Having now finished with the second Bond era (Roger Moore + Sean Connery’s return), it’s time to for the “best of” list. As with my first outing, and then my second, 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: This is a tough category. There’s Talisa Soto, who is stunningly beautiful, from “License to Kill.” Sophie Marceau is pretty darn gorgeous in “The World is Not Enough.” There’s the exotic beauty and brains of Izabella Scorupco in “GoldenEye.” We have the sexy and athletic Michelle Yeoh in “Tomorrow Never Dies.” But I think the top of the list this round is the complex and beautiful Eva Green from “Casino Royale” as Bond’s doomed love.
Best Villain: For all the bounty of Bond women, the villains in the third era were all rather lackluster. So I’m going with the most formidable and with the most interesting back story, Sean Bean’s Alec Trevelyan aka 006. He’s not what I’d call truly memorable, like Goldfinger or Blofeld, but he’s more interesting than the villains in any of Daniel Craig’s outings, for certain.
Best Nemesis: I identify the nemesis as the secondary villain, or the main henchman, like Oddjob. Once again, none of the Craig pictures has any real nemesis, and those in the Brosnan era make little impression. While I like Necros from “The Living Daylights”, the most intriguing nemesis is the Russian General Ourumov, commander of the Russian space division. His character is grounded in reality, duplicitous, desperate, and is just plain interesting to watch on screen. I will say, however, that Famke Janssen’s Xenia Onatopp is probably a very close second.
Best Ally: Michelle Yeoh’s Wai Lin carries the category here, a standout among an otherwise forgettable group.
Best Action Sequence: There are plenty of great action sequences across these final nine films. A few memorable ones include the attack on the safe house in “The Living Daylights,” the opening assault in “GoldenEye” as well as the tank chase, the garage car chase in “Tomorrow Never Dies” and the opening sequence of “Skyfall.” But the hand-down, bad-ass action sequence is the parkour chase and shootout in “Casino Royale.” It is perfectly executed, filled with stunts we’ve never seen before in a Bond movie, is sustained for an extended period of time, perfectly paced and edited and filled with surprises. Plus it’s a fantastic introduction to Daniel Craig’s Bond.
Best Fight: The fight between Bond and Mitchell, M’s corrupted bodyguard, in “Quantum of Solace.” This is a knock-down, drag-out affair which begins as a chase and ends with the two men duking it out in a church under construction, as they swing and hang from wires and scaffolding. Great choreography and shot with dynamism and flair.
Best Score: There’s still that one last score from John Barry in “The Living Daylights,” but David Arnold does a terrific job in “Casino Royale” that brings Bond scores into the new century.
Best Production Design: There’s always so much to love in this department, across just about every film. However, meticulous detail is demonstrated by Allan Cameron in “Tomorrow Never Dies,” where all the elements of design interplay beautifully. That’s also because the same film wins the category for…
Best Cinematography: Robert Elswit is the master of lighting action scenes. His work is exemplary, varied, and perfectly fitting for an ultra-contemporary Bond film that “Tomorrow Never Dies” is.
Best Script: While “The Living Daylights” and “GoldenEye” are extremely well-structured, and the latter has perhaps the best dialogue of any Bond film, “Casino Royale” simply could not have been better. It is, simply put, a fantastic story, well-told.
Most “Iconic Bond” film: The Bond series went through two reboots during this era, so it’s difficult to classify the Brosnan or Craig films as being iconic. That really only leaves “The Living Daylights,” which does fulfill just about every expectation we have from a Bond movie.
Best Title Sequence: “Skyfall” has a great emotional song, and correlative visuals to Bond’s death. This imagery tracks throughout the film.
Best Line: From “GoldenEye,” as Xenia Onatopp tells Bond, “You don’t need the gun, Commander,” to which Bond replies, “That depends on your definition of safe sex.”
Best Death: If you don’t like Kress’ head inflating from the pressure of the decompression chamber and then exploding, you aren’t paying attention.
Best Scene: Why do I come up with these categories? I leave this one up to you!
For the next and final article in the James Bond Chronicles, I’ll hand out my awards for the entire series and rank the films from top to bottom. Stay tuned!