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November 06, 2012

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Noam Sane

Link no workee. Yet, anyway.

Chris H

My biggest quibble with the ranking of Quantum of Solace so low is that you failed to mention the political angle. Water scarcity is a fascinating, real and under-used theme. Oil and nukes? Yawn. Water is good stuff. Worth a spot a few rungs up for sure.

Glenn Kenny

Seems okay from where I sit. Let me know if problem persists. The piece should be accessible from the MSN Entertainment home page in any event...

Chris H

On a couple of films you mention legngth. On Her Majesty's Secret Service was way, way too long. 142 minutes I believe. I just re-watched it (after decades) recently. I agree with much of what you said. The first hour is very good. The second hour is interminable. Those beautiful, unwitting, evil minion ladies were laughable. Not just laughable. Stupid. The ski chase was so long and dull. Overall, just a lot of silliness at the mountain top hideout of Blofeld. The last 15 minutes or so were exciting.

That Fuzzy Bastard

Never Say Never Again's theme song over A View to A Kill?!?!? You've gone MAD, Kenney, MAD I SAY! Up top, though, that's a damn fine still. I'm hearing that Skyfall is "so good you'll forget it's a Bond film", which is promising---there's something relic-y about even the good ones.

Pinback

While Moonraker is fully as bad as its reputation, it does have an absolutely beautiful title song, full of typically melancholy John Barry string arrangements. It could have used a more subtle singer than Shirley Bassey, but still gorgeous.

Pete Apruzzese

As I mentioned when you came to the shows a couple weeks back, I can't agree at all with ranking Octopussy that low. Spy Who Loved Me and Diamonds are a lot worse (Spy could have been a winner, but Hamlisch's atrocious music score absolutely destroys it), as are the Craig Casino and Quantum (two very dull adventures with a thug instead of Bond). And Never Say Never is still the worst thing that's ever been peripherally attached to James Bond. Goldfinger lost me with both the duck on his head and the horrific baby-blue terrycloth step-in pool outfit that Connery wore in the second scene. ;)

I sound angry 'cause I still have no power, heat or hot water, but this is really All in good fun :)

David Ehrenstein

My favorite is the 1967 "Casino Royale" (which shows you precisely what I think of he whole thing.)

St. Genet Parochial School

Forgive my Bond ignorance, but from what film is that screencap?

MarkJ

The Living Daylights should be a lot higher. And a-ha's title track is awesome. Last great Bond score too.

rotch

I'm cracking my blu box set in this particular order.

Are we getting a Skyfall review? I think it's the best Craig entry yet.

Tony Dayoub

I just wrote up YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE and rank it about where you do, pretty near the top. But my review ended up laying into the film something bad (funny when that happens). Mostly because though I find much to like in YOLT, I can't help but think it's the first of te series that veered off into the silly territory we'd grow accustomed to when Moore took over. Between Pleasence's weak-tea-casting as Blofeld and the dispensing of the enticing Aki in favor of the simpering Kissy that second hour goes downhill fast. Still, as you said, Nancy Sinatra's song -- and in fact John Barry's score altogether -- is among the best ever.

Tom Block

YOLT is the most cinematic Bond--it has 3-4 shots (like the shadows of the choppers on the mountainside, the long shot of Connery running across the rooftop) that aren't just purely functional, that look like a real director set them up. And to this day I dig the Barry/Sinatra song, mostly because its atmosphere doesn't depend on its connection to the movie. (What's weird is I associate it more with Alistair MacLean than Bond because I'd just bought the soundtrack, and was listening to it night and day, during the period I was plowing through MacLean's novels.)

Tony Dayoub

Tom, you describe YOLT's redeeming qualities. But I can't shake its flaws so easily: Bond in yellowface; Mie Hama's horrible performance; Pleasence's meek Blofeld; the attendant colonialism that plagues all Bond movies, but here moreso.

That said, our host is right in pointing out 007's excellent pre-credits fate and Sinatra and Barry's song. There's also the epic travelogue aspects of the Japanese setting, Little Nellie, M's submarine office (along with Bond, M and Moneypenny in uniform) and the great fight sequences at Osato HQ and the Kobe docks.

YOLT is a mixed bag, but I definitely have a soft spot for it, more than I probably demonstrated in my review.

Tom Block

The pre-credit sequence is indeed a pip, and I like the sumo match that's practically there for its own sake. Also, maybe it's the colonialist in me but Connery looks great in the Japanese settings in much the same way Bill Murray did. (Sorry, I just can't get too excited about yellowface in a 50-year old Bond flick.)

I hadn't looked at Glenn's gallery when I posted before--his #1 pick is right, right, right.

Colonelmortimer

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE has the unstoppable combination of Ken Adam and Freddie Young. Whatever else one might think, it's one of the most gorgeous Bond films.

lazarus

The Brosnan Bond-by-numbers films are ranked way too high.

Forster's Quantum of Solace should be nowhere near the bottom, if only for that one shot in the opera house with Bond in the foreground looking at his enemies lined up in the background on the other side of the room. Iconic stuff.

Brian

MOONRAKER's second half is every bit as bad as you say, but there are some good moments in the first 45 minutes or so-- the lovely stunt work in the sky in the pre-credits sequence, the scene in the centrifuge, the chase with the dogs through the forest. The theme song is wonderful (and Bassey is perfect for it). And it still has my favorite Bond villain line: "Look after Mr. Bond. See that some harm comes to him."

Josh Z

Nit-pick: Jeffrey Wright was not the first actor to play Felix Leiter twice. David Hedison played Leiter in Live and Let Die, and then returned for the character's next appearance 16 years later in Licence to Kill.

David N

OHMSS would, I think, be the best Bond if Connery was the star. But Lazenby is a plankish beefcake and he undermines all the other good stuff. Also, the generally-lauded fight scenes lay terribly for me; incoherent and faddish (also about 40 years ahead of their time, but not in a good way).

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE did, as others have partly suggested, invent the modern Bond film in all its epic silliness. But - despite the horrendously distracting and hilarious yellowface - it has so many great moments and Connery is so assured its pure pleasure. The great fight scene with Peter Maivia is a match for the brawl with Shaw in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, too, and Barry's score is superb.

I also find GOLDENEYE horrendously overrated - baggy, cheap, and hamstrung by the fact that Sean Bean is so much sexier and more charismatic than Pierce Brosnan even when he's putting on an unconvincing poshboy accent. Also, the Serra score is appalling. TOMORROW NEVER DIES is the best Brosnan.
I like all the Craigs, and for all the talk of him as a thug, there is something of the thug in Fleming's flawed, snobbish secret agent.

Still: good list.

Josh Z

One more nit-pick, sorry: In Dr. No, M makes Bond trade in his Beretta for a Walther PPK, not the other way around.

rdmtimp

Josh Z - Felix Leiter shows up prior to License to Kill - he's in The Living Daylights (played by John Terry).

Gotta disagree with Pete on Hamlisch's Spy score - it's nowhere near as annoying as Bill Conti's ESPN highlights music masquerading as a score for For Your Eyes Only.

jbryant

I'm a bit hampered here by having seen most of the Bond films only once each (in fact, I think GOLDFINGER is the only one I've seen twice in its entirety; haven't seen A VIEW TO A KILL or QUANTUM OF SOLACE at all). So some of my memories, both fond and otherwise, are a bit hazy. But I'll agree with Pete that OCTOPUSSY is much worthier than a last place ranking. I thought it was rather fun. I'll disagree with Pete on THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, however, which would probably make my top five or so.

D

A kind word for DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER: it may have been one of the first Bond movies I saw – on television as a teenager – and it has always struck me as obviously set in the year of its making (a timestamp most Bond films seem to try to eschew).

I remember when I first discovered the Village Voice, there was a column by Andrew Sarris and Tom Milne that listed repertory picks for the week and one television screening. Once, the television pick was DAF, and Sarris wrote that Bond was “sleazy” in this one. I wish I could remember more, but it was this little blurb that put me on the trail of DAF. In a way, DAF is a failed Bond movie that succeeds in its failure in that it is nothing like its predecessors, and, in fact, consciously turns away from the Bond formula without being certain what kind of movie it wants to be. As a result, the movie reaches out in different cultural directions for guidance on how to behave. The film inverts the more usual process whereby a film imposes its style/codes on its times, and instead invites all manner of contemporary references (and doubts and anxieties) to imprint upon it. Specifically, the film seems to riff on and worry about how to be a man in the Bond tradition. Connery’s performance has a lovely Vegas-lounge-act quality to it – as if he were channeling Matt Helm as performed by Dean Martin. One can imagine this Bond as the true Bond who in the previous five films merely performed the Bond viewers had come to expect – the formula cracks here and retrospectively shades what came before.

Also, DAF comes two years after Stonewall, and we have the gay killers, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, and the lesbian jailers, Bambi and Thumper. Bond, of course, prevails over both pairs, but the presentation is far removed from the lesbian-crone-as-killer portrait of Rosa Klebb. Additionally, Jill St. John is a working-class Bond girl, neither a sultry seductress nor a smooth professional. Plenty O’Toole – the more conventional Bond girl – is given the cement treatment in a swimming pool as if that type of Bond girl were being eliminated (and the swimming pool motif resurfaces with the appearance of Bambi and Thumper who thrive in the environment that dooms Plenty).

Other niceties:

* The original Bond returns to replace the replacement, just as Blofeld (being played by a third actor in the series) has many copies of himself.

* Diamonds are hidden in the alimentary canal of a corpse and twice Bond is encased – a coffin and a tunnel – in a restrictive space in an attempt to kill him – more signifiers of queer anxiety.

* The final battle is disappointing, as if the film cannot even muster a proper climax.

* The wonderful theme song that is so erotic and would work whether sung by a man or a woman.

* “Metz? How do you spell that?” – James Bond “M … Get out, you irritating little man.” – Dr. Metz

Two years later in LIVE AND LET DIE – where there is a conventional attempt to re-make the series for Roger Moore – the film fails in usual and uninteresting ways. But DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER fails by not being what came before and allowing the audience to see its indecisiveness about what it should become – a rare treat in the often over-determined world of cinematic art.

Brian Dauth

Joel Bocko

Not to crash the Bond party (well actually, yes, to crash the Bond party) but I just read last year's rather fascinating interview with Cronenberg on A Dangerous Method (which I finally watched tonight after a year's anticipation).

What interested me most was the outright sympathy toward Freud and hostility toward Jung displayed by Cronenberg in the interview...ironic as I didn't get that sense at all from the film itself. Except for its reticence in demonstrating Jung's visions or sensibility, conditioned as much by stylistic inclinations as thematic ones.

Actually, coming from a reading of Kerr's book, I generally found Jung more sympathetic in the film; Mortensen's Freud was charismatic but often offputting in his authoritarianism whereas Fassbender's depiction of Jung's conflicted feelings about both his mentor and his lover felt more human. And oddly enough, given Cronenberg's insistence on Jung's essential Aryan-ness in the interview, he didn't come off as anti-Semitic at all - indeed genuinely perplexed by Freud's insistence on his Jewishness.

Anyway, the comments were closed so here I am. Bonus points to the person who finds a creative way to tie this in to the 007 discussion.

Tony Dayoub

Someone stopped the Bond thread cold!

Joel Bocko

Blame the psychs. (As L. Ron would say...)

Olaf

Let's see if we cannot restart this discussion.

Glenn, first of all thanks for another highly entertaining list.
I would have to disagree mainly with one ranking, and that is your rather kind evaluation of 'A View to a Kill' which I consider to be the worst Bond by a wide margin. The reason: it seems that everyone involved with this one from the screen writers to the director and the cast were simply tired, and so it cannot pull off any of the fun elements of a great Bond film.

Let's go through the list:
- the title song: unenduranble
- the title sequence: with its day-glo approach would have been more fitting for 'Batman Forever' or 'Batman & Robin'
- Bond himself: Roger Moore looks positively mummyfied here;anything more strenous than standing seems to require a stunt double. And is there anyone who believes that Moore would survive a tryst with Grace Jones?
- the Bond girl: squeaky-voiced Tanya Roberts is so lifelesss that one wonders whether her role is actually played by that mannequin-robot that Roberts was turned into a few years earlier in 'Tourist Trap'
- the villain: Christopher Walken could have been an inspired choice, but he doesn't do anything he hasn't done before. Bonus question: if his Zorin is the result of a Nazi experiment to breed the perfect Arian, why is his hair so badly bleached?
- the henchman or (in this case) the henchwoman: the casting of Grace Jones is certainly kinky enough to draw your attention at first, and her character is blessed with a great name, but MayDay's last minute switch from Saul to Paul is totally unbelievable and effectively kills any interest in the character; it's also more than Jones the actress can pull off
- the action sequences: the pre-title skiing sequence - just an uninspired rehash of the amazing stunt work in 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service', the pre-title sequence of 'The Spy Who Loved Me' and the Cortina d'Ampezzo scenes in 'For Your Eyes Only'; MayDay's jump from the Eifel Tower and the ensueing car chase - been there, done that; the fire trucks speeding through San Francisco - lame; the final fight atop the Golden Gate Bridge - too obviously done in the studio/with blue screen to generate any suspense
- inventive murders: MayDay kills a man with a poisoned 'butterfly' on a fishing rod - 'silly' doesn't even begin to describe that one!
- locations: Zorin's French chateau is stunning but is not put to great use, and by 1985 San Francisco had been the backdrop of so many other (better) movies that it would have needed a great cinematographer and director to make it 'James Bond special' again; for an example of how to come up with exciting visuals of cities that have been used in hundreds of films have a look at what Sam Mendes and Roger Deakins do with London and Shanghai in 'Skyfall'

To sum it up: at the end of 'A View to a Kill', it should have said 'James Bond will be resurrected' instead of 'James Bond will return'...

christian

Re: OHMSS: "The ski chase was so long and dull. "

The best shot and scored action scene in almost any Bond film still. Even Pauline Kael noted it.

Dan Heaton

This is definitely one of the better "rank the Bond films" articles that I've seen. Nice work! I was glad to see Dalton's films not being placed near the bottom, which seems to be the conventional wisdom from too many. I'd even put Licence to Kill higher, but I can't argue too much with its placement. I also think Casino Royale is a top-five film easily and You Only Live Twice is weaker (for the reasons you mention, actually). That said, there's nothing that I can't side with on this list. The Brosnan films deserve their lower rankings (especially Die Another Day), and Diamonds are Forever is also just bad.

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