THE BATTLEFORDS - Welcome to this latest edition of Cairns on Cinema, and I cannot believe that we have made it into December already. I have a lot of ground to cover in this edition so I will get right to it.
First of all, I am ashamed to admit that it took me all this time to finally make it back to a movie theater. Yes, I finally went to the cinema, after months of doing my movie-consuming through the TV or online. In fairness, though, the biggest thing that delayed my return is that I have been busy on my news beats for a while, so I simply haven't had the time. That changed this week.
I went to the latest James Bond effort No Time to Die in Saskatoon, figuring the latest COVID-19 numbers were low enough to make it safe to venture to a movie there. It was a great reminder of what I have missed during my time spent away from the cinemas. There is nothing better than watching movies on the big screen.
Unfortunately, it was also a reminder of what I didn’t miss. Specifically, I am talking about the endless commercials that ran before the movie.
It was literally one ad after another: automobile ads, cola ads, smartphone ads, and other forgettable ones. Super Bowl commercials these were not. There were so many ads that I wondered if we would ever see the Bond movie.
If I want to see ads, I can do it at home watching TV. I don’t need to spend good money (or in this case, a gift card) to see it at a theatre. I know, I know: “it keeps the ticket prices down,” etc.
The only ads I ever want to see at a cinema are the trailers for the coming attractions. In fact, there were some decent trailers for The Matrix Resurrections, House of Gucci, and The Batman, among others. So, now I might actually be interested in heading to the cinemas to see this stuff. Hey, cinema chains, if you really want your customers back, run more trailers — not these other commercials.
Back to Bond. Last time in my column, I ranted at length about the entire Bond franchise. In that column I talked about the various eras and the various Bond actors over the years — Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig.
There was one particular Bond actor that I did not mention: George Lazenby. That was deliberate on my part, because nobody cares about him.
Lazenby appeared in only one Bond film, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, co-starring Diana Rigg. But in what turned out to be a completely stupid decision in retrospect, Lazenby famously quit the franchise and has basically never been heard from again. That particular Bond movie ended up being kind of an oddity for that reason, even though it is regarded as one of the better efforts in the series.
I mention all this, simply because there is a lot in No Time to Die that echoed On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. You saw it in the music (Louis Armstrong), in the cinematography in filming the cars winding around the roads, in the villains (Blofeld), even right down to the scene where Craig turns to Lea Seydoux and says “we have all the time in the world.”
If I say any more I am giving away the plot. Go see No Time to Die if you haven’t already, and be ready to cry a lot because it’s that sort of movie.
A few box office notes about No Time to Die to tell you about:
It was reported by Forbes back in November that it broke a “very odd box office record”: for having the lowest gross of any film to top over $700 million worldwide (it’s now up to $756 million). Its North American domestic total was $150 million at that point; it’s now up to $158 million.
It’s a bizarre stat, but it doesn’t surprise me. The Bond franchise has always been more of an international phenomenon than a particularly USA one.
The other news was a report in Variety last week which claimed that even though No Time to Die stood to be the Hollywood global box office leader for 2021, it also stood to lose $100 million in its theatrical run, because it cost so much to produce. Of course, this is being disputed by MGM, who says this movie is going to make money. It wouldn’t surprise me if this movie lost money in the end, given all the COVID-19 challenges. No doubt, had a pandemic not been going full blast, No Time to Die would have made far more money.
Hollywood is doing better at the box office these days at the box office. It is starting to feel "normal" again going to the movies, but it isn't as if they are doing blockbuster numbers. As an example, during the Thanksgiving weekend Nov. 26-28, the top release was Encanto, and it only made $27.2 million. Usually a Thanksgiving release would do far better than that, but these are unusual times.
Moving on from the box office talk, I need to mention the story that has been the talk of Hollywood and the world, and that is the fatal shooting incident on the set of Rust.
On the set down in New Mexico, Alec Baldwin picked up a what turned out to be a live prop gun and ended up firing a live round that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, and injured director Joel Souza.
Baldwin has since claimed he didn’t pull the trigger on the gun, in an interview scheduled for ABC on Thursday night. From the looks of it, he’s deeply affected by all this and is taking the whole thing hard. This whole story is a tragedy, and it has revived a lot of discussion about safety on movie sets.
There have been tragedies on movie sets before, the most infamous one being the helicopter accident in 1982 during the making of Twilight Zone: The Movie that killed Vic Morrow and two kids. There was a lot of fallout and litigation out of that incident, with director John Landis even put on trial for involuntary manslaughter (he was acquitted).
I see a similar story playing out with this Rust incident. At the very least, my hope is that we see some better safety procedures on movie sets coming out of this, especially when it comes to guns. Shooting incidents and the loss of life is something that cannot happen.
That’s all I have to say for today.