What did spy movies look like before James Bond? Was there actual spying going on? It’s hard to credit the idea of spy movie these days without glamorous locations, mouth-watering women and enough car chases and explosions to make espionage synonymous with a demolition derby. Before Bond, spies were all Smiley’s People. Nowadays, even comedy spy movies come with artillery. Get Smart, based on the Sixties TV show of the same name, can’t be Austin Powers again after three Austin Powers movies, so instead it opts to be True Lies with more laughs (and less racism). It’s all in the best tradition of spies who don’t spy.
Some movies are like watching the Hindenburg burn. I’m not talking about movies you expect to be bad (remakes, sequels, anything with a colon in the title), but about movies you had hopes for which sadden you (like Bonfire of the Vanities, the last twenty or so Woody Allen movies, everything Sam Mendes has made). Southland Tales is terrible. It is not good but for… anything, nor is it bad save for [insert what you like]. It is a mistake that could only be made in movies; the end result of an onslaught of sycophancy that must have been mind-bending to behold. Seriously – to those on set – was Richard Kelly drunk when he made this? Or is he just stupid?