I hate being an old fart.
Actually, that’s a lie. I LOVE being an old fart. But the more I thought about yesterday’s thought, the more I realized that it needed some explanation.
When we bitch about the decline of quality music, we quickly begin to realize that people have been bitching about this for decades. Centuries even. And the younger generations come to the defense of modern artists. So none of this is new, this debate has been raging for as long as there has been music.
I may come to the defense of the musicians from the 50s, 60s, 70s, and even 80s. HOWEVER, if I were to be honest, how would the likes of Jimmy Page compare to someone like Mozart…a musician that was around many generations before Led Zeppelin?
Are the two even comparable?
We could say that Mozart was a once in a millennia talent, but what about other popular composers of that era? Were these artists far more talented and capable of generating QUALITY music than our generation?
Mind you, we live in a time when anybody and everybody produces their own art. There are far more platforms to publish such content. So perhaps it’s far more difficult for people living in our era to distinguish between quality art and terrible/mediocre stuff. Mozart was living in an era when maybe only GREAT artists get noticed. Not just GREAT, but also had the connections to get noticed.
Such barriers are increasingly being demolished thanks in large part to the internet. Perhaps only time will tell which music or art will last.
So that’s briefly one side of the argument.
Another argument, which is much less discussed, is the era in which these talents were fostered. I should clarify (not that it really needs to be clarified) that I’m not a historian. Plus, I did absolutely NO research before writing this. I don’t have to because this is just a blog for fuck’s sake. If I’m wrong in any way, it won’t be the first time. All I ask of you is to just hang with me.
But when we think about the arts…the great painters, music, literature, etc….we (mostly) think of the Renaissance, The Ancient Greeks, Romans, Persians, Chinese, etc. Or at least the academics do. So I want to ponder on what it was like to live during those times, and compare to how WE live today.
Mind you, I’m not one of those people that believe humans as a whole are getting dumber. I read somewhere, doesn’t matter where, that human brains have actually shrunk. I don’t know if that’s true, and I don’t care. I’m operating under the presumption that human beings are just as intelligent as the ancients, if not more so.
BUT, quality of living has, I imagine, gone up steadily. Although exposure to violent content (via movies and entertainment) likely hasn’t decreased…exposure to ACTUAL violence has probably greatly decreased. In other words, we are living in a safer environment than our ancestors.
That seems easy enough to follow.
Yet what has this done to us psychologically? Clearly this gives us more time to dedicate thinking to other tasks, rather than to just survival. We feel pretty confident when we wake up each morning that we will survive through the day. BUT, through its multi-million year development, the brain has evolved for survival. Meaning that to struggle is hardwired into our psyche.
I’ve explained before that humans (and indeed all LIFE) is quite literally made to suffer. Ever hear the saying: “You can take the person out of the trailer park, but you can’t take the trailer park out of the person?”. Well, humanity as whole works the same way. We might have progressed out of a seemingly violent past, but the violent past still lurks within us.
And struggle, contradiction, fear, depression, etc, are, I believe, all qualities that are necessary to produce good art. Mind you, the art ITSELT doesn’t have to represent those qualities, but the artists themselves have to have an understanding of their internal strife. This is why most (if not all) great artist are crazy. Art has to be a reflection of this violent and tumultuous human condition (which is why nearly EVERY story is centered on conflict).
Can a person that has never had an internal or external struggle produce quality art? I can’t say with any degree of certainty, but I will align with the side of NO.
So compare the average daily struggle of someone from 1000 years ago to someone of today. In order to produce great art, which person would have had to jump through more hoops? Where would have survival been more immediate? Who would have experienced more death and violence around them? Where would have the human condition been far more clear and present?
So perhaps artists from ancient eras weren’t necessarily more “talented”, but they did have to struggle greatly, which in turn produces better art under this theory. Therefore, art really has been in decline.
Now there is an outstanding theory that challenges this….the “scarcity” theory. And this is simple. When the body is lacking in certain necessities, that necessity takes priority and the mind focuses all its attention in obtaining it. Therefore, there would not be enough “bandwidth” to dedicate to such things like art. In fact, if you told a starving person to draw a picture, write a story, etc. it probably would not be that good as their mind would be focused on other things. Therefore, people struggling for survival would not at all be producing good art, and this would actually indicate that people suffering LESS would be better artists.
In fact, there are certain eras in history where this has proven to be the case, like the Renaissance after the so-called “Dark Ages”. (But, did I mention that I’m not a historian?). So, from a half-way evidence-based perspective, the best art is produced AFTER a sociologically-scarring event (like war, disease, etc.)
However, in our safe, first-world society, these problems have been largely eradicated (at least compared to people thousands or even hundreds of years ago). Death is no longer a part of our everyday lives. Therefore survival itself is no longer a concern. Now, our focus is on what we do with LIFE since we have an abundance of it. That problem ITSELF causes a degree of anxiety.
Art itself has advanced along with the technological advancements of the industrial revolution. Movies, video games, and photography are products of this movement. Music too has changed. And they all seem to reflect this new anxiety of not death, but of how to live. So perhaps comparing art and music of the ancient world and today is like comparing apples and oranges.
(Additionally, this new anxiety might be contributing to the cause in the rise of addiction and mental health problems. But that’s a story for another day).
Now I’ve made no secret for my love of James Bond. And since I listen to the “James Bonding Podcast”, it has prompted me to do a ranking of my favorite Bond films from least to favorite. Here it goes:
25. Man With the Golden Gun
Don’t get me wrong, I love the 70s. But just as chicken noodle soup and peanut butter don’t go together, the James Bond franchise and the early 70s just didn’t mix well (except for one film, which I’ll discuss later). Plus Roger Moore just looked pissed off that he had to play 007 again.
24. Live and Let Die
Except for the bitchin score and theme song, there’s not very many nice things I can say about it. Plus the Louisiana sheriff (whatever his name was) really made me uncomfortable.
23. The World is Not Enough
Mmm, Sophie Marceau.
Let me be clear, Sean Connery is a piece of MAN. But who honestly wants to go see a movie that mostly takes place under water?
21. Die Another Day
Yes, this is a terrible movie. BUT, if we are to be honest with ourselves, MOST 007 movies are pretty bad. But that adds to their charm. While this film is universally recognized as being a piece of shit, give it a few years. I think we will all come to appreciate the mess that it is.
20. The Living Daylights
When I was a kid, I actually loved Timothy Dalton. When I first saw Daniel Craig as Bond, I thought that Dalton was the pre-Craig. But upon recent review, the film doesn’t hold up. The cold-open, however, is one of the best in the franchise. But Dalton seems dull. In fact, at one point, I wished that the blond henchman was playing 007 instead.
19. Tomorrow Never Dies
I once hated Pierce Brosnan. But the truth is that he didn’t get a fair shake. Tomorrow Never Dies isn’t a great Bond film, but it does hold up on repeated viewings. And I LOVE Michelle Yeoh, but the screenwriters didn’t do her justice. Nevertheless, Jonathon Price is a great, undervalued villain.
18. From Russia With Love
Most fans will hate me for putting this one so low. I have no doubt that it is one of the greatest in the franchise. BUT, every time, and I mean EVERY TIME, I sit down to watch it, my mind wonders off to something else. Which is unfortunate because the book is actually my favorite of Ian Flemming’s novels.
17. Dr. No
Again, Connery is a piece of man. Despite being made in 1962, it still holds up very well as an action movie. James Bond is a borderline sociopath, which is well established in this film. It may not be the best, but it was a very solid first outing.
Considered by many to be the best, or at least the most classic. To me, it suffers a bit because it’s mostly a cliché at this point. Plus Bond is always one step behind the villain throughout most of the film. But still, it’s just cheesy 60s fun.
I know what you’re thinking: “How could you put Moonraker above Goldfinger?”.
Well, because the movie has BALLS. Sending James Bond into space? It’s as ridiculous as it sounds. But the movie truly DOES NOT GIVE A FUCK. Plus, that cold-open with Bond falling out of a plane without a parachute? Probably the best in the franchise.
But clearly the producers were too coked up to make a coherent film. And their decisions paid off.
14. A View To A Kill
“Seriously Wes?” you’re asking yourself.
Yes, this is a terrible movie. Probably the worst one in the franchise. Roger Moore was in his late 50s and looked like he was in his 70s. Watching him hit on Tonya Roberts and make out with Grace Jones totally grossed me out.
But there are two things that you have to understand about the Bond franchise. When the movies are good, THEY ARE GREAT. And when the producers are phoning it in, like they were in this film, THEY ARE ALSO GREAT. Most 007 fans feel this way. We’d rather watch a really good Bond film, or a really bad one.
And this is a REALLY BAD ONE. Hence the high ranking.
Sure the movie is a little clumsy. And slow. Truthfully, I didn’t know where to put this one. Which is why it’s in the middle of the pack. It’s not great, but some time needs to pass before I’ll know where it stands.
12. The Spy Who Loved Me
The cold-open is great. The theme song is great. Barbara Bach is hot. And Roger Moore is at his best. I don’t think the second half is great, nevertheless this is a solid Bond film.
11. Quantum of Solace
This movie gets WAY too much hate. Which is unfortunate, because if you watch it immediately after Casino Royale, it’s also a very solid movie.
When a few more years pass, I think this film (along with Die Another Day) will become one of the more appreciated in the franchise. Plus, Daniel Craig looks his best in this outing.
10. For Your Eyes Only
There’s something about this one I can’t quite put my finger on. This one feels like the most somber one of them all. And for whatever reasons, I appreciate that. As James Bond, Roger more was at his best in The Spy Who Loved Me. But here, he is at his best AS A CHARACTER. Although still a womanizer, he seems to show genuine concern for the women he’s with. Which truthfully, isn’t something we see again until Daniel Craig. (Except for maybe The Living Daylights).
Roger Moore isn’t my favorite Bond, but this one is certainly the best of the Roger Moore era. Although I don’t think the producers intended this one to be the best, things seemed to have clicked. So it’s a combination of over-the-top and ridiculous scenarios combined with genuinely tense action sequences.
8. You Only Live Twice
Although Sean Connery was clearly bored with the franchise at this point (although he’s not at his most bored yet), things still seem to just work.
7. License to Kill
Judge me all you want.
While I wasn’t thrilled with Dalton in The Living Daylights, he seemed to have made a turn for this one. This one was way ahead of its time, and I’m not sure enough people respect that.
It gets a bad knock for being “too 80s”, but so what? It was brutal, and there were some genuinely good action scenes. It was the Daniel Craig era before Daniel Craig.
6. Never Say Never Again
I now that this one isn’t considered a “real” James Bond movie. But I don’t care. If you were to be honest with yourself, this is Sean Connery at his BEST as 007.
While watching it, I always feel sad that he didn’t stick around for Bond. Roger Moore did his best to bring the character into the 70s and 80s, but I just never really believed that Moore was womanizing, ass-kicking, sociopath. When watching the Moore-era, I can’t help but imagine how Connery might have delivered those lines.
Never Say Never Again gave us a peak into how that might’ve been handled.
5. Diamonds Are Forever
This is Connery’s last “official” Bond film.
I can only imagine how the producers managed to get Connery back.
Connery: “Do I have to get back into shape?”
Producers: “No, not at all”
Connery: “Do I have to act”
Producers: “Absolutely not. In fact, we are going to pay you a record sum of money to just show up and say lines”
Because clearly no one gave a fuck while making this movie, I mean they obviously knew that they would make a lot of money no matter what, they unintentionally made the best Bond film of the 70s.
Plus, I just really love to watch a grossly out-of-shape Sean Connery walk around and have women ogle him.
When I first saw this one, I thought it got overhyped. Upon re-watching, it is absolutely one of the best.
Even when it’s at it’s weakest, those weaknesses seem to fit in well with the unintentional charm of the series.
Javier Bardem absolutely OWNS the villain role. Plus, this is one of the most well photographed film IN HISTORY. James Bond is more than just an action hero, but he’s actually HUMAN.
The cold-open also provides one of the more chilling sequences in the franchise: when Bond gets shot off the top of a train and falls all the way to his “death”, and on into the credit sequence.
I mentioned previously that Brosnan didn’t get a fair shake. That being said, his first outing is one of the best.
No one can direct James Bond like Martin Campbell. Not even the Academy Award-winning Sam Mendes can come close to Campbell’s abilities. He was put on this earth to make James Bond movies, and I hope that he makes a return.
Except for some of the music, everything about this movie works. Sean Bean’s great. Brosnan is great. The Bond girls are CRIMINALLY underrated.
I just wish that the video game didn’t overshadow how great this film is.
2. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
George Lazenby might not have been an actual actor. And that definitely shows from time to time. However, because Peter Hunt was such a great director for this film, Lazenby actually came across as a decent successor to Sean Connery.
But one of the more underappreciated things about Lazenby was how PHYSICAL he was. We wouldn’t see this degree of physicality from James Bond until Casino Royale.
But more importantly, this is a HEAVY action film. For perhaps the first time, Bond is actually shown to be human. He shows fear, love, and even cries. And it all works.
It leaves one wondering how the franchise would have progressed had Peter Hunt and George Lazenby had continued on with the series.
1. Casino Royale
This isn’t only the best BOND film, it’s also one of the greatest movies of all time.
After being burned out of Bond by the Brosnan years, I didn’t quite know what would happen to the franchise when Daniel Craig was cast. He didn’t quite “fit” the part.
But from the opening sequence, it became clear that the franchise had changed. Bond was no longer an action hero that didn’t break a sweat. He bulked up, he bled, and he was three-dimensional.
It was obvious that the series turned the page. Daniel Craig firmly updated the character into our modern era. And in doing so, he did something that was previously thought impossible: he challenged Connery as being the greatest James Bond of all time.