This weekend is all about Skyfall. Oh sure, I could say a few words about Lincoln, which rolls out today on all of eleven screens nationwide. But most of us won’t get the chance to see it until next week, so I’ll wait until then to give it its due. Besides, if I don’t, the only other release I’ll have to talk about is Breaking Dawn Part 2, and I’ll be damned if let that have a post all to itself.
Skyfall is already setting the overseas box office on fire, and if the anticipation and early word is any indication, it’ll do the same here. Words like “best Bond ever” are being tossed around by people who aren’t prone to hyperbole, so I’m trying to keep my expectations in check. But you bet your life I’m getting to a theater as soon as I’m out of work today and seeing this. It’s been a while since a Bond film felt like an event, and Skyfall has that feeling again, down to the major pop star doing the theme song. I just hope it lives up to the hype.
So with today essentially being Bond Day, and with no other releases to discuss, I figured I’d reel off a list of my favorites from all things Bond. This isn’t meant to be the best or most worthy; just the ones that do it for me. Just a warning: this is going to be Connery heavy, and if you’re a fan of Dalton or Brosnan, prepare to be disappointed.
Favorite Bond Evil Plot: I love the space race insanity of Blofeld’s plot from You Only Live Twice. Hijacking space capsules and bringing them back to your secret volcano lair in order to goad the Americans and the Soviets into nuclear war? That’s how a Bond villain is supposed to operate!
Favorite Bond Henchman: I thought about Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me and Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd from Diamonds Are Forever. But I’d be risking a razor-edged bowler to the head if I didn’t pick OddJob from Goldfinger. He’s a perfect example of being the brawn to the villain’s brains, and he gets a fittingly spectacular ending in his final showdown with Bond.
Favorite Bond Girl: If I’m going on a purely instinctive (and admittedly prurient) level, it’s hard to beat the one-two punch of Jill St. John and Lana Wood in Diamonds Are Forever. But for the whole package, it’s got to be Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore from Goldfinger. She’s gorgeous, she’s dangerous, she’s more than Bond’s equal, and she’s got her own squad of daredevil pilots. What’s not to love?
Favorite Bond Villain: Who else but Ernst Stavro Blofeld? The only question is, which one? For my money, Donald Pleasance gives Blofeld the perfect air of oily menace in You Only Live Twice. Telly Savalas and Charles Gray are great in their respective films, but they always seemed too physically imposing to me. I much preferred Pleasance’s take as the true mastermind who’d rather let someone else get their hands dirty.
Favorite Bond Opening Sequence: The skydive battle that kicks off Moonraker is pretty spectacular, but loses points for the silly ending where Jaws somehow survives by landing on a circus tent. Goldfinger has that iconic spy moment of Bond stripping off his diving suit to reveal an immaculate white tuxedo jacket underneath. But there’s something so audaciously great about the opening of The Spy Who Loved Me. When Bond’s parachute opens to reveal the Union Jack — after that jaw-dropping jump off the edge of a cliff — well, it may be the most iconic Bond moment of all time.
Favorite Bond Theme Song: This is a knockdown, drag-out fight. Is it the gold standard (pun intended) of Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger”? The unfairly despised “You Know My Name” by Chris Cornell from Casino Royale? Tom Jones’ ode to testosterone that is “Thunderball”? The seismic cultural event of Paul McCartney and Wings’ “Live and Let Die”? Carly Simon’s mega-hit “Nobody Does It Better”? No, I think I’m going for an unorthodox choice here and picking Sheena Easton’s “For Your Eyes Only”. The savior of a pretty awful Bond score, it’s got a hypnotic intro, a great build, and a killer chorus wherein Easton really gets to belt to the back row. Of course, ask me again in a week, and I’ll probably have a different answer.
Favorite Bond Film: There’s a contingent who have soured on it because of how it set the formula that the series eventually ran into the ground, but that’s precisely why I choose Goldfinger. It’s got everything that fires my imagination about Bond, what makes him such an enduring character for me. It’s the series — and Connery — at the top of their games, and if later films aped it to their detriment, it’s only because it was such a great blueprint. If could only own one Bond film, it would be this one.
In about six or seven hours I’ll be finding out if Skyfall will end up replacing any of the entries on this list. Even if it doesn’t, I’ll be happy if it’s on par with Casino Royale and the underrated Quantum of Solace. And just like every other time, I’ll stay until the end just to see four of the most reassuring words in cinema — “JAMES BOND WILL RETURN” — scroll up on the screen. Here’s to another fifty years.