I know I’m not the first person to say or note that we are living in strange times. All you have to do is come over to my house to get a dose of the strangeness that’s going on. Four weeks (and counting) of “sheltering in place” has turned my dinner table into a textile production facility that could be the envy of any sweatshop where Third World workers make three bucks a day to crank out the Seattle Mariners t-shirts that fill up my dresser drawers.
It is here where my wife and younger daughter now spend a good chunk of their days fashioning face masks for us, and some of our family and friends. I have even donated some of my Seattle Mariners t-shirts to the cause, and now I go out in public looking like bank robber, but with the word MARINERS across my face–of course, keeping my six-foot-social-distance from anyone else and the masks they are wearing.
It’s great to see my wife and daughter sewing. But I have to admit that it is also strange because had all this coronavirus stuff not fully upended our lives, work, school, the way we interact with others, and, in general, every society on the planet Earth, I don’t know if they would have ever taken up a needle and thread together. I don’t remember the last time I saw my wife sew anything, and my daughter is normally so silly and all over the place that I figured that once she started sewing, she was no more than five stitches away from impaling herself and sending us on an all-expense paid trip (by us) to the local emergency room.
Yes, these are strange times. And for me, they have been made even stranger by the absence of the Major League baseball season, a season that was supposed to start in late March, and now won’t start until the end of May, at the earliest. And if it does end up start at all, it may involve a throughly insane plan to play all games in Arizona and Florida, in front of empty ballparks, in what will be a glorified Spring Training league.
So, instead of baseball, I’ve taken up watching other things to pass the time. Like James Bond movies.
I’ve always been a Bond fan. Sean Connery. George Lazenby. Roger Moore. Timothy Dalton. Pierce Brosnan. Daniel Craig, It doesn’t matter who has played 007, I’ve always liked the character and the movies. I’ll also readily admit that some Bond movies are better than others. Some are WAY better than others. And every actor who has taken on the role has his plusses and minuses upon putting on James Bond’s tailored suit.
On April 1, 21 Bond movies began streaming on Amazon Prime. From Connery to Brosnan, all 20 of the official Eon Productions Bond films, plus Connery’s unofficial 1983 return in “Never Say Never Again” were teed up for your self-quarantining entertainment pleasure. And having all of that much “Bond” in one place got me thinking that I should just up and watch them all. I figured that in addition to giving me something to do, it would be an interesting experiment in seeing how Bond, movie production and society changed over five decades. I say five decades because if I was going to watch all the Bond movies, I was going to watch them all, including all of four of Daniel Craig’s Bond turns (two of which are streaming on HBO, and two of which I rented through iTunes), and even 1967’s insane parody, “Casino Royale”, in which David Niven played a retired James Bond (much more on that cinematic circus later)…in chronological order. And I did just that.
From “Dr. No” in 1962 to “Spectre” in 2015, I watched them all. Good Bond. Great Bond. Bad Bond. It took me most of a week to get through them all, and I will admit that I wasn’t able to watch each movie in one interrupted setting. Anyone who has kids knows how hard it is to get through 10 minutes of movie before their kids start asking for something, fighting with each other, or, in general just making a racket in front of you; watching a two-hour-plus long flick without interruption is the definition of “impossible”. And never mind the fact that whenever I sit down on my sofa after 7 p.m. I start to fall asleep within 15 minutes, thus forcing me to re-watch large chunks of Bond’s exploits over and over just so I can get a sense of what his latest adventure is all about.
But, as I was working my way through “Thunderball”, I had an epiphany. Since I was watching Bond movies in place of My Beloved Hometown Seattle Mariners, or any baseball, for that matter, I came up with a way to combine both Bond and baseball. Thus, I decided to make a baseball lineup, if you will, out of the Bond films.
Every Major League Baseball team has 25 players on its roster. These include the starting nine position players, reserves and the pitching staff. I watched a total of 26 Bond movies, so the number of movies to ballplayers is equal enough for my purposes. Keep in mind, that I am not saying these are the “best” Bond films from top to bottom. But, if you were to put together a team of players that were Bond movies, this is the lineup I would run out onto the field, along with some comments behind my logic.
STARTING NINE BATTING ORDER:
(I make no bones about it: Roger Moore is my favorite Bond. This is because Moore was the Bond I grew up on, so he was the Bond I knew the best. “Octopussy” was also the first Bond movie I ever saw in a theater, so it really led off my Bond fandom. And, thus, it leads off my Bond movie lineup.)
2. Casino Royale (Daniel Craig version)
(Craig made Bond his own right off the bat with his first foray into the role. He gets on base here, and would do so with frequency throughout his Bond career.)
3. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
(George Lazenby’s one and only turn as Bond. Slightly dark and complex, but with plenty of charm. Over time, OMHSS has gone down as one of the best Bond films, and it has a strong OPS average hitting in the three hole.)
(Probably the king of the hill of all Bond movies. Certainly, the most famous. Everything works: the villain, the villain’s sidekick (the gloriously named Oddjob) and Sean Connery just totally owns Bond by this point, the third of his Bond movies. And “Goldfinger” has the greatest Bond Girl of them all, the even more gloriously named Pussy Galore (R.I.P., Honor Blackman). Slugging percentage increases due to Shirley Bassey’s Scotch-colored take on the movie’s title song. If this cleanup hitter isn’t going yard every time up, its at least hitting a ground rule double.)
5. From Russia With Love
(Connery starts to settle into Bond in this, his second 007 film. The power is there, and it’s the perfect option to bring the runners ahead of it home. Especially against the bad-guy Russians.)
6. Live and Let Die
(Roger Moore’s first Bond film, and it couldn’t have been a better introduction for the former star of “The Saint”. “James Bond vs. Voodoo” might have been another title. Just the thing to complete the power section of your lineup. And Paul McCartney’s title song might be the ultimate Bond theme, and walkup song.)
7. The Spy Who Loved Me
(Roger Moore is back in his third Bond movie, and this one is really off the charts. Stolen submarines and a weirdo who wants to rule a new society under the sea. And then there is Jaws with his metal teeth. Just enough pop to head up the bottom of the lineup.)
8. Tomorrow Never Dies
(Pierce Brosnan brought the debonair back to Bond during his tenure, and this, his second Bond film, is my favorite of his. Pretty cool stunts, lots of explosions, a crazy media mogul as the enemy. And Michelle Yeoh might be the ass-kickingest Bond Girl of all. Good on-base percentage movie.)
9. You Only Live Twice
(Bond films can go overboard on the cheese, and this one has an extra serving of it, mostly from the special effects of spaceships that look like they were made by second-graders. Still, its fine for having a lightweight bat that’s also a good glove man.)
(The name alone implies have some hard stuff and probably a nasty slider. You don’t want to sleep on the cutter, either.)
(Brosnan brings it with a strong two-seamer and split finger fastball. Tina Turner’s theme song is some true heat, too.)
3. Quantum of Solace
(This is just what you want in the middle of your rotation. Some power, and having a 12-6 curve doesn’t hurt, either)
4. The Living Daylights
(Timothy Dalton isn’t a beloved Bond like Connery or Moore. But, he has a couple of decent pitches in his arsenal, and there’s some humor on the side that can surprise you like a backdoor slider.)
5. For Your Eyes Only
(I like keeping Roger Moore in the five slot because, while he might have lost a few miles off his fastball in this one, he still has enough guile to get you to the later innings.)
The Man With The Golden Gun
Diamonds Are Forever
Licence to Kill
A View to a Kill
Casino Royale (1967 David Niven version)
(This is one of the most insane movies I have ever seen, and I don’t really know how to describe it. It’s a parody. It’s a comedy. It’s obvious that the writers drained the film’s booze budget when they put this thing together. All I know is that a movie with a cast that includes David Niven, Orson Welles, Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, William Holden, John Huston, Deborah Kerr, Charles Boyer and a young Woody Allen should probably be the greatest, or worst film of the 1960s. And I’m still not sure where it falls anywhere on that spectrum )
Skyfall (Long relief and spot starter)
Never Say Never Again (Possible two-inning relief)
The World Is Not Enough (Eighth inning setup man)
Spectre (Left-handed specialist)
Die Another Day (Right-handed specialist)
(The original that started it all is also the shutdown specialist you need to close things out)