Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Shaken not stirred

If I accomplish nothing else with today's post, at least this theme song will be in your head. I recommend that you play it while driving on any mundane errand. It's fine if you drive a Ford Fiesta, playing this song while driving will immediately make you feel cooler and awesomer.

It's difficult not to love James Bond (37 Bond girls can't be wrong). He's debonair, he's sophisticated, he's witty, he's handsome, he looks good in very tiny shorts, and he always saves the day. It doesn't matter who the villain is or how many henchmen or henchwomen he has thrown at him, James Bond always comes out on top (and you can take that phrase any way you want - it is James Bond after all.)

We're celebrating 50 years of Bond this year. Twenty-three films later (and lots of spoofs and a firm place in pop culture), we're still watching the British spy and hanging on his every move. I've seen all 23 movies, many multiple times. My dad is a huge Bond fan and we occasionally watch the movies on holidays since nothing says holiday quite like James Bond. (Example for Thanksgiving: I am thankful for Daniel Craig being shirtless much of the time in all three of his Bond movies.)

Ian Fleming created the character of James Bond in 1952 with the publication of his first spy novel, Casino Royale. Bond, also known as 007, is a member of MI6 (British Intelligence Service) and would continue as a character in over 16 novels and many short stories. The Bond books are among some of the most famous in the world. The Ian Fleming Publications site is wonderful if you want to learn more about the novels and Ian Fleming's other work. I also like that there is a "conspiracy theory" about James Bond. Makes sense if you think about it.

Anyway, I remember seeing Sean Connery in Dr. No for the first time. Connery was the original Bond and Dr. No was the first Bond film. What doesn't he do right in this movie (or any of his other Bond films)? He's charming, flirty, funny, tough, and drinks the perfect martini. Sean Connery will always be my favorite Bond (he's my dad's favorite too). Five other actors have played 007: Roger Moore, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and the current Bond, Daniel Craig. If I had to rank the Bonds this would be my order:
  1. Sean Connery
  2. Daniel Craig
  3. Pierce Brosnan
  4. Roger Moore
  5. George Lazenby
  6. Timothy Dalton
Yes, George Lazenby is before Timothy Dalton. Lazenby was only in one Bond film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service (and it was only because Sean Connery was holding out for more money which is why George only lasted one film). I would rather watch that movie everyday of my life than either of the Timothy Dalton films. Something about Dalton annoys me to death so I can't take him seriously as Bond (although I think he's hilarious in Hot Fuzz). Anyway, I think Daniel Craig is truly the best Bond since Sean Connery and the newest film, Skyfall, is the best of his Bond films to date. I saw it last weekend and it was amazing. Action packed, impressive scenery, and modern. Bond has finally stepped into the 21st century.

So what is it about James Bond that makes us keep going back for more? Is it just that an attractive actor is cast in the role and there are Bond girls and car chases and buildings blow up? I don't really think so. Bond movies appeal to a specific fantasy world that none of us live in. How many of you spend your day participating in espionage, driving fancy cars, and wearing clothes that fit you perfectly? And saying pithy things? I'm going to guess none of you. M (the magnificent Judi Dench in the current films) has a great monologue towards the end of Skyfall about working in the shadows and how most of us don't want to know about the shadows. I agree with her totally but I also think that's why we like these movies so much. For a few hours, we get to live in the shadows.

Interestingly, Skyfall humanizes James Bond in a way that isn't often seen in any of the other movies. He's tired and starting to look old, continually referred to as a relic (which is a theme in the Bond movies since the Brosnan days). It's also a lot closer to the Bond in the novels than the Bond of many of the movies. One review I read compared Bond to Lester Burnham from American Beauty (Sam Mendes directed both films). It makes sense - Bond in moving is in midlife crisis mode and this movie is the equivalent of him quitting his job, working out, and generally not caring about anything.

Goldfinger is probably my favorite Bond movie. Let's just start with the fact that Sean Connery wears a tux under his wetsuit in the opening sequence. Who does that? It's the epitome of debonair cool. This is also the Bond movie that gave us one of the greatest movie urban legends of all time: that Shirley Eaton, the actress who dies from being painted gold had died in real life because of the paint. She's still alive but her gold form is as iconic as James Bond himself. I also really love Oddjob, Goldfinger's henchmen, who kills people with his hat and has a great death scene of his own. I'm also fairly certain that this is the only Bond movie where a majority of the action takes place in Kentucky. If James Bond had been an American spy, maybe his drink of choice would have been a mint julep.

And because I can't help myself, another list:

My Ten Favorite Bond Theme Songs
  1. Goldfinger - For real, listen to Shirley Bassey's voice on this song. It is amazing.
  2. Live and Let Die - Paul McCartney and Wings
  3. Skyfall - Adele
  4. Nobody Does It Better - Carly Simon
  5. Diamonds Are Forever - Shirley Bassey
  6. Another Way to Die - Jack White and Alicia Keyes
  7. A View to a Kill - Duran Duran and James Bond!!!! The video for this song is pretty awesome.
  8. The Man with the Golden Gun - I love Lulu. Who doesn't? 
  9. For Your Eyes Only - Sheena Easton
  10. Goldeneye - I can't help it - it's not a great song but I love Tina Turner and it's magical.
And by the way, Kevin Spacey would be an excellent Bond villain. I think we need to make this happen.

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1 comment:

  1. Maybe you should write the script