Archive for September, 2011

Tonight in Baseball

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

“The Art of Fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again.” – Red Smith

The Bond Films: Moore

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

The Roger Moore years are not as bad their reputation. The seven films Moore starred in range from serviceable to very good. The reason everyone is so down on them is because … they weren’t the Connery years.

And that was a key problem, at least early on. The producers kept trying to enact the Connery formula. This simply didn’t work for Roger Moore. Moore was not very good as an action hero. He was credible as a sophisticated spy: Bond with the rough edges polished off. Once they learned to play to his strengths — charm and humor — things got better. But they only reached the height of the Connery years once before the series fell back.

Another problem that plagued the Moore years was the lack of a consistent enemy. The lawsuit that took SPECTRE out of the picture left the films fumbling for an enemy worthy of Bond. Taking a cue from Diamonds are Forever and You Only Live Twice, they settled on the Madman of the Month, some extremely rich guy who was intent on bringing armageddon or very nearly (The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, Octopussy, A View to a Kill).

This was a mistake. Bond works best in the context of a spy novel. Even if the conflict is absurd, the underpinning of the conflict — East v. West, SPECTRE v. the World — should be a power struggle. Eyes is one of my favorites of the era as it’s a very traditional spy adventure.

The logical enemy to replace SPECTRE was the Soviet Union, this being Bond’s primary enemy in the novels. They are, in fact, the enemy in Eyes and played a role in View. But why were they ignored in the other films?

Well, for one, I think the producers didn’t want the films to become “political”. If so, this would be a bogus concern, since Eyes wasn’t political at all. The Cold War was the Cold War. It existed. You didn’t have to make a moral judgement about it. Stopping the Soviets was James Bond’s job.

Second is the tendency for Hollywood to gloss over communism’s crimes. I’ve blogged on this before, but the blindness of the Hollywood Left to the horrors of Mao, Stalin, Khrushchev, et al. was simply appalling. Their refusal to portray the KGB and the Soviet state accurately was a political decision. It’s a reminder of a mentality that laughed at Reagan for describing a nation that murdered millions of its own people as an evil empire.

Place the Moore years in a Cold War context, build them around Moore, replace self-parody with humor and the series would have been better, I think. It would have had the edge it so desperately needed and rarely got.

Anyway, getting to the films themselves…

Live and Let Die: I have a slightly better opinion of this than I should, rating it 7/10. IMDB ranks it 10th. There’s a lot to dislike. Gloria Hendry is wasted. The voodoo plot is a bit silly. The overall plot doesn’t quite work (and I can never remember it anyway). The attempt to cash in on blaxploitation doesn’t quite work. The boat chase scene goes on far too long. And it introduces JW Pepper, one of the most uncomfortable characters to afflict the Bond franchise.

On the other hand, Moore is smooth in his first outing, Jane Seymour is luminous as Solitaire and Yaphet Kotto is one of my favorite actors, somehow making Kananga work as a villain. Even Geoffrey Holder has his moments, although every time I hear his voice, I expect him to say, “crisp and clean and no caffeine”.

And the theme song is great.

It’s a mixed bag and one I still can’t quite get a handle on. I guess that applies to the entire series once Connery left.

The Man With The Golden Gun: Here’s a question. You’ve got Roger Moore at his peak. You’ve got Christopher Lee as your villain. You have Britt Ecklund as your Bond girl. How do you not make a good movie out of this?

By adding silliness left, right and center. By trying to shoehorn in the energy crisis. By making Mary Goodnight completely useless. By catering to every asian stereotype you can think of. By bringing the ridiculous Archie Bunker JW Pepper back for an encore. By hitting the awful zenith of Bond villains refusing to kill the hero when he’s at their mercy. By making the film into a parody of itself, playing almost everything for laughs.

IMDB ranks this 15th, the middle of the pack. I rate it 6/10. Lee and Moore basically carry the film. The series was still unwisely trying to cram Roger Moore into a Sean Connery-shaped hole. Thankfully, they’d abandon that notion next time around.

I mentioned earlier that abandoning the novel for You Only Live Twice created problems here. In the novels, Twice occurs after Bond’s wife is killed. He is despondent, bitter and almost useless as an agent. The plot, involving an estate in Japan where people can kill themselves in creative ways, would make a terrible movie. But it leads into Bond getting captured and brainwashed in Golden Gun and attempting to kill M.

Now that might have been interesting. It would still be interesting today.

The Spy Who Loved Me: I rate it an 8/10, the best of the Moore era. IMDB agrees with me, rating it #5, tops for the Moore era, the best between Goldfinger and Goldeneye. The film wisely (and contractually) abandons Fleming’s rather risque novel for another “madman wants to destroy the world” plot that is basically a warmed over You Only Live Twice with the train fight from Russia and the elevator gag from Diamonds thrown in. But it proceeds with such confidence and style, it’s incredibly enjoyable.

(I’ve always thought it would be interesting to take the plot of the novel — in which James Bond has little more than a cameo — and make a pre-title sequence out of it.)

The Connery films defined themselves in the 60′s; Spy gives the 70′s a miss and jumps right into the 80′s. It has a dazzling pre-credit sequence. Wisely, it reintroduces traditional spy elements and makes Q useful, bringing in the requisite humorous tour of Q’s lab. And it even has a decent soundtrack. Yes, that includes the cheesy theme song.

Spy is, by far, Moore’s best performance. It highlights his strengths — dry humor and charm. The scene with him and XXX in the van while Jaws rips it apart is a great combination of tension and humor, perfectly timed. And Moore nails it. It also gives him a little chance to show Bond’s icy side, when he calmly drops Stromberg’s thug off of the roof, dispatches Stromberg’s helicopter pilot and later shoots Stromberg himself. He’s credible in the action scenes. If only they’d followed this template more often, Moore would have ended up a lot more popular than he did.

Of course, no discussion of Spy is complete without talking about Barbara Bach as Major Amasova. She’s one of the best Bond girls. She illustrates one of the key factors in a good Bond girl: being more than eye candy. The chemistry of Bond films works best when the primary Bond girl can hold her own against him. It’s the reason Sophie Marceau was good and Denise Richards wasn’t. It’s the reason Michelle Yeoh and Izabella Scorupco work and Teri Hatcher doesn’t. The ideal Bond girl combines acting and writing to create a woman who is beautiful, smart, feisty and a little bit dangerous. Barbara Bach as Amasova is almost perfect.

One other note, since I’m in a contemplative mood. One trope of which I am very fond is when foes unite against a common enemy. This movie has it in spades, as the Soviets, British and Americans unite to fight Stromberg and save the world. It’s quite enjoyable.

Three more reasons to like this film? It has Valerie Leon, who has two scenes as receptionist but catches my eye every single time. It has George Baker, one of the most British of actors, in his second Bond film. And it has Caroline Munro, who was once suggested as a companion for a Doctor Who feature film. That might have been … interesting.

One final note: I have a very keen ear for soundtracks and the audio rhythm of movies. My friend Alan and I loved this movie as kids and once recorded the last half hour or so on an audio tape during a broadcast. I could listen to that tape over and over again and see the film in my mind. Even now, 30 years later, the last parts sound so familiar to me, it takes me back a generation.

Moonraker: I’m not sure I have a handle on this one either, but I’ll give it a shot. Moonraker is to Spy as Thunderball is to Goldfinger. It executes the same formula a superior film did — in this case, a dynamic Bond girl, a man who wants to destroy the world, Moore doing a credible job and Jaws. It just doesn’t execute as well. Early actions scenes are too silly or can’t make up their mind about the tone. Lois Chiles doesn’t have the chemistry Barbara Bach did. Drax isn’t as menacing as Stromberg was and his plan isn’t as believable. The climactic battle isn’t anywhere near as thrilling. Actually, the step down from Spy to Moonraker is steeper. But you see where I’m going: it’s a successful formula; it’s just not executed as well.

The movie has its points. Jaws becomes likable. Bernard Lee makes his final appearance as M. Moore is in top form, carrying large sections of the movie. Corrine Clery is gorgeous. But … something’s just not quite there.

I rate it a 7, higher than I used to since I’ve come to appreciate Roger Moore’s performance. On another day, I might give it a 6. IMDB rates it 20th among Bond films, with only View to A Kill and Die Another Day ranked lower, so I’m in the minority here in not hating it. Agony Booth has one of their very very long recaps that does a pretty good job of highlighting the film’s problem: good ideas poorly executed, action sequences undone by silliness. But there’s enough there that I deem it serviceable.

(It is interesting to look back after 30 years and see what dreams people had for the shuttle program. I can’t believe it’s the year 2011 and our space program is below what Moonraker portrayed. One little thing I noticed this time around: one of the technicians makes a reference to the TDRSS system, a satellite I’m very familiar with. The techno-speak is actually not horrific, even if the portrayal of a rotating space station is. (Seriously, it’s like someone story-boarded the scenes by watching 2001 with the sound off.))

Needless to say, the movie has little to do with Fleming’s novel. I would love to see the plot of the novel brought back for the revived series the way the plot of Casino Royale was.

For Your Eyes Only: I’m not completely sure, but this may be the first Bond film I ever saw. This is probably why I’m a little more favorably disposed toward Roger Moore — he was the first Bond I saw.

The most appealing thing about this film is how much of a traditional spy tale it is, hearkening back to From Russia with Love. It plunders one of Fleming’s short stories and the finale of the novel Live and Let Die and builds on that to be a solid Cold War spy story. It’s refreshing not to have the world about to blow up for once.

Moore is again in good form. I understand he didn’t like the scene in which Bond kills Locque in cold blood. I, however, loved it. It was completely in character, for once; something Connery’s Bond would have done.

Carole Bouquet makes a good Bond girl, having the smarts and dangerous side that is so critical. Bouquet can actually act, too. A lot of people hate Bibi, but I don’t mind her too much. The villains are a mixed bag but the action scenes are quite good, especially the gripping climb up the side of St. Cyril’s. It’s a reminder of something the films would forget until Casino Royale — you don’t need multi-million dollar stunts to make a good action sequence. Tension, timing and composition are everything.

I rate it a 8, IMDB ranks it #11 among Bond films. It’s a solid outing. Unfortunately, it was the last for some time.

Octopussy: Ugh. After three reasonable outings, Octopussy takes us back to the silliness of Golden Gun. The film is filled with useless villains, uninteresting Bond girls and dreadful attempts at humor. Kamal Khan is annoying. Orlov is over-acted to the nth degree. Both Magda and Octopussy are too 80′s — too skinny, too sharp-featured, too dull and uninteresting. Even Moore is below par, his charm decaying into smugness.

There are few redeeming features. Moore and Adams have some reasonable chemistry. There’s about a half hour of genuine tension, from the fight on the train to the defusing of the bomb. But then it pisses away all that goodwill by having a bunch of circus performers take out Khan’s fortress and reducing Octopussy to a damsel in distress (although the finale on the plan is good). I’m a man. I’m a Bond fan. You have to go pretty far to annoy me with a scene involving scantily clad women. Trapeze artists taking out armed thugs does it pretty well.

I rate it a 6, IMDB ranks it 16th, which sounds about right.

A View To A Kill: IMDB ranks this is as the second worst Bond film, only above Die Another Day. I rate it a 7. So what do people hate that I don’t mind?

Well, Moore, now 57, gives his weakest performance. HIs expository scenes are almost grating, his charm more suited to a younger man. He would later admit he was too old for the role and disliked the film. It shows at times. The plot is a warmed-over Goldfinger, substituting microchips for gold and ignoring the Fleming short story from which it got the title.

This is the most 80′s of the Bond movies. The gaudy display of primitive computers, the cheesy opening, the hair, the silly humor, the Duran Duran theme (which is, I think, not bad.) Even the Bond girls are very 80′s — one Charlie’s Angel and one muscle model.

The latter is a point of complaint with some, but I actually don’t mind the two main Bond girls. I never found Grace Jones attractive but she plays the role of May Day with a zeal that few Bond girls do, making her a fun character, one I wish had been spared. Who else can lift a KGB agent over her head in high heels? And Tanya Roberts will never be mistaken for a good actress but she’s feisty, glamorous and carries off a geologist better than Denise Richards carried off a nuclear physicist.

Bond also acts a little stupidly in this one. He sticks around Zorin’s estate after being made, getting his assistant killed. He swims into a sea pipe, getting a KGB agent killed. He bumbles into Stacy’s estate, almost getting her killed and the getting his CIA contact killed. Not a good day at the office, frankly. There’s even an amusing scene — at least amusing to me — early in the film. After Bond tears up half of Paris chasing May Day, M upbraids him for millions in damage, massive law-breaking and creating a diplomatic incident. There was apparently even a deleted scene of M bailing him out of jail. I wish that happened more often after dumb destructive chase scenes.

So why do I like it? Well, it just flows better than Octopussy. Bond is somewhat Bondish. Christopher Walken makes a great villain as does Willoughby Gray. It has the last appearance of Lois Maxwell, who even acknowledges her aging but has lost little of her charm. The action scenes are competent and even engaging.

In short, it’s not great, but as Bond films go, it’s not bad. As forgettable as the film might be, it does give Moore a better send-off than Octopussy would have. And for that, I appreciate it.

Saturday Linkorama

Saturday, September 24th, 2011
  • Holy crap. Freakonomics backs me up on how spineless and useless NFL pre-season picks are. I really should be an economist.
  • Cracked takes on Doctor Who. It’s so weird to see this show become so popular. When I was a kid, Whovians were looked down on by Trekkies.
  • What 40 years of war has done to Kabul.
  • I’m not sure about this story. The Drug Warriors have a noted tendency to overstate their case, as does the CDC.
  • I can’t tell is this vampire kit is a real thing from the 19th century or somebody’s art project.
  • Another missing link has been found. But remember, finding a transitional fossil just means you need to find two more.
  • If it weren’t for his Fair Tax position, I’d really like Gary Johnson.
  • Nucleation

    Sunday, September 18th, 2011

    This, again, illustrates why the ant-AGW faction drives me around the bend. It has everything: a paper is published, the Echosphere picks it up and wildly misrepresents it to claim that global warming has now been disproven. And none — none — will ever correct the record. In fact, this will be dragged out as a bullet point for every “global warming is a myth” post in the future.

    Weekend Linkorama

    Saturday, September 17th, 2011
  • Neuroscience of child-raising? I knew that stuff was bullshit.
  • This may be the most … unique … commercial I’ve seen.
  • These two videos dissecting action scenes are simply awesome. I love the language of film.
  • Stories like this drive me to despair of humanity.
  • Mathematical Malpractice Watch: Coaches

    Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

    In Gregg Eastebrook’s column today, he laments that only 16 of the 32 coaches in the league have won a playoff game.

    Well, only 4 to 8 teams will win a playoff game in any particular year. If you plug that into a probability calculation, it would take about 3-4 years for a group of coaches to get to the point where half of them had won a game. Of course, playoff wins tend to be bunched around certain teams and coaches who win get retained while coaches who don’t get fired. So let’s say that in a typical league, you’d expect 4-6 years for about half the coaches to have a playoff win. That’s pretty close to the typical lifespan of a coach. In other words, this is about what you’d expect.

    Is this new? Are teams suddenly going with inexperienced coaches? Nope.

    In 2000, 13 of the 31 opening day coaches had a playoff win.

    In 1990, 14 of the 28 opening day coaches had a playoff win.

    In 1980, 11 of the 28 opening day coaches had a a playoff win, albeit with fewer games.

    So, yeah. It’s not amateur hour at all.

    (Doing the research on that was entertaining. So many flopped coaches who never amounted to anything. And so many who came in with little record and went on to greatness. It’s kind of fun to click on, say, Jimmy Johnson’s name and see that he had no playoff wins going into Dallas and so many in front of him. Experience is not everything, even in coaching.)

    Easterbrook has a mental block on coaches, frankly, seeming to think that the only coaches that should be hired are “proven winners”. When a team hires a coach from college, he’ll slag that, pointing out the difference between college and the pros. But if they hire a coordinator from an NFL team, he’ll slag that since they have no head coaching experience in the pros. And if they hire an NFL coach who hasn’t won in the playoffs, he’ll slag that too, apparently.

    I guess the only thing teams can do to appease TMQ is to clone Tony Dungy.

    Kiva

    Friday, September 9th, 2011

    I love stuff like this:

    Intercontinental Ballistic Microfinance from Kiva on Vimeo.

    It’s a visualization of the Kiva microlending effort, which is helping to build real businesses and success in third world countries. That’s real foreign aide, not the corrupt welfare bullshit we usually call foreign aide.

    13 Ghosts

    Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

    The blogosphere is aflutter about a recent article outlining a supposed method for picking the winner of Presidential elections. The author has 13 points he evaluates the election on and if a candidate has eight of them in his favor, he will supposedly win election. Supposedly, this method correctly reproduces the winner of almost every past election — that is, if you credit it with picking the winner of the popular vote instead of the electoral college. And he’s claiming Obama will win in 2012.

    The criteria are:

    1. Party mandate: After the midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats in the House of Representatives than it did after the previous midterm elections.
    2. Contest: There is no serious contest for the incumbent party nomination.
    3. Incumbency: The incumbent party’s candidate is the sitting president.
    4. Third Party: There is no significant third party challenge.
    5. Short-term economy: The economy is not in recession during the election campaign.
    6. Long-term economy: Real per capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms.
    7. Policy change: The incumbent administration effects major changes in national policy.
    8. Social unrest: There is no sustained social unrest during the term.
    9. Scandal: The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal.
    10. Foreign/military failure: The incumbent administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs.
    11. Foreign/military success: The incumbent administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs.
    12. Incumbent charisma: The incumbent party’s candidate is charismatic or a national hero.
    13. Challenger charisma: The challenging party’s candidate is not charismatic or a national hero.

    I scarcely need get into how silly and subjective this is. Nate Silver has thoroughly and systematically torn apart this “method”, pointing out that the author frequently changes a candidate’s “charisma” rating and bizarrely counts Obama’s most unpopular policies in his favor.

    It seems to me you don’t need to go to 13 points to have a good feel for an election. You really only need two:

    1) Is he of the incumbent party?
    2) How’s the economy doing?

    That explains the elections of 2008, 2004, 2000 (if you count that as a Gore win), 1996, 1992, 1988, 1984, 1980, 1976, 1972, etc. Really, the only 20th century President I can think of who won re-election in a crummy economy was FDR. To be fair, one of those wins was because the GOP ignored the plain language of the Constitution, which says, “On no account can the President of the United States be named Wendell Willkie. Seriously, guys.”

    That having been said, I do think Obama will probably win in 2012 for the same reason FDR kept winning: the economy is not as bad as it was when he took office and the opposition is comprised of gerbils and circus clowns. Obama will be able to point to healthcare reform, Osama bin Laden and the withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s weak on the economy and the deficit, but even marginal improvements will negate that.

    Obama is polling 40% right now, but that’s ahead of previous re-elected incumbents. And he hasn’t really started campaigning. While Obama might poll badly 14 months in advance, he has a tendency to exceed expectations in actual elections. His tendency is to let his opponents rant and rave and foam at the mouth right up to the point when he beats them. He beat Clinton and McCain this way and it is quite likely that he will beat beat Perry or Romney. The GOP continues to miss this about Obama: he has ice water in his veins. He doesn’t panic; he doesn’t freak out; he just slowly and calmly wins.

    It’s simply a fact that American hate to throw out incumbent Presidents. They really need something to vote for and the GOP isn’t there yet. Half the country is mad that they almost hit the debt ceiling while the other half is mad they go so little for almost hitting it. They’re doing some decent things — especially at the state level. But the national party still seems confused at best and the polls keep jumping to whatever the lates flavor of the month is: Trump, Bachmann, Perry, [insert next GOP hopeful here]. “I’m not Bush” didn’t propel Kerry into the White House in 2004. I just don’t see “I’m not Obama” working out in 2012.

    I mean, what does it say that some of the biggest GOP guns are clearly angling for 2016?

    Of course, things can change in the next year, which makes Mr. 13 Points even more irrelevant than normal. At this point in 1991, Saturday Night Live ran a sketch where Democrats debated over not being the nominee against Bush the Elder. If the economy implodes, Obama can have all the points he wants; he’s still going to lose.

    But I doubt the economy is going to get worse. I doubt a huge scandal is going to erupt. I doubt that a third party challenge will come from the Left. And that, most likely, leaves us with four more years of Obama.

    I can probably deal with that if the GOP holds onto the House and picks up some Senate seats. That division of power would force Obama’s hand on the deficit and spending if he wants any legacy at all. The GOP may or may not believe in small government, but they definitely believe in opposing the Democrats. It’s no accident that the best part of Obama’s presidency has been the last eight months.

    The Bond Films: Connery

    Sunday, September 4th, 2011

    (To clarify a point from the last post on this: I watch these when I’m on the treadmill, but that watching is spread over multiple nights. I’m getting better, but a half hour is about my limit on the hamster wheel.)

    I’m about to commit an act of blasphemy. Sean Connery was not the ideal embodiment of James Bond, even if such a thing could be said to exist.

    Connery was, however, perfect for the movies that the Bond Films became. Watching them in a short time span really drives home that point. The movies evolved to better suit Connery’s performance: his dry wit, his confidence, his skill in making the most ridiculous action scenes believable. The man and the movies became inseparable, which is why they struggled to find a voice once he was gone.

    The Connery years simply had style. That’s all there is to it. The rhythms of the movies — jazzy score, solid action, beautiful girls, sexual politics, gadgets — were a rhythm the series would lose after Connery left and never recover. The recent films quit trying and went with a different aesthetic, which is probably wise. The Connery films simply wouldn’t work today. When you watch them, you instantly know when they were made: the inventive 60′s when the Hayes Code was collapsing and film-makers were stretching their wings.

    Going film by film:

    Dr. No, which I rate 8/10 and IMBD rates as the fourth best of the series is probably the most true to the Bond of the novels. I like it because it is built around a spy adventure, rather than action sequences. Bond kills in cold blood and is focused tightly on the mission. The sex and drinking are a manifestation of his nature, not a distraction from it.

    Everyone talks about Ursula Andress as the ultimate Bond Girl. Well, fair enough. But I always preferred Zena Marshall as the beautiful traitorous Miss Taro. And she is at the center of one of the most interesting sequences in the film. A remarkable thing about the 60′s Bond movies was just how coldly Bond and his opponents used sex as a weapon. There is a sequence where Taro invites Bond to her house for a liason so that No’s gangsters can kill him on the way. Once he gets there, they have sex twice — her to delay him long enough for another attempt on his life; him … well just to have some fun before he turns her in. It’s almost jarring. You would almost never see this today.

    From Russia with Love, which I rate a 9 and IMDB rates as the third best Bond, is what every Bond film should be. It has a great spy story, a gorgeous Bond girl in Daniela Bianchi and not one, but two awesome villans in Robert Shaw and Lotte Lenya. It adheres close to the novel, has dynamite action scenes and more tension than the entire Moore years combined. The final fights between Bond and Grant and Bond and Klebb are visceral in a way later films would try and fail to reproduce. If I ever took over the Bond series, I would tell everyone to watch From Russia with Love for inspiration.

    Russia also continues the theme of using sex as a weapon. SPECTRE tries to use Romanova as bait for Bond and he cooperates because … well mainly because Daniela Bianchi is so beautiful.

    By the end of Russia, all the pieces of the next decade are in place. Lois Maxwell and Bernard Lee show up i No. Desmond Llewelyn first appears here. SPECTRE is an established villain. The great music and action rhythms and glamorous Bond girls are ready to become a staple. It would all come together the next time out.

    Goldfinger, which rates as the second best Bond movie and which Ebert included in his great movies is a step down, I think, even though it’s the film were all the elements finally came together. I rate it a 8/10. I’m not dissing it; it’s great. And I won’t argue with people who think this, rather than Russia was the pinnacle of the Connery era if not the entire series. It has a great score, an iconic villan, great action scenes, even a dazzling theme song from Shirley Bassey. It has the style I referenced above, which is something the later films lacked. Honor Blackman was never one of my favorite Bond Girls, even if she was the most infamous. And again, we see he naked sexual politics of the early films — Bond saves the world by seducing Goldfinger’s henchwoman.

    So why do I rate it below Russia? Well, it’s praising with faint damnation. It’s not that I dislike Goldfinger, I just like Russia more.

    Thunderball: IMDB ranks this as the 7th best Bond film and I gave it an 8. A step down from Goldfinger, it still has its pleasures. SPECTRE is in full flower, not as faceless enemy but as a fully realized organization. The underwater battle scene is still thrilling after four decades and Claudine Auger and Luciana Paluzzi are two of my all-time favorite Bond girls.

    As before, the use of sex as a weapon is front and center in the tryst between the villainous Volpe and Bond. As with No, she’s delaying him for the bad guys to arrive; he’s having fun and maybe hoping to flip her against SPECTRE. He clearly knows who she is and doesn’t care because she’s hot.

    One last thing. There’s is apparently some debate over whether Bond deliberately turned Volpe into the path of the bullet when her henchman try to shoot him. To me, this isn’t even a question. He spots the gun, turns her into it, then casually lays her dead body in a chair. There’s no shock or sadness from him at all. It’s obvious it was deliberate. And utterly consistent with his character.

    You Only Live Twice: IMDB ranks this as the 8th best Bond, I give it an 8. What amuses me is that the plot of the film — which is the first to basically ignore the book — is utterly absurd. The idea that SPECTRE could put together its own space program AND keep it quiet is pure silliness. But the movie forges ahead with such confidence and style in its ridiculous plot that I don’t mind at all. It remains one of my favorites, even if it doomed future films by raising the bar on silly plots.

    (Ignoring Fleming’s novel would create problems down the road for The Man With The Golden Gun. But I’ll address that when the time comes.)

    Diamonds are Forever: IMDB ranks this 13th, I give it a 7.0. I like it more than it deserves, probably because I like Lana Wood and Jill St. John more than I should. But it has other highlights as well, notably Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint. I read some review that described them as terrible villains, but I found them wonderfully menacing.

    Interesting point about Kidd and Wint. In the novel, they are explicitly gay. This is hinted at in the movie, but even those hints were excised on TV. Back then, people objected to the portrayal of homosexuality. If it aired now, people would object to the portrayal of homosexuals as villains.

    As a sendoff to Connery, it’s serviceable. And the ridiculous moon buggy chase demonstrates perfectly why Connery was so well-suited to the movies. Put any other actor in that scene and we’d be laughing. Put Connery in it and … it works.

    Hershey Linkorama

    Thursday, September 1st, 2011
  • I love science. A new record for oldest fossils.
  • What our pronouns say about us.
  • Yet more good news you will never hear in the media: war is on the decline.
  • Nate Silver on the obvious: popularly matters in the BCS.
  • Cracked is becoming a one-stop-shop for debunking bullshit.
  • The Waffle House Factor.
  • TNC on “The Help”