Stuck is a weekly serial appearing at 3QD every Monday through early April. A Prologue can be found here. A table of contents with links to previous chapters can be found here.
by Akim Reinhardt
He released 33 albums and recorded over 400 of songs, earning two Grammys among seven nominations. Yet you probably don’t know who Leon Russell was. For some people he’s a vaguely familiar name they have trouble putting a face or a tune to. Many more have never even heard of him. Because despite his prodigious output, Russell also had a way of being there without letting you know. He was the front man whose real impact came behind the scenes. He was very present, but just out of sight.
In addition to recording his own music, Leon Russell was a prolific session musician who worked with hundreds of artists over six decades. His main instrument was piano, but he played everything from guitar to xylophone. Russell was also was a songwriter who contributed to other musicians’ oeuvres. His song “This Masquerade” has been recorded by over 75 artists. “A Song For You” has been recorded by over 200. Finally, he was a record producer, a mastermind behind the glass and in front of the mixing board who oversaw and orchestrated, literally and metaphorically, the artistry of others. Read more »
by Akim Reinhardt
Roger Moore died last week at the age of 89. He is the first important Bond to pass (sorry David Niven!), so predictably heated arguments ensued: Where does Moore rank in the canon of Bond actors?
It was a boring debate. Moore was the worst, plain and simple. He helped drive the franchise into a ditch of silly gadgets and bad puns. Revisionists now praising Moore celebrate the supposed "camp" of his films. That is badly misguided. They weren't camp.
John Waters films are camp. The Avengers and Charlie's Angels are camp. Drag queen lip sync cabaret is camp. Roger Moore's James Bond movies were just bad.
Moore's first turn as Bond (Live and Let Die, 1973) was actually quite good. That's because he was still cowed by the towering shadow of Sean Connery, so he played it straight. But director Guy Hamilton (who also pushed the franchise in the wrong direction) soon told Moore to stop imitating Connery and just be himself. It sounds like the kind of genuine, supportive advice you should give any artist. Except that Moore being himself, as it turned out, was little more than a dandy in a tux. By his second film (Man with the Golden Gun, 1974) pubescent girls were "upstaging" him in a karate scene. Har Har. It wasn't camp. It was failed comedy, 1970s-style. At that point Burt Reynolds could've been playing the role.
Part of the problem also stemmed from Moore's age; he was simply too old for the part during most of his career. Connery debuted as Bond at age 31. Moore was 45 when Live and Let Die premiered. From Moonraker (1979) on, his fight scenes were laughable and his love scenes with women half his age or less were creepy. Bond the charming dilettante. Bond the well groomed pensioner. Bond as a candidate for late life romance on The Love Boat.
Jesus, maybe it was camp.
Nevertheless, when my favorite film critic, A.O. Scott of the New York Times, exalts Moore as the best James Bond on the grounds of camp and pshaws Millennials for not getting it, I just can't go along. I'm a Gen Xer like Scott, and I do enjoy camp, but this smells of defending the crap of our youth with rationalized nostalgia. Waters wants to be camp. Charlie’s Angels has to be camp. But Bond movies can actually be good without being campy.
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