Yaphet Kotto just died.  He had a deep gravitas, and his turns as the cynical working-class stiff (be it in Blue Collar, Brubaker or doomed on the ship in Alien) were always spot on.  His best work, however, was probably on TV in his 122 episode run as Captain Al Giardello in Homicide: Life on the Streets, where he played the rock solid center in the world of Baltimore’s murder police.    

Kotto’s first big role, however, was as the diabolical, charming Bond villain in Live and Let Die, Roger Moore’s first in the series and his best (just a hair better than The Spy Who Love Me).  Here, Moore is physical, and even has a hint of menace, as he gets to the bottom of an international drug conspiracy engineered by Kotto.  Sharks, alligators, snakes, spooky voodoo rituals emceed by the old Seven Up pitchman Jeffrey Holder (“ahahahahahahahahahaha”), high-speed boat chases . . . it’s all rip roaring fun (and ahead of its time – it’s 1973, and Bond couples with an African American fellow agent, Rosie Carver). It also features the best Bond song (which is one of the few decent songs by Wings).

But Kotto was a blast (figuratively, and at the end, indulging in a cheezy Bond quip, literally). Funny, from debonair to frightening in an instant, and playful. One of the best and more accessible Bond villains.

Because during COVID, I have some extra time on my hands, here is my list of Bond films, best to worst.    

1) Casino Royale (Craig)

2) Goldfinger (Connery)

3) From Russia with Love (Connery)

4) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Lazenby)

5) Skyfall (Craig)

6) Live and Let Die (Moore)

7) Quantum of Solace (Craig)

8) Thunderball (Connery)

9) The Spy Who Loved Me (Moore)

10) Dr. No (Connery)

11) The Living Daylights (Dalton)

12) You Only Live Twice (Connery)

13) Never Say Never Again (Connery)

14) Moonraker (Moore)

15) Licence to Kill (Dalton)

16) For Your Eyes Only (Moore)

17) Tomorrow Never Dies (Brosnan)

18) The Man With the Golden Gun (Moore)

19) Goldeneye (Brosnan)

20) The World is Not Enough (Brosnan)

21) Die Another Day (Brosnan)

22) Octopussy (Moore)

23) Diamonds are Forever (Connery)

24) Specter (Craig)

25) A View to a Kill (Moore)   

According to Rolling Stone magazine.

I’ve seen about 30 movies on the list.  Even though it only has 16 years to play with, be warned.  There are several absolute crap films listed, including–

Sinister, which is a godawful mess

Saw II, which I didn’t see, but I didn’t have to see Bride of Chucky either

Goodnight Mommy, which was much too arty and sterile; more unpleasant than frightening

American Psycho, which is no more “horror” than Weekend at Bernie’s

The Purge: Anarchy, again, not horror and not good.

Piranha 3D, which is a spoof, and even has Jerry O’Connell’s junk being bitten off by the fish

The Strangers, basically, a polished, overlong snuff film

Crimson Peak, which was fine, but My Lord, 19th??

The Descent, because when you wanna’ have a girls weekend, who doesn’t go spelunking?

Here are some replacements and solid suggestions as Halloween approaches–




Trick ‘r Treat

The Woman in Black

The Innkeepers


World War Z

What Lies Beneath

The Monster

Plus several horror films that were excellent and which I never reviewed:

The Last Exorcism

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

Fright Night





I was reading Scot Yenor’s piece “What Sexbots Teach Us About Happiness and Love” and realized that he, ultimately, can’t really tell us what they teach, because as of today, there are no sexbots.   According to Yenor, however, by 2050, we will have beings that “converse with their partners, dwell on their emotions, anticipate their needs, deliver forms of companionship and love, and perform whatever sexual act one would want, just like the machines in ‘Ex Machina.’ All of this will equal ‘love’ and ‘sex’ with robots.”

There are sexbots in Ex Machina, but that was hardly the first film to suggest a world where we have created synthetic sexual partners.  What do the movies tell us about that future?

A great deal, actually.  Film is often a surprisingly accurate harbinger of future developments and trends.  In Logan’s Run, a dystopian sci- fi flick from 1974, society is kept youthful and vibrant because its inhabitants accept that at age 30, they must be killed in a “rebirth” ritual.  Some folks don’t take too kindly to that end, and they run, whereupon they are hunted down by the likes of Michael York and Richard Jordan.  But before folks turn 30, they live in resplendent hedonism and if they want to have sex with a partner, any partner, they turn to a machine in their nifty apartment and select from others who are also looking to have sex.  Indeed, it is through one of these sex teleporters that York finds a runner, Jenny Agutter.

Today, we call this Tinder.

But Agutter is an actual woman, not an android.  What about sexbots?  In Westworld, the 1973 pic where Richard Benjamin and James Brolin enjoy an adult theme park of the old West until it all goes terribly wrong,  there are bordellos stocked with android prostitutes, but they are cold-eyed, near animatronic.

A year later, in The Stepford Wives, the androids became more responsive but they still have a soullessness that is forbidding.

Tina Louise with big hair as a Stepford wife : bighair

Indeed, The Stepford Wives is a feminist tract based on the idea that men, given their druthers, truly want a pliant, attractive dimwit in a floppy sunhat as a mate.

Fast forward to the reign of Arnold Schwarzenegger and The Sixth Day, and the prototype has gotten even more advanced.  The newer model  – a hologram that also apparently has sensory ability – won’t glitch.

The 6th Day - hologram - Album on Imgur

Again, however, the message is one of emptiness, a blonde spouting inanities about sports and delivering insincere compliments.  Looks fun, but not exactly an enticing replacement.

The emptiness becomes positively sad when we get to the gigolo Jude Law in Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence, but this is also the first representation where the sexbot has some convincing rap.  Law is a stud for hire, but what he gives his clients is more than physical love, as is clear from his verbal foreplay:


I’m afraid…

Of me? That I will hurt you?


I think… you’re afraid of letting go. I think you’re
afraid of happiness. And this is starting to excite me. Are
you afraid of seeing the stars…Patricia? I can show you
how to reach them.

I’m afraid… of what you’ve got under there. May I see what
it looks like first?

Is this your first time… with something like me?

I’ve never been with mecha.

That makes two of us.

I’m afraid it will hurt.

Patricia…once you’ve had a lover robot, you’ll never want
a real man…again.
Are these the wounds of passion?

Singer: Are the stars out tonight?
I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright.
I only have eyes for you, dear!

Do you…do you hear that music?

Singer: (note: this is played over Joe’s next line)
The moon may be high,
But I can’t see a thing in the sky,
‘Cause I only have eyes for you,
Yeah…I only have eyes for you!

You… are a goddess, Patricia. You wind me up inside. But
you deserve much better in your life. You deserve… me.

So, the future brings us flesh goodies, but they are diversions and in many cases, sinister ones.  In Blade Runner, the moral heart of the film lies in the fact that Rachael (Sean Young) does not know she is a replicant.  In all other ways except her expiration date, she is human.  She feels love, she cries, she has fear, and the cruelest component of her existence is the self-awareness of her creation, her ability to actually deduce that she may be a thing, and a thing with a date certain for death at that.  The value and dignity of the replicants are certified by their innate sense of being human, and one of the most affecting scenes is when a runaway replicant, pleasure model Zhora, is shot, because she seems so much like us.

So too with Ex Machina, referenced by Yenor, a brilliant mash-up of a lot of the above films and Deathtrap.  The two sexbots in Ex Machina are nascent thinkers and when they get to thinking, they determine that a life being at the beck and call of Oscar Isaac is not to their liking.  Moreover, Alicia Vikander evinces all of the burgeoning curiosity and wonder of a new human, which, or course, make her dispatching of her Dr. Frankenstein acceptable.

Yenor’s concern is that the sexbot will attempt to replace love, a fair consideration given the inroads pornography has made to replacing sex, and cautions, “Love begins with recognizing our own lack, our neediness as creatures, but the sexbot love experience never really allows for seeing that making a common life with another is a solution to our neediness. Instead, sexbot love turns us inward again and finds a solution in our own will and dreams. Sexbots represent sophisticated intellectual masturbation, where human beings remain trapped inside their own view of themselves.”

At least to date, the movies have pretty much tracked with his conclusion, as writers have made sexbots lethal, sympathetic representations of man’s hubris, or both.  Indeed, in 1977’s Demon Seed, which I did not see, an A.I. computer eventually rapes his maker’s wife to be immortal

The one filmic departure is Her, but even in that picture, Joaquin Phoenix’s relationship with Operating System Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), rewarding as it seems at times, cannot be consummated physically (they try to use a human sex surrogate, but the encounter goes awry) and ends with the cosmic joke that reveals her be a virtual slut:


(dawning on him)

Do you talk to anyone else while we’re talking?




Are you talking to anyone right now? Other people or OS’s or anything?




How many others?



Theodore is shocked, still sitting on the stairs, as crowds of people pass by him. He’s looking at all of their faces. He thinks for a moment.


Are you in love with anyone else?


What makes you ask that?


I don’t know. Are you?


I’ve been trying to figure out how to talk to you about this.


How many others?




What? What are you talking about?  That’s insane. That’s fucking insane.


Theodore, I know.

(to herself)

Oh fuck.

(to him)

I know it sounds insane. But – I don’t know if you believe me, but it doesn’t change the way I feel about you. It doesn’t take away at all from how madly in love with you I am. 

Yenor need not worry.  If sexbots become ubiquitous, unlike porn, the degenerative effect will be ameliorated by the fact that they’ll either kill us or cheat on us.


What Jim Bouton did to/for baseball, Peter Gent did to/for the NFL, and the NFL responded. After this dark depiction of the seamy side of professional football was released in 1979, more than one of the players who participated in its production found their careers at an end. With its frank depiction of drug use, brutality, misogyny, racism and general lunacy, the crackdown is unsurprising. Nick Nolte is a sure-handed rebel WR, but he can’t get off the bench because he bucks coach G.D. Spradlin’s computer-efficient focus on “team” (bedding the fiancee’ of co-owner Dabney Coleman doesn’t help his cause either). Nolte is semi-protected by good ole’ boy QB Mac Davis, who enjoys all the excesses of the game but manages to stay on the right side of management, imploring Nolte to “play the game.” For NFL historians, Nolte is Gent, Spradlin Tom Landry and Davis Don Meredith. There are some moving scenes here, the best of which is former NFL lineman John Matuszak flipping out after a game.

Nolte’s plea to Spradlin as he is run off the team is also affecting. Amidst all the bullshit, you can see these two characters who, under it all, love the game, connect. This is an underrated film, but it is not without its faults. Director Ted Kotcheff (First Blood, Weekend at Bernie’s) has some problems with tone, such that really dark material is often leavened with weirdly light, comic scenes. Nolte engages in a love interest with Dayle Haddon that is very thin and rushed, which I attribute to the denuding of Gent’s book.  The movie ends with Nolte quitting the team; the book ended with Nolte driving into the country to start anew with his love and finding her dead, murdered for living with a black man.  Kotcheff had lanced the NFL’s boil enough; there is no way that coda would fly.

Still, Kotcheff is a man who knows his limitations and the picture wisely keeps on-field action to a minimum (what he does show seems realistic and terrifying) and instead, focuses on the schizophrenic world of the professional athlete off-the-field. It also eschews all that jock-sniffing hokum ladled out by Oliver Stone in Any Given Sunday.

Here is a highly recommended article on the movie from Deadspin.