"If you think you're free, there's no escape possible" - Ram Dass

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Delusion of Competence; James Bond Movie Guide (by a Priapic Amnesiac)


What is it that makes me, or us, or whomever, forget about the entire plot of a Bond movie the minute it's over? In addition to the car chases and women and battles and brawls there is usually a densely interwoven plot of machinations, but who can remember half of it, or from which movie? It's like some magic amnesia is interwoven into the Bond mythos, and I mean that with gratitude, for you never see a Bond film too many times. A new film comes out every three or so years, and then all the others show up on TV, to whet the uh... appetite. For so many of us, he's a link to our dads -- for dads of the 70s loved Bond without pretense or qualms, especially the Connery Bonds. In one form or another Bond will probably survive the coming Ice Age. He's the red-blooded Anglo Saxon male's last chance at glory; he morphs to suit each decade's needs, growing older, then younger, then old again, and if needed he can fake his own death. He's immortal yet continually imperiled; through him we learn the best ways to create diversions, break out of strongholds, that a pretty women is more dangerous than a loaded gun, and that if you're handsome and confident and loaded with money you can skip all three dates and have sex within minutes of meeting a foxy dame (and she won't demand payment later). If you've ever tried it, you know it's the scariest one of the challenges on this list- far easier to fantasize about than to do, sober.

Alas, what we don't learn from Bond is that most women don't conveniently get killed by the villain within a few scenes, or disappear after the credits, leaving Bond free to fool around for the next film. But that's maybe the fantasy at its purist and most unrealistic. Most of us got too much guilt, and too few licenses. So we live our fantasy here, and turn off all our priapic anxieties. To give you mine, my favorite Bond girls: Famke, Tanya, and Sophie. Amen. Two of them being villains is a dead give away--all you need to know about me is right there.


Following a handful of similar but deceptively elaborate plots that seem to bleed across each other (making each particular film hard to remember), Bond films have always rewarded repeat viewing over the decades; as we change from children to men our perceptions of the movies change, too, and new fissures of interest are sussed out. The Cold War atomic bomb hijacking minutiae and intrigue, the most boring parts when we were kids, are now the most fascinating. The giant computers and tracking devices are like windows into a forgotten field of punch card pre-silicon technology, like finding the distant relatives of Skynet. In THUNDERBALL (1965) it takes about five minutes of real cinematic time to throw a camouflage net over one lousy sunken NATO bomber. Now that I'm an adult lost in a world of whiplash editing and every third climax needs to have the world on the brink of extinction and six school girls abducted to feel any urgency, I love that the early Bond films weren't about saving the world but stealing code machines from embassies and foiling relatively un-apocalyptic sabotage-blackmail schemes. On pan and scan the copious ocean footage was hard to follow. Now, on the anamorphic, it's a poem. Connery is at his best, elbowing a fire alarm at a health spa without looking at it or breaking his stride down the hall; turning some painful spine stretching into a chance to blackmail his masseuse for sex (but then massaging her with a mink glove); and he's got a great opposite side spy to contend with, a woman who--like him--uses sex freely and often in her work and is smart and ruthless and thoroughly a villain, and now the beds these spies work on are stretched out to the full widescreen to savor their ornate frames framing the screen and exposing our agog minds to the wonders of Mad Men-era decor.


The widescreen enhanced HD look lifts even mediocre Bonds, for they're generally artful with widescreen deep depth travelogue on-location compositions. We don't have to go now, to Istanbul or Osaka or Las Vegas, we just send Bond, and reach into the screen like a combo diorama and dog door. But Bond needs to go, on our and the world's behalf, even if the world he saves no longer even exists. He takes the risks and endures the long flights and torture and performance anxiety; if we don't have his luck, or way with the ladies, or cat-like reflexes, or peerless marksmanship, or perfect hair, we can't begrudge him. We can always watch the movies if we need to feel proxy danger, or luxury. But which came first: our impoverishment creating a need for escapism, or escapism being used to make us impoverished? Either way, Bond eases the pain. Forever.


My first memories of Bond: falling in love with the very kinky edge of THUNDERBALL (Largo applying scientific hot and cold to the naked heaving back of kept woman Domino [Claudine Auger]) as a little sadomasochistic seven year-old. To me, that was Bond in the 70s, in a wet suit, shooting at a shark or a bad guy with his harpoon gun while a hot girl with a cute mole lounged in the white sand at his side, this all via TV, with my dad watching during the time of Roger Moore's SPY WHO LOVED ME, which was a colossal hit my parents felt I was too young to see. Then, in the 80s, when sexual harassment was becoming a thing we rented them all from the newly opened video stores at the mall (or from the back room of appliance stores) and saw them over and over, as reminders of the power we were once going to inherit as men, allegedly, but now never would, for with awareness and compassion--forced on us via the very media we sought refuge in--came loss of the kind of naive innocence that allows for the heedless exploitation of others. My best buddy Alan and I saw them all (MOONRAKER the first one I actually saw in the theater, finally old enough --and it was goddamned rate G) and when FOR YOUR EYES ONLY came to cable, we must have seen it 500 times because by then we had cable. Gradually we learned to appreciate Connery over Moore. The TV game show handsomeness and self-reflexive winking of Moore was reassuring but he lacked the muscularity of Connery; his punches looked like they would hurt only himself, though not in FOR YOUR EYES ONLY! In MOONRAKER, OCTOPUSSY, and VIEW TO A KILL though, he seemed far too old to not be creepy when he gets it on with a girl young enough to be his granddaughter. He didn't smoke and seldom even drank by then. Yeccch! Rated G!


In the 90s,  my whole relationship to Bond changed when our friend Jen (not her real name) brought a rented copy of ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE over to our loft one foreboding Friday night in 1997 -- year of my party boy apocalypse. I was so hungover from the night before it carried through the day and into the night - a blackout of shame and regret and paranoia and terror of the idea of going out again, into the night and the swankiness of another expensive bar. Once I saw the video rental bag in her hands, I knew it would all be OK. I absorbed the film fully, enraptured in ways I never would have been without her guidance, her presence like a soothing balm, her championing of Lazenby all that was needed to raise that film a dozen points in my eyes. It was a special event, one we tried to duplicate again and again after, but it never worked, not unlike ecstasy, that first big breakthrough is so good you pine for it with a broken heart forever after, never to recapture more than its stale reflection. Meanwhile Brosnan was entrenched, a perfect choice for the Metrosexual Age.

And so Bond became something to drink to, and who could make hangovers or sobriety disappear in equal measure. This was the era of the TNT Bond marathons, so important in staving off looming male impotence they were even cited by Kevin Spacey in AMERICAN BEAUTY. Pierce Brosnan had taken over after a two film stint by Timothy Dalton, who at the time had some big shoes to fill and people weren't prepared for a Bond who could act, or had the physicality and grace to appear like he could actually do the stuff Bond did and still seem actorly and a little wicked at the same time We disliked that he quit on us after only two.


By then the issue of sexism was too pronounced to ignore, so they cast Judi Dench as M, and made post-modern wisecracks about Bond's dinosaur patriarchal cluelessness. But dismissing Bond movies as sexist is a bit like dismissing MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE as paranoid. The truth is that being a spy has always been about being a whore for your country (ala NOTORIOUS and NORTH BY NORTHWEST), a master of using sex to convince vulnerable people to confide secrets, then leaving them to be killed while you pursue your quarry, keeping your dance card open for the next girl, who can maybe help you kill, who is maybe a spy too, which means both of you are pretending to love each other, so well you might even be in love for real and not know it. So unless a man is super confident, irresistible to women, inordinately lucky, able to keep one hand on his trigger as well as hers even unto the point of orgasm, a great shot and dogged in determination to chase down his man, even at the risk of massive destruction (all those trashed and probably uninsured Third World villages), and the death of the girl you just 'turned', that man don't have a chance. In sum, sexism is essential to a spy's survival.

Save the jokes, Mr. Bond
People make satires of Bond but just because you have spies, babes, and gadgets doesn't make us care - that kind of underestimation gets old quick when its just in service of itself (ala the first CASINO ROYALE, the Matt Helm series, or the Flint series). For best results, it must be played dead straight. And one must bear in mind Fleming was a big name in Naval Intelligence and knew all the true stories no paper would ever reveal. So they came out as fiction. And second, people squawk about how no bad guy ever shoots Bond when they have the chance, but if you study the real spies' exploits you learn that a smart enemy never kills someone they learn is a spy. They either try to turn them into a double agent or feed them false information, or failing both, use them as a hostage for ransom or prisoner exchange (or torture in case they might know something). Also, if the spy dies via 'suspicious circumstances' it's a sure sign to his organization that something major is going on wherever said spy was sent. So next thing to come in would be drone strikes, or whatever the era will allow. But if a spy is found half-eaten by alligators or piranha, or strapped into a stolen helicopter and exploded, then they can conjure it up to mere misadventure.


How does this translate to genuine cinema thrills? One thing I've been studying of late is the importance of tick-tockality or Hawksian/Carpenterian cohesive momentum, which involves minimum time lapse edits and very little cross-cutting to other players, creating a space where time elapses normally and we stay with the same character, i.e. Bond - as he travels, arrives, fights, travels, meets, travels, loves, travels, from point A to point B, departing only for stand-alone scenes such as SPECTRE meetings and doom-ladling), This allows for a deeper connection and sense something might actually be at stake. The first six films are the best for this (Brosnan's GOLDENEYE the worst, bouncing all over the place).

CHRONOLOGY RATING:
DR. NO
1962 - ****
Everything is new and fresh. There's no vocal to the opening theme song/credits, and Bond actually acts in a cumulative manner, super cool most of the time but unnerved by a midnight tarantula visit, and around 3/4 of the way through he starts to really exhibit the stress of continually fending off attacks on his life. Very cool. His only gadget is a new hand gun and he shoots and kills a man point blank who has an empty pistol, and nearly breaks a girl's arm for taking his picture. That's what I miss most in the post-Connery Bonds, that kind of cold ruthlessness. Connery's Bond is the fire you use to fight fire with.

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE
1963 - ****
These first four were each released a year apart, capturing a very successful momentum marked by an adherence to tick-tockality of an almost Hawksian level and low stakes games (missile toppling, codex triple crosses, gold irradiation) that are more believable and therefore more engaging. Nothing like a sanely motivated super villain to add to that effect, and SPECTRE in these early films is a shadowy organization of Cold War extortionist profiteers, stealing nukes and decoding devices to either sell to one side or the other, and always keeping their promises, so both sides know that if they pay the ransom, the goods will be delivered or hostages or nukes released --which puts #1 in an awkward position if he's already negotiated with the Russians for the return of something he hasn't even stolen yet. This helps the proceedings feel actually possible, like we're learning a bit of what goes on in the world that the media never gets wind of. Lots of odd touches like the Bond theme going full bore while Bond just noses around his hotel room looking for bugs and of course one must savor Weimar legend Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb; and Robert Shaw giving away his identity by ordering red with fish. The whole world saw this movie, and no one ever made the same mistake again.

GOLDFINGER
1964 - ***
This movie used to annoy me because everyone talked about how it was the best Bond but I thought it was the most illogical and garish. Goldfinger kills a mobster who wants to back out of the deal by crushing him up in a big Lincoln, along with a fortune in gold --why not just cap him off while he's on your property? Odd Job brings the crushed block back to the horse ranch and then needs to 'extract' his gold. Dude, talk about a waste of time and effort all just to show a car getting crushed into a block.  My dad loved that scene and talked about the 'great piece of music under it', I didn't think so, and argued that this version of Bond (even though I too was drinking copious mint juleps) comes off as a real snob in this, lecturing heads of MI6 on an the "indifferently blended" brandy they serve him, and the whole radioactive gold thing makes no sense since they never remove the gold at Fort Knox anyway--there's rumors it's not even there at all, showing just how little the writers (Or I) know about the world's gold standard (it's not like the Federal Reserve ever has to let the UN walk through with a geiger counter). But I think my real dislike for the film comes from the golf scenes - that sickly British sky, the mowed grass and ambient bird chirps - it all reminds me way too much of being stuck in New Jersey, developing brutal hay fever mowing the endless grass and getting withdrawn and depressed from my allergy medicine.

THUNDERBALL
1965 - **** 
Even with the new anamorphic letting us appreciate the underwater stuff, it still stops the picture dead more than once, as does the dumb shit like the spine stretcher and jet pack. Nonetheless, the tick-tock momentum is still in effect, mostly, with a great evil spy lady occupying the whole midsection. (full review here)

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE
1967 - ***1/2

Second to DR. NO and the first film as far as tick-tockality -especially the entire first half which seems to unfold almost in real time, ramping up suspense and expertly conveying the difficulty in separating which spies are on his side vs. the other when everyone's playing so close to the vest. it has some of the most offensive sexiness ("in Japan, women come second" notes his secret police contact) and least traveling (it's all in Japan). But it's still pretty slam-bang and on point even if, by the end, you've kind of forgotten the beginning. You presume you just don't get as a youth but when you get older you realize a lot of things don't make much sense. A girl pretends to defect to Bond's side when she has him totally tied up, frees him, has sex with him, then when they're up in the air in a small plane, jumps out leaving him to die, though he easily frees his hands and lands the plain... wait, didn't she free him already? Why waste a plane when you have him at your mercy? Situations like that stack up perhaps as typical Bond moments but elaborate volcano hidden bases used to abduct space ships and incite a global Cold War crisis are too abstract --we don't need such massive stakes for Bond to work. Stealing a couple of warheads through an elaborate NATO heist on the other hand (as in THUNDERBALL) is at least conceivable. Otherwise the shit going down makes as little sense as GOLDFINGER (detailing your Fort Knox plans via an elaborate diorama set-up just to machine gun your confederates two seconds later, for example). In other words, the spycraft minutiae of the books is on the way out and the comic book 'countdown to apocalypse' whizz bang is in, but only just.

ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE
1969- ****

The idea to make George Lazenby's first appearance the same one where he gets married and then cries is a bit of a misstep, makes him seem a weak Bond, like he can't handle the gaffe, but the whole down-the-Alps chase is all so well done it achieves greatness (his foes are so dogged and resourceful the chase lasts half the movie). Lazenby's a bit of a cypher but the more times I watch it and the older I get the more I think Lazenby might be the best Bond ever. Critics ragged on him for being such a blank slate, but that works for a spy, and through it all Lazenby shows real emotion. For example when he goes undercover as a snobby genealogist sent up to Telly Savalas' high-in-the-Alps stronghold he puts on a posh droning bore professor demeanor that's so vivid casual viewers think that's the Bond Lazenby has envisioned! When Blofeldt finally unmasks him, we see Bond become very relaxed, even bemused. And then, scared when he escapes and, then at his wit's end when Diana Rigg skates over; she rescues him! She's there when it counts, and his kisses on her cheek as she delivers some top notch evasive driving are maybe the first time we've seen Bond exhibit that kind of genuine affection (rather than lust). Next time you watch it, savor the worried look in his eye in the barn when he realizes he's madly in love with this girl in ways he wasn't with anyone before, it scares him but Lazenby still keeps the fear close to the vest. At the end wedding, check out his eyes when he says a wordless goodbye to Moneypenny after throwing her the bouquet. He's like a genuinely hopeful child, warm and alive with a new innocence he may not have had since his mother was alive, and Moneypenny recognizes it. This isn't just the usual flirting repartee he and Moneypenny share, but a real friendship. Lazenby's still Bondian but beyond goes way beyond Connery's range all while staying cool, and those tears at the end are earned. Let him grow on you, and Lazenby will grow. 


DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER
1971 - ***
The song is over quick. The intro finds Bond tracking Blofeldt clones played by Charles DEVIL RIDES OUT Gray; Connery's back and looks great, rested, but the 70s has begun. Bond gets slugged from behind with the regularity of old Jim Rockford; old ethnic TV character actors squeeze themselves into every bit part; Bond's receding hairline and gray chest hairs and short sleeve shirts make him seem like Bond's uncle sometimes, especially when he's either blithely letting the formulaic script carry him along or comically flailing at unfamiliar controls; and the two mincing coded gay assassins are kind of, what is the word, ah... yes... antiquated? Holding hands and ever in sync like some reptilian netherworld version of Rowan & Martin, they're still a hoot. There's also a great close quarters 'lift' fight and a moon buggy chase.


 On the plus side, Bond's still rough with women--choking a girl with her pearls on the beach into snitching on Blofeld (after old Stavros offed his wife when Bond had a different face)--and there's two of the most voluptuous (if obnoxious) Bond girls ever: this is one of the first movies my brother and I taped on our dad's new VHS back in 1980, and Jill St. John's sexy double agent gave me a lifelong love of black chokers, red hair, and acting from the Russ Meyer School of Line Shouting. Sporting a similar look is another of my favorite hotties, Plenty O'Toole (Lana Wood). A cooler for the casino owned by Willard White, she's first thrown into a pool from the 25th story or so (and it looks like a stunt double totally made the drop in real life) and then winds up drowned in a different pool. Together they became my feminine ideal and that's why I've never been drawn to the skinny models preferred by my old roommate / guitarist. A girl needs curves, bro and ideally Faster Pussycat Kill Kill line delivery. Other than that there's a great car chase around real Vegas streets (though again that PG TV cop show vibe carries) and the Vegas stuff has a certain Rat Pack swagger. There's good tick-tockality and Bond actually relies on teamwork with the CIA, stunts are pretty thrilling overall, as when this old Bond starts rappelling around the outside of the Willard Whyte skyscraper.

LIVE AND LET DIE
1973 - ***
Harlem, voodoo floor show contortionists, tarot readings, ostritch feather cowls, piranhas, a hat on the bed, the old snake in the bath trick, alligators, Geoffrey Holder as Baron Samedi, it's "the black one." Yaphet Kotto is a heroin distributor named Kananga and a Harlem smack kingpin with a Mabuse-like network of black muscle; he dies inflating like a balloon, though before then there's a great boat chase my brother and I used to watch endlessly (the second thing we ever taped), and we still talk to each other like the tobacco-chewing Louisiana sheriff ("what are you some kinda doomsday machine, boy?")  Jane Seymour is an interesting Bond girl, interesting as she's a psychic whose powers will disappear once she loses her virginity, a pleasure Kananga intended for himself. Heh heh. Also, her peacock shawl thing is lovely. The first black Bond girl is a terrible actress, "you're only my second mission, you know? The first was Bangs," notes Gloria Hendry, and if you substitute mission for trick, the difference between actress, hired girl, and spy all melt into one another. Oh well, it's neat to see Bond seem like such a clueless mark, pinned by half of Harlem as a honky chump narc everywhere he goes, somehow thinking he can blend in. The abundance of smart, organized, ambitious black criminals paints a weirdly positive-- if racist--gloss on the drug trade and inner-city violence, though we still get questionable lines like Felix Lighter shouting on the phone "Get me a make on a white pimp mobile!" Paul M's theme song is one of the series' best, though at the same time one of the most white (if ever a Bond film calls for a Barry White number, this one's it). Roger Moore's debut film finds him at his most robust and handsome, but his reliance on dumb luck, impossible physics, poor villain marksmanship, fortuitous CIA intervention, and villains who'd rather use Batman style killing devices rather than caps to to the melon, speaks ill of the future of the series. Connery's Bond would never be so luck-dependent (Diamonds excluded). And neither would Felix. Kananga/Big has nearly every black man in the diaspora on his payroll but Felix just sends Bond, not even with a machine gun or even an automatic, just a magnum revolver he throws away to fight Holder in the voodoo showdown. Ah well, at least Kotto makes a fine villain and Holder became, thanks to this and his 7-Up commercials at the time ("crisp and clean and no caffeine") a minor cult star, until no one could find anything else for him to do.




MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN
1974 - **
This is where Moore's Bond shows the ridiculous kid-friendly slapstick side, perhaps it's even the first film where you feel the target demographic slip down about ten years, from young married couples (who get a babysitter for the kids) to the kids themselves, with a villain who continually gives Bond free passes for his blunders. I mean this rich killer constructs an elaborate funhouse just to chase Bond through so he can use a golden gun? One peep at the life-size Bond replica he has in there an we already know how Bond's going to beat him in the climax --there's literally no other reason for it. And so it plays like a long episode of FANTASY ISLAND rather than a real Bond movie and not just because of Hervé Villechaize. Said killer is Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) is an ex carnival sharpshooter and ex-KGB assassin and has a superfluous third nipple. But "who would pay a million dollars to have me killed?" Moore asks. He then wonders to M if his situation might improve if he finds Scaramanga before Scaramanga shoots him. Brilliant deduction, 007!  At any rate, now on widescreen in HD, Scaramanga's expressionist funhouse shooting range--built in and around natural cave formations in remote tropical paradise--is most attractive as one's fantasy hideaway. Louisiana sheriff J.W. Pepper from LIVE AND LET DIE returns--bumping into Bond on vacation with the wife but ending up jumping out bridges like the goddamned Duke Boys with him, and calling Hong Kong locals a bunch of pointy heads in PIE-jamas. He's a "hoot," but utterly superfluous, as is the fight scene in a belly dancer's dressing room. There's also Thai boxing and karate demonstrations; depressing Asian strip clubs; and random chases through the unwashed throngs. The cumulative portrait of Hong Kong is of a city that's sweaty, brutish, and overcrowded, glazed with condensation on every surface and skin, and no breath of fresh air for miles. There's some gorgeous (Thai?) coastal scenery along Bond's flight to Scaramanga's island hideaway, which is self-sustaining and very chic and all Bond can say is lame quips like "this ought to run a few electric toothbrushes" and to impune the vintage of his host's champagne. The  idea of running MI6 operations out of a half-sunk battleship in the harbor is genius, and Britt Eckland is cute as hell though in that iconic purple bikini but proves herself the most idiotic Bond girl in all of the series. Supposedly a fellow agent, she shouts confidential information in public and would rahter bemoan Bond's womanizing (they had an affair years earlier) like she's trying to be ditzy-era Goldie Hawn or Diane Keaton rather than capable spy like Martine Beswick in THUNDERBALL --and that's damn depressing. She needs 'permanent retiring', not indulgence. Offensive in her endangering incompetence, we wouldn't see Good Night's like again until Cameron Diaz in KNIGHT AND DAY.  And it's a race to see who has the worst dialogue, with her sexy quip at the end being something like "I always wanted to take a slow boat from China."


Good thing then that the script relies on dumb TV plot luck and past Bond formula instead of ingenuity: "I could have shot you down when you landed, but that would have been ridiculously easy," notes Scaramanga. Yeah right. It's a lucky man who depends on the sportsmanship of assassins. Connery didn't need to, and certainly wouldn't be such a drag about his license to kill. Connery admitted he was a killer, but Moore's Bond seems to think he's goddamned Pope Pious, all while dropping awkward sex talk that sounds like your grandfather squinting at a Playboy Club bar napkin. And Christopher Lee is trying to do a good classy villain here but he gets no help from anyone else in the cast - the end climax with it's sparse cast (no armies or anything, just Bond, Britt, Herve and Lee running around) and leaden humor, offensive short person abuse, and limpid sex. Moore looks great, though as does the coastal scenery, but good god.

SPY WHO LOVED ME
1977 - ***1/2

The producers realized they should take their time rather than deliver another glorified TV movie, and the result is easily the best of the Moore Bonds. I was eleven years old when THE SPY WHO LOVED ME was in theaters and it was PG but my parents figured Bond was too risque for us kids, though most every other kid wasn't so hobbled. The parents all went to see it on dates with their wives or sig others and then came back and told us all about that underwater car and Jaws. Torture. I imagined Jaws with a monocle and a Prussian hat and black gloves, like the one-armed prefect of police in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. I was disappointed when I saw him at last in on the big screen in MOONRAKER. He just looked like a big dumb German farmer! And other bits aren't as good as my imagination of them either, and there's a first bit of feminism as we're first led to think the Bond-ish Russkie in bed with Barbara Bach is agent XXX. We all know it's Vin Diesel, at any rate. There's some good use of Egypt and the pyramids (though the tour narrator mispronounced "Giza" . The innuendos are almost dirty blue, but Moore delivers with admirable deadpan lines like "when one is in Egypt, one should delve deeply into its treasures."  Bach's got a great tan and looks hot in a Faye Dunaway if her face slipped on the ice sorta way but seems ill-equipped for super agent status, and certainly and Breck girl hair can't act. Still, this is the Fleetwood Mac's Rumors of Bond films, so emblematic of the 70s it may as well have a mood ring. It's also the first Bond film to tap the kid's market. Its gadget obsession and cartoon violence (Connery's punches and kicks seemed like they'd hurt someone whereas when Connery kicks a bad guy in the ribs it's more like you worry he'll sprain his instep more. The plot is basically a hybrid of You Only Live Twice and Thunderball- with the ship that swallows up satellites switched to a tanker that swallows up nuclear subs and the sharks that kill traitors and incompetent underlings in an aquarium instead of a swimming pool. And for a tough spy, XXX shows her womanly illogic--letting emotions dictate her behavior--and threatening to kill Bond for killing her lover who was trying to kill him back in the ski sequence beginning. But at least, unlike the first two Moore outings, the ending is straight out of the old days, with a massive battle between captured sub crews and the Stromberg line army, which is quite vast. Say what you want about SPECTRE, they were all about $$, they stole nukes just to extort more money. Stromberg, a German magnate, prefers to initiate WWIII in order to satisfy some veiled fourth reich as imagined by Jacques Cousteau. But the great silver cavernous sets are great, even if Bond continually fails to reload his gun, giving the villain ample time to get his hand-to-hand combat, but at least we get to see Jaws bite a shark and swim towards, presumably, Amity, and a fine example of how homophobia eliminates gaydar can be found in the closing 'les boys do cabaret' refrain at the end undercuts Bond 'keeping the British end up' (and Carly Simon's song, huge at the time, now seems quite anemic.) 

MOONRAKER
1979 -  **
Rated G. Am I right? Now my parents had no more excuses, though I didn't even need them to take me by then. I missed the party, though. Bond seems very old and tired, suddenly, like he should be home watering his garden, not being spun around in a G-force simulator or pretending he could punch Jaws in the mouth and not shatter his wrist. The girls he meets and seduces in his travels now seem like Valium-zonked call girls paid to pretend he's a spy, tagging along beside him and hiding their eye rolls as he romps around his mansion, uncovering little clues his butler sets up the night before --the rich can afford all sorts of delusions.  Since it's so G, Bond doesn't even carry his own gun anymore, so his own enemy, Drax, has to supply him with hunting rifles and lasers as needed. He doesn't even drink or smoke. Not even tea. He'd rather quip and try to stand up straight. Look, mom, he's doin' it!


THE SPY WHO LOVED ME had been such a huge hit, so popular, the underwater sports car thing so cool, so of its time--so perfectly attuned with both the shark-obsessed vibe of JAWS and gadget vibe of STAR WARS--that for the follow-up they made the mistake of trying to deliver more of the same instead of doing something new. Dumb sight gags abound and repeat: an old coughing Italian man at the Venice cafe sees a floating coffin and throws his cigarette away; the password to get into the secret lab is the notes from CLOSE ENCOUNTERS. Now, instead of a car that becomes a submarine, it's a gondola that becomes a comical parade float. Richard Kiel returns as Jaws, gets a Pippi Longstocking girlfriend, survives more crashes, and becomes a good guy. The biggest crime--so rare in any Bond movie--is that the filmmakers and Moore presume our love and laughter without bothering to really earn it, and Drax is a dreadfully dull villain, barely an afterthought. The first batch girls all wear dowdy old peasant blouses, the sort that were fashionable only for mercifully brief stretch and now make girls from 1979 movies sometimes resemble sister wives from old Mormon scrapbooks; the second batch are selected for their comely stock for a Noah's Ark in space and dress like they're in LOGAN'S RUN or TIME MACHINE eloi. When not seducing Bond, they stand around in readiness like the prostitutes at a rainforest retreat in prior to their Monarch 7 trigger activation ceremony. That all said, the sets and music are good (the score references Wagner on the sly and gets downright trippy up in space) and I dig Drax's approach to planet cleansing. The world is damned overpopulated and the planet really could use a good space orchid allergy plague..

Thank god the 70s were almost over, and all the variety show schtick would descend once more into its vaudeville grave. With cable there would no longer be a need to appeal to the elderly, children, and everyone in- between all at the same time, but it's still the 70s here and so we have the sort of movie where we get a tour through a priceless antique glass exhibit and know in a few scenes it's gonna be trashed in a brawl--why else is there even a 'priceless glass exhibit'? It's like a delivery boy trying to cross the street with a stack of cake boxes during the running of the bulls --moronic on so many levels. And so bouncy music plays after every lame innuendo, and Kiehl survives everything with a flustered genial slow burn like Wiley Coyote after his latest Acme gadget explodes in his face. Still there's a few great moments: a slow Carnivale clown stalk that in its weird shambling silence recalls the previous year's HALLOWEEN and the final battle with space jockey laser beams is both comical and out of sight, baby-o!

FOR YOUR EYES ONLY
1981 - ***1/2
Return to basics?! Smart move, Mr. Bond. A very welcome resurfacing of one of the lost Bond archetypes--the ultimately good-natured older, fatherly rogue with criminal connections, here played with genuine robustness by Topal, who helps Bond against a bigger threat.


OCTOPUSSY 
1983 - *
Louis Jordan looks way too old and tired to be a convincing villain. Was he cast to make the now geriatric Moore seem robust and vibrant? Moore's pretty weak but Jordan seems ready, not for world domination, but a late afternoon nap. All the lessons of the lean and lovely FOR YOUR EYES ONLY are forgotten. Bond girl Maude Adams was hot in Playboy (I was of Playboy-reading age at the time) but dull as dishwater as the titular circus spymaster. Half the film seems consist of Bond and Jordan--seeming for all the world like two rich old sex tourists-- promenading through a marble harem. The other half is incoherent nonsense on a circus train with a cache of pilfered Russian Faberge eggs and tricks from the Hitchcock playbook, badly bungled. There's also pint-sized jet that takes--apparently--unleaded, that Bond uses to kill a whole airplane hangar of innocent Cuban pilots. Muy insensitivo, senior! The gypsy circus costumes all look brand new and the vibe is strictly TV movie with lots of snarky T&A. To make Bond look less old they've rigged the entire cast with grey and white hair; this is what it sounds like when clowns die. I've tried to watch several times and can never care past 20 minutes in any direction. Some good oboes in the score, though. And in the HD remaster everyone has an expensive bronze look and at the scenery is expensive and gorgeous now. Tacky moments occur throughout if you're awake: the Turkish MI6 agent plays the Bond theme on a snake charmer flute -how wry! There are gags with sword swallowers, beds of nails, and hot coals! That ought to warm things up! But at least he's actually Indian and drives Bond on a merry chase through the busy markets of wherever. Kristina Wayborn is Bond girl number slated to die halfway through, and her enthusiasm for Bond's boudoir rivals that of a fidgety child enduring church. She's too smart for crap lines like "that's my little octopussy" and her every line sounds overdubbed and strained, like she's been dubbed by someone even worse than herself. The henchmen are dull, too, oh the Jaws-in-a-turban bad guy can crush dice in his bare hands! Dated attempts at humor include: African safari music plays during the tiger hunt (with Bond as the tiger) he tells a snake to "hiss off" and then swings through the air on vines while Weismuller's Tarzan yell pops onto the soundtrack. And of course the clowns, and Moore's big turn in the center ring while the MPs close in. But hey -- his hairpiece stays on even when he's whipping along on the outside of the train. It's a really tacky brown-blonde color but man does it say on.

All the hot girls of the Pussy's "Octopus Cult" are only seen in wide shot ---and some have Flash Gordon tights which is just ridiculous. The director has no eye for hottie curves. Maude Adams has a great body so why is she hidden behind a big powder blue sari sash in the limp seduction scene. We get a few glimpses of her spectacular midriff when she walks but that's it, and she could have used more as she can't act. Ever the gentleman, Moore refrains from it, too.  He can't even wake up for the climax. "It doesn't matter to you that thousands will be killed!" he admonishes the war-crazed general. It doesn't matter to us, either. Two seconds later he's shooting innocent Russian soldiers just following orders. But as long as he's upholding the status quo, he's the good guy. That's how you tell.

Still, for all that, the climactic attack on Louis Jordan's compound by Octopussy's all woman circus team is pretty inspired, scaling the walls via human pyramid and elephant see-saw, but clumsily filmed. The climax with Bond hanging on atop a plane is pretty wild, though, with what seems like real (and real crazy) stuntman going nuts up there. And the song "All TIme High" is one of the lamest of all Bond songs, Maude Adams and Wayborn two of most lifeless Bond girls, and Moore at his most awkward.

A VIEW TO A KILL
1985  - **1/2
Long considered the worst Bond, I'd argue it's GOLDEN GUN or OCTOPUSSY (is it a coincidence they both have Maud Adams?) This one has Christopher Walken! That alone makes it better than those two. He's great as the Bill Gates-ish bad guy planning to flood Silicon Valley, and aquamarine-eyed angel Tanya Roberts is in it, over whom I have always been delirious (she had a Playboy cover spread, too, in 1982, when I was a hormonal fifteen year-old) and a climax aboard a zeppelin tangled up with on spire of the Golden Gate Bridge. OCTOPUSSY has clowns. Figure it out.

THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS
1987 ***
LICENSE TO KILL
1989 - ***
Timothy Dalton's Bond has been slighted over the years but we've forgotten why now (at the time we liked him but then we felt he betrayed us by walking away after only two films). Well, time re-evaluates all press, and soon Brosnan's time will come. DAYLIGHTS especially is a stripped down Bond with realistic and strange escapes and KILL makes hilarious use of Wayne Newton as a preacher using yoga to hypnotize a MOONRAKER-style conglomerate of white-robbed New Age chicks, and there's a great down-the mountain-tumbling truck-wreck climax.

 GOLDENEYE
1995 - ***
After a lengthy absence, a new Bond for a new decade. Pierce Brosnan is devastatingly handsome and just a little bit alien looking--half Esquire ad and half British issue robot--with mussed dark black hair that he inherited from his predecessor Dalton. Famke Janssen breaks into instant cult star status here, though her dumb name 'Onnatop' demeans an otherwise furious and crazy (and aptly named) Russian assassin who gets off on crushing her lovers to death between her thighs. We also see the first 'hacker' in Bondland (played by Alan Cummings). After being too familiar with KGB and SECTRE agents in lab coats and ties, now we've got lollipop sucking nerds as legitimate threats to national security, EMPs (Electro-Magnetic Pulses), and Joe Don Baker as a believable CIA agent, bringing grumpy ex-military crime drama resonance where it belongs. Not a lot of forward tick-tockality though --too much zipping around from place to place. Bond even disappears for whole sections of KGB offices and in a Siberian radar installation, where the juvenile antics of Cummings' hacker get old for us way faster than for the nondescript Bond final girl Izabella Scorupco. There are some actually witty, subtle  throwaway lines, though ("That's close enough" Bond says after Onnatop mounts him) and I dig that the bad guys are colorfully diverse, allowed to be human rather than simply cardboard megalomaniacs: a Russian Cossack betrayed by the crown after WW2; Orson Bean as Alec is another, whom M figured was too young at the time to remember. '

Best of all: Janssen's big breakout as the kinky sadomasochistic sex fiend henchman (she'd be right at home in Cronenberg's CRASH--check the way her eyes light up when she realizes the speeding train she's on is about to smash into a tank). She's so young, hot, confident, brash and downright dangerous you sense all the opportunities the series missed in the past by not having more women henchmen and supervillains--there were some with Bond in the early days (old bitches like Rosa Klebb and young mankillers like THUNDERBALL's SPECTRE agent Fiona) but few in the Moore and Dalton years. Here, it being the 90s, you can tell they made a conscious effort to tone down sexism and bring in strong women (M is played by Judi Dench, etc.) without being a ballbusting buzzkill about it. By the climax at the big satellite dish well, all of a sudden, like light switch turning on at closing time at the bar, you're more than ready to split. You should always quit while you're ahead, James! Still--fine work.

TOMORROW NEVER DIES 
1997 **1/2
This used to be one of my favorites. I saw it in the theater with one of my aforementioned Faxy friends whilst getting sober and when you're getting sober you really feel the action deep in your gut on the big screen. But nowadays parts of it irk me: Jonathan Pryce--great in BRAZIL--is a colossal bore (and has terrible bridgework) as a prissy media mogul in the Charles Foster Kane- Rupert Murdoch vein, crafting a war with China for the nefarious purpose of filling a 24 hour news channel. Pretty clever idea but Pryce is way-too-pleased with his tacky lines: "what kind of havoc shall we create with the world today?" and "I'm having fun with my headlines." At least he also says, "thank you," to his aides instead of just shooting them and he has burly blonde rentboy Götz Otto as his Odd Job henchman, Thumper (though bland here he's at last huge and would be ausgezeichnet in IRON SKY). Meanwhile, as if Moneypenny wasn't bad enough, Dench's M delivers terrible puns like "you always were cunning linguist, James," and Q looks so old and rheumy he should have retired 20 years ago. Luckily there's some weird cameos like Vincent Schiavelli as an embarrassed Hamburg hit man, and--god knows why--burly magician Ricky Jay as Pryce's tech guy. Clunky expository dialogue abounds and there's almost an absence of the bubbly hotness we expect: TV's Lois and Clark star Terri Hatcher is the first babe--the one who always dies early--as the bad guy's expensively attired rich bitch lavender wife. She's strangely materialistic but well-lit with a gorgeous bronze patina and a dark feathery dress, cut to the burnished shoulders replete with Shanghai Express black feathers. Michelle Yeoh is great in the fight scenes but the strain of speaking English prevents her from adding any kind of sexual nuance (one day we'll hear Bond speak a different language - he says he took a 'first in oriental languages at Cambridge,' whatever that even means). Yeoh was hot at the time due to SUPERCOP 2, but she's a lithe kickass action star not a buxom love machine! When she rubs noses with Brosnan, there's no question who spent the longest time in hair and makeup.

THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH
1999 ***
Denise Richards, on the other hand, is a great Bond girl. My problem with this one, mainly, is Brosnan's TV hair and very dated linen suits--being made in the 90s only excuses so much. I saw this opening weekend with my very first AA sponsor when I was counting days. I loved it! But if your hair is still perfectly moussed after a knockout brawl, Mr. Bond, I would suggest you avoid work that requires such regular proximity to open flames.

This is also the one with Sophie Marceau as the deliciously evil villainess, Elektra King. Her stylist is without peer, that hair and those gorgeous whiskey in the sunlight flame tips kill me. Playing a Turkish-Serbo-whatever national oil baroness, Marceau ably melds elements from the West, East, and Middle East, into a fabulous modernist wardrobe and damn gorgeous hair and that gutsy fearless carnal badass quality only French actresses seem to have (her, Huppert, and And I don't care, Denise Richards IS a believable atomic scientist. She's so hot in those khaki shorts she should be handled with specially insulated tongs. (See The Elektra King Hair Complex).

 DIE ANOTHER DAY
2002 - **3/4
 Halle Berry tends to be fierce in dramas but mousy in action films. Too much dramatic acting only gets in the way of a Bond film and she doesn't know how to turn her brain off and her head's too small for such short hair, but there's a good plot here about genetic alterations that turn a North Korean army brat into a posh Brit using conflict diamonds and reflected sunlight in a bid to invade South Korea before his father finds out. Whew! There's a nice visit to the Ice Hotel (in Iceland), and a sword fight that tracks all around a posh British fencing club, providing such a nicely emblematic mix of privilege and destruction that not even Madonna's leaden presence or the cliche'd use of the Clash's "London Calling" can detract from it. And Miranda Frost looks great in fencing gear. Look at those free floating tousles!

CASINO ROYALE
2006 - ****
We were all blown away at first sight--Craig is easily the best Bond and most believable killer since Connery. With those haunted sunken eyes and hurt-little-boy scowl, he seems genuinely dangerous and competent. But as an 'origin' story, CASINO ROYALE becomes harder to enjoy as years pass, the way it pains me to watch teenagers make my same mistakes. At least we learn why he would never trust a dame again (Eva Green redefines sultry as British treasury agent Vesper Lynde). "Does everyone have a tell?" She's a horribly smug bitch who belittles him down at every turn like the writers mistook feminism for condescension. There's also has a bit of ball torture which delivers 50 years later or whenever on the threat of Goldfinger's space age gem-cutting laser and makes us fear for his future erections (did it leave him sterile which is why he never worries about protection?) Never trust a girl who doesn't have a tell. It pains me to imagine him getting it on with Vesper after his balls are smashed numerous times but it's the right pain. Eva Green makes an indelible impression, she was a major star after this and rules Showtime's PENNY DREADFUL still. There's a lot of interesting detail here, including detailed money wire information prior to the big poker game, and a scene where Bond goes to his car to look at documents and take a gun stashed in the secret compartment. It's the kind of detail and patience most Bond films rush past (especially in the follow-up, QUANTUM OF SOLACE) but here it's those kind of bits that really pay off for making us feel, for the first time, maybe, Bond's true core of cold courage and streamlined shark confidence, everything we wish we had as men, but are maybe in the end fine with just watching him instead. It seems like a lot of work. (see also: James Bond rides the Strip)

QUANTUM OF SOLACE
2008 - **
This might have been a good Bond movie once, but some insecure editor whittled it down, shortening nearly every shot and cross-cutting like a coked-up Eisenstein between bullfights, races, post-modern operas, and rich men and women checking their coats and getting in and out of posh vehicles. There's also misogynistic sexual assault and political disillusionment (even the CIA is corrupt) --very out of place for a Bond film. Disillusionment with the system and our hatred for sexual violence is why we turn to Bond! We don't need to hear there's no use fighting evil! Don't ask me to pick between RIO BRAVO and THE SEARCHERS because it will be RIO BRAVO every time. Every fucking time.

On the other hand, the whole 'who can you trust even after they show you the right code sign' harkens back to the Connery films as does the idea that a pretty girl who invites you into her car might be CIA, SPECTRE, KGB or anyone else pumping you for information, so don't presume anything even after you sleep with them. Lastly, the post-internet and cell phone age has changed Bond in ways both good and bad, and the film itself seems to miss the old clarity of a simple Cold War. I don't mind the ping-ponging around the globe because now information flows so fast it's at the risk of outrunning our boy if he doesn't keep his momentum at Jan De Bont levels.

That said, part of the escapism of Bond is to imagine that actual smart, brave, good people are at the helm of our military intelligence. Here both the British government and American CIA are hopelessly corrupt, in bed with 'Quantum' an Illuminati-like conglomerate of Third World democracy topplers. But there is a lot of fire in the climax, and a great airplane-through-a-canyon chase. This is the movie where I first fell in love with Gemma Arterton, even if she does have only five fingers on each hand (she was born with six! Why cut them?) but of course she gets a mere three exceedingly brief scenes before she's offed cruelly and pointlessly and reminiscently of Shirley Eaton in GOLDFINGER. Never were there so few breaths taken over so short a Bond film, for so little reward. If we wanted to feel depressed and shaken, not stirred, we would watch a documentary on global corruption, not seek refuge in colonialist wish-fulfillment.

SKYFALL
2012 - ****
In SKYFALL there's not even enough time for a second, non-killed Bond babe; M and Javier Bardem are the closest we come and both are excellent. Bardem especially brings it all to a whole new level. He's one of my favorites and earns that love yet agin. But by now, MI6 is a shrinking network, and the return to the old ways wished for in QUANTUM are now unleashed with a cathartic vengeance. Try not to muck it up, 007. Things are looking good for the next film, with a new M and a new Q, both of whom seem well-suited to the post-cheeky age.

2015 - *1/2

A feature length men's fragrance commercial disguised Bond movie, this has a pretty great train fight, a smokin' hot babe (Léa Seydoux) in nice dresses, perfectly mussed blonde hair over black turtlenecks against a snowy white background (j'adore) and a glum attitude of systemic corruption dragging MI6 down the drain. Now the chips are so stacked against our Mr. Bond that he rides right into the dragon's den, has his arch enemy Stavros Blofeldt (Christophe Waltz, yet again) display how the entire purpose of the huge criminal empire he's created is to enact a decades-long revenge, purely since James is his (adopted) brother and always his dad's favorite, not little Stavros. Longtime fans of the series can't help but feel towards this film the way Alien fans felt towards Alien 3. I still hate David Fincher for that wasted opportunity, the obvious contempt and disinterest expressed towards the tropes of the franchise. 

Meanwhile, the bad guys know all 007's secrets but of course aren't bright enough to remove his trick watch when they strap him to the torture chair. One well placed pistol shot later and the whole entire billion dollar complex is up in flames. And then it's to another designer boutique parfum tableaux of corruption, expository tirades about how the future of international security is camera and internet not spies, and lots of smashing rich boy gear into walls and mountains. Not to say there's not some great vistas, but really... the chain of paranoid conspiracy theory logic is so wearying in its oppressive glitz, the contempt for the entirety of the series to that point so palpable, it becomes the most un-Bond Bond ever. as if--having gone back to basics in SKYFALL--director Sam Mendes wanted to just scrub all the humanity and wit in favor of some ill-conceived 'interrogation of power' 70s-style conspiracy downer. In other words it's THE PARALLAX VIEW dressed up like a Rolex fold-out supplement in Esquire. More depressingly misogynist and materialistic even than QUANTUM OF SOLACE, it posits the entirety of the world governments as so dumb they'd turn over their national security to a shady private contractor at the first sign of trouble, like a cowardly grocer paying off the Black Hand. And MI6 still lets the entire weight of the old world order rest on one man's shoulders, even while loudly ordering him to let it drop, and paying the no doubt astronomical tab he runs up on his Mastercard Platinum. 

Fight corporate synergy in affordable style and comfort
In short, the writers love to set up plush high end noir Bildenberg conspiracies for Bond to be almost swallowed up by, but he's so comfortable in the 'top ten percent of the top one percent' spending arena we can't help but wonder how he's going to fight the power without losing his million dollar contract. 

And if it wasn't enough, we have to know that so much of the SPECTRE treasury is paid for by white slavery, just because, you know, sexually brutalized foreign females are the new status symbol. But then those writers and product positioners are at a loss how an expensively-coiffed Brit with nothing but a snub nose automatic and an exploding watch can defeat this vast conspiracy inside of the next hour. So Boom - a lucky stray shot topples the empire that Christophe Waltz has spent the last 20 minutes detailing in soul-crushing detail. One snub nosed .38 slug starts a death star style chain reaction at the fortress without even needing to study the blueprint inside the R2 unit, and then--back in London (do they play "London Calling" over Big Ben B-roll? Isn't that the new rule, except for the ring and the truncheon thing?). At the big climax, the same snub nosed pistol brings down a helicopter in mid-air from a half mile away. Oh James, is that your 'magic' gun? Does the screenwriter really know anything about how guns work, does he think those bullets wouldn't just bounce off a copter hull at that range? Or that they'd have any kind of accuracy? As long as the products are in focus, who gives a shit about the limited effectiveness of small arms fire? It's that kind of contempt that sticks in the craw. 

The only interesting part is the torture device of Ernst's: a small robotic surgery needle that bores into various parts of the brain to erase memory and the ability to recall faces (so everyone looks like a stranger). But hey! Mere torture doesn't work on Bond! Needles burning out cortices means nothing. He's got a magic brain! For some reason! Is it lazy writing that we never know why it doesn't work on him? Why even bother with the laborious sleazy, Fu Manchu-style lurid set-up of the device?  It's clear the writers would be more at home doing HOSTEL III than writing action movies --they got their vile sadism down pat but don't know shit about reality, let alone spycraft, so rather than learn, they "streamline" the franchise down to what they can do and know about. Even the old 60s Batman wouldn't rely this much on their target demo's ignorance of basic physics.

On the other hand, if you can flip through an issue of Esquire without feeling like you're being sold on the idea of investing in a corporate white slavery ring by some synergizing pimp, then you really are already so brainwashed by the objectifying media that even a Situationist street agitprop freakout can't wake you up to your own commodification. The only way the filmmakers can justify such strident product placement is to have Bond give up spycraft at the end to go show his new girl a good time, the kind of time he's entitled to for having bought just the right car, watch, cologne, sunglasses, boots and jacket, only from Sharper Outfitters and Tar-Mart. 

Non Salzman-Broccoli Bonds:
CASINO ROYALE - *
NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN *

One's a lame overdone 'everything but the chicken soup' disaster typical of the floundering studio system's efforts to seem hip as the 60s came to a close; the other is a remake of THUNDERBALL with old age and urination jokes, a balding Bond, and Kim Basinger at peak lusciousness (in wet negligees and almost sold at auction to a slavering Arab). Stravinsky's Rite of Spring plays on the soundtrack and James Fox is a very cranky boss who only cares about budgets and reigning in Bond's drinking. Ugh. Klaus Brandauer ranks right down there with Louis Jordan as far as looking too old, tired, and generic to be a good villain, and the idea of putting video arcades into the ritzy parties, casinos, and hotel lobbies, is really ill-conceived --we don't need to see Bond playing Missile Command instead of actually commanding missiles. Both films are worth seeing once though, just to realize how many mistakes the main Bond films avoid. Reign on, Cubby and Harry's James. The future may be written on silicon chips, but the credits are still on bouncing silhouettes of guns and girls and we'll always need a real man to kill the rich, even in our dreams.

SEE ALSO:
"One of the many things which makes Daniel Craig the best Bond since Connery is his pain. He’s aware of the lost sense of intimacy that came with having license to both kill and “be a sexual heel.” Connery’s Bond was always civil to the bad guys until they killed a friend or a girl of his, then his steely eyes hardened and the insults started flowing; underneath the tough veneer he genuinely cared. The later Bonds by contrast put up a caringveneer in addition to a tough veneer; they were all veneer. Daniel Craig comes to us with all veneers smashed; the pain of crushed innocence and the rage of a wounded orphan child in his big deep gray eyes, the “non-venerial” toughness returned. "



"The nifty thing about this new Bond approach is the way it remains conscious of the Moebius strip upon which it runs. It is aware, for example, that the entire cycle of Bond films–which stretch from the Cold War straight through to the future–actually involve the surpassing of technologies in real life that were created in the older films as sci fi devices. Consider for example the “full circle” of our post-modern nostalgia over the gigantic “futuristic” computers of the old Bond villains like Dr. No–with their reel-to-reel computer tapes and punch cards–which we watch on plasma screens from super deluxe DVD sets or ultra slim laptop computers. And now Bond is actually younger and the futuristic gadgets he thought were so nifty have not just been invented but have been over-promoted to the point of un-coolness, and promptly forgotten, and his boss has become a woman, and suddenly he is newly promoted to the job he’s had all his life, and he is ready to meet the only woman he will ever love… for the SECOND TIME!"

3 comments:

  1. Man With The Golden Gun is by far my favorite Bond movie, not just because it's so '70s (complete with flashes of 70s PG nudity), but also because it embraces the comic book nature of the series. I'll take it any day over the dour, oh so "serious" Daniel Craig movies. Casino Royale is the only Bond movie I ever walked out of.

    On Her Majesty's Secret Service would be my second favorite and it doesn't nearly get the respect it deserves.

    Great writeup as usual!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Joe I may have to revisit the Golden Gun. It's the only one I haven't seen with my adult eyes yet. You've inspired me to give it a second chance

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  2. Evan Connell11 June, 2014

    When I think of those early Connery Bond films, I too am reminded of my Dad, who took me to see them (I think starting with "From Russia With Love" when I was about 5!). After Goldfinger, my parents gave me for my birthday the Corgi toy version of the gold Aston Martin DB5, complete with bullet-proof shield, guns and ejector seat.

    I still think From Russia With Love is close to the best - but I haven't seen them all. Your piece will guide me in catching up with the later ones. Thank you

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