say that going by the trailer, this could well be the worst movie ever made and/or the thing that makes Tom Cruise snap once and for all. Here’s hoping!

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Adele Channels Her Inner Shirley Bassey on ‘Skyfall’ Theme

A James Bond film can live or die by its opening-credits theme song. The big, sexy lounge numbers of the Sean Connery era—"Goldfinger," "Diamonds Are Forever"—are as well-known and loved as the corresponding movies that bear those names. Although The Spy Who Loved Me is probably a bottom-tier bond movie, Carly Simon’s "Nobody Does It Better," composed by the late, great Marvin Hamlisch, is one of the best themes in the entire series. And does anybody remember a-Ha’s theme to "The Living Daylights?" Does anybody remember The Living Daylights? No? Exactly. 

Following a rather mixed bag of Bond themes throughout the latter Pierce Brosnan/Daniel Craig era—ranging from Jack White’s explosive "Another Way to Die" for Quantum of Solace to Garbage’s "The World Is Not Enough" to Madonna’s ill-fitting "Die Another Day"—with the upcoming Skyfall comes a return to the more traditional Bond theme. In a sample released today, Adele, who has been charged with the eponymous theme tune for Skyfall, delivers the closest (and most successful) attempt at the old-school Bond number in recent years. It will make you want to partake in something shaken, not stirred.

The full track, which was cowritten by Paul Epworth (who also worked on "Rolling In the Deep"), will be released this Friday, October 5th, at 12:07 a.m. (0:07, get it?) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the character and his martini-drinking, Soviet-warcraft-thwarting, femme fatale-seducing ways. Have a listen to a snippet of "Skyfall" below.

Heineken Hijacks the New York City Subway For a James Bond Party

Last night I was drinking beer on the subway, and there were cops and security around, but nobody messed with me. They just let me sip my suds in peace. Granted, the reason I wasn’t arrested was probably because I was at a party for Heineken‘s involvement in the James Bond movie franchise. The party was held at the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn, the train car was decorated to look like a set for From Russia With Love, and the whole affair was a gas. D-Nice was spinning an amazing DJ set (ranging from Azealia Banks to AC/DC), actor and beer-maker Adrian Grenier was mugging with some leggy models (or were they mugging with him?), and big TV screens showed highlights from 50 years worth of Bond films. Not bad for a Monday night. 

 

Adrian with Leggy Models by Train

Heineken has been working with James Bond for 15 years, and the party was designed to give people a peek into that exciting, cloak-and-dagger world of espionage, treachery, and sexy people emerging from water. Bond’s latest movie, Skyfall, comes out in November, and Heineken made another one of their really cool video/commercials modeled on the film. It involves a man being chased through a train by a pair of ne’er-do-wells (watch it here), so the Dutch brewers thought it would be neat to host their party on a bunch of old, idle train cars done up to look like various classics of the Bond canon. 

Heineken Train Interior

Make no mistake, the Bond people are out to sell movie tickets and ancillary merchandise the same as the Heineken people are out to sell beer, but it’s a marketing program I can get behind. Most importantly, I like both of their products. Hiring Daniel Craig to be Bond was a good call, he’s got the acting chops and sinister look to carry a torch first ignited by Sir Sean Connery. And Heineken’s always a tasty brew that pairs with whatever hors d’oeuvres are being carried around (yes, my dinner last night consisted entirely of hors d’oeuvres). They had regular Heineken and Heineken Dark too, which I don’t see too often. 

It was a fun crowd sprinked with celebrities, most of whom I didn’t recognize, but people were getting their pictures taken with them, so they must have been notable. I chatted with a few pals, visited the bar a couple of times, watched Bond film clips, and had a generally fun time. I didn’t quite recreate the chase scene from the Skyfall video, but I got to drink beer on a train, which is dangerous enough for me on a school night.