Since the Bond franchise began in 1962 it has won two Oscars out of it's nine nominations. Not bad for a series that's more interested in gadgets, gals and villains than it is in awards.
Bond movies aren't expected to win Oscars. Most of the nine nominations pop up in the Best Original Song category with four nominations, zero wins. The balance shows-up in Best Sound, Best Sound Effects (one win for 'Goldfinger' in 1964), and Best Visual Effects (one win for Best Visual Effects in 'Thunderball').
An upset did occur in 1977 when the theme song for 'The Spy Who Loved Me' - Carly Simon's "Nobody Does it Better" - loses to Debbie Boone's 'You Light Up My Life' from the movie of the same name. That same year 007 loses to 'Star Wars' in both the Best Set Direction and Best Original Score category, but we all saw that coming.
Now, forty-nine years and twenty-two films later, along comes 'Skyfall', a Bond film that doesn't understand that it needn't be as good as it is.
Some people are calling 'Skyfall' the best Bond in years - some go as far as to call it the best Bond ever.
Here are just five reasons why we might see 'Skyfall' get some big Oscar attention:
1/ 'Skyfall' looks fantastic.
Man, it must be amazing to see the world through Richard Deakins' eyes. A lot of cinematographers go for a coastal over-view shot of a city flooded in glass and neon, particularly when cruising off the South China Sea. But few bother to drum up an image of a Jackson Pollock inspired landscape dotted in an arbitrary splashes of colour. And Deakins knows how to light Javier Bardem so that any trace of whatever it is that appeals to the likes of Penelope Cruz is lost on the screen. But more than anything, Deakins sees the world the way Bond might see the world - turning brawlers into shadow puppets, elevator shafts into gaping caverns, squatter-digs into jutting debris of dust and rubble, and marshy vistas into a dark comfort.
2/ There's an accomplished director in charge.
I expect to see both Paul Thomas Anderson ('The Master') and David O. Russell ('Silver Linings Playbook') get Best Director Nominations for their work, but I would be just as happy if the award went to Sam Mendes. 'Skyfall' is a textbook example of a genre film's potential to excel when the right director is in place. That Mendes can raise the bar on a series that's been kicking around for nearly fifty years is reason alone to place him in the running. There are touches of Mendes everywhere in the movie - most go unnoticed because good directors let the audience believe they dreamed up the experience themselves. And Mendes finds occassions in every scene to layer, if only slightly, the deeply woven fabric that has become 007 lore.
3/ 'Skyfall' is about something.
Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, are Bond writers with a good track record. In 'Skyfall' the duo team with John Logan ('Gladiator', 'Rango', 'Hugo') to develop a story that is beyond Bond. The script delivers everything 007 has always been by making subtle (and some not so subtle) references to Bond films of the past. And then digs deeper into the mythology by digging deeper into our own psyche. Jung might have labeled this as a play on our collective unconscious. Bond is still a super-spy but he's more important to us than ever before. And there are so many other reasons why, but as J Gorber from Filmfest.ca (@filmfest_ca) tweeted "To anyone wanting to know about ''Skyfall', know that it's fun, but I think much of its charm is based on surprise. Try to avoid spoilers." And so, to say anymore could well encroach on those surprises.
4/ 'Skyfall' puts great actors in great roles.
'Skyfall' confirms Daniel Craig as a serious contender to be the best Bond ever. No small feat to turn preferences away from Sean Connery. 'Casino Royale' introduced Craig as a colder and sometimes more ruthless Bond than his predecessors. With 'Skyfall' Craig turns in a performance that is equally cold, sometimes silly (a tribute to Roger Moore?) and deeply pained (a tribute to George Lazenby - Yes, I said George Lazenby!). Then there is the menacing delight of Javier Bardem as the villainous Silva. He's this year's Heath Ledger playing the Joker - a mix of mayhem, cruelty and over-the-top weirdness. And then there is Dame Judi Dench's 'M'. Dench took on the role of M in 'GoldenEye' (1995), quickly making it her own and successfully carrying it through seven consecutive Bond follow-ups. M has mostly been a back-drop role - a familiar and favourite go-to character that helps keep the series planted in tradition. 'Skyfall' wants more. Dench delivers.
5/ 'Skyfall' is good movie first, a Bond movie second.
'Skyfall' works. Even those convinced that Bond movies are second-tier action-blockbusters will likely be surprised at just how accomplishe'Skyfall' is. The fantasy of Bond remains intact but for all the reasons listed above, and for many reasons not listed (editing, set design, score), 'Skyfall' succeeds. A really good movie is a really good movie. A really good movie that's number twenty-three in a forty-nine year franchise is remarkable.