With classes set to start on Monday I am not in the mood for heavy fare. So how about some entertainment blogging!
Like all sensible people I am a big fan of the James Bond movies. That none of them, let’s face it, are actually all that good, does not affect my inability to change the channel when I notice that one is on. I used to feel strongly that Roger Moore was the best Bond, but that is partly because, given my age, he was the first Bond I encountered. Lately I have moved on to a more ecumenical approach that recognized the strengths and weaknesses of all the Bonds (including Timothy Dalton, who I think is a bit underrated.) Forced to choose, I would have to say the best Bond was David Niven from the original Casino Royale. The best Bond villain? Woody Allen as Dr. Noah, of course.
When I was in graduate school I decided it was time to read Ian Fleming’s novels. With the help of the local public library I plowed through them pretty quickly. They were all very short, very dumb and very readable. It was amusing to see how each film had a smaller and smaller connection to the original novel. For example, whereas the film of The Spy Who Loved Me involved a megalomaniacal millionaire bent on destroying the world and restarting life under the sea (whatever) , the novel was a Die Hard type story in which Bond, who is actually a secondary character in the story, stumbles on to a hostage situation at a small diner.
All of which is to say: I am a fan. I will keep going to see the films for as long as they keep making them. Which, sadly, may not be very long, according to a recent cover story on Entertainment Weekly. The full article does not seem to be available online, but this squibb will give you the basic idea. The last six Bond films (the Brosnan and Craig eras) have all been very successful, but MGM is rapidly going bankrupt. Currently there is no Bond film in production, and with Daniel Craig having largely moved on it will be several years at least before a new one could hit the screen. Would anyone even remember Bond by then?
Now here comes Isaac Chotiner from The New Republic to pile on with this review of a new book analyzing the Bond films. The book sounds like essential reading. For example:
McKay’s description of From Russia with Love‘s great Orient Express fight scene is very nicely rendered: “And then the fight itself. It’s the implacable violet of the compartment night-light that somehow sticks in the mind, the only point of stability in a breathtaking blur of fists, punches, swings, kicks, all choreographed in this claustrophobically small space.”
I remember that scene! As I also recall, up to that scene the film was a faithful adaptation of the book. Then the film throws in a scene where Bond takes out a helicopter with a rifle, and blows up a fleet of enemy boats by exploding a few fuel containers. Good stuff.
Here’s Chotiner’s closing:
Finally, Bond battled South American drug smugglers in the ’80s, media consolidators in the ’90s, and environmental criminals in the next decade, thus enabling the series to capture the zeitgeist in ways that a strictly anti-Soviet secret agent never could. But many of the plots still have resonance because these stateless villains are often seeking possession of weapons of mass destruction; this is a fear that has been exacerbated–rather than ameliorated–by the Soviet collapse. Even if this history shows the canniness of the filmmakers’ commercial instincts, the movies themselves–especially of late–live in an unchanging male fantasyland and are completely without artistic merit. A true Bond fan must ruefully concede as much. My greatest fear used to be that the series would end, but now that thought is oddly appealing.
Oddly indeed! Personally I don’t think any of the films have much in the way of artistic merit (except for the music, of course) and I don’t care. I hope the series never ends.