IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

STARTING FIVE

All that, AND Davis had a tremendous second half against Notre Dame in 1974.

1. Holy Brow!

This did not come out of nowhere…which is to say it came out of somewhere.

Anthony Davis was, after all, the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA’s 2012 Final Four despite making only one field goal in the championship game win over Kansas. The then-freshman DID collect 16 rebounds, block six shots, have five assists and three steals. He was a stat stuffer.

And, of course, Davis did become the No. 1 overall pick that June.

And though Davis’ first two years in the NBA with the New Orleans Non-Noels were decent, the light appeared to go on this summer at the World Championships in Spain. Charles Barkley declared afterward that the 6-10 Chicago native would be the NBA’s “next big thing” and Sir Charles may be on to something.

Yes, it’s not even Thanksgiving, and the NBA season does not really begin until Christmas Day…or is it All-Star Weekend?…or is it April?… but Davis currently LEADS the league in Blocks (3.9 pg) and Steals (!) (2.3 pg), is 5th in Rebounding (11.40) and 3rd, behind former NBA MVPs Kobe and LeBron, in Scoring (25.5 pg). No other NBA player is in the Top 5 in more than three categories (Stephen Curry and DeAndre Jordan).

2. Tweet-le Dumb

Jim preemptively mind-melding Hallie, begging her not to send out post-midnight, exhaust-fueled (hey, that’s a pun!) tweets.

Sunday night: Hallie Shea (a.k.a. Grace Gummer, a.k.a. Jim Harper’s Latest Squeeze, a.k.a. Meryl Streep’s Daughter) is fired from ANC News after a 2:37 a.m. tweet riffing on the Boston bombings in which she tweeted, and I quote, “Republicans rejoice that finally there’s a national tragedy that doesn’t involve guns.”

When Charlie Skinner terminates her ass, he asks what she was thinking at the time she typed those words, what value did it have? “Retweets,” she answers.

Fast forward to late Tuesday night, when a Florida State alumnus (and an attorney) shoots up an on-campus library. A tweet is sent from the account of Marisa Martin, an ESPNU Campus Connection student reporter (Martin actually attends the University of Alabama). The tweet reads, “Reported gunman on the FSU campus. Maybe he is headed for Jameis.

Then, after considerable –and understandable– brushback (though I don’t understand how #FSUTwitter did not get that tweet Spammed…you guys were off your game some), there is another tweet from the account:  “Since apparently I cant make a joke in all seriousness I hope everyone at FSU is safe & that the gunman is found. But I stand by my opinions.”

Then Martin deleted the account.

THEN…Martin went on another account –the Alabama Campus Connection Twitter feed –and claimed that her account had been hacked.

Hmm….

Marisa, it’s not the crime that condemns you most of the time. It’s the cover-up. We’ll see if this is truthful. Meanwhile, this is the second young, female reporter associated with FSU football who has landed in infamy this autumn. Natalie Pierre, who covered the Noles for the Tallahassee Democrat, resigned in early October amidst plagiarism charges.

We’ll see you at the Keefer 40th Anniversary Gala.

p.s. One more The Newsroom note: Olivia Munn (Sloan Sabbith) and Thomas Sadoski (Don Keefer) killed it last week. Best Sorkinian sexual tension banter since, when, “The American President?” “Sports Night?” Fantastic stuff. Great acting and even better dialogue. And not one, not two, but THREE walk-and-talks! (“Big laughs from the crowd”)

3. Nichols’ Worth

Judging from the reaction by Hollywood stars I admire such as Neal Patrick Harris and, last night on Letterman, Edward Norton, director Mike Nichols was more than just a prolific legend of both Broadway and films. He was a genuinely good guy. Nichols, who was married to Diane Sawyer (and was the father-in-law of Rachel Nichols) died on Wednesday.

(P.S. Norton was a last-minute replacement for Meryl Streep, who was either too overcome with grief over Nichols’ death or Hallie’s firing from ACN. I cannot be sure.)

At this moment, he really didn’t care where Joe DiMaggio had gone…

There’s a lot of work in his curriculum vitae. Probably the most indispensable was The Graduate. I’d point out to you, the next time (or if it’s the first time) you watch the film, to notice the camera angles. When Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) is being seduced by Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft, who was only six years older than he in real life), notice how the scene is shot from behind her bent and naked leg, which then frames a curious but unsure young man. Deft touch.

Nichols, who was born in Nazi Germany in 1931 and emigrated with his family to the U.S. in 1939 when they escaped (I’m not sure if they were all singers), was 83.

4. Just Win, Maybe!

It was a little soggy in Oakland last night. Gimme natural grass, all day (and night) long. And Howie Long.

 

The Oakland Raiders refuse to go 2008 Detroit Lions on us (the only NFL team to go 0-16; the Buccaneers only went 0-14) by defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 24-20 last night in O-Town (Do they call it O-Town? Or is that Orlando?). Anyway, it was not a huge surprise, as the Raiders had lost by seven or less in five of their first ten games.

One great “Pride & Poise” moment, though. Having taken a 24-20 lead with 1:42 remaining on a 9-yard TD pass from Derek Carr to James Jones, all the Raiders needed to do was hold K.C.

The Chiefs faced 4th-and-3 from their own 46 when Da Raidas committed THREE defensive penalties on the same play: two defensive holding infractions and one hands to the face. Pity for the Chiefs that it was a grab bag, and they were only allowed to choose one.

 

Three plays later, the Raiders celebrated a sack (or as I like to call them, a “Matuszak,” 20 yards up field and were still reveling in their bad selves as K.C. snapped the ball; Oakland coaches wisely signaled for a timeout to avoid another dumb penalty).

The Silver & Black eventually held on to win.

Somewhat related, the 0-11 Philadelphia 76ers host the Phoenix Suns tonight.

5. Harrumph!-ing the CFB Playoff

Cody Kessler: 29 TDs, 3 INTs. USC is currently a Top 10 team, but 2 last-second losses to Arizona schools will keep them far from the playoff.

First, and this is VERY important: as Rece Davis has said, “There’s a lot of losing left.”

Second, let’s all remember how much kvetching we’re doing about who should be in the final four and who shouldn’t when it’s absolutely meaniningless because, referring back to No. 1 somewhat, the landscape will be entirely different in three weeks. Even if everyone from Nos. 1-7 don’t lose, their –I sorta hate this word, but it works–resumes will look different.

It’s a little like declaring the winner of a mile race after three laps.

Third, much as I love Jason McIntyre, it isn’t “doomdsay” if Mississippi State fails to make the playoff. Why would it be? Because the Bulldogs’ sole loss would’ve been at Alabama? Granted, that’s a solid resume, but if nothing changed, the Horned Frogs’ sole loss would be by a field goal, after not one but two sketchy PI calls (one was a non-call), on the road against the nation’s No. 1 Scoring Offense. So while you can make a great case for MSU, you can also make a great case for TCU (not to mention Ohio State and Baylor). It’s not a “doomsday” situation.

The only Doomsday situations would be if undefeated Florida State failed to crack the top four or if Mississippi State had won at Bama and failed to crack the Top 4.

Me, I’m always amused when people are irate when I type, “All Mississippi State had to do was win at Alabama.” And they’re like, well, that’s not easy. And I’m like, Well, you want to be able to designate a team as the nation’s best but you’re offended when I suggest that it might be opportune of them to actually prove they’re the best?”

I’ll say it again: you can make a great case for Oregon or Mississippi State or Baylor or any one-loss team. The common thread is that people lobbying for those schools will use the stats/metrics that portray their schools in the best light. And then they’ll argue that those stats have more value.

But they’re arbitrary. Florida State, if it wins out, is a lock. Everyone else, even Alabama, is contingent upon how the SelCom feels about them to a degree.

Finally, teams like people are not static: they evolve or devolve over a season. And not just because of changes in personnel. We don’t “find out who they were” in the final week because they truly may have been a different, better or worse, squad, in September. USC was definitely a worse team in September, for example; Texas A&M was definitely a better team then.

That doesn’t mean that a team’s overall record should not be held against it (e.g., USC is actuall 7-3). What it does mean, at least to me, is that I rate how good a Win was at the time it happened, because in college football how good a team believes it is at the time it plays goes a long way in determining how well that team plays that day. Passion and confidence definitely play a role in how good a team is.

Okay. I’m out…

Remote Patrol

No. 19 USC at No. 9 UCLA

ABC 8 p.m. (Saturday)

Myles Jack has had a relatively quiet sophomore season…

This game is always one of college football’s sexiest, and tomorrow night offers the drop back of my (and Stewart Mandel’s) favorite place to take in a college football game, which is to say a football game: the Rose Bowl. The Bruins have won two in a row, but the Trojans are surging with DT Leonard Williams, super WR Nelson Agholor and running back Buck Allen. Oh, and Josh Shaw may drop in…

Also, Chris and Herbie are doing GameDay from Cambridge, Mass., so that would be some transcontinental hustling if they get out to Pasadena to call this one: it’s physically possible, just not very pragmatic.

Winner remains alive for Pac-12 South crown and chance to dance versus Oregon a Levi’s Stadium, which is located not far from the 101 (though that section of highway should be redubbed the “501”).

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

STARTING FIVE

Horowitz with the co-hosts of the show he co-created…

1. At Horowitz End

What really happened between Jamie Horowitz and the Today show that allowed them to fire him just 10 weeks into his gig, while he was still in the “listening tour” phase of his stewardship of NBC’s morning show (he was technically due to start on Dec. 1)?

I don’t know for sure, but I’ve come across Jamie in various ways over the years –he was offered a reporter position at SI when I was there and turned it down to become an Olympics researcher for NBC Sports (a more interesting gig).

Allow me to don my Rona Barrett Wig for a moment and remind all of this small item of trivia. Jamie and Kevin Wildes, both in their late thirties, teamed up to create and foist such shows as SportsNation and First Take upon us (on a more enlightened planet, they’d be imprisoned, as opposed to promoted, for this). They also were the executive producers behind the launch of Olbermann. They are, as this story suggests, close friends.

Kevin Wildes is married to Libby Geist…whose brother is Bill Geist…who is an anchor-in-waiting on Today.

And now you know –doffs Rona Barrett wig, dons Paul Harvey wig–the rest of the story.

I like Jamie well enough –he’ll never win a Modesty Contest (but then, either would I)–but he’s smart and has obviously done well. I point out the familial connection just as a way of noting that he didn’t walk into Today blind. I imagine he knew the layout and wanted to make some changes. Page Six suggests he wanted to replace Savannah Guthrie with Hoda Kotb which, on the face of that alone, if it’s true, is grounds for termination.

Another report, however, suggests that both Natalie Morales and Willie Geist had been told they were fired -assumedly, a Horowitz-baked idea. If so…AWKWARD. Especially since before Today, Horowitz last worked with Wildes on Olbermann.

According to The Big Lead and others, Lauer heard about personnel changes Horowitz wanted to make and then went over his head to Turness. As a former producer of Heads Up Poker, Horowitz must realize that Lauer re-raised him and went all in. And won.

No one is paying the author of this site (Wildes, when interviewing me for a job, referred to MH as “a wonderful resume”) seven figures to fix Today, but to me it’s fairly simple. Stop trying to be like the sophomoric clowns at Good Morning, America, and remember what got you there. Matt Lauer may be cranky, but he’s the best in the business. Surround him with fewer sycophants and let him do his magic until he hangs up his blazer. Keep Al, because Matt and Al work well off each other. Find a female –if one is not already there–who can hang with them (I’ve been telling you for years, Peacock: It’s Paula Faris) and then just get out of the way (or beg Katie Couric to return).

CBS This Morning has figured out a winning formula by going in the extremely opposite direction of GMA. Although PLEASE, CBS, stop insulting the audience who are smart enough to tune into you by referring to your news as “Real” news. We get it. That’s why we’re there. The Calculus prof doesn’t refer to calculus as “real math with numbers AND letters.”

Meanwhile, whither Josh Elliott (an old comrade from SI)? He’s just too damn handsome and smart to be getting back-up reps in practice, but you can bet that Messrs. Costas and Lauer are less than thrilled by his presence and neither are quite ready to retire to the 19th hole. Josh, like Jamie, is an ESPN alum and I imagine there are a few at 30 Rock that wonder if he’s the right person for the job, especially if an actual cataclysmic news story takes place.

If it’s not too late, NBC, you should not free Willy,

The funny thing to me is that, looking to the future, NBC has had its guy for some time now: Horowitz’s friend’s brother-in-law, Willie Geist. He’s likable, intelligent and doesn’t look as if he cares too much what his Q Rating is. If I were Deborah Turness, the woman who sacked Horowitz, I’d stop worrying about the ratings so much and start worrying more about producing an authentic show that she can be proud of. She’s doing it all backwards.

Or I’d just ask myself, What would Jack Donaghy do?

p.s. Curiously, there’s nothing in Deadspin about Horowitz’s firing. Here’s a dirty little secret about Deadspin: it plays favorites. If you look closely, you’ll see stories they otherwise would naturally pursue but have chosen not to. I don’t know if that’s what happened here, but I’m sure Horowitz’s firing is far less newsworthy than a golden retriever’s agility test. 

2. Love at First Bite

Oh, Don Lemon. No, you di’unt!

 

Remote Patrol

North Carolina at Duke

ESPN 7:30 p.m.

The Birds, or as it was originally known, “That’s So Raven”

I’m on record as saying that ACC football north of the town of Clemson, S.C., officially bores me. However, you’ll want to (maybe) watch this to see if the Tar Heels can upset the Blue Devils, which would open the door for Georgia Tech to face Florida State in the ACC title game, which would be a far better game. Or, you could just tune in to TCM and watch Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING

STARTING FIVE

Biblical…

1. Snowvember

Buffalo Billizard? The lake effect snow coming off Lake Ontario (checks map of Great Lakes…chuckles once again at “Huron”...) dropped as much as SIX feet of snow on some parts of Buffalo on Tuesday, which can only mean that God does not want to watch the Jets at Bills on Sunday.

2. Wonder Woman

Ace attorney and ketchup (and Pop Tart) enthusiast…

Tougher than the rest (again)

Amelia Boone won the World’s Toughest Mudder outside Las Vegas this weekend, which translates to how far one is able to transport themselves over and through and in between and under obstacles over a 24-hour period. Boone, a GFOB, has now won the WTM twice.

Only five or so weeks ago the Chicago-based barrister was undergoing arthroscopic surgery for a problem meniscus, and only three weeks ago she tweeted that she was having a fun Friday night “aqua jogging” as the extent of her exercise. And then she wins the WTM again. A collective Wayne-and-Garth “We’re not worthy!” in salute to yet another boon for Amelia.

3. Dan Jenkins’ (FAKE) Obituary

i.e. “A Poor Lie”

The beloved golf scribe will be interred in Amen Corner…

Former Sports Illustrated senior writer Dan Jenkins, one of the most gifted writers that the magazine’s pages ever showcased (perhaps THE most gifted) has passed at the age of 84. Jenkins, who had attended 45 consecutive British Opens before illness caused him to miss last July’s, was eighty-FOOOOORE! He will be missed by most everyone…with a possible notable exception.

4. Minute By Minute

Lili Von Shtupp dedicates her signature tune (“I”m Tired”) to the Cavs’ big 3

So, LeBron has a point. Three of the NBA’s Top 5 leaders in Minutes Played are The King (39.1), Kyrie Irving (38.4) and Kevin Love (37.0). You can imagine LeBron wanting to shake David Blatt and scream, “You’re not in Tel Aviv any more!”

5. Love Me Nots…

…invade NYC!

Our favorite courtroom judge-in-real-life/Rocker grrrrl!-by-night, Nicole Laurenne, and her band, Love Me Nots, are invading the East Coast this week (they’re from Phoenix; picked a great week to experience a different climate). We braved 25-degree weather and the L train to Williamsburg to catch them at the Grand Victory last night.

If you are in Long Branch tonight, Philly Thursday night, or New York City Friday night (or Dover, N.H., on Saturday night), I highly recommend seeing ‘em. They’re kind of like Pretenders-meet-The White Stripes with a smattering of early B-52’s and a pinch of Grace Slick.

Here they are performing “End of the Line.”

Oh, and if you happened to be in the ultra-swanky UES Carlyle Hotel on Monday night and wondered who was that girl who hijacked the piano, it was Nicole.

p.s. And a Happy Birthday to the band’s kickass lead guitarist (and Nicole’s husband) Michael Johnny Walker.

Remote Patrol

Spurs at Cavs

ESPN 7 p.m.

James (not pictured here) is 2nd in the NBA in scoring at 27.1 ppg

Our Susie B. Special, as the aformentioned small “b” big three take on the Championship Three of Duncan, Ginobili and Parker. The defending NBA champs have only been the third-best team in Texas thus far, but they’re still ahead of Los Cavs at the moment. I’m just waiting to see which/how many Hall of Famers Pop chooses not to play tonight.

 

IT’S ALL HARPOONING!

STARTING FIVE

“Orrange who?” “Orrange you glad I buried this trey?”

1. Amber Orrange Alert

Amber Orrange, Cardinal. That’s a colorful name, no? Last night the Stanford senior found herself ridiculously wide open with less than two seconds remaining in regulation and Stanford down three. Her teammate, double-teamed, found her, and Orrange buried the trey to force overtime.

Stanford had trailed by 10 late in the second half. In OT the Cardinal trailed by 5 but recovered to win, 88-86. Too many defensive lapses by the Huskies, who just never could put the Cardinal away, though they had plenty of chances.

So what? So, Stanford ends UConn’s 47-game winning streak. A few years back on this same Maples Pavilion court, the Cardinal ended the Huskies’ record 90-game win streak. Tree-mendous.

2. Buckle Up…for Shark Jumping

Greg Louganis never stuck a landing as well as this van will…

Listen, I’m willing to believe that brain-eating zombies have infiltrated Georgia (and I’m not even talking about the show) or that Carol and Daryl never worked at an inn in Vermont run by Bob Newhart, but when you put those two characters in full Thelma & Louise mode in a van that is precipitously hanging over an overpass, and then send them over with nary a scrape, well, can I please return to Arthur Fonzarelli on water skis?

We’re asked to believe that a white van does a perfect 360 front flip and that the two characters–strong as they may be–walk away only with scratches? C’mon. In fact, as this terrific story illustrates–with actual video evidence– the van landed upside down, which would have made C&D zombie gorp.

On the other hand, Walking Dead has now beaten Al Michaels (Seated Dead) and Cris Collinsworth three weeks in a row now in the 18-49 age group. So maybe next week we’ll have a Butch & Sundance-style leap off a cliff…

3. The Return of the Holderness Family

This video left little margarine for error

We like the Holderness family of North Carolina. Handsome dad Penn, beautiful mom Kim, matching daughter and son. They’re like the family Mad Men pitches were built around. Anyway, last year they went viral with “Christmas Jammies,” so why are any of us surprised that they’ve returned for a Thanksgiving song that parodies the biggest pop hit (sorry, Taylor) of the past two months?

And how could we leave you without adding “Baby Got Class?”

4. Fuh Grizzle

Courtney Lee’s alley oop with 0.04 left is being disputed.

It’s not that bizarre to see a basketball team based in Memphis open the season 10-1. It’s just odd to see one do so that is not coached by John Calipari or Josh Pastner. The Grizzlies moved to a league-best 10-1 by trouncing one of the other top teams in this nascent season, Houston, 119-93. This is what happens when you keep a solid nucleus (Marc Gasol, Z-Bo and Mike Conley) around for a few years and none of them are named Carmelo.

Of course, Memphis could wind up going back to 9-2 if Sacramento’s appeal of their win last week is upheld. But if I’m Sacramento, I squandered a 27-point lead. It should never even have come to that.

In last night’s win, seven Grizzlies scored in double figures but none had 20. As a coach, I want that every night. Much healthier or a team than Kobe’ing.

5. Roger Goodell’s Double Jeopardy

Granny will not be playing for the remainder of the season, either

So Roger Goodell suspends former NFL MVP Adrian Peterson for the remainder of the season without pay (Do you hear that, Peter King? WithOUT pay) telling him that he has shown “no remorse” for the switch-beating of his son.

I’m no huge fan of RG (RG IV?), but here’s why in a Twitterverse he cannot win. If he does exactly what he did, the tweeps accuse him of a double standard as it reverts back to Ray Rice. But if Goodell does anything less, then the tweeps remind all how comically inept and insensitive the NFL is on domestic violence.

Remote Patrol

Casablanca

TCM 8 p.m.

Our favorite college football coach? Larry Fedora

Some classic films are like eating vegetables (Citizen Kane, anyone?). But not Casablanca. The gang at Rick’s Cafe are as entertaining, witty and sardonic as any you’ll find. The dialogue is fantastic, the plot is tense and tight, and the characters unforgettable. With the exception of one flashback, the entire story takes place over the course of two (or is it one?) nights. This is pure ultimate nachos. And when you remember that this film was released at the advent of World War II, it’s even more bold. Great love story, great thriller. You must remember this…

IT’S ALL HAPPENSTANCE!

STARTING FIVE

1. Horrible Losses, 2

Not sure the last time Notre Dame was a 17-point home favorite and lost…

Within a span of eight days the Irish trailed by 31 and wound up surrendering 55, the most points allowed since the Miami debacle in 1985, and then projectile-vomited away an 11-point (should’ve been 12-point) fourth-quarter lead at home to a 3-6 Northwestern team. I’m not sure if the Irish miss Joe Schmidt’s play more than they miss Joe Schmidt’s brain, but they sure as heck miss Joe Schmidt.

(Forgive my saltiness, people; just emerged from a 90-minute subway ride that ordinarily takes 20 minutes; I’m in homicidal mode at the moment).

Since 2007 the Fighting Irish are 16-15 in games in November and 1-4 in overtime games, all of which took place in South Bend. They’d be 0-5 in those OT contests if refers had spotted both Bennett Jackson and Chris Brown wearing the identical number, 2, during Pitt’s field goal attempt in 2012.

What can Brown do for you?

The horrible losses include but are not limited to…the first loss to Navy in 43 years (though the Middies did have the better team), a 2008 quadruple OT loss to a 5-2 Pitt team in which the Irish allowed the tying TD with 2:22 left…a 2008 loss to a 2-8 Syracuse team in which the Irish blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead…and a 2009 OT loss to a 4-5 UConn team in which the Irish allowed the tying field goal with 1:10 to play.

To be fair to Brian Kelly, the above were all Charlie Weis losses. In Kelly’s tenure the Irish were 13-4 in November before Saturday, with all four losses coming on the road and two of them to solid Stanford teams. Only last year’s loss at Pitt was somewhat grating, and that was the game in which Stephon Tuitt was ejected early.

Saturday’s loss to the Wildcats, in which the Irish committed four turnovers, two of them within 7 yards of the goal line…in which they basically gave away a four-point swing on extra points…on which Matthias Farley made a great INT in the end zone that most DBs would’ve turned into a pick-six, but in which the Irish came out of with no points, in which Notre Dame let a 3-6 team Lazarus itself out of an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit, was haunted by the Ghost of Charlie.

The most inexplicable defeat of the Brian Kelly era, and also the most unforgivable.

Meanwhile, is it too soon to get started on those “An Oral History of Northwestern’s 2014 Win at Notre Dame” pieces?

2. Melvin and Todd

Bo Pelinin was the only Husker able to stop Melvin on Saturday.

Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon rushes for an FBS-record 408 yards in just three quarters against a Nebraska team that entered the game having allowed just two 100-yard rushing games (111 to Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford and 128 to Northwestern’s Justin Jackson) this season. I like that Gordon had the time to set a new record, versus a legit D, and still partake in “Jump Around.” He is now a legitimate contender, if not frontrunner, for the Heisman…

…meanwhile in Athens, erstwhile Heisman/Grange favorite Todd Gurley tears his ACL in his first game back since his signature suspension. The Dawgs crushed the Fighting Malzahns, but tough moment for the Gurley Man, whose college career is likely over. Coming not even a week after Marcus Lattimore retired at age 23, it makes us all wonder yet again how come the NFL blocks players –particularly running backs–from entering the league earlier.

You know MH loves the Gurley Man. Hate to see this…

Finally, I think the only way to beat Florida State is to either 1) let them get an early lead or 2) mind-control them into believing the second half is the first. The Seminoles rebounded from a 16-0 deficit at Miami to win. They’ve trailed on the road in ACC games this season by 16 (Canes), 17 (NC State) and 21 (Louisville) in the first half, and of course have won all three. They’re the really smart kid who starts studying on the morning of the test and still does better than you do (except they also commit felonies while doing so). We hate that kid.

Also, yes, Duke, you beat Georgia Tech, but the entire world outside of Durham and Tallahassee wants to see Paul Johnson’s team take on the Noles for the ACC title. So, please, Duke, lose one of your remaining two games.

The Medium Happy 8: Florida State, Alabama, Oregon, Miss. St., Ohio State, TCU, Baylor, Ole Miss.

3. NEAL RUN

Bigfoot, maybe; Equatorial Kundu, definitely not.

Last night’s The Newsroom was an Ethics lesson, as Maggie chose to do right, Neal chose to do what he believed was right (What is the greater good?), Reese argued that it’s okay to be a douchebag if you’re on the side of the angels, and Don and Sloan outright lied to one another (who knew they’d have such terrific chemistry?).

There was some A-plus banter between Will, Neal and Rebecca, and the “Get me a Dr. Pepper, please,” line, though you saw it coming, was worth a chuckle. I wanted Will to go into a rant and yell, “You don’t tell me what to do, Sampat, my movie opened No. 1 at the box office this weekend!”

Also, I love that Kat Dennings goes from 2 Broke Girls to 2 Annoying, Bratty, Billionaire Twins.

4. The Jonas Brother

New New England running back Jonas Gray goes for 199 yards and 4 TDs as the Pats take out the Colts. I’m still trying to get my head around Jonas and Sergio Brown getting multiple mentions by Al Michaels on a prime-time NFL game…am told that the last time an NFL RB went from no career rushing TDs to four in one game was in 1921 when Herb Henderson of the Evansville Crimson Giants did so (and you too are now searching for their throwback jersey).

Also, as Scott Van Pelt tweeted, it was fun to watch Rob Gronkowski go “full meathead.”

5. “I Can’t Believe the News Today…”

U2 lead singer Bono falls off his bicycle (he needed one more than a fish does?) in Central Park, where the streets do have names (West Drive and East Drive), and had to undergo arm surgery. So one way or another (wait, wrong band) it was a Sunday, Bloody Sunday and he’ll just have to walk on. This probably happened in the southern section of the park, since I imagine the Angel of Harlem would’ve protected him above 96th Street.

Reserves

A 51 year-old Canadian male, Lawrence Warriner, won the Brooklyn Marathon yesterday. Warriner ran a 2:43.

****

Ava Gardner: Never got a Maxim cover.

I caught Showboat on TCM last night. It was one of the first great musicals, Ava Gardner is one of the most beautiful women ever to appear onscreen (she married Sinatra the year this film was made, 1951; also, see if you notice any resemblance to Jessica Biel), and you really cannot top “Ol’ Man River.” , sung here by William Warfield. The reprise, at film’s end, is more accessible.

Artie Shaw: Yes, that’s a clarinet in his hands and he is happy to see Ava and Lana

By the way, Gardner had previously been married to both Mickey Rooney and Artie Shaw. The latter was a bandleader who also married Lana Turner. You marry Ava Gardner and Lana Turner, you’ve got to have some incredible game.

Remote Patrol

No. 1 UConn at No. 6 Stanford

ESPN2 9 p.m.

I’d put the 6-8 Lutz in the post. She knows blocks.

Breanna Stewart is the best women’s player in college hoops, the closest thing to Diana Taurasi since D left Storrs. The Cardinal counters with senior guard Amber Orrange, who was also secretly dropped over North Vietnam in the late Sixties. I wonder why Tara Van Der Veer has yet to convince 6-8 Cardinal volleyball player Merete Lutz to join her squad.

IT’S ALL HAPPINESS!

STARTING FIVE

Today’s edition is being typed on an air-gapped computer for your protection.

1. A Humble and Polite Request to QUIT YOUR BITCHING!

For years a good number of people who follow and claim to be obsessed with college football spent half of every autumn bitching about the BCS while throwing out irrelevant arguments such as the corruption of bowl committees (as if they ever had a thing to do with choosing the two teams that played for the national championship). Anyway, your author was of the idea that he did not want to see any new wrinkle that would compromise the college season from Labor Day through Thanksgiving and that he feared a four-team playoff was the equivalent to unbuttoning the top button on the blouse (or jeans) that would lead us to an 8- or (heavens!) 16-team playoff.

Well, guess what? We have a four-team playoff this year and I’m man enough to admit that I love it. And while I hope it remains at four, I think the significant lesson we can all learn in this Twitterverse, Hashtag, FOX News world is that it’s okay to concede that you have changed your mind, and that it does not mean all of your views are worthless or that you’re dumb enough to DVR Parenthood or anything like that.

I like the four-team playoff because, contrary to what I first worried about, it appears to enhance Sept-Nov. (what simpletons would refer to as “the regular season”) and it does nothing to douse the fuel of hypothetical cross-cultural arguments about who is better than whom when there is no actual empirical way to answer that. There is even more chaos now with very, very, very little lost in terms of how elite a team must be to contend for the championship.

I like it. There.

Of course, you cannot please everyone. So now Mike Mayock wants to see 16 teams. And there are others who want to see conference champions win automatic berths –because some people will never be happy until college football is every bit as boring and sterile as the NFL. No, people! What makes this fun is knowing that if you live in Tuscaloosa, you are competing against the people in Eugene or Norman. Even if you don’t play them.

Now, like I said, some people are never satisfied. You give then Notre Dame at Florida State and Arizona at Oregon and Arizona State at USC and Alabama at Ole Miss and TCU at Baylor and TCU at West Virginia and Auburn at Ole Miss and (have I made my point yet?) and they tweet you, “I also want games in December that are worth watching” while someone else tweets you, “I objected to those who thought playoff would solve everything. It doesn’t. It just brings new problems.”

To the first tweet, I am reminded of the Louis C.K. riff  (4:55) about God looking at people who arrive at heaven with great expectations and saying, “That place you just left? Earth? It was pretty damn great. You people are never satisfied and honestly, you’re not worth My effort.” I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of it.

You want December games worth watching? Maybe go put up a Christmas tree. Or go out and get some exercise. Or take a moment to think how lucky you are that THIS is what you are bitching about. I don’t mean to get all Sinead O’Connor on your ass –yes, every argument should be viewed within its own prism, not in the realm of “but look at all the starvation…” — but maybe to get “December games worth watching” we’d be giving up Sept., Oct. and Nov. games worth watching because there would no be as much at stake.

As to the second tweet, “solving everything” will never happen in sports. Nor should it. I’m reminded of the 2011 NFL season, when the 9-7 New York Giants made the playoffs but the 9-7 Tennessee Titans did not (the Giants won the Super Bowl). Or the 2010 NFL season, when the 10-6 Green Bay Packers made the playoffs but the 10-6 Giants did not (the Packers won the Super Bowl).

And yet no one ever seems to have a problem with these obvious flaws in the NFL’s system –not to mention the manner in which UConn men’s hoops has won two national titles in the past four years– because we are a nation of sports fans addicted to the “P” word: playoffs. As long as there’s a playoff, and as long as we include as many teams as logistically possible, people see this as more objective, and to hell with all the games that came before.

Which has never made an ounce of sense to me. So someone’s going to get all bent out of shape because there’s a chance that an 11-1 Baylor team will make the Football Final Four ahead of say, 10-2 Alabama (or 11-1 Mississippi State). But no one gets upset if the 9-7 Titans are omitted from the playoffs because the prevailing sense is, “Well, with that record, they obviously were not good enough to win the Super Bowl,” a belief that might have merit if not for the fact that in that very year another team with an identical record WON THE SUPER BOWL!!!

Okay, I’m at that point now where I’m like Kramer holding up his arm at Jerry and he’s fed up to here…

2. Are You SHAW You Want To Stick With This Story?

So ESPN broadcast a prime-time game between Cal and USC last night, and coincidentally a story penned by Bill Plaschke, who writes for the Los Angeles Times but probably pockets almost as much money annually from ESPN as an Around The Horn bloviator, appears in which USC safety-captain-heroic-tale-fabricator Josh Shaw breaks his silence and explains what really happened.

Oooooo-kay.

Oh, and nothing to see here concerning Mr. Plaschke’s connection to ESPN and the timing of this story. Please move on.

Read and judge the story for yourself. It’s closer to the truth in that there are no drowning nephews involved and there is a girlfriend and a leap from an apartment building. But it does not come across as Mr. Plaschke doing a very good job of being justifiably skeptical of a man who already has demonstrated, vividly, that he is capable of lying to your face.

As Andy Staples of SI tweeted, “The story Josh Shaw says is the real one is just about as bizarre as the fake one.”

3. Welcome Back, Taibbi

Alayne Fleischmann. No, her brother is not a doctor in Alaska. #JokesThatWorkedBetterIn1990

 

I don’t care how it happened and I don’t care why it happened (although I assume it went something like this: Rolling Stone: “How does it feel…to be on your own…a complete unknown…no direction home…like a…” Matt Taibbi: “Rolling Stone?”) I just know that my favorite pissed-off journo, Matt Taibbi, is back writing for Rolling Stone and exposing Wall Street vampire squids. #FridayNightReads

4. Legalized Gambling? You Bet!

You may Gamble, too, Oscar…

Someone besides Cousin Sal (and most sports fans) is espousing the legalization of sports gambling. And that person is NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who argued in favor of it in an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times. Sports gambling is like weed: everyone’s doing it anyway, so why not regulate it and let American businesses reap the profits.

What I would have loved is if Silver had written, “While I am in favor of legalizing wagering on NBA games, I do believe that Sixers games should be taken off the board for the time being.”

5. Ford Focus

So I’m pretty lucky to work with some people who are (a lot) smarter than I am. Now, do they have to seat these people right next to me so that each day is a reaffirmation in abject humiliation?

And yet, I love it when Alex Nazaryan pretends to be amused or intrigued by a thought of mine, as if he isn’t Will Hunting looking at Stellen Skarsgard and asking, “Do you realize how easy this is for me?!?” (Alex, our resident polymath, did one story on Kevin Love last year and it was as good as any sports piece I’ve read all year).

Anyway, here is Alex’s profile of his favorite author not-named-Philip Roth, Richard Ford (who, incidentally, once wrote a classic work of modern American tragic fiction titled The Sportswriter).

Reserves

Newly appointed TPD chief Louis Renault

The Tallahassee Police are at it again. Thanks to the New York Times for being the booth review of every moment of their corruption. As i tweeted, sometimes I wonder if FSU’s players and the TPD are doing all of this just so that their “30 for 30″ will be as good as “The U.”

****

What’s worse: Blowing a 27-point lead to lose the game or losing it like this? Kind of fun to watch the 2-man game Courtney Lee and Marc Gasol played to get Lee open.

Where in the World

Yesterday: Shiprock, New Mexico

Remote Patrol

Five Easy Pieces

TCM 10 p.m.

And make that gluten-free…

I realize I go a little heavy on TCM in this space, but unless there’s a marvelous sports event airing, I’d much rather watch some classic cinema. This 1970 film has Jack Nicholson and the most famous scene in the history of diner-server contretemps.

IT’S ALL ‘WHAT’S HAPPENIN’, ROG?'”

STARTING FIVE

Welcome to the Prairie?

1. The Last Audacious Video

It was the summer of 1992. People were actually listening to Extreme and wondering if that Seinfeld show would ever become funny.

And Guns ‘n Roses ruled the earth, notorious for sometimes not taking the stage –even at stadium shows –til after midnight (presumably after each member had banged four to six supermodels).

But they were ambitious. And talented. And while Axl, Slash, Duff and the gang probably should have trimmed Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II into one classic album (just as Bruce Springsteen should’ve done the same with Lucky Town and Human Touch that same year), there’s no denying that they were sober (or not) just long enough to pen a 1970’s style rock-and-roll epic that would come in at 8:57, long enough for any FM deejay to sneak off for a piss or a toke.

As a song, this is the equivalent to David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia. As a video, it’s just as epic, what with supermodels, spilled/tossed alcohol, a church in the middle of New Mexico, and Stephanie Seymour. It’s in the fine tradition of George Michael’s Freedom ’90 (the greatest video of all time) and I do believe MTV never aired a video again that reached so high as a piece of cinema.

22 Novembers later, Stephanie Seymour graces the cover of this mag and still looks as if she could slay Axl’s muse (which she did)

And because it’s November, and because who wants to hear me prattle on for five grafs about a movie starring Keanu Reeves and a terminally ill Charlize Theron, I thought we’d salute it here. Slash may have “no idea” what the video’s about, but who cares? I don’t know what Stairway to Heaven is about, either.

By the way, I may alienate a few fans here, but November Rain slightly better than Purple Rain and Rain King, although Have You Ever Seen The Rain? may trump them all.

2. It IS Rocket Science

Swoopes, Thompson, Cooper: Do not even TRY landing on us.

Apparently, a space probe named Philae landed on a comet named 67P (in the future, we will all have such names) some 310 million miles from earth. Medium Happy is dispatching its science reporter, Jason Anstey, to 67P for comments. Godspeed, Jason.

Meanwhile, The Cardigans issued a press release to remind all that they were the “First Band on the Moon.”

Landing a space probe on a comet is not easy (nor do I have any idea what purpose it serves). You know what is easy? Buying stock in Apple (AAPL) and Alibaba (BABA) and then just putting your feet up. It’s Julius Thomas-easy. That easy.*

*Apple is up 32% in the past six months while Alibaba, which went public less than two months ago, is up 42% this month. Try getting any hedge fund to promise you even a 10% return on an entire year. 

3. Plus Model? Well, it IS an Add

Delbasio, 27, is a former Miss Teen Wisconsin. People have been saying “cheese” around her all her life. These are the jokes, folks.

The Nontroversy of the Week occurred when Calvin Klein debuted this ad featuring Wisconsin native Myla Delbasio, 27, as a “plus-size” model. Delbasio, a Size 10, is five-foot-eleven (I have no idea if she ever played college sports, but I doubt it).

Obviously, Miss Delbasio (no relation to that other Italian-American Wisconsin native, Laverne DeFazio) fails to fit the standard American ideal of “plus-size,” though relative to CK alum Kate Moss, she is. But while everyone was busy harrumph-harrumph-harrumphing over this, Calvin Klein garnered a lot of free attention. Well played, CK.

Meanwhile, in college football, TCU moved ahead of Alabama in the CFP rankings, which got lots of people harrumphing (Phyllis in Mulga?), but who cares. The Tide host No. 1 Mississippi State on Saturday. If they win, they’re in the Top 4; if not, they’re out. Simmer down now!

4. I Would Drive 500 Miles (And I Would Drive 500 More!)

The Baja 1,000 kicks off today from Ensenada, Mexico. Like most auto races, its title is self-explanatory: drive 1,000 miles through the Mexican Baja peninsula, which someday people will appreciate for the gold mine that it is: Imagine a Pacific coastline the length of California, south of California (i.e., warmer) that is mostly uninhabited. Hey, Andy Dufresne was no dummy (actually, Zihuatanejo is south of the peninsula, but I’m not going to waste a good Shawshank joke).

The Baja 1000 is the surest way to get your ass killed in Mexico that does not involve drug lords.

Anyway, Porge and Jones (sibling and GFOB) will be there today. As will, oddly enough, Bruce Jenner.

5. Eight Men Outstanding

The longest football win streak that we are aware of, pro, college or high school, belongs to tiny Parhanagat Valley High, which is located in Alamo, Nev. (which, let’s face it, sounds fictitious), about 100 miles north of Las Vegas. PVHS, which plays eight-man football due to its school size (below 100 students) has won 79 in a row following last Friday night’s 60-0 win over Sandy Valley (Nev.) The Panthers host Carlin High in a state playoff game tomorrow nigh as they shoot for 80 in a row.

 Where in the World?

Our semi-popular series returns! I don’t know where I left off the last time, but if you can find the date, I’ll tell you the name of the place…

Remote Patrol

The Philadelphia Story

TCM 11 p.m.

This film is an all-timer. At worst, DVR it tonight.

“Ah, South Bend…it sounds like spring time.” That’s Kate Hepburn as a divorced society dame fending off the matrimonial advances of Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant (who is younger here, and not quite as irresistible as he’d be in later films such as North By Northwest and An Affair To Remember). It’s a film that reminds some of us of our on-line dating experiences.

 

IT’S ALL HAPPENSTANCE!

STARTING FIVE

The bad news: still no Katie. Let’s chalk it up to Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) or the fact that Tig Notaro was rushed to the hospital with an undisclosed medical emergency or that she’s busy feeding Neil Sampat classified documents on an air computer. The good news: We’ve got pictures again! Yayyyyy!

We’re going to keep doing this Tracy-and-Hepburn thing ’til we get it right…

1. Smart and Smarter, Two

They’re back. The whole gang from ACN News returned on Sunday night, and even if they are in fourth place, who cares? I don’t hate-watch this show; I love-watch it. A few thoughts as opposed to an all-encompassing roundup:

— The most unrealistic moment in the episode, for me, was a Wall Street guy even bothering to ask Sloan Sabbith if she were involved before he hit on her. They simply don’t care.

–The John King-Is-Actually-a-Credible-Reporter infomercial was sponsored by Dumb and Dumber, To, in theaters this weekend.

–I noticed in the closing credits that Andrew Ross Sorkin was listed as a consultant for the episode. It’s the Sorkin-est episode of The Newsroom yet.

— Sorority Girl: “You’re nine-feet tall. You cannot just wear any suit.” Will: “She’s starting to get the hang of this place.” My favorite exchange of the show.

–“Let’s do sports,” says Will MacAvoy and yet again we are reminded of the similarities to Keith Olbermann.

–Gary Cooper getting a lot more lines, no?

–Neil Sampat just went Michael Corleone, no? They should’ve made it an Italian restaurant in the Bronx.

2. How Swede It Is!

As long as this trio calls the WSOP final table, I’m all in….

A Swede and a Norwegian battled to the Finnish at the World Series of Poker final table last night/this morning. Martin Jacobson, 27, flopped a set of 10’s on the 328th hand of the final table against Norway’s Felix Stephensen, who had gone all-in out of desperation, to win the Main Event and the $10,000,000 prize. Good work if you can get it.

As always, the long hours of watching the Final Table are rewarding because of the fantastic banter between host Lon McEachern and analysts Norman Chad and Antonio Esfandiari.

Also, I think Chad noted that the last seven winners of the Main Event have been dudes in their 20s. It’s a young man’s game. Not sure why it is not yet a woman’s.

Finally, I believe Jacobson entered his first Main Event three years ago and busted on his THIRD hand of the entire tournament. So there’s hope for all of us…as long as we don’t mind paying the $10K buy-in.

3. Lawn Seating

There was a major American musical event in 2014 and Taylor Swift was not included?!?! What the hell? I haven’t yet had a chance to see last night’s Concert for Valor, the free Capitol Mall show that reportedly drew 500,000 and also aired live on HBO, but I did read that Port-a-Pottys were hard to find.

4. Kobe Misses Mark, Sets Mark

Kobe Bryant misses 16 of his 26 shots in the LOLakers’ loss at Memphis, breaking John Havlicek’s career record for Missed Field Goals. You know what? Mamba and Hondo are two of the top 20 or so players in league history, and when it comes to guys you absolutely want as teammates, they’re in my top ten.

Kobe now has 13,421 missed shots. “Well, I’m a shooting guard,” Kobe said, and then we imagined he gave a Joey Bosa shrug while flashing his five NBA championship rings.

5. Do You Believe in Septuagenarians? YES!


Al Michaels turns 70 today. That’s not a miracle, on or off ice. Here’s Richard Deitsch’s interview with him from earlier this week on (and here’s Part 2) on SI.com. The only thing I think RD left out were a few questions about the stock market. Al is far more obsessed with following NFLX than he is the NFL.

Remote Patrol

Jimmy Kimmel Live!

ABC 11:30

In honor of the 30th anniversary of “Songs From the Big Chair,” Tears for Fears will perform live outdoors at JKL. Here’s hoping they do the “Head Over Heels/Broken” medley. In the spring of 1985, this pair and Howard Jones ruled. I know. It was a strange time.

IT IS KINDA HAPPENING ON AN iPAD

STARTING FIVE

1. FEAT OF CLAY

Utah wideout Clay Kaelin is guilty of premature exuberation as he ends what should have been a 79-yard TD catch and an early 14-0 lead versus No. 4 Oregon by dropping the ball on the 2 and shifting into “IT IS ALL ABOUT ME” mode. The Ducks pick up the fumble, return it 99 yards for a 7-7 tie and then go up 21-7 while Ute fans are still wondering what the hell just happened. Kaelin graduated from the same high school (Long Beach Poly) as DeSean Jackson.

2. Movin’ On Up

The Chicago Bears allow 55 points to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, making them the first NFL team since the 1923 Rochester (MN) Jeffersons –not to be confused with the Jefferson (MO) Starships– to surrender 50 or more points in consecutive games  so it is not ALL Jay Cutler’s fault.

3. We Are Not Discussing The Newsroom Because There Is No HBO In Devil’s Gulch And You Can’t Make Me and Earmuffs Yes I Imagine Maggie Said or Did Something That Makes You Want To Beat Her With Charlie’s Bottle of Glenlivet But We Are Absolutely Not Discussing The Newsroom And I Am Typing This on An iPad So How About a Little Compassion, Okay?

4. Elsewhere in CFB… Did Notre Dame suffer Reverse Seasonal Affect Disorder in Tempe?… The final 70 seconds plus overtime in Death Valley tells you everything you need to know about the difference between Les Miles and Nick Saban. The Hat is so much more fun to hang out with, but you are going to give the keys to your car to Nick if you need someone to drive you home. LSU probably wins if they just don’t send the kickoff out of bounds. Or if they tackle a Tide receiver inbounds. Bama had no timeouts on that final drive…Georgia performs its annual rendition of “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late” by blowing out Kentucky, 63-21, now that all of the pressure of potentially advancing to the F-cubed is gone…Auburn Clemsons (a bad night for Tigers)…Marshall, due to an onside kick, trails 14-0 at Southen Miss before taking a snap, then outscores the Golden Eagles the rest of the way, 63-3. The Herd is now 9-0 and the only FBS team to have scored 35 or more points in every game…Should any of us be hopeful that Duke won’t lose two ACC title games in a row to FSU? Or should we be wondering why the Seminoles are only a 2 1/2-point favorite at Miami?…Ohio State is still alive for a playoff berth; the Buckeyes will not lose again…North Dakota State loses to Northern Iowa, 23-3, ending the nation’s longest CFB win streak (33 games).

5. Turvy-Topsy: The Lakers won, but remain in last place in their division. The Spurs are in last place in their division and the Thunder are one game out of last place in their division  oh, and it is November 10…

Medium Happy has a travel day tomorrow –or we are taking off for Veterans’ Day– and will return Wednesday with the restaurant-quality blog that you have come to expect for your hard-earned dollars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

Today, something a little different: A brief anecdote illustrating how Phyllis is just the best and then a film review from Medium Happy’s resident master of the celluloid analysis –but not cellulite analysis–Chris Corbellini (“Yaaaaaay!”).

So, last night I arrive to Devil’s Gulch, a.k.a., the homestead, and Phyllis already has the lasagna warming on the stove and a fresh batch of homemade brownies ready. She’s the best (special kudos to Porge for the chauffeur service). Anyway, Phyllis wonders why I’m hobbling around and I tell her that I think I broke my toe. 

Seated across from me on the sofa, Phyllis tells me  that she, too, recently had a toe incident. She pulls off her left shoe as she shares a story about how she recently dropped a very heavy piece of roofing on her big toe. Then she pulls off her left sock. Then she looks down, somewhat quizzically. “Oh, it was the other foot.”

Classic Phyl.

Now, on to….

The Film Room: with Chris Corbellini

Birdman

**** (out of four stars)

Even with all its technical mastery and boldness of story, BIRDMAN really banks on what the audience remembers most about its lead actor, Michael Keaton. The guy played the title role in BATMAN over 20 years ago, transforming him from a respected actor to worldwide movie star and, it can be argued, launched comic book movies into the billion-dollar industry that it is today.  This one could have been a compelling watch as a barebones indie based on the following premise: where does Keaton’s real-life experiences end, and where does the performance begin? But director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu pushes for more, and it’s thrilling to see.

 

Keaton plays a fading movie star named Riggan Thomson who once portrayed a superhero named Birdman, and is now desperately trying to recapture that glory on Broadway by adapting the Raymond Carver short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” Riggan is the director, lead, and bankroll of this passion project, and he juggles all of those responsibilities and the other people in his life in almost every scene. The story then keeps throwing him another chainsaw to juggle until he nearly drops them all. It’s not hard to fathom Keaton going through these experiences at different points of his career. Can you name another big-name film he’s been in since the performer wore Batman’s cape? That’s the point. Otherwise, BIRDMAN is Fellini’s , for the Twitter generation, with bits from the John Ritter version of NOISES OFF.

 

The plot drives home the wanton cruelty that’s part of the package of being famous, from critics, frenemies, and even from family, and how that fame can further complicate the already-stressful creative process. It also hands these folks truckloads of cash, confidence and sex on a platinum platter, but you don’t glimpse even a frame of that here, it’s merely hinted at from Riggan’s heyday in the ‘90s. All you see is a 60ish man trying to get his next fix. If he could shoot fame into his veins, I have no doubt the character would (Related: he likes the booze).

 

“The first rule of ‘Underwear Fight Club’…”

BIRDMAN also captures a common, true-to-life trait among the super-successful in the television and film industry: when they have an idea or vision for something, nothing short of death will talk them out of it or even nudge them, ever-so-gently, in another direction. Riggan likes Carver’s work because the author had some kind words for a performance during the actor’s formative years. He also sees the prestige of Broadway. Nobody is able to steer him away from his obsession, not his manager (a buttoned-up Zach Galifianakis), who sees the books, or his family (Amy Ryan and Emma Stone), who sees the emotional toll and suffer from it themselves, or a fellow actor (Edward Norton), who understands the difficulties of executing it and is a handful on stage and off.

 

Norton really stands out here, and like Keaton, is playing on his reputation that he’s egotistical and difficult to work with in real life.  The first scene has him challenging Riggan about motivation of character, and at the moment you think the director is going to cold-cock him and re-establish his alpha-male status, the Norton character gives him a line reading that blows him away. Now Riggan must have him. The punches come later, after the talent eyes up the backside of Riggan’s daughter and torments a fellow actress (a fragile Naomi Watts) during a preview show.

 

On the roof of the theater Norton and Stone play “Truth or Dare” and the camera gets so tight on both that I noticed the actress was not wearing makeup, and the lens may have grazed Norton’s cheek. A lot of this movie is shot this way – as if you are the devil/angel on the actors’ shoulders, seeing everything as they do. A lot has been written about how the movie is filmed to look like a single tracking shot, as if the 119-minute run time is comprised of one long scene. And while some scene transitions are easy to spot (a walk into a darkened hallway, for instance, or a pan to another part of the set), I must admit even as a trained film editor I strained but couldn’t see how they cut up certain parts. No question, BIRDMAN is masterfully put together.

 

“My mother entered a room without knocking once…ONCE!”

Not long ago I checked out the David Bowie exhibit at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, and the one thing that struck me was how the rock star said he wanted to look the way his music sounded.  Well, BIRDMAN was filmed, choreographed and edited to look the way its lead character feels, and yes, how he sounds to others. And while there will never be another like Bowie, he’s also not for everyone. So it goes with this film.

 

Indeed, though this is my first four-star review for mediumhappy.com, I cannot wholeheartedly recommend it to the masses. After the screening, inspired partially by a lovely night in Manhattan, I walked 21 city blocks back to my apartment trying to figure out how to explain this. Here’s my stab at it: BIRDMAN pushes some boundaries in film making, and all of the creative folks, from Keaton to the grips, happily went along for the flight. But there is no doubt some of the weirdness involved will glaze eyes over, especially the ending. I’d like to see the final tally at the box office, because while I think it’s a movie made for movie aficionados, playing well at Cannes doesn’t mean it’ll earn well in Cape Cod and Crescent City.

 

Then again, Keaton playing a spectacular version of Daffy Duck might be enough. I hope so. The actor gave this one everything – including a dash through Times Square wearing nothing but his Hanes. There’s no business like mocking show business.