Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, clearly loved gold. As a Royal Naval Intelligence officer, Fleming had actually taken part in an operation called Goldeneye, later the name of his Jamaican home. And gold features prominently in the title of two of his original 007 novels—“Goldfinger” and “The Man With the Golden Gun.” That makes it all the more ironic that the movie franchise his books gave rise to have had so little success with the Academy Awards®.
The 23rd movie in the Eon Productions series, “Skyfall,” has been nominated for Best Cinematography (Roger Deakins), Best Original Score (Thomas Newman), Best Original Song (music and lyrics by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth), Best Sound Editing (Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers) and Best Sound Mixing (Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell, Stuart Wilson). The 5 nominations for “Skyfall” are the most ever for a James Bond movie. As to its chances of winning, history isn’t encouraging. To date, the longest-running and most successful movie series of all time has won a whopping two Oscars®.
That’s right. Two.
“Goldfinger” won an Oscar® for sound effects. “Thunderball” won for special effects. That’s it. And the Bond movies are routinely top drawer productions technically. Look at the gorgeous alpine location photography for “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” the dazzling underwater work for “For Your Eyes Only” or the superb editing of “Diamonds Are Forever.” How about the special effects for “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “Moonraker?” Virtually all of the later Bond movies have boasted excellent sound effects and editing. Numerous Bond movies have had memorable scores, my favorite being John Barry’s haunting score to “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”
None of the Bond movies have even won an Oscar® for Best Song—not “Goldfinger,” with its iconic Shirley Bassey vocal, not Paul McCartney’s perennial hit “Live and Let Die,” not Carly Simon’s huge hit “Nobody Does It Better” from “The Spy Who Loved Me,” or Sheena Easton’s monster top 40 single from “For Your Eyes Only.” “A View to a Kill” was Roger Moore’s swan song as 007 and wasn’t much of a movie, but it did have a good title track by the then hot-as-hell Duran Duran. Timothy Dalton’s Bond debut, “The Living Daylights,” boasted not just a good opening credits song by A-ha, but an arguably even better end credits song, “If There Was a Man,” by Chrissie Hynde.
It should be noted that the Bond series has garnered more nominations than that, but not many. “Diamonds Are Forever” was nominated for best sound, losing to “Fiddler on the Roof.” McCartney’s title track for “Live and Let Die” was nominated, but was beaten by Barbara Streisand’s signature song, “The Way We Were.” “The Spy Who Loved Me” actually had 3 nominations, for best set direction and score, both of which went to “Star Wars,” and it’s original song, which lost to (God forgive them) “You Light Up My Life.” “Moonraker” was nominated for visual effects, though the Oscar® went to “Star Trek the Motion Picture.” Sheena Easton’s title song to “For Your Eyes Only” lost to “The Best That You Can Do” from “Arthur.”
Why has this remarkable movie series been so overlooked by the Academy, even in technical categories? Genre pictures have never done well with the Academy. Only 12 westerns have been nominated, including 2010’s "True Grit,” and to date only 3 ("Cimarron," "Dances With Wolves" and "Unforgiven") have won. That’s right. “High Noon” didn’t win Best Picture.
The Academy does not yet treat science fiction, let alone comic book adaptations with respect. Few science fiction movies have ever been nominated for Best Picture. None have won. Fantasy has fared slightly better, partly due to the "Lord of the Rings" movies. No comic book adaptation has yet been nominated for Best Picture.
But it isn’t just science fiction, fantasy and comic book adaptations that have this problem. Alfred Hitchcock was largely perceived as a technical whiz whose films lacked depth. And he too was perceived as a genre director, although his field, the suspense thriller, is treated with slightly more respect now than when he was making them. ("Silence of the Lambs" did Best Picture. Hitchcock's "Rebecca" also won Best Picture, in 1940, although the Academy may not have considered that a thriller.)
Bob Hope is said to have once remarked about the commercially successful but often critically drubbed Cecil B. DeMille that he brought something new to the motion picture business: customers. Harry Potter had to be content with that. If 007 has to as well, at least he's in good company.