By Michele Brittany
Perusing the Wondercon Anaheim program, I was very curious by one particular panel offered up to attendees last Friday, April 18th. I’ll be honest, I had not heard of the James Bonding podcast led by Matt Mira and Matt Gourley before, but I felt duty bound as an independent popular culture scholar focused on all things spyfi and superspy to attend the panel.
I joined a packed room as Matt Mira was introduced to the expectant audience. He settled in. The other Matt, Matt Gourley, was off filming a Volkswagen commercial, so Mira called upon his special guests to help with the live podcast: Alie Ward, Georgia Hardstark, and Jordan Morris, whom I did recognize from last year’s Wondercon Nerdist panel hosted by Chris Hardwick.
Mira started the evening by calling Gourley, so he could say hi to the audience. I thought that was a bit odd, but then Gourley mentioned he had to leave his phone unattended for a few minutes. Okay, that was strange and I was thinking “Who would do that?” when suddenly, we were treated to an otherworldly guest: Mr. Ian Fleming, with an appalling awful British accent. I’m sure that was supposed to be the joke, but honestly, it was difficult to understand him so I felt the humor fell flat. I was glad when the call was over and Mira turned his attention to his panel participants.
It was the men against the women. Mira showed off his Omega watch and Craig’s Skyfall (2012) shoes, purchased at Barney’s New York. In contrast, Ward and Hardstark were not Bond enthusiasts and in fact, had only watched Goldfinger (1964) when they were guests on a previous James Bonding podcast. They hadn’t liked the early Bond film and thought it was a “misogynistic time capsule.” Okay, I could appreciate their assessment, and Mira conceded that perhaps it was not best movie to sway the women towards Bond fandom.
In preparation of this podcast, Mira asked Ward and Hardstark to watch his currently favorite Bond film Casino Royale (2006). The movie was this century and hey, it starred Daniel Craig! Ward said she didn’t like Craig for his “sandy appearance” and his face reminded her of a “grumpy penis” – ouch! And, to top it off, she figured his shades were from Sunglass Hut.
When Mira asked if she liked anyone else, she said “I would take anyone from the poker table” other than Bond. And that included the scarred and eye-patched Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre and Tsai Chin as Madame Wu (who was herself a Bond girl in the 1967 You Only Live Twice). Hmm, so they didn’t like the spy, so Mira asked what they thought about the opening sequence. Nope, they didn’t like it either and Hardstark asked “what if Craig was chasing the wrong guy?” From there, the women concurred they didn’t understand the flashback sequence showing the kill that resulted in Bond’s license to kill designation.
Exasperated, Mira asked if they liked anything about the movie. Ward said she liked the jungle… the snake…the mongoose. Then, she revealed she didn’t watch the last hour of the film. What the heck? The tone of the panel had slipped into the absurd when Mira stated Ward had instead summarized what she thought happened for the last hour. The summary was silly and filled with contrite humor that was felt forced. My interest waned.
There was a little time left, so Mira said he would answer any questions. Quickly a queue formed at the one microphone. What was Mira’s favorite knock-off Bond movie? He said that Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002) made him laugh with abandon and he also liked Spy Hard (1996). He was then asked about his thoughts on Timothy Dalton, the fourth actor to portray James Bond. Mira was critical of Licence to Kill (1989), a film influenced by other popular films of the time, however he did say that he liked The Living Daylights (1987). Morris, who was a quieter panel participant, added that he wasn’t a Dalton fan.
Although I did chuckle at some of the early jokes, once we were treated to Ward’s version of Casino Royale and then Ward’s confession that she had a boyfriend who had aspired to be a mercenary, the hour became just a bit too surreal for my taste. Unfortunately, I think the panel lost focus early on in the hour and never got to the program’s stated description: to debate the best Bond. Hence, James Bonding it was not.
All photos in this article are courtesy of Michele Brittany
Michele Brittany is an independent popular culture scholar and semi-professional photographer currently editing an upcoming anthology on the influence of James Bond on popular culture. She regularly posts reviews and analysis on the spy/espionage genre on her blog, Spyfi & Superspies.