Neglected Spy Movies

spies

I love spy movies.  Everything from the dirt-under-your-fingernails realism of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy to the “Oh, c’mon!  Plastic masks don’t work that way!” un-believability of the Mission Impossible franchise.  It all started when I was a kid and saw Dr. No.  (I was just an eyelash too young to fully grasp what Sylvia Trench was doing in Bond’s apartment, but I instinctively knew it had to be something cool.)  I went home and — in one long, grueling, dark, freezing Canadian winter — read all of Ian Fleming’s James Bond books, in order, cover to cover to cover to cover.  By Christmas and From Russia, With Love, I’d figured out the Trench/Bond dynamic.  Spies get the girl – all the girls.  I was hooked.  However, after all these years and literally hundreds of movies, I find there’s one subgenre of the spy movie that’s been woefully neglected – the Espionage Rom-Com.  There just aren’t that many of them.  Here are some of the good ones that immediately come to mind.  (Feel free to add to the list.)

Get Smart (2008) – One of the few made-from-TV movies that actually works.  Why?  Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway.  They are the natural evolution of Maxwell Smart and (they still didn’t give her a name) Agent 86.  He’s no longer Gilligan’s Island incompetent, and she isn’t hiding behind Max’s propped up ego.  And, they’re not heavy-handed with the 60s catch phrases, either.

Knight and Day (2010) – Ethan Hunt meets I Love Lucy.  Think about it!

True Lies (1994) – Seriously dated (It’s so old Arabs are still the villains!  Awkward!)  But Schwarzenegger gives it just enough Arnie to make it an action movie, and Jamie Lee Curtis gives it just enough Jamie Lee to make it a comedy.  Plus there’s a terrific tango scene at the beginning, Bill Paxton plays himself and, of the roughly 8 million bad movies Tom Arnold has appeared in, this is his best.

The Tourist (2010) – I’ve included this because, even though it’s not technically a com (Depp has his moments but …) it’s definitely a rom.  The critics panned it because critics are pompous asses.  It’s actually a good movie.  Trivia Time.  The movie was shot in less than 2 months because Johnny Depp was between pirate movies.  It features an ex-James Bond, Timothy Dalton.  And rumour has it that it was originally written by Julian Fellowes, the guy who wrote Downton Abbey.

The next four are not actually spy movies but hired assassins are part of the greater international intrigue genre

Mr. Right (2015) – Okay, Okay Sam Rockwell and Anna Kendrick have made some schlock, but they’ve made some really good movies, too, and together they make this one work.  Francis and Martha are the quirky lovers everybody wants to be – going about their business, together alone – while the rest of the world just doesn’t get it.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017) – Ryan Reynolds plays Ryan Reynolds.  Samuel L. Jackson plays Samuel L. Jackson.  And Gary Oldman can convincingly play anything on this planet (including Boris Johnson’s comb.)  This film features not one but three romances – Ryan Reynolds and Elodie Yung, Samuel L. Jackson and Salma Hayek and Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson.

Grosse Point Blank (1997) – International assassins have to come from somewhere.  This movie answers the question – whatever happened to that stand-alone, moody-cool guy from 12th grade?  Plus, it’s got John Cusack in uniform (Does he even own a different tie?) and a kick-ass soundtrack.

And finally:

Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005) – This is the Espionage Rom-Com by which all other Espionage Rom-Coms must be measured.  You can actually see Angelina Jolie lusting after Brad and Brad slowly, unconsciously, then consciously, then willingly, leaving Jennifer Aniston.  There are several mere “glances” between the two stars that are hug-your-knees sexy and it looks as if they’re doing the fight scene/love scene for real because — OMG! — they are!  Plus, two dance scenes and Mondo Bongo by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros.

Oscars — 2020 (Part 2)

oscar

Normally, ten minutes after the Oscars are over, I’ve quit complaining and moved on.  However, this year, bland as Oscar has become, there was a bunch of stuff that stuck with me.  Nothing earth-shattering, but just a few random thoughts beyond who won for Best Animated Short Subject.

For the third year running, Hollywood fashions suck.

I have no clue who Billy Porter is, but apparently he’s a “fashion activist” — and if that isn’t a contradiction in terms, I don’t know what is.

Bare shoulders and dragging hemlines are ridiculous trends outside California in the middle of February.

Kirsten Wiig came dressed as a large red lasagna noodle.

Diane Keaton remains trapped inside Annie Hall.

Joaquin Phoenix remains trapped in 1968, definitely takes his coffee black and really, really likes cows.

Tom Hanks is such a good actor he replaced both Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson as the Old Person in the Front Row.

When Brie Larson, Sigourney Weaver and Gal Gadot come out together to present an award, you know the fix is in.

“Let It Go” is a way better song than “Into the Unknown.”

I’m so old I remember when Elton John was an eccentric heterosexual.

The Oscars would get a lot more people watching if they had cool commercials like the Super Bowl.

Imagine my surprise when Greta showed up!

This is the second time the Joker has won an Oscar, so I’m pretty sure Helena Bonham Carter and Elizabeth Banks are at least thinking about it.

If you close your eyes and listen, Jane Fonda is still Barbarella.

From the look on Billie Eilish’s face, she had no idea what Eminem was doing performing at the Oscars (and, quite frankly, neither did I.)

You can make a mediocre year for movies look good if you haul in a bunch of Koreans.

And finally:

Oscar still hates Martin Scorsese.

Oscar 2020

oscar

Sunday is Oscar Night.  They’ve moved it up because of A.S.F. (Award Show Fatigue.)  Apparently, this is a real thing.  People just get bone-ass bored with Hollywood during their Give-Me-A-Trophy season.  (Who knew?)  It makes sense though, after the Golden Globes, the Baftas, SAG, Critic’s Choice, Sundance, TFI, AFI and an endless stream of the usual suspects, wearing enough money to feed a Malawi family for a year, striding up to the microphone and telling the rest of us to quit voting for Trump and drinking soda pop with a straw … God, take a breath, Fyfe!  You’re going to hurt yourself … It’s no wonder people tune out.  I’m probably going to watch, though, because a) I’m a dinosaur b) the Academy will do a decent tribute to Kirk Douglas (more about that later) and c) despite all my complaining, I do believe movies are important.

Movies give us something we can’t find anywhere else.  For example, every person on this planet has a least one movie that they simply don’t share with anyone else.  It’s not secret, but it’s kinda private.  It’s personal.  It’s a cozy connection.  It’s a few tears or a lotta laughs – just because.  It’s an old lover who shows up on a stay-at-home Friday night and says, “Why don’t you slip into something more comfortable and make some popcorn?  This evening’s just about the two of us.”  And for a couple of hours, you totally relax because you know everything about them (including the dialogue) and they’ve seen the holes in your underwear.  These movies aren’t necessarily the best or award winners or the critic’s choice, but they belong to us.  They occupy a place in our psyche that we can’t explain.  They are the tales of intimate strangers told to us, alone in the dark, like important whispers we need to remember.

I have several movies like this.  Yeah, believe it or not, I wasn’t always the party animal you see before you.  I’ve had my fair share of stay-at-home Friday nights.  I’ve sailed El Carib with Captain Ron and danced with Marlene Dietrich on more than one occasion.

So, on Sunday, after the Red Carpet, I don’t really care if some guy in a tuxedo scolds me about my promiscuous use of plastic.  I’m there for the movies.  And when they eulogize Kirk Douglas, along with Spartacus and Paths of Glory, I hope they remember 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  It’s a remarkable tale of an ocean adventure, told to a kid from the North American prairie who’d never seen the ocean.