To paraphrase a common saying, writing about cinematography can be like dancing to architecture. But I’m going to give a shot, because it’s a travesty that Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC, CBE has been nominated for the Best Cinematography Oscar a whopping TWELVE times, and has yet to win.
With his nomination this year for his work on Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, Deakins is on a three-year streak, having also gotten the nod for Skyfall in 2013 and Prisoners in 2014. He’s been nominated for Academy Awards in two consecutive years THREE times (1997/1998, 2001/2002, 2008/2009), was once nominated twice in the same year (2008), and he’s won numerous other awards, including BAFTAs and ASC and BSC awards.
Deakins is known for his simple, naturalistic set-ups and his devotion to story over all other considerations. He likes silhouettes, fire at night, and high angles, but his shots almost never draw attention to themselves, which may be part of the reason it’s never been his year with the Academy.
He is most often associated with the Coen brothers, with whom he has worked on eleven pictures (not all Oscar-nominated). Their work has benefited greatly from his fluency with different lighting styles.
I was overwhelmed by the thought of analyzing the circumstances that have kept Deakins from the podium in the past, so I’ve chosen to spotlight briefly just a few of his amazing Oscar-nominated works. You know them, even if you’ve never heard his name. For instance…
Bond…Julian Bond…is a huge movie fanatic. When he isn’t managing the Detroit Medical Center’s social media, or hanging out at metro Detroit’s cool spots, he’s writing his blog titled — “no surprise here” — Not Quite 007. While attending University of Michigan-Dearborn, he was a feature writer forThe Michigan Journal student newspaper. Says Bond, “I’ve always been heavily into movies, and I was happy to write about them at U of M-D. The best part of that gig was interviewing a few stars including Chris Rock, Tom Cruise — post Oprah couch jumping incident — and my epic face-to-face with the awesome pro-wrestler turned actor, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.”
Sharing a last name with the most famous spy in the world has been “very interesting, to say the least,” Bond says. “All of my Dad’s family, the Bonds, were named, no joke, with the letter J. So every single one of us has gotten the ‘Are you related to the real 007?’ question throughout our lives, and we’ll never get tired of it. Back when I was in grade school, my dad actually legally added “James” to his whole name (which is really Joel), and started using that for postal addresses and even our caller ID. My friends would always get a big kick out of seeing “James Bond” popping up on their phones.”
Even before the start of filming on Skyfall (Bond 23) was in the news, of course I was asking Mr. Bond about his famous “relative.”
Who is your favorite James Bond actor, and why?
I have to go with the original Bond…Sean Connery. Pierce Brosnan is pretty good, Daniel Craig is surprisingly one of the best with his more realistic portrayal. But Connery will always take the win as favorite at the end of the day. Every time I see him in interviews or in other movies, it seems like he’s actually a real-life James Bond, 24/7.
What are your Top 5 James Bond movies?
Such a hard question and I have to cheat just a little bit.
GoldenEye is easily my favorite film of the entire series. Picture-perfect intro (and killer theme song from Tina Turner), great simple story, awesome action scenes, and some pretty good acting. I can honestly watch it over and over without getting tired of it. It barely beats out Goldfinger as my number one pick because this was the first Bond flick that I saw in the movie theaters. The rest I watched on VHS or cable TV, and thus this one holds a close place to my 007 heart.
Goldfinger and Dr. No are two of the best Bond films ever bar none. I think most fans have them on top of their list. Sean Connery is the best Bond, and these are easily the best villains of the series. They also set the high standard for all Bond films, parodies, and anything associated with the name still to this very day. Nuff’ said.
I LOVE Quantum of Solace and don’t think it’s too soon to put it on a best list because it’s SO criminally underrated. I liked it a bit better than theCasino Royale reboot because it has a lot more action and a better villain (that crazy French guy). And as weird as this sounds, because it’s the shortest Bond film in history (running at less than 2 hours instead of the usual almost 3 hour length), there’s a lot of Bond goodness in a lot less time.
Licence To Kill and The Living Daylights, likeGoldeneye, will always have a special place in my heart because they were the first Bond films I ever saw. As an ‘80s kid, I had not yet been introduced to the awesomeness known as Sean Connery. While Timothy Dalton is probably one of the least popular of all of the Bonds, I actually thought he wasn’t that bad, and can hopefully be forgiven for an ultra-corny action scene — fighting bad guys while sliding down a mountain on a violin case.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is another underrated gem. I place it slightly above the 2009Casino Royale, because of its unorthodox style and one-time only Bond, George Lazenby. It also has the most shocking ending to a Bond movie EVER, with 007 getting married (?!?) and then the infamous drive-by scene shortly after (won’t spoil it here!). I know so many friends who are Bond fans and still have never seen this movie because it doesn’t star Sean Connery and honestly looks sort of odd in comparison to other Bond films, especially with the sight of Lazenby. But all true blue fans MUST see this one here at least once. Again….a CRAZY ending.
The Bond series is also known for its villains and love interests, any favorites of those?
My favorite villain simply has to be Jaws, the tall menacing dude with steel teeth. The man just would never die. I really disliked the films that he was in, especially Moonraker (James Bond…IN SPACE!!). But he seriously almost stole the show with his crazy appearance and attempts to bite off Bond’s head.
I’m pretty sure the Bond film series is the longest running one, at 49 years and counting. Why do you think it has endured for so long?
Besides the gadgets, the girls, and the guns, the series is always fun and never takes itself too seriously. Even with the edgier series with Daniel Craig, each film still feels like an escape into a cool world of spy fantasy.
If you could have one Bond gadget, which would you choose and why?
I loved the rocket-ppowered jetpack that Bond had inThunderball. It was so freaking cool-looking, even back in the ‘60s. All of the watches and cars were always cool, but the simple design of the jetpack made it seem like it could actually be a real thing. But I also do have to give a shout-out to the villians’ gadgets as well, such as the Golden Gun fromThe Man With The Golden Gun (one shot and you’re dead!), and weirdly enough, the explosive ‘milk cans’ that the bad guy used in The Living Daylights.
With Quantum of Solace, the movie series has used the last of the original Fleming James Bond material. (Some of it got used twice!) Where do you think the series will go from here?
For the next Bond film, I was so happy to hear that Javier Bardem will be joining as the bad guy because he could easily be the best of the Craig-era bunch. For the plot and overall material, I really hope that they expand on the entire Quantum international villain group. I thought it was really cool that they had story continuity from Casino Royale to the literal beginning of Quantum. They tried to do that with the older films with the group SPECTRE and “the guy with the kitty cat” (aka Blofeld, aka the Dr. Evil-looking villain) appearing several times. Then, sadly, they dropped SPECTRE and never mentioned them again. It could be a nice touch to the series to bring back the “guy (or gal) with the kitty cat”, and the entire Quantum group, and create a cool edgier feel with him or her.
Who do you think will be James Bond when Craig moves on? An actor we know now or an unknown…?
I don’t know. Seems like the Bond series has worked because they usually go with a relative unknown. If they chose an established actor, it would distract from the series (i.e., Leonardo DiCaprio as 007). When they get someone unknown, it essentially gives a deserving actor a chance to shine, as the awesome Craig has done so far. Here’s hoping that he has a few more movies left in the tank to keep the series going strong.
Do you watch any other classic movies? What are your favorite movies from the last 10 years or so?
Some of the classic flicks that I love include westerns like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly and “new classics” like the firstStar Wars. I’m a huge fan of the first Tim Burton Batman with Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton (sorry, Dark Knight). Some of the newer films that I love happen to be James Bond-influenced: The Bourne series, with its crazy modern-day spy hijinks; Inception, whose overall style and music score reminds me strangely of Goldfinger; and recently X-Men: First Class, which to me and many others was kind of like “James Bond with Mutants.”
So Bond fans, what do you think of Mr. Bond’s favorite films in the series? Who is the best James Bond? Where do you think the series is headed?