*The judges will also accept, “That Was Zen, This Is Now”
After three seasons, an average record of 27-55, a team-record 16-game losing streak, another team-record worst season of 17-65, countless insults (many of them accurate, but hey) of Carmelo Anthony, and one eviction from Madison Square Garden of fan favorite Charles Oakley, the Phil Jackson era is ending for the New York Knicks. It was a case of Toxic Jock Syndrome.
Jackson was renowned for his defense but a limited offensive player, which is why Wilt has that stunned look on his face
Jackson has won 11 NBA championships as a coach and two more as a member of the early Seventies Knicks, the last edition of the team to hoist a trophy (1973). This current endeavor was just the wrong time in his life with the wrong franchise. Maybe it’s time to hoist a boom box outside Jeannie Buss’ window…
Of course, Jim Dolan still runs the Knicks, so it’s going to be forever until NYK wins another championship.
2. Serena-ty Now!
This morning I ventured onto the ATP Tour site and was surprised to discover that they actually do rank men’s tennis players deep into hundreds. The 700th-ranked men’s singles player as of today is Issam Haitham Taweel of Egypt, who has a career record of 2-5. Issam was born in Aleppo, Syria (news you can use, Gary Johnson) and stands all of 5’2.” Sorry, but I like Serena in a head-to-head match here.
Issam vs. Serena head-to-head would be great for PPV, once she returns from maternity leave
Anyway, I can’t believe this is still a kerfuffle. But as I tweeted last night, if you’re angry that Johnny Mac explained to the NPR interviewer why it was necessary to qualify his statement, “greatest female tennis player,” then I invite you to tell me why Geno Auriemma is not the greatest college basketball coach ever, as opposed to the greatest women’s college basketball coach.
3. There Already IS a Cross-Fit Prison Workout
He’ll emerge from prison a Newman
A judge sentenced Joshua Newman, an erstwhile whiz kid entrepreneur, was sentenced to 41 months in prison for bilking—oh, he’s a bilker—investors out of $3 million in a Cross Fit-style gym he’d opened in New York City. Newman, a Yale alum who somehow was operating a venture capital fund out of his own dorm room around the turn of the millennium, is now 37 and will have plenty of time (and reason) to work out in unorthodox ways in the yard.
4. The Jimmys
Deler and Moreno
What are the Jimmys? Now in their ninth year, the Jimmys are an all-star high school musical competition. Held on Monday at the Broadway theater that ordinarily houses The Lion King (Mondays are dark nights on Broadway), the Jimmys brought 74 teens (all of whom have watched Pitch Perfect and every episode of Glee dozens of times) from across the nation to compete against one another.
The winners: Sofia Deler of Orlando, Fla., and Tony Moreno of Winter Park, Fla.
5. Mitch Man, Poor Man
It’s always difficult ranking the most miserable cretins in The Worst Wing, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell never falls out of the top five. Yesterday McConnell had to acknowledge that the new TrumpCare bill did not have enough votes to pass the Senate (the GOP holds the majority in both Houses) so he is delaying the vote until after the July 4th recess. I imagine the vote will take place just as Aaron Judge comes to bat at the All-Star Game on July 11 at Minute Maid Park.
McConnell, whose long-stated ambition was to oust Barack Obama from the White House (mission not accomplished), is now the toady of a sociopath demagogue whose long-stated ambition is to do away with Obamacare (if you haven’t heard, he considers it a “disaster”). Regardless of the finer points of the bill, and there are many, the objective has always seemed not to serve the American people but to wipe that black guy out of the annals of American presidential history. Good job, good effort, boys.
Talk To Ya Later
In April of 1981 The Tubes, a San Francisco-based band, released their sixth album and had two hits: this song, which peaked at No. 6 on the charts, and the slower, more earnest “Don’t Want To Wait Anymore.” The band’s lead singer? Fee Waybill.
Yesterday I was out on a run (it was the most sublime day of the year here in NYC) in Central Park, my own cheap form of preventive health care, and I had an epiphany about the prism with which Republicans such as Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan see health care. Tell me what you think:
Let’s imagine the USA as a giant corporation. Now, in massive corporations it is possible to streamline the business by laying off employees. In the USA (or in any nation) that happens via death, which is a very non-discriminating form of termination. It happens to men and women alike, people of all faiths and colors and sexual orientations. Death is very helpful to the bottom line of USA Corp.
Here’s where it becomes sticky. Imagine if you were to tell a company that it doesn’t have to lay off workers, but in order to do so upper management and the top earners at that company are going to have to contribute more from their paychecks. Well, that wouldn’t go over very well, now would it? So, to me, this is exactly how a Mitch McConnell or a Paul Ryan views health care: sure, we could save or extend more lives if we made health care more affordable to the bottom 50% of the country, but what is the upside to that for USA Corp? We’re actually a more streamlined nation without them.
You may think of that as evil. Really, though, it is just natural selection on a grander scale.
2. Fatal Retraction
Three prominent print journalists (forgive the oxymoron) at CNN—reporter Thomas Frank; executive editor in charge of investigations Lex Haris; and investigative editor and reporter Eric Lichtblau—resigned on Monday after CNN pulled and retracted a story they worked on last week. In the piece, the trio drew a connection between hedge-fund manager Anthony Scaramucci, a Trump ally, and a Russian investment fund reportedly being investigated by the Senate.
Haris had been with CNN since 2001. Lichtblau was just hired away from the New York Times in April. Clearly CNN is more than a little hypersensitive about being labeled “Fake News,” particularly when the accusation may be correct. To be clear, it’s not that the story has proven to be false, according to CNN. It simply, at this time, has not proven to be accurate.
As Will McAvoy and Charlie Skinner would attest, the story never passed the red team test. This is a bad look for CNN top guy Jeff Zucker.
3. Penis de Milo?*
*The judges will also accept “Mein Shaft” even though that’s a German pun, not a Norwegian one.
In Norway, a famous rock formation south of Stavanger known as Trollpikken, which resembles an erect penis, was cut off over the weekend. Police have no suspects but are rounding up area rabbis.
Meanwhile, locals have already raised thousands of dollars and the plan is to put Trollpikken back in place, or res-erect it, using reinforced rods and bolts. In other words, after a reasonable dormant period (it is pretty old, after all), Trollpikken will return to its erect state.
4. Miller’s Out Post
When we last saw everyone’s favorite lovable tech a-hole, Erlich Bachman, who runs the incubator out of which Pied Piper runs in HBO’s Silicon Valley, he was lit up on opium in a hut along the Silk Road. And that’s the last we will see of T.J. Miller on the show.
Miller and Silicon Valley announced a parting of the ways last week after four seasons, but because Miller is not that far removed from the self-absorbed and mildly deluded character he plays, he gave a candid exit interview to The Hollywood Reporter. “I just thought that what the show has suffered from, what’s bad about it, is that Richard [Thomas Middleditch] is the CEO and then he isn’t but then he finds his way back to be CEO,” said Miller, “and then once he finds his way back to being the CEO he says he doesn’t want to be the CEO, and it’s just the same thing over and over.”
He’s right, you know. It’s classic Gilligan’s Island or even Seinfeld. They’re always coming back to the lagoon or the coffee shop and starting over from scratch. Does that make it less of a show? Your call.
5. Daily Harrumph: The McEnroe-Serena Non-troversy
What’s the deal here? Yesterday John McEnroe, promoting a book whose title is his catchphrase but in light of what would happen is particularly ironic, You Cannot Be Serious, was interviewed on NPR by Lulu Garcia-Navarro. Here’s the transcript of the part that raised everyone’s cackles:
Garcia-Navarro: We’re talking about male players but there is of course wonderful female players. Let’s talk about Serena Williams. You say she is the best female player in the world in the book.
McEnroe: Best female player ever — no question.
Garcia-Navarro: Some wouldn’t qualify it, some would say she’s the best player in the world. Why qualify it?
McEnroe: Oh! Uh, she’s not, you mean, the best player in the world, period?
Garcia-Navarro: Yeah, the best tennis player in the world. You know, why say female player?
McEnroe: Well because if she was in, if she played the men’s circuit she’d be like 700 in the world.
Garcia-Navarro: You think so?
McEnroe: Yeah. That doesn’t mean I don’t think Serena is an incredible player. I do, but the reality of what would happen would be I think something that perhaps it’d be a little higher, perhaps it’d be a little lower. And on a given day, Serena could beat some players. I believe because she’s so incredibly strong mentally that she could overcome some situations where players would choke ’cause she’s been in it so many times, so many situations at Wimbledon, The U.S. Open, etc. But if she had to just play the circuit — the men’s circuit — that would be an entirely different story.
Let’s not forget that only a sentence or two earlier McEnroe called Serena the greatest female tennis player ever
McEnroe has seen and played and knows way more about tennis than myself or anyone reading this. Yes, “like 700” seems plenty low, but I’m not certain why we need to haggle over the number. Wasn’t the dumber part of this interview the fact that Garcia-Navarro would be so willfully obtuse as to wonder why McEnroe did not consider Serena the greatest tennis player, period? Diana Taurasi may be the best women’s basketball player of all time (or you can name someone else), but could she make an NBA club? Not on pure merit.
The Beatles were so talentedtouched by God that they could just fart out pop song perfection. This tune is from, by most accounts (not mine), their second-best album of 1967, Magical Mystery Tour. If you only had one song to explain the genius and simplicity of John, Paul, George and Ringo, this would get my vote. Released in November of 1967, the song hit No. 1 in eight different countries, including the US, UK, Australia and Canada.
Dodger rookie Cody Bellinger smashes two home runs in one game for the sixth time this season and then tells ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt that he does not recognize the name Jerry Seinfeld (whose eponymous show left the air when Bellinger was three years old).
Clip-n-Save: The most multi-home run games in one season in MLB history is 11, a record that is held by both Hank Greenberg (1938) and Sammy Sosa (1998) The most in a career? 71, by George Herman “Babe” Ruth, who was truly king of his castle, which is why they called Yankee Stadium the House That Ruth Built.
p.s. The Dodgers swept the first-place Colorado Rockies this weekend to take over first place in the N.L. West.
2. Keep On Truckee
Emma does it again, always with a smile
Northern California, inland, was the place to be for acolytes of running this weekend. At the USA Track & Field Championships in Sacramento, familiar faces such as Evan Jager (men’s steeple), Emma Coburn (women’s steeple) and Jenny Simpson (1500) were all winners again. For Jager it was his sixth straight USATF title, for Coburn her sixth overall, and for Simpson her 4th in a row.
The Western States is as difficult as it gets
Meanwhile at the Western States 100 Endurance Run, the granddaddy of 100-mile ultras that is staged between Squaw Valley and Auburn, 35 year-old Ryan Sandes of South Africa won in 16 hours, 19 minutes and 38 seconds while American Cat Bradley won the women’s race in 19:31:30. If you’re curious, Sandes averaged just below a 10-minute mile while Bradley averaged an 11:42 mile.
This was an extremely torturous Western States (first race was in 1974) as competitors had to deal with snow and mud still on course due to the 100-year level of snowfall the area received this winter as well as temperatures that soared close to 100 degrees.
3. Disastrophes Abroad
In China, more than 100 are dead or missing following a landslide.
In Pakistan, 153 die when a tanker explodes as locals were running toward the leaking fuel carrier to gather up gas in pots. The truck had crashed and was sitting on the side of the road. As gas formed in pools around it, villagers rushed to collect it. Maybe someone was smoking, maybe not, but the truck suddenly burst into a huge fireball.
In Colombia, 31 people are missing after a tourist boat capsized in a reservoir.
Meet Man Bun Ken. Last week Mattel unveiled 15 new Kens (Barbie is a player!), featuring one with a dad bod, another with freckles and the one above. Pabst Blue Ribbon can sold separately.
The smartest move Clay Travis ever made was not to be a full-time employee of Fox Sports. By maintaining his independence, as a sort of contracted partner with Fox via his website, Outclick The Coverage, he can tweet tweets such as the one above without fear of reprisal.
Outkick VIP is being built right now. What’s right price for year’s access to gambling picks, message board, & special VIP events?
Over the weekend Outclick announced that it would be offering premium pay-only content.
Used To Love Her
On any Top 10 list of Not-In-Love songs, please place this gem from Guns ‘n Roses from 1988. Guitarist Izzy Stradlin (whose own stage name is a pun) on the inspiration for the tune: “I was sitting around listening to the radio and some guy was whining about a broad who was treating him bad. I wanted to take the radio and smash it against the wall. Such self-pity! What a wimp! So we rewrote the same song we heard with a better ending.”
A Word, Please
Kept secret, particularly because it would be disapproved of
Hope you enjoyed it, Brooklyn. That’s the most NBA excitement you’ll have for the next 12 months at least.
Questions, Thoughts, Insights & Outsights:
–The Lakers added Lonzo Ball AND Villanova’s Josh Hart? One was the second pick in the first round, the other the final pick of the first round. Lots of folks had Hart as their Naismith winner after two months last season. He’s one of three first-round picks this year who played for an NCAA champion (Tony Bradley and Justin Jackson, UNC).
–The Portland Trail Blazers landed arguably the two most talented big men in the draft: Gonzaga seven-footer Zach Collins and Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan. Let’s go to a live look-in to Bill Walton’s Wavy Gravy Tent to see just how excited Big Red is about those two picks. He’s going to LOVE Collins’ toughness.
–Sacramento selects Harry Giles of Duke, a frosh who has already undergone two major knee surgeries. Is he Greg Oden or is he Dwight Howard? We’ll see. One of three Duke players taken among the top 20 picks. How did they fail to reach the Final Four again??? Is Coach K on the hot seat?
–The Indiana Pacers made an outstanding pick in UCLA’s T.J. Leaf, who led the Bruins in scoring last season. It’ll be funny to see which UCLA Bruin from 2016-17 Paul George winds up playing with a year from now, but that’ll have a lot to do with the drama that Lonzo and LaVar bring to Staples.
The Pacers finally have their own Jimmy Chitwood
–The Bulls add seven-footer Lauri Markkanen while also undermining any current contenders’ (Cavs, Celtics) shot of landing Jimmy Butler by trading him. You have to think/hope that Butler is smart enough to stay in Minnesota, where Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins assure that the future is very bright. Gonna miss Zach Lavine up there, though. Chicago is going to be SO average, if not just outright bad.
–You have to love the Motown went with a white boy band singer in Duke’s Luke Kennard. He’s got game, but we’re yet to see how it’ll translate to the NBA level. One of the smartest, if not THE smartest, player I watched on the court last season.
–You know who, besides their remaining fans, really despises the New York Knicks’ selection of French guard Frank Ntilikina? The headline writers at The Daily News and New York Post. How do you have any word play with that?
–Here’s hoping for years of a California rivalry between Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox and LA’s Lonzo Ball. As you know, Fox put up 39 on the Bruins when Kentucky ousted them from the tournament. When is the last tie Sac-Town had a player you were this excited to see?
—Josh Jackson to the Suns. The right move and the closest thing to a 21st-century Walter Davis. A starting five of Booker, Bledsoe, Jackson, Marquese Chriss and Alex Len will be fun to watch.
–Jayson Tatum to the Celtics. Hmm. It’s difficult to create when Isaiah Thomas has the ball in his hands. I like but do not love this pick.
—Markelle Fultz. For the second year in a row, the Sixers land the No. 1 overall pick who played for a team that failed to be one of the 68 teams to make the NCAA tournament. Should that matter?
I don’t trust The Process. The Sixers look like a very good AAU team, but will they have a winner’s pedigree?
In Phoenix, locals are remaining indoors, planes are grounded, and rattlesnakes are becoming more visible as the Valley of the Sun braces for a potential fourth consecutive day of record heat. Monday: 118 degrees. Tuesday: 119 degrees. Yesterday: 116 degrees. All record highs for June 19, 20 and 21st, respectively.
More than 50 flights were grounded on Tuesday. In hotter weather, planes need more speed to achieve lift, and the runway at Sky Harbor is not long enough to accommodate them.
As for the rattlesnakes? They’re always the perfect side dish to hellish circumstances.
2. Burger Is Well, Done
Perhaps you can see why French model and fitness blogger Rebecca Burger was so popular on Instagram. Last Sunday Burger, 33, was killed when a faulty whip cream canister exploded and the siphon struck her in the chest, inciting cardiac arrest.
I have no words. I mean, I do, but they’re probably not appropriate at this time. Let’s move on…
3. Inside Sedition
Police in India arrested 19 people for celebrating after Pakistan defeated India in a cricket match in England last weekend. They celebrated with firecrackers, distributing sweets and raising slogans of ‘Long live Pakistan,’ ” police officer Ramasray Yadav, who is investigating the case, said. “They expressed hatred toward India and friendship toward Pakistan. They are charged for sedition and criminal conspiracy.”
4. Rupp’s Arena
You’ll likely be asleep, since the race will start at 1:09 A.M. Eastern time (even though it is being staged in Sacramento), but the U.S. 10-K Championship is being run tonight and Galen Rupp is striving for his NINTH consecutive win. That’s pretty damn impressive. Not televised. NBC Sports Net will be running a re-run of the Nitro Games at that hour.
All of this is taking place, by the way, as the USADA suggests strongly that Rupp and five other Nike Oregon Project runners violated anti-doping rules.
5. Close, But No, Seager
Missed this from two nights ago, but in the Dodgers’ 12-0 drubbing of the Mets (oh, Mets were drubbed alright), reigning NL Rookie of the Year Corey Seager hit a solo homer, a two-run homer and a three-run jack.
Having already hit those three bombs, Seager stepped up to bat in the bottom of the sixth inning with the bases juiced and the opportunity to become the first player in Major League Baseball history to hit all four types of home runs, in terms of number of men in base, in one game. Alas, he lined out to left.
Oh, Cody Bellinger also hit a home run in that game. He’ll be this year’s NL Rookie of the Year. Both Seager and Bellinger are 23 or younger. The Dodgers are the new Cubs.
On the first day of summer, Game of Thrones releases its “Winter Is Here” Season 7 trailer. Coincidence?
By the time this Berkeley-based band released this perfect-for-summer song in 2002, Counting Crows had already jumped the shark with critics and too many of its original fans. I was still hoping they’d pull out of their nosedive, as I loved their first two albums (the soundtrack of many fabulous weekends spent in San Francisco in the mid-Nineties). Damn, I’m oversharing again…
A Word, Please
Not likely to provoke dissent. Inoffensive, often deliberately so.
7 p.m. ESPN
Finally, an NBA event this month filled with intrigue and excitement. There’s a good chance De’Aaron Fox will fall to fifth, which in five years will seem incredible to me (it already does).
Last winter brought the most rain ever recorded in northern California and in the high Sierras, that meant a lot of snow. More than 200 inches worth.
So as we awake to the summer solstice, you should know that Squaw Valley is still open for skiing, perhaps through August, but that it’s also warm enough also to hang out in the pool. It’s like, what if a Coors Lite commercial actually happened?
California, land of the endless summer, is now also land of the endless winter…
2. Race Tragedy in Alaska
At the Robert Spurr Memorial Hill Climb race south of Anchorage last Sunday, 16 year-old Patrick Cooper turned around after reaching the halfway point, accidentally veered off the trail and got lost. The next creature he encountered was a black bear, who gave chase. Cooper had time to frantically phone his brother and inform he was being pursued, but he could not escape the bear.
This is just what bears do.
Race crews found Cooper’s body and the bear guarding it. A park ranger shot the bear in the face, but it simply ran away.
*The judges will also accept “Goodwill Hunting For Cash”
In Zanesville, Ohio, Dan and Lynette Leckrone donated bags of old clothes to Goodwill and inadvertently included a duffel bag stuffed with $97,000 in cash. The workers who found the cash initially thought it was play money, but after realizing that it was not fake, tracked down the couple and returned it to them. Which was quite a magnanimous gesture of…good will.
4. That Escalated Quickly
The dash cam video of the shooting and killing of Philando Castile has been released. Watch for yourself. Officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted for shooting a man who was legally possessing a weapon and informed the officer that he had the weapon. So you can understand why the National Rifle Association is so, pardon the expression, up in arms about this incident. Oh, wait. The NRA hasn’t said a peep? Interrrrrresting.
5. De’Aaron Fox (Cont.)
Remember—cuz I keep reminding you—about four to six weeks ago how I told you that a plethora of draftniks would soon over Kentucky guard De’Aaron Fox (as I have) and continue to elevate him as the NBA Draft (Thursday) approached? Here’s the latest, from Bleacher Report‘s Jonathan Abrams, breathlessly informing the Philadelphia 76ers that they’ll regret not having selected him.
Dig: If the Sixers take Markelle Fultz, the Lakers are selecting Lonzo Ball (I think, even though they should take Fox). That leaves it to the Celtics, who I fear, for my Suns’ sake, will select Josh Jackson. If all this unfolds, Phoenix has a sticky choice: Select Duke forward Jayson Tatum, who better fits their need area, or take Fox, giving them a FIFTH Kentucky guard on the roster (for now).
Hoping the Celtics take Tatum so the the Suns can select Jackson. But if they take Jackson, the Suns should take Fox and deal with the fallout later. Everyone’s right. This kid’s gonna be a star.
p.s. If I’m the Lakers, I’m consulting Kobe as to whom he’d take at No. 2. I trust his opinion better than Magic’s.
It’s The Sun
On the longest day of the year in terms of sunlight (I mean, all days are 24 hours long, after all), let’s enjoy this 2002 ditty from those Dallas hippies, The Polyphonic Spree. I saw them at Irving Plaza in 2004 or ’05 and it’s one of the five best shows I’ve ever attended.
Last week the New York Times released its list of the “25 Best Films of the 21st Century (So Far),” a few of which the typical moviegoer had actually seen. Then we asked our favorite film critic, Chris Corbellini, to compile a list for us, which he did. It is far more accessible to the non-pedant and is in our opinion, simply a better list.
Because the exercise is so tempting, the MH crap staff has compiled one of our own. A few caveats and notes: Yes, Ruth, the 21st century did not begin until January 1, 2001, but we’re going to give ourselves that one more year; second, it is to us indisputable that this century has provided far superior fare in television than in films (or music). Ask us to put a list of Top 25 Films of the 1990s and we’re off like Dennis Hopper driving the bus in Speed; for this century, though, that’s a tougher task.
One reason we/I compiled this list is because our/my list does not dovetail that closely with either of the aforementioned lists. Only two films—The Hurt Locker and Mad Max: Fury Road—appear on all three of our lists. The other? I’ve got a little more “down time” (inside joke for Newsweek staffers) on my hands now.
I think Chris put it best in terms of how to evaluate what films deserve to be on one’s list: “these movies simply got to me, or wowed me on a technical level, or both. It was and should be the only standard that matters.” The “chills” standard, be it from fright or awe or suspense, matters. The best movies leave not scars but goosebumps.
This is far from an empirical list: some lauded films I simply have yet to see (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, City of God, Moonlight, Twelve Years A Slave) and others I wish I hadn’t: Crash, Million Dollar Baby, Boyhood. Has there ever been a period in film with such a plethora of self-important, charm-and/or-humor-free films? Finally, I added some docs but I don’t consider the OJ “30 For 30” a cinematic release. And that’s why it isn’t on this list.
(p.s. The “Just Missed” list is at the bottom…)
(p.p.s. An asterisk means neither previous list included this film.)
Pitch Perfect (2012) *
There’s truth in advertising, as this smart, snarky and wildly entertaining film’s title attests (I’ve added this film to the list after an oversight yesterday because, to be honest, there are not 25 more films, not even 10, on this list that I’d prefer to see again before seeing this one). From a shower duet of “Titanium” (“that’s my jam”) to the riff-off to a surfeit of funny put-downs, this film is a ca-awesome. I’m sorry I forgot to include it yesterday.
Match Point (2005) *
My heart told me to write Midnight In Paris, but my head pointed to London for this Woody Allen film of deceit and adultery. An incredibly dark film—Hannah and Her Sisters on the Thames—but a spell-binding one. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers conveys the tension of his self-induced entrapment (i.e. “unforced errors”) and ScarJo is the other woman whom Bill Murray would not have been able to resist.
Lost In Translation (2003)
So many people on this planet and so many things to do, but all most of us really yearn for is a soulmate. When Bill Murray and Scarlett Johanssen find one another, they realize their relationship is ephemeral, but they’ll enjoy while it lasts.
A film that begins in outer space and ends with a creature emerging from the sea and taking its first, unsteady steps on terra firma. How’s that for turning evolution on its, ear, HAL? Like Mad Max: Fury Road, this is a story revolving around a heroine and a chase for survival, but unlike that one, it is also a portrait of Mother Earth in all her grandeur. Just SEEING this film is more than half the reward.
J.K. Simmons starts out as Louis Gossett, Jr’s drill sergeant from An Officer and A Gentleman and then adds five layers of malevolence. Fully engrossing with a dynamite final scene.
Wow Moment: The dining room scene.
Argo (2012) *
Kudos to Ben Affleck for marrying a suspenseful, true-life story with some comic relief in the personages of Alan Arkin and John Goodman. The scene in which Affleck, who produced this Oscar-winning film, suggests to Arkin that he could pose as the fictitious film’s producer and is immediately shot down is some wonderful navel-gazing. Argo f___ yourself!
The Tillman Story (2010) *
The unnecessary death of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan is only half of an American tragedy. The other half is how the most trusted figures in American government, such as Donald Rumsfeld, covered their asses and betrayed the very ideals for which Tillman fought. An honest, emotional film that should have you enraged and heartbroken as the lights come up. There are no other Pat Tillmans out there.
I’m not letting this entire list go without at least one Aaron Sorkin-penned film and I’ll take this over The Social Network. This may be Brad Pitt’s best role since Thelma & Louise and the script is so well-done (Update: there’s another film lower on this list that I did not realize is a Sorkin script but I should have because it’s so well-written: Charlie Wilson’s War).
Wow Moment: When Jonah Hill plays the tape of the batter falling and the crowd cheering because, unbeknownst to him, he hit a home run. Do you get the metaphor, Mr. Beane?
Syriana (2005) *
Watch it again and see how prophetic this tale of big oil, the Middle East and big government is.
Wow Moment: Matt Damon’s character explaining to the Arab prince what the rest of the world thinks of his country’s economic strategy.
La La Land (2016)
Overrated? Slightly, but the opening number, followed closely by “Someone In The Crowd,” an upbeat let’s-go-out-and-meet-Mr.-Dreamy tune that literally ends with a splash, and then a short time later by the Gosling-Stone duet, are all movie musical moments that will live forever. The story lagged as soon as John Legend and reality made their entry, but that’s okay. La La Land won me over in the first 20 minutes and I never revoked its pass.
Wow Moment: The opening number. Sunshine and bumper-to-bumper traffic are as L.A. as it gets.
Sexy Beast (2001) *
Ben Kingsley inhabits a character, Don, that is as antipodal to Gandhi as he could possibly find. Don is simultaneously terrifying and hilarious, the archduke of not giving two shits about the consequences of his words or actions. He’s profusely profane. Ian McShane is fabulous as the top gangster Teddy Bass. “Where there’s a will – and there is a fucking will – there’s a way – and there is a fucking way.”
The Great Beauty (2013)*
An impressionist painting of a film, this Italian Best Foreign Film Oscar winner is an elegy on the fleeting nature of time as well as a celebration of life and Rome. Don’t worry too much about the plot, just absorb the feeling of this film through your pores. This one definitely got to me.
Michael Clayton (2007)
In one scene, Tom Wilkinson was so captivating and surprisingly lucid (was he the template for Chuck McGill?) that he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, and he might should have won. This is my favorite George Clooney performance and, as Chris previously wrote, he only left his car (and saved his own life) to see those horses in the dawn mist because he had a tiny smidge of his own soul remaining.
The Hurt Locker (2008) *
War is the drug and Jeremy Renner’s main character is our addict. The scene in which the local man is booby-trapped to a bomb and Renner realizes that he won’t be able to save him in time and that all he can do is express his regrets is a microcosm, I’d argue, of the Iraq War.
Once (2007) *
Sometimes the best love stories are asexual (or at least that’s what many women have told me 🙂 ). Glen Hansard is winning as the Dublin busker who’s given up on being happy until he meets an Eastern European muse.
Wow Moment: The scene at the recording studio as the engineer puts down his magazine, genuinely surprised and captivated by “When Your Mind’s Made Up.” More than a song, it is the sound of someone’s dream coming true.
In Bruges (2008) *
Colin Farrell has never been more sympathetic or charming and Ralph Fiennes does his best work since Schindler’s List. An idiosyncratic film in an idiosyncratic setting and a magical little story about consequences, intended and unintended.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Redefining “Bitch on wheels.” A brief prologue and then a mad thrill ride through a dystopian desert. This is NOT the type of film I normally enjoy, and yet I bought my ticket, got past the “You Must Be This Tall To Ride This Ride” screening, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It never hurts to have supermodels as human cargo and Charlize Theron as the earth mother/heroine. Like the parched citizens of that community, you’ll need a cold shower after this one.
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) *
I was legitimately surprised that this Spanish film, a fairy tale and horror flick at the same time, made neither list. It was engrossing and terrifying and magical, all at once. I’d take this film over all three Peter Jackson hobbit films without thinking twice about it.
No Country For Old Men (2007) *
“Call it.” Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) is more than a hired hit man; he is fate coming to exact its due. Who died and made him boss? Does it matter? Fair point by our friend CC that the movie loses something in that its three main characters—Chigurh, Llewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin) and Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones)——never share a scene together, not even two of the three. Still, it’s a tantalizing chase and, like death itself or one’s own shadow, it is impossible to shake Chigurh.
Wow moment: The scene at the gas station between Anton and the attendant.
Charlie Wilson’s War (2007) *
Tom Hanks’ most charming role this century and Julia Roberts is a hoot. Their sexual chemistry crackles. But it is the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman as CIA operative Gust Avrakotos who steals the film with every scene in which he appears. Like Argo, a genuinely authentic look at government/foreign relations in the Carter/Reagan era.
Wow Moment: When Gust tells off his superior, played by a slimy John Slattery, smashes his office plate glass (for a second time), then asks a secretary “How was I?” as he makes his triumphant exit.
Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon (2013) *
A love story between a man and the art of living well. On a surface level, Shep Gordon is a manager of musicians and other talented artists. Beneath the surface, he is a legendary character who once shared a cat with Cary Grant and swept Sharon Stone off her feet at the height of her superstardom (and dated her for a few years). Mike Myers produced this film and you will be wowed by the extraordinary life that Shep has led. LOVED this film.
Wow Moment: In his first night in LA, Shep breaks up what he thinks is a sexual assault at the pool of the budget hotel where he is lodging. Turns out the two people involved were Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin and they were making out.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Quentin Tarantino does not write screenplays as much as he does phenomenally tense and at the same time funny scenes, which he then slaps together to make a film. The opening scene in this film, and the German beer hall scene (you have to know how to signal “3” in German or it can cost you your manhood) are unforgettably great. This film never surpasses its opening 10 minutes (the La La Land curse), but there’s no shame in that.
Mad Max, meet Mad Maximus. The special effects, particularly the opening scene, laid the groundwork for what would follow in Game Of Thrones. When this film first came out, I equated it and Crowe to the NBA playoffs and left-for-dead superstar willing his unlikely team to the NBA Finals. LeBron, this could be you in five years….
Grizzly Man (2005) *
I don’t know that any film had a greater effect on me or any character more of one than Timothy Treadwell. Is he narcissistic, delusional and manipulative (with his girlfriend, who would also die)? All of the above.
On the other hand, who is to say that he didn’t live a more fulfilling life than most of us, trapped in cubicles and hoping to do a safari or a drive through Yellowstone one day? The world is a magical and miraculous canvas of wonders, and most of us are too busy shopping at Target to pay attention. Who’s the idiot here?
Wow Moment: The closing moment, as the bush pilot sings along to Don Edwards’ “Coyotes” and we see shots from behind of Treadwell walking across a meadow trailed by a fox or down a stream bed. To this day I get chills watching it. Life is but a dream, and this man realized his.
The Hangover (2009) *
Most comedies limp to the finish line in their third act (I’m looking squarely at you, Anchorman), but this one sped to the finish as if it were trying to make a wedding in Brentwood with no time to spare. There’s not a wasted scene in this comedy, the throwaway lines (“I shoulda been a cop,” or “They gave out rings at the Holocaust”) are gold, and just when you think you’ve had enough surprises and laughs, there’s a foul-mouthed wedding singer to keep you chuckling. The Hangover wasn’t just by far the best comedy of this millennium, it’s one of the most seamless movies. And I’m more than happy to defend that “take.”
By the way, the filmmakers give us a HUGE clue as to where the missing groom is early on, but I’m venturing to say that, like me, you did not pick up on it.
Almost Famous (2000)
“So, Russell, what do you love about music?”
“To begin with…everything.”
And THAT is how you end a film that is one long thank-you letter from someone who fell in love with music at an early age and was saved by it forever. Cameron Crowe’s film is extremely quotable (“You’ll meet them all again on the long journey to the middle”) and once again, limited doses of Philip Seymour Hoffman are ambrosia. It’s no coincidence that we title every daily entry on this blog “It’s All Happening!” (stated by a young Jay Baruchel).
Just Missed: I’m sure I forgot some film that I would want on this list, but for now: Napoleon Dynamite, The Departed, The Witch and The Imitation Game.
Footnotes: I did not see There Will Be Blood until last winter. I understand that it was well-acted, etc. but I’m not sure I was all that entertained by this Citizen Crude tale.
I’d belatedly like to add the documentary Senna as well as the F/1 film Rush to the Just Missed list. Two other films that are related that I enjoyed: Munich and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. With a few tweaks the latter could have been an excellent film. Alas, it was too confusing to really get on the first viewing.
On the season finale of Better Call Saul, vindictive and psychosomatic big brother Chuck McGill kicks over a lantern, intentionally. The next shot we see, from the exterior, is the ugliest home in Albuquerque in the first stages of going up in flames.
Having been handed a “Get Out of Our Lives” $3 million check from Howard Hamlin (with a promise of two more to come), and having told his little brother, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you have never meant that much to me,” and having already been embarrassed in front of his ex-wife, there was no future for Chuck. Kudos to writer Gennifer Hutchison for the flashback at the opening of the episode with Chuck and Jimmy in a tent, reading by lantern.
The big question for next year? Who gets all of that Hamlin money Chuck has left? Is Jimmy in the will (NO!) and will he contest it?
p.s. Did you notice in last week’s penultimate show of the season as Jimmy was giving the hard sell to the ladies at Sandpiper what movie was playing in the background? Night of The Hunter. There was Jimmy fooling an audience of rapt believers as a black-and-white charlatan in the background, played by Robert Mitchum, did the same. Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould reward you for paying attention.
2. Otto Warmbier
The death of University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier, after 17 months in captivity in North Korea, is a deadly reminder that not all countries have the same idea of justice. Warmbier, then 20, was traveling in China in December of 2015 when he signed up for a five-day tour of North Korea through a Chinese company that promoted their excursions as “budget travel to destinations your mother would rather you stayed away from.”
What came next, after Warmbier ripped down a propaganda poster, probably to bring home as a keepsake, was basically a hybrid of The Island and Brokedown Palace.
There is no happy ending here, and the weird part is that North Korea still holds three Americans in jail.
3. Eager Beavers
Harrison’s grand slam brought the Beavers out of the dugout
The Oregon State baseball team has won 23 games in a row…for the second time this season. The Beavers routed LSU 13-1 at the College World Series yesterday to move to an unearthly 56-4 on the season and 2-0 since the CWS launched in Omaha.
Adding a layer of awkwardness and bizarre to the Beavers’ odyssey is that they’ve won their last seven without their ace, Luke Heimlich, who removed himself from the team (for the postseason) after it came to light that he had molested a four year-old family member a few years back. The lefty was 11-1 and led the nation in both ERA (0.76) and WHIP (0.78) when he took himself out of the rotation earlier this month.
First baseman K.J. Harrison hit a grand slam in last night’s win, the first in the new TD Ameritrade Stadium during a CWS. The Beavers do not play again until Thursday.
The original European music festival, Glastonbury, kicks off tomorrow and runs through Sunday. On the bill: Radiohead, Lorde, Foo Fighters, Katy Perry, Kris Kristofferson, Haim, Ed Sheeran and Liam Gallagher.
The inception of this event took place in 1971 and featured David Bowie, Traffic, Melanie and, I shit you not, a band named The Worthy Farm Windf*ckers.
5. Another Pitch For The Sellout
Paul Beatty won the Man Booker Prize for his brilliant and hilarious novel about race, political correctness, and the propriety of segregation in the right circumstances
Near the end of Paul Beatty‘s brilliant 2015 satire about race in America, the narrator, Bonbon, casually mentions that he put down his copy of Catch-22. That’s hardly a throwaway line, since in spirit and in tone I’ve never read a book that comes as close to Joseph Heller’s classic.
I can’t do justice to how shake-your-head, he-didn’t-just-write-that-did-he funny this book is, but the New York Times Book Review did a decent job of it. They’re also correct that the second half of the book cannot keep up with the promise of the first, but it’s not a steep drop-off and there are so many gems about race and hypocrisy (and The Little Rascals) within that you won’t mind.
If Spike Lee hasn’t already optioned the rights to this book, I don’t know why not.
He Stopped Loving Her Today
By April of 1980 country music legend George Jones had not had a No. 1 country single in six years. Then he released this song, written by Bobby Braddock and Curly Putnam, and not only did it skyrocket to No. 1 but remained there for 18 weeks.
Mets at Dodgers
10 p.m. ESPN
For those of us who have yet to watch rookie Cody Bellinger, who now has 21 home runs and is the West Coast’s answer to Aaron Judge.
On the day Roger Ebert would have turned 75, our own Chris Corbellini posted his “25 Best Films Since 2000” list yesterday. If you missed it, here it is.
I remember her as the freshman who was unable to crack the starting lineup at UConn (all five starters were or would be first-team All-Americans), but her coach, Geno Auriemma, was correct when he forsoothed that Diana Taurasi would be the greatest of them all.
Yesterday in Los Angeles Taurasi scored 19 points to pass Tina Thompson as the WNBA’s all-time scoring leader. Thompson, who played with the Houston Comets, scored 7,488 points in 17 seasons; Taurasi, who has spent her entire WNBA career with the Phoenix Mercury, now has 7, 494 points in fewer than 13 seasons (recall her team from Russia paid her a hefty sum to NOT play in the WNBA last season).
Perhaps the best thing for Taurasi yesterday is that the kid from Chino’s childhood idol was in attendance: Kobe Bryant.
Last note: she’s a better passer than she is a shooter.
2. Golf”s Leaderboard Is Very Crowded
The immediate story is that 27 year-old Brooks Koepka, a Florida State alum who has already dated two hyperlink-worthy women (Becky Edwards and Jena Sims), won the U.S. Open at Erin Hills yesterday. Koepka, in winning his first major, shot a minus-16, tying Rory McIlroy for the greatest score to-par in a U.S. Open.
The larger story? Koepka becomes the seventh consecutive major winner (Sergio Garcia, 2017 Masters; Jimmy Walker, 2016 PGA Championship; Henrik Stenson, 2016 British Open; Dustin Johnson, 2016 U.S. Open; Danny Willett, 2016 Masters; Jason Day, 2015 PGA Championship) who is a first-time major winner. Good for that septet, but not necessarily good for golf.
There is only one golfer under the age of 45 who has won at least five PGA majors. His name? Tiger Woods. And he’s probably toast.
3. Fenn Diagram
Yesterday Earlier today CBS This Morning profiled the deadly treasure hunt involving Santa Fe art dealer and author Forrest Fenn. Not unlike another alliterative New Mexican, Walter White, Fenn was diagnosed with cancer and immediately became obsessed with riches. Instead of accumulating them, however, Fenn sought to give away some $2 million worth of gold coins and other treasure.
The catch? Fenn, 87, hid his loot somewhere in the Rocky Mountains seven years ago and only provided this poem as a clue. A Colorado pastor has recently gone missing in search of the treasure and last year, Randy Bilyeu, 54, was found dead after searching for the treasure in a remote area of the Rio Grande.
Charlie Rose after the piece aired: “Money will drive you crazy.” His sit-in co-host: “Yes, it will. So will billionaires.”
4. Sunshine on My Shoulders*
*The judges are opting to use other John Denver songs instead of always going with the obvious one here.
He is the best player that nobody knows playing for the best team that no one talks about. But that may change after yesterday. With his Colorado Rockies trailing the San Francisco Giants 5-4 with one out in the bottom of the ninth, Nolan Arenado struck a game-winning three-run blast over the left-field wall. It was Arenado’s fourth hit of the game, following a triple in the first, a double in the fourth and a single in the sixth.
Colorado now has baseball’s second-best record (46-26) after the Houston Astros and Arenado has his first career cycle. He’s now batting .299 with 15 homers and 55 RBI and it’s worth remembering that the SoCal native LED the National League in BOTH home runs and RBI the previous two seasons without, I think, ever leading off SportsCenter.
5. Farewell, Flounder
“Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son” — Dean Wormer to Dorfman, a.k.a. Flounder (Stephen Furst)
Actor Stephen Furst, who played Flounder in the 1978 film Animal House, the funniest college comedy since the Marx Brothers did Horse Feathers, passed away at age 63.
Update on the Grenfell Tower tragedy in London last week: at least 79 dead.
What a sound Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young had. They were rock ‘n roll’s first “super team,” as Graham Nash had come over from The Hollies, Stephen Stills and Neil Young from the Buffalo Springfield, and David Crosby from The Byrds. This song defnes 1970, that transition from the turbulent/psychedelic late Sixties to the songwriter-heavy California sound of the early Seventies.
The bridge from 1:54 to 2:09 is one of the most ethereal moments in rock history. You gotta listen to that!
Better Call Saul
10 p.m. AMC
Season finale. I’m an episode behind as I type this, but I’ll be there. Mike Ehrmentraut demands nothing less.
Last weekend the New York Times released a list of the “25 Best Films of the 21st Century (So Far)” because after all, as the paper astutely pointed out, we “are one-sixth of the way through the century.” The list was, to put it kindly, erudite; and to put it unkindly, trash. Million Dollar Baby? Had that film been any more overwrought and disingenuously affecting, they’d have titled it Crash.
Mad Maximus: How many other Best Picture winners made CC’s list besides Gladiator?
Anyway, the Medium Happy staff sought out its resident film connoisseur, Chris Corbellini (Yaayyyyyyy!), to compile a list. He was kind enough to turn around the assignment in under 24 hours. Here it is:
Below are my own top 25 films of the 21st Century.
Thank you, New York Times, for allowing me to put thought into this based off your 25, and a tip of the cap to you, John Walters, for allowing me to post a counter-list.
There was no complex formula involved. These movies simply got to me, or wowed me on a technical level, or both. It was and should be the only standard that matters. I started by writing out some of the titles that most affected me and tabulated afterward, hoping I hit 25 on the nose. Instead I listed 28, and begrudgingly took out three (Once, Slumdog Millionaire, Skyfall). Tougher still was ranking them all, 1-25.
While I’m here, some titles that just missed: Amelie, The Big Short, Zero Dark Thirty, War Horse, Inception, the Aviator, the Sapphires, and Love and Mercy. And I have not yet seen the O.J. doc, so perhaps one of the 25 gets bumped in the coming weeks.
Clearly I like the popular stuff, and Alfonso Cuaron movies (he has three on this list).
Feel free to come at me, you slack-jawed swill merchants. Counter-counter list me.
25. The Departed – Went back-and-forth between this and The Aviator, which is more aesthetically pleasing (so much green in the frame, and crispy edits). Decided on The Departed because I had to get a drink to decompress after viewing it.
24. The Hurt Locker – The slo-mo shots of the opening bomb blast, and Renner’s speech to his son about things you love sealed it over the other war films of this era.
23. Y Tu Mama Tambien–
So much more than a road trip coming-of-ager about two horned-up teens trying to score with the 30-year-old hottie that’s tagging along.
22. Catch Me If You Can – Great opening credits, plus the flight attendant escape, the always-reliable Hanks, and Walken-DiCaprio looking so much like father and son.
21. Sideways – Wine = Lust for Life. According to that lovely speech on the porch to poor Miles by Virginia Madsen (perhaps the best speech within this entire list).
20. Anchorman – Introduced me to Steve Carell, who obviously went on to a bigger movie career (it’s still going strong), and led a very good U.S. version of “The Office.” A mediocre sequel tarnished this comedy, but there are just so many quotable lines.
19. Michael Clayton:
Get in the way of big business, and you’re a fucking dead man. The last shred of Clayton’s soul got him out of that car to see those horses, but his soulless approach to his job saved him thereafter (“I’m a fixer! I’m a bagman!”)
18. Shaun of the Dead: Not sure Simon Pegg will ever be better (he co-wrote it as well). But the director, Edgar Wright, has an even bigger one ahead. You can feel it.
17. La La Land: Perhaps too high for a new entry. I’m still a little drunk on it. I loved “Fools Who Dream,” and it made me nostalgic for my time living in Santa Monica.
16. Before Sunset:
The one in the middle, not about what could be between Jesse and Celine, or what happened, but what they’ve missed out on in between.
15. Mad Max: Fury Road: The batshit crazy entry. Director George Miller no doubt put his stuntmen, stars and himself in serious danger at many points, dangling bodies off the side of speeding, fire-breathing trucks. But the end result is magic.
14. Lost in Translation: The final images of the film, after Murray whispers to ScarJo and kisses her goodbye, are moments in his travels that are passing him by while he thinks of her, lost in their time together, replaying the moments in his imagination.
13. Whale Rider:
I thought the lead — 12-year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes — was going to become a Hollywood superstar. Then in her teens she got pregnant, battled alcoholism, and to complete the child-star trifecta, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Thankfully now she’s getting TV parts, the biggest being “Game of Thrones.”
12. Finding Nemo: The opening barracuda scene is borderline-traumatic, especially for kids. That was a big risk by the creatives at Pixar. Yet because of it you are right there with the father’s overprotectiveness, and Nemo’s wish to return home.
11. Inglourious Basterds: Tarantino turns Hitler into hamburger helper.
10. The Dark Knight: Film historians may label the years 2000-2020 as the comic-book era. At least we’ll have this one at the top. The villain won a posthumous Oscar, and the “two-ferry, two-bomb” scenario elevated TDK to the best of its genre.
9. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: Biggest jaw drop moment for me, in a movie full of them … when the Riders of Rohan charged the elephants head on. Still, the loudest ovation came from the women in the audience when the female lead shouted “I am NO man!” before plunging her sword into an enemy’s face. I never forgot that, and I’m not surprised that Wonder Woman is doing so well this summer.
8. Midnight in Paris:
Woody gives Gertrude Stein this line: “We all fear death and question our place in the universe. The artist’s job is not to succumb to despair, but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence.” And somehow, this is a comedy.
7. The Royal Tenenbaums: The final 15 minutes of The Life Aquatic hits me deeper emotionally, but this novel (in a movie format) is a better Wes Anderson story credits to credits, carried by whimsy, family, a pitch-perfect soundtrack, and that son of a bitch Gene Hackman. It also has a spectacular dolly shot around a fire truck.
6. Gravity: A masterpiece of technical achievement. Could have been a silent movie.
5. Children of Men:
Imagery grotesque and intense, and brilliantly staged throughout. Interesting to note that despite the carnage that circles Clive Owen and the pregnant girl he’s destined to protect, he never once picks up a gun.
4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: What a script. An Oscar-winner. You want to be a screenwriter? Here’s the standard you should be reaching for. Kate Winslet had to play three versions of her character: how complicated she was pre-breakup, how vivid she was in his memory, and how lost she became after the operation.
3. Gladiator: The most re-watchable movie on this list. I thought it was a three-and-a-half star movie exiting the theater the first time I caught it, but it holds up spectacularly on the small screen. When Crowe hissed “The frost. Sometimes it makes the blade stick,” I realized I was watching bad-assery bound for Cooperstown.
2. City of God:
In stark contrast, I only watched C-O-D once. It practically seared my skin, and felt so grimy I checked for dirt under my fingernails. The main character would’ve won a Pulitzer for the gangland photos he snapped on the fly at the end.
1. Almost Famous: All you need is love. Love is all you need.