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.
I’ve been thinking about writing this for the past two weeks, but 10-hour days at the diner every day (we’re located almost within an Instagram photo of the Rockefeller Center tree) have precluded any deep dives. But anyway, as we deal with a White House that seems increasingly emboldened to disregard laws and no longer even pretends to disguise its favor for Americans who are white supremacists, the thought came to me:
What is it that racists are completely able to overlook when it comes to their distaste for minorities? And the answer is, of course, sports. You’ll find thousands of racists attending and/or betting on sports events, particularly football games. Millions more will watch on television. Whatever they happen to think of black people in private, they have no problem tuning in to watch a bowl game or five NBA games on Christmas day.
And so it came to me that if Black America ever really wanted to effect change in American culture, its athletic leaders have a very powerful tool at their disposal. A mass walkout. Think about not only how many billions and billions of dollars flow through the system due to sporting events (both in local economies and through television networks and advertising) but what a giant part of the weekly diet it is for so many of us.
What if African-American athletes, en masse, were to simply go on strike until whatever specific change they hoped to effect (and that’s the rub here: you’d have to state something specific you wanted changed; and before you go down the Colin Kaepernick road, can you really hold a league hostage until one team puts him on its roster? That’s an entirely different question)? And they could invite their fellow white athletes to join them if they believed in the cause.
It would cripple the sports industry. And that’s no minor economic or cultural blip.
Now, sure, Luka Doncic is an MVP-caliber player, but I don’t think American fans want to see a league strictly comprised of Luka, Kyle Korver and Frank Kaminsky. And while Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees are superb, who are they going to throw to? Cooper Kupp and Julian Edelman all day?
There’s no other part of American life in which African-Americans play such a vital role as they do in team sports (never mind the Olympics). If a change is ever gonna come, this would be the most profound and quickest way to make it.
The inspiration for this finally being put down on paper (internet paper) is two-fold: 1) finally have a day off and 2) what took place during the Chelsea-Tottenham match in London on Sunday. Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger, who is German but of African descent, was subject to racist jeers for part of the match from the Tottenham crowd.
Tottenham is in London. It’s not a backwoods, redneck precinct. In the aftermath of the incident, Sky Sports analyst Gary Neville, a former Premier League player, noted that viewers and fans need to take a closer look at where fans are getting the feeling of empowerment to so boldly behave this way—even in London. Neville then went on to say that he would support players if they were to walk off the pitch in a mass protest.
Sadly, Sky Sports host David Jones cut in and felt compelled to remind viewers that these are the opinions of Neville and not Sky Sports. So David Jones just added his name to the ash heap of history when documentaries are made about what a sad era this was for the western world in terms of bigotry and racial intolerance. Well done, David.
Twas A Jake Tapper Thread
Five Films: 1980
Airplane! I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley. I tweeted this a few weeks ago and I mean it: my life can be divided in half, the person I was before seeing this film and the person after. And in a film that just stuffs as many jokes and gags as possible, I still chortle when the pilot’s wife tells the horse she’s sleeping next to to let himself out. 2. Raging Bull: The original Robert De Niro & Joe Pesci buddy film from Scorcese. Siskel & Ebert considered this the best film of the decade. 3. Caddyshack: Written in a cocaine-induced stupor by Douglas Kenney, the same man who gave us Animal House. He saw Airplane! three weeks after this was released and was inconsolable because the Zucker brothers had made a funnier film. A month later, at the age of 33, he was dead. 3. The Shining: Jack in the box 5. The Empire Strikes Back: Simply the best of the—how many have there been now, seven?—Star Wars films.
I really wanted to put Breaker Morant in here, and to a lesser extent Atlantic City, but which film in the top five to push out? So here’s a nudge to see these two films if you haven’t already because I’m sure, like me, you’ve already seen at least four of the above five multiple times.
“We’re having a moment,” Eddie Murphy, hosting SNL for the first time since he left the cast in 1984, said to his three friends on stage. Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Tracy Morgan and eventually, Kenan Thompson, joined him.
Since the original cast and Bill Murray departed, there have only been a few true giants at SNL: Will Ferrell, Chris Farley and Kate McKinnon top our lists, with nods to Mike Meyers, Dana Carvey, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig and Adam Sandler. But no one, not even Ferrell, ever owned SNL the way Murphy did for a brief period in the early 1980s. And as his Gumby character said on “Weekend Update,” “I saved this show from the trash heap.” He’s Gumby, dammit, and he’s correct.
The other thing to recall about the Eddie Murphy comet: He basically started at 30 Rock as a teen and left before he was 25. Some people, a very few people, just have it. As he joked on Saturday night, “Money don’t crack.”
Funny thing about this foursome: Tracy Morgan had the best line during the monologue. As the other three joked that they were half of Netflix’s budget, Morgan countered that “I made all my money on the road.”
“Touring?” Murphy asked.
“No,” Morgan replied. “I got hit by a truck.”
Ten For the ’10s
Last week Rolling Stone released its list of the “50 Best Movies of the 2010s” and it’s even worse than Jann Wenner’s inexplicable omission of Boston for the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. You can peruse it here; you decide.
We’re going to list our 10 favorite films of the decade, which is not to say that they’re the 10 best; just that they’re the 10 best to us. Also, before we do, we’ll add that this was the decade in which television produced far higher quality stuff than our cineplex. Just consider what Netflix, HBO, AMC and a few others wrought: Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game Of Thrones, The Crown, Mindhunter, True Detective and Chernobyl, to name a few. All better than any single movie we saw.
Here’s our list of our 10 favorite films (from 10 to 1), only one or two of which made Rolling Stone‘s Top 50:
Christopher Nolan’s war film takes more than one viewing to fully appreciate, as he tells the same story from three different time intervals: one week, one day, one hour. It’s like looking at a map at the beginning of a book you’re reading and then noticing there’s a second map with a superimposed section of the first map and then yet another map superimposing that second section.
Seen a second time, you are more prepared for these jumps in how time travels and are better able to appreciate when the stories, and time increments, merge.
About 10 to 15 minutes in this animated Pixar film takes a left turn we never saw coming and then it becomes a modern children’s classic the rest of the way through. And at the end, when the reveal that was always in plain sight is finally made obvious to us, well, you may find it getting awfully dusty in the theater.
Also, how can you watch the border crossing scene and not sense the irony?
La La Land
Did any film this decade receive more brushback after it was originally hailed than this one? And that extended right up to the moment the Oscars announced Best Picture and Warren Beatty got the name wrong (giving it to this film and then the producer having to read the envelope and on live television saying, Oh, no, Moonlight won it. And even being gracious about it.)
We’ll admit it founders a bit after the first 45 minutes before finding itself again at the end, but man, those first three songs— “Another Day Of Sun,” “Someone In The Crowd” and “A Lovely Night” are such a throwback to classic Hollywood musicals. We’ll stan for the Land all day and night, and Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are delicious.
It’s tense throughout, but Ben Affleck was smart enough to add a subplot of the two Hollywood vets, played by Alan Arkin and John Goodman, who added much-needed levity to the film. It won Best Picture and if you think that’s a miscarriage of justice, Argo f*** yourself.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
It feels like a film that could have been made in the 1970s as opposed to one that was set in the era. We’ve had to watch it a few times to fully comprehend what’s going on in this John Le Carre spy thriller, but each viewing makes it all the more worth it: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch and Toby Jones are all great, while Mark Strong sets an even higher bar. Smart and merciless, this one.
Mad Max: Fury Road
We’re not big into action flicks, but this effort by George Miller feels as if it was filmed on another planet (actually, Namibia) and is a white-knuckler all the way through. Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy are fantastic and I still can’t understand how the Oscars failed to find a way to get the bungee-cord guitarist into the broadcast.
The Great Beauty
It won an Oscar for Best Foreign film and it has stayed with us for years. We can’t adequately say why it struck us so hard other than to say that as you get older, you realize that life really is but a dream. And that moments are just snapshots of life. They’re here, these moments, and those who are wise revel in and appreciate them. Then the moment is gone forever. And that’s your life, anyone’s life, in a snapshot. This one’s worth it.
From the opening scene Damien Chazelle’s rookie effort had all the intensity and tension you needed to carry it all the way home. The particulars were original (music student, drummer, trying to go from being a nobody to a star) even if the basic premise was not (talented but proud student versus sadistic mentor: this was an updated version, with a few tweaks, of An Officer And A Gentleman). The dinner scene was so bold and fractious that, after that, this film won us over.
Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon
Our favorite documentary since Grizzly Man. The story of a late Sixties burnout/weed dealer who, through the luck of fate, happens into a gig as Alice Cooper’s manager. And the rest, as they say, is history. Go into this one blind and trust us, you’ll love it.
The Big Short
How do you make a film about the worst disaster of the century after 9/11 and make it this funny? How do you make a film about the sub-prime mortgage crisis without putting movie goers to sleep? Adam McKay figured out a way. So many memorable scenes, and most of those include Steve Carrell or Ryan Gosling (and the best one includes both). The fourth-wall-breaking scenes also put a hitch in our giddyup.
The title says it all. Besides having the funniest script and most crackling dialogue of the decade, it’s also a musical. And a sports film. And, kinda, TopGun. If you’re asking me what film this decade provided the most entertainment per minute, and continues to do so upon repeat viewings, this is it.
And there’s all this great young female talent—Anna Kendrick, Anna Camp, Brittany Snow and Rebel Wilson—along with three dudes, Sklyer Astin, Adam Devine and Ben Platt, the last of whom would go on to win a Tony for his starring role in Dear Evan Hansen.
The characters are well-defined and stay true to themselves, while also evolving. The viewer is rewarded for paying attention. And the songs are fantastic. It’s everything a great movie needs to be (it has a sophomoric moment or two we would’ve scrapped: the mass-vomiting scene tops the list). I still get chills watching the Bellas’ championship performance.
Not on the list, but darn close: Get Out, The Social Network, Margin Call, 127 Hours, The Fighter, Moneyball, Gravity, The Imitation Game, Spotlight, Lion, Hell Or High Water, Call Me By Your Name, The Revenant, The Witch, The Martian, The Babadook.
We’ve probably overlooked a few and you’ll notice there’s nothing from the Marvel universe here. And we haven’t seen Moonlight or 12 Years A Slave (so not woke of us). So feel free to add your own list or tell us how pedestrian ours is.
Pressed for time this morning, but at least we can get out Susie B’s daily list…
It was the first time this late into an NBA season that a pair of teams with fewer than five losses met. The Bucks (now 25-4) defeated the Lakers (now 24-5) 111-104 behind Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s 34 points and five threes.
LeBron was the third-best player on the court last night. Just sayin’, and there’s no shame in that, Susie B. More miraculously the Bucks, who have the NBA’s best record, got points from THREE American-born white dudes: DiVancenzo, Korver and Connaughton. How often does that happen any more, if ever?
The magazine Christianity Today—we love their annual Saints in Swimsuits issue—in a blistering editorial yesterday, called for president Trump to be removed from office.
“The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents,” Mark Galli, the editor in chief of Christianity Today, wrote in the editorial. “That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.”
A little late to the party, Mark, but at least—and this is something meaningful to Christians—you’ve finally seen the light. Of course, if you’re asking the type of people who subscribe to Christianity Today to choose between the publication’s stated ideals and Donald Trump, well, I hate to tell you but…
White Wing Movement
Last summer I was serving beers to an American Airlines pilot (he wasn’t flying that day) and we were discussing his industry. “You know why American is the 12th-rated domestic airline?” he asked me. No, I answered. Why? “Because there aren’t 13 domestic airlines.”
Consumers apparently agree. In a recent poll by consumer watchdog site Which? Travel, American Airlines was rated worst among domestic carriers for long-haul flights.
Then again, unless you’re flying Emirates, all other airlines are the same.
Five Films: 1979
Apocalypse Now: Charlie doesn’t surf. Francis Ford Coppola’s mash-up of Vietnam and Heart of Darkness was a truly original film, a wild ride. Martin Sheen would be the first member of his family to star in an Oscar-nominated Best Picture Vietnam film, and this one should’ve won. 2. Breaking Away: Pretty much a perfect film. Is it a sports film? No, it’s a coming of age movie starring Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern—who’d go on to be the narrator in a great coming-of-age TV show a decade later—and Kelly Leak from Bad News Bears. 3. The In-Laws: “Serpentine! Serpentine!” Alan Arkin and Peter Falk are terrific in a thrown-together buddy film. 4. The Great Santini: Hello, sports fans. Was Robert Duvall channeling his Colonel Kilgore from No. 1 on this list to play Col. Bull Meechum, or was it the other way around? Essentially the same character, but a terrific movie. With Blythe Danner, they quintessential southern wife in numerous films. 5. Warriors: “Warriors, come out and play-ay!” This is sort of Adventure Race/Eco-Challenge New York City, back in the grimy and crime-ridden Seventies. Now, I never bought for a second that the leader of the Warriors was from Brooklyn, but let it go.
I’ve totally ignored some of the year’s biggest films: Alien (never saw), Kramer vs. Kramer and Norma Rae.
Let’s be honest here: Yesterday’s day-long debate would’ve been improved with Tony Reali serving as moderator, awarding points for arguments well-made and muting Jim Jordan. And if a representative from Colorado spoke while behind him a witty aphorism (“On the other hand, I have five fingers”) was scrawled on a chalkboard behind him, what’s wrong with that?
These snippets speak for themselves…
Verge Of Greatness
The espn.com headline of a college hoops game you did not stay up for (St. Mary’s 96, Arizona State 56) reads “Ford scores 34 in Saint Mary’s 96-56 win over Arizona State,” which would not really entice me to read about the blowout.
What the headline fails to mention and the story does not get to until the 7th paragraph is that Sun Devil junior Alonzo Verge, Jr., came off the bench to score 43 of ASU’s 56 points. Forty-three points, off the bench, in a 40-point loss. Can’t remember seeing anything like that.
We’d say Verge set a new (Dr. Evil pinky to edge of lip)…bench mark?
Tesla Is A Car, But Its Stock Is A Rocket
Yesterday morning before the bell CNBC had a debate between a Tesla bull and a Tesla bear analyst. Shares of the stock have already more than doubled since June ($176 on June 3, $383 before yesterday’s bell).
So it was the bull, not the bear but the bull, who had a price target of Tesla of $385. And where is Tesla this morning, less than 26 hours since that man appeared on CNBC? It’s at $400.
Where does it stop? I dunno. Just informing y’all.
Five Films: 1978
Animal House: Perhaps we are all a product of our youths (we are, of course), but to me the funniest films are those from the Seventies: Blazing Saddles, Airport! (technically, 1980) and this one. From the twisted and tragic mind of Douglas Kenney, who in 33 short years on the planet co-founded The National Lampoon and wrote both this film andCaddyshack. If there’s a male between the ages of 50 and 60 who is unable to quote at least two lines from this film, I wouldn’t trust him. 2. The Deer Hunter: Breaking my own rule here. I’ve never actually seen more than a clip or two of this movie, but it’s got a nearly-dead John Cazale, Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep and Christopher Walken (and yes, I know how it ends) and it won Best Picture. High on the must-see list. 3. Grease: Nearly a zeitgeist film and it also had tunes all over radio in the summer and fall of ’78. I think I hit puberty about 14 minutes into the film, or whenever ONJ made her first appearance. True confession: I like the “before” Sandy better than the after. 4. Heaven Can Wait: This was actually sweet and funny and poignant. What a turn for Warren Beatty after doing Shampoo. Kids, he was as big a male movie star as there was in the Seventies. Maybe only Robert Redford was bigger. 5. Midnight Express: “Tommy, have you ever been in a Turkish prison?” This is the film that inspired that line.
President Trump sent a classic “I Can’t Believe She Ghosted Me!” letter yesterday to Nancy Pelosi that you can read here. Only five paragraphs end with an exclamation point (!) so it’s nice to see that he’s maturing.
The letter is strewn with lies, misleading statements and one very presidential “motherf****r” reference. On the other hand, it’s refreshing to see Trump end a relationship with a woman that does not include a Non-Disclosure Agreement.
Building airplanes. That is what Boeing does. That’s it only job. And building airplanes has made the winged-flight manufacturer a Fortune 500 company and a pillar of the Dow Jones’ 30 companies. It’s not as if every country has an airplane builder. They’re a little more time-intensive to construct than, say, automobiles.
You know what’s a terrific feature in an airplane? The ability to stay aloft, and that is a feature that has seemingly eluded Boeing’s latest model, the 737 Max. The design flaw (“It’s not a bug, it’s a feature”) has resulted in two crashes and hundreds of needless deaths (note: how pissed off would you be if you were one of those who perished? Quotes we never get but, man, if there were a post-mortem beat reporter who could obtain them…).
So now Boeing has announced that it is suspending production of the 737. That would be kinda like Fruit Loops saying they’re no longer making Fruit Loops because they’ve misplaced the formula that makes them fruity. Or loopy.
Anyway, shares of Boeing are down more than 25%, from $446 to $328, since March 1st. Meanwhile, company executive huddle in their worldwide headquarters in Chicago (not Seattle) listening to Tom Petty’s “Learning To Fly.”
The Old Man and The See How He Runs*
*The judges, back from an extended Cancun getaway, will also accept “The Iceman Runneth”
That’s 84 year-old Roy Svenningsen, who last week completed the Antarctic Ice Marathon in 11 hours and change. Svenningsen, from Edmonton, has run in some 50 marathons over the past 55 years with his best time being an extremely fast 2:38 in Helsinki (likely back in the Sixties).
He is the oldest person to finish this race, although the news reports here are sketchy at best. This used to be known, when I ran it in 1997, as the Antarctica Marathon. News reports say that the man who won the race set a new record of 3:34, which is slower than the time several runners (self included) did back in ’97. Anyway, good for old Roy.
The good folks at Outside magazine have a feature titled “7 Adventures To Start The New Decade With A Bang.” None of them involve shooting guns, oddly. Anyway, here’s their list: Watch a Total Solar Eclipse (next one in the States is in 2024), Ride Across A State (I assume bike ride? May I suggest Rhode Island), Attend a Far-Flung Festival, Make A Pilgrimage (those two are nearly the same, no?), See A Waterfall That Looks Like It’s On Fire (an excuse to visit Yosemite, which I highly recommend), See The Northern Lights (this one tops our own bucket list), Sleep In Space (if you’re sleeping, what’s the point?).
Five Films: 1977
For a third consecutive year, a Hollywood film dominated the zeitgeist. The exception here, however, is that in 1977 not one but two films did. In my 6th grade class, every girl knew all the words to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack and every boy was scribbling X-wing fighters or the Millennium Falcon on the back of his spiral notebook (bad artist that I am, I was two years behind, still attempting to master a dorsal fin). What a time to be alive.
Annie Hall: Forget the zeitgeist for a moment and consider Woody Allen’s masterpiece, and Best Picture winner, about being young and single and neurotic in Manhattan. Not only was this an inspired love letter to NYC, but also to humor itself. The scene in which Alvy Singer steps out of the theater line and speaks to us, the audience? Genius. The final scene of the film takes place on the corner of 63rd and Amsterdam, a spot I often stop at (just across the street from P.J. Clarke’s) and ruminate on life’s deeper meanings. La di da, la di da, la la. 2. Star Wars: I’m nowhere near the fan boy that most of you are, but I enjoyed it. If you can ever unearth the Siskel & Ebert clip in which they deconstruct the movie and posit that it’s really just a classic Western taking place in a galaxy far, far away, it’s worth your time. And no, I’ll never refer to it as Episode IV: A New Hope. 3. Saturday Night Fever: A better soundtrack than film, but only because it’s the best-selling soundtrack ever and stayed at No. 1 on the album charts for 24 weeks, nearly six consecutive months. There’s a good reason for this: the Bee Gees’ songs were great. 4. Slap Shot: Is this the first great cynical sports film? Paul Newman is wonderful as the aging player-coach of the Charlestown Chiefs minor-league hockey team and the cult-hero, Hansen brothers, I’ve always thought, had to be inspired by The Ramones. 5. High Anxiety: There are a couple of Richard Dreyfuss films vying for this fifth spot, but for sheer guffaws give us Mel Brooks’ riffing on Alfred Hitchcock with the help of Harvey Korman and Cloris Leachman (as Nurse Diesel). Not his best, but still very funny.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees tosses four touchdown passes in an effortless 34-7 win against the Colts on MNF and claims two records in the process. His 29-30 passing night was, percentage-wise, the best single-game performance in NFL history (96.7%). And in tossing his 537th, 538th, 539th and 540th career TD pass, he moved past both Tom Brady (still active, 538) and Peyton Manning (539, retired) on the all-time list.
All against the team the Saints beat in the Super Bowl 10 years earlier.
A reminder that Brees, 6’0″, was a second-round pick out of Purdue in 2001. Which is still four rounds sooner than Tom Brady was selected in 2000.
When Comics Get Ripped
On a personal level, it must feel great for comic Kumail Nanjiani to have gotten this buff for an upcoming role in a Marvel Comics film we’ll never see. On a professional level, however, beware: Remember how funny and popular Joe Piscopo and Carrot Top were before they discovered 24-Hour Fitness? We’re just sayin’….
After a blah opening episode, Season 3 of The Crown (we miss Claire Foy, too…we’re all just going to have to adjust…it’s not like the first time in the past few years we’ve had longing for a leader who’s no longer there) kicks into high gear with some wonderful history lessons that, frankly, we were not aware of: “Margaretology,” or how Princess Margaret charmed LBJ into a financial bailout of Great Britain (by reciting dirty limericks and mocking JFK); “Aberfan,” about a Welsh mining disaster; and “The Coup,” in which deposed military leader and royal family member Lord Louis Mountbatten (played by Tywin Lannister himself, Charles Dance) conspires with the Bank of England and other plutocrats to overthrow socialist prime minister Harold Wilson.
Mountbatten, Prince Phillip’s uncle, at last has a showdown with his nephew’s wife, Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman). It’s the climactic scene in the episode and certainly the writer(s) who penned it did so with an eye on current events, both in the USA and the UK.
Mountbatten defends his thoughts on staging a coup by telling the queen that he hates to see what the socialist party is doing to his beloved country and that people like him need to reclaim it by any means necessary (they don’t actually have him say, “Make England Great Again,” but you get the picture). He asks her, “How can you support a person like that?”
And the queen responds, “I’m supporting the prime minister. I’m supporting the Constitution. I’m supporting democracy, the foundation on which this country was built (1,000 years earlier, I might add). And I’ll continue to support him until it is the will of the people to replace him.”
So you get the picture. Mountbatten is the Joe Kernen (or Mitch Mcconnell, or most of the GOP) of this episode, telling you it’s okay to abandon law and democratic ideals because it’s about the economy, stupid. Or about whatever other of our ideals we happen to love. And the queen is saying, “No. You can’t only be in favor of democracy when it’s working for you and then abandon it as soon as it isn’t.”
By the way, notice how democracy and capitalism have analagous roles. Remember how the Wall Street barons were all capitalist jingoists until late September 2008 when suddenly they all became welfare queens, at least for a few months? Yup. Hypocrites over and over.
Anyway, here’s the wrinkle. The queen stood up to Mountbatten, and stood up for democracy. And the wrinkle is that, at least from an electoral college standpoint, democracy was not abandoned in 2016. Donald Trump did not win the popular vote, but he did win where it counted: in the electoral college.
And so that’s where the analogy with this scene breaks down. The people of the U.S. (at least Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania) gave the people currently in charge the keys to the country. The people opened the doors to the coup. Voters have only themselves to blame.
Two more notes: 1) the instigator of the plot was Cecil King, the CEO of the Daily Mirror newspapers. More echoes of current events. 2) We love the final scene in this episode, in which Mountbatten visits his elderly sister (Prince Phillip’s mum, Princes Alice, played by Jane Lapotaire), who is a wonderful character. He explains the mess he’s gotten into, and the mess Great Britain is in, and how VITALLY IMPORTANT all of this is, as if he’s some MSNBC or Fox News prime-time host, and she looks at him with pity and says, “Aw, who cares?”
Which is about the way many of us feel right about now.
Reading. So cool. It constantly teaches you how much you don’t know (that’s why non-readers are so sure of themselves; ignorance is bliss). For example, The Man From The Train (which we read over the summer) informed us of a serial killer who roamed this country from about 1899-1912 who was so deft at what he did that no one even suspected a single person of these crimes until Bill James, the author, shed light on it more than 100 years later.
Then there’s Labryinth of Ice, which we’re reading now. It’s about, to put it succinctly, the North Pole’s version of the Shackleton expedition. In 1881 first lieutenant Adolphus Greely was given command of a polar expedition to explore to the farthest north any human beings had ever traveled (83 degrees north), sailing up along the west coast of Greenland.
Then things got icy. And next, dicey. Above is the ship Proteus, which during the second summer that Greely and his 2 dozen or so men found themselves stranded at Fort Conger (the first resupply ship had been unable to break through the pack ice) went up to perform a rescue mission. The only problem is that Proteus was trapped by the pack ice which then literally squeezed the ship to death. That crew had to abandon ship and anyway that’s where we are now in the odyssey.
If you’re looking for a fascinating book to read over the Christmas break, we recommend this one.
Five Films: 1976
Rocky: As much as I love this film—it has as legit a claim to “greatest sports film” as any and were it not for the five sequels it might stand alone as such…no one ever requested Hoosiers 3—I don’t think people who were born after, say, 1975, can appreciate what a monumental cultural touchstone Sylvester Stallone’s personal project was. The USA was in the doldrums as the bicentennial crept up, what with Nixon’s resignation and our humiliating evacuation from Vietnam, a war we lost. And here comes this film about a southpaw heavyweight from Philly who’s average at best but suddenly gets, due to his heritage and look and availability, his one shot in life. And he changes himself in order to achieve his goal. And kudos to Stallone for not giving his audience the easy happy ending. What a fantastic, and for this country at that time, necessary, film. Finally, it has to be noted: How much less of a film would this have been without Bill Conti’s unforgettable score? You can’t think of this film without that music. 2. All The President’s Men: This is less a great movie than a 2-hour procedural on how good reporting gets done. Robert Redford made this film about the heroes of the Watergate story and it was incredibly important to him to get the details correct, to illustrate how much pain-staking work (and a little luck) goes into breaking the biggest story of the past 50 years. Incredible, and still resonant this very day. 3. Network: Written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sydney Lumet, this film was years ahead of its time in illuminating not only how the television biz works but also how much of an impact it has on us. Howard Beale was the original Stephen A. Smith (or is it Rush Limbaugh?).. 4. The Bad News Bears: This Little League drama/comedy may have been targeted toward kids, but that was back when filmmakers respected their audience, no matter the age, to have a brain. At times it’s hilarious but it’s also got a ton of pathos. And like the first movie on this list, the good guys come oh so close to pulling off the miraculous upset but not quite all the way. 5. Marathon Man: “Is it safe?” Dustin Hoffman and Sir Lawrence Olivier and Nazis. Very entertaining and not entirely dissimilar from Three Days of the Condor. Both the All The President’s Men leads got their own “The Only Living Boy In New York” film.
We didn’t include Taxi Driver, which we’ve only seen once (on a plane) and didn’t even bother to finish. You can appreciate DeNiro’s performance without being all gushy about how much you loved the film. We’ll give it another try some day.