Welcome to Culture Hound, InsideHook’s deep dive into the month’s most important (pop) cultural happenings.
Look, we know you’re going to see the new James Bond film, opening today. It’s science. To celebrate, we’re devoting this month’s edition of Culture Hound to all things Bond.
“The dead are alive.”
Quick backtrack: I once had a screenwriting teacher who left little impression but one perfect nugget of movie watching how-to. He said, “Never miss the first two minutes of a movie. Everything is set up there. If you’re going to be late, just wait until the next screening.”
So that “dead/alive” placard that intros Spectre, the 24th James Bond film and probable last go-around for star Daniel Craig, is really all you need to know.
On one level, Spectre is about the past — the seemingly dead past — coming back to haunt 007 (the film even kicks off on Day of the Dead ... in case you like your symbolism on fire and holding a megaphone).
The problem here is how Mr. Bond deals with the past.
We are not dealing with a man of many feelings. Whatever surprising pathos the superspy garnered from Casino Royale has long vanished, replaced with the usual Bond-ian quip and the right gadget at the right time. Even when not-who-he-seems villain Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz) is literally drilling into Bond’s head (again, SYMBOLISM), Bond seems nonplussed.
You can see why Craig said he’d rather slit his wrists than play Bond again.
There’s a vague subplot here about privacy vs. surveillance and yet another “should the 00 program be retired?” discussion. But you don’t go to Bond films for the plot. You go for the girls (here played by Lea Seydoux, Monica Bellucci, Naomie Harris), the locations (the best of Mexico, Italy, Austria and Morocco), the cars (an Aston Martin showcase, basically) and the stunts ... which, sadly, are reduced here to an endless series of “So what?” explosions and iffy parkour.
One exception: The fantastic five-minute tracking shot that opens the film.
See? It’s all about beginnings.
READ: James Bond Cars
Frederic Brun, author of Steve McQueen: A Passion for Speed, is also a Bond lover and (randomly) an attaché in the French Parliament. His gorgeous new photo tome traces the history of 007’s rides, from the Sunbeam Alpine Series II in Dr. No to the Rolls-Royce Phantom III in Goldfinger. And, of course, all the Aston Martins you can handle (here’s the new one). Favorite? Yours truly still votes for the rather hideous yet awesomely submersible Lotus Espirit from The Spy Who Loved Me. (Out Nov. 16)
FLY: A James Bond jet
As we recently mentioned, the private jet app JetSmarter just introduced a trés deluxe travel package for 007 aficionados. On the sojourn, a JetSmarter concierge will set you up with a luxury car, a private jet, some Bond-esque models to welcome you upon landing, endless complimentary martinis and some seriously luxe hotel accommodations in the city of your choice. To watch Spectre, of course.
FOLLOW THAT (BOND) GIRL: Lea Seydoux
The beautiful French actress holds her own (and shoots to kill) in Spectre. If she looks familiar, it’s because you might know her from Inglorious Basterds, Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol or her Palme d’Or-winning role in Blue Is the Warmest Color.
Yes, “Nobody Does It Better” and anything Shirley Bassey touches are gold. But the majority of Bond themes are overwrought and forgettable (including Sam Smith’s new one, here thankfully entitled “Writing’s On the Wall” instead of shoehorning “Spectre” into a chorus). So we present our 007 Playlist — all Bond themes reimagined for the better, be it as cocktail jazz, via a sample or (in the case of Blondie) a rejected theme song for “For Your Eyes Only.”
READ: Everything James Bond
You Can (Kind of) Own the Gadgets of James Bond (Note: Gear Patrol has several worthy Bond articles this month)
And everything non-Bond happening this month: Speaking of storied British traditions, Queen celebrates the 40th anniversary of “Bohemian Rhapsody” with A Night at the Odeon, a concert new to DVD/CD that highlights the song’s live debut in 1975 (Nov. 20) ... Call in sick: Call of Duty: Black Ops III arrives today (Nov. 6), Fallout 4 next week (Nov. 10) and Star Wars: Battlefront soon after (Nov. 17) ... The lost home recordings of Kurt Cobain come to light in Montage of Heck (Nov. 13) ... Streaming fans can add Marvel’s Jessica Jones and the Philip K. Dick adaptation The Man in the High Castle to their Netflix and Amazon Prime queues (Nov. 20) ... An excuse to get out of the house and leave the fam behind: The Night Before is your Seth Rogen stoner holiday film of choice (Nov. 20).