Lazy Ass

Every time I think I’m working too hard, I read a blog post like this from Elizabeth Lowell that makes me feel like a lazy ass by comparison. Look how many books she’s written. She could fill the shelves of a small bookstore by herself…and she writes under so many names, no one would know the stock came from just one author.

The Name is Geek, Big Geek

The theme song for CASINO ROYALE is so bad, that it made me long for the good old days of Shirley Bassey.  Here’s my ranking of the Bond songs…

1. Goldfinger (Shirley Bassey)
2. Live and Let Die (Paul McCartney)
3. Tomorrow Never Dies (KD Lang) The original intended opening theme song. It played over the end credits and is referenced throughout the score
4. Diamonds Are Forever (Shirley Bassey)
5. Thunderball (Tom Jones)
6. Goldeneye (Tina Turner)
7. Nobody Does It Better (The Spy Who Loved Me) (Carly Simon)
8. A View to a Kill (Duran Duran)
9. For Your Eyes Only (Sheena Easton)
10. You Only Live Twice (Nancy Sinatra)
11. We Have All The Time in the World (Louis Armstrong) (This technically wasn’t a theme song…but it plays a big role in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)
11. Tomorrow Never Dies (Sheryl Crow)

(from this point on, they are all pretty bad, so it’s hard to rank them)

12. Die Another Day (Madonna)
13. From Russia, With Love (Matt Munro)
14. You Know My Name (Casino Royale) (Chris Cornell)
15. Man With The Golden Gun (Lulu) (As bad as this song is, it’s one of my guilty pleasures anyway…it’s so incredibly cheesy that it’s irresistable…"love is required, whenever he’s hired, it comes just before the kiillllll…")
16. Never Say Never Again (Lani Hall)
17. License To Kill (Gladys Knight)
18. The Living Daylights (Ah-ha)
19. The World Is Not Enough  (Garbage)
20. All Time High (Octopussy) (Rita Coolidge)
21. Moonraker (Shirley Bassey)

UPDATE: A bigger geek than me has edited the original TOMORROW NEVER DIES theme (KD Lang’s SURRENDER) into the movie’s main title sequence so we can see how it might have been if the producers stuck with it instead of going with Sheryl Crow. Thanks to William Simon for the link.

Someone else with way too much time on their hands put Alice Cooper’s rejected attempt a MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN theme (released on his "Muscle of Love" album) onto the main titles of  THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN.

Ink and Celluloid Dreams Collide

There’s a symbiotic relationship between books and films. The movie business likes to use books for content and cut their risks by relying on pre-sold characters and stories. The book biz likes to use movies as big-budget commercials for their products and piggyback on the huge promotional effort that surrounds new films and TV shows. But as the December issue of Moving Pictures magazine points out, there are some dangers.  In one article, headlined "Sin or Synergy," the magazine discusses the recent surge in alliances between publishers and studios…many of whom are owned by the same parent companies. But that doesn’t guarantee hits…for either studios or booksellers.

Maria Campbell, a highly regarded book scout for Warner Brothers, believes "good movies are made because people are passionate about them and have a vision. Alliances can create conversations, but they can’t create good movies.

Ron Bernstein, head of the West Coast Book Department at ICM shares Campbell’s caution. "Books will always be part of the landscape, but it’s certainly not the glory days. With movies based on video games, remakes and TV series, the extraordinary hold that the printed word had on movies is not what it once was."

It works the other way, too. Books based on movies — also known as tie-ins and novelizations — aren’t the booming business they once were, either.  The short window between the theatrical release of a movie and it’s availability in DVD has cut down on the need to buy a tie-in novel to re-live the movie experience. Why re-live it when you can own it?

In an article headlined "Novelization is a Nasty Word," the magazine also explores the publishing industry’s continuing practice of turning movies into books. Among the authors they interview is Max Allan Collins, who they dub the "Leonardo da Vinci of pop culture fiction,"  co-founder (with yours truly) of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers. "Novelization is an unfortunate term that tends to diminish the process or, anyway, the end result," Max told them.

Max and Greg Cox do a good job describing in the article the enormous obstacles confronting writers of novelizations…including ever-changing scripts, insanely short deadlines (two weeks to three months) and bad pay. Not to mention lack of respect.

Cox points out [that] novelizers almost never get to see the movie in advance. All they have to work with is an early draft of the script.

"If you’re lucky," he says, "you get a stack of still photos and maybe a copy of the movie trailer. "

But when a novelization scores, it can score big. Max’s adaptation of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN sold over a million copies in the U.S. alone.  And when a movie does well, the book it was based on reaps the benefits — according to the magazine, the tie-in reprint of the DA VINCI CODE, with Tom Hanks on the cover, sold five million copies.

Regardless of the potential for these partnerships, the business still remains driven by agents, writers, and studio execs who have to read the material and get excited by it. As Maria Campbell observes,  "it takes a village to publish a book. It takes a continent to make a movie."

Casino Royale…Again

I took my wife to see CASINO ROYALE today and I liked it a lot better than I did the first time. I have no idea why…perhaps it had something to do with the audience, which was a lot more enthusiastic and reactive than the audience I saw it with before.

UPDATE: My friend Javi rates the Bonds. I don’t necessarily agree with his line-up, but I love his commentary.

18. a view to a kill – everyone in this film looks like they are a hundred and thirty seven years old and dying of rickets.

My ranking? My favorite Bonds are Sean Connery, Daniel Craig, Pierce Brosnan, Timothy Dalton, George Lazenby and Roger Moore (though Roger had his moments). But my ranking of portrayals doesn’t match how I would order the films. Each has its unique pleasures. It would probably go something like this:

1. Goldfinger

2. From Russia, With Love

3. You Only Live Twice

4. Casino Royale

5. Tomorrow Never Dies

6.  Dr. No

7. The Spy Who Loved Me

8. The Living Daylights

9. Never Say Never Again

10. Thunderball

11. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

12.  Goldeneye

13.  Diamonds Are Forever

14.  Die Another Day

15.  For Your Eyes Only

16.  The World is Not Enough

17. Live and Let Die

18. License to Kill

19. Octopussy

20. Man with the Golden Gun

21. Moonraker

22. A View to a Kill

Control vs. Kaos

Espionage writer Raelynn Hillhouse and her intelligence sources are marveling at the ineptitude of the spies who murdered former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko.

few days ago an expert in the field called the spies’ tradecraft "really amateur hour."   With recent the recent developments, she wrote me back, "This has gone well past the Austin Powers level to Get Smart.   And when they finally trace it back to the FSB First Chief Directorate’s offices, it will be a cinch for the Inspector Clouseau Award."

There must be easier… and certainly more subtle…ways to kill a man than irradiating half of London and two British Airways jets.

Dark Times for Screenwriters?

Paul Guyot pointed me to Nikki Finke’s column in the LA Weekly. She says that it’s bleak for feature film  screenwriters these days:

“These jobs,” said the admittedly depressed literary agent, “just
disappeared.” A manager joins the pity party and describes a litany of
givebacks by his scribbling clients: free treatments, free rewrites,
free polishes and/or free script-doctoring — all done with the hollow
hope that the studio will give these schmucks with Underwoods a paying
gig sooner rather than never. As for those sparse scribes offered real
pay for projects, they’re buckling under studio demands by cutting
their usual and customary by 30 percent. “It’s the bewildering nature
of the business right now that nobody has a quote. It’s a quote-free
system,” an agent describes.

In a word, it stinks out there for
screenwriters, worse even than the fetid stench of the usual shit flung
at them in previous years. These aren’t wannabes, either. These are
some of the top names in the biz. “I am fucking terrified,” a major
scribe tells me about his year of not getting any work. “I can’t
believe my career is ending like this.”

It’s no wonder so many of them are running to television and narrowing the opportunities even further for TV scribes…