The Sound of 007

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Adding to the list of very enjoyable documentaries – it is playing on Amazon Prime, a treat for all James Bond fans, on the occasion of the 60th Anniversary – The Sound of 007. I give it 3.5/4. The only way it could have been better – and obtained 4/4 – is if they had managed also to have an Adele interview and some scenes of her recording the song for Skyfall.

Opening with Billie Eilish performing a cappella No Time to Die: Magnetic.

Seeing the (young and sultry) Shirley Bassey belt out Goldfinger: Marvelous.

Seeing Tina Turner rework Bono’s draft for GoldenEye: Majestic.

Seeing the (young and seductive) Shirley Bassey sing Diamonds are Forever: Bondesque.

Indeed, (Dame) Shirley Bassey was among the luminaries, including (Sir) Paul McCartney (Live and Let Die), and sang – Goldfinger – in 2002, in Party at the Palace, celebrating the Golden Jubilee of (Queen) Elizabeth. In 2012, on the occasion of the Olympics in London and the 50th anniversary of James Bond, even the Queen played along!

Goldfinger is invoked most often for this “Bond-Villain” interchange, as he is lying down, strapped, with a laser perilously moving between his legs, towards him:

Do you expect me to talk?

No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die.

Or this one:

Choose your next witticism carefully Mr. Bond,  it could be your last.

I visited London in 2012 to see the Bond Exhibition at the Barbican. Of course, cars (and car chases) are central to many Bond movies, enhanced by the sound of 007. In 2005, I purchased an Aston Martin (DB7, Vantage Volante), clearly motivated by my love of Bond films.

I saw The Sound of 007 with my younger son, while the elder one, at college, a Computer Science major, elected to take the Writing for Movies course to satisfy the Freshman writing requirement, with his term paper on, yes, you guessed it, James Bond movies!☺️

I am not going to win any “Dad of the Year” awards.😏

How did I get hooked?

The first Bond movie that I saw –  my dad took me (sometime in 1976): Live and Let Die. The theme music! It has been etched in my brain since then. Loved the boat chase scene, in the Bayou, in Louisiana. It transported me – a 10-year old growing up in a middle-class family in South India – to a whole different Universe of possibilities. Sometimes, I wonder if that was a driving motivation to take academics seriously, and prepare for the IIT-JEE!

The first Bond movie that I saw when I joined IIT-Madras: The Spy Who Loved Me. Excellent pre-title skiing action sequence. I remember it was a late-night screening, we cycled back to the campus, humming the theme song, over and over again.

The Best Bond Pre-Title Opening: Tomorrow Never Dies. Brushing up on a little Danish, at Oxford, with linguistic professor Inga (Cecilia Thomsen) is vintage Bond. And the Delicious villain, the media Baron Eliott Carver, played so smugly by Jonathan Pryce (who was also wonderful in The Two Popes). And, of course, the Remote ControlLet me see how she responds to my touch (to Q, played so well by Desmond Llewelyn for many years, who responds, a few minutes later, with avuncular love masking his exasperation, Grow up, 007) – operated BMW action sequence later in the movie, with him refilling air to the tires that were punctured, press of a button, with that joyful laugh, having jumped into the back seat through the window,  in the midst of being shot by machine guns, is unforgettable. Later, the motorcycle being chased, eventually by a helicopter, with Wei Lin (Michelle Yeoh), is simply dazzling.

Second best? I have mentioned it in Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Skyfall.

The Third-Best Bond Pre-Title Opening: The World is Not Enough. Cigar Girl (Maria Grazia Cuccinotta) being chased by Bond on Thames. And Elektra King (Sophie Marceau) is the formidable opponent.

The Best “Bond-Q” interchange: For Your Eyes Only. Q is disguised as a Greek Orthodox Priest:

      Bless me father for I have sinned.

      That’s putting it mildly, 007.

The Second-Best? Bond meets (the new) Q in Casino Royale.

007, I am your new Quartermaster.

You must be joking.

The Best Bond ending: Casino Royale. Here it is.

The first documentary film I recall seeing, not long after I arrived at Cornell and discovered the Indie movie theater in Ithaca Commons (Portrait of an Academic Capitalist as a Young Man):

Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll is a 1987 documentary film that chronicles two 1986 concerts celebrating rock and roll musician Chuck Berry’s 60th birthday. The name comes from a line in Berry’s song “School Days”.

This Indie theater was only a block or so from the mainstream one, and the first James Bond movie I saw in the regular theater was:

The Living Daylights is a 1987 British spy film, the fifteenth entry in the James Bond series. It grossed $191.2 million worldwide on a budget of $40 million.

Interestingly, during my first two years at Cornell, when I did not have a car (yes, there was such a time! 😳), I lived first in Schuyler House (grad dorm) and then in an apartment on East State Street, both situated conveniently in between Upson Hall and Ithaca Commons!

Adding to my list of memorable documentaries – she met with Barbara Broccoli to discuss potentially singing for a Bond movie – is:

Amy is a 2015 British documentary film directed by Asif Kapadia and produced by James Gay-Rees.  Amy premiered at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, and was awarded the Best Documentary Feature at the 88th Academy Awards.

Another great singer that could have made a memorable Bond song: Whitney Houston. 

And Nina Simone! You know from Tayur’s Eleven that I was so happy to see her perform in:

Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) is a 2021 American documentary film about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, directed by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson in his directorial debut. It won numerous awards, including Best Documentary Feature at the 6th Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards, where it won in all six categories in which it was nominated; Best Documentary at the 75th British Academy Film Awards; Best Documentary Feature at the 94th Academy Awards; and Best Music Film at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards.

What about documentaries about cars? Here are my top three:

   Senna (2010). McLaren (2017). Ferrari: Race to Immortality (2017).

The Ferrari documentary is a good complement to Brian Laban’s The Ultimate History of Ferrari. Writing about the 612 Scaglietti:

…influenced by a one-off 1954 Ferrari that Scaglietti designed for Italian film director Roberto Rossellini as a gift for his movie star wife Ingrid Bergman…The quick and light steering conspires with a supple agile chassis that’s endowed with fabulous brakes and a whole plethora of electronic aids that intervene only as much as you want them to. Naturally there’s power and torque aplenty, while refinement is superb…The question is, what will Ferrari devise to succeed the 612?

Indeed, in my view, more than a decade later, they had not. I drove the 812 Superfast in 2018 at Robb Report Car of the Year event in Napa Valley, and it was not that different from my (2005) 612. But McLaren did! As I wrote in Ford v Ferrari, the 570S is a treat, and a worthy successor to the 612.

Moving away from cars, into physics, a surprisingly absorbing documentary is:

Tim’s Vermeer is a 2013 documentary film, directed by Teller, produced by his stage partner Penn Jillette and Farley Ziegler, about inventor Tim Jenison’s efforts to duplicate the painting techniques of Johannes Vermeer, in order to test his hypothesis that Vermeer painted with the help of optical devices.

 And these two are among the most informative ones that I have seen about Spycraft:

The Gatekeepers (Hebrew: שומרי הסף “Shomrei HaSaf”) is a 2012 internationally co-produced documentary film by director Dror Moreh that tells the story of the Israeli internal security service, Shin Bet (known in Hebrew as ‘Shabak’), from the perspective of six of its former heads.The film combines in-depth interviews, archival footage, and computer animation to recount the role that the group played in Israel’s security from the Six-Day War to the present. The film was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 85th Academy Awards.

Zero Days is a 2016 American documentary film directed by Alex Gibney. Zero Days covers the phenomenon surrounding the Stuxnet computer virus and the development of the malware software known as “Olympic Games.” It concludes with discussion over follow-up cyber plan Nitro Zeus and the Iran Nuclear Deal.

The first documentary that I was an Executive Producer of, WBCN and The American Revolution, has won several awards, and has played on 100+ PBS stations, and is now streaming on Amazon Prime. On the most recent one, Virulent: The Vaccine War:

Hi Sri,

Writing to let you know of recent and upcoming screenings of the film you so generously helped fund.  You obviously know about the Carnegie Science Center, but I can’t remember if I wrote about the National Vaccine Law Conference in Arlington, VA on Sept. 15.

Next week is the American Academy of Pediatrics 2022 conference in Anaheim, CA.  This one is tremendously important with 10,000-15,000 members expected in person (not that they’ll all attend the screening.)

Also working with the FDA’s Dr. David Kim to screen it at the National Adult and Influenza Immunization Summit in early November and with the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society.

WQED is airing/streaming it twice in November (Thu. 11/ 17 at 7:30 & Sun. 11/ 20 at 1:30pm.)

Ultimately, we are most likely to distribute it through the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA) which has around 300-member stations including most of the major PBS stations.

Back to Bond. Last night, I dreamed of having a cameo appearance, as a member of the Q-Branch, working on quantum technology, supercharging the Aston Martin that Bond will use in a chase scene. (Perhaps, I could be a Bond villain, having built a quantum computer that has hacked into everything that matters!) Or, be a parody of Bond, like Mike Myers, in a spoof, like Goldmember, with Beyonce singing the film song! (If I was made Director, I might ask Rihanna or Carrie Underwood.)

Back to reality:

Dear Authors,

I am writing to let you know that your papers for the Philosophical Transactions A issue on “Quantum Annealing and Computation: Challenges and Perspectives” is now with our production team – congratulations!

We will be publishing the issue online on the 5th December, and in print a few weeks later.


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