Sean Beckwith: November is the time for Bond-ing
I’m not sure what it is about November and James Bond marathons but they seem as much a staple of the onset of holiday season as dry turkey, soupy green bean casserole, canned cranberries, Jell-O with nuts in it or a gravy IV drip. The only thing that gets me through Thanksgiving dinner is Aston Martins; Ernst Stavro Blofeld and his cat; unrealistic gambling sequences; Sean Connery saying, “We are playing strict rules of golf, Goldfinger, so I’m afraid you forfeit the hole and the match”; underwater fights; Tom Jones singing “Thunderball”; Paul McCartney singing “Live and Let Die”; Bond girls; spy gadgets; international intrigue; chases on skis; Christopher Walken, Bond villain; swanky destinations; Q, M and Moneypenny.
This is The Lit Life aka Aspen Times Worst Of. Welcome to the winter of Sean, an ode to the summer of George. I’m going to be eating cheese while draped in velvet because at this point I’m going to try the David Chang Hail Mary approach of if I’m going to fail, I’m going to fail my way.
All right so, here are my Top 5 James Bond movies. (I could rank all 25 but the winter of Sean has word limits.)
5. “The Spy Who Loved Me”
Roger Moore is arguably the worst actor of everyone who played James Bond. (Honorable mention to Pierce Brosnan in “Die Another Day.”) However, he’s probably the second or third best Bond because he fully embraced the shtick.
“The Spy Who Loved Me” ticks a ton of Bond checkmarks: Submarine car, underwater action scene, ski chase, badass henchman (bonus points for first appearance of Jaws), super villain hideout (featuring trap door to pool of sharks), and a great Bond girl.
The plot between Barbara Bach aka Agent XXX (facepalm emoji) and Bond is pretty good, save for the name. I don’t know if the movie is better with a less Austin Powers-esque villain but I do know it would be worse. Also, shout out Egypt, super cool location for spy stuff.
4. “Live and Let Die”
First, the theme song bangs. It’s ironic that Sean Connery bashes The Beatles in “Goldfinger” yet McCartney has the best Bond song of all time.
Also, I like trips to New Orleans and the Caribbean, which is foreshadowing. At one point Roger Moore runs across the backs of alligators before hijacking a boat leading to an all-time chase featuring the indomitable Sheriff Pepper.
Mr. Big is a phenomenal villain with a Voodoo priest as a henchman (Baron Samidi) and Tee Hee, a guy with a metal-bending clamp for a hand. Moore also shoots a guy with a bullet that makes him inflate until he explodes.
Solitaire is a solid Bond girl who reads futures via Tarot cards that Bond ends up cheating at. Also, fight on a train aka my favorite locale for a fight. (Again foreshadowing.)
The two main reasons for this ranking, other than Sean Bean and Piece Brosnan trading barbs, is it’s the first Bond movie I remember seeing and it led to one of the greatest video games in the history of video games. Goldeneye was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare before Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, which is a reference that like three people will get but whatever. Winter of Sean.
Nostalgia is a big reason this movie ranks where it is but it’s also dope. The Bond girl is great (Cue “Boys with toys” with a heavy Russian accent), there is a tank chase, it has one of the best opening action sequences ever (bungee jump to base, blow it up, escape by riding a motorcycle off a cliff, skydiving to a plane and then taking it out a of a nose dive), plenty of bumbling Russian guards (which are the best kind of bumbling guards), submerged satellite base and an evil Famke Jassen.
This is the only Bond movie to win an Oscar (Best effects, special visual effects) for its ocean surface-breaking battles. It’s amazing that all you needed to win an Oscar in 1966 was a bunch of waterproof cameras. But if you look beyond the awards, you’ll find the original No. 2 (Largo), an unassailable lineup of Bond girls, electrifying meeting chairs, jetpacks, the Caribbean, shark pools, the Disco Volante, gambling, trap shooting and spear guns.
Also, Tom Jones on the track because “he strikes like Thunderball,” which is an actual lyric but I have no idea what it means. It was the only bond movie to be remade, “Never Say Never Again,” which was Connery’s last performance as 007. That movie is bad but “Thunderball” was good enough to get a remake, which is enough to grab my No. 2 spot.
1. “From Russia with Love”
The main reason I love this movie the most is due to its simplicity. The only gadget is a suitcase with a hidden knife and a booby-trapped catch. There are no take-over-the-world plotlines. It’s just Spectre trying to blackmail James Bond.
Istanbul may be the best location for spy stuff. The last quarter of the film takes place on a train, with an extremely gratifying fight scene. Connery dons a captain’s hat and shoots flares at oil barrels. But that’s after he takes down a helicopter with a rifle. The poison toe shoes debut and there’s Siamese fighting fish fight, with the loser getting grubbed by Blofeld’s cat.
The title has been co-opted countless times (“From Paris with Love,” etc.) and, little known fact, it was originally the last Bond book Ian Fleming was going to write until popular demand arose for more Bond.
So this Thanksgiving, when Detroit is down by 30 and you don’t want to watch the Cowboys because they’re the Cowboys, switch over to Spike (if that’s still a channel) or toss on Hulu (which right now has the entire catalog save for the Daniel Craig Bonds) and let the sounds of explosions and gunfights rock you to sleep.
Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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