04 August 2010

Shark Week, The Heart of Darkness, Bond...James Bond, Miscellany

It's Shark Week on the Discovery Channel and for once I'm not missing out. The missus, oldest daughter and I are lapping up as much great white shark footage as we can. Last night this included re-enactments of shark attacks on humans with survivors recounting their stories. I'm amazed at how blase some folks are about sharing water with sharks, especially the great white ones. So the odds are one in a thousand of an attack. I prefer being where the odds are zero in a thousand. Of course, it is the danger posed by sharks that makes them endlessly fascinating. Then again crocodiles kill more people than sharks do and they don't get nearly the same kind of attention. Perhaps its because crocs are so damn ugly and are both more common and better understood. We plan on culminating shark week with a viewing of Steven Speilberg's Jaws (1975) one of the great films of all time. Sadly it is blamed (with much validity) for creating the whole concept of the Summer blockbuster. New York Times writer Russ Douthat goes so far as to suggest that it, along with Star Wars (1977) may have ruined Hollywood.

Recently viewed one of my favorite all time films, Francis Ford Coppola' Apocalypse Now (1979) then enjoyed my first viewing of his wife's documentary on the making of that film, Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991). I highly recommend the documentary to fans of Apocalypse Now and also to anyone interested in how films are made. Obviously the making of this particular epic is a most unique story and in especially so in the hands of the makers of this documentary. I've capped it all off by finally reading Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness upon which the film is based. It's a magnificent piece of writing and I'm at a loss for why I've just now gotten around to it. I suppose next I should read a non fiction account of the true story that Conrad based his story on. The film, the documentary and the novel are about ever so much more than they first appear dealing as they do with very nature of man.

Oldest daughter and I have been watching the original James bond's films in chronological order. These of course star the one true Bond portrayer, Sean Connery. The very idea of Pierce Bronsnan, Daniel Craig or Charles Nelson Reilly playing Bond is ludicrous to me. I grew up on these Bond films, so Connery is Bond, to me. Then again I see Michael Keaton as the one true cinematic Batman while I know that legions of younger folk swear by Christian Bale. Over 40 years after their release the original Bonds can seem dated but not Connery's portrayal which is absolutely timeless. He has perfect combination of suave and tough with a wry sense of humor throw in. The special effects are not (no pun intended) overblown. Character takes precedence over action, though there's plenty of the latter. Of course there is the silliness of how no villain or henchman will just kill 007. In Dr. No (1962), a venomous spider is released in his bedroom. Couldn't the bad guy just as easily, and much more efficiently, shot him? The reasons that Goldfinger keeps him alive in the movie of the same name (1964) are an eternal mystery to me. One appreciates the wonderful spoofing Mike Myers did of the genre in his first two Austin Powers films. That said, From Russia with Love (1963) is an excellent film by any standard and features one of the great fight scenes in film history. Bond's opponent in that scrape is played by Robert Shaw who you may recall runs afoul of the shark in Jaws. Shaw was a wonderful actor who was integral to Jaws and also to The Sting (1973) in which he played Doyle Lonnegan.

According to a new poll 11% of Americans are convinced Barack Obama was not born in the U.S. and another 16% are reasonably certain he was born elsewhere. No wonder advertising is such a big business in this country, the American people will believe, or disbelieve, anything....In other better news a judge today struck down the hateful Proposition 8 that banned gay marriage, passed two years ago by California voters. So yes, there is still hope for this nation....Brad Pitt has been staying at the Claremont Hotel here in Berkeley while filming his latest. The hotel is a short walk from my residence so I've been tempted to invite him over for coffee or a bite to eat. First I should write a screenplay to offer him....Speaking of new movies, can't wait to see Howl starring James Franco as Allen Ginsberg. Check out the trailer on IMDb. Looks like a winner....I must be off now, I'm busy in my off hours constructing a subterranean lair.

No comments: