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Something I've noticed, including in myself, is a tendency to want to neatly classify films and scores in piles: the good pile; the bad pile; the guilty pleasure pile; and so on. Also to statically rank things and give them score.

Here's the thing: what if it's not really like that?

What if it's not so black-and-white?

What if it's no so static?

What if merit is not so one dimensional?

Take Guy Hamilton and Lewis Gilbert. Good box or bad box? Well, here's the paradox. Guy Hamilton helmed one of the great classic James Bond films, Goldfinger. Lewis Gilbert helmed another evergreen favourite, You Only Live Twice and revived a flagging franchise with what many (but not all) consider to be the best of the Roger Moore films, The Spy Who Loved Me. And yet between them they ushered in everything that was wrong with the 1970s Bond films: playing it too much for laughs; too much gadgetry; and the abandonment of intriguing Fleming-esque plots in favour of serial gimmickery.

My feelings on these directors is multi-dimensional and it cannot be expressed by simply boxing them, ranking them or giving them a score.

Take Moonraker. I jokingly berate it with a fantasy alternate title: Carry On James Bond. And yet I actually quite enjoy watching this movie. Why? For the risible script? No! To see Jaws romance Dolly? No! But I do love its pre-title sequence and the combined contributions of Ken Adam, John Barry and Derek Meddings. Moonraker is a case of all the great stylistic contributors being on staff, on form, it's just they're adding their layers of much-loved Bond style to the carcass of a turkey. Still, it just demonstrates my feelings on this film are not so one dimensional as I might pretend.

As for staticness, if my feelings about James Bond films and scores was really as static as I pretend, why would I ever choose to watch The Man With The Golden Gun, one of the most lowly ranked Bond films? And yet, sometimes it's the choice I do make. Surely, in that moment, at least temporarily, that's the one that will gratify my needs.

There's fault and virtue available to be found in almost anything. What we actually find may depend on what we go looking for; and what biases we might have in our approach to it. Also, what we find on Monday may be different to what we find on Tuesday, should our mood be different.

I understand why we box, rank, score and pretend it's all very one dimensional and static. It's all part of the intellectualization process. We just seem to have this need to sort and classify. However, I think this just obscures the more dynamic and multi-dimensional relationship we really have with films and music. And this is why I think reviewing needs to get less about boxing, ranking and scoring and needs to get more about finding the words to express the dynamic and varied attributes of a work.

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Comments (35):Log in or register to post your own comments
You nailed it. Thanks for expressing a thought that's bothered me for decades as well.

Very interesting! :) I completely agree!

I disagree with your assessment that Hamilton and Gilbert "ushered in
everything that was WRONG with the Bond films of the 70's: The gadgets,
the jokes, the serial gimmickery, etc." This is precisely the stuff I like about
those films. So, for me, they ushered in everything that was right.

Den

I for one find SPY WHO LOVED ME one of the worst Bond films (give me the fun, exotic, but also derided OCTOPUSSY any day!), but per Mr Woolston's point, I fully recognize that one day I might watch it and finally see why everyone else finds it so praiseworthy.

Contributing to the mindset lamented here is the media's (especially with the advent of the Internet) tendency to make lists of best this and worst that, especially when it comes to the Bond series. Back when the Pierce Brosnan cycle began, I found it irritating to see snarky comments about Dalton and his films, ranking him and them at the bottom of the barrel, with Brosnan considered the greatest thing since Connery. Never mind that Brosnan's films were mostly flat and he just serviceable.

But what do I see now? Dalton's leaner, tougher Bond is finally beginning to come into his own, with reappraisals and appreciations coming in right and left. GQ Magazine, in its recent Bond issue, even ran a full page perceptive evaluation of Dalton called "Best Bond Ever." I suspect the Brosnan films will steadily decline in the popular viewpoint over time. I also expect Moore's deft, fun turn as Bond will become more appreciated, too. He was the right Bond for the times, and I find him and his films quite entertaining.

And of course, OHMSS, widely derided in its time, has been climbing the ranks for years and is regarded as the best Bond film ever by those who know their Bond.

Returning to Woolston's point, I fully admit the possibility that I might take greater pleasures in some of Brosnan's efforts, and some of the weaker Connerys, if they catch me in the right mood!

I disagree with your assessment that Hamilton and Gilbert "ushered in
everything that was WRONG with the Bond films of the 70's: The gadgets,
the jokes, the serial gimmickery, etc." This is precisely the stuff I like about
those films. So, for me, they ushered in everything that was right.

Den



It's a sobering thought that, if Lazenby had seen things differently, he could have played the character throughout the era that in fact belonged to Moore's interpretation. He'd still have been in his mid-40s by the time of A View to a Kill. You'd never have caught George making a damned quiche.

Oh god - if only! ;)

I disagree with your assessment that Hamilton and Gilbert "ushered in
everything that was WRONG with the Bond films of the 70's: The gadgets,
the jokes, the serial gimmickery, etc." This is precisely the stuff I like about
those films. So, for me, they ushered in everything that was right.

Den



It's a sobering thought that, if Lazenby had seen things differently, he could have played the character throughout the era that in fact belonged to Moore's interpretation. He'd still have been in his mid-40s by the time of A View to a Kill. You'd never have caught George making a damned quiche.

Oh god - if only! ;)


I liked Roger Moore just fine, but would have loved to see Lazenby do additional installments.

Stephen has made a terrific post. It is so wrong we want to 'box' everything. There are brilliant moments in all Bond films and so gringe worthy moments too!!
Let's stop 'boxing' but thank you Stephen for a knock out post

I would give Stephen a 10 out of 10 score!

Ha ha, thanks guys.

Back when the Pierce Brosnan cycle began, I found it irritating to see snarky comments about Dalton and his films, ranking him and them at the bottom of the barrel, with Brosnan considered the greatest thing since Connery. Never mind that Brosnan's films were mostly flat and he just serviceable.

And what's interesting now, with the Craig films out and people considering him the greatest thing since Connery (well, some here disagree, but whatever) Brosnan's tenure is now getting the snarky comments. History repeating itself.

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