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Chris Ryan's Top Five Fave movies for 2023

I'm severely behind in writing this, my apologies.


Top Five

Asteroid City

Barbie

May December

All Of Us Strangers

Anatomy of a Fall


Honorable Mention

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

Oppenheimer


ASTEROID CITY

Super cute, totally on brand for Wes Anderson. Like all of his movies, a masterpiece of art direction. This movie, like *The Grand Budapest Hotel,* often looked like a pop-up book come to life. The sleight of hand of his movies is that the intensely original and patently phony colors and settings somehow mix with the brainy and arch tone of the screenplay to make a resulting confection that’s full of charm.


BARBIE

This was a movie that had a spot reserved on my Top Five as soon as I heard about it. I thought even if it was bad it would be bad in a meaningful or interesting way. Well I’m here to tell ya, it was FANTASTIC. So much better than it needed to be!


It was interesting seeing it so soon after *Asteroid City* because both have such a whimsical bordering on absurd use of color and design. In *Asteroid City* it’s a choice - - in *Barbie* it’s a requirement.


The movie took on many deep and complex topics: female empowerment, toxic masculinity, and what makes you unique? Among others. I wasn’t expecting the Barbie movie to be thought-provoking but it shore was.


MAY DECEMBER

I was intrigued by the story of this movie and also the fact that it was another pairing by writer/director Todd Haynes and actor Julianne Moore. It was amazing, I loved how deliberately phony it was. Especially the use of music and occasional soft focus, it felt like an Afterschool Special or Dateline re-enactment.


ALL OF US STRANGERS

A fascinating and unique movie. Amazing performances by the four leads: Anthony Scott and Paul Mescal as the central couple and Claire Foy and Jamie Bell as Scott’s parents. It’s spooky, thought-provoking, and emotionally rewarding. And like I said, unique. Great music, too, by Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch.


ANATOMY OF A FALL

Wow, what a knockout! It sets itself up as a standard police procedural but becomes oh so much more. Sandra Hüller was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar and she really earned that nomination, it’s a tour de force performance. There’s one moment in the movie where the writers and director made a decision, in a trial scene, that knocked me on my ass. That moment was brilliantly crafted, filmmaking at its finest.


HONORABLE MENTION

INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY

One of those movies you have to see on the big screen. Harrison Ford was marvelous - - this is allegedly his last Indiana Jones movie, and I hope it is because it’s a perfect way for him to go out. Phoebe Waller-Bridge was marvelous as the female lead. She’s really something else, she has a very particular energy and it’s most appealing. One last note that I promise is not a spoiler - - a lot of the movie has to do with time travel and the ending of the movie has a profoundly moving bit of time travel for the audience.


OPPENHEIMER

I was skeptical because as much as I loved a couple of writer/director Christophen Nolan’s movies - - *Memento* and *Inception* - - I HATED his Batman movies and was FURIOUS over *Dunkirk.* To use a phrase of my friend Karen’s, I hated it with the heat of a thousand suns. *Oppenheimer* was expertly made, Nolan didn’t get in the way of the story. He still told it in a complex way but it wasn’t needlessly complicated.


The movie generally consisted of people talking to each other, often speaking in a convoluted scientific, political, or legal language. But there were a few things that made it engrossing: first, I’m sure Nolan worked the camera in a crafty way without me being aware of it. Second, the music was fantastic, it added sweep and focus. And third, what a starry cast! I hadn’t seen such a collection of stars since the constellations of Robert Altman. I had the feeling that Michael Shannon, George Clooney, and Christopher Walken went to see this movie and thought, “Hey wait a minute! Why aren’t *I* in this movie?”


The Other Categories


BEST CAMEO, FEMALE

I saw Rhea Perlman in the cast list for *Barbie* and was excited to see what role she’d be playing. It was profoundly moving that she had such an impactful role, something quiet and touching, pretty off brand for what we expect from her. I wonder if writer/director Greta Gerwig had any pressure to put a more major actor in that role (Meryl, Bette, Susan Sarandon, etc). I suspect Gerwig is a fan of Perlman and had her in mind when she wrote it.


BEST CAMEO, MALE

John Cena as a merman in *Barbie.* Crack me up. I also loved the cameo by Snoopy in *Maestro.*


REMEMBRANCE OF MOVIES PAST

Please tell me that you’ve seen *The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.* I know I say this a lot, but it’s one of the greatest movies ever made. It’s what I call a One Movie Genre - - it’s a genre unto itself, there really is no other movie anything like it.


It’s an opera in the sense that it’s sung throughout, there’s no spoken dialogue in the movie. The use of color is astonishing. The performances are wonderful, especially a very young Catherine Deneuve in the female lead, a delicious young Nino Castelnuovo as her boyfriend, and the divine Anne Vernon as Deneuve’s mother. The score is by Michel Legrand, definitely the most important element of the movie. An amazing score, it gets better every time I hear it, I’m continually hearing things I hadn’t heard before. I’ll say the same about director Jacques Demy. Every time I see it I notice new little things in the way he handles the camera. It’s a priceless movie, I urge you to see it if you haven’t seen it and urge you to see it again if it’s been a while.


MOVIE THAT NEEDS TO BE MADE

To my knowledge the only time that Meryl Streep and Glenn Close have shared the screen was in the mediocre 1993 movie *The House of the Spirits.* Please can we have a movie worthy of these two powerhouses? I had a fantasy for years of them doing *Waiting For Godot* onstage, with Streep as Vladimir and Close as Estragon. Just to show you how old this fantasy was I had Anne Bancroft as Pozzo. And Annie Potts as Lucky! Let’s keep Potts as Lucky but now I’d cast Viola Davis as Pozzo. Any enterprising director feel up to a movie of *Godot*?


EAGERLY ANTICIPATED

*Joker: Folie à Deux.* I didn’t see the first movie in the theater but this one looks like it’s worthy of that honor. We’ll see how it goes.


*Ballerina.* Ana de Armas and Keanu Reaves in a spinoff to the John Wick franchise, with de Armas playing a ballerina-assassin. Such an enticing hyphenate! Up there with Delphine Seyrig playing a housewife-hooker in *Jeanne Dielman.*


*Follies.* Are we finally getting a movie of my favorite Broadway musical? They’ve been talking about it for years. This is allegedly in pre-production, being directed by Dominic Cooke, who directed a London revival in 2017. I saw the first Broadway revival of this show in 2001 and dreamed about a movie version directed by Robert Altman starring Diane Keaton as Sally, Susan Sarandon as Phyllis, Warren Beatty as Ben, John Travolta as Buddy, and Debbie Reynolds as Carlotta. Altman and Reynolds are kaput but the others appear to be available. I’m keeping my eye on this but have it earmarked for Production Hell, aka never happening or taking another ten years.


Do we need another movie of *Hamlet*? Well, we’re gonna get one and it might be worth seeing with Riz Ahmed as Hamlet. The only other member of the cast I know is Timothy Spall as Polonius - - he’s the dude who played Wormtail in the Harry Potter movies. Great casting in that role.


MOST DESERVING OF A COMEBACK

My brother Howard was recently going through a Theresa Russell phase. She was a somewhat minor leading lady of the 70s and 80s who specialized in complicated, empowered, brittle, smoldering, combatant women. *Bad Timing* is the most shocking of these movies, she stars opposite (of all people) Art Garfunkel. She’s done a fair amount of work in the last 10+ years but really deserves a juicy supporting role in a major movie.


VIVA LA DIVA

Not a typical diva performance but I’m giving it to Scarlett Johansson in *Asteroid City.* She was the most vibrant, colorful, lively part of the movie, so that’s a diva of a certain type, yes?


NICE TRY

I had my hopes up for *Priscilla,* the biopic about Priscilla Presley written and directed by Sofia Coppola. She’s been one of my very favorite directors for ages, I’ve seen all of her movies on the big screen.


The movie was adapted from Presley’s memoir and she was one of the executive producers so is it safe to assume that what was on the screen was more or less an accurate depiction of her experience? It’s a very disturbing story but Coppola took an approach that was too chilly and quiet. The lighting, the framing of the shots, and the interior decoration all added so much to conveying the mood. That was masterfully done. But I felt like the story could have more juice, more muscle - - simply put, more drama. I’m not asking for a Lifetime TV Movie starring Shannen Doherty. Actually maybe I am!


HORRORABLE MENTION

*M3GAN* was a blast, a movie about a killer doll/robot. Your typical robot making up its own mind and taking revenge on the humans but the movie was smarter than it needed to be. It was a lot of fun.


HOW COULD I HAVE MISSED IT?

I just got around to seeing *Sound of Metal.* I think it took me this long because I had the idea it was going to be a lot of heavy metal thrashing, not at all my jam. It wasn’t, it was a deeply moving and engrossing film with a stunning performance by Riz Ahmed.


BREAK-OUT PERFORMANCE, FEMALE

Cailee Spaeny as Priscilla Presley in *Priscilla.* A very potent performance, she’s someone to watch. She was better than the movie.


BREAK-OUT PERFORMANCE, MALE

Jacob Elordi as Elvis Presley in *Priscilla.* See above.


BEST CREDITS

The opening credits of *Priscilla* were stunning. Opulent, chilly, a little unsettling. The perfect way to set up the movie.


FAST FIVE

Five great lines

1. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” (Gone With the Wind)

2. “There’s a name for you ladies but it’s not used in polite society…outside of a kennel.” (The Women)

3. “Fasten your seat belts. It’s gonna be a bumpy night.” (All About Eve)

4. “My mother isn’t quite herself today.” (Psycho)

5. “He has his father’s eyes.” (Rosemary’s Baby)


DREK

I wanted to like *Maestro* but it was impossible with the movie pushing me away. The beautiful settings, the beautiful music, the beautiful and often famous actors, it was all so pushy and airless and drained of blood. It had energy but no blood.


BRIEFLY NOTED

It’s a sign of the times. I saw so few movies this year, I’ve talked about them all in the context of my other categories. Heavy sigh.


GUILTY PLEASURE

I got sucked into watching *Maid in Manhattan* on TV a few months ago. What a sweet movie. J Lo is wonderful and I bet Ralph Fiennes was relieved that he didn’t get sucked into the rom com machine. It’s a totally implausible story, but who cares.


ON SECOND THOUGHT

Richard and I watched *Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon* together this past spring. He’d never seen it before and I’m not sure I’d seen it since seeing it in the theater in 2000. That movie holds up - - stunning visuals, gorgeous music, stellar performances, and I know I’m deep as a dime, but incomparably beautiful people onscreen: Chow Yun-Fat, Ziyi Zhang, and the incredible Michelle Yeoh. Check it out.


BEST USE OF A POP SONG

The main character in *All Of Us Strangers* spends a lot of time thinking about the 1980s. He had a particular thing for Frankie Goes to Hollywood and their song “The Power of Love” has a significant appearance in the movie.


BEST DOCUMENTARY

*The Lady Bird Diaries* is a sweet little doc about the audio diary that Lady Bird Johnson kept while she was in the White House. They fill in visuals by using film footage or photos, it’s very cleverly put together. And you hear Lady Bird’s voice throughout. She was nobody’s fool!


MOVIE PROJECT

We had so much fun watching the *Airport* movies in 2022, I decided that Richard and I needed to watch all of the James Bond movies. In order. I was sure I had never seen at least a handful of them and thought it would be an interesting view of the progression of our culture, through a very narrow lens. Most of all, I was curious to see how attitudes towards women have changed. Or not.


DR NO (1962)

Director: Terence Young (his first of three Bond movies)

Bond: Sean Connery

Bond Girl: Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder

Villain: Joseph Wiseman as Dr. No

Theme song: No theme song!


This is where it all started. It was a sort of dopey movie, done on the cheap. We watched it with our friend Scott Seyforth, who thought some of the sets might have been borrowed from *Gilligan’s Island.* It was that cheesy. To me the movie felt like a pilot for a TV series, and they weren’t sure they were going to be picked up. The Bond series was an established series of books (every one of which was eventually turned into a movie) but no one knew if this movie would spawn a second movie, let alone sixty freaking years of movies.


I said above that there was no theme song, but that’s not exactly true. The James Bond theme song played before the opening credits, as it would in many other Bond movies. The thing this movie didn’t have was someone singing a song.


FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963)

Director: Terence Young

Bond: Connery

Bond Girl: Daniela Bianchi as Tatiana

Villains: Robert Shaw as Grant and the divine Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb

Theme song: “From Russia With Love,” sung by Matt Monro


They started figuring it out in this movie. The opening credits are a hilariously vulgar sequence of words projected onto writhing and undulating women’s bodies. My favorite moment has the numbers 007 projected onto a pair of shaking boobies, festooned in silver fringe. This clip is in danger of becoming my newest most overwatched thing on YouTube - - Mitzi Gaynor singing “Let Go,” take a back seat!


Bianchi is sort of a cipher as the Bond Girl, she doesn’t bring much to the table. She doesn’t ruin things either, so I guess I should be pleased with that. Shaw has a tasty form and he looks cute with his blond ‘do. Lotte Lenya is the biggest joy of the movie, she’s clearly having a good time. And Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny makes her presence known - - she was one of my favorite bits in these early movies, she’s adorable.


Re: the song - - the opening credits are done to an instrumental arrangement of the theme song, equal parts satiny strings and groovy brass and percussion. The vocal version (Matt Monro is a favorite of my mom’s, bless her heart) is heard in the closing credits.


GOLDFINGER (1964)

Director: Guy Hamilton (his first of four Bond movies)

Bond: Connery

Bond Girl: Shirley Eaton and Tania Mallet as sisters Jill and Tilly Masterson

Villains: Gert Fröbe as Auric Goldfinger, Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore, and Harold Sakata as Oddjob

Theme song: “Goldfinger,” sung by Shirley Bassey


Now this is what I’m talkin’ about! Without a doubt the BEST of the Bond movies. The frisky tone, the crackling dialogue, the swift movement through the plot, it all comes together with such skill and zest.


My favorite bit of dialogue in any Bond movie - - Goldfinger has strapped Bond to a table and aimed a laser at the base, slowly moving its way up, presumably heading to his man parts:


BOND: Do you expect me to talk?

GOLDFINGER: No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to DIE!


The theme song is fantastic. More film projected onto women, but this time the women are inert and appear to be made out of gold lamé. Is this a step in the right direction?


The Female Issues are ripe in this movie. Bond sets the tone right off - - practically the first thing he does in the movie is smack a woman on the ass. Which gets a giggle and a grin from her. The image of Jill Masterson lying face down in bed, naked, dead, and covered in gold paint is one of the most indelible images in movie history. Female objectification in the extreme.


THUNDERBALL (1965)

Director: Terence Young

Bond: Connery

Bond Girl: Claudine Auger as Domino

Villains: Adolfo Celi as Largo and Luciana Paluzzi as Fiona

Theme song: “Thunderball,” sung by Tom Jones


What a dud. Slow, dull, and too long. Two things kept me interested: first, clearly Mike Myers saw this movie many times because he stole a lot from it for *Austin Powers.* And second, Sean Connery spends a lot of time wearing nothing but a pair of swim trunks. Homina homina.


YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967)

Director: Lewis Gilbert (his first of three Bond movies)

Bond: Connery

Bond Girls: Akiko Wakabayashi as Aki and Mie Hama as Kissy

Villains: Donald Pleasance as Blofeld and Karin Dor as Helga Brandt

Theme song: “You Only Live Twice,” sung by Nancy Sinatra


A little more dull than it needed to be but not really awful. It takes place in Japan and at one point Bond goes undercover and gets plastic surgery in order to look Japanese. They also give him a wig that changes him from his standard handsome hairstyle to a goofy unkempt ‘do. Do I need to say that this is problematic?


ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (1969)

Director: Peter R. Hunt

Bond: George Lazenby (the only actor to do only one Bond movie)

Bond Girl: Diana Rigg as Tracy

Villain: Telly Savalas as Blofeld and Ilse Steppat as Irma Blunt

Theme song: “We Have All the Time in the World,” sung by Louis Armstrong


I’d never heard of director Peter R. Hunt and there’s a reason for that - - he appears to have done a lot of tough guy garbage. I was surprised at how good this movie was. There were a few action sequences that were stellar: a fight scene in a hotel room, a couple of good downhill ski chases, a bobsled race (with Bond, at one point, holding onto the back of the bobsled as it screams through the chute), and best of all, Dame Diana driving her sports car through a stock car race. She was definitely the most capable Bond Girl so far.


There’s a group of about ten young women who are sort of a squad of minions for Blofeld. One of them is played by Joanna Lumley, or *Ab Fab* fame!


Connery had said he was done with Bond so the producers found Lazenby, who had no previous acting credits. I thought he was pretty good! Charming, full of charisma, good in the action sequences, and a fine figure of a man. He made the movie and decided it would be his only Bond movie. Connery came back for one more…


DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971)

Director: Guy Hamilton

Bond: Connery

Bond Girl: Jill St John as Tiffany Case

Villain: Charles Gray as Blofeld

Theme song: “Diamonds Are Forever,” sung by Shirley Bassey


Not awful but not great. Charles Gray is a bland villain. Jill St. John shows some promise early in the movie with some crackling dialogue but she turns out to be your standard issue Bond Damsel in Distress pretty quickly.


LIVE AND LET DIE (1973)

Director: Guy Hamilton

Bond: Roger Moore

Bond Girl: Jane Seymour as Solitaire

Villain: Yaphet Kotto as Kanaga and Geoffrey Holder as Baron Samedi

Theme song: “Live and Let Die,” sung by Paul McCartney and Wings


This is Roger Moore’s first movie and he’s given a lot to do. I thought he was marvelous. He’s more polished and sophisticated than the two previous Bonds but then he’s English, which gives him a different energy than the Scottish Connery or Aussie Lazenby.


Jane Seymour looks like she’s about 14 years old, which is unsettling, and Bond deflowers her, which is upsetting. Yaphet Kotto is marvelous as the main villain but Geoffrey Holder nearly steals the movie as a subvillain. The highlight of the movie is a scene where Bond somehow escapes being eaten by alligators. Roger Moore hardly breaks a sweat. Or are they crocodiles…?


THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974)

Director: Guy Hamilton

Bond: Moore

Bond Girl: Britt Ekland as Goodnight

Villain: Christopher Lee as Scaramanga and Hervé Villechaize as Nick Nack

Theme song: “The Man With the Golden Gun,” sung by Lulu


Britt Ekland was the drippiest leading lady ever. She’s very pretty and looks good in a bikini but does she bring anything else to the table? Not that I can see. And I was so excited to see one of the greatest villain actors ever, Christopher Lee, in this - - but wow was he wasted. He had nothing to do. I wish he had hired someone to write him some juicy dialogue. And oh my, Hervé Villechaize really does not stand the test of time.


THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977)

Director: Lewis Gilbert

Bond: Moore

Bond Girl: Barbara Bach as Major Anya Amasova

Villain: Curd Jürgens as Stromberg and Richard Kiel as Jaws

Theme song: “Nobody Does It Better,” sung by Carly Simon


It’s worth noting that Bond movies up to this point had come out every year or two years - - there was a three-year break before this one. They hit an every-other-year stride for a while but then took a six-year break ramping up to Pierce Brosnan.


This was the Bond movie I had seen the most often, it seemed to be on TV quite a lot when I was a kid. Barbara Bach is very good as the Bond girl. She has presence, she looks great, she does what’s expected of her. No big whoop but clearly not as easy as it might look. Curd Jürgens is passable as the villain, nothing special there. Richard Kiel is the breakout star of the movie, Jaws is a madman. But also somehow a wee bit touching!


MOONRAKER (1979)

Director: Lewis Gilbert

Bond: Moore

Bond Girl: Lois Chiles as Holly Goodhead

Villain: Michael Lonsdale as Hugo Drax and Richard Kiel returns as Jaws

Theme song: “Moonraker,” Shirley Bassey


Dame Shirley Bassey was back singing the theme song for a third time. She was the only person to get more than one turn at bat, so the fact that she did three is pretty marvelous. She had just the right balance of diva attitude and forceful vocals. Bless her heart.


I know villain Michael Lonsdale from *The Bride Wore Black,* maybe also some Buñuel movie? He was so low key and relaxed in this movie. I feel like they woke him up right before they said, “Action.” It’s great to see Richard Kiel back as Jaws. They give him a chance to do some actual acting in this movie.


I was excited to see Lois Chiles playing the Bond Girl, I’m a big fan of hers from *The Great Gatsby* and especially *Death on the Nile.* She was exceptional in this, ready for action and full of applesauce. Her character is an astronaut, go figure. She has the best line of anyone in a Bond movie, apart from Bond himself. She and Bond have a tussle with a couple of bad guys and she does some impressive fighting, finishing the job with a karate chop or similar. Bond says, “Where did you learn to fight like that? NASA?” She says, “No. Vassar.”


FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981)

Director: John Glen (his first in a string of five Bond movies)

Bond: Moore

Bond Girl: Carole Bouquet as Melina Havelock

Villain: Julian Glover as Aristotle Kristatos and Michael Gothard as Locque

Theme song: “For Your Eyes Only,” sung by Sheena Easton


This was the first Bond movie not to be based on an Ian Fleming book. Does it really matter? Sheena Easton actually appears in the opening credits singing the song. That hadn’t happened before and I’m not sure it’ll happen again.


Carole Bouquet is a yawn as the Bond Girl, she brings nothing to the table. So lovely but not much going on there, and granted not given much to do. The movie has four or five exciting action sequences but the rest of it is not so impressive. It ends with Bond getting a call from Margaret Thatcher and her husband, with two actors doing impressions of the Thatchers. It wasn’t funny and was really in rather bad taste, a curious way to end the movie.


OCTOPUSSY (1983)

Director: Glen

Bond: Moore

Bond Girl: Maud Adams as the titular heroine

Villain: Louis Jourdan as Kamal Khan

Theme song: “All Time High,” sung by Rita Coolidge


What a treat to see my beloved Louis Jourdan as a Bond villain - - such a handsome dude and he never seems to make much of an effort, which I find beguiling. Maud Adams had something resembling grace in her performance. The less said about the title the better.


A VIEW TO A KILL (1985)

Director: Glen

Bond: Moore

Bond Girl: Tanya Roberts as Stacey Sutton

Villain: Christopher Walken as Max Zorin and Grace Jones as May Day

Theme song: “A View To a Kill,” sung by Duran Duran


High camp! Between Christopher Walken and Grace Jones, good Lord, they were so far above the top they could no longer see the top. So much fun. Jones’s character steals the show with an end-of-the-movie turnabout, that was one of the highlights of any Bond movie. Tanya Roberts was drippy.


THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987)

Director: Glen

Bond: Timothy Dalton

Bond Girl: Maryam d’Abo as Kara Miolvy

Villain: Jeroen Krabbé as General Georgi Koskov

Theme song: “The Living Daylights,” sung by A-Ha


Oh dear, Dalton is such a disappointment. I read online that he tried to capture the wounded, brooding tone of the James Bond in the books, but with him wounded and brooding came across as flat and colorless. Very handsome, looks good in a tux, and move with a certain agility, but he really did not have it going on. I rank him dead last in my list of the six Bonds. Yes, George Lazenby is fifth! He was good!


Jeroen Krabbé seemed to be having a good time but didn’t leave much of an impression. Maryam d’Abo was cute as the damsel in distress. And I guess her ride with Bond down a ski slope in a cello case was pretty impressive. Many Bond movies feature ski slopes and underwater chases.


LICENSE TO KILL (1989)

Director: Glen

Bond: Dalton

Bond Girl: Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier

Villain: Robert Davi as Franz Sanchez

Theme song: “License To Kill,” sung by Gladys Knight


I was excited to see Carey Lowell as a Bond girl, I only knew her as an Assistant District Attorney on *Law and Order.* She was good as a Bond girl, and her part was well written. She was a little saucy. Davi was suitably devious. The highlight of the movie is a dusty truck chase, very exciting. I was happy that Dalton only did two Bond movies.


GOLDENEYE (1995)

Director: Martin Campbell (his first of two Bond movies)

Bond: Pierce Brosnan

Bond Girl: Izabella Scorupco as nice girl Natalya Simonova, Famke Janssen as bad girl Xenia Onatopp

Villain: Sean Bean as Alec Trevelyan

Theme song: “Goldeneye,” sung by Tina Turner


This was not just Brosnan’s first Bond movie, but also Judi Dench’s first Bond movie. They both set the bar very high, they both hit just the right tone of dead serious but knowing it’s silly. Famke Janssen plays maybe the nastiest Bond girl ever - - she makes Pussy Galore look like Dorothy Gale. Sean Bean is just fine as the villain, but nothing to write home about.


TOMORROW NEVER DIES (1997)

Director: Roger Spottiswoode

Bond: Brosnan

Bond Girl: Michelle Yeoh as Wai Lin

Villain: Jonathan Pryce as Elliot Carver

Theme song: “Tomorrow Never Dies,” sung by Sheryl Crow


I looked up director Spottiswoode’s credits and the only ones that stood out to me were the movie *Air America* (Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr) and the TV movie *And the Band Played On* (Matthew Modine). Lots of crap besides those, and hey, maybe they’re crap, too.


Jonathan Pryce was a nice change of pace for a Bond villain, he was icy and calculating rather than overtly nasty. Michelle Yeoh holds the title of Greatest Bond Girl EVER! Wow, she was amazing. Not just equal to Bond in terms of ability, I think she could beat him up, break him in half, and eat him for lunch. She does a fight scene in a bike shop that’s a highlight of any Bond movie.


The high point of the movie was a car chase in a parking garage. We’ve all seen that a million times, right? But in this case Bond was driving the car via remote control, lying down in the back seat. At one point he does something particularly impressive and he smiles and laughs, he’s so pleased with himself. It’s nice to see Bond laugh.


THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH (1999)

Director: Michael Apted

Bond: Brosnan

Bond Girl: Sophie Marceau as Elektra King and Denise Richards as Dr. Christmas Jones

Villain: Robert Carlyle as Renard

Theme song: “The World Is Not Enough,” sung by Garbage


A bit of a surprise to see Michael Apted on this list of Bond directors - - he directed the British *Seven Up* series, such an amazing, long series of documentaries.


This movie was a blast. I wasn’t expecting it to be one of the best. It didn’t take itself too seriously, it had a frisky tone. The action sequences were first class, especially the speed boat chase through London on the Thames. Sophie Marceau is clearly an Isabelle Adjani knockoff. I had read some crabbiness online about Denise Richards playing a nuclear physicist and dressing like a Bond girl - - she wears a little purple dress in one scene and wouldn’t she be just as sexy in a T-shirt and jeans? Is that a gay man’s question? I had a problem with her upswept ‘do. Please.


This was Desmond Llewelyn’s last movie as Q. He was cute. And Robbie Coltrane as a smarmy underworld dude. He played this same role in *Goldeneye.* We know him as the kindly Hagrid in the Harry Potter movies, it’s interesting seeing him in other clothes.


DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002)

Director: Lee Tamahori

Bond: Brosnan

Bond Girl: Halle Berry as Jinx Johnson and Rosamund Pike as Miranda Frost

Villain: Toby Stephens as Gustav Graves

Theme song: “Die Another Day,” sung by Madonna


The previous credit that stands out for director Tamahori is an intense Maori drama from 1994 called *Once Were Warriors.* This movie was a lot of fun, lots of great action sequences and elegant, improbable locations (the ice hotel is a riot). It was Brosnan’s last Bond movie so I feel like the pulled out all the stops.


Berry is delicious as Jinx. There was talk about her getting her own spinoff series but that didn’t pan out. I think this was the first time I’d noticed Pike in a movie. She’s very young and frosty, a nice counterpart to Berry. I don’t think I’ve seen Toby Stephens in anything else. His sneer is delightful.


One sequence takes place in Cuba and it was fun to see Brosnan smoking a cigar. The high point of the movie was a fencing match between Bond and the villain. The fencing master was played by none other than Madonna.


CASINO ROYALE (2006)

Director: Campbell

Bond: Brosnan

Bond Girl: Eva Green as Vesper Lynd

Villain: Mads Mikkelsen

Theme song: “You Know My Name,” sung by Chris Cornell


Again, they took some time off preparing the new Bond. I’d seen Daniel Craig in a few things (*The Road to Perdition* comes to mind) but I was surprised he was given such a high-profile gig, being a moderately unknown actor. But really, was Sean Connery such a known quantity when he played Bond? Or any of these dudes?


*Casino Royale* is based on a book by Ian Fleming, unlike the nine movies that came before it. It had been turned into a movie in 1967, with David Niven playing Bond and Ursula Andress as the Bond Girl, but that’s not seen as part of this series because it was produced by another team. Though it’s worth noting that “The Look of Love” was written for that previous Bond *Casino Royale.* Be mine tonight! Let this be just the start of so many nights like this.


The timeline doesn’t quite work out - - this movie shows Bond at the start of his career, just after he’s been promoted to a Double Oh, but his boss is the same M, Dame Judi Dench, as we had seen in the previous movies. Why do I look for logic in a James Bond movie?


Craig is very good, very scrappy and tough but also suave and sexy. The whole package. Eva Green is marvelous as Vesper Lynd, smart and silky with an undercurrent of mystery. Mads Mikkelsen is marvelous as the villain, very devious and understated. My mother tells me that Mr. Mikkelsen is my future stepfather. She hasn’t told HIM yet.


QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008)

Director: Marc Forster

Bond: Craig

Bond Girl: Olga Kurylenko as Camille

Villain: Mathieu Amalric as Dominic Greene

Theme song: “Another Way To Die,” sung by Jack White and Alicia Keys


Director Forster was best known for *Monster’s Ball* and *Finding Neverland.* He also directed the marvelous *World War Z,* post-Bond. But oh, what a bore! One of the worst! So convoluted and dull. Forster tries to liven things up with some jumpy camera work and fast-cut editing, but it’s smoke and mirrors, baby. I’ve seen all of the Bond movies since *Die Another Day* in the movie theater - - this is the only one that put me to sleep.


SKYFALL (2012)

Director: Sam Mendes (his first in a two-movie Bond stint)

Bond: Craig

Bond Girl: Naomie Harris as Eve and Bérénice Marlohe as Sévérine

Villain: Javier Bardem as Silva

Theme song: “Skyfall,” sung by Adele


I was excited to hear Mendes was going to be directing the new Bond movie - - I was a big fan of *American Beauty,* though I imagine that movie would be canceled today, for a number of reasons. Might be worth seeing again, just out of curiosity.


*Goldfinger* is the best Bond movie and this is the second best. Like *Goldfinger,* it’s not just a great Bond movie, it’s a great movie by any standards. One of the things that makes it so brilliant is the script. Neal Purvis (four of the five Craig Bond movies), Robert Wade (the same four movies), and John Logan (*The Aviator,* *Hugo,* *Red*) gave an unusual depth to not just Bond but many of the characters.


Javier Bardem is the greatest Bond villain ever. His entrance is one of the great movie star entrances of all time, a super creepy monologue that sets the tone for his character. Courtesy of imdb:


“Hello, James. Welcome. Do you like the island? My grandmother had an island. Nothing to boast of. You could walk around it in an hour, but still it was, it was a paradise for us. One summer, we went for a visit and discovered the place had been infested with rats! They'd come on a fishing boat and gorged themselves on coconut. So how do you get rats off an island? Hmm? My grandmother showed me. We buried an oil drum and hinged the lid. Then we wired coconut to the lid as bait and the rats would come for the coconut, and... They would fall into the drum. And after a month, you have trapped all the rats, but what do you do then? Throw the drum into the ocean? Burn it? No. You just leave it and they begin to get hungry. And one by one... They start eating each other, until there are only two left. The two survivors. And then what? Do you kill them? No. You take them and release them into the trees, but now they don't eat coconut anymore. Now, they only eat rat. You have changed their nature. The two survivors. This is what she made us.”


The “she” here is M, his former mentor, the Judi Dench character. She’s magnificent in this movie and (I’m deep as a dime) never looked more beautiful.


SPECTRE (2015)

Director: Mendes

Bond: Craig

Bond Girl: Léa Seydoux as Madeleine and Monica Belucci as Lucia

Villain: Christoph Waltz as Blofeld

Theme song: “Writing’s On the Wall,” sung by Sam Smith


Another amazing movie, thanks to the same three dudes who wrote *Skyfall.* Michelle Yeoh is my choice for Greatest Bond Girl Ever but Léa Seydoux gets a special shout out for the greatest acting performance by a Bond girl. Of course much of that credit goes to the writers - - they gave her something to do, unlike many other Bond girls (see Britt Ekland and Tanya Roberts). She was wonderfully brooding and understated and in that bias-cut gown in the train sequence, she didn’t skimp on the glamour.


Signora Belucci - - Madonna mia, what a glamourpuss. Probably the most glamorous widow in movie history. Those shoes, that suit, the hat, that WIG! Troppo, mia cara, troppo!


I bet the producers put Waltz on their short list of Bond villains when they saw *Inglourious Basterds.* I bet they wrote this role to line up with his talents, and he’s brilliant. These movies are so overt and unrealistic, they benefit from understatement on the part of the actors. But don’t tell that to Christopher Walken, please!


It’s fun to have Waltz playing Blofeld - - he’s the fourth actor to play a character with that name in this series. And a special treat to see him with a fluffy white cat. That cat cameo is one of the highlights of the movie.


NO TIME TO DIE (2021)

Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga

Bond: Craig

Bond Girl: Léa Seydoux as Madeleine and Ana de Armas as Paloma plus Lashana Lynch as Nomi

Villain: Rami Malek as Lyutsifer Safin

Theme song: “No Time To Die,” sung by Billie Eilish


Re: the songs in these movies, this was three consecutive years that the Bond movie theme song won the Oscar for Best Song! I’ll keep my eye on this, I think it might become standard thing.


This was Craig’s last Bond movie and an extraordinary way to end his Bond career. It touched on the other four movies in a meaningful way and (no spoilers) wrapped things up nicely.


A NEW INVENTION CALLED TELEVISION

I had to get a new iPhone this fall. My previous phone was from 2017 and the people at the Apple store were amazed. The tech said, “We’re all very impressed with the age of your phone!” That purchase came with three free months of Apple TV and of course they reeled me in and I’m keeping it forever. The first series Richard and I watched was *Ted Lasso,* which friends had been urging us to see for quite a while. It’s a priceless show, so funny and touching. I was a sobbing, dripping mess in the final episode. I can’t recommend it highly enough, it’s a treasure.


BEST PREVIEW

*Joker: Folie à Deux.* I was impressed with the first *Joker* movie, especially with the ending and Joaquin Phoenix’s no-holds-barred performance. I was intrigued to hear that Lady Gaga was on board with the sequel and tickled that they used the delicious French phrase <<folie à deux>> in the title. Pourquoi pas?


The preview did what a preview is supposed to do. It gives you some enticing visuals, some glimmers of the performances, a few fun moments of action. Best of all, it does NOT give away the whole damn movie. And as an added bonus, we have “What the World Needs Now Is Love” featured prominently, by my beloved Burt. Oh, and a brief nod to *The Umbrellas of Cherbourg*! What more do I need.


BEST FILMWORD BIOGRAPHY

This is much more than a “filmworld biography,” but since I know her primarily from films, I’m choosing *Finding Me* by Viola Davis. I’ve only just started it and clearly it’s going to be a powerful book.


FAVORITE PERFORMANCE

Josh Hartnett in *Oppenheimer.* This is Harnett’s third appearance on this list. My 2006 Movie That Needs to Be Made was a movie about man-on-the-run Richard McNair starring Hartnett. And he was my 2013 Most Deserving of a Comeback. He seemed to have made his career trading on his good looks and charisma, in roles in *The Virgin Suicides,* *Sin City,* *The Black Dahlia,* and the TV series *Penny Dreadful.* It was a treat seeing him doing a great job in a juicy supporting role in this movie, really proving that he’s an ACTOR. I want to see more of this from him.


NEW CATEGORY: MOST DESERVING OF A SEQUEL

So often my Most Deserving To Be Made is a sequel so I’m giving the sequel its own discrete category. BTW I think this is the first time I’ve used the word “discrete” correctly.


I would love to see a sequel to *The Truman Show.* Truman has fallen on hard times and a new crop of TV producers convince him to do a reboot. This time he knows the cameras are there but if feels like it’s a huge denial of himself to go back on television. Maybe he turns the tables by the end and exposes the show as the heartless, vapid, commercial enterprise it is. It would be a juicy role for Jim Carrey, he was so amazing in the original movie.

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