Posts tagged ‘James Bond’


Secret “Asian” man (with apologies to Tak Toyoshima)

11.10.2017


Matt Clark

Above: Driving a silver Aston Martin. I’m citing the Official Secrets Act when I say I may or may not be on the tail of Auric Goldfinger.

Oh dear, I’ve been outed. I’m a spy. Actually, Walter Matthau and I prefer ‘agent’.
   You can read between the lines in this New York Times piece about Dr Jian Yang, MP.
   I’ve already gone into what I think of the Yang situation on Twitter but if you scroll down, you’ll see Raymond Huo, MP is tarred with the same brush.
   It’s the sort of reporting that makes me wonder, especially since people like me contribute to Duncan Garner’s ‘nightmarish glimpse’ of Aotearoa.

[Prof Anne-Marie Brady of the University of Canterbury] said the Chinese-language media in New Zealand was subject to extreme censorship, and accused both Mr. Yang and Raymond Huo, an ethnic Chinese lawmaker from the center-left Labour Party, of being subject to influence by the Chinese Embassy and community organizations it used as front groups to push the country’s agenda.
   Mr. Huo strongly denied any “insinuations against his character,” saying his connections with Chinese groups and appearances at their events were just part of being an effective lawmaker.

And:

Despite the criticism, Mr. Yang has continued to appear alongside Wang Lutong, China’s ambassador to New Zealand, at public events, including for China’s National Day celebrations this week, when he posed for photos with the ambassador and a Chinese military attaché.

   I wound up at three events where the Chinese ambassador, HE Wang Lutong, was also invited. This makes me a spy, I mean, agent.
   I even shook hands with him. This means my loyalty to New Zealand should be questioned.
   I ran for mayor twice, which must be a sure sign that Beijing is making a power-play at the local level.
   You all should have seen it coming.
   My Omega watch, the ease with which I can test-drive Aston Martins, and the fact I know how to tie a bow tie to match my dinner suit.
   The faux Edinburgh accent that I can bring out at any time with the words, ‘There can be only one,’ and ‘We shail into hishtory!’
   Helming a fashion magazine and printing on Matt paper, that’s another clue. We had a stylist whose name was Illya K. I don’t always work Solo. Sometimes I call on Ms Gale or Ms Purdy.
   Jian Yang and I have the same initials, which should really ring alarm bells.
   Clearly this all makes me a spy. I mean, agent.
   Never mind I grew up in a household where my paternal grandfather served under General Chiang Kai-shek and he and my Dad were Kuomintang members. Dad was ready to 反工 and fight back the communists if called up.
   Never mind that I was extremely critical when New Zealanders were roughed up by our cops when a Chinese bigwig came out from Beijing in the 1990s.
   Never mind that I have been schooled here, contributed to New Zealand society, and flown our flag high in the industries I’ve worked in.
   All Chinese New Zealanders, it seems, are still subject to suspicion and fears of the yellow peril in 2017, no matter how much you put in to the country you love.
   We might think, ‘That’s not as bad as the White Australia policy,’ and it isn’t. We don’t risk deportation. But we do read these stories where there’s plenty of nudge-nudge wink-wink going on and you wonder if there’s the same underlying motive.
   All you need to do is have a particular skin colour and support your community, risking that the host has invited Communist Party bigwigs.
   Those of us who are here now don’t really bear grudges against what happened in the 1940s. We have our views, but that doesn’t stop us from getting on with life. And that means we will be seen with people whose political opinions differ from ours.
   Sound familiar? That’s no different to anyone else here. It’s not exactly difficult to be in the same room as a German New Zealander or a Japanese New Zealander in 2017. A leftie won’t find it hard to be in the same room as a rightie.
   So I’ll keep turning up to community events, thank you, without that casting any shadow over my character or my loyalty.
   A person in this country is innocent till proved guilty. We should hold all New Zealanders to the same standard, regardless of ethnicity. This is part of what being a Kiwi is about, and this is ideal is one of the many reasons I love this country. If the outcry in the wake of Garner’s Fairfax Press opinion is any indication, most of us adhere to this, and exhibit it.
   Therefore, I don’t have a problem with Prof Brady or anyone interviewed for the piece—it’s the way their quotes were used to make me question where race relations in our neck of the woods is heading.
   But until he’s proved guilty, I’m going to reserve making any judgement of Dr Yang. The New York Times and any foreign media reporting on or operating here should know better, too.

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Posted in China, culture, humour, media, New Zealand, politics, publishing | 2 Comments »


John Cleese is wrong about humour

26.06.2014

Has John Cleese become embittered?
   He suggests that the Bond films after Die Another Day (his second and final) were humourless because the producers wanted to pursue Asian audiences. Humour, he says, was out.
   ‘Also the big money was coming from Asia, from the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, where the audiences go to watch the action sequences, and that’s why in my opinion the action sequences go on for too long, and it’s a fundamental flaw.’ And, ‘The audiences in Asia are not going for the subtle British humour or the class jokes.’
   I say bollocks.
   It’s well known that with Casino Royale, the producers went back to Fleming, and rebooted the series. Quite rightly, too, when the films had drifted into science fiction, with an invisible car and, Lee Tamahori’s nadir, a CGI sequence where Pierce Brosnan kite-surfed a tsunami.



   As to Asia—always a curious word, since we are talking 3·7 milliard people who cannot be generalized—does no one remember the groundswell of interest around the filming of You Only Live Twice? Bond was big in Asia long before 2006.
   If Cleese specifically means China, all the Bonds were well received in Chinese-populated places before the Bamboo Curtain came down: Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, etc. So it’s a cinch that mainland Chinese would like it, too. And they have embraced Bond and its Britishness.
   Or, as most Britons, he meant south Asia. I’ve only been to India, but there’s such a lasting legacy of the colonial days that many in the region get British humour. Again, too, Octopussy’s Indian location filming saw a huge love for all things Bond.
   The structure of Chinese humour is very similar to that of British humour, though you would have to be bilingual to appreciate this. But even monolinguists should be able to pick up the timing and pacing of Chinese humour to know that British humour would be appreciated.
   They may not be marketed as such in the occident, but a lot of the Jackie Chan films are comedies. Police Story is littered, in the original dialogue, with comedic lines.
   Class humour? Again present in a lot of Asia.
   So he’s well off in his estimation. If anything, it’s the casting of Americans to appease that market that seems dreadfully forced (Halle Berry, Denise Richards, Teri Hatcher).
   Hands up all those who would have preferred to see Monica Bellucci as Paris Carver instead of Teri.
   And now we have some in the media, no doubt having forgotten the humorous moments in the three Daniel Craig-era Bonds, writing to agree with, or to appease, Cleese.
   After all, who knows more about humour than one of the Monty Python creators? We must agree if we are to show that we, too, understand humour.
   Maybe others don’t have that same British sensibility or enjoy the subtlety. Skyfall’s quips were more evident than in the earlier Craig outings, though they were still fun lines, ‘A gun and a radio, not exactly Christmas’; ‘Health and safety, carry on.’ Not quite Roger Moore then.
   Nevertheless, in the Craig era, M gets frustrated that Bond kills all the leads in Quantum of Solace; Bond takes a hotel patron’s Range Rover Sport in the Bahamas, crashes it against a fence, and is recognized later in the bar by the owner in Casino Royale. Good humour is so often between the lines, things where you have to process them briefly, or communicated sometimes through an expression.
   British humour need not always be Benny Hill or Carry on.
   Humour, particularly in the southern parts of China, tends to give the reaction of: did I just get complimented or insulted?
   Yet few seemed to mind that the humour in most of Brosnan’s era to be very Americanized, with the exception of Goldeneye. And the stories themselves, where Bond became a caricature, and, frankly, a waste of a decent leading man, were two-dimensional: Brosnan with two machine guns in the finalé of Tomorrow Never Dies! Just like in a John Woo film! And we are to believe that was more “British”, in an interminable action sequence? If it weren’t for Jonathan Pryce and Toby Stephens camping up their roles, those outings would be far less Bondian.
   Once again, it demonstrates the short memories of the cinemagoing public—or, for that matter, that of a very remarkable and talented actor and writer.
   And having hit their stride now, the Bond producers are laughing all the way to the bank.

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A tribute to Lewis Collins: the top five reasons he was awesome

28.11.2013

A small tribute to actor Lewis Collins on his passing earlier this week (originally published in Lucire Men).

Lewis Collins

1. The cars
The Triumph Dolomite Sprint Lewis Collins’ character, William Andrew Philip Bodie (he was a ‘regal-looking baby’) had in The Professionals had more power than Doyle’s TR7. And his Capris were far cooler. So cool that eventually, even Doyle had to follow suit and get one to replace his Escort RS2000. (In real life: the RS2000 was stolen.)

2. The clothes
In his roles, Bodie was well dressed in The Professionals, sharp suits in the first season contrasting Doyle’s casual look. As Cmdr Peter Skellen in Ian Sharp’s Who Dares Wins, Collins showed that he could wear well tailored clothes as well as an SAS uniform exceptionally well. In one of the last appearances I saw him in, the German series Blaues Blut (which was created by The Professionals’ Brian Clemens), Lew showed he could pull off a bowler hat.

3. The hair
Not having a bubble cut is a good thing.

4. The machismo
After playing an SAS commander in Who Dares Wins, Lewis Collins signed up and passed the entrance tests, but was rejected for being too famous. He auditioned for James Bond but was deemed ‘too aggressive’. In a pub brawl, you’d want Lew, and not Ross Kemp, on your side.

5. The twinkle
Lewis Collins had a twinkle in his eye in everything he did, whether it was a bit-part in The New Avengers (where he teamed up with Martin Shaw) or spoofing his character on The Freddie Starr Show. That’s what we’ll miss the most.

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My John Barry top 10: ready when you are, J. B.

01.02.2011

What are my top 10 John Barry picks? The man had done such a variety of compositions that it’s hard to pick them out without qualifying a top 10 with genres. But for me, these stick in my mind as being the most significant, often because they are tied to important moments in my life.

Somewhere in TimeTheme from Somewhere in Time
This moved me so much that I played it at my Mum’s funeral. I wrote lyrics to it before the Michael Crawford version emerged. Barry said he received more mail about his work on Somewhere in Time than anything else. It’s not hard to see why. It was tied to the passing of his parents and the theme remains the most haunting and emotional tune he wrote in his career.

The PersuadersTheme from The Persuaders
You can’t divorce the feeling of running around the Riviera from the hipness of Barry’s theme—I used to bomb along the Moyenne Corniche with the theme going, reliving Danny and Brett’s adventures.

Annie Ross‘A Lot of Living to Do’
Not a Barry composition, but he produced an album for Annie Ross at Ember. It’s the arrangement and Johnny Spence’s orchestra’s performance that lifted this song for me, and it never fails to get me in a good mood.

OHMSSOn Her Majesty’s Secret Service
While many 007 aficionados point to Goldfinger, for me, it was the lush orchestral arrangements in OHMSS that stand out to make it John Barry’s finest James Bond score. The theme is more Bondian than anything else he did, in my opinion, and lent the film more richness than its lead actor, a young George Lazenby, was then able to convey. ‘We Have All the Time in the World’ nearly deserves its own entry, especially the string-heavy instrumental version played after the death of Tracy in the film, but much of the incidental music just has vistas of Swiss mountains somehow built in. You can’t help but see those images in your head when tracks such as ‘Journey to Blofeld’s Hideaway’ and ‘Attack on Piz Gloria’ are played.

ChaplinChaplin
The 1990s were the last active decade for Barry, if you don’t count Playing by Heart and Enigma at the turn of the century, and with Chaplin, his last collaboration with director Richard Attenborough, a mature Barry is able to reflect on the passing of time as well as that of Charlie’s life. The score is moving, more so in my opinion than his Oscar-winning Out of Africa or Dances with Wolves (the latter, I thought, was overrated) as it takes the action from London slums to Charlie receiving an Academy Award in 1972.

Theme from Eleanor and Franklin
This was a TV-movie about the First Family, but its theme still has a sense of occasion and “American-ness” to it. I always thought if I ever chose to get married, it would be a lovely theme to use. Unlike many of Barry’s grand themes, Eleanor and Franklin doesn’t have a sense of sorrow or melancholy to it, yet it gives any occasion a feeling of dignity.

Born FreeBorn Free
Deserves inclusion here, not because it was one of Barry’s greatest works (he wrote it as a Disney pastiche), but because there’s no way you can be my age and not know it. It’s a song from childhood; my late mother was called Elsa (sharing her name with the lioness); and it’s incredibly singable. Like a pastiche of a Disney song.

From Russia with LoveFrom Russia with Love
Another non-Barry theme song, but tied to Barry because of his long involvement in the James Bond films. He arranged and conducted the theme for the movie, and the Matt Monro vocal version remains one of my favourite Bond songs.

MoonrakerMoonraker
Bond purists hated Moonraker because it was the furthest Eon Productions took things from the novels of Ian Fleming, but it was blessed with a lush orchestral score from Barry. The Bonds, by this time, didn’t need to have a cutting-edge sound, and Barry himself, maturing as a musician, took a classical route toward the end of the 1970s. The theme was sung by Shirley Bassey and, in my opinion, remains one of the better ones; and Barry proved that you didn’t need heavy drumbeats, rapid rhythms, or Bee Gees-style synthesizers (cf. The Spy Who Loved Me) to make a Bond score work in 1979. The theme was rumoured to have originally been destined for Frank Sinatra to perform, but, according to Barry, ‘it just didn’t work out.’ Sadly, the masters for a lot of the work done by the French orchestra have gone, which meant when the soundtrack was reissued in 2003, it was no different to the abbreviated one that came out in 1979. Because of the low opinion many Bondophiles have of the movie, it’s unlikely to be re-recorded any time soon—though with Barry’s passing, it may finally be rediscovered as the gem that it is.

Moviola‘Moviola’, or ‘Flight over New York’ from Across the Sea of Time
A strange entry. It was understood that ‘Moviola’, which appeared in the album of the same name, was in fact Barry’s unused theme for Barbra Streisand’s The Prince of Tides. Why let it go to waste? Perhaps such a great composition deserved a cinematic airing, and Barry incorporated it into his score for the IMAX film Across the Sea of Time. I never saw the film, but it is a classic, sweeping Barry composition that us fans love, though it would be an exception in being a number that was not written for the film it appeared in. (There were elements of Zulu in Cry, the Beloved Country, but Barry defended this by saying it was based on an actual Zulu song.)

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James Bond’s Zinger

15.12.2010

Mitsubishi Zinger promo

Apart from sounding like a burger, the Mitsubishi Zinger—or, to give its full model name these days in Taiwan, the Super Zinger (not kidding)—is one of those oddball vehicles I come across when editing Autocade. It’s a minivan based on a truck chassis—in this case the first-generation Mitsubishi Challenger—and a pretty ugly one at that.
   When double-checking some details in the Autocade entry, I came across the official site. I wonder what the Broccoli family has to say about the gun-barrel and 007 imagery, and would James Bond, Chinese or otherwise, really be seen driving a naff minivan? Unless it was to carry around 007’s illegitimate children, which must number greatly by now? And will the next villain be called Auric K. F. C. Zingerburger?

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Titling Goldeneye 007

08.11.2010

This is nothing new to gamers (whose world I am not a part of—unless you count the last time I had a gaming console, which was 1984), though I found the opening sequence to the remade Goldeneye 007 game rather well done, apart from the colons. The Neuzeit typeface looks good here. As we’ve known for some time, they’ve removed Pierce Brosnan in favour of the current Bond, Daniel Craig, for the game. And many of the “official” Bond team is involved beyond actors Craig and Dame Judi Dench: Craig double Ben Cooke is the stunt coordinator, while composer David Arnold has remade the theme song, with Nicole Scherzinger replacing Tina Turner. And Craig fans like me get to hear the actor say some of the Remington Steele, I mean, Pierce Brosnan, lines.

   When you see work like this, it’s becoming far more obvious that gaming will overtake movie-making as an industry. Me: I’d still prefer to veg out to a film, even if that is heading the way of television with decreasing budgets and big producers playing things safe.

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