Wednesday, November 19, 2008


A pie a week, I've discovered, is a little much. My poor hips can't take the butter, even when I have friends to help eat up all the slices. That said, I've been baking like a fiend as the weather's gotten colder. I'm one for desserts so it's been a long fall of cakes and pies. I've mulled a lot of cider and mashed a lot of potatoes. It's been great, it's been seasonal. I like the chill in the air. I don't even want to hear cracks from the Indiana crowd regarding "real winter"- you can back off, Indiana. It's been a great fall.

Let's get over that and talk about James Bond.

I'm going to preface this by saying A.O. Scott is my favorite film critic. He has an even keel to set your rudder by*, and we have similar tastes. It's not that I feel he is my long lost preference twin (for that, see Keith Phipps of the Onion's AV Club). He is my preference cousin, and he is good for me because he is not as prone to loving things with explosions for having explosions the way I am. In terms of movies, he is my reminder that I ought to eat a vegetable every once in a while, or at least watch that Herzog documentary.

Which is why I found it strange to catch him in the crowd of critics crying foul on the newly emotional James Bond. "Is revenge the only possible motive for large-scale movie heroism these days? Does every hero, whether Batman or Jason Bourne, need to be so sad?"

And the answer, in PoMo America, with the end of the Cold War and the escalation of conflicts in the Middle East, the rise of terrorism and the decline of the nation-state, is well, kind of, yeah. Bond, more than Batman**, reflects the spirit of a time. In 46 years and 22 movies, you see 6 Bonds, all of whom embody different qualities.

You have the brutish and charismatic Bond of Sean Connery in the 1960's- he liked his ladies blonde and he seemed to forget them instantly. The interloping George Lazenby was the only marrying Bond in 1969, before they brought Sean Connery back out of popular demand. Roger Moore had more success replacing Sean Connery, possibly because he was his physical opposite. Further, the light-hearted kitsch feeling of Moore's bond is a peek in on the strange feeling of the 1970's. I recommend "Moonraker" most highly of these fantastical Bond movies- in an era after we'd seemingly mastered space travel, there is a sauntering quality of Bond's which becomes dominant in his character, as if his smirk is always to say, "Bitch, please. I've conquered the universe." With the close of the 80's, the beginning of the AIDS epidemic and the decline of the Soviet Union, Timothy Dalton went a little too far in his realistic portrayal of a darker Bond and people just didn't like his eyebrows. Ok, I just don't think he was particularly charming.

Of course there's the Bond I first encountered, Pierce Brosnan. More sensitive, and some have argued "more psychologically complete" then previous Bonds, he had that sort of wistful widower quality about him. Of course, I think that he was probably just mourning the end of the Cold War and the dearth of sexy KGB girls to seduce. Despite this unipolar handicap, he was quite adept at getting pretty young women to disrobe. Goldeneye, Brosnan's debut, is still my third favorite Bond movie***, not just because I like explosions or because Judy Dench as M is the single greatest casting decision the franchise ever made. Because James Bond is a three dimensional character in it, and because my favorite henchwoman Xenia Onnatop kills people by strangling them with her thighs. Take that, Octopussy. Also, Brosnan and Sean Bean make excellent frenemies. It's a good Friday night movie for sitting in your PJs and avoiding clubs or company.

But let's talk about new Bond. He's not humorless as critics would claim. And he's not so brooding or brutish that he can't talk a sexy redheaded British beaurocrat into forgetting to arrest him and then forgetting her panties. He's bruised and distrustful, but he's also smart and tough. He is not nearly as tragic a figure as A.O.'s whining would suggest. He's a wounded and witty Bond for a wounded and witty age. Sardonic quips aside, I would argue that a Roger Moore in this day in age would be not only inappropriate, it would be border-line psychotic. It would be equivalent of inserting Zac Effron into a production of Faust. The title "Quantum of Solace" means a measure of comfort, and that's what the movie is about. Revenge for Bond, is what it takes for him to recover, and I have little doubt he'll be broken inside and cynical enough to pull off "Shaken not stirred" in the next movie.

Side note: How cool was that visual allusion to Goldfinger with the naked lady in Bond's bed covered in oil? So cool.

That's all I have for now. To follow: my ridiculous shrinky dink projects, a road trip to Valpo for Thanksgiving, my first encounters with Maryland, and other DIY nonsense.

* I love the way ship analogies sound so much that I do not care if this is actually something that one does on a ship.
** I'm talking about on screen appearances. I think we can all agree that Batman Forever or Batman and Robin don't reflect anything other than a franchise's unfortunate shiny fabrics and nipple armor phase.
*** 1. Goldfinger
2. Quantum of Solace
3. Goldeneye

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