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After the events of January 6, Emily Ratajkowski and others point to the real dangers

Filed by Jack Yan/January 8, 2021/12.53


Inez & Vinoodh/Kérastase

Above: Emily Ratajkowski (centre) in a new promotion for Kérastase, as promoted on her Instagram. But it’s what she wrote on Twitter that’s far more on point with the events of January 6 in the US.

When you have US friends on all sides of the political spectrum—greens, Democrats, Republicans, libertarians—you tend to get a reasonable idea of who they are, rather be trapped in the bubbles that Big Tech keep you in, to give you a false sense of your own righteousness. It’s never been healthy to be so entrenched in your own viewpoints that you can’t entertain another’s, yet our reliance on technology has done just that, as Big Tech platforms seek to occupy our attention, and to do that, they feed us what will increase it. That means telling us we’re right and the other side is wrong, and feeding extreme versions (including lies) of how the other side is wrong, so we’re more outraged, and spend still more time with them on Facebook, YouTube, and wherever else we might wander.
   So while it’s easy to be up in arms about some of the facts from the Washington, DC insurgency by supporters of President Donald Trump—the flying of a Confederate flag on Capitol Hill, which no one achieved during their civil war; the first time anyone managed to storm the place since the British in 1814; or the tragedy of five deaths—the big story is in Big Tech and how it decides to shut someone down when it feels like it. These companies, who pay little tax in their own countries, who are generally unanswerable to laws and happily pay fines that amount to mere hours of earnings, yield a power that any “side” in a political debate should be wary of.
   In the cases of Facebook and Twitter, both are culpable and moved only to save their own arses: had they applied their own terms and conditions evenly to all users, then President Trump’s use of the platforms would have been moderated through the years; or he may well have found himself on the wrong side of the rules and saw his account terminated long ago. Facebook, in particular, has had a record of not moving till public outcry reaches fever pitch, and its moves to ban Trump from using the platform must be seen in that context. The statements from these platforms struck me as insincere and reactionary, especially as both have taken down accounts for doing absolutely nothing at all, while others have been removed from bucking orthodoxy—for instance, I can think of a grandmother in Finland who was consistently anti-war, who fell foul of Twitter’s whims.
   The web’s original great promise was the even playing field: that we could all benefit equally on there, and that we finally had a truly meritorious medium. Yet that has been steadily eroded over the years by the dominant players seeking to cement their positions. They know they are monopolies, or at best oligopolies. As far as we can tell, Google’s news results favour corporate media over independents. They have each created an uneven culture, where indulging those in power, political or commercial, has become the norm.
   The EU has successfully sued Google over biases in its results. This, teamed with the bubbles, have taken us further away from the promise of the web, as barriers to entry rise, and as it becomes harder to create challengers to the monopolies.
   I have long maintained that people in the US have common enemies, rather than each other. Listen to them and you’ll find the themes are common: stagnant wages, unaffordable health care, the vanishing middle class, corrupt politicians who do the bidding of donors rather than the people, and unbridled corporate power. I touched upon these in my podcast on September 11, 2020; and my blog has a related post dating back to 2014. Even here in Lucire I published an op-ed in 2017.
   Of course one should condemn violence and I admit I felt relieved when Trump was silenced, albeit temporarily, on Twitter, since friends have been banned, suspended or shadow-banned for far less. I thought: finally, they’re enforcing their own rules evenly. What he wrote must be a breach of their terms and conditions. But after some reflection, this isn’t the whole story. Those T&Cs have meant little because they were never applied evenly. These platforms go with the flavour of the month, and while many might cheer on these developments, they may think twice when the sword is pointed their way.
   In 2018, The Anti-Media had their Facebook and Twitter accounts deleted in coordinated fashion. Some of their contributors found their presences gone, without explanation. The Anti-Media Radio account was deleted because of ‘multiple or repeat violations of the Twitter rules’, yet had never Tweeted.
   I seldom criticize Chinese platforms such as Weibo even though they are monitored and censored by the régime in Beijing. But Weibo’s terms say as much when they tell you what legislation will come into play, which is far more honest an approach. Free speech, after all, doesn’t mean platforms must host what we say, or publishers must publish what we write, and as long as I know where the boundaries lie, I’ll aim not to cross them. If I wish to cross them, I will do so in my own spaces.
   Big Tech in the US, however, is different, because the terms don’t marry up with the reality. And when rules are applied unevenly, just as when laws are applied unevenly (US police actions toward whites versus blacks, for instance), we cannot trust what the powers-that-be might do.
   Emily Ratajkowski, who has regularly proved more insightful than many wish to give her credit for, Tweeted along these lines in the wake of the Washington, DC riots yesterday.
   ‘Anyone else feel like proper amount of capital police being absent/letting Trump people in/providing insane visuals of MAGA dudes on the floor of the house was wildly convenient to justifying big tech’s rollout of censorship?’ she wrote. She followed this with: ‘I’m saying it’s very convenient to justify taking away more rights & privacy’ and ‘This gives Facebook/tech/Zuck THE MOST POWER. If he can shut the president up/off he can shut any of us up/off’.
   Her other words: ‘My concern is that this gives big tech the opportunity to shut down “leftist extremists” who are important political organizers.’ And, in one response, ‘And before tech leftists were being blacklisted by other means. People responding to my tweet somehow do not understand what license this gives big tech to continue to do so this time with people cheering. Patriot act 2.0?’
   At no point is she cheering on violence, or agreeing with the MAGA movement, but she paints a chilling picture. Leftists (and a good many on the right) might be delighted at the actions taken by US Big Tech, but would one be as cheerful if a Democratic president or a leftist movement were silenced? All I am advocating for is fairness, and I believe that Ratajkowski is, too. It’s something we’ve not seen.
   Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who unlike so much of the US media plays no favourites, Tweeted a few hours after Ratajkowski: ‘A handful of Silicon Valley oligarchs decide who can and cannot be heard, including the President of the United States. They exert this power unilaterally, with no standards, accountability or appeal.
   ‘Politics now is begging them to silence adversaries or permit allies to speak …
   ‘This is particularly menacing because they’re not just like any other companies with competitors. A Democratic-controlled House sub-committee three months ago definitively concluded that 4 of them – FB, Amazon, Google and Apple – are classic monopolies.
   ‘Demands that Silicon Valley censor more were already rapidly escalating. After yesterday, that tech oligarchs should police our discourse is a virtual consensus. Look for way more.
   ‘As I wrote today, it’s very redolent of post-9/11 calls for censorship.’
   Edward Snowden, meanwhile, Tweeted, ‘For better or worse, this will be remembered as a turning point in the battle for control over digital speech.’
   I have to concur. By all means, have terms and conditions—but have them apply to all. And if you’re going to indulge one to a certain level, you must indulge us all to the same. What happened on January 6 were unilateral exercises by platforms that have allowed one party to violate their own terms and conditions for years, only for them to have a change of heart brought upon by public pressure.
   What’s worse is that the uneven playing field that they have created was motivated by greed. Twitter was at least frank enough to admit that Trump was given a free pass for years, with his newsworthiness their excuse. But they all knew, just as the US media did when all of them—from MSNBC through to the Murdoch Press—that his content was good for their business because it meant attention.
   Fuelling it was in their best interests. An internal Facebook report revealed that 64 per cent of the time someone joins an extremist Facebook group, they have done so because it was recommended to them by the algorithm. This is no accident. Roger McNamee goes one further when he points out in Wired: ‘Facebook has also acknowledged that pages and groups associated with QAnon extremism had at least 3 million members, meaning Facebook helped radicalize 2 million people.’ Remember that the same argument must apply to leftist extremists, too.
   He continues, ‘Congress and law enforcement must decide what to do about the unprecedented insurrection in Washington. President Trump and elements of the right-wing media must pay. So, too, must internet platforms. They have prioritized their own profits and prerogatives over democracy and the public health and safety of the people who use their products.’
   The solutions are numerous, but among them must be the enforcement of antitrust laws as they were originally intended to be used, not what they became over the last three decades. The US Justice Department is pursuing this.
   Secondly, the intentional design of these platforms to bubble, radicalize and incite needs to stop, and individual nations’ legislatures could go some way to enacting laws to force it. Let them serve people and society, which is what technology should do—people should not be bending to the technology. Allow us to find alternative viewpoints with “the other side” if we are truly to understand and engage with one another.
   Thirdly, when these platforms lie, they should be punished, but with penalties that fit the crime. Fining Google four hours’ earnings after hacking a setting on Iphones is hardly a punishment, for instance. Lying has become a regular practice in some US businesses because we all know that Big Tech has done so with impunity.
   These alterations won’t suddenly make Facebook, Google, Twitter, Amazon and the others poor, either. Their owners will still be worth myriads of millions of dollars, but at least people’s lives won’t be threatened to the same extent. While some are blaming Trump for the five deaths on the Capitol Hill insurrection, Big Tech platforms were the ones that helped bring the mob there, just as YouTube recommended conspiracy videos, or Facebook incited genocide against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. The US might still be more a democracy rather than an anocracy if not for Big Tech’s greed over the last 20 or so years.
   There’s no left or right to this. And when those divisions are removed, when the bubbles are popped, we might just see where the real obstacles in society lie—corruption, tax-dodging, monopoly power, environmental harm—rather than each other.—Jack Yan, Founder and Publisher

 


Future imperfect

Filed by Jack Yan/December 15, 2020/10.59




Adi Constantin/Unsplash

Above, from top: The real 2015 and one photo that summarizes the decade: Kendall and Kylie Jenner go shopping for Ugg shoes in New York, and take a selfie. The 2015 of fiction: Michael J. Fox outside a cinema in Back to the Future Part II (1989). Still from Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner, set in a Los Angeles of 2019, in some ways mirrored more by the metropolises of China. Unpredictable to most: few in the 20th century, with perhaps the exception of Norman Macrae, foresaw the rise of China to this extent—Shanghai’s cityscape could have been the stuff of science fiction 30 years ago. Below right: Twins Alan and Alex Stokes with another TikTok video.

Travel editor Stanley Moss sent me a news item on twin brothers who staged a mock bank robbery on public streets for their social media accounts. The brothers, Alan and Alex Stokes, have nearly 28 million followers on TikTok, and over 5½ million on YouTube. One prank saw an Über driver, not involved with them, held at gunpoint by police. Now, Orange County, California district attorney Todd Spitzer says the brothers could face criminal charges for putting the public and the police in danger.
   While social media have done a lot of good, there are those who take things to an unhealthy extreme for the sake of an audience. Once upon a time, there would be a controlled set and paid actors, but the Stokes brothers decided to do their stunts in the real world.
   They’re not alone in doing outrageous things for an audience, and this isn’t a piece about the decline or the dangers of social media influencers, a topic that Lucire has covered for some time. It’s whether this environment—the incident took place in 2019—could have been something that any of us foresaw in earlier times.
   People are notoriously bad at predicting decades into the future. This magazine has attempted to look a few months forward, such as our recent story about what a post-COVID world might look like, with China as an example (Lucire issue 42; Lucire KSA September 2020). However, once we begin looking at years and decades things look fuzzier.
   The twins’ pranks could have been foreseen mid-decade: people have been seeking attention for social media since they became the norm, and those who potentially make a living from it—with 28 million followers it’s likely that they do—might wish to see just how far boundaries could be pushed. In societies which are less outwardly focused, it is possible that they did not consider the consequences or the harm to others.
   But could this world have been foreseen in, say, 2010? Or 2000? A glance back through our culture shows predictions of our time looking very different the further back you go.
   In Blade Runner (1982), Ridley Scott foresaw a crowded technological world where androids (‘replicants’) walk among humans. Set in 2019, Scott’s vision is dystopian, with human colonies on other planets, flying cars, and overcrowding. The last point is probably accurate in terms of our global population; Scott envisaged skyscrapers and street scenes devoid of natural light. Down on the streets of his 2019 Los Angeles is a mixture of cultures, with English used alongside other languages. Blade Runner’s Los Angeles is a dirty place, with lots of old stuff that lacks the sheen of the latest signage and advertisements, just as our urban world is today. Science fiction films often make the mistake of giving everything a modern, new sheen, but "blanket newness" doesn’t ever exist in real life: visual futurist and conceptual artist Syd Mead understood this well.
   The protagonist in the film, Deckard, is disenchanted with the technologist society that places little emphasis on human emotion; in some ways it illustrates how humans have become slaves to technology rather than having technology improve their lives. Memories can be implanted into replicants; today one supposes that editing photos on social media paint an idealistic and not always real story about our humanity. Once upon a time a photo album was private, with stories attached to them; today social media and online photos are often offered without explanation, to show one side of life—no wonder studies reveal that social media can make some people more depressed as they gaze at their friends’ seemingly perfect existences.
   Blade Runner might not look like 2019, nor was it right on androids and planetary colonization, but in many ways Scott identified the themes that make humans lonely because of technology.
   Later in the 1980s, Back to the Future Part II (1989) also had flying cars in its world of 2015. Robert Zemeckis, the director and co-writer of the film, said that the future could not be predicted so he and Bob Gale, who co-wrote, decided to have fun with it. Their 2015 is an intentional parody: an antagonist with microchip implants in his brain, hover boards, which are wheel-less skateboards that defy gravity, and a nostalgic hangout for young people called Café ’80s. In the cinema yet another Jaws sequel played, with a holographic projection coming out into the street as part of its promotion. Light switches at home are voice-activated, while what was once a posh neighbourhood was, in 2015, considered a lower-class area. Faxes hung on walls while videophones and multiple tv screens on a wall were part of the 2015 household.
   There’s less cerebral thinking here as it’s played for laughs, though video calls and voice activation are reasonably on the mark, as is the theme of urban decay. It’s not unusual to see a society nostalgic for the past—in fashion we saw our share of 1980s, even 1990s, revivals during the 2010s. An obsession with screens, as the teenage Marty McFly, Jr has in 2015, is accurate, even if those screens weren’t all on the wall, but hand-held.
   Wim Wenders’ 1991 film Bis ans Ende der Welt (Until the End of the World) only had to go as far as 1999, and is more accurate what it predicted: a highly digital society, with hand-held assistants, search engines, and consumer GPS. Wenders foresaw a commercialized East Berlin—a reasonable prediction given the Wall had recently come down—and a San Francisco with a massive income disparity. However, the new invention where brainwaves can be read and dreams can be turned into digital images remains the realm of science fiction. Its main character, Claire, lives an empty life of endless parties before she decides to return to Europe to spend time with friends.
   The films are correct in some respects, illustrating that the human condition hasn’t changed much: it’s always possible to feel lonely and outcast from the world, and it is up to the filmmaker to identify causes. A designer must make similar predictions if a collection or a product is to be a hit: what is it about the human condition in the coming year that we expect to be highlighted? As we stand on the verge of 2021, is it a sense of optimism, that things will get better now that two companies have announced COVID-19 vaccines? Or is it a sense of caution? And how are these expressed? Those that somehow address human feelings, no matter how they are expressed, tend to do better than high concepts that are divorced from what people are going through.
   Some of it will come down to instinct—what are termed intuitive predictions. The more experience one has, the better the prediction one might make. Students of history are often well equipped to look into the future based on their knowledge of the past; our older citizens may well have witnessed phenomena similar to what they see today.
   Statistical predictions, meanwhile, rely on data and algorithms, and the more data one has, and the more reliable they are, the better the prediction. Factor in external events and their impact. Meteorologists rely on these for their forecasts, and designers might be in a position to do the same.
   One individual who had a better record than most was the former deputy chief editor of The Economist, Norman Macrae. He foresaw the rise of China, the ubiquity of the internet, and growing income inequality decades before they hit, all through hard, economic analysis.
   Norman Macrae is an anomaly in how accurate he was, as it is rare to allow for those external events accurately. The further out your prediction is going to be, the more external events you face, with increasing potential to render them inaccurate—just as we had with Blade Runner. Its sequel, naturally, had to take place in 2049 for the world it created to remain just out of reach of us.
   And while some events are cyclical, it can be tricky predicting just how long that cycle is. Economics is one field where smarter practitioners could work it out, but lay people might not see the cycles when they are living it.
   The 1980s were regarded by marketers as a "me decade": in the west this was fuelled by consumerism and free-market ideologies, but more than one author then predicted that the 1990s would be more a "we decade", more caring and more collective. It didn’t happen: the cycle was far longer than any of them expected, to the point where we have just been through a selfie decade aided by cellphones whose forward-facing cameras are often better than the backward-facing ones.
   The decade we have left behind was one that might be remembered for the Kardashians, who shot to fame precisely because the sight of self-indulgent celebrities caught the Zeitgeist. Many a successful Instagram account, especially in the modelling and glamour modelling fields, are founded on selfies, as everyone wants to be seen to be living their glamorous best. The Stokes twins took this to the next, dangerous, and selfish level, in a country that seems to encourage it.
   In 2021, it might be fair to ask if “weism” has finally arrived. Countries that have managed to push the COVID-19 curve down—e.g. China, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia—have done so with an eye on the collective good, demonstrating that we are stronger together. Have we tired of selfies? Certainly Facebook and Instagram engagement continues to fall each year. TikTok may be on the rise because of its novelty, but are enough of us now beginning to enjoy what nature has for us that we can put down the phones?
   In earlier issues (see Lucire KSA June 2020) we covered how some of nature has returned because of our lockdowns, and it seems the countries that respect nature more are the ones who have come out the other side more quickly.
   That’s perhaps an easy one to forecast. But it will still depend on how we see the human experience—just what mood will we, as people, possess in the year ahead.
   Additionally, Simon Sinek, in his book The Infinite Game, believes that having a just cause can overcome those unexpected external factors. It isn’t about having a finite position in the future, or some defined endgame; instead, it’s about understanding what you stand for and nurturing that for the long term. Here at Lucire, for instance, we have never stopped looking to the whole world for our stories, in the belief that the world can come together if we are exposed to more of it. We believe our readers are intelligent, hence we run stories like this: we are not in the business of dumbing down, and never have been. The quest for knowledge—the human thirst for it, and to gain an advantage as evolution would have us do—is part of the condition that doesn’t go away. And in the 2020s, we’re hoping people might want to pursue depth again, coming out of the selfie and Kardashian decade.
   Those that remained sure of their purpose through COVID-19 in 2020 have probably endured without facing some crisis over what they stand for. That’s ultimately what we have to create: a sense of purpose within us. We can look to the future as much as we like, and we can make an educated guess about what people will be going through, but the most sure thing is what we can do about ourselves.—Jack Yan, Founder and Publisher

 


Twenty years of Lucire’s Car to Be Seen in

Filed by Jack Yan/December 14, 2020/3.07


Honda E: already inducted into the Red Dot Design Museum.

The Honda E has been named Lucire’s Car to Be Seen in for 2020, the award joining a bunch of others from dedicated motoring and motoring media organizations around the world.
   For some reason I thought the second-generation Toyota Prius was once named a Car to Be Seen in by us in 2004, but I suspect that was the fault of memory: we covered the Prius in print, but it never got the accolade. The reason it stuck in my mind was that in 2004 it made an impression, even if used second-gen Priuses are now associated with Übers and an anti-car image by certain petrolheads.
   That impression was the sight of certain Hollywood types wanting to be seen as green, showing up to awards in Priuses rather than stretched limos, a practice that quickly ceased after they hopped on to the next fad. It wasn’t, for want of a better term, sustainable—at least not for their image. And more’s the pity, because the stretched limousine remains an exercise in irrelevance, in our opinion.
   The award is entirely subjective and even the criteria have changed from time to time; but with only a few exceptions we’ve attempted to choose a vehicle that represents the style of the time. We also ask: does the Lucire reader look good in it? Does it say something positive about the driver?
   As a result, some cars were named to the list before they were lapped up by a load of buyers—or footballers. One year it was put to an editors’ vote.
   This year, the 20th, it’s a pleasure to welcome the first Japanese car to the list, by a company we’ve long admired for its chutzpah. Founder Soichiro Honda knew he wanted to make cars, so to get there he started with bicycle motors and lawnmowers and worked his way up. The sky’s the limit, literally, as Honda now has a corporate jet business, too.
   The Honda E is not the first EV on the list: that honour goes to the Tesla Roadster, back when Martin Eberhard was running the business in a spirit of transparency and optimism. A futuristic plug-in diesel hybrid limited to 200 units, the Volkswagen XL1, went on the list in 2014. The BMW i8 was the Car to Be Seen in for 2016, and the Jaguar I-Pace in 2018.
   Our full list up to December 2019, which was published on our NewTumbl, appears below, with the new entry added. We will probably cease updating our NewTumbl presence, which took over from our Tumblr account, preferring to consolidate our content on our own domains. Our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram continue for the time being—and that’s a discussion for another day.—Jack Yan, Publisher

2001 Audi A4 Avant
2002 Audi A4 Cabriolet
2003 Peugeot 307 CC
2004 Aston Martin DB9
2005 Mercedes-Benz SLK
2006 Aston Martin V8 Vantage
2007 Tesla Roadster
2008 Fiat 500
2009 Alfa Romeo MiTo
2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Klasse Coupé
2011 Audi A7 Sportback
2012 Range Rover Evoque
2013 Jaguar F-type
2014 Volkswagen XL1
2015 Alfa Romeo 4C
2016 BMW i8
2017 Range Rover Velar
2018 Jaguar I-Pace
2019 Alpine A110
2020 Honda E

 


Huang Xiaoming launches Tissot’s T-Touch Connect Solar in China

Filed by Lucire staff/November 10, 2020/11.27


The watchmakers are really pushing their wares in China, one of the few countries who could claim to have a post-COVID economy. It’s now Tissot‘s turn, releasing its latest T-Touch Connect Solar touchscreen watches at the third China International Import Expo (CIIE), with spokesman and actor Huang Xiaoming (黃曉明).
   At the Tissot booth, Huang was hosted by Dai Junjun, the vice-president of Tissot China. Dai told the audience of Tissot’s history, beginning in 1853, tapping into the longevity that Chinese consumers respect and which many of their own brands do not yet have.
   Huang said at the event, ‘The spirit of Tissot is one that is brave to create and climb high. Just like a good actor will not be tied to a role, Tissot has been constantly breaking boundaries, exploring new areas, and making new achievements.’
   On the new T-Touch Connect Solar watches, Dai said, alluding to the times, ‘We want to break the ground for outdoor enthusiasts who have the courage to climb. Concerns about time, space, and safety reduce the burden of travel, allowing them to better enjoy the journey, enjoy nature, and enjoy life.’
   The watches have a low power consumption with capacity for solar charging. When exposed to the sun, they can run for months.
   They are Android, Iphone and Huawei Harmony-compatible, and can be connected to a mobile app interface. Others cannot access the watches readily, with a high level of privacy built in. The case is made of titanium, with a ceramic bezel. The watches are waterproof, withstanding pressure equivalent to 10 bar.

 


Second Makeup Revolution × Friends beauty collection released

Filed by Lucire staff/November 4, 2020/11.30

There’s often a two-decade rule when it comes to revivals, and Revolution Beauty’s collaboration with Friends still manages to come within that for the US series that ran from 1994 to 2004.
   The sitcom about six white singles in New York had already been transformed once into a range of make-up palettes, lipsticks and eyeshadow shades by Revolution, dedicated to Monica, Rachel and Phoebe, selling out within five hours of going live at Ulta.com. This time round, Revolution is announcing additional products, which should still meet with immense success, since there’s nothing more reassuring during uncertain times than a dose of nostalgia.
   There are lip glosses, eyeshadow palettes that play off Friends in-jokes, a lip scrub, and make-up accessories, all priced below US$25.
   ‘When developing and creating the first Makeup Revolution × Friends collection, we looked at each character individually—evaluating their style, personalities, make-up influence—to build an authentic collection bringing the characters to life,’ said Revolution Beauty founder Adam Minto. ‘Revolution’s goal was to embody the essence of Friends, paying tribute to the ’90s in general and we clearly achieved that goal with consumers as the collection sold out on Ulta.com in record time. As the only beauty brand that has been awarded with the honour to adapt the Friends font and logo into our own logo, we cannot be more excited to drop the second part of the Makeup Revolution × Friends collection and reveal additional branded products.’
   Revolution products are PETA-certified cruelty-free, never tested on animals, and 76 per cent vegan.
   The collection goes on sale today at Ulta beauty stores and Ulta.com, as well as RevolutionBeauty.com.

 


Personal thoughts on the passing of Sir Sean Connery, 1930–2020

Filed by Jack Yan/October 31, 2020/20.52


Danjaq SA/United Artists

The iconic image of Sean Connery and the Aston Martin DB5 in a publicity still from Goldfinger.

Many movie fans were greeted with sad news with the passing of Sir Sean Connery at 90 in the Bahamas.
   Sir Sean had been unwell for some time, according to his son Jason, and died in his sleep.
   Most moviegoers will remember him for his role as the first big-screen James Bond, but it was decades later in The Untouchables where he received his first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
   Talking to other movie fans today, his work in The Hunt for Red October, Highlander and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was highlighted.
   One fan, in particular, relayed to me that Connery’s work played a part in her growing up, and despite his distasteful public comments about spousal abuse and violence toward women—both in the 1960s and 1980s—it was still with a tinge of sadness to note his passing.
   His first wife, Diane Cilento, confirmed Connery’s behaviour.
   It is perhaps only fair to mention it; some find it unforgiveable to do so in the wake of a person’s passing, while others who feel that violence needs to be called out ask: if not now, then when?
   His professional life was less open to criticism, an actor who became a superstar while still able to do solid character work.
   I often joked that Connery’s career could be summed up in four lines: ‘My name is Bond, James Bond’; ‘There can be only one’; ‘We sail into history’; and ‘You’re the man now, dog!’, the last from Finding Forrester.
   As someone who missed out on the 1960s, my introduction to Connery was still through Bond—in 1983 he returned to star in a remake of Thunderball, the unofficial Never Say Never Again. I opted to pay to see Octopussy though during the “battle of the Bonds” that year, and it would be a few years later, on a rented video cassette, that I caught up. The rest I caught out of order, also on cassette: Diamonds Are Forever was next, followed by Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice.
   It was my parents’ insistence initially that Connery was the best actor to play the role of James Bond that made me want to see the rest of them. They courted by going to the Bonds, including double-bills that combined two earlier films.
   Eventually, I saw the rest of the Bonds starring Connery, then saw them again in order to observe his career progress.
   It was natural for James Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli to release a statement today—after all, they might not be in the Bond movie business if this rough diamond of an actor hadn’t originated the role as Ian Fleming’s super-spy, and paved the way for all the actors who followed.
   ‘We are devastated by the news of the passing of Sir Sean Connery. He was and shall always be remembered as the original James Bond whose indelible entrance into cinema history began when he announced those unforgettable words—“The name’s Bond … James Bond”—he revolutionized the world with his gritty and witty portrayal of the sexy and charismatic secret agent. He is undoubtedly largely responsible for the success of the film series and we shall be forever grateful to him,’ they said.
   Never mind Connery never actually said, ‘The name’s Bond, James Bond’ (look back—Roger Moore was the first to say these exact words in A View to a Kill; Connery said the simpler ‘Bond, James Bond’ in Dr No, and ‘My name is Bond, James Bond’ in Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever), their quote is otherwise on the money. It would be hard to imagine Cary Grant, James Mason or Richard Burton in the role.
   And it was because of this role that I wanted to see Connery in others, from pre-Bond outings in The Longest Day and Darby O’Gill and the Little People, to post-Bond work in Meteor, Outland, Highlander and The Presidio.
   What I saw was an actor who matured in his confidence and capability, and I don’t think at any time he “phoned in” a performance.
   It didn’t matter that the Spaniard in Highlander or the Irishman in The Untouchables had a Scots accent: Connery’s presence made you forget such details.
   He was a delight in the big-screen adaptation of The Avengers, as Sir August de Wynter, and I would say that his presence made the film. (I’m also in the minority when I say I rather enjoyed it, with Connery being a big reason.)
   In Jon Amiel’s Entrapment, made just before the millennium—and using Y2K as a plot device—Connery showed that he could still lead an actioner.
   It was a shame that his last big on-screen role was in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a filming experience he was not thrilled about. His last role that I caught was another disappointment for me: a voice role in the animated Sir Billi.
   But that is the life of an actor: you can’t choose great films all the time. And when someone is part of your cinemagoing for three decades, you think of the joy he brought.
   He was a proud Scot, and donated his entire US$1·2 million fee (a record in the early 1970s) from Diamonds Are Forever to kick off the Scottish International Educational Trust, which he founded, to help young Scots of exceptional ability.
   He knew what it was like to come from humble beginnings and saw the value of education, hence his interest in the Trust. He also believed in a Scottish parliament, and pushed for it, addressing the first session after its reconvening in 1999. He was knighted in 2000.
   It was a few years after that, at a conference where he was used as an example, that a colleague brought up his record about his private life, something that was disappointing.
   We did find ourselves in the same city once—Sir Sean had holdings in radio in New Zealand—and I learned I visited one station hours after he did. My mischievous side was tempted to make a crank call in his voice—I was asked to do an impersonation for the local Scottish Association, for their automated phone service, so I imagine it wasn’t too awful—but thought better of it. Despite all the celebrity interviews over the years, Sir Sean was retired by the time I could have interviewed him, and we never crossed paths. Like most of you, I was an admirer who saw the man on the silver screen, and what a career he had there.—Jack Yan, Founder and Publisher

 


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