Moonraker and the ‘guilty pleasure’

A "guilty pleasure" for some 007 fans

A “guilty pleasure” for some 007 fans

Over the past 40 years, the term “guilty pleasure” has become chic. In a James Bond context, some fans will cite the extravagant 1979 Moonraker as a guilty pleasure.

What does the term mean exactly? Wikipedia defines it as “something one enjoys and considers pleasurable despite feeling guilt for enjoying it. The “guilt” involved is sometimes simply fear of others discovering one’s lowbrow or otherwise embarrassing tastes.”

The term was popularized by Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, in which the two Very Serious Film Critics (R) acknowledged they like some schlock on occasion. In 1979 and 1987, they came up with their lists of “guilty pleasures,” including such movies as The Greek Tycoon and The Fury.

Moonraker was the only Bond movie where 007 went into space. Before that happened, a space shuttle was hijacked, Bond fell out of a plane without a parachute, a boat chase took place in Venice, Bond fought Jaws (Richard Kiel) on top of a cable car in Rio, etc., etc. Nothing was done in a small way. There were clearly silly moments, including a double taking pigeon and Jaws finding true love.

In other words, nothing very subtle. It was a huge hit in its day. It even got a rave review in THE NEW YORK TIMES. Nevertheless, Eon Productions immediately decided Bond should come back down to earth both figuratively and literally in his next film adventure, For Your Eyes Only.

When Bond fans say Moonraker is a “guilty pleasure,” they’re putting some distance between themselves and the movie. It’s almost as if they’re afraid they’ll lose their “street cred” with other Bond fans. After all, in the 21st century, Bond is Serious Art deserving of Academy Award nominations.

To be fair, it should be noted that opinions of people change over time. They can like something initially, decide it really was awful, then eventually come back and decide it was good or at least not as bad as they thought. What’s more, in the case of Moonraker, some fans will tell you they hated it then, they hate it now. That group is being consistent.

Still, if you like a movie, maybe should own it and not worry about your “street cred.” In the case of 007 films, just because you like a lighter Bond entry doesn’t preclude from enjoying a more serious film also.

Roger Ebert’s last 007 film review

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert, the Pulitzer Prize-winning movie critic, died on April 4 at the age of 70. Many publications and Web sites published obituaries about his life and his commentaries about movies.

His final review for a 007 film was, naturally, 2012’s Skyfall. You can read the entire piece BY CLICKING HERE. Here’s an excerpt:

In this 50th year of the James Bond series, with the disappointing “Quantum of Solace” (2008) still in our minds, “Skyfall” triumphantly reinvents 007 in one of the best Bonds ever made. This is a full-blooded, joyous, intelligent celebration of a beloved cultural icon, with Daniel Craig taking full possession of a role he earlier played well in “Casino Royale,” not so well in “Quantum”–although it may not have been entirely his fault. I don’t know what I expected in Bond #23, but certainly not an experience this invigorating.

(snip)

M is not quite ready to retire, and “Skyfall” at last provides a role worthy of Judi Dench, one of the best actors of her generation. She is all but the co-star of the film, with a lot of screen time, poignant dialogue, and a character who is far more complex and sympathetic than we expect in this series.

(snip again)

During the early Bonds, did we ever ask ourselves about 007’s origins in life? The movie even produces a moment designed to inspire love in lifetime Bond fans: A reappearance of the Aston Martin DB5 from “Goldfinger,” which remains in good operating condition, if you can guess what I mean.

Ebert had been the film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967 and a lover of movies long before that. For years, he and his rival critic, the Chicago Tribune’s Gene Siskel, had hosted television shows devoted to movies.

Here’s the opening the Siskel-Ebert At the Movies programs in 1983, 30 years ago, devoted to 007:

Siskel died in 1999 and Ebert penned A TRIBUTE to his long-running adversary in 2009. They may not have been exactly friends but nor were they enemies. Their “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” verdicts on films were the dreams of the marketing departments of film studios. You can read the Sun-Times’s obituary of its long-time film critic by CLICKING HERE.

The balcony is now closed. It’s two thumbs down because we’re not likely to see the likes of either critic again.

1983: Siskel and Ebert Analyze 007’s appeal

Today, Feb. 20, is the 10th anniversary of the death of movie critic Gene Siskel and his former TV partner (and newspaper rival), Roger Ebert, writes about it HERE.

In 1983, in the midst of their TV run, the duo dedicated one installment of their movie review show to James Bond. Two 007 movies, Octopussy (the 13th entry in Eon Production’s official series) and Never Say Never Again (a rival production and a remake of Thunderball) were out.

So here’s a bit of nostalgia and you can watch the critics spar anew. Siskel doesn’t think much of either Roger Moore or George Lazenby while Ebert defends Sir Roger (at least to a degree).

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3: