No Time to Die movie review: no, Mr Bond, I expect you to retire

MaryAnn’s quick take: In the era of COVID and Brexit, much of this overstuffed adventure feels redundant, farcical, inconsequential, and desperate. But Ana de Armas and Lashana Lynch show us the way to a future for 007.
I’m “biast” (pro): love Daniel Craig as Bond...
I’m “biast” (con): ...but haven’t loved all his outings
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
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We knew this was to be Daniel Craig’s last mission as secret agent James Bond. Director and screenwriter Cary Joji Fukunaga knew it. So there’s almost a bit of snark in the fact that, after a not-so-brief prologue, No Time to Die begins with Bond in retirement, living on a tropical beach, spending his days fishing, before he is called back into the fray of international espionage. There’s an undertone of “of course he hates retirement and was always gonna leap at the chance to get back to work.”

We in the audience are also meant to prefer seeing him at work — why else this movie? And yet, by the end of this overlong, overstuffed adventure, mostly what I was left with is this: Maybe it is time for James Bond to retire. Not just Craig’s Bond. But the idea of Bond.

No Time to Die Daniel Craig
Bond simply cannot let go of that license to kill…

Because so much about No Time to Die is redundant or farcical, sometimes both at once. A seeming lack of imagination is constantly bumping up against almost desperate fantasy. Rami Malek’s (Bohemian Rhapsody, Need for Speed) supervillain? His master plan is to *check notes* unleash a deadly global pandemic. If this were a more serious-minded film, that could have be traumatizing, an unwelcome reminder of what we’re all living through right now. But it would be difficult to take this evil scheme seriously even if the movie had been released before COVID-19 delayed it: the villain goes by Lyutsifer Safin — an unlikely moniker even by the standards of this series — his motives are muddy at best, and his badness is signified by diseased skin and a bizarre accent. The absurdity of him, the offensive and outmoded nature of him, only adds to how his supposed depravity is, in 2021, reduced to inconsequence. Really? Pandemic? That’s all you got? Pul-eeze.

The finale, in which Bond, with the full tactical support of MI6 and the British navy, tracks Safin to his evil lair with the intent of bringing him down, is also the culmination of what today feels like a rather pitiable attempt on the part of the movie to convince itself — and us — that the UK really is still a major player on the world stage, honestly. Because now the Brexit shit is starting to hit the fan, and Britain is also rapidly reducing itself to inconsequence.

No Time to Die Daniel Craig Naomie Harris Ben Whishaw
Bond and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) drink all of Q’s (Ben Whishaw) wine while he saves their asses. Again.

Might No Time to Die have landed differently 18 months ago, when it was originally scheduled for release? Perhaps. But the previous Bond film, Spectre, six long years ago, also threw away a lot of the much-needed modernization that Craig’s tenure had brought to the franchise with Casino Royale and Skyfall. And it’s absolutely inescapable fact that a movie like this one, part of an immensely popular long-running series and highly anticipated, does not — cannot — exist in a cultural vacuum. It is Die’s plain bad luck that the zeitgeist has changed so dramatically in a year and a half, but it is also plain reality.

All that said, there are interesting things happening around the edges that make the movie good enough fun. One major highlight is the reunion of Craig (Logan Lucky, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) with Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, Overdrive), as Paloma, a newly trained agent he temporarily teams up with on a mission detour to Cuba. The delightful chemistry they sparked with in Knives Out was definitely not a one-off. They’re less gently comic here — but still a bit! — and more kick-ass, but they’re terrific together. Again. (There’s not enough of de Armas, though.) And Lashana Lynch (Captain Marvel, Fast Girls) as Nomi, the MI6 agent who has taken over Bond’s former 007 number, is so riveting that they might as well just hand the central role over to her for the inevitable next film. Perhaps by then, the franchise’s feminism will extend to giving its female agents surnames.

No Time to Die Lashana Lynch Ana de Armas
The future of 007…

Less convincing is the relationship Bond has with Madeleine, his love interest returning from Spectre. Craig and Léa Seydoux (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Blue Is the Warmest Color) don’t spark anywhere near like how he does de Armas — and with Lynch, too — but bonus points to the film for continuing to give Bond and Craig more emotional depth than he had had in previous incarnations.

Still, it seems obvious that the future of this franchise is female, in front of and perhaps behind the camera, too. Hand the next one over to Phoebe Waller-Bridge — one of Fukunaga’s coscreenwriters, whose fresh and funny hand is intermittently evident — and let her fix the backward-looking mess it has once again become. Cuz if there is life for Bond going forward, it doesn’t look much like what we get here.


see also:
Casino Royale (review)
Quantum of Solace (review)
Skyfall (review)
Spectre movie review: Bond goes backward

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Jason
Jason
Thu, Oct 07, 2021 9:01am

Another terrible review by a hardcore feminist. If Bond turns female it will fail as a franchise.

PJK
PJK
reply to  Jason
Mon, Oct 11, 2021 10:15am

I’m not in favor of the practice to taking an established male character and then gender swapping them in order to pander to a certain part of the audience. It’s a lazy practice that should be put to rest as soon as possible. I’m all in favor of female-led movies, but for Patricia’s sake make them original characters please. So if the Bond franchise wants to go with female 00’s, have at it, but don’t make them the female equivalent of James Bond, give them their own unique backstory and character. A female 007 is fine by me, but she shouldn’t be Jane Bond. That is so lazy!

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  PJK
Mon, Oct 11, 2021 2:52pm

The thing is, “gender-swapping but the rest of the character’s traits and story remain exactly the same” hardly ever happens. The women who take over male roles often DO have their own backstory and character. In the comics, when Carol Danvers became Captain Marvel, she wasn’t the same person as the original male Captain Marvel, just with boobs. When Jane Foster picked up the hammer of Thor, she was still Jane Foster of Earth, not suddenly the goddess daughter of Odin. The 2016 Ghostbusters weren’t named Petra Venkman, Egona Spengler, etc, and their characters were totally different from the original ones.

But the complainers still complained. Because their issue IS that women are stepping into roles that were previously held by men, no matter how similar or dissimilar their characters may be.

And if gender-swapping is “pandering to a certain part of the audience”—so what? White men have been pandered to forever; if filmmakers want to pander to other parts of the audience for a change, the previously-pandered-to group should just suck it up and let other groups enjoy their own pandering. There’s plenty of room at the table.

Original characters are also great. This isn’t an “either/or” scenario, it’s a “both/and.” Let’s have interesting stories with gender-swapping—just to see what new kinds of perspectives and insights can arise from them—AND let’s have interesting stories with new original characters. We can do it all.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  PJK
Thu, Oct 14, 2021 10:50am

in order to pander to a certain part of the audience

You do realize that cishet white men are the most pandered-to movie audience, don’t you?

PJK
PJK
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Sun, Oct 17, 2021 8:35am

You are right, but justifying one wrong thing by pointing out another wrong thing doesn’t make either right. The act of taking a successful, male led franchise and then swapping the protagonist’s gender from male to female is lazy and Hollywood doesn’t do this because they care so much about ending the pandering to cishet males, they do it because they think they can earn a quick buck from the under-served communities.

It’s a disingenuous act, driven only by the desire to seem “with it” or “woke” or whatever the current term is for being someone who genuinely cares about representation.

Giving new voices from all walks of life a chance to tell stories that are not pandering to cishet males should include the act of creating something new, not just regurgitating the already established with gender swapped protagonists.

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  PJK
Sun, Oct 17, 2021 3:42pm

I’m an Asian guy. I sure as hell hope that future James Bond films pander to me by casting a British Asian guy as Bond, because I would enjoy the hell out of that film. And if it upsets stuffy people who think “Asians should get their own stories, because James Bond should always be a white man, because that’s what I grew up with,” so much the better. :-)

I would ALSO love to see more Asian filmmakers tell new stories about original Asian characters. Like I said, it’s not “either/or,” it’s “both/and.” Give me original Asian stories AND an Asian James Bond. It’s all good to me.

And OF COURSE Hollywood is trying to increase “diversity” to make money. This is not news. Whether it’s gender-swapping a previously male franchise or creating new original stories, they’re doing it because they think it’s what their audience wants and will pay for. So it’s up to the AUDIENCE to care about those things, so that corporations will pander to them by giving them those things. If we make sure that stories centering women and minorities (whether original or gender-swapped) are profitable, then that’s what we’ll get more of.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Bluejay
Mon, Oct 18, 2021 9:56pm

And OF COURSE Hollywood is trying to increase “diversity” to make money.

The irony is, of course, that Hollywood does not, in fact, act as if it is concerned only about making money. If it were, we would have been inundated with Titanic knockoffs. If it were, white male filmmakers who fail over and over again would not be hired over and over again while women and POC filmmakers barely get a chance to prove themselves. Instead, Hollywood remains very insular, telling much the same stories over and over again, even when they are not financially successful.

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Mon, Oct 18, 2021 10:19pm

True. I was just trying to make the point that Hollywood studios don’t do the right thing out of the goodness of their hearts (and that’s not breaking news, contrary to what PJK seems to think). They do what they THINK is profitable, but even then, they still have biases and blind spots that often prevent them from seeing what actually IS profitable. Hopefully that’s changing, at least a bit.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Bluejay
Sun, Oct 24, 2021 3:30pm

Oh, I know YOU know this stuff, Bluejay… :-)

Edward Joyce
Edward Joyce
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Mon, Dec 27, 2021 3:10pm

Titanic is the only disaster movie? Oh, that’s precious.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Edward Joyce
Tue, Dec 28, 2021 9:56am

Who said Titanic is the only disaster movie?

Edward Joyce
Edward Joyce
reply to  Bluejay
Mon, Dec 27, 2021 3:09pm

But keep telling stories about white male Brits is bad. We get it, Asian guy. We understand why Brexit prevailed. Thanks for the confirmation.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Edward Joyce
Tue, Dec 28, 2021 9:57am

Who said telling stories about white male Brits is bad?

I suggest you work on your reading comprehension, and get down off your cross.

Edward Joyce
Edward Joyce
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Mon, Jan 03, 2022 2:41pm

You and many others do, implicitly. Diversity in the Anglophone world is mainly about diminishing European ethnicity, heritage, and language. I read far better than you, in several languages, not just English.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  PJK
Sun, Oct 17, 2021 4:53pm

I’m not justifying anything. I’m pointing out the hypocrisy of complaining about the focus of the pandering shifting, very occasionally. Many movies that center men are produced to make a quick buck, too.

I agree that we do need new stories, but there’s room for gender-swapping, too. There can be value in showing audiences how similar situations impact women and men differently (for instance).

Edward Joyce
Edward Joyce
reply to  PJK
Mon, Dec 27, 2021 3:07pm

Yup. Hollywood moguls would prostitute their daughters if they could make a buck off of it.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Edward Joyce
Tue, Dec 28, 2021 9:58am

If you are unable to have a reasonable conversation, you can leave.

Edward Joyce
Edward Joyce
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Sat, Jan 01, 2022 9:02pm

Okay, they would prostitute their sons, too. Hyperbole and reasonable are not the same thing, and hyperbole is as old as the Greeks and probably as old as human cognition. Casting a Black person as Bond is just pandering to PC.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Edward Joyce
Sun, Jan 02, 2022 4:36pm

Get used to no longer being treated as the default human. The rest of us are sick of it.

Edward Joyce
Edward Joyce
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Sat, Jan 08, 2022 2:13pm

I’m not used to it. Never have been. Many women hold my views. Sick of your assumptions.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jason
Thu, Oct 14, 2021 10:48am

hardcore feminist

You say that like it’s a bad thing…

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  Jason
Thu, Oct 14, 2021 12:07pm

Ooh, have you read other reviews by hardcore feminists? Could you post the links to them? I’d love to read them. Thanks!

No Name Horse
No Name Horse
reply to  Jason
Mon, Oct 25, 2021 3:56am

MaryAnn is a variety of feminist but I just watched a review by Ben Shapiro who’s on the opposite side of the universe from MaryAnn politically and he didn’t think it was great either. He didn’t share her praise of Lashana Lynch’s character.

I agree that going female with the franchise would likely kill it unless the wokeist army shows up en masse. Bond is about a particular formula. Daniel Craig was superb because he was believable as being able to pull off the physical feats he does. No female who doesn’t have superpowers is going to take on a Dave Bautista-sized bad guy for example, and certainly not one who’s cast with her sleek looks as the primary consideration. I don’t know if MaryAnn genuinely realizes how silly most “woman kicks the men’s asses” scenes in film are unless the man is the equivalent of Don Knotts in his declining years.

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  No Name Horse
Mon, Oct 25, 2021 4:08pm

Daniel Craig was superb because he was believable as being able to pull off the physical feats he does. No female who doesn’t have superpowers is going to take on a Dave Bautista-sized bad guy for example

LOL, Daniel Craig couldn’t film the Bond movies without sustaining extensive damage to his body every time. INCLUDING when he fought Bautista.

https://www.slashfilm.com/572799/daniel-craig-injuries/

“While making 2016’s Spectre, the star jacked up his anterior cruciate ligament during a fight scene with Dave Bautista’s Mr. Hinx. ‘I was like, “Dave, throw me, for Christ’s sake….” Because he was being light with me,’ Craig said. ‘So he threw me, and God bless him, he just left my knee over there.’… That injury meant that Craig spent the rest of Spectre’s production wearing a knee brace that had to be hidden in post-production.”

There’s nothing realistic in what Craig does because if he were to try doing James Bond stunts and fights in real life, he’d be in excruciating pain—or dead—in about half a second. EVERY action movie demands that we suspend our disbelief, whatever the hero’s gender. If you’re willing to buy 53-year-old Craig as a badass despite his creaky-ass body with multiple injuries, but you’re not willing to buy a (usually younger and fitter) female actor as a badass, that says more about your sexism than anything else.

No Name Horse
No Name Horse
reply to  Bluejay
Mon, Oct 25, 2021 6:54pm

LOL, Daniel Craig couldn’t film the Bond movies without sustaining extensive damage to his body every time. INCLUDING when he fought Bautista.

Real fights involve real damage. It’s a given that he absorbed more punishment than a bikini babe actress could. I doubt they’re going to cast some ‘roided-up powerlifter chick as a female 007.

If you’re willing to buy 53-year-old Craig as a badass despite his creaky-ass body with multiple injuries, but you’re not willing to buy a (usually younger and fitter) female actor as a badass, that says more about your sexism than anything else.

Lol – sure it does.

It’s true that many of the stunts we see action heroes pulling off aren’t reality no matter what their level of conditioning. But you apparently aren’t aware of what kind of shape someone in their 50’s can be in. Btw football players play while injured all the time.

What you call “sexism” I call assessment of reality. Let’s look at the military. A lot of men drop out trying to become a SEAL. To date exactly *one* female candidate has even made it through SEAL officer screening – in of itself really physically tough. That’s just the initial screening. Exactly -0- have made it to and through actual BUD/S training. You can’t blame some “boy’s club” mentality because gender isn’t revealed to the panel who evaluates candidates – all they’re shown is the results of candidate performance. All the wokeist excuses don’t change this reality.

The women’s national soccer team got their asses handed to them by a bunch of under-15 boys. Those are presumably the best female soccer players in the US. How do you figure the women would do against the men’s national team? That’s not even combat – just skill, speed, endurance. After asserting they could beat any man outside of the top 200 both Williams sisters got beaten on the same afternoon by a guy ranked outside of the top 200.

I’ve had girlfriends hurt themselves just play-fighting – with me doing *nothing* but standing there – they hurt themselves hitting me.

A female Bond or whatever they’d call her is just silly.

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  No Name Horse
Mon, Oct 25, 2021 7:47pm

Movies like the Bond films, generic action films, superhero films (even the grounded ones), have ZERO to do with people’s physical capabilities in reality. In the real world you have a wide range of abilities in both men and women. Some men are stronger than some women. Some women are stronger than some men. (And sure, go ahead, you can cherry-pick whatever you want and talk about your “girlfriends hurting themselves” all you want.) It doesn’t matter in these films because they’re fantasies about EXCEPTIONAL men and women who can take more of a beating than most people in real life.

Again: The reason Craig looks awesome doing what he does is because the film MAKES him look awesome, through the efforts of the director, the stunt team, the safety crew, the SFX team, the dietitian and personal trainer, etc. Female actors doing action films are made to look awesome in exactly the same way by the same people. If you can suspend your disbelief for Craig but not for a woman, that’s on you.

By the way, Robert P, I’m not sure why you’re going by “No Name Horse” these days, but whatever. You’ve instigated this argument before, in MaryAnn’s review of “Battle of the Sexes.” If you’ve nothing new to say, then I’ll just leave the conversation here. Ciao.

Danielm80
Danielm80
reply to  Bluejay
Mon, Oct 25, 2021 9:04pm

I’ll follow up on my earlier comment: I5 (2017 Bingo card).

No Name Horse
No Name Horse
reply to  Bluejay
Mon, Oct 25, 2021 11:33pm

You mean 80-something Queen Elizabeth didn’t really parachute into the Olympics??

The Bond films are about a specific character with a known history, persona and formula. I don’t think it would survive shifting to a female 007. If that’s what they do and I’m proven wrong, okay – I’ll live. More power to them. I would have no interest. If they do that all I’m going to see when the actress’ name appears is “Someone they shoehorned into the role because wokeism”. Of course the film industry being what it is, if they do one like that and it tanks, that’ll be that.

Create an original female character to base a franchise around.

I don’t know who Robert P is. The original point is “why a chick won’t be believable as 007”. If they said something similar I assume it’s because those are well-known, prominent examples in the “women are just as badass as men” debate and reality doesn’t change.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  No Name Horse
Tue, Oct 26, 2021 11:51am

bikini babe

‘roided-up powerlifter chick

Tell me you hate women without saying you hate women.

No Name Horse
No Name Horse
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Tue, Oct 26, 2021 11:12pm

Tell me you hate women without saying you hate women.

Given the filter you apparently view the world through you probably genuinely think it’s rational to leap to that as the sole possible conclusion and will under no circumstances be deprived of it.

.smh

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  No Name Horse
Sat, Oct 30, 2021 3:30pm

The filter through which I view the world is one that acknowledges that women are people, just like men are. Too much of the world doesn’t want to accept this.

Edward Joyce
Edward Joyce
reply to  No Name Horse
Mon, Dec 27, 2021 3:14pm

Yep. The feminist monologue, the sheer narrow-mindedness, the categorical thinking on full display from Ms. MaryAnn Johanson.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Edward Joyce
Tue, Dec 28, 2021 10:05am

Have a think about why feminism scares you so much…

Edward Joyce
Edward Joyce
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Sat, Jan 08, 2022 2:14pm

It doesn’t scare me at all. And I didn’t know there was just one feminism. Learn something new everyday.

Edward Joyce
Edward Joyce
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Mon, Dec 27, 2021 3:13pm

bikini babe. roided-up powerlifter chick. I don’t hate women, my wife, or my four daughters.

Edward Joyce
Edward Joyce
reply to  Bluejay
Mon, Dec 27, 2021 3:12pm

Extensive damage? I thought I just saw Craig in No Time to Die. Look-alike?

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Edward Joyce
Tue, Dec 28, 2021 10:03am

Craig has suffered lots of injuries while shooting the Bond films. Lots of actors suffer physically while doing their own stunts. C’mon, you cannot be this obtuse.

Edward Joyce
Edward Joyce
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Sat, Jan 08, 2022 2:15pm

Thanks for the illustration of deflection.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  No Name Horse
Tue, Oct 26, 2021 11:49am

comment image

No Name Horse
No Name Horse
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Tue, Oct 26, 2021 11:14pm

*spit take*

LOL!!!

Edward Joyce
Edward Joyce
reply to  No Name Horse
Mon, Dec 27, 2021 3:11pm

Yup.

RogerBW
RogerBW
Thu, Oct 07, 2021 11:34am

It’s fascinating to read this having recently been listening to the Human Bondage and Kill James Bond podcasts – both of which point up the extent to which even the early Bond films have large dollops of “maybe we don’t have all the shiny toys but Britain can still be relevant in the world dash it all”. (Where are the American and Soviet agents when American and Soviet rockets are being kidnapped?)

The concept was never a great one, and the concept is dead. We’re not short of action films, and really the only reason to keep making these films is that there are people who will pay to see the James Bond name no matter what it’s associated with. (Which is the whole IP racket in a nutshell, really.) Bond has failed before, but he’s always been dug up again. Let him rest.

Ob Tom Gauld: https://myjetpack.tumblr.com/post/663753703683129344/two-cartoons-for-the-guardian-about-james

Danielm80
Danielm80
Fri, Oct 08, 2021 6:55am

I’ve finally figured out how to articulate my feelings about James Bond. He’s a placeholder. He’s a huge cultural icon, but he’s never made sense as a spy or as a role model. I’ve been waiting decades for someone to come up with a spy story that speaks to me, and features more than a slim demographic of the world population, and the closest I came was MI-5, very briefly in the early episodes. I did like the idea of Pierce Brosnan as Bond, but the one Bond movie I ever saw—for Brosnan—was terrible.

Danielm80
Danielm80
reply to  Danielm80
Fri, Oct 08, 2021 2:37pm

I think you can read this essay without worrying about the paywall, but it’s worth the effort if you can’t, or need to seek out Laurie Penny’s essay collections instead.

https://lauriepenny.substack.com/p/another-murderous-toff?r=5pnv7&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=email&utm_source=

PJK
PJK
reply to  Danielm80
Mon, Oct 11, 2021 10:09am

I think al lot of this is caused by the fact that James Bond is not a spy. He’s an agent, a troubleshooter (quite often in the literal sense), but not a spy. A spy’s job is to extract information from their embedded position in a hostile or at least unfriendly nation (or if you include corporate espionage, from the competition). James Bond is a blunt instrument that is sent out to eliminate the source of whatever problem MI6 has run into.
So if you are looking or a good spy movie, the Bond franchise is not the place to find it.

PJK
PJK
Mon, Oct 11, 2021 10:25am

SPOILERS GALORE, TREAD LIGTHELY:

My main gripe with the movie is that the villein’s motivations for his actions in the third act are completely unclear to me. I understood his reasons for taking on Spectre, but what he wanted to achieve after that is quite nebulous. Also what was his deal with going after Bond and Madeleine? I guess the screenwriters wanted to give Bond a personal reason to pursue him, but the fact that he still controlled Heracles would have been enough i.m.h.o. No need to add the drama around his “family”. And I understand the reasons for making Heracles a permanent stain, but from a technological point of view it makes little sense to do that. It’s technology, so an anti-technology can be easily developed. But I guess we needed the closure of Daniel Craig’s Bond’s sacrifice.

So like MaryAnn, I enjoyed it for what it was. But it didn’t get near the level of Casino Royal or Skyfall. But it also didn’t sink to the level of Quantum of Solace or Spectre.

Beowulf
Beowulf
Tue, Oct 19, 2021 2:41pm

Good Bond film. Just cut the villain out completely (and I LIKE the actor); that will remove a lot of padding and make the film a reasonable length.

Edward Joyce
Edward Joyce
Mon, Dec 27, 2021 3:04pm

Bad movie. And worse idea to have Bond become a women for the sake of PC. If it happens, though, the movie won’t make money, and that’ll be a good thing for those who recognize the absurdity and inequalit of social engineering by those who hate white men.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Edward Joyce
Tue, Dec 28, 2021 10:01am

“for the sake of PC”

I’m sorry you’re having to discover that white men are not the center of the universe.

Edward Joyce
Edward Joyce
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Sat, Jan 08, 2022 2:16pm

Your sequiturs are hysterical (no pun intended).