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a silent salute: The audience "claps" at Joke Night during Deaf Awareness week. Click Arts&Life for a link to story. / Photo by Leah Lopshire

Today's word on journalism

December 15, 2008

As part of my own personal "war on Christmas" (which a Utah state senator has offered legislation to outlaw), the WORD celebrates the season by going on hiatus until January. May all out days be merry and bright, and here’s to a safe, healthy and saner New Year. HoHoHo!

Empty Minds: "Of all the people expressing their mental vacuity, none has a better excuse for an empty head than the newspaperman: If he pauses to restock his brain, he invites onrushing deadlines to trample him flat. Broadcasting the contents of empty minds is what most of us do most of the time, and nobody more relentlessly than I."

--Russell Baker, Pulitzer-winning columnist

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The 5 greatest James Bond films

By Mack Perry

November 17, 2008 | Ever since the 2006 release of Casino Royale, the critically acclaimed, realism-heavy reboot of the Bond franchise, and the announcement that the next Bond film to star Daniel Craig would be a direct sequel (the first in the franchise's history), the anticipation for said sequel has reached an all-time high. And all this despite the film's truly awful title.

In honor of the Nov. 14 release of Quantum of Solace, the 22nd film in a recently revitalized franchise that was once in danger of degenerating into the same over-the-top, sci-fi campiness that made the Roger Moore era so reviled, I've decided to revisit some the best films to showcase Ian Fleming's famously womanizing, martini-loving MI6 agent. So, without further ado, I present the five greatest movies to feature Bond. James Bond, a name that has become synonymous with the spy fiction and espionage genres and one of the most well-known, endearing, and influential pop culture icons of all time.

5. GoldenEye -- The definitive James Bond film for the Pierce Brosnan era, GoldenEye managed to realistically apply some of the broader, science fiction-inspired tropes of the Roger Moore films to a much more grounded, post-Cold War conflict and remove the dull, derivative '80s film action direction of the previous entries that starred Timothy Dalton. Despite a story that famously departed from Fleming's novel series, the film had a much more personal Bond villain in the form of Sean Bean's duplicitous Trevelyan, breathtaking action sequences thanks to the contemporary direction of Martin Campbell (and a little help from a tank), a career-defining Bond babe role for the captivating, pelvis-crushing Famke Janssen, and the return of the titular hero's former marquee glory thanks to Pierce Brosnan's wry, sophisticated take on the character. Many credit GoldenEye for successfully modernizing the franchise and bringing Bond into the 21st century (even though it came out in '95), while I credit it for showing me the best way to buy the farm: in the throws of bone-crunching passion. Thanks, Xenia!

4. You Only Live Twice -- You might be wondering why a Bond film with a climax that features a bunch of ninjas storming a volcano base would make it on a list like this. But then again, it should be pretty self-explanatory. Although it doesn't quite match the grace that made the more low-key, minimalistic Connery films such as From Russia With Love so renowned, what You Only Live Twice lacks in subtlety it more than makes up for in inspired pacing and the near-flawless execution of more high concepts that you can shake a martini at. From M's submarine office to Bond commandeering and battling foes in a flying autogyro, You Only Live Twice is a film that proves that the franchise's trend toward introducing progressively more ridiculous ideas didn't necessarily have to end with Moore-tinged disaster. And, as the first Bond film to be released in the month of June, You Only Live Twice may qualify as one of the first pre-Star Wars summer blockbusters.

3. Dr. No -- There's something to be said about the movie that started it all. From the world's first glimpse of Bond through that trademark gun barrel sequence while Monty Norman's striking theme blares in the background, the sun-soaked, bikini-clad Ursula Andress emerging from the Caribbean Sea with that knife strapped to her side, Sean Connery's self-satisfied smile when he first specifies the preparatory nature of his mixed drink or brandishes that elegantly low-key Walter PPK, Dr. No is oozing with the iconography that would go on to define and inform every film in this multiple-decade-spanning series. Sure, it might not be the most refined or complex of the Connery films, but it's all there. The gorgeous locales. The lavish action set-pieces. The gadgets. The girls. The cars. The bad guys. The Bond.

2. Goldfinger -- Was there any doubt that the film that cemented 007's international acclaim and popularity, emerging as the very first franchise blockbuster in the history of cinema, would rank so high on the list (although other Bond enthusiasts might wonder why it isn't No. 1)? Sean Connery's third Bond film is also his best, and the movie's deft combination of Connery's watershed performance, Auric Goldfinger's debut as the greatest and most iconic Bond villain in the history of the series, and the endless barrage of moments that have now entered the annals of film lore as tantamount to the legacy of the character including that girl covered in gold, the Aston Martin car chase, and Goldfinger's laser-torture "interrogation," have secured Goldfinger's place as representative of Bond at his absolute best. Connery might like From Russia With Love the most, but for the rest of the world: it's all about Goldfinger.

1. Casino Royale -- Let's face it: Goldfinger might be the best Bond film. But Casino Royale is the best film. Period. By combining the sleek, sexy thrills of contemporary, Martin Campbell-orchestrated action sequences that channel the intensity of a Bourne film without all of that irritating shaky-cam, the charm and extravagance of the earlier, more character driven and novel-accurate entries starring Connery, and imbuing the film with much more emotional depth through a story that serves as a psychological examination of the series focal agent, Casino Royale transcends the trappings of the more traditional Bond film by becoming something that none of the other Bond films have managed to be thus far: fascinating. Realistic revamps might be all the rage these days, but Casino Royale does an exemplary job of showing why. And it has to be said that, although he doesn't quite inhabit the role as perfectly as Connery managed to, Daniel Craig's brutal, animalistic turn as a young, inexperienced Bond remains one of the best portrayals of the character to date.

NW
MS

 

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