Rating the Bond Films: The Moore Era

Last month I watched all of the Sean Connery-era Bond films and shared my thoughts. This month I watched all of the Roger Moore-era Bond films. On the whole, they’re not as good.

Live and Let Die (1973) – Roger Moore [6.8 on IMDb]- C+ from me
Bond does blaxploitation. Name a black stereotype and you’ll find it here! Roger Moore does a good job, injecting some personality into a Bond that Connery had been making more-and-more bland. But Moore is, in many ways, a debonaire priss. He runs like a girl. When he’s trapped on a small island surrounded by crocodiles, you know his escape won’t involve dirtying his white suit. (Connery would have stripped to the waist and wrassled his way out.) For some reason, I have a fondness for the film’s extended boat chase, which features the comic antics of Sherrif J.W. Pepper and his friends. (“What are you? Some kind of doomsday machine, boy?”) As with many Bonds, there’s stuff here that doesn’t make sense. Bombing poppy fields? Do tell. A magnetic superwatch that discriminates, attracting only the metallic object Bond wants at the particular moment! After the amateurish ‘clawed man’ bends Bond’s gun, Kris said: “The special effects are awful — it’s like they’re not even trying.”

The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) – Roger Moore [6.6] – C
The Man With the Golden Gun has a reputation as one of the worst Bond films. It’s certainly not good, but it’s not as bad as some of those that have come before. The real problem is that it’s just not very entertaining. It’s dull and nonsensical. But it’s not outright bad. The James Bond franchise at this stage has lost its way. It used to be about a British spy. Now it’s about a glamorous playboy with a gun, a sort of suave Batman. There aren’t as many melee scenes with Moore as Bond. That’s a good thing. He’s utterly unconvincing in fight scenes. Christopher Lee is a fine actor, but I don’t like him as the villain here. And I’ve never been a fan of Hervé Villechaize (Tatu from Fantasy Island — here the villain’s henchman). Fortunately the ending doesn’t contain a mass fight. Unfortunately, it contains a lame exploding lair.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) – Roger Moore [7.1] – B-
This film has some great elements, though there’s plenty of blemishes, as well. It’s one of those Bond films with a great soundtrack (along with Thunderball and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). The story is neat: Bond and Agent XXX, a female Russian spy, team up to stop nuclear annihilation. Only, XXX wants to kill Bond to avenge her lover’s death. I think Karl Stromberg (as played by Curd Jürgens) is one of the strongest Bond villains — the actor isn’t really a strong presence, but the character is fascinating. And I’ve always loved his underwater fortress. (This was the first Bond film I ever saw. I was eight years old. Dad took me to see it.) This is the first Bond film to look polished. The production values are top-notch (for the era). The cinematography is never stunning, but often interesting. One of the weak spots is the film’s blatant sexism. Barbara Bach, who plays XXX, doesn’t do a good job, but then she’s not given much to do. And when she does do things, Bond mocks her. “Women drivers.” Yikes. Notable for the first appearance of Jaws, a lousy henchman and a sign of the depths to which the series had sunk.

Moonraker (1979) – Roger Moore [6.1] – D+
Let’s capitalize on the sci-fi craze! This film features an exciting opening teaser with Bond plummeting through the air without a parachute. (This teaser is undone by the mysterious re-appearance of Jaws, and his stupid crash into a circus tent.) The theme song (and the title sequence) are actually rather lovely. (The song is from Shirley Bassey, who also did the themes for Goldfinger and Diamonds are Forever.) Lois Chiles plays Bond-girl Holly Goodhead, but she does so poorly. Her delivery is unnatural — a wooden plank would do a better job. This film starts fine, but the quality drops once the scene shifts to Venice. The pacing is poor, the acting is poor, etc. It’s baffling that somebody (or more than one) believed Jaws was worth bringing back for a second trip. The product placement in this film comes fast and furious. There are at least a half dozen musical tributes to other works (not all of them films). The film degenerates into a collection of set pieces. This is Moore’s worst outing yet. The film isn’t a complete loss — elements of the story are interesting — but the quality of the components are piss-poor. The climax is one of those mass battles I hate so much, but it’s the worst ever: mass battle in space! So dumb.

For Your Eyes Only (1981) – Roger Moore [6.8] – B+
The opening sequence, which refers back to earlier Bond films, is really rather lame. “This is awful,” said Kris. “How can you watch this?” I suspect this one sequence is the source of much of the Austin Powers Dr. Evil schtick. After the teaser, things improve. The title song is lovely. The beginning of the film is odd by Bond standards: I can’t put my finger on exactly what is different, but the pacing and the style are more normal than usual, as if the film were just a normal Hollywood drama. This is going to seem like odd praise, but the editing in this film is quite good, and under difficult conditions. Seriously. I also like the fact that there aren’t many gratuitous explosions. Melina is a rare strong Bond woman. I like strong Bond women. (As opposed to say Bibi, a minor character here, who is painful to watch.) For Your Eyes Only suffers from a flaw that many Bond films had by this time: there seem to be an unending series of fight scenes strung together by tenuous threads. The bad guys often seem to know where Bond is (or will be) by some mysterious psychic ability. It’s bizarre. And not fun. Still, this is far less cartoonish than most of the Bond films leading up to it. The ending is particularly good.

Octopussy (1983) – Roger Moore [6.5] – C
This film is not nearly as bad as its reputation. It’s an average Bond film. There are some great scenes (I like the fight on the train). The worst aspect is the acting, which is atrocious in parts. There are also some woeful improbabilities, but then that’s par for the course. The opening teaser is bad by any standard. The story seems to be a patchwork, which makes sense since this was constructed not from an Ian Fleming novel but a series of short stories. This movie isn’t nearly as good as For Your Eyes Only, but it’s no worse than most of the Roger Moore films. Kris’ evaluation of the climactic battle: “This makes no sense. Why is there a trapeze in the castle? This whole thing is so juvenile. I don’t understand why you’re watching these all.”

A View to a Kill (1985) – Roger Moore [6.0] – C
This is Roger Moore’s worst outing as Bond, and that’s saying something. Throughout his tenure he brings but one quality to the role: he’s suave. In every other regard, he’s completely lacking. He possesses no athleticism; Roger Moore fisticuffs are laughably lame. He has no charm. He has no screen presence. And here, at last, he’s beginning to show his age. Moore was 57 when this was filmed, but he moves like a man many years older. It’s too bad. The core story and script here are good for a change — this is a return to Bond as secret agent instead of Bond as superhero. With a competent director and some good acting, this might have made a decent Bond picture. But the directing is plodding and ham-fisted. Christopher Walken is awful as the villain here — his line readings are made apparently at random. What is he trying to portray? A mid-eighties actor high on cocaine? A nice title sequence (with accompanying Duran Duran hit song). We see very little of the normal Bond supporting cast. They frame the story, but the bulk of it is Bond on his own.

Keeping score
On average, the Connery-era Bond films received a rating of 7.1 from users of the Internet Movie Database. They received a GPA of 2.47 from me. On average, the Moore-era Bond films received a rating of 6.6 from users of the Internet Movie Database. They received a GPA of 2.09 from me. There you have it: scientific proof that Connery was a better Bond than Moore.

A note on directors
In the world of James Bond, the director plays a huge role in determining the quality of the film. Terence Young directed three of the first four Connery films. He was absent for Goldfinger, which was the weakest of the four. Goldfinger was directed by by Guy Hamiltion, who also directed Diamonds are Forever, Live and Let Die, and The Man With the Golden Gun. All four of Hamilton’s films share similar flaws, and they’re not nearly as good as those directed by Young. But he’s not as bad as Lewis Gilbert, who brought us the duds You Only Live Twice and Moonraker (as well as The Spy Who Loved Me). The end of the Roger Moore era going forward features direction from John Glen, who shows some promise if he can only shake his need for the nonsensical.

Next month: the Pierce Brosnan era, which is virgin territory for me.

Minor Miracles

Do you hear that?

Across the back yard, past the neighbor’s house? That rumbling sound? It’s a lawnmower! A lawnmower! It would never occur to you that one could mow his lawn in January, and yet it’s true. The weather has been sunny and dry for the past several days. The grass is long (because you never got the end-of-year mow in that you wanted), and giving it a trim sounds like an excellent way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Time to hang up your blogging cap and put on your yardwork cap instead…

Speaking of minor miracles: when I came home today, all the cats but Nemo crowded around for attention. I sat in the parlor to write. Simon jumped on the bench in the bay window. Toto hopped onto the arm of my chair. Meatball climbed onto my lap. They sat together and purred peacefully — Toto didn’t hiss once.

It was a fine weekend in which we got to be social, but we also got a lot done. I’m pleased when my Sundays set up the week for productivity.

I hit a wall today, though.

I’ve finally been importing the seven hours of video I took during our 2004 cruise to Alaska. Now that my hard drive is nearly full (video takes a lot of space), I’ve begun to edit the footage. Here’s the first part:

I’m compressing each hour to ten minutes (or preferably less). I don’t really know what I’m doing, but I’m having fun. The real problem is that it takes time, and lots of it. I spent all day today editing parts two, three, and five. I didn’t get any box-work done. I didn’t get any blogging done. I only edited video. This is not good. Now I’m no longer ahead in my work. If I do this any more, I’ll actually be behind.

I can tell you this: I want to take a video camera on our European vacation this summer!

Cat vs. Kid: The Showdown

In light of my recent controversial complaints about children, and the subsequent video I shared of my cats, this short piece perfectly encapsulates the foldedspace pecking order:

Jeff’s reponse upon seeing this was, “Poor kid,” to which I replied, “Poor kid nothing. He got what he deserved.” (And what about those parents? They deserve to be keelhauled.)

Ah, there’s more where that came from. How about an angry sheep:

Or a less angry (but still violent) sheep:

For Nicole, here’s a brave, brave bunny:

And, finally, for Lynn — an animal “bred for its skills in magic“:

Have I mentioned that I love YouTube?

Six-Word Story

PB passed on a fun little meme: write a story in six words. It will probably come as no surprise that I’ve fretted over this for more than a week. I want my six-word story to be beautiful and perfect. Unfortunately, this is all I could come up with:

It rained Friday. She went anyway.

I found this exercise fascinating, actually. When given such a severe limitation (“only six words!”), it’s impossible to provide standard story-telling staples, such as “a beginning, a middle, and an end”. (There are exceptions, I suppose, such as the famous, “I came. I saw. I conquered.” Note that in Latin, that phrase actually comprises just three words!)

Articles present another problem. “A” and “the” are wasted words in a situation like this. This makes stories like “the cat chased after the dog” — there are two wasted words there!

As near as I can tell, Caterina started this meme several months ago citing the oft-quoted six-word Hemingway story:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

I don’t normally forward memes, but this time I’ll make an exception to tag Matt, Frykitty, Nicole, Michael, and Rich.

HTML That Makes Me Proud

I know this sounds crazy, but out of all the many web pages I’ve constructed over the years, the one of which I’m most proud is the foldedspace splash page. It’s a thing of beauty: elegant, simple, and to-the-point. (I like it so much that I re-used the design to create a new Get Rich Slowly splash page.)

The site of which I’m most proud is Money Hacks, which is sort of silly since it simply uses a standard WordPress template modified to my needs. And yet there it is: that’s my favorite site that I’ve constructed.

The fact is I’m not particularly adept at HTML or CSS. I know enough to get into trouble. I’m able to work with blog templates, and to create rudimentary sites from scratch, but the last time my skills were anything close to cutting-edge was 1996. I really haven’t learned much new since 1999. (Thus my frequent claim that my HTML skills are “oh-so-very 1999”.)

But I get by.

Procrastination Can Cost You Money!

As I was driving home from work yesterday, I passed a police officer. When his car pulled onto the road behind me, I thought nothing of it: my vehicle is in good repair and I was obeying the traffic laws. In fact, when the police officer activated his flashing lights, I pulled to the side fully expecting him to whiz by me on the way to some emergency. He didn’t. He, too, pulled to the side of the road.

“What have I done?” I wondered. I turned off my car, pulled out my wallet, and rolled down the window.

“Good afternoon,” said the police officer as he crunched along the gravel shoulder. “Do you know why I pulled you over?”

“No, sir. I don’t.” I was telling the truth.

“Did you know the tags on your car have expired?” My heart sank. Of course! The tags on my car!

My vehicle’s registration had been scheduled to expire at the end of December. Knowing my proclivity for procrastination, I had my emissions tested in mid-November. I picked up the new tags at the same time. It was a cold day, though, so I put the tags in the back seat. I told myself I’d put them on the next day. But the next day came and went. I forgot about the tags. In fact, they hadn’t even crossed my mind until the policeman mentioned them.

I groaned. “You’re kidding me,” I said. “I can’t believe I forgot to put them on.”

The police officer looked skeptical. “You have the tags?” he asked. I nodded. “Where are they?” he said.

I waved my hand, indicating my messy car. “They’re in here somewhere,” I said.

“Can I see your proof of insurance?” asked the officer. I retrieved that from my wallet and handed it to him. “This is no good, either. It’s expired too.”

I groaned again. “Would you mind if I got out and checked the back seat?” I said. “I’m sure the tags are in here somewhere.” The officer frowned, but he nodded and stepped back. I got out to rummage in the back seat. I dug through a pile of a dozen personal finance books, but I couldn’t find the tags. “Maybe they’re in the glove compartment,” I said. The officer nodded assent. They weren’t there. But they were in the driver’s side door.

I breathed a sigh of relief, handing him the tags. He smiled. I don’t think he had believed my story until that moment. “Now might be a good time to put them on,” he said. “Have a nice day.” And with that he returned to his car and drove away. I immediately put the tags on my license plates.

The moral of this story is simple: procrastination can cost you money. I was fortunate to encounter a good-natured police officer, and to have the tags in my possession instead of sitting on the kitchen counter. I could just as easily have received a ticket.

I’m a natural procrastinator, and there have been times that this really has cost me money. For many years I had a terrible habit of not depositing my paychecks on the day that I received them. At the time I didn’t have an emergency fund, didn’t carry overdraft protection, and wrote checks before I’d actually deposited money. Unsurprisingly, this led to numerous $28 overdraft fees because I was too lazy to deposit my paycheck on the day I received it. Dumb. Now I deposit my paycheck immediately. (And I maintain an emergency fund, which doubles as overdraft protection.)

I also used to let my bills pile up. I’d pay them all in a batch on a certain day of the month. I thought this made life easier. Really, though, it just cost me money. I suffered several late fees from simply forgetting to pay a bill (even though I had plenty of money on hand). Dumb. Now I try to pay my bills as soon as they arrive.

I still have a tendency to procrastinate — as my story about the expired tags demonstrates — but I’ve come to learn an important lesson: action pays.

Late Adopter

For all that I am an early adopter, I can sometimes be a little slow on the uptake.

Take instant messaging, for example. I know that this has been around for nearly a decade, and that all the young folk (heh) have been using it as a preferred mode of communication, but I’ve mostly let it pass me by. It’s only my recent exposure to the current state of video chat that has led me to even consider IM as something that might be useful.

One problem is that there are a zillion different IM protocols. Each major web player seems to have its own: Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo!, Google, Apple, etc. Some of these play nicely together. Most don’t. People tend to just choose whichever IM client is handy. They don’t base their decision on what their friends use. So, I’m learning that my friends all use different IM protocols. Fortunately I’ve found a tool for the Mac called Adium. It’s very handy in that it “talks” to all of these at once.

So, I’m experimenting with instant messaging.

Then there’s LinkedIn. Jeremy sent me an invite to this service back in Septemeber. I ignored it. Since then, I’ve received a couple more invites. I ignored them, too. But in the past couple weeks, I’ve been reading more about the site, and everyone raves about it. So I signed up.

LinkedIn looks like “MySpace for grown-ups”. It’s a social networking site in which you link with your friends and colleagues. Ostensibly, this gives everyone access to each other’s social networks in order to facilitate business and social introductions. In reality, I’m worried that it’s just a massive spam source. (Though, to be honest, I’ve received zero spam from LinkedIn since I signed up.) It’s certainly a massive advertising venue. There are Google ads on every page. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Anyhow — I’m playing with both IM and LinkedIn. If you’re hooked up to either and want to exchange info, let me know.

Cats on Film

I’m so hip. I just uploaded a video to YouTube. You can’t stand me, I’m so cool.

I borrowed a videocamera from Jenn and Jeremy the other day. I’m trying to get some good video of the feral chicken at the office. (I’m constantly amazed at how many Chicken fans there are among my readership.) It’s more difficult than I had anticipated.

Frustrated, I brought the videocamera home today. The sun was shining and the cats were antsy, so I let them outside and then filmed them as they wandered around.

Pretty boring, but not if you’re a cat. As you can tell, Simon is especially fond of outside. It’s his favorite.

(My YouTube profile, in case you’re interested.)

Bear-ly Breathing

During our evening with Ron and Kara, we received a tour of their newly-remodeled house. Prominently displayed on the floor of their bedroom (much to Kara’s delight) is a black bear that Ron killed in Canada.

This led to a discussion of a short story I’ve been writing, the climax of which involves the shooting of such a bear. “Aren’t you scared of bears?” Jenn asked.

“Yes, I am,” I said. “That’s partly why I wrote the story. It’s based on something that actually happened: I went wandering off into the woods near Silverton to take photographs, even though the property owner had warned me of bears.”

While I was saying this, I was thinking of Tammy’s bear stories, and of the bearskin her family had in their living room (that skin always fascinated me). I was thinking of Grizzly Man. I was thinking of how whenever we go hiking up Opal Creek, I’m always suffering from a low-level anxiety that we’ll be set upon by bears. (An anxiety which is not helped by all the anti-bear precautions we take.)

Here’s video that demonstrates why I am scared of bears when we’re in the woods:

At least we don’t have to worry about grizzlies:

Here’s a grizzly vs. a caribou (not for the faint of heart):

But, of course, the bears don’t always win. Sometimes the cats win. Here’s a video that’s popular around our house:

Yessir. Bears frighten me. I’d rather deal with housecats, thank you very much.

Speaking of wildlife, there’s a little more to tell about our trip for dinner at Ron and Kara’s the other night. Kris and I keep forgetting to mention this to anyone.

After we had turned onto Miller Road, just before we got to John and Louise’s driveway, a deer leapt a fence and bolted into the road. I braked and swerved (not too violently), and the deer veered to the side. For a few moments it ran beside us, keeping pace with the car. Then we were past it, and we sped off, down into the flats, past the tile factory, and to Ron and Kara’s.

Just a little adventure, but fun nonetheless.

Addendum Since writing this, I’ve reached the point in Undaunted Courage where Lewis & Clark begin to encounter Grizzlies along the Missouri River. Needless to say, I’m frightened for them.