Two weeks ago, rock and roll cult hero (and my personal favorite) Warren Zevon, age 55, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. According to doctors, he’ll be dead within months.
If anyone told ME that I would be dead in a matter of months, I would drop dead on the spot — which is probably all for the better. If I lived through the news, the three months to follow this news break would likely be filled with a lot of sifting through my favorite records, smoking marijuana and attempting to single-handedly kill off the world’s cow and lobster population with three brutally gourmet meals a day — that is, until my money ran out. After that, I imagine I would probably have a religious awakening of some sort, as long as it was cheap.
I would be a wreck. But then, I’m not Warren Zevon.
In a press conference held the day after the diagnosis, he remarked:
“I’m OK with it, but it’ll be a drag if I don’t make it ’till the next James Bond movie comes out.”
“Die Another Day,” the 20th installment in the James Bond series, will be released on Nov. 22, whether Warren Zevon is alive or not.
I wish I could say that, come Nov. 22, when I sit in some suburban movie theater awaiting the familiar music, plot and promiscuous sex that define 007 films, I’ll be thinking of my viewing of the film as a tribute to Warren Zevon. Likely, though, I’ll be caught up in the thrill of watching the man I want to be have sex with the women with whom I want to be, all while thwarting the evil plot of the man I’ve always longed to thwart.
I’ve been in the opening weekend audience of every James Bond film released since I was 13, always with my father. This Thanksgiving break, I imagine, it will be no different. My dad and I will fork over 18 American dollars, excited and nervous to see if this new film is worthy of the precedent set for it by 40 years of 007 adventures —
— Six of which are good.
Zevon’s statement started me thinking about many things — the fleeting nature of life, the random senselessness of death, and the total crappiness of the James Bond series. Excluding, of course, the works of Sean Connery.
Why is it that my father and I get so excited to see the same James Bond film released under a new title biannually, only to be reminded that it wasn’t good the last time we saw it and is still pretty awful? How does James Bond do it? How does he take my money, year after year, and never deliver what he’s supposed to?
Were anyone else to do such a bad job at his job, he would be fired. Were I to hire a plumber to fix my bidet, were I to pay him in advance for what would assuredly be a satisfying experience on both business ends, were he to shirk his responsibilities and pour Natural Ice all over my bathroom floor, I would not invite him back. Moreover, I would ask for a refund — if only to pay for the cost of professionally cleaning the bathroom floor.
Film after film, I pay James Bond to do a simple job for me: to not be shitty. I like the guy so much, I pay him in advance. And without fail, he screws up his simple task. “The World Is Not Enough” was so bad that Pierce Brosnan himself might as well have poured cheap beer all over my bathroom floor.
Why do I keep on hiring James Bond? I feel like one of those stuffy rich people in “Three Stooges” movies that pays Moe, Larry and Curly to groom a prize dog, only to return to find my house covered in suds and my dog mangled-but-alive in some bizarre machine. How did the Stooges continually find employment in their hometown? Wouldn’t somebody have told somebody: “Hey, don’t hire that bowl-cut fella, his fat bald brother, and the Jewish-looking guy to mow your lawn. They’ll only slap each other around and knock down your house.”
You would think that James Bond’s reputation would precede him by now.
“And who are YOU, sir?”
“Bond. James Bond.”
“Oh, YOU’RE James Bond. Yeah, I saw that Goldeneye picture. The ending was lousy.”
“Quite sorry, chap.”
“Screw sorry. Give me your laser watch.”
“No. It was manufactured in England.”
“Oh, COME on! I even saw that one with Grace Jones!”
“Fine. Just don’t tell anyone about our love scene.”
It seems to me that the key to the continual success of the Bond series lies in its very crappiness. Because guys like my father and I can’t remember the last GOOD Bond movie we saw, we can’t remember the last Bond movie at all. They all run together for me now — all the underwater cars and geisha girls and backgammon games. Roger Moore, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton — interchangeable and equally disappointing. (I can only imagine how my father must feel. His love-hate relationship with Bond has been going on since the Connery days, when he — and Warren — were both 13 years old.)
Perhaps it’s this amnesia that the makers of the James Bond films count on all along. Perhaps they KNOW they’re making bad films, and know that the less memorable they make them, the easier it will be to sucker guys like me and my father into throwing away $9 for the NEXT film, only because we can’t remember how crappy THIS Bond film was, five minutes after it’s over.
I would say that this constitutes a form of brainwash, but if the moviegoing public had any brains, we would have quit 007 long ago. This is easier said than done. He’s like a drug. When the lights go down and that twangy music starts, my synapses fire in a way I can’t understand.
And when the end credits roll, so do my eyes. I’ve been duped once again.
I admit I take it for granted that I will live to see the next incarnation of James Bond — the next over-long credits sequence, the next car chase, the next plane explosion. I take this for granted, just as I take for granted that I will see tomorrow morning. As disappointed as I am every time the show ends and the lights come up, I would rather have that habitual heartbreak than feel nothing.
It is better to see a shitty James Bond movie than to see no James Bond movie at all.
Greg Yolen is a junior in Pierson College. If you see him, punch him in the stomach. He totally likes it.