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Box Office Rap: Spectre and Daniel Craig’s Straight Talk

The sentiment of what Daniel Craig is saying is healthy and should become the norm for actor interviews.

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Box Office Rap: Spectre and Daniel Craig’s Straight Talk
Photo: Columbia Pictures

In September 2014, Miles Teller gave an interview to W magazine explaining his frustrations with the Divergent franchise: “I didn’t have an interesting part, and I’d taken the film for business reasons.” But just a day after the story ran, Teller offered an explanation to the Los Angeles Times, claiming that “when he spoke of the ’business,’ he said he was referring to things like working with costar Shailene Woodley, playing a villain, and participating in a movie that would translate internationally.” Teller’s immediate rescind of his own words reveals one of Hollywood’s long-unspoken rules: If you’re making money, especially if it’s from a high-end studio movie, you don’t get to bitch about it.

Over the past month, Daniel Craig has been all too happy to shatter this rule in several interviews regarding his disinterest in continuing to play James Bond, a character he’s labeled a “misogynist,” admitted there’s “nothing” he’s good for on a day-to-day basis, and advised viewers to “not talk these films up as some kind of life-changing experience.” With Sam Mendes’s Spectre already released internationally and set to hit North American screens this Friday, it’s an unusual, even unprecedented, time for the actor to be biting the billion-dollar hand that feeds him.

In an April 2014 interview for the Telegraph, Pierce Brosnan said that he “was never good enough” as Bond and that watching his performances now gives him “a horrible feeling,” but these comments came more than a decade following his last Bond film. Moreover, Brosnan whips himself for not living up to the mythology. Conversely, Craig suggests the mythology has been flawed or, worse, problematic all along.

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Craig’s refusal to play ball with press tours raises imperative questions about the roles of actors as cogs in the studio marketing machine and who the interviews actually serve. For example, when Craig told Time Out London that he’d rather slash his wrists than play Bond again, the response on the part of readers was largely negative, with commenters on Time Out’s Facebook page advising Craig to keep quiet and play the role, or, even stranger, claiming he’s out of touch and ungrateful for having received a large payday.

Beefs with actors badmouthing roles or franchises sound reasonable coming from studios, but less so from consumers. By suggesting Craig is somehow betraying 007 by speaking honestly about his perceptions, audiences implicitly demand to be continually lied to, as if the realization that one shouldn’t lose their shit over the release of a film is, well, a revelation that needs arriving at in the first place. That’s the end goal of franchise devotion for studios, where the bottom lines of czars correlate with the desires of citizens, desperate to suckle the franchise teat yet another time.

But while Craig’s comments are disruptive and irregular, they’re hardly revolutionary. In fact, they’ve been somewhat contradictory. In his October 7 interview with Time Out London, Craig stated, when asked if Bond was a dinosaur, that Bond has “to walk a thin line. I think it’s okay for him—not to be misogynistic, that’s too strong a word—to find women a little difficult, shall we say?” In an October 23 interview with the Red Bulletin, Craig seems to have changed his mind, saying, “Let’s not forget that he’s actually a misogynist. A lot of women are drawn to him chiefly because he embodies a certain kind of danger and never sticks around for too long.” Craig’s initial reluctance to call Bond a misogynist dissipates by the later interview, though the actor makes no mention of his earlier reluctance. Furthermore, Craig’s claim refutes his statement in an Esquire interview that “it’s not the job of an actor to judge your character.” As a matter of fact, Craig seems to have done just that.

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Ultimately, as much as one might like to champion Craig’s honesty as a brutal blow to franchise logic, the sum result is less caustic than specious in its wavering convictions regarding Craig’s own role in propagating further iterations of a historically sexist character. Craig knows, perhaps even more than he lets on, that there’s an inherent friction between himself as an actor/artist and becoming the poster boy for a franchise notorious for its product placement and role in haute-couture fashion statements.

But Craig’s guilt doesn’t negate his choice to lock arms with the beast; making corporate art is perhaps a necessary evil, but an evil nonetheless. The dilemma isn’t new. Brian de Palma famously said he intended to alternate between making a film for the system and one for himself. Craig, though, doesn’t need to shut up: He needs to speak out more. The sentiment of what he’s saying—refusing to bow before the Hollywood altar—is healthy and should become the norm for actor interviews, where sanity, perspective, and thoughtful discussion can prevail over a cultish mania for brand allegiances.

Spectre broke box-office records this past week across the world, almost doubling Skyfall’s haul in the U.K. alone over an identical period in 2012. North American numbers should see a spike as well, but nowhere near doubling the prior film’s $88 million opening weekend, which was already the largest in franchise history. A 25% uptick is more likely, landing Spectre a new franchise opening-weekend high with $110 million.

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Watch: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Gets Teaser Trailer

When it rains, it pours.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Photo: Columbia Pictures

When it rains, it pours. Four days after Quentin Tarantino once more laid into John Ford in a piece written for his Beverly Cinema website that saw the filmmaker referring to Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon as Tie a Yellow Ribbon, and two days after Columbia Pictures released poster art for QT’s ninth feature that wasn’t exactly of the highest order, the studio has released a teaser for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The film was announced early last year, with Tarantino describing it as “a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood.”

Set on the eve of the Manson family murders, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they try to get involved in the film industry. The film also stars Margot Robbie as actress Sharon Tate, the late Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, and Bruce Dern in a part originally intended for the late Burt Reynolds.

See the teaser below:

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Scf8nIJCvs4

Columbia Pictures will release Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on July 26.

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Watch the Stranger Things 3 Trailer, and to the Tune of Mötley Crüe and the Who

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence.

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Stranger Things 3
Photo: Netflix

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence. On Friday, Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt, a biopic about Mötley Crüe’s rise to fame, drops on Netflix. Today, the streaming service has released the trailer for the third season of Stranger Things. The clip opens with the strains of Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home,” all the better to underline that the peace and quiet that returned to the fictional rural town of Hawkins, Indiana at the end of the show’s second season is just waiting to be upset again.

Little is known about the plot of the new season, and the trailer keeps things pretty vague, though the Duffer Brothers have suggested that the storyline will take place a year after the events of the last season—duh, we know when “Home Sweet Home” came out—and focus on the main characters’ puberty pangs. That said, according to Reddit sleuths who’ve obsessed over such details as the nuances of the new season’s poster art, it looks like Max and company are going to have to contend with demon rats no doubt released from the Upside Down.

See below for the new season’s trailer:

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEG3bmU_WaI

Stranger Things 3 premieres globally on July 4.

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Who Killed My Father Is Heartbreaking but Prone to Pat Sociological Analysis

Édouard Louis’s latest is strong as a portrait of a family unable to communicate through anything but volatile, toxic outbursts.

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Who Killed My Father

Author Édouard Louis’s father has been an important figure in each of his previous works, even when he’s never seen or mostly at the periphery (as in The History of Violence). With his latest, Who Killed My Father, Louis finally turns to directly examining his most important, damaged relationship. Both in his previous books and interviews, Louis has repeatedly acknowledged this broken relationship, largely stemming from the author’s open homosexuality. Alongside this, Louis’s prior works have circled around a number of themes to which he returns here: the French political and working classes, the small-town prejudices that surrounded his upbringing and drove a closeted homosexual boy to escape to more cosmopolitan Paris, and the role of state power in producing social and physical illness.

With Who Killed My Father, Louis invites inevitable comparisons to Abdellah Taïa, another talented French writer who’s also gay and largely estranged from his place of origin, and also primarily an autobiographical novelist. Like Louis, Taïa incorporates his complicated relationship with a parent into several of his books. Taïa also connects that relationship, his writing, and his experience with the society he left behind in Morocco and the one he found in France. But what distinguishes his writing in, for example, Infidels or Salvation Army from that of Édouard Louis in Who Killed My Father is a strong sense of meaning. Taïa incorporates his relationship with his mother, M’Barka, to convey something more meaningful and developed.

Louis begins down this same road before clumsily inserting a political tract at the end of Who Killed My Father that doesn’t knit as effortlessly with parts one and two. The book situates Louis’s relationship with his father front and center as compared to his previous work. It’s clear that he’s exposing the painfulness of their relationship for the purpose of speaking about political power and its physical and social toll on those who don’t possess it, but Who Killed My Father stumbles in conveying its message adequately.

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Louis’s account of his father’s suffering and violence toward those around him is both painful and sharp. Who Killed My Father is strongest when Louis is demonstrating his father’s most private acts of kindness, as when the father gives Louis a copy of Titanic for his birthday after trying to convince him to ask for a more “masculine” gift. After Louis realizes that his carefully planned tribute to the pop band Aqua at a family dinner has embarrassed his father, the man reassures Louis that “it’s nothing.” In the book’s first and strongest part, Louis expounds not only on the relationship with his father, but also excavates what might have made his father the man he grew up with. At one point, he recounts finding a photograph of his father in women’s clothes—undoubtedly some adolescent joke, but also inconceivable from the man who insisted to his son that men should never act like girls.

Regrettably, part one ends with a trite conclusion that says everything and nothing at the same time. In part two, the story attempts to braid together all the malignant threads of Louis’s family narrative. Louis recalls igniting a violent outburst between his father and older brother as a result of his mother shaming him for acting too much like a girl (“faggot” is what some others in the neighborhood more precisely call him). The insinuation hurts and angers him so much that he betrays his mother’s confidence on another family secret, setting loose a new wave of violence. Part two is short and important to moving Who Killed My Father toward some wider evaluation of the questions Louis begins the book with, but it ultimately fails to find its footing by pivoting in part three to an unearned polemic against the political classes.

Who Killed My Father is strong as a portrait of a family unable to communicate (except in brief moments of tenderness) through anything but volatile, toxic outbursts, but the book at its weakest when trying to ham-handedly force this narrative into some broad theorizing about power and society and structural violence. Part one aligned beautifully with a narrative of meaning more comparable to Taïa at his best. Unfortunately, the story quickly falls apart when Jacques Chirac is indicted for destroying Louis’s father’s body through changes in health care coverage. It’s not that the questions Louis ends with aren’t necessary and important ones; it’s that there’s so little threading the narrative together into anything cohesive. What was the point of the first two-thirds of the book? His father was cruel, occasionally loving, but never mind because the state is killing him? The life of the poor is one of abject powerlessness against an unremittingly powerful and callous “ruling class”?

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Louis deserves credit for the attempt to tie it all together into some grander commentary on the political class and its ambivalence, but the conclusion is simultaneously glib and condescending. Perhaps Louis didn’t intend it, but the book’s conclusion drains away responsibility for the cruelty and bigotry of those like his father, and patronizes them as with a quick How could we expect any better of the noble, working poor? Is it the state’s or the ruling class’s subjugation of his father’s body that’s somehow also responsible for his inability to sympathize with gays or immigrants? Of course, the poor are subjugated by the rich and Louis has written more meaningfully about the implications of that relationship elsewhere. But in Who Killed My Father, he inadvertently demonstrates that the answer isn’t to sanctify them any more than it is to demonize them.

Édouard Louis’s Who Killed My Father is now available from New Directions.

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