Monday, March 26, 2007

One with everything, hold the lingerie

I have a theory that if popularized would simultaneously bring down the fashion and makeup industries.

It is simply this: A woman holding a pizza is 10 times more attractive than a woman who isn't.

Observe. If you're a man, choose between these two women. If you're a woman, ask a man to choose:

No offense to the second woman, but she's clearly not a supermodel. Yet, I want to climb into the screen and get to know her better. Why? Because I want to know what's on the pizza, darn it.

What will happen if it is revealed that instead of piling on with expensive, fancy dresses and tons of makeup, all a woman has to do to look fabulous is to get a large pepperoni to go? Sweatshops will go silent. Anorexic women everywhere will have to find other jobs. Fashion shows will be sponsored by Papa John's.

A better world, perhaps. But think of the consequences. Makeup counters at department stores will be replaced with pizzerias. Perfumes will smell like sausage and mushrooms. Instead of men sending women candy and flowers on Valentine's Day, women would be sending pizzas ...

Wait ... it would be a better world.

Spread the word. Love means never having to hold the mushrooms.

Monday, March 05, 2007

You know the name, you know the number

When "Casino Royale" came out last fall, Entertainment Weekly did a ranking of the James Bond movies ... and got it appallingly wrong.

Now, I enjoy EW, and I subscribe for the same reasons Jeff Goldblum's character talks about his writing for People magazine: the articles are no longer than the average person can read during the average crap. That's why I keep a stack in the bathroom. But this list ... blah. Here, read it for yourself.

I'm a Bond aficionado, and I've always wanted to do a list like this. And since "Casino Royale" is out on DVD, now I have an excuse and a purpose: to correct that EW travesty.

So, here it is, the correct ranking of the James Bond series (ignoring "Never Say Never Again," which is not part of the official series ... and not that good either). I'm throwing in links to Internet Movie Database, just for the fun of it:

21. A View To A Kill
My main complaint with the EW list is this wasn't ranked the worst. Roger Moore stayed too long at the party and was too old to be Bond when this came around. He also got stuck with one of the worst Bond girls of all time, former "Charlie's Angel" Tanya Roberts, who does a lot of screaming but no acting. Moore also has to cuddle up with Grace Jones, which is as unlikely a pair as you'll ever see. And some people apparently like Christopher Walken's acting in this movie ... not me. His reading of "You amuse me, Mr. Bond," is the silliest reading of a line in the whole series. And to top it off, Patrick Macnee, the coolest British TV spy ever, has his character killed a third of the way through. It should have been Moore getting killed, then Macnee calling up Diana Rigg and the Avengers saving the day.

20. Diamonds Are Forever
The world is made up of three kinds of men: Sean Connery men, Roger Moore men and Pierce Brosnan men. There are more of the first two than the third, and probably an even split of the first two. I am a Connery man, so it saddens me to say one of worst Bond movies is his. He did it for the $1 million paycheck (though he used it to fund a theater in Scotland, so he had good intentions), and it shows. He's bored, he's paunchy, and he's mean-spirited. Charles Gray, who played the narrator in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" plays Blofeld, and he was better doing the Time Warp than being evil. Plus everybody knows Blofeld is bald ... they couldn't get this guy to shave his head? And the gay hitmen ... I find it hard to believe those clowns didn't spark gay rights riots in 1971.

19. The Living Daylights
Notice I didn't say there were Timothy Dalton men or George Lazenby men. That's because neither one was around to make a lasting impression. Because Lazenby managed to be in one of the better Bonds, though, he tends to be better remembered than Dalton because he has a better success rate than Dalton. Lazenby's Bond is 100% good; Dalton's Bond is 50% because he made one good one and one bad one. This is the bad one. It's dull, it's got both the worst theme song and the silliest chase in the series (sorry, sledding in a cello case is even sillier than a motorized gondola in "Moonraker") and there's no chemistry between Bond and his Bond girl. Dalton would have better luck next time.

18. The Man With The Golden Gun
After Moore debuted in "Live and Let Die" and it was a smash, they rushed into production on this, releasing it less than a year after. They should have waited until they got a better script. Christopher Lee is wasted as Scaramonga, who is killed off much too easily for someone who is supposed to be the world's deadliest assassin. The dumb Southern sheriff from "Live and Let Die" turns up in Thailand (oh yeah, THAT's logical) for more un-comic relief, and Britt Ekland is the worst Bond girl ever (with the worst name for a Bond girl -- Holly Goodnight). Top it off with Herve Villechaize as the world's least frightening henchman, and you've got a steaming pile of stupidity. I'd rate it even lower than this, but I like the golden gun you put together from a lighter, a pen and a cufflink.

17. Die Another Day
I liked it when I saw it in the theaters, but after watching it a couple of times on DVD, it's really fallen in my eyes. I don't fault the invisible car that a lot of people latched onto as ridiculous -- I mean, after you accept there's a car that has machine guns behind the headlights and rotating license plates, you've pretty much accepted anything. What gets me is it starts off with an intriguing idea (Bond is cast aside after being captured by North Koreans), then ruins it by having him go back to the British secret service. It should've been Britain begging for his help. And the computer-generated stunts are insulting -- the idea of Bond for me is he does things that are implausible, but not impossible, so if a stuntman can't do it, then neither can Bond. And I don't agree with those who say Halle Berry was a worthy ally ... if she was so great, then why did Bond have to save her twice?

16. Tomorrow Never Dies
It pains me to rate this so low, because I really like Michelle Yeoh as a Chinese secret agent. Instead of a Halle Berry spinoff, they should have done one with her. I don't like this one because Bond spends so much time running around shooting machine guns it feels like a "Die Hard" picture. Teri Hatcher is beautiful, but she annoys me because she really can't act, and this movie proves it. And though I like the car you can drive with your cell phone, I hate the part where you see Bond laughing as he's trying to get away from the bad guys. Bond doesn't laugh while he's on duty unless it's to laugh in a bad guy's face. That's why he's Bond.

15. Thunderball
I don't know for sure, but it sure seems like everybody in this movie other than the usual cast members are Italian. The villain and the Bond girl sure are. I find it disconcerting, almost as disconcerting as spending a good quarter of this movie underwater. The rocket pack is fun, but it's at the beginning and you still have two hours of movie left to go, and it's a chore. The plot was a lot more fun when Austin Powers did it. Q's brief scene is the best part of the movie.

14. Live and Let Die
"Who's the white secret agent who's a sex machine to all the chicks? Bond! You're damn right!" Someone got the bright idea to try to make Bond contemporary by sticking him in a blaxsploitation movie. That makes as much sense as putting him in "The Wizard of Oz" to make him more family friendly. Moore isn't bad, but he's clearly not comfortable. I'd consider this a total loss except for Jane Seymour, the theme song and the bit where Bond runs across the alligator heads.

13. Moonraker
Yes, it's James Bond in outer space; yes, I'd rather they didn't ruin Jaws as a villain; yes, Holly Goodhead is a lousy Bond girl. But it's still a lot of fun. The pre-credit scene where Bond and Jaws fight while falling is awesome. The fight in the crystal shop is one of the best in the series. And there's an actual sense of tension when Bond is trying to shoot down the whatever-they-ares at the end of the movie. I put this one in when I just want to watch something and not have to think. It works beautifully.

12. The World Is Not Enough
One of the worst Bond girls (Denise Richards as midriff-baring nuclear physicist Christmas Jones); the worst final line in a Bond film ("I thought Christmas only comes once a year."); senselessly killing off one of my favorite characters (Robbie Coltrane's Russian criminal Valentin) ... I should hate this movie more than I do. But a few things save it: Q's graceful exit (Desmond Llewelyn would die shortly after the film's release, ironically giving him a touching way to leave both the series and his fans); Sophie Marceau as a sensuous femme fatale; the fantastic opening boat chase (Bond straightening his tie underwater is a hoot); and best of all, what I think is the most underrated line in the whole series: "I never miss." Those who thought Brosnan was too much of a pretty boy to be Bond need to watch this scene again.

11. Dr. No
It's got the classic introduction of Connery at the baccarat table, lighting his cigarette and saying, "Bond. James Bond." (I wish I had a theme song that kicked in whenever I said my name). It's got Ursula Andress in that bikini. It's got Bond at his most ruthless (he'd never be this tough again until "Casino Royale"). It's even got Jack Lord's hair. The one thing it doesn't have is a real sense of urgency. That's why I can't put in the top 10. But it's close.

10. Octopussy
The EW list put this near the bottom because Bond dresses up as a clown. Well, he trying to defuse a bomb at a circus. What should he have dressed up as, a ballerina? If Moore had stopped making Bonds with this movie, he'd be my second favorite Bond. It's a fun movie, probably the closest thing to an Indiana Jones movie that this series gets. Besides, Q has a great big part in it, and when you talk about it, you get to say "Octopussy," which otherwise you'd never be able to do. So stuff it, EW.

9. For Your Eyes Only
Critics talk about "Casino Royale" as back-to-basics Bond. Well, it's not the first time the producers had that idea. After the gadget-heavy "Moonraker" came this stripped-down movie where they even make a point of blowing up Bond's spy car and sticking him in a subcompact. Moore is at his most ruthless kicking a car off a cliff (apparently the producers had to talk him into it because he thought it was TOO ruthless) and as his most disarming when he spurns the advances of a teenybopper. Carole Bouquet gets my vote for most beautiful Bond girl ever. Too bad the ending makes no sense at all. I mean, the whole thing is about Bond recovering a British decoder. At the end, he tosses it off a cliff to keep the Russians from getting it. Then he says, "That's detente, comrade. You don't have it, I don't have it." But ... but ... THE BRITISH ALREADY HAVE IT! IT'S A BRITISH DECODER! Oh, well.

8. Goldeneye
I liked Brosnan's Bond. He was suave, but he had a nasty streak when he needed to. I just think he was let down by the scripts. Only this movie gave his a coherent (well, mostly) storyline and a minimum of gadgetry and bad puns. If only they had stuck with it. But they did manage to make one good Bond. The tank chase is a classic (with another tie-straightening gag), the opening jumping off the dam stunt is outstanding, and there's a sense of tension during the last quarter that carries the film. And Xenia Onatopp? Best evil Bond girl ever.

7. You Only Live Twice
It's got more of the classic Bond elements that the Austin Powers films latched onto than any other film: the bald, scarred villain in the grey Nehru jacket petting a cat, the volcano lair, the bathing scene, the hairy chest. Connery pretty much is on autopilot, but the spectacle makes the movie watchable. The gyrocopter battle is a hoot. I wish they'd do CG updates with the space scenes because it's the only part of the movie that hasn't aged well. Well, that and Connery pretending to be Japanese ... maybe they could CG that part too.

6. Licence To Kill
The filmmakers were damn close to making the get-back-to-the-roots film fans had been screaming for when they made this. Too bad the budget-conscious filmmakers made this in Mexico. No offense, but you can't get a feeling of international intrigue in Mexico. You might as well make it in south L.A. People also complain about the villain being nothing more than a drug dealer. Well, the villain in "From Russia With Love" is chess player ... you tell me who's scarier. Enough defending the movie. What I like about it is Bond is all business: he wants revenge and he's going to get it, even if he has to work outside of Her Majesty's Secret Service to do it. If Dalton had made "Goldeneye," he'd be better remembered. And I don't care who you are ... any movie Wayne Newton is in (even "Vegas Vacation") is worth watching.

5. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
I used to be like everyone else and instantly hated this because it's Lazenby. Yes, his acting skills compared to Connery are like comparing Paris Hilton to ... well, any actress you can name. But the more I gave this movie a chance, the better it's gotten for me. If Connery had been in it, it might have been the greatest Bond of all time. Before "Casino Royale," it was the only one with actual emotion to it. And Diana Rigg ... she carries Lazenby through this movie like she was carrying him out of a burning building. They could do worse than remake this with Daniel Craig a couple of movies down the line.

4. Goldfinger
What? It's not No. 1? Yes, I go against conventional wisdom and not automatically rate this as the best Bond film ever. Why? Because Bond doesn't do all that much. Think about it. He teases Goldfinger (Gert Frobe gets my vote as best Bond villain ever), gets knocked out and Jill Masterson killed, beats Goldfinger at golf, gets Tilly Masterson killed (plot for a future Bond movie: the Masterson family puts a contract out on him), gets captured, boinks Pussy Galore into helping him, then gets lucky in a fight with Oddjob and nearly sets off the bomb until the expert stops him. He doesn't even kill Goldfinger: the boob does it himself by shooting out the airplane window. He never takes the initiative except when he forces himself onto Pussy (I shouldn't have enjoyed typing that sentence as much as I did). I love the car, I love Goldfinger's lair (even though it makes no sense whatsoever to explain the caper to the gangsters, then kill them all ... what a showoff) and I love the pre-credits sequence, but because Bond's such a passive character though the whole film, I have trouble watching this movie all the way through in one sitting.

3. The Spy Who Loved Me
The pinnacle of the Moore years. Basically, it's a remake of "You Only Live Twice," but it's got a the series' best Bond girl (Barbara Bach as Agent XXX ... sigh), evil Jaws and the Lotus Esprit that can turn into a submarine. It's probably the most fun film in the series, and has my favorite unappreciated line: "What's the matter, sailor? Never seen a major taking a shower before?" Moore actually acts once or twice, as in the scene where he admits to being the killer of XXX's lover. The only thing I don't care for is the disco Bond soundtrack (it was the '70s, after all).

2. Casino Royale
I confess. I didn't think Craig could do be a good Bond. I still think his ears stick out too far and he looks like he's been in one bar fight too many. But while I was watching the movie I realized I wanted a Bond who looked like he'd been in a fight. Connery certainly did. I dislike the movie for the half-hour or so after the final poker game until Vesper is killed (I know it sets up Bond for being wary of falling in love ever, but it's still a slog to watch), but before then it's the best Bond movie since the early Connery. And the ending, when he finally says "the line" and the theme music finally plays ... it feels like Craig has earned it. Too bad about the ears.

1. From Russia With Love
To me, this is the movie the series has been trying to match ever since, and until "Casino Royale" never did. Connery is absolutely magnetic (you can't take your eyes off him even when he does something as mundane as sweep the room for listening devices). Rosa Krebb (Lotte Lenya) is an underrated villainess (talk about killer pumps!), and Tatiana (Daniela Bianchi) is an underrated Bond girl. The plot grabs hold early, then powers straight through to the end. It's lean, mean and relatively gadget-free (I'd still like one of those briefcases). And no half-hour sidetrips into love story land. This is my Bond.