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A summary of views, commentary and sometimes comedy.

By Daniel Altman

Perhaps you've seen the new television commercials touting the fact that James Bond, in the new movie "Golden Eye," drives a BMW. Yes, that such a pillar of British sensibilities drives a German car is meant to strike us as positively revolutionary.

But perhaps you've also seen "Golden Eye." We won't give away too much of the movie, but we were a little perplexed. Q returns to the screen to describe more intricate gadgetry--clearly reading, appropriately, from cue cards--including the car. But does the car ever do anything in this movie? Quite simply, no.

In fact, the only hard driving in the entire film occurs in the usual Aston Martin, the standby of Bond movies since "Goldfinger." And not a latemodel, either, but something close to the original 1960s vintage.

Has Bond given in to complete commercialism? You bet your Walther PPK. The BMW appears just for show, and a fat American CIA agent does most of the driving. But product endorsements aren't limited to German cars--a bottle of Smirnoff Vodka just happens to end up on a certain Russian desk, label turned conspicuously outward.

The trend in Bond movies could actually be more of an Americanization than simply a commercialization. Nowadays there are a lot more big explosions--hallmarks of Hollywood action hits such as "Die Hard" and "Lethal Weapon"--and fewer screwy plot twists and secret hideouts. Moreover, the modish European aesthetic of the '60s and '70s has given way to American-style glamor. What was once slick and suave is now just overkill. As the end result, we have only the gloating of an automobile manufacturer.

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