Is the first Bond movie with Roger Moore the best one in which he starred? Was it all downhill from here? I tend to think so. Moore took over the series from Sean Connery with this fun 1973 spy thriller set in New Orleans and featuring a blaxploitation and Black Panther-inspired villains. My friend Chris Queen included the theme song on his list of best Bond songs in 2012:
Paul and Linda McCartney banged out a unique title tune for 1973’s Live And Let Die. While previous 007 themes fell into more of an easy listening vein, “Live And Let Die” blends bracing rock and intense orchestration by Beatles producer George Martin, who scored the film.
According to The Billboard Book Of Number Two Singles, Wings almost missed out on the chance to record it, and subsequently the producers almost missed out on the song itself. Martin recalled that when he played the Wings track for producers Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli, they complimented Martin on the song and asked who should record it.
The producers suggested future disco diva Thelma Houston, and otherwise insisted that a black woman perform the song because of the film’s New Orleans setting. Martin and McCartney held firm that there would be no song if Wings couldn’t perform it. Looking back nearly 40 years later, it’s hard to imagine anyone but McCartney belting those immortal words, “Live And Let Die.”
Did the Bond films just get too silly with Moore? Are they better when there’s more of a balance between tough spy action and the occasional jokes and clever gadgets?
When I get around to assembling a list of the greatest comedies of the ’90s then Beavis and Butt-head Do America will be on it. It’s such a consistently entertaining, funny, clever comedy. Is it the height of Mike Judge’s filmography? Or do you prefer his live action features, Office Space, Extract, and Idiocracy?
It’s been awhile since I’ve had a chance to watch it. The Wife doesn’t like Beavis and Butt-head. But she is a fan of the next title on the list, save for the scene where the bugs crawl into their ears…
So as noted earlier this week, it appears that Star Trek VI and The Motion Picture were added this month, but now two of the more popular (and generally regarded as better) Trek films have now expired. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (aka, “the one with the whales” that non-trekkies might have seen) is also disappearing.
This isn’t a bad trade, actually. The two Treks being added are probably the most under-appreciated, dare I say underrated of the whole series. They’re both worth additional viewings whereas the more well-tread narrative of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th films is one I’ve probably had enough of for awhile.
So Goldfinger is the strongest of Connery’s Bond movies, isn’t it? From Russia With Love is also disappearing this month but I don’t remember being as impressed by that one — a little too on the serious side? Goldfinger is sort of the quintessential Bond film I tend to think. Thunderball with all its underwater fighting struck me as kind of boring.
Of all the titles on the list this is the one that I’m most genuinely annoyed at having lost. I don’t own it and need to watch it more. The film noir genre is one that I’m hoping to get a better understanding of soon. I’ve seen many of the classics and know the basics but will want to dig deeper and more broadly to expand my understanding of crime fiction.
At some point either I’ll write it myself or assign to someone who knows the subject better, but I’m wondering where the original Terminator should go on a list of most influential science fiction movies. It seems like more and more films seem to recall its themes and characters and its ideas have even migrated into the real world as concerns about a “skynet”-like computer grow more plausible.
2. Taxi Driver
The Great Kathy Shaidle wrote about Taxi Driver last week in 10 Movies Millennials Must See to Understand the 1970s:
There were LOTS of “the Big Apple is rotten” flicks produced during that era that capture the sights, sounds, smells, crime, pessimism, crime, vermin infestations, decay and crime.
It is, yes, seductively beautiful– the peerless score, the POV shots of Bickle’s night shift – but it’s that lurid, decadent beauty Lileks wrote about.
You can sympathize with Travis’s alleged motives for his climactic rampage — to “wash all this scum off the streets” – while still preferring Mayor Rudy’s tactics.
By the way: one theory posits that much of what we see in Taxi Driver is simply a glimpse into Bickle’s fevered, psychotic imagination; the on-screen gore and perversion never actually “happened.” This “buffer” theory makes the film more palatable for some viewers, but not all. Your mileage will vary.
Taxi Driver is undoubtably a great, powerful film on an aesthetic level. But I’ve been reassessing my adolescent obsession with it as well as the rest of Scorsese’s filmography. It seems as though the themes of the ’70s underground are now the mainstream today. The link between Wolf of Wall Street and Taxi Driver isn’t hard to trace. And I’m really starting to wonder if more and more films in the Travis Bickle/Jordan Belfort mode is really going to improve America’s culture at all.
I wish there were more movies like Saving Mr. Banks — which we watched last night, finally — and fewer movies glorifying criminal misogynists.
Of all of Kubrick’s movies, none of them approach the sublime more frequently than Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. I am using “sublime” here the same way that Lewis did, and Coleridge did. The scenes in Dr. Strangelove that work–and that’s almost all of them–merit our approval and respect.
A lot of this has to be credited to the brilliance of Kubrick’s collaborators, notably co-screenwriter Terry Southern and primary star Peter Sellers. In this scene, Sellers delivers his version of the one-sided telephone conversation schtick made famous by Bob Newhart just a few years prior:
Note the balance here between the faux-calm that Sellers is trying to project here against the fiddling and fidgeting that George C. Scott is doing, as well as the perfect twist of the knife by Sellers right at the end of the clip.
As I’ve grown skeptical of my Martin Scorsese boxsets in recent years, I also find myself reevaluating the Kubrick box too. I’ve been thinking about the Cold War a whole lot more lately in considering the amazing insights of PJ columnist Ion Mihai Pacepa’s books. And I guess I’m having a harder time laughing about it. And I’m starting to consider more the effects of mass culture for instilling an inability to comprehend the real nature of America’s enemies.
We celebrate Dr. Strangelove as a work of film genius and a creative breakthrough. But does the film have a message that’s worth celebrating? I’ve watched Strangelove four or five times like all self-respecting film obsessives and I’m probably due for another viewing of it, but when I do it’ll be more through the lens of our country’s criminal enemies. Nowadays when I think about 20th century history and the Cold War I try and consider it through the KGB-colored glasses of Red Horizons, Disinformation, and now Programmed to Kill, third of Pacepa’s books on my reading list. From page 39 of Programmed to Kill that I was reading this morning, discussing one of the techniques the Soviet espionage service used to recruit Lee Harvey Oswald while he was stationed in Japan, a glamorous hostess-turned-prostitute:
I guess growing up and learning to appreciate films during my teen and college years I imbibed the morally relativist attitude in evaluating art. In approaching a movie one is supposed to set personal biases aside and just go with the film’s experience and engage with it on its own terms. And when we do that then Dr. Strangelove and all the technical marvels of Kubrick and Scorsese and today’s HBO wizards are all very impressive. But despite all the bells and whistles, nowadays a lot of their work — along with many of the filmmakers I once loved — leaves me empty. Years worth of effort and development goes to accomplishing what, exactly? The cumulative effect of decades’ worth of films is in service of changing the world how? I’ll explain more in coming articles and lists.
I just don’t think I can do it anymore. Or rather, I don’t want to. I won’t call a film or show “great” on technical or aesthetic grounds while it simultaneously promotes terrible moral values. Exhibit B demonstrating this point is our final item, a multi-award winning TV series now concluding its Netflix run…
Which of My Picks for The 10 Most Terrible, Overrated Shows on Netflix Streaming You Must Avoid Is Now Gone? Nip/Tuck
Netflix only had a 4 year deal that they made in July of 2010. Good riddance. What I wrote about the show last month:
Nip/Tuck ran for six seasons from 2003 through 2010 on FX. It features two Miami plastic surgeons, their strange clients, and their increasingly more bizarre and shocking personal lives. Creator Ryan Murphy seemingly has a catalog of every strange sexual combination (polyamory, trans-genders, castrated characters, incest) and transformation that he works into the show over the course of the years.
Most disturbing and morally problematic is the effect the show produces similar to what I’ve criticized in Game of Thrones.Like a slasher movie it cuts quickly between scenes of bloody violence (both crimes and graphic depictions of plastic surgery procedures) and sex scenes that wouldn’t have made it into R-rated movies a decade ago. The eroticization of violence signifies the show’s pagan tendencies. By the third season it’s jumped the shark, shifting to more of a lurid crime show as the plastic surgery practice is stalked by a serial rapist who mutilates his beautiful victims as a terrorist campaign against their profession. Show after show just piles on the shocks and there’s barely a sympathetic character to be found.
I fear that as our popular culture has grown more decadent over the past few decades, as the combination of sex and violence comes flashing at us regularly in our entertainment, it numbs us to recognizing and confronting the real life perpetrators of these same acts in the real world today. The criminal exploits of Jordan Belfort and Henry Hill are now well known and enjoyed as entertainment fans around the world. But Vladimir Putin is treated with respect while he continues the same assassination and disinformation tactics of his predecessors.
I named it one of my New Year’s Resolutions to start being more aggressive in criticizing the pop culture that shouldn’t receive the overwhelming praise it has, that contributes to Americans’ growing cynicism:
What are some other shows and movies you’d like to see analyzed and debated at PJ Lifestyle? If it’s not something I’ll have the stomach to endure then one of the other PJ Lifestyle contributors might want to take a crack at it.
(And click here to see the full list of movies arriving this month and the others expiring.)