Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Superior Scribbler

Dr. Monkey has seen fit to recognize me with an award. Thanks, Dr. M! I'll try not to let this go to my head!

And now I'm supposed to pass this on to five more bloggers.

1. Becca, not least for her recent pin-up of the Bride of Frankenstein, which is one of the sexiest things she's ever drawn.

2. John (aka Brit John) for the short stories he writes, which have never failed to touch me in some way.

3. Jaquandor, who has returned to blogging after a hiatus and has gotten back to his "Fixing the Prequels" series. I loved Episode I, so I'm glad to read about Episode II!

4. Splotchy, whose doodles are the definition of superior scribblings.

5. TheMom, whose flurry of political posts during the election helped keep me sane and on the right track.

Thanks again, Dr. Monkey!

I'm Awfully Sick of This Twilight Shit, But This Quote Is Hilarious

"“When I read [Twilight], I was convinced Stephenie was convinced that she was Bella, and it was like a book that wasn’t supposed to be published. It was like reading her sexual fantasy, especially when she said it was based on a dream and it was like, ‘Oh I’ve had this dream about this really sexy guy,’ and she just writes this book about it. Like some things about Edward are so specific, I was just convinced, like, ‘This woman is mad. She’s completely mad and she’s in love with her own fictional creation.’ And sometimes you would feel uncomfortable reading this thing. It’s kind of a sick pleasure in a lot of ways.” -- Robert Pattinson, the guy playing Edward [Via]

Sloppy Joe Manicotti

ME: What do you think of sloppy joe manicotti?

BECCA: Sounds like an Italian pornstar. "Hey, I'm Sloppy Joe Manicotti! I dares ya to shakes ma hand!" God, can you just see him at the AVN Awards? Like Benigni at the Oscars? "Hey, I want to thank God for this award, and all my co-stars! I love you so much! I want to make it with everyone in this room! My pants overflow with the juices of gratitude! I used up all of my English!"

Becca giggles uncontrollably for about two minutes.

BECCA: Oh, man... So, what's this that Rachael Ray is making?

ME: Sloppy joe manicotti.

BECCA: Aaaaaaaahhhh. I see.

Pause.

BECCA: That looks good. Do you want to have that for dinner tonight?

ME: Well, now.

Brookfield Zoo 2008

I didn't write about our annual trip to the zoo as soon as I meant to. We went on 23 October, and here it is 15 November. I guess this year's trip just didn't feel as special to me as going to the zoo used to, even as recently as last year.

As nice as the Brookfield Zoo keeps getting (and they keep adding a lot of neat new houses), it feels like the actual zoo population is shrinking. I remember when they had three lions instead of one. I remember when they had two walruses instead of none at all. I remember when Tropic World was teeming with monkeys; now it's one of the quietest places inside the zoo. And as things get sparser, it gets easier and easier for Becca and I to kind of just breeze our way through the zoo. They didn't have Cookie, the cockatoo who is the oldest resident at the Brookfield Zoo, on exhibit the day we were there (Becca was disappointed).

The thing that still pisses me off most of all is the Australia House. I used to love to walk through it and be in that room with the free-flying fruit bats. Last year, I saw they covered the bat area with a fence. Probably some mother with little kids complained and ruined it for everyone.

Maybe the magic's gone out of it a bit. Maybe we should skip a year or something.

Not that I didn't enjoy it. It just didn't feel like a big deal. We didn't take many pictures, but here are a few of them.

This was the first orangutan we'd seen there in years. Are they always hiding, or indoor somewhere?

The lion was out sunning itself. We went on another chilly day so animals were up and active and enjoying the sun (it was very bright that day).

The observation window for the lion was closed, but the one for the snow leopards was open. It's intimidating as hell being at eye level with them. I could tell this one kind of wanted to kill me. (It was feeding time that morning.)

The gorillas are Becca's favorite. And you could watch them for a long, long time.

Hudson the polar bear. He was very playful first thing in the morning, batting his food around like crazy.

Becca shot a film of him throwing his food around and diving after it.



And, finally, my favorite animal, the African elephant. This one trotted over and hung out for a while. After that, we were finished. We left really early and skipped about a quarter of the zoo. It felt routine this time.

Still, there are a lot worse ways to spend the day.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Here's a trailer for the movie I could have been seeing next weekend if Warner Bros. hadn't decided to piss me off and moved it to next July.

Throwdown 11/14

Random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.

1. Ugh. I keep hoping that Star Trek will give me something to change my mind, but it ain’t happening so far. Chris Pine looks like a serial killer on an episode of Gossip Girl here.

2. It’s official: Will Smith’s spoiled, repulsive son will star in the unnecessary Karate Kid remake. Already, it’s a product: marketable kid doing an activity in a part of the world amazingly receptive to American business interests (it’s being shot in Beijing). A lot of people are speculating on who will play Mr. Miyagi this time. Bet you it’ll be Will Smith. Oh, it just gets better and better. Frankly, I don’t know why we even have Will Smith anymore. And I’ve seen his kid act, and the kid sucks. This message goes out to every parent: not everyone is as impressed with your kids as you are.

3. Robert Pattinson has creepy, soulless eyes. Someone expressed to me their disbelief that this little cuss is some kind of heartthrob for young women now. I told him it was pretty obvious: these are the same type of women who loved Oily Orlando Bloom. He’s pretty, he’s non-threatening, and he doesn’t project any of those icky male secondary sexual characteristics that women are so afraid of. Add in that he plays a fictional character a lot of young women and cat ladies in their fifties are in love with, and you have the perfect gay best friend for Goth chicks who don’t know they’re lesbians yet. (And cue those same women leaving pissed-off comments… now.)

4. Hey, look at that, those Adrienne Bailon nudes were a publicity stunt, who’d have guessed? Either way, I’m just glad to have pictures of her ass. I’ve been lusting after her for a few years. Hope she takes the Playboy offer.

5. Gail Simon, current writer on Wonder Woman: “In general, I'm very skeptical of any fake irony when dealing with Wonder Woman. If we're getting some kind of post-modern satire of the Lynda Carter series, I'd rather they just pass on the whole idea entirely. Christopher Reeve showed that the noble characters work best when played nobly. Winking at the audience insults everyone involved.” She really gets it. Why isn’t she writing the damn movie?

6. A law under consideration in Texas would require that a woman getting an abortion must look the fetus in the eye before having the procedure done. Because everything is sicker in Texas. Basic intelligence and decency continue to not mess with Texas for yet another year.

7. Somewhere in there is a planet. An extrasolar planet orbiting the Fomalhaut star (it’s a round, red speck to the right). And it’s only 25 light years away. Scientists have also discovered three planets in the Pegasus constellation. None of them are likely to support life, but we’re really getting looks now at planets outside of our solar system. That’s the most amazing, affirming thing I’ve seen since the election.

8. Okay, there’s a firefighters manual put out by FEMA that has a chapter on UFO preparedness. Is that a tacit admission by the US government that aliens exist?

9. Senator Ted Stevens was down by 22 points and a big loss was projected for him. Then he overwhelmingly won the election, despite being convicted on seven felony counts just before Election Day. That landslide came in even though voter turnout decreased by 11%. Turns out it all plays differently when you actually count all of the votes. Looks like Stevens didn’t win after all. I may owe Alaska an apology.

10. Sarah Palin gave her first press conference. Why now? Her words: “The campaign is over.” She took a grand total of four questions. I sincerely hope the answer to one was “Don’t ask me, I’m just a girl.” It was her entire campaign tactic, after all.

11. With all of the waffling from Harry Reid and this growing movement of Democrats who just want to let Lieberman be and move on, why is no one in the Democratic Party pointing out that Lieberman just sucks at his job? Are they really going to let him remain the chair of the Homeland Security Committee when he has refused, time and again, to perform any oversight investigations into the White House response to Katrina, or the Blackwater shootout, or, really, anything? He has consistently pushed legislation over investigation, and he should be thrown out on his ass.

12. President-Elect Obama looks set to keep his promise to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Word has it his advisors are quietly making plans to ship prisoners to America to face criminal trials instead of just holding them indefinitely. It would be nice, wouldn’t it, if America were interested in justice again? Obama’s team have also compiled a list of about 200 Bush executive orders that Obama will probably reverse, including his limit on stem cell research.

13. The Supreme Court decided it was okay for Navy trainees to keep using sonar in their training. That sonar is messing up the echolocation faculties of whales and porpoises to the point that it causes their ears to bleed and makes them beach themselves. This is a direct violation of the Endangered Species Act, which is supposed to protect the orcas of Puget Sound, where naval tests are routinely carried out. We’re going to end up killing everything just so the armed forces won’t be inconvenienced.

14. We really need to not bail out the car manufacturers here. Those companies need serious retooling, and there needs to be a push towards manufacturing more fuel efficient cars and cars that run on alternative fuels (and those cars do, as Obama has said, need to be made in America). But I don’t want another cent of my tax money put towards making up for the terrible decisions of incompetent businesspeople. (So far it looks like a car industry bailout won’t get the votes.) The Splurge was bad enough, especially when you factor in the way the bailout recipients have been spending the money. The money was supposed to guarantee loans. But it’s going to banks that actually aren’t failing, and they’re just using it to buy other banks or treat themselves to something nice. AIG has been caught sending executives on yet another expensive retreat. I’m sorry, those people are never going to learn and we should just send them to prison where they can’t fuck up anyone else’s credit. American Express became a bank this week, and they want Splurge money, too; those slimeballs at Capital One have their money already. The government has already announced that they will not be buying troubled mortgage assets, which was the whole point of the Splurge, but will instead be giving the money to financial firms that are being hurt by credit card and car loan defaults. So the government has come out on the side of business instead of the people yet fucking again, sending the clear message that they consider it more important that you continue to live under crippling and unfair debt conditions that they should do nothing to ease. How do you like being told that it’s more important to protect the credit card companies than it is to protect you from losing your house or your car? Meanwhile, the increasingly shady Barney Frank says that it would be wrong for the government to reveal the assets it holds or how it values them. And the Consumer Federation of America has called for a plan that would forgive 40% of credit card debt from customers who don’t qualify for a repayment plan, but the government says that can’t be done because it would interfere with banks paying income tax on money they’re not getting anyway.

15. I know I’ve said this so many times it’s lost all meaning, but George W. Bush’s disapproval rate has reached a new height. 76% of Americans disapprove of the job Bush is doing. Even Nixon’s wasn’t that high when he resigned. Can't we just swear Obama in now?

16. There is nothing sadder or more infuriating than people who have found a voice for their ignorance and stupidity and do so with pride rather than embarrassment.

My Premature Defense of Quantum of Solace

I have yet to see Quantum of Solace (I hope to this weekend), but I have to say, I think Roger Ebert's 2-star review of the film seems to have missed the point entirely.

Don't get me wrong; I love Roger Ebert. He's one of my writing heroes. And I'm not qualified yet to agree or disagree with what he says about the actual plot or quality of the film itself. But he still missed the point. He's done this before (this review of Spider-Man manages to completely miss the point of the character).

The great thing about Casino Royale was that it took 40 years of bullshit and toys and quips and expectations of smug silliness and threw them down the drain. It reimagined the concept of Bond in a post-Bourne Identity cinematic world, making it real and making the Bond character so much more than just a quip factory who had his way with women and drove invisible cars. It was an action movie, a smart one, a suspenseful one, the way Ian Fleming wrote James Bond: elegant, but savage. I remember being wonderfully shocked to see openings for quips, only to have the quips never come. Finally!

So it's disappointing to see Roger Ebert write this:

Don't ever let this happen again to James Bond. "Quantum of Solace" is his 22nd film and he will survive it, but for the 23rd it is necessary to go back to the drawing board and redesign from the ground up. Please understand: James Bond is not an action hero! He is too good for that. He is an attitude. Violence for him is an annoyance. He exists for the foreplay and the cigarette. He rarely encounters a truly evil villain. More often a comic opera buffoon with hired goons in matching jump suits.
He then goes on to bemoan the fact that the girl doesn't have a silly name, lament that the villain doesn't want to launch nuclear missiles from the moon, and even goes out of his way to insult Judi Dench.

Dude, don't you get it? There's a big part of the audience that doesn't want to see that shit anymore. That's in the past. You have those movies already. Let's stop making those movies over and over and over again and try something different. James Bond can be an action hero. I don't want to see the Roger Moore version anymore; a senior citizen jogging around after women young enough to be his granddaughters while writing off pithy quips and jumping out of planes. It's done, get over it.

And by the way, I don't consider "Quantum of Solace isn't exactly like a bunch of shitty Roger Moore" movies to be a valid criticism. Come on, Rog, you're better than this.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The James Bond That Never Was

Another entry for the Blog, James Blog-A-Thon at Lazy Eye Theatre.

This is a long, long tale about the "great" lost Bond project.

Ian Fleming had been trying to get some kind of visual adaptation of James Bond off the ground for years. Casino Royale was adapted for television in 1954, just a year after it was published (under the publisher's title, You Asked for It), but I've heard in more than one source that Casino Royale was only written as a novel based on a screenplay Fleming wanted to write (and some of the other novels are based, apparently, on finished and half-written film treatments). While writing the novels, Fleming continued to look for opportunities to turn his character to film.

In 1958, Fleming joined together with Ivar Bryce, Ernest Cuneo, and Kevin McClory under the banner Xanadu Productions and began collaborating on ideas (even drafts) for a possible film or television series featuring 007. McClory, who had been the assistant director on Mike Todd's Around the World in 80 Days, pushed for something with vast underwater scenes that could make use of Todd-AO cameras. The idea that came up was Thunderball. McClory had directed a film called The Boy and the Bridge, which crashed at the box office. It cooled Fleming substantially on working with McClory, who had hoped to produce, maybe even direct Thunderball. It also made financing very hard to secure.

The villains in the story were SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Terror, Revolution, and Espionage), an evil, secret spy organization headed by Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Accounts differ as to who created SPECTRE; Cuneo and Bryce said McClory did, Fleming biographer John Cork said Fleming did. McClory had come up with the story, but Fleming dumped SPECTRE in favor of the Mafia. He added the characters of Largo and Domino. Then in 1959, Xanadu hired Jack Whittingham to take McClory's story and Fleming's two drafts of the script to turn it all into a usable screenplay. Fleming worked with him for two years on the screenplay; McClory's contributions are unclear, but he is said to have been involved in the process. After the two years, Xanadu dissolved. Ernest Cuneo sold his rights in Thunderball to Ivar Bryce (supposedly for the princely sum of a dollar).

Fleming, who was always recycling such ideas for the novels, took the draft screenplay and basically novelized it for the ninth James Bond book, in which he reinstated SPECTRE and Blofeld. He failed to give McClory or Whittingham credit, and they sued him in 1961. Fleming settled out of court at Bryce's behest; Fleming, only in his early fifties, had suffered one heart attack already, and the stress of the court case wasn't helping (Fleming died of a second heart attack in 1964). All future versions of the novel were credited "based on a screen treatment by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham, and Ian Fleming." Whittingham had assigned his script rights to McClory, who was given cinematic rights and all rights to the Thunderball story, plot, and characters (including SPECTRE, Blofeld, and nine additional plot treatments and outlines).

The legal rumblings were what made Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli decide to make Dr. No first instead of Thunderball, their first choice. EON Productions would later have to make a deal with McClory in order to produce the film (he had been shopping it around as an alternative Bond movie to other studios, but there were no takers), giving him a producer's credit and basically leasing the rights to SPECTRE, Blofeld, and the story for ten years. After the ten years were up, McClory would be free to remake the film if he wanted. EON, meanwhile, got to use SPECTRE and Blofeld in You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and Diamonds Are Forever.

That was all background. Sorry.

Cut ahead to 1976, and Kevin McClory again wanted to make his own James Bond movie, James Bond of the Secret Service, with the same basic plot as Thunderball. The title eventually changed to Warhead. McClory wrote a new treatment with Sean Connery, who had left the Bond series in some part because he hated the silliness and overreliance on technology, gadgetry, and gimmickry of the Bond series. The idea for Connery was to bring back what was so great about the original Bond movies and do away with the silliness of the Roger Moore films. Connery had so much fun working on the script that he agreed to play Bond again; they wanted Orson Welles to play Blofeld. Len Deighton was brought in to write the screenplay.

How serious the plot really sounds is pretty relative; ironically, it was the humor and gadgetry that had driven Connery away from the series (aside from the constant press intrusion into his private life), but Warhead has a lot of both. Connery and McClory's plot saw Blofeld living under the sea in what he called an Aquapolis. SPECTRE is behind the Bermuda Triangle disappearances; they're going to steal nuclear weapons from sunken submarines to blackmail the UN into giving SPECTRE control over the seas (because Blofeld is worried about the levels of pollution being pumped into the sea by developing nations). Blofeld has a fleet of airplanes based under the ocean. They plan to attack New York by sending sharks through the sewer system to blow up the New York Stock Exchange. They use robot sharks (with nuclear weapons hidden inside) to take over the Statue of Liberty and turn Ellis Island into a troop base. Bond's cleaning woman in an undercover SPECTRE agent; talk about lapsed security!

(McClory had apparently hired Sean Connery to work on the story because, he felt, Connery would know best what worked and what didn't in a Bond movie. Personally, I find Connery's story sense to be terrible, and even a cursory look at his filmography bears that out. I always keep in mind the justification he had for taking the lead in the awful, awful, awful League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a decision he later denounced: that he had been offered The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, turned them down because neither made sense to him, and seen those series make a ton of money; when offered League, he took it even though it didn't make sense to him because he wanted to cash in. Too bad about how that worked out.)

Lawsuits delayed the project. First, McClory filed an injunction when he found out that Albert R. Broccoli was going to use SPECTRE in The Spy Who Loved Me. Then United Artists sued McClory over Warhead. McClory was unable to finance a defense and couldn't fight the injunction. Connery left the project; his involvement had been conditional on there being no legal trouble with the film. No other studio wanted to get involved in a legal battle with UA, EON, and the Fleming Estate. Why the injunction over a story McClory already owned? There's at least one claim that McClory and Connery had managed to find out specific plot details of The Spy Who Loved Me and incorporated them into their own treatment.

McClory reasserted his rights in the 1980s and won a decision against United Artists with help from producer Jack Schwartzman and Warner Bros. The decision stipulated that the project must be based on the original scripts and the novel. No new plot elements could be added, and the words "Thunderball," "James Bond," and "007" could not be used in the title. The film produced by Schwartzman and McClory produced in 1983 was Never Say Never Again, a winking reference to Connery's one-time assertion that he would never play James Bond again. The script was by Lorenzo Semple Jr. It was released the same year as Octopussy, the new "official" James Bond film. Both were successful.

McClory planned to do the film again in the 1990s, Warhead 2000 A.D., with Timothy Dalton as Bond. Sony even announced they would be doing their own Bond series in 1997, with Warhead as the first entry. They were gang-sued by MGM and Danjaq (the parent company of EON), and that was the end of that. As part of the settlement, this third version of Thunderball was abandoned. McClory claimed to still own the film rights to Thunderball, but MGM and EON said those rights had expired. (Another part of the settlement was that MGM give up their partial rights to Spider-Man; the same year, MGM acquired the Orion Pictures library, giving them ownership of Never Say Never Again; ironically, though, Sony now owns the James Bond films, as they and Comcast led a consortium that acquired MGM in 2005 -- production and control of the series still rests with EON). McClory even tried to sue MGM for $3 billion, claiming that he had created the cinematic version of James Bond and was owed the money.

Kevin McClory died in 2006, just after the release of Sony's first Bond picture, Casino Royale. It is still undecided who owns the Thunderball material he claimed ownership of. But it does leave an idea for what can be done with the new Bond series if (when?) they decide to get less realistic again.

Giallo

A trailer for the new Dario Argento movie. Always a big event for me. And yet I haven't seen his, like, last four movies... Hm... Needs to fisk thats.



Thanks to Sunandheir for throwing this my way!

Kiss!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Trivial Bond

My rather meager entry for the Blog, James Blog-A-Thon at Lazy Eye Theatre.

DR. NO (1962)
* The sexy silhouette dancing to "Three Blind Mice" in the opening credits is Martine Beswick.
* Producers Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli wanted to make Thunderball first. Their EON Productions is an acronym that stands for "Everything or Nothing." Very 007.
* Ian Fleming's original choice for James Bond was David Niven (some sources say Roger Moore, but The Saint didn't appear on television before the film was made). Other early choices for Bond included Patrick McGoohan (who apparently turned it down on moral grounds), Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, Michael Redgrave, Trevor Howard, Stewart Granger, James Mason, and Cary Grant. Grant thought he was too old for the role and only wanted to appear in one film.
* Sean Connery was chosen by Daily Mail readers, where the James Bond comic strip was running.
* The actor playing Bond in the first gun barrel sequence is stunt coordinator Bob Simmons.
* Phil Karlson was an early choice for director; he turned the movie down, but directed two of the Matt Helm movies.
* Ursula Andress's voice is dubbed by Monica Van Der Zyl.
* Ian Fleming suggested either his neighbor Noel Coward or his cousin Christopher Lee for the role of Dr. No. (Coward famously replied with the telegram: "Dr. No? No! No! No!") Max Von Sydow turned down the role to do The Greatest Story Ever Told.
* Screenwriter Wolf Mankowitz had his name removed from the credits in the fear that the film would be a disaster.
* Ian Fleming liked Connery's performance so much that he gave James Bond Scottish ancestry in the novel On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Funnily enough, Fleming had originally been displeased with the casting because Connery was Scottish.
* Japanese title: We Have No Need of a Doctor

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963)
* The producers picked this as the second film after hearing that it was John F. Kennedy's favorite Bond novel. It was the last movie Kennedy ever saw, according to one biography.
* One of the actresses considered for the love interest was Ingrid Bergman's daughter, Pia Lindstrom. Virna Lisi and Annette Vadim were also considered.
* Daniela Bianchi's voice is dubbed by Barbara Jefford; the hotel receptionist is dubbed by Monica Van Der Zyl.
* Pedro Armendariz was recommended to the director by John Ford. It was Armendariz's last role; while filming, he discovered he had cancer and his scenes were all moved up front in production. He worked through the pain as long as he could, then killed himself immediately after.
* Spy novelist Len Deighton wrote the first draft of the screenplay. He is not credited.
* One of the fighting gypsy girls is Martine Beswick, making this her second Bond appearance (though she is incorrectly billed as "Martin" Beswick).
* Sean Connery was nearly killed by an inexperienced helicopter pilot who got too close.
* Not that anyone's interested, but this is my personal favorite Bond film.

GOLDFINGER (1964)
* The brassy theme song was originally going to be sung by Anthony Newley.
* Gert Frobe's voice was dubbed by Michael Collins.
* The producers wanted Orson Welles to play Goldfinger, but he was too expensive.
* Jack Lord was set to return as Felix Leiter (having played him in Dr. No), but demanded equal billing with Sean Connery. Cec Linder was cast and so began the tradition of multiple actors playing Felix.
* The producers almost changed Pussy Galore's name to Kitty Galore, worried about the rather obvious implications.
* Co-writer Paul Dehn co-wrote four of the Planet of the Apes movies.
* The women of Pussy Galore's Flying Circus are actually men in wigs.
* The original version of a classic exchange was changed for the film:

PUSSY: I am Pussy Galore.
BOND: I know you are, but what's your name?

* At the French premiere, 60 women were painted gold and a woman got into Connery's car. He stopped attending the premieres.
* Shirley Eaton's voice is dubbed by Monica Van Der Zyl.

THUNDERBALL (1965)
* The next Bond film was meant to be On Her Majesty's Secret Service, but the producers entered into a deal with Kevin McClory, who had written a treatment with Ian Fleming for Thunderball under the terms of an earlier deal with different producers. When Fleming then wrote Thunderball as a novel, McClory sued and won the movie rights. He had tried and failed to set up a deal for his own Bond film, with either Laurence Harvey or Richard Burton as 007.
* Sean Connery plays Bond in the opening gun barrel shot for the first time; they filmed a new one because Thunderball was made in CinemaScope.
* Claudine Auger's voice is dubbed by, who'd have guessed it, Monica Van Der Zyl.
* Actresses considered for the role of Domino include Julie Christie and Faye Dunaway. Raquel Welch was cast, but let go as a favor to Richard Zanuck, who wanted her for Fantastic Voyage. Claudine Auger was a former Miss France.
* Martine Beswick's third appearance in a Bond movie.
* The director of underwater photography was Ricou Browning, who played the Creature from the Black Lagoon in three films.
* The theme song for the film was supposed to be "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," sung on the soundtrack by Dionne Warwick (although Shirley Bassey also recorded a version). At the last minute, producers decided to record a new song, "Thunderball," which is why if you listen to John Barry's score, it's built on the "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" theme and not "Thunderball." When Tom Jones recorded the new song, he fainted in the studio upon completing the note at the song's end.
* Johnny Cash submitted a theme song that wasn't used.
* Sean Connery was attacked twice by sharks during the filming; once when a thought-dead shark being towed revived itself, and again in Largo's pool when the plexiglass partition fell over and a shark made straight for Connery.
* When Ian Fleming and Kevin McClory were working on their original film treatment, they had Burl Ives in mind to play Largo.

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967)
* Sean Connery, burned out and disenchanted with the constant intrusion of the press into his life, originally said no to this film (which would have been the last of the five movies he was originally contracted for). The producers increased his fee, but he warned them to look for a replacement.
* Tetsuo Tamba's voice was dubbed by Robert Rietty. He also dubbed some of Adolpho Celi's lines in Thunderball.
* Mie Hama was originally cast as Aki, and Aki Wakabayashi was originally cast as Kissy Suzuki. They switched roles because Wakabayashi picked up English much more quickly, and was moved to the role with more dialogue. Supposedly, Mie Hama was set to commit hari-kiri if removed from the film altogether.
* Mie Hama's swimming double is Sean Connery's then-wife Diane Cilento.
* One of the Hong Kong policemen is Anthony Ainley, later the Master on Doctor Who.
* Roald Dahl had never written a screenplay before; his chief qualification for getting the job was being a close friend of Albert Broccoli's.
* Nancy Sinatra was so nervous about recording the title song that she went through 25 takes. She worried she "sounded like Minnie Mouse."

ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE (1969)
* George Lazenby, who won the role of Bond after Connery departed, came from Australian chocolate bar ads. Other actors considered for the new James were Ian Ogilvy, Adam West, Richard Burton, Roger Moore, and Timothy Dalton. Dalton turned it down because he thought he was too young for the role.
* Director Peter Hunt's first two choices for Tracy were Brigitte Bardot (who declined) and Catherine Deneuve. Deneuve did not see herself as a Bond girl.
* In order to solidify in the minds of viewers that George Lazenby and Sean Connery were playing the same character, Bond has a few relics of the previous films on his desk: Honey Ryder's knife, Red Grant's garrotte watch, and the rebreather from Thunderball. Bond couldn't actually have any of those items: he didn't take Red's watch, he lost the rebreather, and Dr. No took Honey's knife.
* Louis Armstrong was very ill when he recorded the beautiful song "We Have All the Time in the World," but managed to record it in one take. It was his last recorded song; he died of a heart attack two years later.
* Rumors that George Lazenby and Diana Rigg hated each other seem to stem from what the film's director recalls as sharp jests and the juxtaposition of Rigg's very English humor with Lazenby's more brash Australian temperament.
* Joanna Lumley, who plays one of Blofeld's women, dubs the voices of most of the others.

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971)
* Sean Connery returned to the role after United Artists agreed to a huge salary (which he donated to a Scottish charity) and to produce Connery's next two films. George Lazenby had signed a Letter of Intent to star in Diamonds Are Forever and was paid part of his salary, but left the role on the terrible advice of his agent (despite having signed a seven-picture deal). He returned the money.
* Before Connery agreed to return, producers considered making Diamonds Are Forever a Bond reboot geared more towards American audiences. Director Guy Hamilton wanted Burt Reynolds to play Bond. Michael Gambon was considered, but he turned it down, saying he was "in terrible shape" and "had tits like a woman." John Gavin was signed, but his contract was bought out when Connery came back in.
* Raquel Welch, Faye Dunaway, and Jane Fonda were considered for the role of Tiffany Case. Director Guy Hamilton cast Jill St. John in the role of Plenty O'Toole, but liked her so much he moved her to the lead.
* A 70-page treatment for the film was written by Thunderbirds creator Gerry Anderson.
* Producers nearly cast Gert Frobe as the main villain (they were considering it would be Goldfinger's brother during their series reboot idea).
* John Barry's advice for Shirley Bassey regarding the theme song was to imagine she was singing about a penis.
* This was the first Bond movie in which the reviews were mostly negative. Fitting, as the film is mostly terrible.
* Sean Connery's last scene filmed was the scene where Bond is loaded, unconscious, into a coffin. The scene was filmed on Friday, August 13, 1971.

LIVE AND LET DIE (1973)
* Sean Connery turned down the film despite being offered five times his salary from Diamonds Are Forever. United Artists wanted to replace him with Burt Reynolds, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, or Clint Eastwood; Reynolds really wanted the role. Albert Broccoli insisted that Bond remain British (as did Robert Wagner, who turned the role down for the same reason). Jeremy Brett and Julian Glover were considered. Roger Moore, a favorite of Broccoli's and Fleming's choice in 1961, was finally cast.
* When Connery was going to star, producers considered bringing back Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder. With Moore cast, the producers purposely tried to distance themselves from the previous series and create an all new film.
* Solitaire was originally written as a black woman; writer Tom Mankiewicz wanted Diana Ross for the role. When Solitaire became white (as she was in Fleming's novel), producers seriously considered Catherine Deneuve again.
* David Hedison would play Felix Leiter once again in License to Kill.
* There are two stories about the theme song. The first is that Paul McCartney wrote and recorded the song on spec, and the song so impressed the producers that they asked producer George Martin to write the score. The other is that George Martin was hired to do the score and asked McCartney to write the song; McCartney said he would only if he could perform it.
* Q does not appear in the film, much to the annoyance of Desmond Llewellyn, who was appearing in the TV series Follyfoot and had had himself written out of three episodes in order to fit in filming as Q.
* The script supervisor was so afraid of snakes she refused to be on the set with them. Geoffrey Holder was terrified of snakes as well.
* Roger Moore and Jane Seymour caught dysentery. Ouch!

THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974)
* The producers had intended to film this novel in 1969 instead of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. The film was supposed to be shot in Cambodia, but outbreak of war changed their plans.
* The role of Scaramanga was originally offered to Jack Palance. When Christopher Lee took the role, Ken Russell was unable to cast him in Tommy; he'd been Russell's first choice to play the Specialist (Jack Nicholson took the role).
* Alice Cooper's song "The Man with the Golden Gun" on his Muscle of Love album was written to get the attention of the producers; he didn't get the commission. The film's score and theme song are the ones composer John Barry hates the most.
* Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz left the production because he just couldn't bring himself to do any more work on the screenplay.
* The lowest-grossing Bond film of all time. It was heavily criticized for its comedic approach mixed with an odd amount of sadism, though Christopher Lee's performance is rightly praised.

THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977)
* Only the title of Fleming's novel is used for the film; he refused to sell the movie rights to this novel only, because the story was so different (all told from the point of view of a woman in love with Bond) and he was very pleased with it.
* Production was delayed because of legal difficulties between Albert Broccoli and departing producer Harry Saltzman. Tensions between he and Broccoli were high, and Saltzman had plunged into depression after the death of his wife from cancer.
* Guy Hamilton was supposed to direct this film, but left the production to direct Superman instead. (He was replaced when the production of Superman moved to England; Hamilton was a tax exile.) Producers also considered Steven Spielberg, but waited to see how Jaws turned out; Spielberg says UA wouldn't give him a chance when he asked to direct a Bond film, which indirectly led him to Indiana Jones.
* Albert Broccoli said he discovered Richard Kiel and asked the writers to include a part for him; actually, Will Sampson and David Prowse were both considered for the role of Jaws.
* Valerie Leon has an all-too-small role as a receptionist. Fellow Hammer vixen Caroline Munro has a more substantial role (and completely outshines Barbara Bach, in my opinion).
* Stanley Kubrick worked on some of the lighting as a favor to his friend, production designed Ken Adam, who was having a nightmare lighting the reflective water and submarines.
* The cinematographer, Claude Renoir, is the grandson of the painter.
* Stirling Silliphant, John Landis, and Anthony Burgess all worked on the screenplay. Roald Dahl (who had written You Only Live Twice) was approached, but recommended comic writer Cary Bates instead. Gerry Anderson sued producers; he felt they used a lot of his treatment for Diamonds Are Forever.
* The producers wanted to use SPECTRE and Blofeld as the villains, but could not. Kevin McClory, who created the characters with Ian Fleming, had only leased those characters to EON Productions for a ten-year period after Thunderball, and was already shopping around his own Bond movie. Blofeld does not appear again after Diamonds Are Forever. Still, Stromberg and his organization are very SPECTRE-like...
* According to screenwriter Christopher Wood, Jaws's real name is Zbigniew Krycsiwiki.

MOONRAKER (1979)
* The next Bond film was supposed to be For Your Eyes Only; the producers went with Moonraker because Star Wars had been so successful.
* Actors originally considered for the role of Hugo Drax were Louis Jourdan and James Mason. Stewart Granger was set for the role, but the film became a co-production with Les Productions Artistes Associes, a French company, and French actor Michel Lonsdale was cast. He was pleased, as there were no parts like Bond villains available in France.
* Kate Bush was asked to sing the theme song, but refused. Frank Sinatra was also offered. Johnny Mathis started recording the song, but never completed it for unknown reasons. Shirley Bassey, an eleventh-hour replacement, never considered the song one of her own and never performed it live until 2005.
* Barbara Bach was supposed to cameo as Major Anya Amasova, even up to the month before filming.
* Producers changed Ian Fleming's original plot -- in which Drax was going to fire a nuclear missile on London -- because they didn't consider it to be relevant anymore!
* Up to this point, the highest-grossing Bond movie (it would be until GoldenEye). Good thing, too, as it was the most expensive up to this point, costing more than the first six Bond films combined.

FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981)
* M is on leave because the actor who played him in every film, Bernard Lee, died of cancer just before production. He was preparing to play the role once again.
* For some time before production, Roger Moore stated he was not going to play Bond again. James Brolin was considered as a replacement, as were Lambert Wilson and Timothy Dalton. Mel Gibson turned down the role. The actors were tested against Maryam d'Abo, who later played the girl in The Living Daylights.
* The scene with Bond at his wife's grave (and dispensing of a bald-but-unnamed villain, wink wink) was meant to introduce a new actor in the role and solidify him as Bond. A last minute deal was struck with Roger Moore. The scene is also intended as an insult to Kevin McClory, to show him that the Bond series could survive without Blofeld.
* The role of Bibi Dahl was written for Lynn-Holly Johnson; Broccoli had loved her in Ice Castles.
* The scenes with Bond and Melina underwater were filmed in slow motion on dry land; Carole Bouquet had sinus problems.
* Jaws was nearly brought into the film, but they decided to make a more serious movie.
* Composer Bill Conti wanted Blondie to perform the theme song; the producers declined, and the song Sheena Easton performs is a different song with the same title. The song Blondie was to perform is on their 1982 album The Hunter.

OCTOPUSSY (1983)
* Once again, Roger Moore announced his intention to call it quits. The producers once again went to Timothy Dalton and James Brolin, but when word came out that Kevin McClory's Thunderball remake Never Say Never Again would be released the same year, the producers desperately recontracted Roger Moore, thinking their film would do better with the established star. Brolin was very nearly cast.
* Prevue magazine announced that Sybil Danning had been cast as Octopussy (she was not). Considered for the role were Persis Khambatta and Faye Dunaway.
* The song for the film was called "All Time High." Lyricist Tim Rice later said he was glad not to have to write a song about Octopussy.
* The original draft of the screenplay was written by George Macdonald Fraser.
* The Faberge Egg in the film is real.
* Lois Maxwell's Miss Moneypenny, one of the last series mainstays, introduces Bond to her new assistant Penelope Smallbone (during one take, Maxwell accidentally said "Smallbush") to pave the way for her exit from the series. She would only appear in one more film before departing. A new Moneypenny was cast for The Living Daylights, though Lois Maxwell suggested replacing the late Bernard Lee with herself as M. She thought Moneypenny as a female M would add a new twist to the Bond-Moneypenny relationship. The producers declined; Broccoli didn't believe the audience would accept Bond being given orders by a woman.

A VIEW TO A KILL (1985)
* Albert Broccoli's original choice to play the villain was David Bowie. Bowie turned it down, saying "I didn't want to spend five months watching my stunt double fall down cliffs." Sting was also offered the role.
* Look for Dolph Lundgren as a KGB thug. He was dating Grace Jones at the time.
* The film was a critical flop but a commercial hit. Roger Moore hates this movie.
* Roger Moore's hair had to be thickened daily during production. At 57, he was the oldest actor ever to play James Bond. (At 30, George Lazenby was the youngest.) He said he knew it was time to retire from the role when he found out that he was older than Tanya Roberts's mother.
* The incredibly insipid scene with Bond using a board to "surf" down a mountainside (unfortunately accompanied by the Beach Boys song "California Girls") is often credited with raising interest in snowboarding.

THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987)
* With Roger Moore retiring from the role, Broccoli approached Timothy Dalton. He declined to appear on a double bill of Shakespeare plays in London (alongside Sylvester McCoy) and because he was filming the flop Brenda Starr. Pierce Brosnan was then cast, but NBC pushed their option for more episodes of Remington Steele to play off the interest in Brosnan as Bond. Apparently, Brosnan shot the gun barrel sequence at the time. Sam Neill and Mel Gibson were also considered. Dalton agreed to play Bond after his Shakespeare run was over.
* The theme song was performed by A-Ha, who John Barry later called spoiled boys and asserted were a nightmare to work with.
* Felix Leiter appeared here for the first time in 14 years, since Live and Let Die.
* Originally proposed as a prequel to give the series a reboot, but that idea was dropped.

LICENSE TO KILL (1989)
* The original title of the film (as seen in some teaser posters) was License Revoked. The title was changed when, sadly, the word "revoked" proved too confusing for American test audiences.
* The Lupe Lamora role was originally offered to Maria Conchita Alonso.
* Timothy Dalton has a permanent scar on his hand from this film. Benicio del Toro really cut him with a knife.
* Eric Clapton was asked to write a new version of "The James Bond Theme."
* The first Bond film to feature a tobacco warning in the closing credits.
* This is the second lowest-grossing Bond film of all time.

GOLDENEYE (1995)
* The long delay between Bond films was mainly due to an ongoing legal battle between Broccoli and the new United Artists parent company over TV rights to the films.
* Timothy Dalton was offered the movie, but declined. Pierce Brosnan stepped in. Sean Bean was considered as a replacement; the producers liked him and invited him to play the villain instead. Liam Neeson and Hugh Grant were also considered.
* Alan Rickman turned down the role of 006, tired of playing villains.
* Paulina Porizkova was offered the role of Natalya, but turned it down. It was also offered to Elizabeth Hurley, Elle MacPherson and Eva Herzigova.
* Goldeneye was the name of Ian Fleming's Jamaica house.
* A theme song was recorded by Ace of Base but rejected by producers.
* Renny Harlin was offered directing duties.
* Famke Janssen did her own driving.

TOMORROW NEVER DIES (1997)
* The title song was a last minute addition when producers were told Sheryl Crow was interested in doing a Bond song. The actual (and superior) theme song appears over the end credits as "Surrender," sung by k.d. lang, despite the fact that the line "Tomorrow never dies" is in every chorus and David Arnold's score is built around that song.
* Anthony Hopkins turned down the villain's role.
* Donald E. Westlake wrote a treatment for the film that wasn't used. Nicholas Meyer was involved in the screenplay.
* The original title for the film (this was the first film to not have a Fleming or Fleming-related title) was Aquator, then Tomorrow Never Comes and Tomorrow Never Lies.
* Teri Hatcher's role was cut down considerably after test screenings. Pierce Brosnan has criticized the producers' decision to turn down Monica Bellucci, who tested for the role.
* Michelle Yeoh wanted to perform all of her own stunts, but it would have made her hard to insure. Brosnan was impressed by her. Original rumors had Natasha Henstridge in the role.

THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH (1999)
* Q's farewell scene was actually written for Tomorrow Never Dies.
* MGM wanted Sharon Stone to play Elektra King; there are strong indications that Denise Richards was forced on the producers against their will. Her character was originally an insurance investigator, not a nuclear physicist.

DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002)
* Salma Hayek was considered for the role of Jinx, as was, supposedly, Whitney Houston. Halle Berry was the first Bond girl to have won an Oscar, for all the good that did.
* The screenwriters and producers worked on a Jinx spin-off film, even hiring Stephen Frears to direct, but MGM pulled the plug after Lara Croft: Tomb Raider -- The Cradle of Life and Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle tanked at the box office.
* Brett Ratner was considered as director, as were Stuart Baird and Stephen Hopkins.
* Billy Connolly turned down the role of villain. One rumor had Kevin Spacey in the role as well.
* This film marked the 40th anniversary of the series, which was celebrated with more references than I'm prepared to list here. How unfortunate that this film was the absolute nadir of the series. An invisible car? You lost me.

CASINO ROYALE (2006)
* Pierce Brosnan either stepped down for the role or was dismissed after turning 50, though he was originally put forth as the star of the film. Henry Cavill was seriously considered to replace him but, at 22, was deemed too young. Daniel Craig was producer Barbara Broccoli's first choice for the role; he's younger than the film series.
* Quentin Tarantino spoke very publicly about wanting to direct the film with Pierce Brosnan.
* Charlize Theron and Angelina Jolie were seriously considered for Vesper Lynd. Cecile de France auditioned, but her accent wasn't convincing. Audrey Tautou was considered, but not approached because of her role in The Da Vinci Code, which was deemed too similar. Other actresses considered: Aishwarya Rai, Naomi Watts, Thandie Newton, Rachel McAdams, Caterina Murino (who is in the film, but not as Vesper), Sienna Miller, Rose Byrne, Natasha Henstridge, Jessica Simpson, Scarlett Johansson, and Vera Farmiga.
* Touted as a prequel to the series, an idea which was abandoned when the film proved so popular. Thankfully, it's a reboot.
* Ian Fleming based the character of Le Chiffre on Aleister Crowley.

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

THE MAN FROM DOWN UNDER (1943)
Overlong, overly-sentimental movie with Charles Laughton as an Australian WWI vet who raises two Belgian orphans as his own. The boy grows up to be a boxing champion. Laughton is hammy. ** stars.

THE DEVIL'S BROTHER (1933)
Laurel & Hardy star as Stanlio and Ollio in an operetta about a singing bandit (Dennis King) masquerading as a marquis to move among the rich and steal from them. It's funny enough just seeing Stan and Ollie in their pageboy wigs. Great idea, and I believe this was the first feature-length movie with the pair. They become retainers to the bandit, Fra Diavolo, and most of their comic scenes are sort of kept on the side, away from the plot going on around them. It works, and sexy Thelma Todd plays the object of Diavolo's attention. ***1/2 stars.

THE CLAIRVOYANT (1935)
Silly movie with Claude Rains as a fake psychic who suddenly makes some very real predictions. Overblown and histrionic. Fay Wray plays his wife. Rains is good, but the silly close-ups of him "seeing" something, his eyes popping out, are unintentionally hysterical. *1/2 stars.

GRAY MATTERS (2006)
Heather Graham sings, dances, does comedy, and makes out with a girl. If she'd wriggled out of those clothes, it would be a nice reel of everything I adore about Heather Graham. That said, the movie is only so-so. And she really shouldn't be trying to play 30 year-olds anymore, she's nearly 40. Heather is a single woman who lives with her brother (Tom Cavanaugh, certainly not proving why anyone would hire him to act in anything ever), whom she's extremely close to. Then he meets the perfect girl, Bridget Moynahan, and they get married. But Heather loves her too, kisses her, comes to accept that she's gay, and hilarity... well, it doesn't ensue, really. I made it to the end, let's just put it that way. The second half gets preachy and self-satisfied, but it's a harmless (and toothless) film. **1/2 stars.

SANSHIRO SUGATA II (1945)
The second part of Kurosawa's first film. They're both skippable, but rewarding. Good training montage; in this second movie, the judo champion from the first movie trains to fight an American boxer. Pretty ending. *** stars.

SILVER STREAK (1976)
Gene Wilder plays an editor aboard a cross-country train who finds himself embroiled in a murder mystery complete with a secret agent (Ned Beatty), a lovable dame (Jill Clayburgh), dirty thugs (Ray Walston and Richard Kiel), and a shady business dealer (Patrick McGoohan). He stumbles into this and finds himself repeatedly thrown off the train and reaching out for help even though no one believes him. About an hour in, he gets help from Richard Pryor. It's hilarious, but it's also very well-crafted; it works more, I thought, as a mystery with comic scenes rather than a full-on comedy. I guess it really works as both. I loved it; it's a tight film, well-plotted, and it really makes good use of the train setting. **** stars.

Happy Birthday, Anne Hathaway!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Keith Olbermann, Prop 8

This is actually the first time Olbermann has moved me to tears.



"Love is patient, love is kind,
Love does not insist on its own way.
Love bears all things, believes all things,
Hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails."

-- I Corinthians 13:4-8

The Health Report, Year 2: Week 48

What am I, some kind of a banana-fish or somethin'?

Well, I ain't no doctor, but I knows when I don't feels good.

Some kinda judge or a lawyer? Maybe not, but I knows when somethin's wrong.

I ain't no psychiatrist, but I knows when I gets mad.

You don't have to be a fish to knows when you're flounderin'.

What am I, some kind of barnacle on the dinghy of life?

I may not be a doctor, but I knows when I'm losin' patience.

I ain't no physkicist, but I knows what matters.

I yam what I yam what I yam and I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam 'cause I yam what I yam.

* Apologies to the late Harry Nilsson. Also, I'm losing weight and the back pain is considerably less.

The Meme-ing Daylights

In the footsteps of The Sapient Sutler.

Turn on your iTunes (or iPod).

Set the player on "Shuffle."

Write something (a sentence, a paragraph, a story, a word,) about the first 5 songs that come up.

1. "True Love Ways," Buddy Holly
God, I love this achingly pretty song. This is one of my 3a.m. songs, the kinds of songs that, very quietly and very beautifully, come right out of the darkness and wrap themselves around you and make you warm. The kind of song you'd like to hear at 3 in the morning when everything's still and the rest of the world is shut out. So perfect. And the fact that Buddy Holly doesn't have a perfect croon just makes it that much more special; it's emotionally honest. And even though it's got an orchestral backing, it's so simple and doesn't overpower the song or the sentiment. You can hear the spaces. That's important to me.

2. "How to Rent a Room," Silver Jews
I heard this for the first time about two weeks ago. I don't know anything about the Silver Jews, really, but I love this song. It's very reminiscent of Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, John Cale, Nick Cave, that whole group. And it's very pretty. And is that an organ in the background? I love this sort of sound, where it's slightly clunky and a little rough, but it doesn't sound thrown together or clumsy. "No I don't really want to die, I only want to die in your eyes [...] grant me one last wish; life should mean a lot less than this."

3. "Cross-Eyed Mary," Jethro Tull
Becca really, really, really hates Tull. But it's right up my alley; orchestral backing, progressive sound, but ultimately it doesn't stray far from being a hard rock band. And I don't care what she says, I love the reverb! I also love it when Ian Anderson gets really snotty and mean. This is from Aqualung, a snotty and mean album.

4. "Idiot Wind," Bob Dylan
Speaking of snotty and mean... I think this is one of Bob Dylan's wittiest songs; great lyrics, excellent melody line. You just get swept up in the damn thing and it carries you off for seven and a half minutes.

5. "Does Anybody Love You?," Todd Rundgren
Simple, searching, and a little holier-than-thou in just under two minutes. Two perfect minutes. Why can't anyone make music like this anymore?

TV Report: Being a Geek and Other Stuff

So, I was watching Heroes last night and it really occurs to me: you know what? I like this show. I mean, I really like this show. I'm not sure when it happened, but it sure did. At some point, I got so caught up in the goings on that I actually like the show better now than I ever did.

What happened?

My history with Heroes has always been kind of spotty. As I've said many times, I thought the show was so labored and cliche, it took so much time to set everything up, that I didn't give a shit. Then, when NBC showed the first five episodes in a marathon on a Sunday night, the momentum picked me up and, just like that, I was glued to the rest of the first season. Loved it. I predicted, as I've bragged about far too often, that people would react badly to the second season. That they would say it was too slow, too labored and cliche, took to much time to set everything up. And I was exactly right. It was that way even for me; I turned it off after the first four weeks and just caught up with it in September on DVD. It's the same every year: the first four episodes or so are the labored set up (this show has maybe more characters than it really needs), but by episode five or six, it's moving along and telling it's story and I get sucked in. The second season ended up being really good, even with some of the disappointments (turning Hiro so serious was a big one, and that thing with Claire and West was irritating).

The third season started the same way, but liking the second season despite its many faults had generated enough goodwill for me to not abandon it after a few weeks. And now I'm enjoying the hell out of it. And, of course, to my disappointment but not my surprise, everyone is talking about how this is the Worst Season Ever. And yes, they are doing some things that I don't care about (I couldn't care less about whatever the new incarnation of Nikki is called or about Nathan), but there's a lot of good in there.

What I really like on Heroes as it stands now:

* Sylar. This whole plot with Sylar examining his good side is really the best thing on the show right now. I know a lot of people don't like it, and maybe they could've handled it in a more organic manner, but that's just not what this show is. Sylar is the most interesting character right now because he really has shades of gray (right down to his name, in true comic book tradition, being Gabriel Gray). The whole show is really supposed to be about the idea of heroism, and last night's episode especially dealt with the idea that no one is a hero or a villain, but a person with complex motivations that don't always appear so clear-cut. Sylar is the best part of that.

* Peter seems to have been sidelined. His powers are gone, and I hope it's a while before he works that out. He's always the dull character, saddled with indecision and this sort of weird vanity that loves playing the outraged victim. Every season, he knows he has to act but doesn't know how to do it. He's a pussy. I'm sick of his whiny shit, and if we can leave him out and put the focus elsewhere, that's cool with me.

* Daphne. I don't know, I just think she's kind of neat. At least, unlike many on this show, she seems to enjoy having powers instead of seeing them as a crippling burden. That gets old.

* Kristen Bell. Perfection. Please don't kill her off as it seems like they're about to do!

* Noah Bennett. Although they could handle him better this season, he's long been one of my favorite characters.

* Claire. I think she just reminds me of my late sister. I freak out when they put her in situations like that one a few weeks ago with the puppet man trying to force her to kill on of her mothers. That was pretty cruel. But I like Claire and my hope for the show kind of rests on her sometimes.

* Finding out more about the two companies. I love that revealed origin stuff.

* Arthur Petrelli. He's a villain that's truly terrifying, although I'm sure that he will reveal deeper motivations at some point. The way he killed Maury Parkman like he wasn't even a human being... he's chilling as hell, much more so than Sylar ever was (and he was). Or the way he immediately took out Adam (who I thought had some more potential on the show).

* Angela Petrelli. What a great character she's turned out to be.

* Getting rid of Maya. Thank you.

The thing about Heroes is that a lot of the nonsensical leaps actually make sense later on. But they need to stop it with the time travel. If they take away Hiro's powers, I hope they leave him the power to stop time or to travel in space. But take away the time travel. I'm sick of the show conveniently ignoring the fact that Hiro could easily travel back in time and not open the safe. And these little glimpses into the future of some upcoming disaster are really stupid. If Hiro wanted to know what was happening and avert these disasters, he could easily make a lot of little trips into the future, go to the library, and check the papers to see what the turning points were. Instead he has to go into the African desert to find another character who paints in Tim Sale's style to figure it out. Why?

I keep hearing that Heroes should shed characters. What they need to do is keep in mind that they've built quite a supporting cast, but they don't have to try and cram in every character in every single episode. They can keep them in reserve. It creates the sense that the writers are arbitrarily dropping characters if they don't return. I mean, what about Micah, or Monica, or Molly, or Claude? Are they just dropping them out of nowhere (bad storytelling), or are they still out there and will be put back into the plot when the plot calls for it?

The "Being a Geek" part of the title just comes from me being annoyed by several geek news items from the past couple of weeks. Man, are geeks never satisfied.

* Everyone hates Heroes now and can't wait for Lost to come back (I guess they need a new show to complain about, which they will, loudly). Personally, I'm enjoying the hell out of Heroes (maybe I just took its limitations into account) and almost don't care if I never see Lost again. I still haven't seen the last season, which hits DVD in December, but I'm not excited about the possibility of seeing it. As long as I've been away from that show, it doesn't seem like it's going to be worth it to go back to. I've already forgotten a great deal of the story.

* This is my typical experience: I spent 19 years saying a third Indiana Jones movie would be a terrible idea, that there was no dramatic purpose, that Indy's story arc was finished, that Spielberg hasn't made a good movie in so long that there would be no point. Every geek told me there just had to be a fourth movie. When it finally happened, I started to get a little excited about it, and then when I saw it, everyone hated it and I loved it. At least I correctly predicted that everyone who complained about it would blame everything on George Lucas. I even saw one obviously insane blogger complain about what a bad feminist character Marion was in the fourth movie (obviously Lucas's fault), when usually Spielberg's women were such feminists. Um, yeah... you missed all the misogyny? Just because Steven Spielberg is a woman doesn't mean he likes them very much. Check out the way mothers are treated some time.

* Another example: Watchmen. For many, many years, every geek said Watchmen couldn't be done and that it was somehow a sign of disrespect to Alan Moore and Terry Gilliam (yes, they acted that way just because Terry Gilliam said it couldn't be done) to even try. I said for years that it could be made into a movie if the filmmakers just made their own movie and didn't listen to the fanboys complaining about it and made a coherent movie that didn't feel like it had to jam in every single thing from the comic book. That's the problem with a lot of these movies: the fanboy audience is, frankly, far too empowered and drunk on how much clout they think they have with filmmakers and TV show producers. It's made them very, very arrogant and the leveling democracy of the internet has made them even bigger snobs. That's a whole other rant. Anyway, every geek shouted me down for daring to suggest a Watchmen movie was possible; now those same people are losing their shit over an admittedly good preview and the posters. Granted, I'm cautiously optimistic, but a bunch of people really went nutso right off.

* Joe Johnston was announced as director of Captain America. The immediate geek reaction was to belittle his film career and deride him as a serious choice. Dude, like Jon Favreau directing Iron Man or the guy who made Transporter 2 directing The Incredible Hulk were amazing choices? Johnston makes movies that are solid and entertaining and come in for a certain price. This is what Marvel has always wanted in their movies. And frankly, Johnston makes some good movies (I will defend Jumanji until my dying day). Is Favreau a better choice? Zathura as a good movie, but it wasn't The Lord of the Rings. Neither was Iron Man. But Iron Man was good. What gets me is that these are the same people who jack off all over the extremely overrated The Dark Knight and can't wait to line up to see Michael fucking Bay's Transformers 2. I mean, is that what you want for Marvel? Michael Bay? McG directing Beyonce in Wonder Woman? Mike Millar in charge of his proposed bleak eight-hour Godfather-inspired version of Superman? Damn, at least it's not the guy who made Daredevil and Ghost Rider, or those awful Fantastic Four movies.

* And, seriously, does anyone even care who plays Wonder Woman? I don't anymore. I think there's an excellent film that could come from Wondy, but it won't be produced by Joel Silver. Especially not if it stars Beyonce (I appreciate the enthusiasm, but I've seen you act). It's all going to be about fake empowerment and being a girl and a chick who looks really sexy in the costume. It's not going to be about a wonder woman, that's for sure.

And on and on and on, he rambled, annoyed that he was an outsider among outsiders.

Anyway, what were we talking about? Right, television.

Turns out I love How I Met Your Mother. I could never get into it, but then I did. I just watched the first season on DVD and loved it. And I'm glad it acknowledges how annoying Ted and his romantic quest are; I understand it's the focus of the show, but the self-critique helps a lot because it can be damn annoying seeing him moon around, indecisive, beta male-ing his way through his life. Still, the format works against it. If we know from the very first episode that Ted and Robin didn't end up getting married and having kids, where's the dramatic tension between their whole Ross and Rachel thing?

And True Blood. Still really enjoying it, but with two episodes left, are they going to bother to make Sookie likable again? I didn't buy her anger at finding out the truth about Sam. It just seems like, given her experiences so far, she'd have a cooler head about it instead of being such a jerk.

Oh, and thanks to Ugly Betty for settling this whole thing with the musician across the hall so early. I didn't want another let's-drag-out-Gino-into-infinity situation. Although I ended up liking Gino at the end.