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I have mentioned in a previous article that Daniel Craig’s James Bond has the biggest story arc of all the incarnations of the character.  This is clear to see, but it can also be observed in his co-stars.  There is a convention in Bond movies of two “Bond Girls”.  The secondary of them often appears first in the movie but is ultimately a disposable character.  Her normal role is to provide some cheap thrills for both Bond and the audience, move the plot forward and is then disposed of, sometimes terminally.  A look at these characters tells us a lot about how Bonds character develops across Craig’s four films. 

WARNING PLOT SPOILERS FOR ALL FOUR MOVIES 

The first such character that Craig’s Bond encounters is Solange (Caterina Murino) in Casino Royale (2006).  The wife of Alex Dimitrios (Simon Abkarian), who is in the employ of the films main villain Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), Bond sleeps with her to get what he wants then leaves her to clearly knowing that his actions could have fatal consequences for her, ultimately they do! Bond’s cold detachment happens before his heart is thawed but ultimately broken by Vesper Lynd (Eva Green).Solange Caterina Murino

Quantum of Solace (2008) is a direct sequel to Casino Royale, but most importantly post Vesper.  Bond has allready met the movies primary character Camille (Olga Kurylenko) before the appearance of Agent Fields (her first name is revealed in the credits if you are interested) (Gemma Arterton).  After putting herself in the firing line of Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), she is abandoned by Bond who leaves with Camille to follow a lead.  Her death is clearly an homage Goldfinger.  Bond leaves a none field agent in danger without even thinking about it but does feel the need to avenge her, sending Green to a certain death when he may have been better questioning him.  This is a reckless broken Bond who is yet to find the humanity he must find before he can think about any idea of redemption.strawberry fields Gemma Arterton

Skyfall (2012), is a slightly different proposition, there is no primarily Bond Girl, the slot is instead filled by M (Judi Dench) and to a lesser extent Eve (Naomie Harris) who is later revealed as Moneypenny.  The secondary part is taken by Severine (Bérénice Marlohe).  Her death at the hands of Silva (Javier Bardem) is followed by a quip from Bond that has led to a lot of speculation.  Was this the cold pre Vesper Bond, or a tactic to distract Silva?  I have always believed the latter but understand other point of view.Severine Bérénice Marlohe

This finally brings us up to date with Spectre (2015).  Lucia Sciarra (Monica Bellucci).  In the pre-credit sequence we see Bond killing Marco Sciarra (Alessandro Cremona).  It is later revealed to be an unsanctioned hit, acting on orders from beyond the grave for the previous M (Judi Dench).  At the funeral he meets Lucia Sciarra who in true Bond fashion she falls into his arms (and into bed) before revelling vital information to further the investigation. After he has what he wants, instead of leaving her to die Bond calls in a favour from Felix Leiter of the CIA (who we haven’t seen since Quantum of Solace) to protect her.  The character is has a lot of similarities to Solange in Casino Royale, Bond’s more human and humane treatment is surely testament to the development of him as a person over the four movies.  Is Bond in love with Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) at the end of the movie? was Bond capable of love in Quantum of Solace and Skyfall?Sciarra Monica Bellucci

On a side note, A lot was made of an older woman in the part, the first to be older than Bond (Monica Bellucci is four years older than Craig, Bérénice Marlohe eleven years younger, Gemma Arterton eighteen years younger and Caterina Murino nine years younger) this was followed by great disappointed that she isn’t given a lot to do.  While this is true, it is better to have an actress like Bellucci lending a certain class to the part than a typical twenty-something as used in other movies. For example, Bellucci was considered for the par of Paris Carver in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), a part that ultimately went to Teri Hatcher.  Both Hatcher and Bellucci are eleven years younger than then Bond, Pierce Brosnan. 

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After the release of Skyfall I suggested a “Bond Week” eight seminal Bond films to watch over a week (one a day and two on Sunday), now I have a new Bond Week, with a difference or two.  The first Bond Week was an idea, a hypothetical list to immerse someone in the world of Bond movies.  The Second Bond Week consists of Daniel Craig’s four Bond movies, four movies that I watched over the past five days.  

Casino Royale (2006) was the film I hadn’t seen for the longest.  It confirmed my original thought, that it is the best of Craig’s Bond film.  Directed by Martin Campbell who also made GoldenEye (1995), Pierce Brosnan’s first and best outing as Bond.  The script is excellent with the perfect balance of action, grit and humour, it is everything Bond should be.  Weaving together three distinct stories including one that takes its plot outline from Flemings source novel. Made after The Bourne Identity (2002) but before its sequels the influence is clear but it is still 100% Bond.  Clocking in at 144 minutes the film never feels that long, surprisingly second billed Eva Green doesn’t appear until the hour and the film runs for a full 30 minutes after the death of the main villain Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen).james bond and vesper lynd

Quantum of Solace (2008).  I once described Quantum of Solace  as the perfect Bond film, it isn’t the best Bond film but it is everything you want from a Bond film.  The film is the closest Craig’s Bond ever gets to  the character from Ian Fleming novels.  At 106 minutes, it is the shortest of all 24 Bond films, this again goes back to the 250 page novels.  But most importantly, it does the bravest thing a film can do, it doesn’t try and be bigger and better than its predecessor.james bond and Camille

Skyfall (2012).  If Quantum of Solace is the perfect Bond film and Casino Royale is the best, Skyfall is the biggest.  Introducing Q and Moneypenny to the rebooted series, having two M’s and delving into Bond’s childhood, there is a lot going on.  The 50th anniversary Bond movie, it is filled with nods to the earlier films, despite this it still works as a film in its own right, not just a Bond film.  I’m sure it is the first Bond film for many viewers, it works as well for them as it does for existing fans.   There is an interesting departure from the Bond formula.  Dispensing with a primarily  “Bond Girl” Bond spends the final act with M (Judi Dench).James Bond and M

SPECTRE (2015) Having watched the first three on DVD, I have been back to see SPECTRE at the cinema for a second time.  Skyfall director Sam Mendes returns for what feels like an end of an era.  Bringing all the plots of the previous films together and attributing them to SPECTRE feels a little clunky and forced.  Take this aside and the film is great.  M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) are given more to do then their characters can normally expect.  This break from formula shows real confidence by Mendes.  If it is Daniel Craig’s last Bond film, it is a fitting swansong.James Bond and Madeleine Swann

In this era of bindgewatching television, four movies in four days isn’t a big task, will I take on all 24 Bond movies in a month?  possibly one day.  Did I learn anything from watching the films back to back? probably not but it does lend a prospective to them.  Timothy Dalton is the closest to the character described by Ian Fleming; Pierce Brosnan looks like the character Fleming described; Sean Connery had the best of Fleming’s stories, but Daniel Craig has the best Story arc and the most consistently good movies.  Is Craig the best Bond? possibly!

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In the last few weeks Fast & Furious 7 has gone over $1billion at the world box-office making it the 20th film to achieve the milestone, the others are: Titanic, The Avengers, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Frozen, Iron Man 3, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Skyfall, Transformers: Age of Extinction, The Dark Knight Rises, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Toy Story 3, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Jurassic Park, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Alice in Wonderland, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Dark Knight. But it is unlikely to be the biggest film of the year.  In fact  2015 could be the biggest year for blockbusters ever.

The contenders to join the billion dollar club are:

Fast & Furious 7: $1.2billion and counting!fast and furious 7

Avengers: Age of Ultron has just been released and is brilliant.  The perfect blend of the darker tone seen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (that took over $700million last year) and the fun of and the fun we have come to expect from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Given the fact The Avengers (2012)  took $1.518 billion, they will be looking for more this time.Avengers Age of Ultron

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens should be a shoe in for the $1billion club.  The original Star Wars (1977) took over $700million, when adjusted for inflation and modern ticket prices it is well over the billion mark and the second highest grossing film of all time.  It won’t be the first Star Wars film to top $1billion, the first of the prequels The Phantom Menace (1999) got there first.Star Wars Episode VII  The Force Awakens

In 2012 Skyfall became the first Bond film to top $1billion, with Sam Mendes returning as a director and Daniel Craig heading a fantastic cast, Spectre could be the second.Spectre

Jurassic Park (2003) broke the billion dollar bracket on its re-release a few years back, adjusted for inflation, it would probably have done it on fist release.  With this in mind and a $150million+ budget the makers of Jurassic World must be hoping for something approaching the billion dollar mark.Jurassic World

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 should be good for around $800million. The final Harry Potter film broke $1billion so I wouldn’t discount the possibility of Mockingjay joining the club too.mockingjay

Minions is a prequel/spin-off to Despicable Me (2010) and is will probably smash the half billion dollars the original film took.  I don’t think it will make a billion dollars but you never know.Minions

Thanks to the licences Marvel sold before Marvel Studios emerged, The Fantastic Four is described as a 20th Century Fox/Marvel Entertainment release.  It may not be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it is riding on their coattails and will be looking for something north of $750million.  The casting looks good, but it’s going to need positive reviews to come close that figure thanks to the week first attempts at Fantastic Four movies.The Fantastic Four

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Back in 210 when production of the as yet unnamed 23rd James Bond movie was indefinitely suspended due to MGM’s financial troubles, I speculated about the future of Daniel Craig as the worlds most famous secret agent. Remembering what had happened the last time there was a delay and Timothy Dalton walked away from the role, I feared the worst. I looked at who could replace Craig should he drop out. As it happened there was nothing to worry about. When the film now named Skyfall finally arrived at the back end of 2012 it turned out to be one of the best Bond films ever and my favourite film of the year. It has since been revealed that Craig will appear in two more Bond films, at least one of them reuniting him with Skyfall director Sam Mendes. It is believed that “Bond 24” as it will be know until a title is chosen with be released in November 2015, suggesting Craig’s final outing will be two or three years after that by which time he will be somewhere around 50 about the right time to hang up his Wallther PPK .james bond daniel craig

This leaves a problem with some of my other suggestions for the next bond. If Craig does fulfil his commitment for another two (five in total) Bond films it will be around 2020 before a replacement is needed, by which time some of my other suggestions will be too old. Idris Elba: already in his 40’s Elba will be the wrong side of 50. The long time favourite Clive Owen will be 50 next year so will be way too old, his chance realistically went when Craig was first cast.

Michael Fassbinder (1977): The German born Irish actor has been in hugely varied movie and TV roles. He is very at home in period settings as seen in a lot of his films including Inglourious Basterds and X-Men: First Class making him the perfect choice for a 50’s or 60’s set Bond. He will be in his early 40’s by the time “Bond 26” goes into production, just about the right age.Michael Fassbinder

Henry Cavill (1983): For so long the nearly man, Cavill was the first choice for McG’s Superman but lost out to Brandon Routh when Bryan Singer took over as director. He was the fans favourite to play Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter but lost out to Robert Pattinson. He was author Stephenie Meyer‘s choice to play Edward Cullen in Twilight, again missing out to Pattinson. He narrowly missed out to Daniel Craig to play Bond in Casino Royale. All these casting choices turned out to be right, he was too old to play Diggory and Cullen, too young for Bond and eventually got to play Superman in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel that was better than Superman Returns. He will be about the right age to play Bond in 2020.Henry Cavill

Tom Hiddleston (1981): Having worked mainly in television for a decade I had never heard of Hiddleston until he played Loki in Thor then all of a sudden he was everywhere with War Horse, The Deep Blue Sea and a small but memorable performance as F. Scott Fitzgerald in Midnight in Paris. He will always be associated with Loki and this villainous typecasting could help bring the necessary cold edge to Bond. Again he will be about the right age to play the part.Tom Hiddleston

There are lots of other names mentioned who I can’t see as Bond for one reason or another: Tom Hardy (1977) is probably to visceral and brutal and would need to slim down from his Warrior/Bane bulk. Christian Bale (1974) probably brings too much baggage (Batman) and is at the upper end of the age range. I could have seen Guy Pearce (1967) as Bond a couple of years ago but think he will be too old by the time the part becomes free. Jon Hamm (1971) is probably the right age now making him too old when Craig steps down. I also can’t see an American Bond.

Then we come to the leftfield choice: Nicholas Hoult (1989) at 23 he is too young to play Bond now and will still be at the bottom end of the age range in 2020, however it could work. Bond movies have always moved with the times (although often behind the times) without any mention of a reboot until Casino Royale (2006). This is a perfect opportunity to not only reboot the series but to return to Ian Fleming’s eleven key novels (skipping the short story compilations and The Spy Who Loved Me (1962) whose format would need a lot of tweaking):

Nicholas Hoult

  • Casino Royale (1953)
  • Live and Let Die (1954)
  • Moonraker (1955)
  • Diamonds Are Forever (1956)
  • From Russia, with Love (1957)
  • Dr. No (1958)
  • Goldfinger (1959)
  • Thunderball (1961)
  • On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963)
  • You Only Live Twice (1964)
  • The Man with the Golden Gun (1965)

If they start with a young enough actor and make a film every couple of years we could see an actor grow into age in the part. Possibly taking certain books and playing with the order a little we could have rise, fall and rebirth of bond including a SMERSH trilogy and a Blofeld trilogy. The big question is when to set the stories. Although always assumed to be contemporary at the time they were written Fleming was always as vague about the passage of time as he was about the age of his hero. The two options are either present day or 1950’s. I would go with 1950’s partly for the look of the films but also to help keep the stories close to the source material without the distraction of modern technology.

In truth the next Bond will most likely be someone we have never considered or possibly somebody we have never heard of. Although aware of Daniel Craig before Casino Royale I have never considered him as a potential Bond. Whoever they choose, we have two more Craig outings to look forward to, we can only hope they are as good as Skyfall.

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Radio 2's Top 100 Favourite Albums

I spent a large proportion of the past Bank Holiday Monday listening to a BBC Radio2 poll ranking their Top 100 Favourite Albums. Basically what they did was take their Top 100 Most Played Albums (limited to one per artist) and asked listeners to rank them. The results were often surprising with a top five consisting of:

  1. Coldplay – A Rush Of Blood To The Head
  2. Keane – Hopes & Fears
  3. Duran Duran – Rio
  4. Pink Floyd – The Dark Side Of The Moon (the only one a lot of people expected)
  5. Dido – No Angel

Ahead of what a lot of people expected including in the top five:

The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers
The Beatles – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Queen – A Night At The Opera
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
Led Zeppelin – Untitled fourth album

One of my thoughts were that different records live longer in the mind and memory, and possibly the heart than others. For example, I bought No Angel when it first came out (before the Eminem sample made it a hit), I listened to it a lot but haven’t listened to it in about five years. I first heard Rumours and Zeppelin’s fourth album when I was a kid and still listen to them all the time and see no reason why I won’t continue to for the foreseeable future. The conclusion, if they re-do this list in fifteen or twenty years time No Angel and A Rush Of Blood To The Head may not make the top 10 or even the top 100, but Rumours, The Dark Side Of The Moon, Sgt Pepper, Born to Run, Bridge Over Troubled Water and countless other classic albums will still be there.Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Led Zeppelin Bridge Over Troubled Water The Dark Side Of The Moon

This got me thinking about the current and recent movies that will be heralded as classics in the future and which will be forgotten. Skyfall will be watched a lot and may prove to be the best Bond ever but will be dismissed as just another Bond movie. The Dark Knight Rises will survive as part of, one of the best movie trilogies ever, but possibly the weakest link of the trilogy. The Artist may be considered a gimmick. Stoker, Cloud Atlas, We Need to Talk About Kevin and some great foreign language movies like Amour, Rust and Bone, The Skin I live In and In the House may be too obscure for the masses. Moonrise Kingdom is going to age well as is Argo so could be up there in popular opinion. I can’t make my mind up about Drive and Black Swan but hope I love them as much in years to come as I do now after two or three viewings and hope others feel the same about them. Margin Call and Zero Dark Thirty will possibly stand as testaments to the time but possibly not a time we will want to look back on too often or very fondly.Moonrise Kingdom Argo Margin Call Zero Dark Thirty

The conclusion, there hasn’t been a 12 Angry Men, The Godfather, Goodfellas or even Star Wars in recent years, the two closest are probably The Dark Knight and Inception. I’m not saying it is a bad time for film, in fact the opposite, while, the occasional all time classics seem a little few and far between the number of really good movies being made is greater than ever. I just long for a Citizen Kane, The Searchers or Casablanca, we are about due one. Or am I being cynical and some of the movies I have mentioned will find their way to the upper reaches of the IMDB top 250?Citizen Kane The Searchers Casablanca 12 Angry Men

Update:

Want to read more on the subject? Check out THIS ARTICLE that picks up the baton from where I left off.

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I have written about possible Bond directors on a couple of occasions, but now Sam Mendes has ruled himself out of “Bond 24” it’s a good time to bring the subject up again. While there are lots of names doing the rounds, there is only one that stands out for me: Kathryn Bigelow. There is however a problem, it isn’t what you may think, it isn’t her sex, its her nationality! Born in San Carlos, California, she is too American. Yes that’s right, no director from the home of cinema has ever helmed a movie from cinemas most iconic franchise. The closest was Irvin Kershner, who made Never Say Never Again, but this was not part of the Bond, EON franchise.Kathryn Bigelow

If the producers can overcome fifty years of history and hire Bigelow they need to insist she brings Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker writer Mark Boal with her. They also need to dispense with the intelligence of Mendes, the grit of Marc Forster and the slick of Martin Campbell and produce a simple, dirty and possibly even dumb action movie. Having celebrated the 50 year milestone with gusto and splendour it would be impossible to top it, it would be foolish to try. I am not suggesting Bond becomes a purely action based franchise, but this is the time to make a one-off 90 minute genre movie.Bond

The plot possibilities are endless but a few thoughts on where they should go: stick with the minimal use gadgets, scale back the plot to something simple and personal, keep Moneypenny and M’s role to a minimum. Two possible outlines that would work in the spirit of the character and in line with some of the stories from Ian Flemings novels would involve Bond on his way home from a mission, shown in the obligatory pre credit sequence where he is either, A: distracted by something he sees happening and decides to investigate or B: is called to the aid of a friend who needs Bonds help. A setting for the film is obvious, America. Bond hasn’t spent any significant screen time “stateside” since Licence to Kill in 1989.James Bond Action Movie

I fear none of this will happen, as the filmmakers will fall into the usual trap of trying to make a bigger and bolder movie than what went before. Only time will tell, the one hope, they did listen to me once (in my dreams).

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Having now seen all but one of the best picture nominations I thought it was time to take a look back at the contenders and a few of the movies that missed out.

Amour: The only nominated movie I haven’t seen yet, I hope to see it on Monday when my local cinema is showing it for one night only.
Will it win? probably not but it will most likely win the best foreign language Oscar.  Amour
Argo: A political drama/thriller story based on real events that is tense and funny in equal measure and at the right times. Set in 1979/80 it often feels like a 70’s movie and is all the better for it, it’s a film that will age well making it a contender as a future classic.
Will it win? It certainly has momentum after its BAFTA and AFI wins. Actors form a large voting contingent and the they like to vote for their own so Ben Affleck’s presence as director could help but he has been snubbed in the Best Director category.

Ben Affleck in Argo
Beasts of the Southern Wild: The surprise indie hit of last year by first time director Benh Zeitlin. Stunningly shot fantasy that at its best may be metaphor for the environment and the way we treat it. It is however an esoteric mess of a film that while good, I fail to recognise the greatness others see in it.
Will it win? As a low budget indie movie with a tiny budget and a small gross it has the feeling of the “just glad to be nominated” film of the year.Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained: Where do I start with Quentin Tarantino’s Blaxploitation Spaghetti Western. Set against the backdrop of slavery it makes an interesting companion peace for Lincoln. Its too long and self indulgent to be a great film the violence is poetic and the dialogue sumptuous.
Will it win? The academy seems to want to keep Tarantino at arms length. The movie is more likely to pick up Oscars in acting and writing categories.Django Unchained
Les Misérables: I’m not a fan of musicals but largely enjoyed this one. Hugh Jackman, Eddie Redmayne and Anne Hathaway are great, Russell Crowe is terrible. The pacing and the editing all feels off making a collection of disjointed moments rather than a coherent movie.
Will it win? When it first came out I thought it would win but it doesn’t seem to have any momentum.Les Misérables
Life of Pi: An amazing achievement in film making. Its based on a reportedly un-filmable novel. Large sections of the movie feature a single charter played by an unknown actor. Impossible to film without a reliance on digital effects. On top o all this Ang Lee also makes 3D work to a certain extent. On a negative, how well will it work on the small screen and how many academy voters will have seen it of DVD screeners?
Will it win? I think it’s a bit of a long shot but it is directed by an Oscar winning director.

life-of-pi Lincoln: I have heard mixed reviews of this movie. A lot of people have described it as long and slow, accusing it of been an average film with great performances. I found it engrossing and mesmerising. It isn’t just about Daniel Day-Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones who are both sensational, the whole cast is fantastic with a recognisable actor in many of the supporting roles.
Will it win? A historical epic with a near certain best actor, it stands a good chance.Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook: A romantic comedy about mental illness isn’t what you expect for a pest picture nomination. Its possibly a little lightweight given the comparison to the other movies on the list but is elevated by some great performances.
Will it win? It stands a good chance, with nominations in all for acting categories, it has the support of the largest voting block.Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty: The dramatisation of the hunt for Osama bin Laden centred around one woman’s relentless. To make a gripping and story where the audience know the outcome is no easy task but Kathryn Bigelow has done it
Will it win? I think it stands a good chance. Kathryn Bigelow not receiving a best director nomination and controversy over its portrayal of torture will both work against it though.Zero Dark Thirty

The change in rules a couple of years ago allow for up to ten movies to be nominated in the category. Only nine were nominated, who could have taken the tenth place? Here are my top three:

Skyfall: Skyfall is my favourite movie of the year so far, I’m not sure it’s the best movie of the year, but what is best? If you enjoy something more than everything else, who is to argue its that it isn’t the best! To make a great movie within the confines of a franchise is impressive, but Sam Mendes managed to do it within THE franchise. Consisting of twenty-two movies made by ten previous directors, Bond is not a franchise or a movie series, it is an icon of cinema. But to add to the problem, it had become a joke, a pastiche of itself. To make a film within these confines and still following the conventions of the series to satisfy the fans. The great success of Skyfall is that it is rises above all the limitations that were placed on it.skyfall

The Dark Knight Rises: As much as I like Slumdog Millionaire, like every other movie from 2008, it isn’t anywhere near as good as The Dark Knight. The fact that The Dark Knight didn’t win the best picture Oscar is a travesty, it not being nominated wasn’t even a surprise. Sadly the final part of the trilogy The Dark Knight Rises didn’t get look-in either but comic boot movies simply don’t win best picture Oscars, even great ones. Had it been based on a novel by a respected author and feature a hero without a mask and cape there would be no question, it would have received a nomination.The Dark Knight Rises

Moonrise Kingdom: Recognised for its screenplay (where it will most likely lose out to Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained) but overlooked in other categories. It was possibly more Oscar friendly than the other two movies with a charming story and a terrific ensemble cast. The problem, Wes Anderson has long been the darling of the critics but his only Oscar nominations to date are for best screenplay written Directly for the Screen for The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) (Shared with Owen Wilson) and Best Animated Feature Film of the Year for Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009).Moonrise Kingdom

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