Starting Five

Hesburgh was president of Notre Dame for 35 years, from 1952 to 1987

1. Our Father, Who Art in Heaven…

Former Notre Dame president Fr. Ted Hesburgh, C.S.C., who met EVERYBODY during his 35-year tenure (as well as before and after) passes away at the age of 97. Outside of the priest who founded the school, Fr. Sorin, and perhaps Knute Rockne, no man has been more important in bringing the school of Our Lady to prominence.

From the Chicago Tribune: His work took him far from the university so often that the joke around campus used to be that the difference between God and Hesburgh was that while God is everywhere, Hesburgh was everywhere but Notre Dame.

Hesburgh was awarded 150 honorary degrees. His weekends in May were booked for decades.

During Hesburgh’s tenure, the university’s enrollment more than doubled, the endowment soared, the number of buildings (including the 14-story library that now bears his name) increased greatly, and women were added as students. Like that library on which the side Touchdown Jesus can be found, Hesburgh was a truly towering figure on campus, but his reach extended far beyond South Bend and even American shores.

2. Melodromedary

Thellama and Louise?

It was the greatest fugitive chase Arizona had seen since Gary Tison and Randy Greenawalt broke out of the state penitentiary in Florence back in the summer of 1978. I’m not sure where the llamas belonged, how they escaped, or how a helicopter arrived on the scene over Sun City (a huge retirement community northwest of Phoenix) so promptly,  but I do know that all of Twitter ceased its other VERY important activities (e.g. wondering aloud about the Dez Bryant video) to watch. 

In other words, March Madness and spring training cannot arrive soon enough.

3. Color Wars

So this was a thing yesterday, too. Thanks, Buzzfeed. America would like to collectively punch you in the grape cluster.

I really hope the model for this dress is Bruce Jenner

It’s gold and white, goddamnit!

Gold and white? Blue and black? Blue and gold? I dunno.

Meanwhile, the Cavs were at home last night but eschewed their white, wine and gold unis for Navy blue with wine and gold trim. For the first hour of the great dress debate, I just assumed that’s what folks were tweeting about.

White and gold?


4. Francohabitation

Son of Julio Franco?

That goofy young dude in the Unfinished Business trailer reminds me a lot of a young James Franco. And then I learn that it should since it’s his younger brother, Dave Franco, who at 29 is seven years younger (at 5’7″ he is also four inches shorter).

I tweeted out that info (I know, I use “tweet” as a verb a lot here, but it’s just part of the everyday life) and @DoctahDean informed me that Dave is dating Alison Brie, the actress better know as being Pete Campbell’s long-suffering wife on Mad Men.

Brie’s cheesy photo

And so I quipped to @DoctahDean that Pete Campbell is not going to be happy about this. And that’s when he blew my mind by replying that Pete (actor Vincent Kartheiser) is married to Rory Gilmore (actress Alexis Bledel). HOW DID I NOT KNOW THIS??? How did nobody tell me? You were trying to spare my feelings, weren’t you? Thanks.

I hope Peggy Olson warns Alexis about Pete

Did this all happen after Alexis’ guest shot on Mad Men last season (yes)? Did they know each other before that (no)? To whom is Logan Huntzberger (Matt Czuchry) bethrothed (nobody)? And did someone create a funny series of GIFs for us to tell the story (thank you)?

Anyway, that was quite a rabbit hole we just traveled down. Oh, and watch that trailer. It’s funnier than the TV ad.

5. Jon Stewart’s Parting Shot

Enforcing the 50 year-old man rule here at MH (again)

It wasn’t Jon Stewart’s final telecast of The Daily Show. That’s still a season or two in the  offing. And yet on Tuesday night Stewart delivered a polemic that summarizes his long-standing conflict with the far right as concisely and astutely as anything he has ever said or will say.

I’ll cut right to the 5:00 minute mark: “The point is that on the right they’re pretending that (The Daily Show’s) truthfulness is what’s really important to them which, ironically, is not true…What matters to the right is discrediting anything that they believe harms their side.”

Remote Patrol

House of Cards 

All Weekend NetFlix 



I don’t have Netflix –I know!–but I hear that Season 3 of the adventures of the amoral Frank and Claire Underwood became available for streaming last night. Only a loose llama wearing a dress of indeterminate color will get some people to turn away from the TV/computer this weekend.


Starting Five

The greatest 56 associated with New York City since Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak

1. Old Lady Madonna

The new issue of Rolling Stone has a cover story on Madonna, 56, penned by the hardest-working feature writer at the mag, Brian Hiatt. Unofficially, it’s her 21st time pulling a Dr. Hook, a band that ironically never has made the cover of the Rolling Stone.

It’s also 20 more times than Stillwater has made the cover, I believe.

Madonna channeling Marilyn

Do you know who really deserves an RS cover, and now? He’s never had even one: Paul Shaffer.

By the way, if you’re a music and pop culture fan and want to vanish for 15 minutes half an hour, work your way through this fabulous Cover Wall that RS has assembled. SI needs to put theirs back up, too.

Madonna covering Culture Club’s “I’ll Tumble For Ya'” at the Brit Awards

Madonna Update: She’s fallen and she can’t get up! Madonna tumbled while I was writing the above at the Brit Awards while performing “Living For Love” off her new album. Madonna, your new LifeLock spokesperson.

2. Brit, A Filter

Taylor’s tailor does not waste much fabric on pants

About those Brit Awards…they’re the United Kingdom’s Grammys and considering the UK’s contributions to pop, pop, pop music, (Beatles, Stones, Bowie, Queen, The Who, Led Zeppelin, ELO, Pink Floyd, Duran Duran, Adele, and, of course, M) you have to wonder why these are not televised here in the Colonies (or are they?)

Anyway, our gal Taylor, who is not British (yet), opened the show with “Blank Space,” which I believe is the same tune she performed in London two months ago for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. What awards show/gala/anniversary special has she not turned up at this year? How was she not given a cameo in the Parks & Rec finale?

Swift was given the “International Woman of Mystery” or some such award, which serves as a good inducement to have her fly across The Pond and open your telecast. A complete list of winners is here

3. No Cheers for Arsenal

Trust me: Behind those hands, Giroud is handsome

The Gunners, playing at home at Emirates Stadium in London for the first leg of their knockout round home-and-home versus AS Monaco in the UEFA Champions League, were a bit dodgy. Okay, more than a bit, as they fell 3-1 and uber-handsome striker Olivier Giroud, who is even more of a striking striker than his names suggests, whiffed at shot after shot. The Guardian went so far as to describe him as a “wandering wardrobe” on this night, which is a term I wish I’d thought of.

Now Arsenal, the subject of Nick Hornby’s breakthrough quasi-novel Fever Pitch, which begat a Colin Firth movie of the same title, which then begat a horrible Jimmy Fallon movie of the same title, must outscore Monaco by 3 goals on March 17 in the lovely principality if it hopes to advance. As Liam Neeson’s nemesis might say, “Good luck.”

4. Killing O’Reilly

Brian Williams claims to have been at the birth of one of these ladies –we’re still investigating

NBC’s Brian Williams sneezes, and FOX News’ Bill O’Reilly catches a cold.

Ever since Williams was suspended for six months without pay by his own network, FOX News’ heavyweight star has come under one assault after another as to the verity of his early reportage. Most of what has been investigated, by Mother Jones, the Washington Post and Media Matters, paints O’Reilly as a serial embellisher (not unlike BW).

O’Reilly’s most egregious mistake, thus far, seems to be his repeating a tale of seeing “four nuns getting shot in the back of the head” while in El Salvador. Four Catholic nuns did meet that grisly fate in El Salvador in 1980–two years before O’Reilly arrived as a CBS correspondent. The FOX anchor has since backtracked and said that he saw a photo of the four nuns being murdered.

On that basis, we all witnessed the JFK assassination.

5. Play Guitar!

At the SNL 40th: She’s his little rock ‘n roll…

It always fails to not cease to amaze me that Rolling Stones axe-wielder Keith Richards 1) married a girl from Staten Island 2) married what must be the most beautiful creature ever to emerge from Staten Island (with apologies to Josh Krulewitz of ESPN) 3) has been married to that same woman, Patti Hansen, for 31 years and 4) is still, at the age of 71, walking this planet.

Quick aside: “Keif” married Hansen on December 18, 1983–his 40th birthday. Best possible way to celebrate. Hansen is 13 years younger and beaming like this in every photo I’ve ever seen of her.

Their daughter, Alexandra Richards, shown here at last week’s Michael Kors fashion show,  favors her mom’s physical traits.

Remote Patrol

Warriors at Cavaliers

TNT 8 p.m.

Mozgov was the missing link that Cleveland needed

Golden State (44-10) opened the season 21-2. Cleveland( 36-22) is 17-2 since lose six straight. When they met earlier in Oakland, the Cavs were without the father of that really talented 10 year-old kid and lost, but THIS GUY tweeted that night, having seen the additions of J.R. Smith and Timofey Mozgov, that the Cavs were going to be a very, very good team. And they are. This is your odds-on-favorite right now for the NBA Finals.


Starting Five

This is more useful to us than another pic of a dejected-looking Rose

1. Derrick Woes

You love Derrick Rose. I love Derrick Rose.

Three knee surgeries in the past three years –ACL tear in left knee, medial meniscus tear in right knee, a second medial meniscus tear in his right knee — all of them potentially season-ending, have told the Chicago Bulls that it’s time to move on.

Not to say that Rose cannot return, or be a starter for the Bulls again. But as a franchise you just cannot expect to build around him any more. At 26, his quickest days are behind him.

The Bulls are into Rose for $41 million the next two seasons.

2. 2nd Bananarama

The runner-up in this contest is the true winner

Fantastic idea here by Grantland, a “Top Second Banana Bracket.”

So who’s missing? Lacey. Teller. The Captain. Billy Davis, Jr. Cameron. Andrew Ridgely. Howard Borden. B.J. Honeycutt. Little Dipper. Tonto.

And yet in other ways he was George Michael’s first banana…

If you ask me, the championship game should pit George Constanza versus Scottie Pippen, with the true champion being whoever finishes second…which means that it should end in a tie.

3. Court Storm Chasers

“I’ll take 500 shares of Exxon at $120.25!”

“Auntie Em! Auntie Em! It’s a twister!”

“No, darlin’. It’s just K-State beating Kansas at home again.”

Whither the hardwood tempest? I think, like most curmudgeons, my problem with it isn’t the act itself, but rather that it’s become more about students wanting their 15 seconds of fame. That is, the “feeling” is no longer genuine. It’s about getting on ESPN (and I’m not really blaming them) and being part of the show.

Odds are fair that this shot may have been snapped within a mile or two of Manhattan, Kansas.

When it’s a genuine shocking upset, I can see it (and maybe Monday night’s outcome qualified). But when the court storm begins too much to resemble the parade scene from Animal House, you begin to have a problem.

4. KO Needs a T.O.

Medium Happy editorial policy precludes us from showing more than a limited number of photos of men over the age of 50 per month. Yes, this is blatantly discriminatory. Oh, and enjoy Sports Illustrated!

So it’s fair to assume that Keith Olbermann will not be the commencement speaker at Penn State any time soon?

A good man just got a little too trigger-happy on the ol’ Tweeter (that’s never happened to me, no, not once). Although, as Mark Ennis noted on Twitter, if ESPN hadn’t suspended KO for the rest of the week, Ennis (and most of us) would have remained oblivious to the incident. This, as someone informed me on Twitter, is known as the “Streisand Effect.”

I’ll admit I’ve been a little oblivious to the show itself since it left late night to compete with ESPN’s ATH/PTI combo at the 5 p.m. hour.

5. Gaucho Marks

The last winless team in Division I college hoops, UC-Santa Barbara’s women, put a “1” in the left-hand column last Saturday with a 48-39 defeat of Cal State-Fullerton. If you did not already know it, the Gauchos play in the “Thunderdome.” There will be no winless teams in D-I hoops this season, which is nice.

Remote Patrol

San Fernando Valley? Sure. Indiana? Not quite.

I neglected to note the series finale of Parks and Recreation last night, but in truth I never really got into the series. So last night I tuned in for about 6 minutes and there was a flash-forward to an over-the-top Jewish character staging his own fauxneral (thank you!) and I thought, I spent a lot of time in Indiana and there’s just no one in Pawnee who would be that guy.

And that’s always been my problem with smirk-fests such as thisand the American version of The Office. I never for one moment believed in the authenticity of the characters and I always felt that the writers and producers of the shows were so arrogant that they never cared for a moment about matching the setting of their shows to the real-life inhabitants of places such as Scranton or Pawnee. It was a bunch of L.A. types who never for a moment tried to conform to the setting of the show.

I always felt as if I were watching a bunch of smug Hollywood actors chew scenery before getting off the set in time to pick up their kids from some tony day school in Pacific Palisades or Brentwood.

But that’s just me. And I’m a horrible person.



Starting Five 

Once every few months WordPress indiscriminately opts to chop up the column when the day’s blog is 95% done (it’s never MY fault, of course). On such days I lose the will to live and so, yes, today’s blog will be briefer. And perhaps better.

Those may be teammates, but they are NOT soldiers in Mamba’s Army

1. Kobe’s Close-Up

The Black Mamba does a very watchable turn on the Grantland Basketball Hour  (I love when he politely tells host Bill Simmons that his “It’s HIS team” conceit is bull crap) followed by an equally solid spot on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Go directly to 1:35 moment. It’s gold.

The most likable thing about Kobe, for me, is that he doesn’t care whether or not you like him. He is. Brutally. Honest.

And that was a pro move, the way he picked up on Kimmel’s Whiplash reference and took it a step further.

How funny would it be if he usurps Shaq’s chair on Inside the NBA in a couple of years?

2. ” ‘s all good, man”

Odenkirk and Seehorn are slowly building a very watchable relationship

Seriously, I watched Breaking Bad for six or seven seasons and never picked up on that? What a sap.

After four episodes, I’m not ready to say that Better Call Saul is even in Breaking Bad‘s league, but it is a slow burn that is beginning to generate heat. Your titular character, played by Bob Odenkirk, is complicated and charming (although last night’s opening con seemed unbelievably contrived; unless the cash is also counterfeit?).

I do like the idea, though, of naming a color after yourself (“Hamlindigo”).

Did anyone else catch the irony of Jimmy McGill arguing that he was trying to build a brand as Hamlin accused him of ripping off a brand?

You know who I’m really enjoying? His platonic ex, Kim Wexler, played by Rhea Seehorn. She has IT.

Here’s Sepinwall’s review.

3. One Sim Bhullar Sensation

Bighorn? More like Matterhorn! Amirite?

Reno Bighorn center Sim Bhullar, who stands seven-foot-five and weighs 360 pounds, posts an impressive triple-double: 26 points, 17 rebounds, 11 blocks against the Los Angeles D-Fenders (not to be confused with the Los Alamos Fred D-Fenders). He could be the first NBA player of Indian descent if some shrewd NBA franchise picks him up. India is only the second-most populous nation on Earth.

4. Orange is the New Lewis Black

Some think of him as “the Creed of comedy,” but Thompson is living life in the fast lane

In Esquire, author Chris Jones profiles Scott Thompson, whom you know better as Carrot Top. Jones apparently has been keeping busy since Rick Pitino kicked him off the Louisville basketball team.

My main quibble with the piece: no discussion of his cameo role in The Hangover.

5. Truly Nolan

Is it March Madness to give Nolan her own show? Probably not.

Remember when Katie Nolan used her “No Filter” webcast to lobby her FOX Sports bosses for a female voice at the table? Well, here’s your chance, Katie. FOX is giving Nolan, 29, her own show. It will premiere Sunday, March 15 (beware the Ides of March, Katie!) at 9:30 p.m. and be called Garbage Time, which means that I’ll need to find a new nickname for First Take.

I’m not a huge fan of Nolan, but I do admire her distaff Bill Simmons ascent to the big time. She hustled and she didn’t change for anyone. Best of luck to her. P.S. And I do hope that Garbage Time puts Regis in a corner on a couch.

Remote Patrol

Champions League: FC Barcelona at Manchester City

FOX Sports 1 2:30 p.m.

City will be without Yaya Toure, which is also the title of the most popular song in Whoville

Oh no. JW is becoming one of those insufferable soccer snobs who refers to it as “football” and talks about fixtures and ties and aggregate goals. Not to worry! I was insufferable long before I fell in love with soccer! This is the most intriguing matchup in the Round of 16, as Lionel Messi and Barca visit Etihad Stadium. These same two sides met in this round last year and Barca won both ties. See! I said, “Ties” when I could have just said, “Games.” Insufferable!



Starting Five

Suit up, Barney! Geez!


 1. Neil Steals The Show*

*The judges will NOT accept “Doogie WOWser!”

Suit up, indeed!

The opening number, which was also Anna Kendrick’s best on-stage musical moment since the Bellas’ finale at the ICCAs; “the best and the whitest;” the line about each Oscar nominee receiving a gift bag worth $160,000 in items, including “an armored car for when the revolution begins;” “the most well-adjusted former child star here tonight;” the tight-whitey callback to Birdman; the Travolta jab (and the way in which Menzel and Travolta handled it) and the line about Benedict Cumberbatch; “it takes a lot of balls to wear a dress like that”; the Annie joke; “Edward Snowden could not be here, for some treason.”

Not only did Neil Patrick Harris own the Oscars, but he dared to make an opening monologue joke in which he pointed to opposite sides of the audience and referenced Oprah and survived (was that a subtle nod and/or tribute to David Letterman?)

My lone quibble is that when he introduced a certain singer, he did not say, “John Legen—wait for it–d.”

NPH more than owned last night’s telecast; he saved it from more bloated self-importance than usual. “Glory” might or might not have been the best song, but how is it not about to win when you reconstruct the Edmund Pettus Bridge onstage (loved Common’s acceptance speech, though); and both Best Actor (ALS) and Best Actress (Alzheimer’s) only validated Robert Downey, Jr.’s “Never go full retard” advice. We got scolded about fair wages for women (I wonder if Ellen got paid the same to host last year as NPH did this year), about racism, about gay rights, about how “we need to talk about suicide out loud” and even about corrupt Mexican governments….

(No one scolded us about $160,000 gift bags, though).

Anyway, even if most of the nominated films were tributes to pretentiousness, it was a terrific telecast. Well done, Barney.

2. Daytona: A Win for 24 (The Age, Not the Car Number)

I ordered the No. 5 with a fruit cup instead of fries

Middletown, Conn., native Joey Logano becomes the first man born in 1990 or later to win the Daytona 500. Logano is also the first man whose surname ends in a pronounceable vowel to win the race since its 1959 debut. The race, like Logano’s name, also ends in a pronounceable vowel. Three previous winners have had silent “-e’s” at the end of their names, but those are not as cool.

3. Putting the “US” in “USA”

Michael’s mom stays in the picture

Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, he of the 18 gold medals, two silvers and two bronzes, gets engaged to Nicole Johnson, she of the 2010 Miss California sash. Not to be confused with monster truck driver Nicole Johnson, who at 41 is 12 years older than the decorated couple but is no slouch herself.

The “other” Nicole Johnson

Phelps, 29, is the most decorated Olympian of all time and has opted to train for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, during which he may wonder why he chose to remain single.

4. JaMarcus Mariota

Mariota also torched Winston in the Simon Says competiton: “Simon said lift your LEFT leg with both hands!”

Who is Jameis Winston?

Is the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner a better choice at quarterback than Marcus Mariota, his successor in that trophy case, or is he the latest incarnation of JaMarcus Russell (or was that Johnny Manziel)?

Winston is a highly accurate thrower and a terrific decision-maker…when focused. Scouts should watch both halves of last October’s Notre Dame-FSU game in order to witness Bad Jameis/Super Jameis (I am doubtful that 2013 Pitt Jameis still exists).

My main problem with Jameis is related to his 4.99 run at the NFL Combine, and that is this: He already has the physique and the mobility of Fred Sanford. He’s prematurely old, from a healthy body standpoint. Whereas Mariota looks like a young leopard out there. Does it matter? We’ll see.

QBs selected among the first five overall picks since Russell was taken No. 1 overall by the Oakland Raiders in 2007:

2008: Matt Ryan, Falcons, No. 3

2009: Matt Stafford, Lions, No. 1; Mark Sanchez, Jets, No. 5

2010: Sam Bradford, Rams, No. 1

2011: Cam Newton, Panthers, No. 1

2012: Andrew Luck, Colts, No. 1; Robert Griffin III, Redskins, No. 2

2014: Blake Bortles, Jaguars, No. 3

5. Mo, Not Slow-Mo

Farah ran his second mile in 3:57

Brit Mo Farah broke the seven year-old record for the indoor 2-mile, breaking the tape at the Birmingham (England) Grand Prix in 8:03:40. The previous world record, by Kenenisa Bekele, had been 8:04:35. I’m right there with them…well, if that were the world record for one mile.

Farah, 31, is originally from Mogadishu, Somalia, but his father is a native-born London citizen. He is the current Olympic champion in both the 5,000 and 10,000 meters, so if he enters your local 5-K, best you can hope for is second place.

Remote Patrol

Annie Hall 

TCM 8 p.m.

La di da. La. Di-da.

Having lived out west and in New York City, Woody Allen’s Best Picture, a tour de force of a screenplay, so hits home. I live near the corner where Alvy Singer says his final goodbye to Annie (63rd & 9th Ave/Columbus). So many classic lines and moments: “I can walk to the curb from here,” and “I forgot my mantra” and “I’m due back on planet Earth.” If you’ve never seen this and want to bask in a writer who has completely discovered his muse, watch this movie. There’s not a phony moment in it.


Our amazing collaborator and inveterate cinema buff, Chris Corbellini, returns to provide his Oscar picks. Your pools have never looked so good.

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

— Maya Angelou.

Sniper got under our author’s American skin

Scrolling through the Best Picture nominees one final time, I keep coming back to this Angelou quote. The only film that got under my goose bumps, and put a stiff beverage in my hand within an hour of seeing it, was American Sniper.  It’s worthy of winning it all. Judging from the box office tally, a lot of the U.S. feels the same way.

I will forget eventually that the second act was distractingly repetitive (Oh here we go, ANOTHER teary plea from his wife?), and remember simply and truly that war can break down even the strongest and most self-assured of soldiers. Sniper was a numbing experience — it had pro-soldier and anti-war vibes running side-by-side with one another for all 132 minutes — and I was appreciative of the way director Clint Eastwood crafted the story.  The Hollywood icon can still bring the high heat, and he’s in his 80s.

Of course, Selma pulls at you as well. So does Birdman. So does Boyhood. But in the latter two cases, Oscar voters would be rewarding them for what they did, not how they made us feel. Birdman was masterfully put together — where are the edits? — and the cast attacked the scenes like piranha. Boyhood is a triumph of persistence, shot over a decade, and a triumphant, authentic tale of a single mother. Years from now, whether you felt anything more than admiration for the execution of those two films is something I wonder about.

So, feel over form? Or form over feel? I’m still mulling my decision amongst those four as I type this. Let’s come back to it.

Actor in a leading role:

Steve Carrell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

The winner: Keaton. 

It wasn’t even Subway Underwear Weekend in NYC when he did this

I quote the three rules of show business, by Louis CK: 1) Look ‘em in the eye and speak from the heart. 2) You gotta go away to come back. 3) If someone asks you to keep a secret, their secret is a lie.  Keaton delivers us the first two rules in Birdman better than the field. That should be enough.

Actress in a leading role:


Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night

Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon, Wild

The winner: Moore. 

A still from “Still Alice”

When an actress elevates a so-so movie to something more than it should be, she’s done something special.  Honorable mention goes to Pike here, who proved she’s more than just an ice princess. I think she will win the red carpet amongst all these gorgeous ladies, but won’t take home the grand prize.

Actor in a supporting role:

Robert Duvall, The Judge

Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash 

The winner: Simmons. 

Hawke, Norton and Ruffalo will have other Oscar-worthy roles over their careers, and this isn’t Duvall’s finest hour. Simmons has been so good in every part he’s accepted – small, large and larger-than-life – and he should be rewarded for that. And for tearing into this role.

Actress in a supporting role:

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Laura Dern, Wild
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Emma Stone, Birdman
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

The winner: Arquette. 

This was the easiest category to predict. Her final scene, a portion of which can be seen here, would have been nearly impossible to perform had she not been a part of this production for 12 years. The moment is earned.

Original screenplay:


The Grand Budapest Hotel


The winner: The Grand Budapest Hotel.  

What a lineup. All five of these scripts are beasts. Still, the flashback-of-a-flashback-of-a-flashback-of-a-flashback storytelling sets Hotel apart, and just barely. The final summation read like it was etched on M. Gustave’s tombstone: “There are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity … he was one of them.”

Adapted screenplay:

American Sniper
The Imitation Game
Inherent Vice
The Theory of Everything

The winner: The Imitation Game.

Just a gut feeling. I do love the backstory on this one, with the producers basically out of work and offering the screenwriter, Graham Moore, little in the way of up-front pay. As in, no pay at all.

Sound editing:

American Sniper
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

The winner: American Sniper. 

Birdman uses that voice of self-doubt in Keaton’s brain splendidly (and darkly) – and they are plopped in perfectly in each sequence — but the sounds I keep coming back to took place in the sandstorm during the bullet-strewn finale in Sniper. It’s a wall of horror that almost swallows the audience.

Sound mixing:

American Sniper

The winner: American Sniper.
Granted, it’s a different discipline from sound editing — taking all those edits and merging them into one symphony, and raising one audio track louder than the rest when the scene demands it. The sound of warfare is always a challenge to get right, because the audience expects to hear carnage … and how do you surprise them? But I think the mixers did so in this case. Whiplash could definitely take this one though, and I almost rewrote this entire section thinking so.

Visual effects:

Captain America, The Winter Soldier
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
X-Men: Days of Future Past

The winner: Interstellar. 

Meh. None of these nominees were as groundbreaking as last year’s winner, Gravity. The five are not even in the same orbit. Apes had some nifty motion-capture work, and let’s not forget that the main ape character, who had a respectable range of emotions, was almost completely computer-generated. I thought about Guardians here too – it did have that moment when the crew enters a grand, celestial being’s head (which was being mined by outlaws, of course). But it felt like a cartoon in places as well.

Film editing:

American Sniper
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game

The winner: Boyhood. 

The Grand Budapest Hotel has that spectacularly cut museum sequence where Deputy Kovacs meets his demise, and that fun chase in the snow, but the challenge of Boyhood is flow, not style or panache. How do you edit 12 years into one compelling feature? Done wrong, and it’s that scrapbook that your mother put together that she half-forces you to look at (Ooh, graduation photo!).  Finally, how is Birdman not in this category? The entire film looked like a single take – that’s terrific editing.

Original score:

The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Mr. Turner
The Theory of Everything

The winner: The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Not a rousing year for this category. Again, I keep coming back to that chase in the snow, and the death of Kovacs. A very lively score does raise this movie here and there.

Original song:

Begin Again
Beyond the Lights
Glen Campbell: I’ll be Me
The Lego Movie

Winner: Glory from Selma. 

The one Oscar I project that it wins.  “Everything is Awesome,” from The Lego Movie would be a terrific choice, too. I also think the musical Begin Again chose the wrong song for this category. This one was magical, and absolutely critical to the entire plot.

Production design:

The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game

Into the Woods
Mr. Turner

The winner: The Grant Budapest Hotel. 

It made me chuckle to see all those hunting rifles in the back of the great hall as the will of a rich matriarch was read in front of that entire family. There was a line in the script about greed around that moment, and that wasn’t an accident.  I also enjoyed all those pink bakery boxes that Zero and his future wife fell into near the end – something they completely ignored as they fumbled about, then grabbed hold of each other.  You know from frame 1 of a trailer when you are watching a Wes Anderson film. It should be celebrated this year.


The Grand Budapest Hotel
Mr. Turner

The winner: Birdman. 

That’s back-to-back statues for Emmanuel Lubezki, who won last year for Gravity. I felt like I was on the shoulders of the actors over long stretches of this film, and of course there’s that technical mountain he climbed in order to make everything look like a single take.

Costume design:

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Inherent Vice
Into the Woods
Mr. Turner

The winner: The Grand Budapest Hotel. 

Another gut feeling, with admittedly little practical, professional experience to back it up. Maybe Maleficent steals this one. They can’t let Princess Angelina Jolie go completely unnoticed, can they?


The Grand Budapest Hotel
Guardians of the Galaxy

The winner: The Grand Budapest Hotel. 

The Academy may want to reward Hotel with plenty of technical and aesthetic categories, because it’s not going to win the big one. I could see Guardians of the Galaxy here, too. Just look at Michael Rooker here. And the lovely Zoe Saldana in a lovely shade of green. Half this summer blockbuster is makeup. But the cynical portion of my brain believes that the fact that it’s a summer blockbuster will stop it from winning.

Animated Film:

Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of Princess Kayuga

Winner: How to Train Your Dragon 2. 

It was a weak season for the animation set.

Foreign Language Film:

Ida (Poland)

Leviathan (Russia)
Tangerines (Estonia)

Timbuktu (Mauritania)
Wild Takes (Argentina)

Winner: Ida. 

There’s name recognition involved in this case, as there’s more than a good chance that some voters didn’t see all of these films. Full disclosure: *I* didn’t see all of them, either.


Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Alejandro G. Inarritu (Birdman)
Richard Linklater (Boyhood)

Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher)
Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)

The winner: Linklater. 

Let’s reward the filmmaker who refused to cut corners and executed his vision over all that time, from the big picture to the minutiae and details that you remember during the passage of our lives. Of all the directors out there today, he’s the one I’d most like to go out and have a beer with, and the let the big ideas flow into the early morning hours. Let the auteur from Texas take this one home.

Best Picture: 

American Sniper
The Grand Budapest HoteL
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

The winner: Birdman. 

That’s right, form over feel this year, and I don’t agree with it. It’s a four-star flick, but not an all-timer. In this case I think the voters, a group of creatives in the motion picture business, will honor the movie about a star creative taking a break from the motion picture business to pursue a passion. Throw in the mastery of the technical aspects, and Keaton’s comeback, and it has just enough to edge Boyhood, Selma and Sniper for the big trophy of the night.




Starting Five

Muir has western upstate New York (and chestnut brown) roots, having grown up in Syracuse and having attended Syracuse

1. America’s Next TV News Star

That’s David Muir, 41, who has been hosting ABC’s World News Tonight since replacing the retiring Diane Sawyer for good on September 1.

Here’s what we know (although the fact-checkers at ABC News and Mother Jones may want to look into all this):

–Muir speaks French, Arabic and Spanish.

–His field reporting credits are pretty impressive: Mogadishu; Gaza; Ukraine; Tahrir Square; Iran; Hurricane Katrina.

–He’s waaaaay too handsome. And single. And, yes, those rumors are very strong.

Muir (with Sam Champion, far right) kinda looks like he should be the leading man in the Broadway musical of his choosing.

In Lester Holt’s first full week replacing Brian Williams at NBC, the Nightly News lost more than 6% of its viewers. That may just be a one-week blip. You may also think network news is an anachronism, and you may be right. I’m still a little gobsmacked that Muir, who anchors what is currently the second-place newscast, has ascended to such a position with such little fanfare.

He’s got the reporting c.v., the made-for-TV (or Hollywood) looks, and the ideal platform. Get ready to be hearing more from him and about him.

2. OKC-Trio

Harden, Durant and Westbrook only wear the same uniform one day per year now, in February

Do you remember watching the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2012 NBA playoffs? Do you remember seeing them sweep Dirk and Dallas, the defending NBA champs? Toy with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, ceding just one game? Put the Spurs (supposedly) era of Duncan et al to bed in the Western Conference Finals before losing to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals?

Do you remember?

And, if you are an idealist like me, do you remember asking, WHY!?!?! when OKC traded one of its bright young talents, James Harden, because there’d be no way to fit him, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook all under the salary cap?

Fast forward three seasons. Durant led the NBA in scoring last season (32.0 ppt) and was named the league MVP. Harden, who plays for the Rockets, leads the NBA in scoring right now (27.4) and is a favorite to win the league MVP. Westbrook is third in scoring (25.8) and just put up 41 at the NBA All-Star Game, where he was named the contest’s MVP.

Oddly enough, Durant is the only one of the three who has spent his entire NBA career in one city and one uniform

Obviously, they wouldn’t all score as many points if they were together. But they’d all be that much more assured of winning a championship ring.

Hey, I get it: it’s a job and you want to be paid as much as you are able to earn. That’s the problem with sports. Fans want championships and while players do, too, they want salary more.

That’s why I’d love to see a team sport system that rewards starters more for championships. Not necessarily all players, but let’s say most if not all of the designated starters.

Either way, it’s too bad, for us and for their bling collection, that this trio didn’t stay together. They’re currently three of the six best players in the NBA.

3. R.I.P. Harris Wittels, Inventor of the Humblebrag

Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) with Wittels

Yesterday Harris Wittels. a comic and producer on Parks & Recreation, died of an apparent drug overdose. What a waste. Wittels, 30, was a talented comedian and writer who had openly talked about his drug addiction and the fact that he had twice been to rehab.

Just two nights earlier, according to TMZ, Wittels had performed at The Meltdown in Los Angeles and talked about being clean and sober. Here is his piece for Grantland on “The Humblebrag,” a term that he introduced to the greater populace and one that, like Wittels, will not soon be forgotten.

4. Film Shorts

12 years to make this movie, and yet the Kraft services table never got replenished

Courtesy of Digg, all of this year’s Best Picture nominees in four minutes. Don’t you feel silly that you wasted all those hours and money now?

5. Cricket

India defeated Pakistan last Saturday in a test match that fortunately did not go nuclear.

I don’t understand cricket, I’ve never bothered to learn (or at least to retain) the rules, and I couldn’t even tell you how teams score. Or why the sport is named after an insect, which is a lame joke all of us igoramuses make when discussing cricket.

But I do know that the World Cup of Cricket is currently taking place and any “world” event that includes Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Scotland, New Zealand and Zimbabwe in its field –but not the USA, Russia or China– has me somewhat intrigued.

Anwyay, it is currently taking place in Australia and New Zealand and for that reason alone –in February–American sports writers should be begging to be sent to cover it. Oh, wait. That’s right. It’s no longer the 1990s.

Remote Patrol


87th Academy Awards

ABC 8:30 p.m.


NPH. America’s Best Host

If you were watching the last time Neil Patrick Harris hosted the Tony Awards, you are aware that his opening number was…wait for it...legendary. Wait. I messed that up. (Note to self: See Gone Girl). Don’t miss his opening. NPH is the most talented man in show business.


Starting Five

Where would you like to go, Goran? That way?

1. Exit The Dragon

Phoenix Sun point guard Goran Dragic is voted “Most Likely to be Traded” today, as he has “lost trust” in the organization. Why? Because they brought in Isaiah Thomas, a third starting-quality guard (along with Erick Bledsoe) who is even less shy about shooting than Dragic or Bledsoe.

The guard trio are the Suns’ three leading scorers. That’s not a good sign.

Still, Dragic is the Suns’ best guard, if not their very best player. This nucleus –Dragic, Bledsoe, Markieff Morris and Alex Len–could be very good in a season or two with the addition of a quality 3. But no.

No Dragic? It’s tragic.

Word is some teams are willing to overpay him (as much as $20 million per). Phoenix won’t be when he becomes a free agent this summer.

The next question: Whither Zoran Dragic, the Suns’ go-to 12th man who is one of the team’s Suns-are-Brothers program (Marcus Morris, too)? He’s signed for two years and averages one point per game.

2. A Classic in Durham

The six-foot-six Winslow is going to be an electric NBA presence. A fantastic glue guy.

Duke 92, UNC 90, in overtime at Cameron. I heard it was a classic (I missed it entirely due to dinner with high school buddies).

Duke’s five starters, three of whom are freshmen, scored 85 of the Blue Devils 92 points. You have to love Jahlil Okafor’s game and there’s something about Justise Winslow’s game and charisma that tells me he’s going to be a huge NBA star, but here’s the thing about Duke: get either of those two in foul trouble come March Madness and you can beat ’em. What’s 2015 for “Mercer?”

Interesting story about Winslow and his wealthy godfather here.

3. Buffalo Stance

Gadd became the first non-salmon to ascend a waterfall that we know of

Like something out of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle (“Ice-nine”), all the water back east is freezing. Including, wondrously enough, Niagara Falls just outside Buffalo, N.Y. And so, with 115 million Americans freezing their arses off back East, adventurer Will Gadd, followed shortly thereafter by partner Sarah Huineken, scaled a 180-foot cliff adjacent to the Falls.

Taylor’s swift descent over the Falls remains legendary 114 years later.

Very impressive. We’re still voting, though, for Annie Edson Taylor as the No. 1 Niagara Falls daredevil. On October 24, 1901,  her 63rd birthday, Taylor became the first person to survive going over the falls in a barrel. She lived another 20 years.

4. Stay Classy, San Diego

Kraska and his Mercedes

KCBS channel 8 sports director Kyle Kraska, 48, is lucky to be alive. Last week he was shot six times  (“Not in the face!”) as he pulled out of his Scripps Ranch (fancy schmancy) driveway by Mike Montana, a 54 year-old house painter with whom he apparently had a financial dispute over a bill due. Kraska is expected to recover.

The lesson here: When you’re trying to take out a San Diego on-air personality, always use a trident.

5. SCTV Gets a Shout-Out

The funniest fat guy in a sketch comedy cast always dies way too young. It’s a comedy rule.

Canadian comedian Norm Macdonald, one of the SNL old-timers who stole the 40th Anniversary Show Sunday night with his seamless reprise of Burt Reynolds, put out some fun tweets about the experience yesterday. Among the facts and observations, MacDonald noted that SNL’s “Celebrity Jeopardy” sketch was stolen from Canada’s SCTV, which starred Rick Moranis, John Candy, Martin Short, Dave Thomas, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Catherine O’Hara and Joe Flaherty.

If you are old enough to recall watching the Friday night sketch comedy show, whose entire conceit was built around the idea that they were a TV station (run by Flaherty’s blow-harded owner, Guy Caballero), you know that their sketches were (Lake) superior to SNL‘s at the time. And the talent was at least equal.

Here’s the sketch, “Half-Wits”, upon which SNL built its “Celebrity Jeopardy” concept.

Keep in mind: Alex Trebek is also Canadian.

Remote Patrol

Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

TCM 8 p.m.

Where do you think Dr. Evil got his idea?

It’s 1964. After Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After a decade of bomb shelters and classroom nuclear attack drills. Just after the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Cold War is in full swing. And into this angst steps director Stanley Kubrick and George C. Scott in the starring role in a black comedy about a “Doomsday Machine.”

Yet another classic and, yes, I realize I send you to TCM most every night. As soon as the networks stop producing garbage, I won’t.




Starting Five

ISIS wants to party like it’s 999.

1. The Biggest Losers

I read this long but informative piece in The Atlantic last night (thanks for the heads up, Jeff McGregor) about ISIS. A couple thoughts:

–It all comes down to Freedom versus Blind Obedience. For me, the choice is obvious –but that’s because I have the freedom to choose.

–ISIS are losers. Human progress, in technology, in art, in most everything, has passed them by. And so they cling to doctrine passed down to them from The Prophet who walked the earth more than 1,400 years ago. They still talk about ruling the world as if the edge of the earth is Istanbul.

As Uncle Ruslan once said of his marathon-bombing nephews, as to what was behind their actions: “Being losers. Not being able to settle themselves, and thereby just hating everyone who did.”

That’s ISIS, as succinctly as it can be put.

–The author, Graeme Wood, makes the argument that if America sends troops and crushes them, it may run into the same problem that created ISIS. That is, what fills the void when we leave the area as we did after Iraq? Answer: I don’t know, but could it be any more malevolent and nihilistic than this group of butchers?

It all reminds me of a little speech that Matt Damon gave in Syriana, a movie that takes its name from a fictitious Middle Eastern nation that might as well be ISIS’ caliphate state.

“A hundred years ago you were living in tents and chopping each other’s heads off, and 100 years from now you’ll be right back there…”

Further Reading…

“Why ISIS is Our Problem”, by Steve Coll, in The New Yorker

“Why ISIS’ Atrocities Will Destroy It,” by William Saletan, in Slate

“How ISIS Can Be Defeated,” by Max Boot, in Newsweek

“How ISIS Works,” by The New York Times staff

2. The Beagle Has Landed

Will not be sleeping atop her dog house tonight….

Miss P., a four year-old Beagle, won Best In Show at the Westminster Dog Show at Madison Square Garden. But, really, every pet that has an owner who treats them well is a winner. Awwwwwwwwww…..

3. Clash of the Titans

I hold in my hand a seven of clubs. Is that your card?

The world’s greatest annual soccer tournament, the UEFA Champions League, returned in earnest yesterday. Though it began months earlier as a 32-team tourney in which eight sets of four-team groups play home-and-home round-robin ties (games), i.e. the Group Stage, it truly begins now. This is Knockout Round time, as 16 teams remain and sides play  home-and-home games. If they are tied after two games, it is decided first by aggregate goals (who scored the most) and if still tied, by who scored the most away goals.

Two reasons Champions League rules: 1) Some of the world’s best players (e.g., Gareth Bale of Wales) don’t play in the World Cup because their nations do not qualify and 2) these teams play together year-round, whereas World Cup national teams are more akin to All-Star sides that have not built up the  same chemistry.

Yesterday, two of the tournament favorites, Chelsea and Bayern Munich, could muster no better than draws at Paris-St. Germain and Shakhtar Donetsk, respectively. Today the defending champion and overall favorite, Real Madrid (which features both Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo) travel to Germany to meet Schalke 04. Also, FC Porto of Portugal visits FC Basel of Switzerland in a tie between sleeper clubs.

4. What Else Can He Be? All Apologies

Can someone get this man some lined loose leaf paper, please?

Also, a copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray?

A-Rod, thanks for the mea culpa….on the same day that Anthony Bosch, your enabler, signs a four-year deal with a federal prison with no opt-out clause. Please show yourself to the “Disgraced Icons” corner along with Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods. Thank you.

The truly gifted J.R. Moehringer (Saguaro High School, representing’!) of The Tender Bar fame has profiled A-Rod for ESPN. He did the Derek Jeter send-off.

5. Baseball, Golf and Now…Cross Country

You can take those “make a run for the border” jokes somewhere else, mister.

You gotta admit, Kevin Costner has appeal, particularly in sports films (I still like him best in Fandango, but he was terrific in Tin Cup and The Upside of Anger, too). This weekend he opens in a Disney flick, based on a true story from the 1980s and set in the real San Joaquin Valley (Calif.) town of McFarland. In McFarland, USA Costner plays the white coach named White (Jim) who then goes all Hoosiers with a Latino cross-country team. You know why? Because it’s a small world, after all.

Remote Patrol

The Apartment

TCM 8 p.m.

When life hands you Lemmon….

The 1960 Best Picture winner stars Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray and, of course, Manhattan. It’s a comedy when Lemmon is on screen and a drama when MacMurray is. MacLaine is the mistress. I’d like to see this remade as “The Sublet.”


Starting Five

Fallon served as impromptu emcee and jammed with the likes of Sir Paul McCartney and Taylor Swift

1. After Party Like It’s 1999

One thing I’ve always loved about Saturday Night Live: with rare exceptions*, the host introduces the musical guest as succinctly as possible (“Ladies and gentlemen, Gotye…”).

In that vein, from last night’s after-party at The Plaza Hotel, nine blocks north and one avenue east of 30 Rockefeller Center, “Ladies and gentlemen, Sir Paul McCartney…and Taylor Swift...and Miley Cyrus…and Debbie Harry…and B-52s…and Elvis Costello…and…and…PRINCE!”

They all played at the SNL after-party, which sounds as if it was better than everyone’s 25th high school reunion combined. Jimmy Fallon, who was either the talent wrangler or the guy who just didn’t know when to step off the stage and allow the pros to do their thing (I really don’t know), did nine solid minutes on The Tonight Show reliving the evening. At one point he said that when Prince started playing (“Dearly Inebriated, Welcome to this thing called life…”), Jay-Z and Rihanna ran toward the stage.

To quote Lorne Michaels’ closest friend, who had two of his songs performed during the 40th Anniversary Special earlier, “It was late in the evening/And he blew that room away.”

The Kids Gets in the Picture (again). Fallon Zelig’ed his way through the entire evening, no?

It was that kind of night. I imagine Grantland is already working on an oral history of the evening. Still, for the people who were fortunate enough (or, more likely, talented enough) to have been part of the evening from beginning to end, it’s a night they’ll never forget.

And, seriously, how pissed is Brian Williams that he had to miss it all?

*When Billy Joel was the musical guest in the late 70’s, the host noted that he was missing his 10th high school reunion in Long Island that night in order to be there before introducing him.

2. American Hustler

His arguments may get validated before his parking ever will.

Number of episodes of Better Call Saul: 3

Number of different scenes in which our protagonist, Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk), has appeared in handcuffs: 3.

I’m beginning to dig the show. Jimmy, more than anything else, is a grinder. He does the work. And he still has a conscience. He’s faced a couple of moral dilemmas thus far, and so far every time he has done the right thing (which is not to say that he has not created a few of these moral dilemmas himself).

What I was really hoping, when he phoned the Kettlemans in the wee wee hours of the morning, was that Mrs. Kettleman would ask who it was and that Mr. Kettleman would answer, “It’s Jake from State Farm.”

Here’s Alan Sepinwall’s review for Hit Fix.

3. Steps Brothers

Ricky Nelson penned the anthem for post-millennial hoops more than 50 years ago.

The final frenetic minute of No. 8 Kansas at No. 23 West Virginia had the feel and look (right down to the half-empty arena, due to thunder snow) of an opening weekend NCAA tournament contest. It also had a pair of missed calls, both regarding traveling, that the referees missed.

First, with a little more than :30 to play a Kansas player ( I don’t know whom! Ask Andy Katz) picked up his dribble on the right wing and was under pressure from a Mountaineer. The Jayhawk might have been whistled for clearing out for his left arm, but he definitely moved his left foot a few different ways before than picking up and re-plainting his right foot, i.e. pivot foot, before passing.

That’s a travel. Not called.

Fortunately for the Couch Igniters, KU missed its shot. So now WVU gets the ball out of bounds and about eight seconds. Bill Self, IMO, foolishly chooses to pressure the inbounds pass, setting up hatter-scatter chaos coast-to-coast. Anyway, Juwan Staten proceeds to go Tyus Edney, but he picks up his dribble about 20 feet from the basket (1:38). Still, somehow, Staten scored a lay up. How? Well, he spun and then took THREE TO FOUR steps before laying the ball off the glass.

That’s a travel. Not called.

I mean, sure, it looked good when Mo’Ne Davis pulled it off on Kevin Hart, but here?

Anyway, props to Kansas for quickly responding with a Hail Perry pass, but junior Perry Ellis missed the bunny that would’ve won the game. Why? Because ELLIS respected the traveling rule and after taking his allotted step, was still too far from the basket to dunk. Next time, Perry, take all the steps you need. The zebras no longer appear to care.

Assault in the backcourt

Meanwhile in Philadelphia, Seton Hall’s leading scorer, Sterling Gibbs, channeled the opening scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey, in klonking Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono during a scrum for a loose ball. Gibbs was ejected and to his credit, later apologized profusely both to the media and on Twitter. And to Arcidiacono’s credit, he was chill about it all.

Gibbs was 4 of 25 from the field and the Pirates were trailing by more than 20 late when the incident occurred. Doesn’t excuse the cheap shot, but you see why he lost control.

4. To Lviv and Die in Ukraine

A scene from the Donetsk airport in southeast Ukraine. Only a year ago the Winter Olympics were taking place not too far from here in Sochi.

The panacea for your winter sports doldrums, the UEFA Champions League Round of 16, begins today with two matches. One of the pits a tournament favorite, Bayern Munich (which boasts a few names you may recall from the World Cup: Thomas Muller, Arjen Robben, Bastian SCHWEINSTEIGER!), at Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine.

Robben, alias “The Dodgy Flapper,” in action.

Except that the game won’t take place at Shaktar’s home pitch in Donetsk, because it is right in the heart of the war (er, invasion) being waged by Russia versus its neighbor to the west. So the match is taking place 600 miles west in Lviv, a Ukranian city near the Polish border.

5. Skindy

She looks fine here


One of my least favorite things is hearing women celebrate the beauty of other women when unflattering photos are taken of them, or if they’re, what’s the word, “plus-sized.” (I rarely hear women celebrating the beauty of, say, Candace Swanepoel.

Which brings us to the Cindy Crawford “unretouched” photo. Hey, I don’t care if that’s what the supermodel –whom I once met and was truly dazzlingly lovely; this was in 1996– looks like after giving birth to four children and being 48 or so. That’s fine.

The point is, as this FEMALE author points out, it’s a little disingenuous to be praising Crawford here. Because it’s not empowerment if what you’re really doing is pointing out someone else’s “flaws” to feel better about your own imperfections.

How did this photo get released? Apparently, at Marie Claire there was a mole. Get it? A mole?

And, for what it’s worth, I know women and also see women swimming laps at my pool who are north of 50 and have not the access to wealth and leisure time that Crawford does but who look amazing in a bathing suit. And that’s not to say everyone needs to. It is to say, however, that Crawford’s figure in that photo is not something that is inevitable. And, for one of the world’s most famous models, it’s a little strange, no?

Fat Jameis: Still beautiful (I know, because I’m a guy)

So, what’s my point? Well, one, let’s put another photo of a supermodel on the internet, and two, the last person a man ever listens to in discussing a woman’s beauty is another woman.

I mean, look at the photo that her husband, Rande Gerber, tweeted out the day after this nontroversy ignited. Note that Cindy’s looking quite tone in the shot.

Remote Patrol

UEFA Champions League Round of 16

Chelsea at Paris-St. Germain

FOX Sports 1 2:45 p.m.

Zlatan has just inked a deal (!) to appear in the next five “Taken” films.

Chelsea is atop the Premier League and has, in Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard, arguably the world’s best player not playing in Iberia right now. Paris-St. Germain, last year’s French Ligue 1 champs, counters with soccer bad boy Zlatan Ibrahimovic.