Thursday, August 30, 2018

Betting on Bond

It wasn't just the absence of David Niven, it was the non-stop violence.

When I first heard about the Byrd Theater doing a Bond series, I was excited enough to jot down dates for two films: "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" and "Casino Royale." When I got home that night, I looked up both films to make sure a) they were of the Bond era I enjoy and b) that I hadn't seen them. Bingo, 1969 and 1967 and neither plot was familiar, so both dates went into my calendar.

Next I invited two favorite Bond lovers to join me. "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" may have had everyone's least favorite actor playing Bond (George Lazenby) but the movie was great fun and wildly '60s, so that was a win.

Now imagine my consternation when the day before we're set to go see "Casino Royale," Mac informs me they're showing the 2006 version. Hell, I didn't even know there was a 2006 version, not to mention my complete lack of interest in a 21st century Bond movie.

But I was the one who'd done the inviting, so I felt compelled to sit through what was really an action movie starring Daniel Craig for the sake of friendship and good manners. I could have admitted my error and cancelled the plans, but how petty would that be?

At least there was a fine dinner first. The three of us met at Garnett's, where we were the sole occupants of the dining room. And while each of us has our standard order (farmer's salad, Cobb salad, tuna nicoise salad), a special of BLT with avocado and cilantro aioli caught everyone's attention.

Caught, but didn't overcome longtime habits. Both of my Bond buddies opted for their standard order, while I alone broke bad with the BLT special. Which, I might add, was stellar, mainly because of the cilantro aioli that had been made that morning that elevated the sandwich to something incredibly fresh-tasting. Equally as strong was the soup du jour, a racy tomato gazpacho that has also been whipped up that morning and tasted like a summer day full of tomatoes and peppers.

I don't want to brag, but some of us made the right call. Marble cake with chocolate and white icing - good, but nowhere near as fabulous as the orange creamsicle cake we'd had the night before at the beach - finished us off.

Where I made the wrong call, though, was in agreeing to a movie with more explosions, shootings, fights and destruction of property than all the movies I've seen in the last decade combined. Make that two decades. I avoid action movies like some people avoid subtitled art flicks.

What was funny was when manager Todd was introducing the film and asked if anyone had come expecting to the see the 1967 film with Niven, Peter Sellers and Ursula Andress, because if they had, he suggested going directly to the box office to get their money back. I sat quietly because I was there with my invited guests, but, man oh man, I really wanted out. It only got worse when he warned us that this was a very dark story with a flawed Bond, but also an action movie that lacked the typical Bond gadgetry.

Nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide.

If, in my typical Pollyanna way, I had to say what I liked about this 21st century Bond movie where bodies stacked up like playing cards and I had to close my eyes through every violent scene (so, roughly 3/4 of the flick), it would be that I enjoyed seeing Judi Densch as M.

The only other redeeming quality, which Mac pointed out, was how well 007's clothes fit him. We're of the shared opinion that there's nothing like a fit man in fitted clothes. Can I get an amen?

Fortunately, there was the occasional humorous exchange to break the tension:
Bond girl: I'm afraid I'm a complicated woman.
Bond: That is something to be afraid of.

Beyond that, nada.

And truthfully, if I'd gotten to see the satiric Bond flick I'd been hoping for, besides David Niven's urbane sophistication as Bond, I'd have seen John Huston as M and that would have been almost as good. Not to mention all the groovy clothes and swingin' attitudes that come with a '60s film.

Afterwards, my Bond buddies insisted I shouldn't have made the sacrifice. They'd both seen it countless times, so they'd have understood if I'd changed our plans.

Forget never saying never again. My new rule is I never need to see another Bond movie made after 1985. Life's too short.

And for mere mortals like me, you only live once.

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