Monday, December 31, 2012

Police Power

Andy Summers, guitarist for the Police, turns 70 today.  That band had something, and it wasn't just Sting.






Ending The Year Looking Back

So Jesse Walker has gone back to the films of 1972, a time of experimentation (and blaxpoitation and pornography).  

Here's his top ten:

1. The Godfather
2. The Ruling Class
3. Images
4. The Candidate
5. Frenzy
6. Sleuth
7. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
8. The King of Marvin Gardens
9. Cries and Whispers
10. Bone

Hard to find fault with this list. Not sure if all of them would make my top ten, but I like these films.  (Haven't seen Bone.)

Here are his honorable mentions:

11. Tup-Tup
12. Play it Again, Sam
13. The Heartbreak Kid
14. Fat City
15. Love in the Afternoon
16. The Getaway
17. Deliverance
18. The Mechanic
19. Junior Bonner

20. Ulzana's Raid

Another pretty decent list. I haven't seen Tup-Tup and I don't know if I like the Peckinpah stuff that much, but overall pretty good.  #12 and maybe 13 would make my top ten.

Here are some other films of 1972 that might make my top ten (or twenty)

1776

Aguirre, The Wrath Of god

The Harder They Come

The Hot Rock

Pink Flamingos

Tout Va Bien

What's Up, Doc?

Other films of note (in a notable year):
 
Across 110th Street. Avanti!, Bad Company, Behind The Green Door, Ben, The Biscuit Eater, The Better Tears Of Petra Von Kant, Blacula, Boxcar Bertha, Brother Sun, Sisten Moon, Buck And The Preacher, Butterflies Are Free, Cabaret, The Carey Treatment, Come Back Charleston Blue, Concert For Bangladesh, Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes, The Cowboys, The Culpepper Cattle Co., Deep Throat, The Doberman Gang, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, Dynamite Chicken, Eat The Document, The Effect Of Gammy Rays On Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, Elvis On Tour, Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask) (Woody Allen's lone misfire of his early, "funny" films), Fist Of Fury, Fritz The Cat, Fuzz, Get To Know Your Rabbit, Greaser's Palace, The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, The Great Waltz, Heat, Hickey & Boggs, Hit Man, I Love You Rosa, J.W. Coop, Jeremiah Johnson, Joe Kidd, Journey Through The Past, Kansas City Bomber, Lady Sings The Blues, Last Of The Rest Hot Lovers, Last Tango In Paris, The Life And Times Of Judge Roy Bean, Man Of La Mancha, Marjoe, Napoleon And Samantha, The New Centurions, The New Land, Now You See Him, Now You Don't, The Other, Pete 'n' Tillie, Play It As It Lays, Pocket Money, Prime Cut, Roma, The Seduction Of Mimi, Shaft's Big Score, Silent Running, Slaughternouse-Five, Snoopy Come Home, Sounder, Super Fly, Tales From The Crypt, The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe, Trouble Man, Up The Sandbox, The Valachi Papers, Young Winston
 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

As He Walks On

Happy birthday, Del Shannon.  He suffered from depression and shot himself in 1990, but I think his #1 hit will live on forever.



"Hats Off To Larry" may not live so long, but it's still a lot of fun.


Predictions from 2012

Guess it's time to look over the predictions I made for 2012.  (In a few days I'll put up my predictions for 2013.  I invite the other Guys and any readers to join in.)

I'd say I did so-so.  I was pretty accurate in domestic politics, but weak in most other areas.


American Politics:

I correctly predicted Obama and Biden would defeat Romney in a hard-fought race.  I also predicted Marco Rubio would not be on the ticket.

I was way off in predicting the Republicans would barely take the Senate, as they actually lost seats.  This happened due to some lousy candidates and excellent get-out-the-vote efforts for Obama which helped downticket, but that's an excuse, I was still wrong.  I was right that the Repubs would hold the House.

I think I was right in saying Occupy Wall Street didn't matter much. Since the Dems hardly wanted to talk about them, it's hard to believe they were the factor so many hoped they'd be at the outset of the movement.  (Compare to the Tea Party in 2010.)

I was correct that there was no new Supreme Court Justice and that they found Obamacare constitutional

Also, I believe I'm correct in saying there was no major terrorist attack on U.S. soil


International Politics:

I said there'll be trouble in Europe. True, but not the bravest prediction.  I also said the Euro will fail, which hasn't happened yet.

I also said Assad will fall, which hasn't happened yet.

And I said either Castro or Chavez would die, and though Chavez seems shaky, they're both still around.


The Economy:

I thought unemployment would dip to around 7%, but it's still up there closer to 8 than 7.

I said the Dow would be over 12500 and I was right, even with a last-minute dip.


Sports:

I said LSU would easily beat Alabama in the BCS and I was way off.

I said Green Bay would take the Super Bowl but it wouldn't be a blowout.  Well, the Giants beat the Patriots, but I was right that it wasn't a blowout.

I said the Wolverines wouldn't lose more than three games.  They lost four, but I should have added that my prediction only applied with a healthy Denard Robinson.


Popular Culture:

I thought American Idol would remain the #1 show.  After 8 years on top (and dropping for the last five) it finally sank low enough to be passed by NBC Sunday Night Football.

For the Academy Awards, I was mostly off though at least my guesses were nominated. For Best Picture I didn't trust The Artist so guessed The DescendantsThe Artist won.  As did Jean Dujardin for Best Actor rather than George Clooney.  Best Actress was yet another victory for Meryl Streep rather than my guess Michelle Williams.  I got Supporting Actor Christopher Plummer right but missed on Octavia Specer for Supporting Actress. Best Director was another Artist win for Michael Hazanavicius, not Alexander Payne.  But I did get both screenwriting awards right for Midnight In Paris and The Descendants.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Coasting

Happy birthday, Ronald Coase.  He turns 102 today.

The Coase Theorem, dealing with efficient economic allocation in dealing with externalties, helped him win the Nobel Prize for economics in 1991.

I believe he's still a member of the Chicago Law School faculty, but what's he done for us lately.  His two most famous articles were published in 1937 and 1960.  It's this damn tenure system. You can't fire anyone.

PS At The End Of The Year

Just before the year ends, we always tip out hat to tomorrow's birthday girl Patti Smith.  She's one of the few artists who successfully married poetry to rock and roll.






Friday, December 28, 2012

Her Final Rescue

Fontella Bass has died.  She's best known for not being Aretha Franklin while singing "Rescue Me."

 

The Go-Go Years

Jesse Walker continues his relentless march back in time, now going over the top ten films and then some of 1982

1. Fanny and Alexander
2. Danton
3. Blade Runner
4. Fitzcarraldo
5. Dimensions of Dialogue
6. Say Amen, Somebody
7. Veronika Voss
8. Forbidden Zone
9. The Draughtsman's Contract
10. Burden of Dreams

A very foreign list.  What's wrong, Jesse, you don't like Hollywood?  Fanny And Alexander, while not exactly the grand farewell it might have been, is still pretty good.  A couple of these I've wanted to see--Danton, Forbidden Zone--but never gotten around to.  As Jesse may know, I think the audience got Blade Runner right--for all the amazing design, it's a crappy movie.  Dimensions Of Dialogue may be the greatest thing Svankmajer ever did, but once again, a short.  I like Veronika Voss and the Draughtsman's Contract, and it's hard not to enjoy Say Amen, Somebody.  And I'm hardly alone in preferring Burden Of Dreams to Fitzcarraldo.

Jesse's honorable mentions:

11. Moonlighting
12. The Verdict
13. Liquid Sky
14. Honkytonk Man
15. Down to the Cellar
16. The Atomic Café
17. The Return of Martin Guerre
18. Fast Times at Ridgemont High
19. The Year of Living Dangerously
20. Salamanders

A lot of these I haven't seen since they came out, but they left an impression.  I like MoonlightingThe Verdict strikes me as ludicrous melodrama, and Honkytonk Man is bad even by Clint Eastwood standards. (Guess I'm the one who doesn't like Hollywood.) Liquid Sky was pretty cool.  Down To The Cellar is another Svankmajer surrealist masterpiece (short).  The Atomic Cafe was fun.  Return Of Martin Guerre was okay.  Fast Times I didn't like so much at the time (except for Spicoli) though it hasn't aged badly. (Though I still wonder why in development they dropped the idea of an adult going into high school undercover?  It's a natural.) The Year Of Living Dangerously is a bit pretentious.  Never saw Salamanders.

Here are some films of the year that would have made my top ten:

Diner

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

Shaolin Temple

Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan

Tootsie

Herer are some other films that I liked:
 
48 Hrs., Eating Raoul, Monty Python Live At The Hollywood Bowl, The Night Of Shooting Stars, Night Shift, Privates On Parade, Rocky III (introducing Mr T), The Secret Policeman's Other Ball, Swamp Thing, Smithereens, The Sword And The Sorcerer, Tempest, That Night In Varennes, Tron
 
Other 1982 films of note:
 
Airplane II: The Sequel, Android, Annie, The Beastmaster, Le Beau Marriage, Best Friends, The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, Brimstone And Treacle, Cafe Flesh, Cat People, Chan Is Missing, Class Of 1984, Come Back To The FIve And Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, Conan The Barbarian, Creepshow, Dead Men Don't Were Plaid, Death With II, Deathtrap, The Escape Artist, Evil Under The Sun, Firefox, First Blood, Flight Of The Eagle, Frances, Friday The 13th Part III (in 3-D!), Gandhi, Grease 2, The Grey Fox, Hanky Panky, Human Highway, I'm Dancing As Fast As I Can, It Came From Hollywood, It's Your Move, Jinxed!, Kiss Me Goodbye, Koyaanisqatsi, The Last American Virgin ("see it or be it"), A Little Sex, Lookin' To Get Out, Making Love, The Man From Snowy River, A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy, Missing, The Missionary, My Favorite Year, Neil Simon's I Ought To Be In Pictures, Not A Love Story, An Officer And A Gentleman, Partners, Personal Best, Pink Floyd--The Wall, The Pirate Movie, Poltergeist, Porky's, Richard Pryor: Live On The Sunset Strip, Savannah Smiles, The Secret Of NIMH, The Shaolin Drunken Monk, Shoot The Moon, Some Kind Of Hero, Sophie's Choice, Still Of The Night, Tex, That Championship Season, The Best Of Friends, They Call Me Bruce?, The Thing, The Toy, Tragedy Of A Ridiculous Man, Trail Of The Pink Panther, The Weavers: Wasn't That A Time!, White Dog, The World According To Garp, Yes, Giorgio, Young Doctors In Love, Zapped!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Greatest Generation?

Jesse continues with his top ten lists and I'm catching up. This time it's for 1992. (He's actually revising an older list, but this is the first time I get to write about it.)

1. Glengarry Glen Ross
2. Unforgiven
3. Brother's Keeper
4. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
5. Prime Suspect 2
6. Food
7. Porco Rosso
8. Reservoir Dogs
9. The Player
10. Candyman

I like Glengarry Glen Ross a lot, though I'm not sure if it's top ten material.  I don't like Unforgiven at all (and it's not backlash--I felt that way before it won the Best Picture Oscar).  Brother's Keeper is good, and I agree that the Twin Peaks movie doesn't get the credit it deserves.  I love Food but, as Jesse knows, I don't believe shorts should be on these lists.  Never saw Porco RussoReservoir Dogs should be here.  The Player I found disappointing, and Candyman only so-so.

 His honorable mentions:

11. Swoon
12. A Brief History of Time
13. The Crying Game
14. Wayne's World
15. My New Gun
16. L.627
17. Barjo
18. Léolo
19. Rock Hudson's Home Movies
20. Malcolm X

 Haven't seen 11, 15, 17 or 18.  I like 12.  !3 isn't bad, though the surprise was so big it's hard to judge it after that.  14 wasn't great.  Liked 16.  Like 19 a lot.  Didn't particularly like 20 (and I still want to know if it was Macolm X or Spike Lee who stole from Cole Porter).

Here are some films that would have made my top ten:

Aladdin

My Cousin Vinny

The Story Of Qiu Ju

Some other films I liked:

Bad Lieutenant, Diggstown, El Mariachi, Careful, A Few Good Men, Housesitter, A League Of Their Own (but that awful, lengthy framing device!), Love Potion No. 9, Memoirs Of An Invisible Man (for all its flaws), Mistress and Into The Soup (two films about the movie business better than The Player), Police Story 3

Other 1992 films of note:

1991: The Year Punk Broke, Alien 3, Basic Instinct, Batman Returns, Belle Epoque, Bob Roberts, The Bodyguard, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Chaplin, Un Coeur En Hiver, Death Becomes Her, Far And Away, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, Hard Boiled, Hero, Hoffa, Honey, I Blew Up The Kids, Honeymoon In Vegas, Howard's End, Husbands And Wives, Indochine, Into The West, Jamon, Jamon, The Lawnmower Man, The Last Of The Mohicans, Leap Of faith, Like Water For Chocolate, Lorenzo's Oil, Love Field, The Lover, Luna Park, The Mambo Kings, Man Bites Dog, Man Trouble, Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky And The Media, The Mighty Ducks, Mister Saturday Night, New Dragon Gate Inn, Noises Off, Passion Fish, Patriot Games, A River Runs Through It, Romper Stomper, Scent Of A Woman, School Ties, Shakes The Clown, Single White Female, Singles, Sister Act, Strictly Ballroom, This Is My Life, Toys, The Waterdance, White Men Can't Jump

Listing

It's that time of year again.  My friend Jesse Walker is making his top ten film list.  But not for 2012.  Rather, for every year that ends in a 2 for as far back as he dares go.  He's actually been doing it for ten years now, but that hasn't stopped him.  We start with 2002.

Here's his top 10:

1. The Wire
2. Talk to Her
3. Mai's America
4. The Office (Season 2)

5. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
6. Decasia
7. The Quiet American
8. Dirty Pretty Things
9. About Schmidt
10. City of God
 
I have some disagreements with this last.  As Jesse knows, I don't believe in putting TV shows on movies lists, so #1 and #4 are out before we start (though both are excellent shows).  Talk To Her and Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind I like, but I'm not as thrilled by The Quiet American, Dirty Pretty Things and About Schmidt (made in-between two better films from the same director).  I haven't seen #3 and #6. #10 would definitely make my top ten list--might even top it.

Here are his honorable mentions:

11. Man on the Train
12. 25th Hour
13. The Girl on the Train in the Moon
14. Femme Fatale
15. Hero
16. Chicago
17. Punch-Drunk Love
18. In Smog and Thunder
19. 28 days later…
20. Biggie & Tupac


I don't think I've seen #11, and I'm sure I haven't seen #13, 18 and 20.  25th Hour I like--it may be Spike Lee's best (perhaps because he didn't write it).  Femme Fatale has some great shots (what Brian De Palma film doesn't?) but doesn't hold together well (what Brian De Palma film does?).  Hero is okay but Zhang Yimou has done a lot better. Chicago, which won the Best Picture Oscar, isn't much. Regarding Punch-Drunk Love, PTA makes interesting films, but I don't think he's made a good one since the 90s.  28 Days Later... is a great zombie film.

Here are a few titles that would have made my top ten list:

About A Boy

Jackass: The Movie

Catch Me If You Can

Here are some other films of 2002 that I liked:

Big Trouble, 24 Hour Party People, Adaptation (two-thirds a classic), All Or Nothing, The Kid Stays In The Picture, Bend It Like Beckham, The Good Girl, Whale Rider,

Other 2002 films of note:
 
Clockstoppers, The Panic Room, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Hollywood Ending, Spider-Man, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. Undercover Brother, The Bourne Identity, Lilo & Stitch, Minority Report, Men In Black 2, Road to Perdition, Signs, One Hour Photo, 8 Mile, Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets (or as I used to call it, "Harry And The Chamberpot Of Secrets"), Die Another Day, Gangs Of New York, Lord Of the Rings: The Two Towers, Ali G Indahouse. Antwone Fisher, Auto Focus, Ballistic: Ecks vs.Sever (notable for the title alone), Better Luck Tomorrow (which I seem to recall Jesse liked), Bowling For Columbine, Bubba Ho-tep, Frida, Full Frontal, The Good Thief, The Guru, The Hours, House Of Fools, Igby Goes Down, In America, Infernal Affairs, Irreversible, The Magdalene Sisters, Morvern Callar, Narc, Phone Booth, The Pianist, Rabbit-Proof Fence, Ripley's Game, Russian Ark, The Salton Sea, Secretary, Sunshine State, Tadpole, Welcome To Collinwood

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

You're The Top

Happy birthday, Abdul "Duke" Fakir. He's the only member of the original Four Tops still alive.  But we all know what's going to outlive even him:





Oscar, Oscar, Oscar

Let's say goodbye to Jack Klugman. His best role, as Oscar on the TV show The Odd Couple, showed his comic chops, but he brought power and honesty to every part he played.

He did a lot of TV in the 50s, as well as some movies, such as 12 Angry Men.  But he also got a lot of notice as Herbie, playing opposite Ethel Merman, in the Broadway musical Gypsy.  He could barely sing--he told Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim not to write a solo for him--but he was a solid enough actor that he was worth it.
In the 60s he played the lead in several episodes of The Twilight Zone, and, foreshadowing the 70s, replaced Walter Matthau as Oscar Madison on Broadway in The Odd Couple. He also did a memorable turn as the tough Jewish father in the 1969 film Goodbye, Columbus.

The show became a classic and Klugman won a couple Emmys for the role.  He went right from that show to Quincy M.E., which got him more nominations.  The series may not be as well remembered (or as good) but it actually lasted longer.

In 1989 throat cancer cost him a vocal cord, but he didn't let it slow him down.  I saw him perform on Broadway in the late 90s, with Tony Randall, in a revival of The Sunshine Boys. The raspy voice worked for the role, since these are two characters past their prime.  And though he was on stage almost the entire play, he gave it his all, and showed he still had it.

PS  Charles Durning has also died. He practically defined "character actor."  He deserves a complete tribute of his own, but let's just note a few highlights.

A WWII veteran, he worked till the end.  He was featured in several Broadway shows in the 60s and 70s, winning a Drama Desk Award for That Championship Season, and also did plenty of television, garnering many Emmy nominations for work such as Queen Of The Stardust Ballroom.

But he's best known for his film work.  Some of his top performances: The Sting (which truly brought him to the attention of the public), The Fury, North Dallas Forty, Tootsie, The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas (Oscar nominaion), To Be Or Not To Be (Oscar nomination), The Hudsucker Proxy and O Brother, Where Are Thou?.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Spacey Spacek

Oscar-winning actress Sissy Spacek was born on Christmas Day.  When people hear her name, they think of Carrie or Coal Miner's Daughter, but I can't help but think or her work as "Rainbo," who, in 1968, sang a song of protest after John Lennon appeared naked with Yoko on the cover of their album Two Virgins.


Tis The Season

I love Christmas music.  Maybe not all year 'round, but a month or two is fine with me.  I'll be sort of sad to see it go.







Monday, December 24, 2012

Herrmann's Been Gone

Composer Bernard Herrmann died on December 24th, 1975.  He'd just done his score for Taxi Driver and who knew what would have come next.

He was one of the true greats in scoring.  Many film composer learn how to blend into the background, but Herrmann's best stuff is front and center:






I'm Just Wild About Harry

Happy birthday, Harry Warren.  Born Salvatore Antonio Guaragna, he's one of the biggest songwriters of the 20th century.  However, because he mostly wrote for movies, and not Broadway, he doesn't have quite the cachet of a Jerome Kern or Cole Porter.  But all that wonderful work (above all at Warner Brothers) still holds up.







Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

Christmas is almost upon us.  It's a nice time of year, even if you don't personally celebrate the holiday--bright lights, Christmas carols and so on.  But it's also a time when a certain segment starts complaining about a "War On Christmas" that sometimes has me longing for December 26th.

Yes, there are people who legally want to make sure we can't force our entire society to acknowledge Christmas (which is unquestionably a religious holiday) in our public square.  There are even others who would like private society to be a little more non-denominational--saying things like "Happy Holidays" over "Merry Christmas." But really, a war?

Even if the ACLU (often painted as the enemy) completely got its way, what would happen?  Would people not be able to put up their own trees and lights and decorations, and sing songs, and give presents to whomever they want?  Would they not be allowed to go to church and pray as deeply and solemnly as they wish? Just what is the end-game of those fighting this war?  Even if everything were ceded to them, most Americans would still celebrate Christmas, and do it joyously and openly.

I don't claim to be an expert on the Christian religion, but I'm pretty sure there's nothing in the New Testament that demands Christians take over their government and put religious symbols on display.  Quite the opposite, I've been led to understand.  So maybe, in this time of peace on earth and good will towards men, they can decide to stop fighting against this "war."  They may discover there was nothing really to fight against in the first place.

Marshall Memoir

Having read Garry Marshall's memoir, I figured it was only fair to check out his sister Penny's, My Mother Was Nuts.  It's a bit over 300 pages and told in numerous short chapters.

Her life story, as she tells is, is essentially three separate sections.  First her childhood in the Bronx, with a demanding mother and missing father in a loveless marriage.  Her older brother Garry told Penny and other sister Ronny that they needed to stick together because they couldn't count on their parents.

Young Penny loved camp, playing on the streets, eating, hanging out with friends and complaining.  She wasn't much for studying, though she had to learn how to dance in her mothers dancing school.  Her brother went into comedy writing and by the time she grew up, she drifted into show business.

Which brings us to the second section.  She'd met a guy, got pregnant, had her child, Tracy, and in a few years got divorced.  She eventually moved out to Los Angeles where she lived at her brother's place.  He was willing to help her out, but she had to prove herself.  She got occasional acting jobs and her first big break was as Oscar Madison's nasal secretary Myrna Turner in her brother's sitcom The Odd Couple.  (Her brother got her to ask Jack Klugman, who played Oscar, if he wanted the role, when they were on a movie set together.  She was always willing to talk to anyone.)

During this period she married Rob Reiner, who'd lived across the street as a kid, even though they never met in those days.  Reiner could be dark and depressed--especially living in the shadow of his famous father Carl--but he also turned into a big star as one of the leads in the #1 show on TV, All In The Family.  Penny, who wasn't famous yet, got to know quite a few celebrities, and a lot of the book is her talking about them. It's not dropping names, exactly, since people like Carrie Fisher, Richard Dreyfuss, Albert Brooks, John Belushi, Lorne Michaels, Jerry Belson, Louise Lasser, James L. Brooks, Steven Spielberg and so many others were simply the people she hung out with.

Then she and friend Cindy Williams did an episode of Happy Days (another show created by her brother) as two loose girls Laverne and Shirley.  Soon after, brother Garry sold the idea of a show around those two characters and suddenly TV had a new #1 show.  It was not a happy set, however, as Penny and Cindy were tough on the producer and on each other, but the show lasted eight years and made Penny rich and famous.

After Reiner left All In The Family he was going through another rough period, and he and Penny, though still friends, divorced.  She started dating Art Garfunkel (which was interesting since best friend Carrie Fisher was with Paul Simon) and they traveled together.  At a party she got Artie and Paul, who barely acknowledged each other most of the time, to sing some songs.

With Laverne & Shirley behind her, she drifted into directing, which is the third part of the book. She had a knack for it, and had a couple of big hits--Big and A League Of Their Own (which featured daughter Tracy as ballplayer Betty Spaghetti)--not to mention Awakenings, which was nominated for Best Picture.

She's been taking it fairly easy in the past decade, and also went through a cancer scare.  I guess she's spent a fair amount of time recently working on this book.  I never thought too much of Laverne & Shirley, but I always liked her, and some of her movies.  Hearing the stories of how it all came about is pretty entertaining.  Amusing enough, I'd say, that I don't think you have to be a fan to like this book.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Dark Side

In yesterday's tribute to Samuel L. Jackson, there was an oversight. I left out the tremendous work he did in Star Wars:

Merry Mail

I just received a Christmas letter.  I have to wonder if they're going the way of the dodo, with Facebook and so many other ways to spread news about yourself and your family.  Maybe it's just as well.

I'm not offended by Christmas letters, but I've never been a big fan, either.  They're so depersonalized.  I suppose it's nice that friends want to keep you in the loop, but it's essentially saying you're not important enough to get anything specifically for you. Yes, I know people are busy, but a general mailer sometimes feels like it might as well be addressed to occupant.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Nice Knowin' Ya

By now everyone knows the end of the world as predicted by the Mayan calendar is a hoax.  But just in case:



(I think the earth could be destroyed but her hair would still last.)



SLJ Day

Happy birthday, Samuel L. Jackson.   Not too many celebrities stay cool well into their 60s, but he's managed it.

Jackson was barely known as an actor when he hit forty.  It was his role in 1991 as crack addict Gator in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever that got him notice. (He'd been an addict himself so he knew the role from the inside.)

But that was nothing compared to the impact in 1994 of hitman Jules in Pulp Fiction.  He's been a star ever since, and, as if making up for lost time, has averaged more than three films a year in the last two decades.

Here are a few highlights:








Thursday, December 20, 2012

I Have A Choice?

I was paying my cable bill and noticed, below the amount I owed, they had an empty slot with the words "amount enclosed" just above.  So I checked and saw it was on other bills as well. Shouldn't they just assume the amount enclosed is the amount I owe?  Otherwise, why would I send it?

Or can I send in whatever I want?  Let's say the bill is $50.79 and I enclose $38.65--because that's what I felt your services were worth this  month.  Or nothing--screw you jerks.  Or some months I may feel generous and overpay, because that's the kind of guy I am.

I always thought bills through the mail are like going to the store--you pay the price they ask for or you don't get the product.  I understand credit card bills allow you to pay less than the full amount, but that's because they make their money charging interest.

So I'm wondering, are there people out there who just pay less?  I understand they'll eventually owe the full amount, but do companies put up with this from their customers?

Verbed

Robert Bork has died. He worked in law and politics for decades, but will probably be remembered as the man who was turned down for the Supreme Court.

It was in 1987 when Reagan nominated him.  No surprise--as an appellate judge and leading conservative intellectual, he was at the top of everyone's short list.  For the same reason, opposition was swift and savage.  A few years before, anyone with Bork's credentials probably wouldn't have had much trouble.  When liberal judges were nominated under Carter, Ted Kennedy and others argued it wasn't the politics that counted, but the qualifications.  And the previous year, Antonin Scalia (the first Italian on the Court) was voted in unanimously--of course, the Republicans lost the Senate in the 1986 elections, and that might have made the difference.

In any case, soon after the nomination was announced, Ted Kennedy was on the Senate floor making his "Robert Bork's America" speech, envisioning a land with segregation, back-alley abortions, rogue police and so on.  It was ugly, but it worked.  Bork didn't do himself any favors with his appearance before the Judiciary Committee (headed by Joe Biden, who'd also spoken out in the Carter years about how politics shouldn't matter), often giving answers that were lackluster and tone deaf--perhaps he didn't see the storm coming.

He lost the vote, 58-42, and his name became a verb. To be "borked" means to be villified, generally through an attempt to destroy one's political future.  His nomination also might have been a turning point in the process of voting on judges, which to this day remains highly politicized.

Reagan eventually installed Anthony Kennedy in the slot.   Liberals and many libertarians should probably he happy that Kennedy was there rather than Bork--Kennedy was a swing vote in many cases where Bork, likely, would have sided with the conservatives.  But not always.  For instance, it's quite possible Bork wouldn't have expanded Second Amendment rights.  (He wasn't much on expanding rights without a very clear textual argument.)  On the other hand, not to get too ghoulish, but now that Bork is dead, they probably wish he had been on the Court.

I never met the man, but remember reading some of his stuff in law school.  I can't say I agreed with his general outlook.  Most troubling was his attitude toward the First Amendment, where it seemed he'd be willing to allow censorship of almost anything that wasn't temperate political speech.  Then there was his suspicion of the Ninth Amendment, which, under his jurisprudence, could probably never mean anything.  And in later years, after he'd been rejected, he sometimes wrote quite bitterly about America and modern-day Western culture.  But one should be careful making any conclusions about what kind of Justice he would have been.  Sitting on the Court can change a person, and who knows in what direction he would have gone.

PS  One of my favorite early David Letterman top ten lists was names for Robert Bork's beard:

10. The Chin Slinky
9. The Amish Outlaw
8. The See-Through
7. My Very First Beard - from Kenner!
6. The Lunatic Fringe
5. Senor Itchy
4. The Radioactive Goat
3. Salute to C. Everett Koop
2. Gopher Butt
1. The Babe Magnet

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gun Crazy

My old friend Cass Sunstein, in a piece (someone) called "Gun Debate Must Avoid Crazy 2nd Amendment Claims," quotes former head of the Constitutional Bicentennial Commission Warren Burger:

[The Second Amendment] has been the subject of one of the greatest piece of fraud--I repeat the word 'fraud--on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.

Poor Cass, pining for a Constitution in Exile.

I have no opinion on who's right about the Second Amendment (and after reading this piece, I'm not sure Cass does), but one sees this fairly distressing approach all too often from those who wish to ensure we have a "modern" society--when the Constitution gets in the way, whether it's the Commerce Clause or the First Amendment, it has to be gotten around, or even interpreted out of existence.

Hairier

I enjoyed yesterday's sampling of rare Hair, so let's hear a little more.  Besides, some sources say Galt MacDermot was born on December 19th.





Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A New Home

There will be spoilers.

So the second season of Homeland just ended wth "The Choice." The first season won a bunch of Emmys, and everyone wondered if the second could compare.  I guess it did.  It was less consistent, and, for that matter, less believable.  But the high points were just as high, maybe higher, and the low points weren't that low, and didn't last too long.  Also, it delivered.  There was so much teasing, so much frustration in the first season--ultimately, so much unsettled. Not season two.  Things happened, and happened quickly.  And the final episode leaves us with a whole new dynamic.

Much of season 2 was built around an absurdity--the Carrie/Brody relationship.  I don't buy it for a second.  It's hard to believe he'd care, as screwed up as he is, but Carrie still in love with him?  I know she's crazy, but this guy is a major terrorist and the one who completely screwed her over.  Even if she felt something for him in the past, that should be over.  This is why so much of the best of season two was the first four or five episodes, before their post-arrest relationship developed.

It was since that moment that things went off in weird directions.  The basic terrorist plot worked, but the rest was questionable.  The best thing about the finale was even as it doubled down on Carrie's love affair with Brody, it explained the other things I didn't buy. It was way to easy to get Abu Nazir--all the moves up to an including his capture seemed ridiculous. Unless he had a bigger plan, which he did.  And which has thrown so much of the show as we knew it out the window and allowed the producers practically a reset.

It even made me forgive Quinn's reversal on killing Brody. It didn't make sense (and if Quinn is the mole, as some suggest, that makes even less sense) and I felt the same letdown I did in the first season finale, where it made sense that Brody die but the show wasn't willing to do it.  To add to the silliness, Quinn threatens Estes--does he think he can get away with that?  I was a bit surprised that we didn't see Quinn's reaction to the explosion.  It would have been a good moment.  Did they not have time, or is he hiding something?

One scene we got that we've been waiting for a long time was Brody finally opening up to Dana.  And then there was another moment that was always threatening to happen--his wife (and everyone in the world) discovering Brody was (at least at one time) a terrorist.

Anyway, good season. And it'll be good to have Saul and Carrie back next season. (We don't need Brody back, but the show has made it all too clear they won't go ahead without him.)

PS  A number of fans seemed to think Saul was muttering Arabic over the blown-up bodies, thus showing he's the mole.  I'm shocked more people didn't recognize Kaddish.

Out Of His Hair

Happy birthday, Galt MacDermot. A composer, his best-known work by far is Hair, the Broadway blockbuster from which sprang, in the late 60s alone, a #1 ("Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In"), #2 ("Hair"), #3 ("Good Morning Starshine") and #4 ("Easy To  Be Hard") hit.

Before all the hits, the covers, the revivals, was the original off-Broadway version that no one had any right to expect to go much further.  It was retooled for Broadway (with some nudity added) and became the hit of the season.  Go figure.





Monday, December 17, 2012

Don't Be Thick

Flicking through the channels, a caught a bit of an old sitcom--The Partridge Family, believe it or not--and the main characters were going through a series of problems. At the end, one of them said "we stick together through thick and thin, and today was definitely thick."

Wait a second, I thought, which is the good one, thick or thin? I always assumed the thin times were the bad ones, when you didn't have much.  So I looked up the origin of the phrase and was surprised to find thick was bad.  It's an old English phrase about traveling, and started out as "through thicket and thin wood."

So chalk one up to the writers of the show. It's still pretty crappy, but they knew their idioms.

Face To Face With Dylan

I just read Who Is That Man?: In Search of the Real Bob Dylan by David Denton.  It's probably the best thing I've ever read about the artist.  It's sort of a biography, but in discussing his life, Denton--a fine journalist who knows the history of rock backwards and forwards--is interested in the different faces Dylan has offered to the public.

As such, Denton concentrates on the 60s.  In fact, the book is two-thirds over before we hit 1970.  And that's as it should be.  The early years of Dylan's 50+ years in show biz are the most amazing, and artistically satisfying. It's where he transformed himself from a middle-class Jewish kid from Minnesota into a hobohemian starting out in Greenwich Village into the young man with the old voice and a record contract into the famed finger-pointing singer into the rock-and-roll star into the voice of a generation--and that just takes us up to the mid-60s.  What followed was a motorcycle accident that allowed Dylan to take himself out of the public eye for a couple years before reappearing with a more basic sound, soon followed by an immersion into country music and numerous other poses.  In fact, he continued to reinvent himself--if less successfully--throughout the 70s, but since the 80s hasn't always been able to manage it as his own legend got in the way.

Denton clearly loves Dylan, but he's not uncritical.  When Dylan fails, Denton is there to call him on it.  But even in Dylan's dross he sometimes finds something of worth.  Also, unlike many Dylanologists, Denton is easy to read and doesn't take things so seriously that he isn't willing to crack a few jokes.  He's also fairly cynical at points, willing to question just what Dylan thought he was doing. In general, Denton is able to conjure up the ferment of Dylan's glory years, with all the excitement, confusion and absurdity.  It made me want to pull out my old albums and see if they still sound the way I remember.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Bad

I recently put up a video of a great moment from Breaking Bad, and it got me thinking about the show again.  Here's a video of great moments from the first four seasons:



Bizarre.  Most of these moments didn't even make my top 25.  And only one of my top ten made their list.  I don't get it.  Stuff like the party at Jesse's place?  It was one of the more annoying parts of the show, and went on far too long.  And Jesse crying over Jane?  How can that make the list and not Jane dying in the first place!

Tony Tones

Happy birthday, Tony Hicks.  He was in the Hollies, where he composed, played guitar and sang.






Saturday, December 15, 2012

There Once Was A Joke From Steve Wright

I was watching a 30-year-old TV special and there was Steven Wright at the beginning of his comedy career.  One of his gags had him asking "if you were in a vehicle and you were traveling at the speed of light, and you turned your lights on, would they do anything?"

I've heard this question asked elsewhere (by, among others, a different comedian who may even predate Wright).  This is presented as some sort of baffler, but for anyone familiar with the theory of relativity, it's quite easy to answer.

First, you can't be traveling at the speed of light. But even as you approach near-light speeds, your headlight beams would appear to be traveling away from you at the speed of light. This seems anti-intuitive because we're used to things traveling nowhere near that fast, and thus the effects of relativity seem to us nonexistent and we mistakenly assume length and time are fixed.

Hot Irony

As always follows an horrific event such as the shootings in Newtown, public figures have got on their hobby horses and denounced whatever it is about our society they say causes such things.  I don't like political rhetoric in general, but I think it's even harder to take when used to exploit such tragedies.  Still, I suppose, it's a feature of democracy that legislation is easier to pass when there's a sense of urgency. Unfortunately, this can often mean we don't get the requisite deliberation.

I could mention a lot of talk, on the right and left, that came out almost automatically yesterday.  Let me concentrate on the statement of Senator Frank Lautenberg, not because it's so different from others, but because I happened to see it first.

Americans are sick and tired of these attacks on our children and neighbors and they are sick and tired of nothing being done in Washington to stop the bloodshed. If we do not take action to address gun violence, shooting tragedies like this will continue. As President Obama said, we must act now 'regardless of the politics.'

"nothing being done in Washington to stop the bloodshed." As I've pointed out so many times I'm getting tired (and tiresome), crime in the U.S., violent and otherwise, has been on a significant downward trend for about three decades.  In fact, our murder rate is now less than half of what it was in 1980.  I don't know if Washington had anything to do with it, but something is happening somewhere.  While today isn't the day to celebrate the improved statistics, claims about a descent into violence should nevertheless be tempered with this knowledge.

"If we don't take action to address gun violence, shooting tragedies like this will continue."  True enough.  Here's another true statement--If we take action to address gun violence, shooting tragedies like this will continue.

Then there's his and the President's line about going forward regardless of the politics.  Do I even need to comment?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Acting Up

The SAG nominees are out, inching us ever closer to the Oscars. (The Golden Globe nominations are also out, but I consider them a joke.)

Not too many surprises, with three for Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook and two (plus one for stunt work) for Les Miserables.  Also, Fox Searchlight got four out of the twenty nominations for three different films--John Hawkes and Helen Hunt for The Sessions, and a couple of British grand dames that the Oscars often go for, Helen Mirren in Hitchcock and Maggie Smith in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. (I get the feeling Smith may have been nominated because they thought this was another adventure for her character on Downton Abbey--for which she also got a nomination.)  Then there's Javier Bardem, for his eccentric turn in Skyfall--the first Bond villain to get a SAG nomination.--Bond films in general don't get awards of any kind for acting.

Actually, the list is like old home week--most of these nominees have already won an Oscar, including every single one of the male supporting actors, and only a couple haven't at least been nominated.  A few have won more than one Academy Award.  I'd say Daniel Day-Lewis, for instance, is now the favorite to win the Best Actor Oscar, which would be his third.

Anyone missing?  Well, they nominated Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master, but costars Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams are nowhere to be seen--not even an ensemble nomination.  Other films completely snubbed:  Life Of Pi, Moonrise Kingdom, Anna Karenina, Amour, Cloud Atlas and The Dark Knight Rises.

So we're starting to get an idea where the Oscars are heading.  It looks like there might be some good battles.  I'm not even sure if we'll have a strong favorite for best film, what with Lincoln, Les Mis, Silver Linings Playbook, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty all in play.

I Like Spike

It's the birthday of Spike Jones.  His band the City Slickers were funny, but they were also amazing musicians.






Thursday, December 13, 2012

What Planet Are You From?

Lately, Warren Buffet and George Soros have been giving America lots of advice about tax policy.  Mostly, they want the well-off to pay a lot more, and in all sorts of imaginative ways.  Buffet says he fears our democracy becoming a plutocracy.

Let me see if I've got this straight: we can avoid plutocracy if only Congress does what two of the richest men in the world tell them to do.

Skunkworks

Happy birthday, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter.  A guitarist best known as a sideman for Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers, he's had a second career as a defense consultant for missile defense systems.

Pardon me if I emphasize his work for the Dan.





Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Double Day

December 12th (12/12), and I'm going to cheat a bit, with "Moonlight In Vermont" and "Moonlight On Vermont":





PS  Actually, it's triple day--12/12/12--but I already did "Call Me."

The Associate

Happy birthday, Terry Kirkman.  He was a founder of and songwriter for the Association, a popular band in the mid to late 60s.  They were fairy mellow (even if their first hit was about an illicit substance), and were notable for their imaginative vocal arrangements.







Their other big hit was "Windy," but these days I can't think of it without also thinking of Breaking Bad:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Welcome Back, Carter

Elliott Carter died last month, just short of his 104th birthday today. One of the more famous American composers, he kept working up till the end, though I prefer his early, tonal work.

Moldy Oldies

Happy birthday, David Gates.  He was the lead singer and songwriter of Bread, but before that he wrote some decent stuff for others, especially "Popsicles And Icicles," a big hit for the Murmaids.



The Bread stuff was a little too MOR for me, but some of it worked.  I particularly liked "Make It With You" since it was such a sweet song about doing the deed.  At least that's how I read it.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ornithology

It's the birthday of great 20th century composer Olivier Messiaen.  He was also very much into birds and transcribed their sounds musically.


Grim Fairy Tale

Headline from The Washington Post--"Obama's second--term agenda will be shadowed by budget woes."

Right off the bat, here's what Peter Wallsten and Zachary A. Goldfard have to say:

[Even if Obama gets a deal with the Republicans] the country’s grim budget realities will still cast a long shadow—limiting his ambitions as he begins plotting a second-term agenda.

Which grim budget realities are those?  The same ones he had four years ago, when we had an impossibly huge deficit and Obama thought he could spend his way out of it?

They go on:

Where Obama entered office four years ago planning to seize a moment of economic crisis as an opportunity for transformational policies such as the $800 billion stimulus and his health care overhaul, he begins his second four years with few, if any, similarly expansive or costly prospects.

Instead, any new spending programs will, by necessity, be small and narrow in scope: repairs to roads and bridges, airport renovations and other infrastructure upgrades, for example, or modest grants to help blighted city neighborhoods.

Obama supporters still complain we didn't spend enough (and, of course, didn't tax enough).  The only reason Obama doesn't have grand new spending plans--above the huge increases he plans as a matter of course--is that Republicans control the House and have a say in the Senate. In fact, the only reason he got most of what he got in his first term--really first two years--is that the opposing party had no say in anything, and even then he had trouble convincing Democrats to go along entirely with his agenda.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Does Humor Belong In Music?

Happy birthday, Neil Innes.  He was a lead singer and songwriter of the Bonzo Dog band as well as the "seventh" Monty Python member and Ron Nasty, leader of the Rutles.  He taught us when you combine music and comedy, get the music right first.






The Osbornes

Happy birthday, Bobby Osborne.  He and Sonny were the Osborne Brothers, a popular bluegrass act in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Bobby played mandolin and sang real high.

Their best known number, "Rocky Top," has become the University of Tennessee's fight song, though when you listen to the words you have to wonder.





Saturday, December 08, 2012

Mr. Mojo Risin'

Happy birthday, Jim Morrison.  He died over forty years ago.  I often wonder what he'd be like if he were still around?  Probably some dinosaur we wish had retired over thirty years ago (and please stop publishing those small collections of half-baked poetry).  We'll never know, but there are some things we do know:






Dammit, Mamet

David Mamet's latest, The Anarchist, just opened on Broadway. It's a 75-minute, two-woman piece, starring Patti LuPone and Debra Winger. The plot involves a former Weather Undergound type, who's served decades behind bars, pleading with an official for a pardon.  Apparently the discussion gets into if she's truly repentant, and what that might mean.  The reviews have not been great--most call it talky and undramatic--and it'll be closing soon.

The oddest review came from Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune (not that anyone in New York cares what the Trib thinks--of course, no one really cares about any opinion except the New York Times').  He starts with a discussion of how Republicans have tried, and failed, to tie Obama to domestic terrorists of the 60s. Then he speculates on how David Mamet--who has, in recent years, notoriously become a conservative--feels about this. Next he goes on to discuss how Mamet's play shows the playwright's feelings about these political issues.

He eventually talks a bit about the play as a play, but it's not until the end of the fifth paragraph that we get this surprise:

That’s a fair point in favor of “The Anarchist,” which is refreshingly different in its world view, unabashed in its attacks on the cheapness and ease of snagging forgiveness in a majority-Christian society, and, to my mind, never dull for a second, not that it takes up too many of them in its 75-minute running time.

And a bit later we get this:

Students of the man won’t want to miss it; I was engaged and compelled throughout.

So it's "never dull for a second" and he was engaged and compelled.  Isn't that burying the lead?  (Some spell it "lede" but I refuse.)

The review isn't exactly positive, but still, should we have to go through paragraph after paragraph of the critic's political speculation to find a few morsels that indicate whether the play is any good or not?

PS  In other Mamet news, the star-driven revival of Glengarry Glen Ross pushed its opening back (to today) after Hurricane Sandy struck.  Now The New York Times' Christopher Isherwood complains the production hasn't allowed critics in (or at least given them free tickets,, which amounts to the same thing) until the production is well into its limited run.  Well boohoo.  We'll just have to live for a little longer that usual without critics telling us what to think.

It obviously won't matter when it comes to this Al Pacino vehicle, which is one of the hottest tickets in town.  But no matter what the production, the real scandal is, and has always been, the absurd power of The New York Times in deciding what plays will succeed or fail.  But somehow Isherwood doesn't seem bothered by that.

Friday, December 07, 2012

History Is Never Over

 As George H. W. Bush said on September 7, 1988, "Today is Pearl Harbor Day." He also wondered (somewhat bitterly, it seemed to me) how many Americans remembered.

Well, it was a long time ago, and we've since made up with the Japanese, but still, let's take a minute and think of all the brave fighting forces who keep us safe.


Peer Review

The Writer's Guild Award TV nominations have been announced.  They're pretty good, if conventional.

For best drama: Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, Game Of Thrones, Homeland and Mad Men. Just like the Emmys minus Downton Abbey (which I don't think is eligible).  I'm a bit iffy on Boardwalk, but the rest strongly deserve to be here.

For best comedy: 30 Rock, Girls, Louie, Modern Family, Parks And Recreation.  Not bad, though I'd like to see Girls replaced by Community (and I wouldn't mind seeing The Big Bang Theory somewhere in there).

As far as handicapping, it's not too hard to figure the favorites.  When it comes to nominations for specific episodes, four out of six are for Breaking Bad.  That used to happen to Mad Men.  While the votes may split in this category, it strongly suggests the Guild likes BB for best series.  The same situation goes for comedy, where three of the six nominations are for Modern Family. Another is for Episodes--the only case in drama or comedy where a nomination goes to an episode of a show not nominated.

Okay, enough of TV, time to start thinking about the Oscars.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Buck Up

Happy birthday, Peter Buck.  He's always been my favorite member of REM.






DB's dBs

Dave Brubeck has died a day short of his 92nd birthday.  He was known as a jazz artist, but, with his unique sound, always seemed separate from the rest of that crowd.  Whatever he was, it was great.








Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Leftover Vanity Plates Of The Month

On a Lexus (the car that most commonly has vanity plates, far as I can tell):  CM YANKS.  Yanks I get, but CM?  Is it commies versus Yanks?  Or is he yanking something measured in centimeters?

NSNIPER.  What is this guy sniping at?

LADIGIT.  Any particular digit you're proud of?

YO[heart symbol]TQLA.  The back of a car is the last place you should brag about how much you love alcohol.

I Always Wanted To Be An Architect

After listening to rock and roll all my life, I've come to the conclusion that its greatest singer is Little Richard. Happy 80th, Richard.

Just make sure you get the original Specialty recordings, not the inferior remakes.







Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Royal Boon

Read in the comments to an article (Sorry I forget where) discussing the recently disclosed pending blessed event in England, specifically involving Princess Kate's rumored carrying of twins and whether, in the case boy-girl twins the doctor could manipulate things to insure that one gender or another would wear the crown, something to the effect of

I don't care as long as they are healthy but don't name them Apple and Cinnamon.
 
Well if you are going to make demands on royalty, I suppose it is wise to make ones that are easily accommodated.

[ My reply comment  "And why the hell not!?" for some reason was not accepted for posting- so you get to enjoy it here.]

Smart

Is it already National Cookie Day?  It comes up on us so fast you hardly have time to back your batch of snickerdoodles.


M And T And S

The Roches don't give out their ages or their phone numbers, but the trio was formed, as they admit, on December 4th.








Monday, December 03, 2012

You're Kidding Me

TCM recently played the rarely-seen Bob Hope/Katharine Hepburn (yes, that's right) comedy The Iron Petticoat (1956).  It was a flop then and has since been held back by Bob Hope, who owned the rights.

The public got it right.  The story, a lot like Ninotchka without the wit, features a romance between a Russian (Hepburn) and an American (Hope).  She's a hardcore Soviet who eventually melts after seeing Western ways.  Hepburn, with her heavy accent, is embarrassing.  And Hope seems outside his comfort zone in this silly satire, even if his writers punched up most of his lines. It almost goes without saying the two have little chemistry.

But there was one moment I found fascinating.  Early on, Hepburn is trying to convince Hope of capitalism's failings, and she quotes a bunch of fake statistics about the U.S. she learned in the Soviet Union.  One of them is America has an illegitimacy rate of 27%.  Now remember, the point of this is to have a number so outrageously bad that it's laughable.  And yet today, we'd be happy to get the rate back down to 27%.

Notes By Nino

Happy birthday, Nino Rota, one of the top film composers of our time.








Sunday, December 02, 2012

Trouble With The Film

I recently went to a sub-run cinema and saw Trouble With The Curve. (What did I think of it?  If you'll wait about a month, you can find out when I do my 2012 Film Wrap-Up.)

Anyway, a guy sat down in front of me just before the movie started.  Trouble With The Curve has some humorous moments but I wouldn't call it a comedy.  Yet this guy was literally shrieking with laughter through much of the film.  Every time even the slightest pleasantry was spoken on screen--and sometimes during dramatic moments--he howled.

Maybe he was high, or drunk, or just doesn't get out much.  I don't know.  But it certainly was distracting.  I didn't complain because that's what you get when you pay two bucks for a film.  Besides, the audience kind of enjoyed it. In addition to the movie, everyone was laughing at this guy (though he probably thought we were laughing at the movie but didn't get the jokes as quickly as he did).

For the last half hour he stopped laughing.  When the lights came on I could see he was asleep.  But I guarantee before he nodded off he'd gotten his two dollars' worth.



PS  In the film, Justin Timberlake asks Amy Adams some baseball trivia.  The point of the scene is to show she knows her stuff, but the first two questions he asks just about anyone into baseball can answer:

What was the last team to have four twenty game winners in one season?

What player was the MVP in both leagues?

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