This week I’ve had a great deal of Elba on my mind. We start with the James Bond novel franchise author, Anthony Horowitz, who has described the current incarnation of the suave British spy as “weak” adding that Skyfall was his least favourite of the entire film series. Talking to the British Daily Mail, Horowitz did commend Daniel Craig, calling him “terrific”, and said he admired the 2006’s Casino Royale but has had very little love for the follow ups.
“Quantum of Solace just went wrong. Skyfall is my least favourite. I know it is heresy to say so, but it is the one Bond film I have never liked…Bond is weak in it (Skyfall). He has doubts. That’s not Bond.”
“…the villain wins. The villain sets out to kill M. The film finishes with the villain killing M. So why have I watched it? And if you have to protect the head of MI6 from a madman, do you take her to a Scottish farmhouse with no weapons? And tell your bad guy where you are, so he will arrive with six people to kill her? … It’s that sort of thing that made me angry.”
Horowitz went on to express unease at the prospects for the upcoming Spectre:
“I’m looking at the trailer and I am seeing a photograph of Bond’s family. The mum and the dad are in there and their faces are missing because the picture has been burned in a fire. This is going to be to do with his family background, and I know the fans are all terribly excited to know more, but I’m saying, ‘Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know about his doubts, his insecurities or weaknesses. I just want to see him act, kill, win.”
I totally understand this authors sentiments. Whilst Skyfall passes as an excellent thriller it isn’t a very good “Bond” film. Bond comes with years of history and a sacrosanct schematic that Matthew Vaughn pays homage to in his Kingsman movie but the series has been veering of the traditional path and this point becomes glaring apparent in the most recent Bond film. I like and not love Bond so these developments don’t bother me as much as they do Horowitz but Batman I do love and I was vexed by the Dark Knight Rises and the damn John Blake so I feel you Horowitz. As for Spectre, I have no doubt it will be good feature film but will it be a good Bond film? That is the question.
I did say I had Elba on my mind: In the same interview where Anthony Horowitz (more like Horowitz on my mind) moaned about the state of Bond films, he also touched on the issue of whether a black actor should be cast as Bond. Now I haven’t been campaigning for a black actor to play bond but I do very much fancy Idris Elba to lay his hands on a PP9. Horowitz however has expressed doubts as to Elba’s competence for the role. He feels “Elba is a bit too rough to play Bond“. Racist? He goes on to add “it’s not a colour issue”. Is that the “I’m not racist but…” move? Horowitz basically feels Elba is too “street” for a character that requires some level of debonair. Maybe he’s worried Elba will play Bond like Stringer Bell. The author goes on to kind off play the “but I have black friends” card by suggesting black actor Adrian Lester as a better fit.
Horowitz subsequently apologized his remarks about Elba:
“I’m really sorry my comments about Idris Elba have caused offense. That wasn’t my intention … I was asked in my interview if Idris Elba would make a good James Bond. In the article I expressed the opinion that to my mind Adrian Lester would be a better choice but I’m a writer not a casting director so what do I know?” Fair enough I guess. Horowitz concluded: “Clumsily, I chose the word ‘street’ as Elba’s gritty portrayal of DCI John Luther was in my mind but I admit it was a poor choice of word. I am mortified to have caused offense.”
Seeing as its 2015, Elba responded via his Instagram page. Next to a screen grab of the Daily Mail article he had: “Always keep smiling!! It takes no energy and never hurts! Learned that from the Street!! #septemberstillloveyou.”
As far as the casting of the next Bond goes, if a better fit than Elba gets it (And like porn we’ll only know when we see it) I’ll be cool. If someone I deem unfit gets cast over Elba, I will be very unhappy. The man wants it and he’s got the pedigree and all, much more pedigree any other Bond actors had in my opinion. I sit down now and think of the possible candidates and no one comes to mind but of course Craig wasn’t at the top of many list 10 years ago (damn it’s been 10 years already?) and he’s been a great bond.
This week the Venice film festival featured the first in house film production from Netflix, Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation. Fukunaga’s film has a good dose of Ghana in it including the half Ghanaian Elba (you’re damn right we’re claiming him) who plays a somewhat darkly comic and abhorrent commandant leading a militia of child soldiers. Beasts of No Nation was filmed in Ghana and going by the trailer footage, Fukunaga seems to have gotten the most out of his location despite the next to zero film infrastructure down here. He’s gunning for gold and so is Elba who is heading for a mammoth year. I’ll dig into the film when it comes out and you can check out the trailer at the end of this post.
When Beasts of No Nation is commercially released in October, it will immediately be available in selected cinemas and the Netflix home entertainment service – simultaneous distribution it’s called. Is this the future of film distribution and should GH cinema be taking a cue? Just like the trends in TV you get the sense audiences also want to choose when and where they see their films and in the grand scheme of things that choice may not be such a bad thing but you know damn well the traditional distributors and cinema chains are having none of this. They would prefer films had a solid theatrical run before video releases but we all know the large multiplexes rely large audience and snack sales to make money but this isn’t Jurassic World we’re talking about, it is the 6 million dollar Beasts of No Nation for heaven’s sake. Fukunaga’s film was never going to be drawing crowds.
Netflix finds itself in an interesting position. Earlier this year at Cannes, French reporters accused Ted Sarandos, head of content at Netflix, of being part of an attempt to destroy Europe’s film economy by drawing potential audiences away from their local cinemas. There is some weight to this sentiment. If the indie directors with minimal revenue ambitions fuelling indie cinemas begin to find some prudency in online releases, this will invariably hurt the smaller cinema chains that normally run with the less glamorous offerings. Netflix’s headaches continue though as they also have to contend with the larger cinema chains that are feeling undermined by the break in protocol and wary of a precedent being set. Some of these chains (Cinemark, Regal and AMC) are being all petty and retaliating by refusing to screen Beasts of No Nation.
Netflix is becoming such a force the shift to VOD releases is almost inevitable. Whilst this won’t hurt the bigger cinema brands seeing as the major studios will continue with traditional distribution, the smaller cinema chains do have cause for concern. Shirley Frimpong-Manso has her films on VOD right now but what happens if she decides to shift to exclusively online releases? Does Silverbird suffer as far as GH content is concerned or will they just roll on with the comic book films? It will be interesting to see how this dynamic unravels over the years and as with most things, balance is key and I hope some stability between home and cinema viewing arises.
This week I posted a feature on Ghanaian biopics along with reviews for the enigmatic The Falling and Agent 47 and oh, the GH dance flick 14:32. Check them out and give the blog a follow while you’re at it.