*Australia. Iran. Washington. Most of the news is just too depressing so don’t hate us for just wanting to skip it. Particularly Australia. Honestly, how great would Earth be if our species had died out a couple million years ago? Rust Cohle was right. I think about this scene often.
“I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware…we are creatures that should not exist by natural law…I think the honorable thing for our species to do is deny our programming, stop reproducing”
Yes! But let’s wait until after the Clemson-LSU game.
Seriously. If it weren’t for thumbs and that gray matter between our ears, we’d all be dead right now. And the planet would be so much better off.
Harry and Meghan’s Brexit*
*The judges acknowledge they whiffed by not titling this “Megxit”
Okay, now this is funny:
You wonder if Prince Harry and Meghan were home watching Season 3 of The Crown and thought, maybe Edward VIII had the right idea. Harry’s great great-uncle was in line for the throne (or briefly sat upon it?) before abdicating by choosing to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. That was more than 80 years ago.
You’ll recall that Edward was a favorite (and confidante) of Harry’s father (or is he???), a young Prince Charles.
So what does Harry and Meghan’s announcement—on Instagram—that they will be “stepping down” as senior members of the royal family mean? Are you even allowed to do that?
Basically, it means that they’re now off the dole and will be able to earn their own outside income professionally. If only Don, Jr., and Eric had the nerve to do this.
Backup Notre Dame quarterback Phil Jurkovec, a sophomore, has entered the transfer portal. A 6’5″ quarterback from western Pennsylvania, Jurkovec was considered the jewel of Notre Dame’s 2018 signing class. But he could never beat out Ian Book and wasn’t about to do so next season.
Judging from the coded wording Notre Dame’s coaches have used, they’re not going to miss him terribly. Although if you watch Jurkovec in his limited time, he obviously has some superior athletic talent. Expect Brandon Clark to be the No. 2 next season and freshman Drew Pyne No. 3, and then when Tyler Buchner arrives in 2021, all bets are off.
You can feel for Jurkovec: he’d likely have been the starter last season and definitely next at 80-90% of the schools in the FBS. Just not in South Bend. What doesn’t make sense, though, is that if he transfers now he must sit out a year and doesn’t get a degree from Notre Dame. The first time he could play in a game would be 2021. Whereas if he remains at Notre Dame next season, he could graduate from there, back up Ian Book (and perhaps even play if Book gets hurt), and then immediately transfer without having to sit out a year after next season. In other words, he’d land the Notre Dame degree and still be able to play for someone else no later, in 2021, than he will if he leaves now.
Perhaps his behind-the-scenes relationship with the coaching staff had simply devolved that badly. Or else these are the kind of scratch-your-head decisions he’s known for that frustrated the staff in the first place. Maybe he’s pissed about not getting his chance and just wants to be away from these people. One can understand. But strategically, taking personal feelings out of it, it’s a dubious move.
Five Films: 1990
Goodfellas: I can only relate as a writer—and, okay, as a waiter—but every day you approach your job hoping to hit a home run and are often lucky to hit a single. Then, occasionally, giving the same effort, you hit a grand slam. And you wonder how to replicate that magic. But there’s no formula. This is Martin Scorcese’s best film, and often his movies since have seemed to self-consciously (too self -consciously) attempted to match that effort. It’s a crime that this did not win Best Picture (but this tells you just how much juice Kevin Costner had generated in Hollywood the previous four years). Joe Pesci DID win Best Supporting Actor, an encomium he deserved. Last week on the Golden Globes Tom Hanks imparted a great piece of wisdom—”A film is built scene by scene.” This film has a number of magical scenes and they all are strung together to tell a brutal, and often very funny, tale. 2. Home Alone: Comic John Mulaney grew up in Chicago and had a chance to audition for this but his parents didn’t allow it. By the way, he and Macaulay Culkin share a birthday. 3.Pretty Woman: A whore falls in love with a soulless venture capitalist and Garry Marshall’s genius is that he made us root for them. And here’s George Costanza as an evil little worm, pre-Seinfeld. 4. The Grifters: John Cusack in his first adult role with a very sexy and seductive Annette Bening, in her first big film. 5. Dances With Wolves: Best Picture winner. Ta-tonkah.
I’ve never in full seen Miller’s Crossing, or else it would likely make this list. Never seen Total Recall, either, though the only Arnold Schwarzenegger film I liked was Pumping Iron (a documentary).
This is also to serve notice of how many egregiously bad films came out in this year: Godfather III and Rocky V, to name a few. Whenever I’m feeling nauseous in the tummy, I refer to it as my feeling Quigley Down Under.
Iran launched a dozen or so missiles at two U.S. bases in Iraq purportedly with the intention of sending a message while NOT killing anyone. Meanwhile on the Iran domestic front, some 52 people died in a stampede during Qasem Soleimani’s funeral in his hometown and then later 176 perished when a commercial jet crashed shortly after takeoff in Tehran.
It was a Boeing 737, but not a Max. Sixty-three of the victims on the Kiev-bound flight were Canadian.
Anyway, it’s possible that the missile strikes were a face-saving gesture from Iran with the intent of not escalating this stupid schoolyard fracas. But I doubt that’s the last Donald Trump has heard from Iran.
North By Northworst
That’s Oliver North proving once again that “Republicans, they’re NEVER wrong.” Even when they’re passionately opposing the very thing they once stood for.
Speaking of Olivers, I was thinking of Oliver Hardy yesterday. Stan Laurel’s partner, whose catchphrase was “That’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into,” and it occurred to me that in terms of Dems and GOP presidents over the last 30 years, it’s exactly what every Democratic president could say to every Republican president he succeeded. To illustrate:
1989-1993: Republican president George Bush gets us into the first Iraq War (“to liberate Kuwait!” Ha!) and increases the federal deficit.
1993-2001: Democratic president Bill Clinton erases—ERASES—the federal budget deficit and there are no wars. He does, however, receive a blow job in the Oval Office from an intern. So there’s that. Heavens.
2001-2009: Republican president George H.W. Bush, not satisfied with merely equaling his dad’s feats, gets us into TWO wars in the Middle East (one of them completely unwarranted and illegal) AND oversees the biggest financial scandal and meltdown since the Great Depression.
2009-2017: Democratic president Barack Obama hunts down the mastermind of 9/11, oversees the nation’s financial recovery to get the stock market to all-time highs and strikes a deal with Iran to get them to stop their nuclear program.
2017-? : President Donald Trump does take the stock market to new all-time highs, but also takes the federal budget deficit into the trillions and averages more than 5,000 lies per year while in office. Also golfs too much.
Hunh. It’s almost as if there’s one party that keeps making the mess, and another party that keeps cleaning up after them. Ah, but the party that makes the mess is against abortion in any form so I guess all the other crap is worth it?
Coachella Fitzgerald (But It May Not Fit Me)
Here’s the Coachella 2020 lineup poster:
And here, released just yesterday, is the Bonnaroo 2020 lineup:
It’s time for me, in the immortal words of Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander, “to get my KISS records out.”
There’s almost no one on either poster I’m interested in seeing. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t some good bands/acts in there. It’s just that ti-i-i-ime is not on my side. No, it isn’t.
Five Films: 1989
Dead Poets’ Society: O Captain, My Captain! Too earnest? Too idealistic? Maybe. But if you can’t be at that time of your life, when can you be? When I see that red-headed schmuck now who ratted out the DPS, I think of Mick Mulvaney. 2 & 3: Do The Right Thing and When Harry Met Sally: You couldn’t find two more polar opposite films about the New York City experience, and yet they were released on the same date (July 21) in 1989. I’d moved here six days earlier. Spike Lee’s joint was largely overshadowed by WHMS that year, but its brilliance and raw emotion is breathtaking. And that’s Samuel L. Jackson’s first big role. WHMS is the best film about dating and NYC since Annie Hall. And maybe nothing has since topped it. 4. Say Anything: Another early Cameron Crowe gem. My favorite scene is the last: “No one thinks this will work” “You just gave the opening line to every great success story.” Absolutely. 5. Field Of Dreams: Yes, there was more corn in the film’s maudlin themes than there was beyond the outfield, but if you’re too cynical to love this film, that’s too bad. This is the kind of the film Frank Capra would have been proud to have made.
How are these two still married? Or are they just playing all of us?
Also, apropos of nothing above or below but something to consider this weekend as the NFL playoffs and CFB championship game come your way: Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow is one month older than putative NFL MVP Lamar Jackson.
We’ll just let Paul Krugman of The New York Times do the talking this morning. His assessment of Trump and the current situation is spot-on.
Two of the essay’s better moments:
From his first days in office, Trump has acted on the apparent belief that he could easily intimidate foreign governments — that they would quickly fold and allow themselves to be humiliated. That is, he imagined that he faced a world of Lindsey Grahams, willing to abandon all dignity at the first hint of a challenge.
“… like all too many Americans, Trump has a hard time grasping the fact that other countries are real — that is, that we’re not the only country whose citizens would rather pay a heavy price, in money and even in blood, than make what they see as humiliating concessions.”
According to actual reputable news sites, Australian Instagram model Kaylen Ward (above; why else would we have a photo of this woman here?) raised $700,000 for Australia relief efforts by posing nude and sending the pics to donors. Somewhere in this tale there’s a “bush fire” joke that we’re too classy to make.
We’re not sure if this is true—how much money she raised or if there are nude pics. But if so, you’re on the clock, Elle Macpherson.
Denver center/power forward/point guard Nikola Jokic’s line last night: 47 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and zero turnovers. The seven-footer has the Nuggets with the second-best record in the West, fourth overall in the NBA, and here comes ESPN with another four hours of uninterrupted coverage of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Hey, wanna see an entertaining and competitive All-Star Game? USA versus the World. Here’s your starting five’s:
USA: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, Trae Young
World: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic, Pascal Siakam, Ricky Rubio
*The judges will also accept “Milwaukee Buckshot”or even “A Song of Ice and Fire”
A passing motorist in Milwaukee did not take kindly to tweens tossing snowballs at his car Saturday night. So what did he do? He fired back…with a gun. Two snowball tossers were shot, one a boy (hit once) and the other a girl (hit twice). The pair suffered non life-threatening injuries and are expecting to return to sleigh riding and perhaps even making snow men once they recover.
The shooter got away and no one seems to have a good description of him, though he probably rants on Twitter a lot.
Five Films: 1988
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Is there a film character with whom I identify more than RR? Probably not. “Shave and a haircut…” What a smart and inspired film with no shortage of gags based on the premise that ‘toons are people, too. I’m not bad, I’m just built that way. Love it. 2. Midnight Run: Charles Grodin and Bob DeNiro in a sly, understated road trip. There should be an ’80s/’90s road trip film festival pairing this alongside The Sure Thing and Thelma and Louise. If you ever saw Grodin’s appearances on Letterman in the late ’80s and early ’90s you know that he’s basically playing his own annoying self, but who cares? 3. Die Hard: We’re not into action-adventure films with lots of shooting, but this has just the right amount of humor, a wise-cracking underdog hero and a perfect villain. If the idea behind any good movie is “Save The Cat,” this film takes it straight to the core and is set basically in Century City, home of Creative Artists Agency. There’s something very meta about all of it. 4. Rain Man: In the immortal words of Robert Downey, Jr., never go “full retard.” Come to think of it, this belongs in that aforementioned ’80s road trip film festival 5. Bull Durham: We never liked it as much as the other cool kids who love sports films (call us sappy but we prefer Field Of Dreams), but there’s a lot of good moments here, including the “lollygaggers” scene.
Worth Noting: Cinema Paradiso, Big, Coming To America, The Naked Gun, Beetlejuice, Working Girl, The Vanishing
Haven’t Seen But Would Be Willing: Dangerous Liaisons
Twenty-eight years ago. Nothing’s changed. Carlin: “I got this moron thing I like to do. It’s called thinking. And I’m not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions.”
Assassinate a foreign leader because he was planning to do something bad (allegedly). Wait, isn’t this the administration whose anti-impeachment hole card is that they didn’t actually go through with the bad action they were planning to do regarding Ukraine? Oh, and since when does president Trump believe what our intelligence agencies are telling him? Now, suddenly?
So, assassinate a foreign leader. Threaten to do more if Iran retaliates, including bombing cultural sites. We’re asked by Iraq, a country with a democratically elected government, to leave the country and our response is, We’ll think about it. So now we’re occupying a nation against its wishes. Meanwhile, we begin our football games with flags that are as long and wide as a football field as a not-so-subtle message to every American watching that YOU BETTER F***ING BE WITH THE PROGRAM.
It took less than 20 years after 9/11, but congratulations, Osama: America is now the bad guy. Even a level-headed American can see that.
I’ll have a lot more on this in the coming days and you may very well decide not to visit this site for awhile. Or again. That’s cool. But I won’t attempt to write comprehensively on this—it’s too much—but rather to offer a tiny buffet of nuggets and observations each day.
For instance…I found it curious that on the day Soleimani was killed, every cable news outlet described him as “evil” and that the world is safer now that he is gone. I don’t know much about him. But it seems his job was to kill American soldiers, just as it would probably be our generals’ jobs to kill soldiers who started occupying this part of the planet. It’s funny to me how Americans are brainwashed into thinking that any country that doesn’t fall in lock-step with what America’s best interests are is somehow evil.
Soleimani was doing his job. He probably wouldn’t be doing that job if American soldiers were not occupying the Middle East. And why are we? Oil. “Stabilize the region”is simply a euphemism. We don’t give a sh*t, at least our leaders don’t, about human rights in that part of the world. If we did we’d crack down on Saudi Arabia, which if you don’t recall is the country where all the 9/11 hijackers come from and also still beheads people and treats women as if it’s 1020. It’s not about making the world a better or safer place. It’s about oil and a very strategically water way known as the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, whose one shore is Iran.
What made Soleimani evil? That he killed people? That’s what soldiers fighting wars do. That he killed people through “terrorism,” which is just another way of saying that he fought unconventionally, which is exactly what this country did when it was gaining independence from Great Britain because when the opposing side has far greater firepower this becomes your strategy. It’s the same reason Navy runs the triple-option or Mike Leach the spread offense.
War is war. The objective is to win. If you’re offended that someone isn’t being a gentleman about it, that’s probably because you’ve never had the misfortune of being severely outmanned and out-armed. It’s a tragedy all the American lives that were lost in Iraq and anywhere else in the Middle East due to Soleimani. It’s not less a tragedy or crime that Dick Cheney manufactured a phony excuse to go to war there in the first place and then profited immeasurably from it. Looking for a war criminal? Begin with Dick Cheney.
This morning on CNBC: Directly following an interview with Richard Engel from Baghdad, CNBC ran a seemingly unrelated graphic noting that 21 BILLION barrels of crude oil flow through the Strait of Hormuz each day, a full one-fifth of the world’s oil supply. Wow. You think those two things have anything to do with one another?
Finally, here are some Twitter threads you might want to read in full. (I only have the first tweet from each thread here) came across them on Sunday.
—By the way, the spark that seemed to light this fire was the death of a U.S. military contractor two days after Christmas. Kind of strange that his name has yet to be released. Also kind of strange that we have such profundity of “military contractors” all over the place (two of them were killed in Kenya on Sunday by a terrorist attack). Military contractors are often ex-U.S. military guys who are paid by private enterprise to go in and do military-type jobs for two to three times the price they were getting back when they were in the service. And who’s paying them? The company they work for. And where is that company getting the money? From its government contracts. That is, you and I are paying ex-military dudes exponentially more than they earned as U.S. soldiers to do jobs that are sort of outside the purview of military regulations.
It’s like having a police force but then also hiring a vigilante group of ex-cops who are paid far more than your actual cops and don’t actually have to answer to anyone. If you’re thinking, JW, that sounds f***ed up well guess what? It is.
–Someone tweeted and I agree: Are you really ready to take the word of a guy who spent three years saying that President Obama was born in Kenya about anything, much less that Soleimani was planning an attack? If there’s one thing everyone should know about Donald Trump by now it’s that his word is garbage. So why believe him now?
–There is one hopeful thought in all of this mess: Nancy Pelosi still has yet to send the Articles of Impeachment over to the Senate. The evidence has always been overwhelming against Trump and more comes out against him regarding Ukraine almost daily. The Senate has always had the evidence they need to impeach Trump, but its Republican majority has not had the will.
But what if the threat of a war with Iran turns so many (more) Americans off to Trump? And so many more GOP voters? Sure, Trump will always have his evangelical waiting’-on-that-apocalypse fringe base, and the dumbass base, but what if enough Senators realize, Hey, this guy is truly dangerous. He’s going to get a lot of people killed needlessly (even more than Cheney did). So this is their “Get Out Of Trump Free” card. Just vote to impeach him.
Ricky, Don’t Lose That Venom
If this was Ricky Gervais‘ final time hosting the Golden Globes, the bombastic Brit went out with a bang. Stay until the end. The man is fearless.
Brady Breeze >> Brady, Brees
Less than a week into the new decade and you can feel the generational tectonic shift in the NFL as both forty-something legends, Tom Brady and Drew Brees, lost in the wild card round AT HOME. Brees and Brady are the NFL’s all-time leaders in passing touchdowns AND passing yardage (Brees is No. 1 on both lists, Brady No. 2), both are in their early forties and both are probably never going to return to the Super Bowl. At least not with their current franchises.
Will either quarterback retire? Will either go play elsewhere, a la twilight Joe Montana? We’ll see. I don’t think Tom is ready to hang up his cleats, but I’m not sure the Pats want to stick with him another year. Would he play for another franchise? Was his final pass for the Pats a pick-six?
The Lakers Are For Real
It’s not that white-dude-with-a-headband dunked on this play. It’s the way LeBron and AD celebrated by leaping with him as he did so. The Lakers are a happy, frisky bunch who just won their fifth straight and have the NBA’s second-best record.
A Correction: 1985
When I undertake the yearly movie list each day, I begin by Googling “Best Films of _____” to remind myself of what was out there each year. Occasionally, I’ll remember some film that shows up on none of the lists that come up, usually through dumb luck.
Well, last week I overlooked a film from 1985 that may be my favorite film from any year, for purely personal reasons. I’d never claim that Fandango, starring Kevin Costner, Judd Nelson and Jason Robards (the last of whom is true Hollywood royalty: his father was Jason Robards and his mother Lauren Bacall) is a classic. But if you’ve ever had a film that seemed to reach out and speak to you, you know what I’m talking about. This was Fandango for me. I’ll tell you why.
I watched Fandango over at my big brother’s apartment in the summer of 1986. It must have been on HBO, one year after its release. Now, if you’ve not seen the movie, it’s about five college buddies from SMU who have just graduated from SMU in the spring of 1970. They’re all about to go their separate ways but Costner, the charismatic leader of this quintet who’ve dubbed themselves The Groovers, persuades his buddies to go “visit Dom.”
It’s a road trip down to the border of Mexico. It’s a reckoning. It’s five young men who are about to exit the extended childhood that can be college and enter the real world. And that means, at least for two of them, Vietnam. But the beauty of the film is its subtlety and its wackiness. Fandango has a sense of humor about it and a quirkiness that is peculiar and almost proprietary to anyone who’s had that college dorm bonding experience. The bonding and laughter I experienced with my college friends was something I’ve never come close to replicating before or since. It was unique. And Fandango captured that sensibility.
And also, let’s give credit where it’s due, the soundtrack, including Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” and a few Pat Metheny tunes, just fit so damn well.
Anyway, I watched this in the summer of ’86. By that time I was two years through college and here’s what I knew: my grades were going to be good enough to get me into medical school. But I just wasn’t sure that’s who I wanted to be. Watching this film I felt like Philip (Judd Nelson’s repressed character) but I yearned to be more like Gardner Barnes (Costner’s character). I’m loathe to admit that a Kevin Costner film helped to alter my path in life—not to mention making a hilariously unwise career decision from a financial standpoint—but it may just be true.
The climactic scene of the film involves a hastily thrown-together wedding that could’ve been a Marx Brothers bit. It’s funny but then suddenly it becomes very poignant with Pat Metheny’s beautiful and haunting “It’s For You” as background music. No scene gets to me more and for the number of years that I was lucky enough to travel the country covering college football and experiencing those wondrous environments and college towns and games, I always felt as if I were Gardner Barnes setting up that wedding on the fly: How had I gone from an overly studious and anxiety-addled pre-med to a Sports Illustrated college football writer in a few short years? I felt so damn lucky.
Anyway, if you have a movie that means as much to you as this one does to me, lucky you. So let’s amend the record and put this as my top film from 1985. Here’s to life and to the privileges of youth.
Five Films: 1987
Broadcast News: What happens when you get a brilliantly written screenplay and a few perfectly cast actors together? This, from someone who has worked in sports television, is the most accurate portrayal of TV news I can imagine. It’s also a heartbreaking love triangle in which the two who are ideal for one another can’t work cuz she has eyes for the hotter guy. This just in: It’s one of the world’s oldest stories. A classic 2. The Princess Bride: What? You think this should be ranked first? As you wish. 3. Fatal Attraction/Wall Street: Michael Douglas owned this year so we put both of his films in. 4. Moonstruck: A wolf without a claw. Who knew that putting Cher and Nicholas Cage together in a film about a family in Brooklyn Heights could work so well? 5. Raising Arizona: “I’ll get that child back or else my name isn’t Nathan T. Arizona!” “Y’ate sand?” “We ate sand.” Come to think of it, Nicholas Cage had a pretty good year as well.
Yes, I put Baby in a corner. Would have liked to have included Dirty Dancing as well as The Untouchables, Full Metal Jacket, Good Morning, Vietnam, No Way Out and The Last Emperor. We’ve honestly never seen Planes, Trains and Automobiles , Adventures In Babysitting, Lethal Weapon or Predator. Really.
The White House, without authorization from Congress, has assassinated Qasem Soleimani. He was basically the No. 2 dude in Iran behind the Supreme Leader, the dude who directed all acts of war, terrorism, foreign policy skulduggery behind the scenes.
The rationale—that Soleimani was directing imminent attacks against U.S. troops and/or civilians in Iraq—has only been true for, oh, about the past 17 years. So why now? And what’s the plan going forward besides tweeting?
And why did Eric Trump tweet “Bout to open a big ol’ can of whoopass” and #DontMessWithTheBest on New Year’s Eve, two days before the strike occurred? Did he know about this 48 hours before anyone in Congress, most of whom learned by Twitter, did?
Anyway, Soleimani is dead. He was a bad, bad man, particularly where U.S. interests are concerned. But of course, this is the beginning, not the end. I think we can all use our imaginations and consider what array of responses Iran might use, what targets (human and cyber and geographic) they might go after in response.
But it’s also an opportunity for Donald Trump to deflect from the impeachment process. To perhaps declare martial law. To behave like a tough guy. Has he thought three steps down the road? No. Trump plays checkers, not chess.
Stay tuned. The “Toots” (2020s) just got interesting, a whole two days in.
One last thing: Isn’t it a little funny that the U.S.’ rationale for killing this man is that he was “in the planning stages of attacking U.S. interests” yet this same administration uses as its defense in the Ukraine impeachment case that it never actually accomplished what it is accused of setting out to do?
Jones’ing To Be Fired
After yet another 8-8 season with all that talent, Jason Garrett was fired by the Dallas Cowboys (four days and like, three meetings with Jerry Jones after the Cowboys’ last game, a meaningless blowout of the Washington Redskins). We were curious why the ESPN crawl and the SportsCenter promos and even espn.com kept repeating the same stock phrase: “Cowboys To Move On” from Jason Garrett.
When you’re being spun as a fan, it’s important to be aware of that fact. Someone in Dallas (J.J.) wields a lot of power with the ESPN folks (and uses Ed Werder as his conduit?) and as long as ESPN was going to break this story, maybe they had to agree to word it Jerry’s way? Just a conspiracy theory, but then again this is an event that took place in Dallas, the epicenter of conspiracy theories, so the judges will allow it.
Just a reminder that with a ton of talent and two games apiece versus the Redskins and the Giants, plus games against the Dolphins and Jets, the Cowboys were unable to win enough games to make the playoffs. Incredible.
Bring on the “Urban Cowboy?” heds. And wouldn’t it be something if Coach Meyer had yet another chance to under-use Ezekiel Elliott?
Five Films: 1986
Platoon: Finally, a good six years into the decade, a film that is both popular and critically praised. A movie movie. Oliver Stone’s semi-autobiographical tale about a privileged kid who volunteered to serve in Vietnam and barely made it out alive felt, at the time, like a very, very accurate account of what it was like without all of Apocalypse Now‘s Heart of Darkness varnish. Sergeant Barnes: “I AM reality.” 2. Hoosiers: Seeing this film as a college student in Indiana, it felt as if someone had made the love letter to the state that I was feeling inside. Gene Hackman probably never quite knew how much this film would blow up as he was filming it. Credit writer/director Angelo Pizzo for not going overboard with the maudlin, for understanding small-town Indiana, for some wonderful cinematography, for a thrilling score to accompany those action scenes, and for just the right amount of comic relief…in the form of Dennis Hopper. And wouldn’t you know a kid named Steve Alford would lead the Indiana Hoosiers to the NCAA title that year? 3. Stand By Me: For as much credit as Rob Reiner gets, he still does not get enough. In the 1980s he made This Is Spinal Tap, this, The Princess Bride and When Harry Met Sally. Not bad, Meathead. Not bad. River Phoenix embodies precocious. Could’ve been the next Brando. 4. Top Gun: I mean, yeah, so manipulative and formulaic (it’s All The Right Moves at a Navy flight school) and so, so closeted (“I’m on YOUR tail!”) but it delivers and the dog-fight scenes are incredible. And that’s Meg Ryan before she was really, really big. Tom Cruise has still never won an Oscar. Incredible. Still get a chuckle seeing topless dudes in jeans playing volleyball. 5. Hannah And Her Sisters: So many films could’ve landed in this final spot, so let’s recognize ones we loved here— Blue Velvet, Something Wild, Back To School and Pretty In Pink. We’ve never been a fan of Ferris Bueller because as, I believe it was Gene Siskel pointed out, if you look at this film through the lens of “Ferris is just an incredibly narcissistic and self-serving ass,” you may see it differently and, oh, by the way, that is the correct lens. We’ve always wanted to see Mission and hope someday that we will. As for this film, it’s a sign of Woody Allen’s maturation (as a film maker…don’t Soon-Yi me; I know). This and Crimes and Misdemeanors are almost impossible to tell apart from one another, but they’re both dark and also funny.
We’re not going to give you “20 Things For 2020,” as the CNN list was rather lame. But here are a few events/moments to anticipate this year, after a year with no Olympics, no elections, and no men’s World Cup (now Twitter will roast me for being sexist):
1.) The presidential election (November) and all the chaos that will precede it. As for the Senate Impeachment trial, who knows?
2) The Tokyo Olympics, the first summer games in Japan in 56 years.
3) The Yankees and the White Sox will play an MLB game on the Field Of Dreams baseball diamond (or, directly adjacent to it) in August.
4) The 400th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower (November 11, Cape Cod–and not Plymouth Rock).
5) The reopening of the Washington Monument. For the first time in more than three years, visitors can travel up to the top.
6) The 50th anniversary of the Glastonbury Music Festival (headliner: Taylor Swift and Sir Paul McCartney). The initial Glastonbury fest had The Kinks as its headline act and was staged one day after the death of Jimi Hendrix (not because of that). Tickets were one pound and about 1,500 attended.
7. The European Cup, a.k.a. Euro 2020. Ironic that the first Euro after the Brits ratify Brexit will be formally hosted by the U.K. but staged all across the continent. Two dozen nations have qualified and early round matches will be held in the following cities: Munich, Rome, St. Petersburg, London, Baku, Budapest, Bucharest, Amsterdam, Bilbao, Glasgow, Dublin and Copenhagen.
Sounds like a solid road trip. Who’s with me? The final will be held at Wembley on July 12 in London.
8. The Champions League final will be held on May 30th in Istanbul, by the way. Sort of an exotic location.
9. The 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770) could reignite a craze for classical music. He was born in December of that year, exact date unknown.
10. Hair Nation fans, unite! A 2020 summer tour with these three acts on the bill: Motley Crue, Def Leppard and Poison. I LIKE TO ROCK! (We’re more stoked about the rumors of an AC/DC reunion tour. We’ll be there for that).
The Next Bitcoin?
We honestly never heard of Bitcoin until early 2014. That’s when Newsweek, where we toiled at the time, re-launched itself as a magazine (a monthly, I believe) and devoted its first cover story to uncovering the person/persons who’d created the crypto-currency. We honestly had no idea what the mag was talking about, as we were still getting up to speed on MySpace and the Blackberry in 2013.
However, if you were smarter than we are (no great feat) you could have owned one Bitcoin for as little as $1 in the winter of 2011. Historians should note the following, and we are not making this up: “On 22 May 2010,Laszlo Hanyecz made the first real-world transaction by buying two pizzas in Jacksonville, Florida, for 10,000 BTC.”
Now, let’s say you had put $100 down on Bitcoin in February of 2011. What would that $100, or 100 Bitcoin, be worth today? $712,900. Not a bad jump, that.
So what’s the Bitcoin, not in terms of currency but in terms of an investment opportunity, for this decade? We don’t know. But we will not be surprised if it has something to do with water or renewable energy or a paradigm shift away from carbon-based fuels. Our safe bet here is Tesla, although we know it won’t skyrocket anything like the way Bitcoin did. But we definitely believe it’ll double to treble over the next decade.
David Stern And Don Larsen
Two sports icons passed away on New Year’s Day. Former NBA commish David Stern died at the age of 77 and former MLB pitcher Don Larsen, still the only human ever to throw a perfect game in the World Series, left us at age 90.
A note on Larsen that you may already know: His first time back to Yankee Stadium after his 1956 gem, at least formally, was for Yogi Berra Day in 1999. On that Sunday afternoon Yankee pitcher David Cone tossed a perfect game. I’m not sure what the odds of throwing a perfect game are, but they happen at about the rate of one every five years. So that’s pretty wild.
As for Stern, it was somewhat serendipitous that he took the helm of the NBA as Magic and Larry were in their primes and Michael Jordan was in his rookie year, but he was no dumb luck ride-along. Stern was brilliant and tough and a visionary. Much like Pete Rozelle in the NFL, he took his league to a next-level status no one before could have foreseen. Only four years before he began NBA Finals games were still being aired on tape-delay on CBS.
As for the above video, I love this effort by Stern. It’s not proportional to everything he did in his career, but I love that he’s this tenacious. He’s not overly circumspect. He punches back at Rome.
Purple Helmets’ Majesty
What will we remember most about the 2020 Rose Bowl a few years from now, if anything? Will it be Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert’s three touchdown scampers, including the game-winner? Safety Brady Breeze’s fumble recovery touchdown or the game-changing fumble he forced in the 28-27 win?
Nah. It’s gonna be the way the sunset reflected off the Ducks’ chrome helmets. You win, Phil Knight. You win.
Five Films: 1985
Fandango: See our January 6 post. 2. The Breakfast Club: Not only do I think of this as John Hughes’ best film, but that Judd Nelson should’ve won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar (neither were even nominated…you won’t remember a single nominee from the Best Supporting list). It’s a film that, as Jonathan Bender would argue, is “demented and sad…but sociable.” 3. Witness: Harrison Ford in the ultimate hiding-out-in-Amish country film. Remember when Kelly McGillis nailed the two biggest female love interest roles in America in back-to-back years? 4. After Hours: Always loved this film and when I saw it back in college I never imagined I’d soon be a young, single guy in NYC. No film better captures what unknown adventures wait in the Big Apple on any given night. 5. The Sure Thing: No one was a more charming teenaged male than John Cusack. He also starred in Better Off Dead this same year. I still think about naming my son Nick. ….That’s right, I’m going to leave Back To The Future (plus all the Oscar nominees) off this list. As well as Fletch. Put it on the Underwood account.
I Can’t Let Go
Catching parts of the Linda Ronstadt doc on CNN last night led us to discover her cover of The Hollies’ “I Can’t Let Go,” one of our all-time favs. Only, in searching around we learned that the Hollies’ version was also a cover of a song written by Chip Taylor and first performed by Brooklyn-born Evie Sands a year earlier in 1965. Now here’s the thing about Chip Taylor. His given name is James Wesley Voight. He’s Jon Voight’s brother (and Angelina Jolie’s uncle) and he also wrote “Wild Thing” and “Angel Of The Morning.” One brood shouldn’t be allowed to have that much talent.
The Hollies’ version remains our favorite, but we really wanna know how Sands seems to have slipped through the cracks of Sixties pop legends? This performance was from a TV show called “Hollywood a Go Go” in January of 1966.
This was the year Hollywood made a lot of popular films, but no great ones. At least not serious great ones. A year with a lot of big films that people still discuss today, most of which I’ve either never seen (The Terminator, Gremlins, A Nightmare On Elm Street) or didn’t like half as much last the rest of you (Ghostbusters, Footloose). I know: I’m such a snob.
This Is Spinal Tap: Will this list go to 11? I don’t think so. This is the seminal mockumentary, and still the best. 2. The Karate Kid: Wax on, wax off. Sort of the Rocky of martial arts mixed with the classic 68-pound weakling tale. The Cobra Kai remains synonymous with bullying treachery. 3. Amadeus: In which a dude who had a small part in Animal House wins a Best Actor Oscar in a film that won Best Picture. 4. Beverly Hills Cop: It’s somewhat formulaic, sure, but Eddie Murphy is like, the coolest cat you’ve ever seen. Was half the film improvised? Who knows, it all works. 5. Purple Rain: Prince’s coming-out party and it’s fantastic, both the music and the story. Nobody’d ever seen a brother shred a guitar like that before.
Honorable Mentions Go To: Against All Odds (Rachel Ward was a goddess), Revenge Of The Nerds, Broadway Danny Rose (underrated Woody Allen), Johnny Dangerously (“my mother called me that once…ONCE!”), Bachelor Party and Splash! (early Tom Hanks; Bachelor Party is a much funnier film than Ghostbusters, at least to me), Sixteen Candles (not John Hughes’ best, but right up there).
We don’t have a tweet here, we just wanted to ask, “White Settlement?” Really?
Wait, we do have a tweet here.
Christmas is over, so it’s time for the staff at MH to begin paying attention to the NFL. Seems as if the league saved its most interesting regular season game for the final one of the year.
San Francisco at Seattle. At stake was first place in the NFC West, a radical re-juggling of the NFC playoff bracket, and the winner earning a bye week and staying home throughout the playoffs or traveling three time zones to play in Philadelphia next Sunday. Seems rather unfair to finish 12-4 and have to travel 2,500 miles to visit a team that went 9-7, but welcome to the NFL.
Let’s skip right ahead to the final minute in Seattle, shall we? Seattle, with the ball, trails the 49ers 26-21 and faces 4th-and-10 from the Niner 12. Russell Wilson completes an 11-yard pass and now it’s 1st-and-goal, with Marshawn Lynch in your backfield, with 0:23 left and no timeouts.
Seattle can’t possibly blow this, can they? I mean, what team has ever blown a sure victory with the ball at the opponents’ 1-yard line, with Beast Mode in its backfield, and with so much on the line?
1st-and-goal from the 1: Spike it.
2nd-and-goal from the 1: Inexplicably, a delay of game penalty. Again, at home. With a veteran QB and Pete Carroll as your HC.
2nd-and-goal from the 6: INC
4th-and-goal: Complete to Hollister, tackled at the one inch line.
And now the Seahawks must travel to Philly. Should they win, they’d next have to travel to San Francisco. All because they could not convert first-and-goal from the 1 at home. And yes, Lynch never got a touch and Wilson never ran on a QB draw.
Oh, and yes, Seattle could’ve avoided all of this by beating the wretched Arizona Cardinals at home last week.
They All Knew
In news that should not floor you, The New York Times is reporting that in late August President Trump’s national security team—Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and National Security Advisor—presented themselves as a united front in the Oval Office to urge our 45th president (and first dictator) to release the military aid to Ukraine.
Bolton even went so far as to remind the president that most of the $400 million in aid is spent on U.S. weapons, anyway. Trump would not budge.
In case you’re wondering why the White House didn’t allow any of these people to testify or appear in front of the impeachment inquiry. The entire story has about 30 smoking guns, but it’s long and has plenty of words and MAGA-land won’t read it. Which is what Trump is counting on.
One could discuss the targeting penalty against Ohio State’s Shaun Wade that changed the Fiesta Bowl from Clemson punting down 16-0 late in the first half to Clemson getting a first down, scoring a touchdown, and then adding a second before halftime to close to within 16-14.
Or the strip-and score being turned into an incomplete pass that nullified a third quarter Buckeye TD that would have put them up 23-14. Both were officials’ replay calls that definitely altered the game.
Those decisions were out of first-year Ohio State coach Ryan Day’s hands. What was not out of his control was Ohio State up 23-21 late (it might’ve been 24-21 but Day opted to kick the PAT early in the 4th) and facing 2nd and 4 at the Tiger 39. One more first down and the Buckeyes are possibly in field goal range and they’ve also either compelled the Sanctimonious Swinneys to burn their remaining timeouts or they’ve got the clock down to 2 minutes.
What happens? A running play to J.K. Dobbins loses a yard. A short pass to Austin Mack gains a yard. Now it’s 4th-and-4 with 3:07 left, still from the Tiger 39.
Go for it. It’s four yards and while that’s not easy, it probably ices the Tigers. Day punts. It’s a good punt, downed at the 6, but Clemson will go 94 yards in four plays and score the game-winning TD.
Here’s the thing about football coaches, particularly those at establishment programs. They’re conservative politically, and they’re conservative emotionally. They’re conservative. They’re atop the heap because the game/system works in their favor and so why change? The risk takers are always the fringe guys, the Hal Mummes or Mouse Davises or Mike Leaches. They cannot afford to be establishment types.
Day made the conservative call on fourth down. What announcers would say is the prudent call. And while the Buckeyes still had a chance to come back and win after Clemson’s TD, Day had four yards to get that almost certainly would’ve propelled the Buckeyes to the national championship.
Yes, but are those photos recent?
Actress Sharon Stone, 61, who was the hottest thing on the planet in the early 1990s, was reportedly kicked off the dating site Bumble because the good folks who work there assumed it was a fake account.
Only after Stone went on her verified Twitter account and reported this travesty did Bumble re-activate her account. So yes, this is an item about the birds and the bees.
This should become a documentary. Titles? “Sharin’ Stone?” “
Five Films: 1983
Risky Business: This was always more than a teen comedy, and it was even always more than Tom Cruise’s coming-out (no pun intended) party. This was a stylish film with a smart script. It’s fantastic. I wasn’t going to post it this high, but sometimes you gotta say, “What the f**k?” Can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a tweet and thought, “Joel, go to school. Go learn something.” 2. A Christmas Story: There’s a reason it’s on every December. It’s funny and insightful and charming and so, so true. And we love that Darren McGavin, whom we loved from the Seventies “The Night Stalker” series, gets some much-deserved love as “the old man.” Reminded us of our dad a little. 3. Local Hero: Wonderful little film starring Peter Riegert and Burt Lancaster (ol’ Burt had quite a nice little comeback in the early Eighties between this and Atlantic City). Riegert plays an oil exec who’s been sent to a small Scottish town to purchase most of it but the locals are a cannier, craftier lot than he’d bargained for. 4. The Right Stuff: It’s almost impossible to improve upon Tom Wolfe’s book, and I don’t think they did, but between Ed Harris and Sam Shepard, they darn nearly did. 5. Trading Places: We’ll say it: This is the most instructive finance/capitalism/class divide film of the Eighties, way more so than Wall Street. Also, Eddie Murphy is hilarious. This is back when he was making terrific films by mostly being himself and not hiding behind the makeup and wardrobe department.
—Left on the cutting room floor: Terms Of Endearment (Best Picture Oscar winner), The Big Chill, Vacation and Tender Mercies.
–Fun Fact: There are at least two actors in our above-mentioned films who would later show up on The Sopranos. Can you name them?
Remember a long, long time ago—perhaps it was February of 2016—when Supreme Court justice Anton Scalia died? We do. Remember what happened? President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to succeed Scalia and all that was left, as spelled out in Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution, was for the U.S. Senate to either confirm or reject him.
And what happened? Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, never bothered to take a vote. Garland withered on the vine for 293 days until at last the nomination expired, just three weeks before Donald Trump was inaugurated. What McConnell did was not expressly unconstitutional, since the Framers never set a hard deadline (e.g., what exactly is a “speedy trial?”), but certainly it opposed the spirit of the guidelines.
So here it is nearly four years later and McConnell is still head of the Senate. And he’s already indicated, even before the Democratic-led House impeached President Trump, that he would not conduct a fair Senate impeachment trial. And so House Majority leader Nancy Pelosi is pilfering McConnell’s patented move: she’s slow-walking the process and basically running a four corners offense by not sending the articles of impeachment onto the Senate—yes, it’s a mere formality, but it is observed—over to the Senate for them to stage their kangaroo court.
The maneuver is genius for a number of reasons: 1) It prevents Trump and his wacko Republicans from getting any sense of closure on this dark chapter (look, how many people talk about the Mueller report any more). 2) It keeps impeachment in the news and that will only help more witnesses to come forward—you think this is the only time Trump abused the power of his office? 3) It frustrates the hell out of “Individual 1” which causes him to rage-tweet which only demonstrates further how unfit he is to lead and finally, 4) It pisses McConnell off. Someone’s beating him at his own game.
The impeachment articles, as the political environment now stands, are dead in the water as soon as the Senate receives them. Men like McConnell and Lindsey Graham, who pleaded for an impartial, non-partisan process 20 years ago before Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, have openly stated, in not so many words, that they have no fear of being hypocrites now. So why even give them the chance?
Nancy Pelosi is the “nasty woman” Donald Trump and his GOP buddies have no answer for.
Is Tesla finally over the hump? Is stock in the battery-powered car manufacturer about to enjoy a half-decade run-up akin to that of Amazon the past five years?
This morning comes news that Tesla (TSLA), shares of which have risen more than 150% in the past six months, just secured a $1.29 billion-with-a-B loan from the Chinese government to assist in a Shanghai manufacturing plant.
Here are two features of China every investor should know: 1) It has lots and lots of people and 2) these people work cheap (“Yay! Totalitarianism!”).
Anyway, human-rights issues aside, Tesla will be able to make more cars for even less money. Also, in a related move, China is exempting a Tesla model from its buyers having to pay a purchase tax. Maybe China is finally getting serious about its dreadful air quality.
In January of 2015 shares of Amazon (AMZN) were available for $312. Five years later, the stock price has sextupled. Tesla, which was as low as $172 last June, opens this morning at close to $435. We see it doubling in at least the next two years.
We’ve been wrong before. But we’ve also been right. We’ll see.
If you’re watching Season 3 of The Crown on Netflix, you may recognize a familiar face from HBO in a familiar role. Charles Dance, who played sinister patriarch Tywin Lannister in Game Of Thrones, has assumed the role of dashing Navy captain (and uncle to Prince Phillip), Lord Louis Mountbatten.
Although one role was fictional and the other is historical, Dance is almost essentially playing the same character, with a tweak or two. Lannister was never king, but he was always close to the throne, he held enormous influence, and the Lord of Casterly Rock was a mentor to to his grandson, the sociopathic and diabolical Joffrey. He would be murdered by his dwarf son Tyrion after Tyrion found his love in bed with his dad. Seems fair.
Mountbatten was as dashing as Lannister, but not as evil (although the IRA would not agree with that assessment). Born in 1900, he lived an extremely colorful life—as a youth he spent time in St. Petersburg, Russia, and became close with the Imperial family before the Bolshevik Revolution. He was related to them somehow.
Anyway, as we see in Season 3, he also acts as a mentor to a family member two generations removed, but here it is to his great-nephew, Prince Charles. Stick around for Season 4 because Mountbatten’s about to meet a grisly end of his own, although not by crossbow while visiting the W.C.
Dance, who stands 6’3″, is perfect for these roles as the aging aristocratic lion.
Five Films: 1982
I’m trying to determine if this is a matter of my age at the time or just this particular year, but while there’s no CLASSIC film here (other than perhaps No. 1), the year is very deep with quality, so you’ll see below how we handle it.
E. T. The Extra Terrestrial: Magical, and also a very early glimpse at what a fascist state our MIC was turning us into. Spielberg had Raiders and this in consecutive years. He was walking on water. 2. Tootsie: Funny, and one of the smartest scripts you’ll ever find. We see our protagonist’s dilemma (he’s a good actor but he’s a pain in the ass), then he solves it in a clever way only to create an even bigger problem. It’s like Save The Cat by putting the cat on a higher branch on the tree. I still want someone to produce “Return To Love Canal.” 3. My Favorite Year: Based on Mel Brooks’ early, early years as a comedy writer, this is sharp and funny and Peter O’Toole is simply endearing and intoxicated. 4. An Officer And A Gentleman: Louis Gossett, Jr., is the perfect drill sergeant. Richard Gere and Debra Winger are terrific. “I got no place else to go….I got…no…place…else…to …go.” 5. Fast Times At Ridgemont High: “Isn’t it OUR time, Mr. Hand?” The film that launched Sean Penn, and also that dude who wrote it, Cameron Crowe, wasn’t half bad himself.
Five More Films: 1982
Diner: Young dudes coming of age in early Sixties Baltimore. Paul Reiser, Mickey Rourke, Tim Daly, Steve Guttenberg and there’s that Daniel Stern guy again. 2. Blade Runner: I’ve never seen it. I know. I will. 3.. The Verdict: Paul Newman in yet another Oscar-worthy performance for which he did not win. 4. Gandhi: If you ever get the chance, watch this and Sexy Beast in the same week. Man, Ben Kingsley has some range to him. 5. Sophie’s Choice: Meryl Streep does an accent. I’d argue this title rivals Gaslight in its legacy for creating a term with an actual meaning.
Popular movies that didn’t make either list cuz they just weren’t as good as they are popular: Poltergeist, Rambo: First Blood, Rocky III. Movies that belong in your art house cinema that I still wanna see: The King Of Comedy, Fitzcarraldo, Koyaanisqatsi, The Year Of Living Dangerously.
Raiders Of The Lost Ark: Now that’s an adventure! From the jungles of South America to a college classroom to D.C. to Nepal to Cairo, Indiana Jones takes us on a rollicking ride. His mission: to prevent the Ark of the Covenant from falling into the hands of the Nazis. No small stakes there. 2. Das Boot: U-boat thriller. The ending. Wow! 3. Gallipoli: Aussie war movie about two young sprinters who are sent to fight in the Gallipoli campaign in World War I in Turkey. Another Wow! final scene, masterfully filmed. 4. Atlantic City: Yet another film title that would later become a Bruce Springsteen song, like “Thunder Road” and “Badlands” , etc. Burt Lancaster wasn’t the only aging Hollywood great (Henry Fonda) to be nominated for Best Actor this year. 5. (and don’t ask me to include On Golden Pond….please) Chariots of Fire: Runners of different religious persuasions competing at the 1924 Olympics and that lush score from Vangelis as they strike along the beach.