Having now finished with the first Bond era (Sean + George), it’s time to recap the “Best Of.” The only problem is that I knew I wouldn’t be able to rank the Bond films in the aggregate. They are all so disparate that it’s like trying to compare seven different types of fruit. Perhaps, by the time I finish the series, it will be easier. However, through the first seven flicks, there is just no clear ranking to me.
So instead, I’ve created The Bond Oscars, in which I acknowledge the standouts in various categories. I’m eager to hear your thoughts as well, so please comment early and often, and offer up some categories of your own.
Best Bond Girl: Of course I start with the most subjective category. It’s not an easy pick. For me, Honor Blackman is all woman. Voluptuous, fiery, delicious. However, I’m going to go with Diana Rigg. Although not your classic sexpot, she does it all. A totally capable, untamed, attractive, sexy woman who gives Bond a run for his money.
Best Villain: No question here. Although Dr. No is a very intriguing character, I feel Auric Goldfinger had more depth of character, and remains the most complete of the Bond villains, possibly of all time.
Best Nemesis: I identify a nemesis as the secondary villain – Rosa Klebb, Oddjob, et al. There is such a rich array to choose from here that it’s again a difficult choice. I am very fond of Robert Shaw’s Red Grant in From Russia With Love. Oddjob is certainly an iconic character. But I’m going with Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd from Diamonds Are Forever. These guys are just so bizarre, their performances so odd, and the gay psychopathic angle is too great not to love.
Best Blofeld: Yet again, it’s a tight race. Telly Savalas or Charles Gray? I’m choosing Telly Savalas because his Blofeld is more grounded, more realistic, and isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. He’s as balls-out as Bond is in OHMSS.
Best Ally: Marc-Ange Draco from OHMSS is my choice. He’s the kind of rogue we like Bond associating with, and he’s got enough screen time to provide us with a fully formed character. Tiger Tanaka from You Only Live Twice is a strong runner-up.
Best Action Sequence: Storming of Blofeld’s volcano HQ in You Only Live Twice. Visually exciting, suspenseful, well-executed. The initial ski chase as Bond escapes Blofeld’s HQ in OHMSS is runner-up.
Best Fight: Hands (or fists) down, it’s the fistfight in the train in From Russia With Love. No score. Just grunts, groans, punches, kicks, and lots of suspense.
Best Score: No competition. John Barry’s work in OHMSS is transcendent.
Best Production Design: There’s a lot to be said for simplicity, which is why Dr. No takes this category. Ken Adam’s design is just fabulous in all the films he worked on, but every Bond film in this early era owes its look to the design Mr. Adam pioneered in the first film. Restricted by a small budget, the producers wisely chose to let the sets help tell the story. Mr. Adam’s use of German Expressionist influences were a major factor in the film’s overall look.
Best Cinematography: Ted Moore for Goldfinger. The sweeping, wide-screen compositions give this movie a grand, epic feel.
Best Script: OHMSS. Look, I happen to be a fan of the more serious Bond films. With possible limited exceptions going forward, Bond is never more fully realized as a character (as opposed to a sketch or caricature) than OHMSS. In fact, every character is fully realized. There is a long yet engaging first act, a believable love story, a great villain, not to much emphasis on silly plots, great nemeses, and great action. Mind you, Goldfinger is arguably as good if not better. It’s a tight script, with all the elements, and everything hitting just the right tone.
Most “Iconic Bond” Film: I think most folks would agree that Goldfinger is the movie most associated with James Bond. Everything we have come to expect from a Bond movie is owed to this seminal work. The villain, the nemesis, cinematography, design, Bond’s wardrobe, character development, chase scenes, quirky Bond moments, grand plot, editing, tight script.
Best Title Sequence: OHMSS. By now you probably realize that I’m really fond of this underrated entry. The recounting of the previous films via images sliding through an hourglass over Barry’s score is pitch-perfect. Watch the clip yourself (appears after gunbarrel sequence).
Best Spy Moment: When does Bond do something that only a spy with lots of experience be smart enough to do? It’s in OHMSS when Bond and his accomplice arrange to have the safe-cracking device lifted to Gumbold’s office via construction bucket.
Best Line: From Diamonds Are Forever. As Bond unmasks Wint and Kidd in the finale. “Mouton Rothschild is a claret. And, I’ve smelled that aftershave before, and both times – I’ve smelled a rat.” Hijinks ensue.
Best Death: Same scene, seconds later. How can not love Mr. Kidd setting the shish-kabob aflame to stab Bond, only to flame out himself…followed by Mr. Wint’s explosive exit. And by the way, this scene hits the trifecta. It’s also the Best Moment Where Bond Uses His Upper Class Sophistication to Serve The Story.
Best Scene: One scene and one scene only? Really? I came up with this category? I must be crazy. So I’m going to leave this one up to you folks!
James Bond will return in Live and Let Die.