Thursday, December 31, 2015

Predictions From 2015

Time to look over my predictions for 2015.  I don't think I did that badly.

Domestic Politics:

I said President Obama would veto more legislation this year than all his previous years combined.  I admit it was fairly safe since before 2015 Harry Reid prevented any bills the President wouldn't like from crossing his desk.

I said no significant immigration reform.  It may seem an easy call now, but there were quite a few Republicans calling for it a year ago, and the Democrats are panting for it.  (President Obama may have changed some of the rules unilaterally, but I was referring to legislation.)

I said the government will not back down from the pushback it's getting over lower due process standards on campus sexual assault cases.  All too true.

I said no new Supreme Court Justices.  Called it.

I said the Court will say the Federal government can subsidize any health care exchange and I was right.  (Wasn't I? It seems so long ago.)

I was wrong in guessing Elizabeth Warren would run for President.  All I can say is she blew her chance, but it's not over yet.  If Hillary has legal trouble, maybe she'll step in.  (Or is she simply happy with a cabinet position?)

I said by now there'd be no clear, odds-on frontrunner for the GOP. This is a tough call but I think I'm right.  "Odds-on" to me means a better than 50% chance of winning.  Yes, Trump is easily ahead in the polls, but he's also the most disliked candidate, so if support coalesces around an opponent Trump could easily lose.

International Politics:

I said ISIS will be weaker by now.  I'd say I was wrong.

I said Iran won't announce they have a nuclear weapon.  If they did I missed it.

I said Cuba won't have major reform and will remain poor. Apparently true, and why would they need reform now, anyway?

I said there will be a major terror attack in Europe.  No comment necessary.

The Economy:

I said the Dow would be over 18000 at this point, but below 19000.  I guess I got that half right.

I said unemployment would now be between 5% and 5.4%. Don't have this month's stats, but last month it was 5% so I'm giving it to myself.

I said the average gallon of gas would average under three dollars. It's so far under that amount that I'm not sure if I can say I called it.  The average is pretty close to two dollars nationwide (though in extra-expensive California it's about $2.70).


I said Alabama would win the BCS bowl.  Yeah, that didn't happen.

I said the Detroit Tigers wouldn't win their division.  They finished last--no need to overdo it, guys.

I said the Wolverines would do better in 2015--an easy enough call, but they really turned it around.

I said a 12-4 team would win the Super Bowl.  The Patriots fit the bill.

Popular Culture:

I said Mad Men, after being MIA for a couple years, would be nominated for Best Drama.   Whether it was for sentiment or quality, I got it right.

I said on Game Of Thrones the Hound would not be dead.  He was left for dead, but we have no idea.  I said we wouldn't find out who Jon Snow's parents are--right now we're just hoping he's alive.  I said Stannis wouldn't sit on the Iron Throne--he didn't even get close.  I said at least two Westerners will meet for the first time in the East--I think you can say Dany and the Imp hanging out fulfills that prophecy.

For the Oscars, I said Birdman would get the most above-the-line nominations.  It did, with Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.  I called Patricia Arquette for Best Supporting Actress, J.K. Simmons for Best Supporting Actor, Julianne Moore for Best Actress, and just missed for Best Actor when Eddie Redmayne took it over Michael Keaton.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 Awards

Story Of The Year:  The rise of ISIS.  Admittedly, they're just one such threat among others, but it's no longer possible to pretend they're the JV team.

Person Of The Year:  Donald Trump.  An easy call.  Hate him or despise him, no one shook up politics more than Trump.  His candidacy may have seemed like a joke at first, but there's no question he's now the leading candidate in his party (which he says is Republican).  It'll certainly be interesting to see how it plays out in 2016.

Winner Of The Year:  Vladimir Putin--he had a pretty good run in 2015.  Runner-up: Fidel Castro.  It was a long staring contest, and he won.

Loser Of The Year:  Jeb Bush.  Some thought (though I don't know why) he'd be the GOP frontrunner, but he's not even doing well among the also-rans.  Runner-up: Scott Walker, who burned out early.  Second runner-up:  Brian Williams.

Winner/Loser Of The Year:  Rahm Emanuel.  He was reelected, yet today finds his entire career on the precipice.

Top New Personality.  Bernie Sanders.  Okay, he's been around a while, but he's never been on the national radar. Feel the Bern.

Face Of The Year:

Runner-up: Rachel Dolezal

Biggest Non-Story: Iran nuclear deal and Paris climate deal, which don't change anything (if we're lucky).

Biggest Story That Meant Absolutely Nothing In America:  FIFA head Sepp Bladder forced to step down due to scandal.

Most Talked About Story That Meant Absolutely Nothing:  Deflategate.

Same Old Story:  More gun attacks.  More calls for gun control.  More people buy guns.

Dud Story Of The Year:  Hillary Clinton's emails.  Doesn't matter what they say or show, people who support her will keep on doing it, people who hate her don't need new reasons.  Runner-up:  Gamergate.

Oddest Controversy:  Dressgate--is it black and blue or gold and white?

Biggest Story We've Already Assimilated:  The Supreme Court declares same-sex marriage is a right.  Now it seems like it's always been that way, when only a few years ago it was so controversial (or actually, unpopular) that Democratic candidates opposed it. 

To Be Continued Story:  Another major affirmative action case has been heard by the Supreme Court.  The decision will be handed down in 2016.  Past decisions have actually declared much of what is done at colleges as illegal, but there's been massive resistance.  So will the Court try once again to settle the issue, or will they give in and say go ahead, do whatever you want?

Biggest Story Still To Be Bigger Story:  Refugee crisis from the Middle East.  Will it reshape Europe?  Will it reshape politics? Runner-up:  Is the Republican Party splitting apart, or can it pull itself together before the Presidential election?

Most Overhyped Story: Ahmed Mohamed brought a contraption into his high school which he claimed was a clock he built, though it didn't look like anything so much as a bomb.  He was arrested and questioned by the police.  His story went viral and many saw it as an example of racial profiling and Islamophobia.  He became celebrated around the world as a young inventor and was even invited to the White House.  It's unclear precisely what happened, but whatever it was, it didn't deserve this sort of attention.

Biggest Unforced Error:  House member Kevin McCarthy notes in an interview that the Benghazi hearings brought down Hillary Clinton's poll numbers.  This allowed opponents to claim the hearings were purely political, which angered his own party so much that it destroyed McCarthy's chance to be Speaker Of The House.  Runner-up:  President Obama saying Isis was contained the day before the Paris attacks--no matter what he meant, the timing was a disaster.

Most Craven Political Moment:  So many it's hard to pick, but let's choose Martin O'Malley, who noted "all lives matter" then almost immediately afterward apologized for being so insensitive.

Worst Trend:  There seems to be a growing homicide rate, though it's hard to confirm at present.  If true, about as bad a trend as you can have.

Not Looking Forward To 2016 Award:  Paul Ryan.  He's only been Speaker Of The House a couple months and already conservative are enraged, calling him a sellout.  Even if he doesn't go the Eric Cantor route he's got some rough times ahead of him.

How Soon We Forget Award:  Pizza rat

Runner-up: Dentist/lion killer.

Whatever Happened To Award: Last year it was Wendy Davis.  This year it's Kim Davis. If neither name means anything to you, that would make sense.

Worst Year For A Company:  Tie--Volkswagen, with its emission scandal, and Chipotle's e coli outbreak.

Celebrity Meltdown Of The Year:  Steve Harvey mistakenly announcing the Miss Universe winner.  Still hard to watch.

Biggest Show Biz Scandal: Bill Cosby, who for years was America's most beloved entertainer.  It actually started in late 2014, when accusations of drugging and sexual assault started to get a lot of attention, but it continued all through 2015 as one woman after another spoke out.  And then in July an old deposition was unsealed and whatever doubt was left evaporated.

Fond Farewell Award (alternately, How Can We Miss You If You Won't Go Away?):  David Letterman and Jon Stewart.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Watergate, Vietnam And All That

So now Jesse Walker's top ten film list is back to 1975.  A lot of people think the 1970s were good years for film, especially in America.  Does Jesse?

I should add that the big Oscar winner that year was One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, taking all top five Academy Awards.  I have never met anyone who didn't think this film is great.  I don't like it.

Anyway, here's the list:

1. Nashville
2. Welfare
3. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
4. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
5. Love and Death
6. Dog Day Afternoon
7. Night Moves
8. Picnic at Hanging Rock
9. Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer
10. Jaws
Quite a group.  I've already told you about #3, but some real classics here.  Never seen #2 and #9, though I've wanted to.
Altman was making one amazing film after another around this time.  Nashville is often considered his masterpiece.  The only thing that stops me from saying that is I don't like all that country music (even if it's not meant to be great country music).
Holy Grail is probably Monty Python's best film, which is saying a lot.  Love And Death may be Woody Allen's best film--certainly better than anything he did after Annie Hall.
I have some misgivings about Dog Day Afternoon and Night Moves.  The former has some great acting but overdoes it a bit, the latter a well done thriller but no classic.
Picnic At Hanging Rock captures a haunting sense of mystery.  I was just talking about it yesterday with a friend, since this year's season of The Leftovers was trying something similar.
I agree with Jesse that Jaws is Spielberg's best film.  I'm not sure if Spielberg would be happy to hear that, but there it is.
Here are his honorable mentions:
11. Fox and His Friends
12. Grey Gardens 
13. Organism 
14. The Man Who Would Be King
15. Shivers
16. Posse
17. Monsieur Pointu
18. Three Days of the Condor
19. The Magic Flute
20. Barry Lyndon
Never seen Fox And His Friends.  Gee, Fassbinder made a whole bunch of films.  In fact, I was expecting to see Mother Kusters Goes To Heaven, which he also made in 1975.  Organism is a short I've never seen.  Same for Monsieur Pointu.
Grey Gardens is a classic.  (By the way, the new Bob & David show has an intriguing parody of Salesman.)  The Man Who Would Be King is one of Huston's best, and maybe should be top ten.
Shivers is pretty minor, though I guess Cronenberg fans go for it.  By the 1970s, Kirk Douglas wasn't the star he'd been, and he directed a couple pictures.  Posse is alright but it didn't exactly turn his career around.
Three Days Of The Condor is a fine thriller--I'd put it above Night Moves.
I've heard good things about The Magic Flute, but due to an aversion to opera, I've never seen it.  Barry Lyndon is a paradox--great to look at, but unwatchable. I can only take it in small doses.
I was also expecting to see Dersu Uzala somewhere in the top twenty (I was just talking about it with another friend, since The Revenant has certain similarities), but it turns out Jesse hasn't seen it.  Does he also want to see Seven Beauties, or has he seen it and is giving it the thumbs down?  How about The Passenger?
I'm not sure if I can add any films that would have made my top ten that haven't been mentioned, but here are two that would make the top twenty, anyway:
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (before it became what it is, it was a fun, if campy, rock musical)
Smile (when people talk about America directors of the 70s, don't leave out Michael Ritchie)
Other films I like:
A Boy And His Dog, Cooley High, Coonskin, Death Race 2000, Hard Times, Hearts Of The West, Hester Street, Rancho Deluxe, The Return Of The Pink Panther, Royal Flash, Shampoo, The Story Of Adele H., The Sunshine Boys
Other films of note:

The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother, Aloha, Bobby and Rose, The Apple Dumpling Gang, At Long Last LoveBite the Bullet, The Black Bird, Brannigan, Breakheart Pass, Breakout, Bucktown, Capone, Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold, Crazy Mama, The Day of the Locust, The Devil's Rain, Diamonds, The Drowning Pool, The Eiger Sanction, Escape to Witch Mountain, Farewell, My Lovely, The Fortune, French Connection II, Friday Foster, Funny Lady, Galileo, Give 'em Hell, Harry!, The Great Waldo PepperThe Happy Hooker, The Hiding Place, The Hindenburg, Hustle, Inserts, Jeanne Dielman, Journey into Fear, Keetje Tippel, The Land That Time Forgot, Legend of the Werewolf, Lepke, Let Joy Reign Supreme, Let's Do It Again, Lies My Father Told Me,
Lisztomania, The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, Lucky LadyMahogany, Man Friday, The Man in the Glass Booth, Mandingo, The Mirror, Mitchell, Mr. RiccoNuméro deux, Once Is Not Enough, Operation Daybreak, The Other Side of the Mountain, Out of SeasonPeeper, The Prisoner of Second Avenue, The Promised Land, Race with the Devil, Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins, The Reincarnation of Peter Proud, Rollerball, The Romantic Englishwoman, Rooster Cogburn, Rosebud, Russian Roulette, The 120 Days of Sodom, Le Sauvage, The Stepford Wives. The Strongest Man in the World, Supervixens, Switchblade Sisters, Take a Hard Ride, Terror of Mechagodzilla, Tommy, W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings, Walking Tall Part 2, White Line Fever, The Wild Party, The Wind and the Lion, The Wrong Move, The Yakuza

Lemme Have Some More

A quick nod to Lemmy.

Monday, December 28, 2015


Let me just note that, in addition to Jesse Walker's top ten lists of movies past that we've been featuring, Bryan Alexander has jumped into the fray with his blog.

The Boys Are Back

Last month Netflix offered all four--count 'em, four--episodes of  W/ Bob & David (as well as an hour-long "making of" special).  It's essentially a continuation of Mr. Show With Bob And David which aired on HBO in the 90s.  I assume they didn't own the original title.  Much of the cast and writers are back.  Not only B & D, but also John Ennis, Jay Johnston, Brian Posehn, Tom Kenny, Jill Talley and quite a few others.

Since Mr. Show both Bob Odenkirk and David Cross have been busy with more high profile projects.  For instance, Cross was Tobias Funke on the Emmy-winning Arrested Development, while Odenkirk was Saul Goodman on the Emmy-winning Breaking Bad, and now stars in the spinoff Better Call Saul.  But can they still do sketch comedy, or is it a young man's game?

The years may have weathered them a bit--they make fun of it in their first sketch where a time machine moves them ahead 16 years into the future except the machine also ages them 16 years--but it turns out they and their team have still got it.

The show is, perhaps, a little simpler and stripped down, but for the most part maintains the high level of the original.  There are some minor differences.  Each episode starts with a seemingly random cold open which is later explained in context.  Also, they don't (and can't?) use the old Mr. Show theme, which I miss.  But, as before, it a sketch comedy show highly influenced by the Monty Python stream-of-consciousness style, where one ideas flows into another, and is a mix of in-studio bits mixed with pre-taped material, all in front of a live audience.   That's fine, but what counts are the comic ideas themselves, and they're still fun.  For instance, in one sketch, Cross plays a character who describes a woman as a C-word only to discover she's standing right behind him.  It turns out he's got a talent for this, so the government has him call terrorists the C-word so they'll magically show up and be taken into custody.

And, as with the original show, sometimes the grace notes are the best parts. In one sketch where Cross is a filmmaker promoting his latest work--which essentially is a whitewash of slavery--he makes a point of printing "The End" at the end of his clips, which causes a fair amount of confusion.

But why describe sketches when it's better to see them yourself.  All it takes are   It'll only take two hours and a subscription to Netflix.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Go-Go Years

Jesse Walker has gone back to 1985, the same year Michael J. Fox went back to the future and Meryl Streep came out of Africa.  Let's see what his top ten movies are.

1. Ran
2. Brazil
3. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure
4. Mix Up ou Meli-melo
5. Vagabond
6. After Hours
7. Louie Bluie
8. Static
9. Mishima
10. Return to Oz

I don't put Ran up there with Kurosawa's greatest, but it might make my top twenty. Brazil is a flawed masterpiece, and I go back and forth on how serious the flaws are.  Pee-wee's Big Adventure (the "w" is not capitalized) shouldn't be great but somehow is.  Never seen #4.

Vagabond can be pretty brutal, but is also pretty powerful.  After Hours is a rare comedy from Scorsese, and a trifle.  Louis Bluie is an intriguing look at a character--I wasn't aware how artificial it is.  Never seen #8.

I don't think much of Mishima, but maybe I should give it another chance.  Return To Oz effectively killed Walter Murch's career as a director, but I think it's pretty good.

Here are Jesse's honorable mentions.

11. Fool for Love
12. Come and See
13. Prizzi's Honor
14. Fluke
15. Chain Letters
16. The Purple Rose of Cairo
17. The Epic of Gilgamesh
18. DreamChild
19. Back to the Future
20. Grim

Fool For Love isn't great Altman or Sam Shepard.  I've yet to come and see Come And See.  I'd call Prizzi's Honor another overrated film by John Huston except I'm not sure if people rate it that highly.

I know a 1995 film called Fluke--it's about a dog--but I don't know the 1985 Fluke.  Haven't seen Chain Letters.  Woody Allen rates The Purple Rose Of Cairo as one of his best, but I think it's one of his worst.  I'm familiar with the Quay Brothers (who generally do shorts) but have not seen their Epic Of Gilgamesh.

I like Dreamchild and felt, in its Alice In Wonderland sequences, it comes closer to capturing the spirit of Lewis Carroll than any other movie.  I love Back To The Future--popular moviemaking at its best.  I've never seen Grim (which is apparently a short).

Here are some other films that probably would make my top ten:



Heaven Help Us

Lost In America (at this point it looked like Albert Brooks had taken over from Woody Allen as America's premiere comic filmmaker, and this is his masterpiece)

My Life As A Dog

Police Story

The Sure Thing (back when Rob Reiner was a sure thing)


Here are some other films from 1985 that I like:
28 Up, Better Off Dead, Colonel Redl, Commando, Day Of The Dead, Desperately Seeking Susan, Fletch, Into The Night, The Jewel Of The Nile, Krush Groove, The Last Dragon, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, My Beautiful Laundrette, Plenty, Real Genius, A Room With A View, Runaway Train, Spies Like Us, When Father Was Away On Business, Witness
Other films of note:
The Adventures of Mark Twain. Agnes of God, Alamo Bay, American Flyers, American Ninja. The Aviator, Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend, Bad Medicine, The Black Cauldron, The Boys Next Door, The Breakfast Club, Brewster's Millions, The Bride, Cat's Eye, The Care Bears Movie, A Chorus Line, Clue, The Coca-Cola Kid, Code of Silence, The Color Purple, Compromising Positions, Crimewave, D.A.R.Y.L., Dance with a Stranger, Death Wish 3, Defence of the Realm, Desert Hearts, Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart, Eleni, The Emerald Forest, Enemy Mine, The Falcon and the Snowman, Fandango, Final Justice, Flesh and Blood
Friday the 13th, Part V: A New Beginning, Ghoulies, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, The Goonies, Gotcha!, Grace Quigley, Hail Mary, The Holcroft Covenant, Insignificance, Invasion U.S.A., Jagged Edge, Joshua Then and Now, The Journey of Natty Gann, Just One of the Guys, King David, King Solomon's Mines, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Ladyhawke, Legend, The Legend of Billie Jean, Letter to Brezhnev, Lust in the Dust, The Man with One Red Shoe, Marie, Mask, Maxie, The Mean SeasonMovers & Shakers, Murphy's Romance, My Sweet Little Village. National Lampoon's European Vacation, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, No End, No Surrender, The Official Story,
Once Bitten, One Magic Christmas, Ordeal by Innocence, Out of Africa, Pale Rider, Perfect, Pizza Connection, Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment, Private ResortThe ProtectorRadioactive Dreams, Rambo: First Blood Part IIRe-Animator, Red Sonja, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, The Return of the Living Dead, Revolution, Rocky IV, Rustlers' Rhapsody, Santa Claus: The Movie, Secret Admirer, Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird, Shoah (haven’t seen it all), The Shooting Party, Silver Bullet, Silverado, The Slugger's Wife. Smooth Talk, St. Elmo’s Fire, Stick, Subway, Summer Rental, Sweet Dreams, Target, Teen Wolf, That Was Then... This Is Now, That's Dancing!, To Live and Die in L.A., Transylvania 6-5000, The Trip to Bountiful, Trouble in Mind, Tuff Turf, Turk 182!, Turtle Diary, Twice in a Lifetime, UFOria, A View to a Kill, Vision Quest, Volunteers, Wetherby, Weird Science, Wild Geese II, White Nights, Year of the Dragon, Young Sherlock Holmes, A Zed & Two Noughts

Saturday, December 26, 2015

No Fakin'

The only surviving member of the original Four Tops, Abdul "Duke" Fakir, turns 80 today--that's 20 years per Top.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Hope Yule Like This

It's Christmas.  Warm yourself by the internet.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Caroling, Caroling

I think I can safely say Christmas is the holiday with the best music.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Twentieth Century Fox And Others

Jesse Walker continues his trip back through the decades, now announcing his top ten films for 1995.  Sorry to sound like a cliché, but it's hard to believe it's been twenty years since then.

Here's his list, followed by my comments.

1. Safe
2. Smoke
3. Twelve Monkeys
4. Mabarosi
5. Toy Story
6. The City Of Lost Children
7. Shanghai Triad
8. Funny Bones
9. Get Shorty
10. Welcome to the Dollhouse
Interesting list.  Safe has never done it for me, and I haven't seen Mabarosi, but the rest would be high on my list.  Toy Story, Get Shorty and Welcome To The Dollhouse would be top ten and the rest might make top twenty.
Here are Jesse's honorable mentions:
11. La Cérémonie 
12. Tierra 
13. Electronic Superhighway
14. The Drivetime
15. Clueless
16. Whisper of the Heart
17. A Close Shave
18. Underground
19. The Wife
20. Casino
I like Clueless, A Close Shave and Casino (which has aged well), but I have to admit I haven't seen the rest.
Here are some films that would have made my top ten list:
The Brady Bunch Movie
Cold Comfort Farm
Dead Man
Living In Oblivion
To Die For
Here are some other films from 1995 that I liked:
An Awfully Big Adventure, Babe, Clueless, Crumb, The Fantasticks, (parts of) Four Rooms, From The Journals Of Jean Seberg, Kicking And Screaming, Kids, (some of) Mr. Holland's Opus, Richard III, Rumble In The Bronx,  Showgirls, (parts of) Skin Deep, Unstrung Heroes, While You Were Sleeping,
Other films of note:
Ace Venture: When Nature Calls, Across the Sea of Time, The Addiction, The American President, Angel Baby, Angela , Angels & Insects, Angus, Antonia's Line, Apollo 13, Assassins, Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold, An Awfully Big Adventure, The Baby-Sitters Club, Bad Boys, Bad Company, The Basketball Diaries, Batman Forever, Before Sunrise, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, Beyond Rangoon, Billy Madison, The Blade, Boys On The Side, Braveheart,  The Break, The Bridges Of Madison County, The Brothers McMullen, Bushwhacked, Buttterfly Kiss, Bye Bye Love, Canadian Bacon, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh, Carrington, A Chinese Odyssey, Circle of Friends, Clockers, Commissioner, Congo (a friend of mine dies early in this film), 
Copycat, The Cremaster Cycle, Criminal, Crimson Tide, The Crossing Guard, Cry, the Beloved Country, The Cure, Curtains, Cutthroat Island, Darkman II: The Return of Durant, Days of Rage, Dead Man Walking, Dead Presidents, Deep River, Destiny Turns On The Radio, Devil in a Blue Dress, Die Hard With A Vengeance, Dolores Claiborne, Don Juan DeMarco, Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde, Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Empire Records, The Englishman Who Went up a Hill but Came down a Mountain, Fair Game, Fallen Angels, Father of the Bride Part II, First Knight, Fluke, For Better or Worse, Forget Paris, Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home, French Kiss, Friday, Full Throttle, Georgia, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain, GoldenEye, A Goofy Movie, Gordy, The Grass Harp,  Grumpier Old Men, Gumby: The Movie, Hackers, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers,Headless Body in Topless Bar, Heavy, Heavyweights, Higher Learning, Houseguest, How to Make an American Quilt,
In the Mouth of Madness, The Indian in the Cupboard, It's Pat, Jefferson in Paris, Jeffrey, The Jerky Boys: The Movie, Johnny Mnemonic, Judge Dredd, Just Cause, Kickboxer 5, A Kid In King Arthur's Court, Kidnapped, Kiss of Death, Last Summer in the Hamptons, Leaving Las Vegas, Leprechaun 3, Little Criminals, Little Odessa, A Little Princess, Losing Isaiah, Mad Love, Major Payne, Mallrats, Man Of The Year, Miami Rhapsody, Mighty Aphrodite, Mighty Morphin Rangers: The Movie, Money Train, Moonlight and Valentino, Mortal Kombat, Murder In The First, My Antonia, My Father Is a Hero, The Net, Never Talk to Strangers, Nick of Time, Nine Months, Nixon, Now And Then, Operation Dumbo Drop, Othello, Outbreak, Party Girl, The Piano Lesson, Picture Perfect, Piranha, Pyromaniac's Love Story, The Quick And The Dead, Requiem, Restoration, Rob Roy, Roommates, The Scarlett Letter, Screamers, Sense And Sensibility, Seven, Slam Dunk Ernest, Something to Talk About, Species, Steal Big Steal Little, Strange Days, Stuart Saves His Family, Tales From The Hood, Tall Tale, Tank Girl, Target, Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, Tom and Huck, Tommy Boy, Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, The Underneath, The Usual Suspects, Vampire In Brooklyn, Village Of The Damned, Virtuosity, Waiting to Exhale, A Walk in the Clouds, Waterworld, White Man's Burden, Wild Bill, The Young Poisoner's Handbook

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Foster Child

It's the holiday season and the regular shows are in reruns, so I can start catching up on stuff I missed.  On Demand features all 12 episodes of the TV Land show Younger, and I just checked out the first two.

The concept is pretty basic, and fairly thin.  40-year-old Liza Miller was a up-and-comer in the publishing who took off 15 years to raise her daughter.  Also, her rotter husband just divorced her and she has nothing to show for it, not even a house in the suburbs.  She decides to go back into the working world, but no one wants to hire someone her age to start at the bottom.  So she pretends she's 26 and sure enough gets a job at a publishing house as an assistant to a sour 40-something woman who doesn't much like millennials.

Liza has to fool not just her boss but also her 20-something coworkers, as well as a hunky local tattoo artist who also thinks she's young for some reason.  The only one who knows her secret is her old Lesbian friend Maggie, who lets Liza stay at her place in Brooklyn.

The main attraction of the show is Sutton Foster as Liza.  Foster was last seen on TV in the late, lamented Bunheads.  While Younger isn't exactly a raging success, it at least got picked up for a second season--starting in January, in fact.  Foster has been a major Broadway star, and can certainly pull off this role. (So far, only two episodes in, it hasn't made too many demands). The cast also features Hillary Duff as a co-workers (and she is a twenty-something, so it's believable) and Debbie Mazar as the friend and sounding board. The show is based on a novel by Pamela Redmond Staran, and run by Darren Starr, a big name who previously created Melrose Place, Beverly Hills 91201 and Sex And The City

Done in a one-camera half-hour format, Younger is more charming than funny, and that's fine.  But the concept is pretty thin.  It seems like a better idea for a movie (or novel).  Either Liza keeps up the imposture or eventually let's it out, but is it that big a deal once she gets settled at the job?  And is learning what's hip with millennials (mostly social networking) that hard to do after you've worked at it a few weeks?  Google pretty much can tell you everything you need to know (or you can Bing it, as this show does--is Microsoft behind Younger?)  Won't the show eventually morph into some kind of Devil Wears Prada thing?

Anyway, I guess I'll keep watching.  I've got ten more episodes to catch up on before the next season starts in a few weeks.  And if it keeps running, will it eventually turning into thirty-something?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Top Ten Years Ago

It's the time for year-end top ten lists, but my friend Jesse Walker does his differently.  Since there are so many 2015 films he hasn't seen, he goes back ten years to list the best of 2005.  Then 1995, 1985 and so on.

So here it is, followed by my comments:

1. Caché
2. Live and Become
3. Corpse Bride
4. The Dying Gaul
5. The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
6. Deadwood 2
7. Hustle and Flow
8. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
9. Noroi: The Curse
10. Veronica Mars

I generally don't like Michael Haneke films. I find them overbearing and mannered.  But Cache is the example where his style works (even if the message is pretty silly)--I especially like the opening shot.  I still wouldn't put it in my top ten, however

Didn't see #2, #4 and #8.  Jesse also knows I don't think TV show should make the list, so that takes care of #6 and #10.

I'd put The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit in my top ten.  I liked some of the performances in Hustle And Flow, but the film didn't do it for me.  I'm not a big fan of Corpse BrideThe Curse I like, though not top ten (and I'm not a big fan of horror in general).

Here are the honorable mentions.

11. Paradise Now
12. Sin City
13. Grizzly Man
14. The Thick of It
15. Nine Lives
16. Batman Begins
17. Forty Shades of Blue
18. Happy Endings
19. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
20. Rize

Didn't see #11, #14, #15, #17, #19 and #20.  Wow, that's a lot.

Sin City shows that being too faithful to a graphic novel doesn't work  Grizzly Man would make my top twenty.  Batman Begins is all right.  Happy Endings I liked.

Other films that make my top ten (or twenty):

Crash (I'm putting this up top because Jesse calls it the worst film to win the Best Picture Oscar in his lifetime.  There certainly has been a backlash against the film, but I thought it was fun, if flawed.)

Downfall (I liked it before Hitler became a mainstay of YouTube)

The 40-Year-Old Virgin (barely any plot, but funny)

A History Of Violence

Howl's Moving Castle

The March Of The Penguins

The Squid And The Whale

Wedding Crashers

The Wild Parrots Of Telegraph Hills


Layer Cake

The Nomi Song

Other films I liked:

Hitch, The Matador, The New World, Sky High, Transamerica, The Producers, Mr. And Mrs. Smith, Sahara, The World's Fastest Indian

Other films of note:

The Wedding Date, Guess Who, In Her Shoes. The Family Stone, Jarhead, Lords Of Dogtown, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Syriana, Cinderella Man, Coach Carter, Fun With Dick And Jane, Assault On Precinct 13, The Honeymooners, War Of The Worlds, Bewitched, Saw II, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith (it was, at least, the best of the first trilogy), Kingdom of Heaven, Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic (some good gags, but not much as a whole),
The Island, Red Eye, Four Brothers, The Skeleton Key, Flightplan, Serenity, The Pacifier, Bride And Prejudice, The Upside Of Anger, Hostage, The Aristocrats, Broken Flowers (I usually like Jarmusch), In The Realm Of The Unreal, Capote, The Corpse Bride, Brokeback Mountain, Walk The Line, In Good Company, The Jacket, Fever Pitch, Melinda And Melinda, Kung Fu Hustle, The Interpreter, Madagascar, Kicking And Screaming, Unleashed, Just Like Heaven, Zathura, The Ice Harvest, Elektra, 2046, Match Point, Munich, Good Night And Good Luck, Chronicles Of Narnia, Fantastic Four, Chicken Little, Monster-In-Law, Are We There Yet?, The Dukes Of Hazzard, Cheaper By The Dozen 2, The Exorcism Of Emily Rose, Herbie: Fully Loaded, The Amityville Horror, Yours Mine And Ours, Memoirs Of A Geisha, Hide And Seek, Diary Of A Mad Black Woman, Racing Stripes, Just Like Heaven, Boogeyman, The Legend Of Zorro,
Must Love Dogs, Transporter 2, Rumor Has It, The Adventures Of Sharkboy And Lavagirl in 3D, The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants, Beauty Shop, Derailed, Hostage, The Ringer, Dreamer, Because Of Winn-Dixie, Me And You And Everyone We Know, Just Friends, House Of Wax, Get Rich Or Die Tryin', The Fog, Hoodwinker, Rent, Doom, XXX: State Of The Union, Elizabethtown, Aeon Flux, Dark Water, Ice Princess, Two For The Money, Prime, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, A Lot Like Love, Man Of The House, Valiant, Cursed, Into The Blue, North Country, Pooh's Heffalump Movie, Son Of The Mask, Rebound, The Perfect Man, Waiting..., The Gospel,
The Greatest Game Ever Played, The Cave, Casanova, In The Mix, Domino, The Great Raid, Cry Wolf, An Unfinished Life, The Man, Mad Hot Ballroom, Ladies In Lavender, Kings and Queen, The World, Tropical Malady, The Holy Girl, Last Days, Cafe Lumiere, Nobody Knows, The Intruder, Head-On, Mysterious Skin, My Summer Of Love, Saraband, The Power Of Nightmares, Paradise Now, Pulse, Keane, Memories Of Murder, Darwin's Nightmare, Good Morning Night, The Beat That My Heart Skipped, The Best Of Youth, The Century Of The Self, Look At Me, Breakfast On Pluto, Innocence, Turtles Can Fly, Palindromes, Pride & Prejudice, Tony Takitani, The White Diamond, The Devil's Rejects, 3-Iron, The Time We Killed, Funny Ha Ha, My Mother's Smile, A Tout De Suite, Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance, Whisky, Wolf Creek, Mondovino, Yes, The Weeping Meadow, Gunner Palace, Chain, Land Of Plenty, Machuca, Shopgirl, Three Dancing Slaves, Oliver Twist, Dallas 362, Occupation Dreamland, The Oil Factor, Murderball, Dolls, Garcon Stupide, Heights, The Ballad Of Jack And Rose, The Far Side Of The Moon, Happy Here And Now, The Joy Of Life, Nine Lives, The President's Last Bang, Rize, The Dying Gaul, Proof, Travellers And Magicians, The Brothers Grimm, The Memory Of A Killer, Separate Lies, The Syrian Bride, Lord Of War, The Weather Man, Where The Truth Lies, The Baxter, Loggerheads, The Ninth Day, A Talking Picture, Tell Them Who You Are, Throw Down, The White Countess, Cronicas, Exorcist Prequel (either version), Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room, Perfect Crime, The Prize Winner Of Defiance Ohio, She's One Of Us, New York Doll, The 3 Rooms Of Melancholia, Another Road Home, Boys Of Baraka, In Satmar Custody, Terror, Wall, The Untold Story Of Emmett Louis

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Stop You're Killing Me

As I've noted, one of the most common and mindless clichés a critic can use is to say of an old work that it's more relevant than ever. A good example is in this A.V. Club piece on relatively new musical theatre pieces that should become standards.  One nominee, suggested by Oliver Sava, is "Everybody's Got The Right" from Stephen Sondheim's Assassins, a show first presented in 1990.  Here's Sava's take:

No living figure in musical theater is more revered than Stephen Sondheim, and for good reason. The depth and specificity of his songwriting is unparalleled, and his work changed the course of musical theater as his influence spread to the younger generation. While nearly all of his works have aged wonderfully, one show in particular becomes more relevant with each passing year: his 1990 musical Assassins with writer John Weidman. Telling the true stories of nine people who attempted to kill U.S. presidents (some successfully), Assassins is a chilling examination of the dark side of the American dream, an idea encapsulated in “Everybody’s Got The Right,” the song that opens and closes the show. Sung by all the assassins, the number posits the shooting of a president as the ultimate expression of American freedom, a chilling message tied to a rousing melody. In an American landscape where gun violence is a deadly epidemic, “Everybody’s Got The Right” is essential listening that uses music to highlight the dysfunctional relationship American people have with their guns and authority figures.

"More relevant with each passing year."  How exactly has it become more relevant?

It couldn't be because we've had more assassinations lately.  In the decades before the show we'd seen the death of JFK and attempts on Ford and Reagan (not to mention the shootings of MLK, RFK, George Wallace and others).  In the decades since, we've been relatively peaceful in this area.

Can it be the death of the American Dream?  Seems doubtful.  Let's ignore things like the Civil War and the Depression and the threat of a world takeover by fascism, and just look at the past fifty years or so.  In the past half century we've seen worse racism, worse pollution, worse unemployment, worse health care and worse crime than today.  Yeah, things may go up and down, but there are always serious problems.

Could it be about how we live in "an American landscape where gun violence is a deadly epidemic"?  I don't see how it can be that.  Since the early 1990s, the rate of gun violence has dropped dramatically.

What happened, actually, is that we had yet another critic with no sense of perspective, thinking like a five-year-old that whatever is happening now is more important that what has happened at any other time.  So when he sees a show that seems to comment on something today, that must mean it's more relevant than ever.

PS  In a related problem, the latest Rolling Stone features an article claiming 2016 is the most important election ever.  Of course it is--it's happening now, after all.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Full Name Zalman

It's the birthday of Zal Yanovsky, lead guitarist and singer for the Lovin' Spoonful.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Murray Flurry

I just watched A Very Murray Christmas on Netflix.  It's a rather ramshackle affair, though not without its (very slight) charms.

It stars Bill Murray, of course, and only he could even come close to pulling it off.  The plot, such as it is, is about Bill Murray the celebrity required to do a live Christmas special.  He's staying at a suite in the Carlyle during a ferocious winter storm.  He doesn't want to do the show but his producers explain it's already set up, so he goes downstairs to shoot it, though without much cheer.  That's act one.  There's a blackout which ends the live broadcast.  He walks over to the Carlyle's bar/restaurant and hangs out for a while, singing Christmas songs with the people there.  Act two.  He drinks enough to fall unconscious and has a dream of a more heavily produced Christmas special. Act three.

So there you have it.  It's directed by Sofia Coppola, who did Lost In Translation with Murray, and written by Coppola, Murray and long-time Murray partner Mitch Glazer, though it's so loose it's hard to believe there was that much writing going on.

Most of the fun is in the numbers, of which there are quite a few, sung by Murray and numerous guest stars (some singers, some not).  First there's Paul Shaffer--Murray's old accompanist on Saturday Night Live--who plays piano on practically everything.  Then along the way there's Amy Poehler, Michael Cera, Chris Rock, Jenny Lewis, Phoenix, Jason Schwatzman, Rashida Jones, Maya Rudolph, David Johansen, Miley Cyrus and George Clooney.

At first the show seems ridiculous, but as you settle into it--and lower your standards--some of it is fun.  Stuff like "Alone On Christmas Day," "I Saw The Light" and "Fairytale Of New York," to name a few, aren't bad, in their shaggy way.

I think a lot of people are going to be--or already have been--disappointed by this show. But if you don't expect too much, there are worse ways to while away an hour.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Not clear on the concept

“The potential economic disruption and risks,” he remarked, “would be too great to small businesses, working families and the state’s economy.”

Huh. Socialist goes off the reservation. I thought that was the whole point of socialism? That's my prediction for 2016: Coloradans won't let such bourgeois concerns stop them. They'll go single payer.

Also, Ted Cruz will introduce a bill allowing insurers to sell in interstate commerce (as opposed to "interstate commerce").

Does It Register?

The National Film Registry has announced the 25 significant works it will add to its collection in the Library Of Congress.  Here's the list, with some comment:

Being There (1979)
A worthy addition.  An unusual comedy with a slow pace, and one of Peter Seller's most fascinating performances.

Black and Tan (1929)
Just to see Duke Ellington in the 1920s makes this a keeper.

Dracula (Spanish language version) (1931)
Some prefer it to the English version.

Dream of a Rarebit Fiend (1906)
Significant as an early work of Edwin S. Porter (based on Winsor McCay's comic), featuring state of the art special effects.

Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer (1975)
Never seen it but I'd like to.

Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze (1894)
One of the most iconic works of the earliest days of film.  Surprised it's not already on the list.

A Fool There Was (1915)
 Haven't seen it, but it did introduce Theda Bara and the concept of the Vamp to the screen.

Ghostbusters (1984)
One of the biggest hit comedies of all time, and deserves classic status.

Hail the Conquering Hero (1944)
The Registry already has a number of other Preston Sturges films, so it's about time they added his best.

Humoresque (1920)
The 1920 Frank Borzage verison.  Never seen it.

Imitation of Life (1959)
Sirk fanatic's love it. I'm not a Sirk fanatic, but it does show his style going about as far as it can.

The Inner World of Aphasia (1968)
A medical training film I've never seen.

John Henry and the Inky-Poo (1946)
A well done and, for its time, progressive cartoon.

L.A. Confidential (1997)
I've never thought much of this film, but a lot of others sure do.

The Mark of Zorro (1920)
Douglas Fairbanks first swashbuckler, and probably his best.

The Old Mill (1937)
Disney's shorts in the 30s are little works of art, and this is one of his most beautiful.

Our Daily Bread (1934)
A political oddity during the Depression.  I wouldn't call it great, but significant?  Sure.

Portrait of Jason (1967)
Only recently rediscovered pioneering LGBT film.  Never seen it.

Seconds (1966)
A bizarre and confusing film from John Frankenheimer.  Certainly like nothing Rock Hudson had ever done, or would do again.  I wouldn't call it a classic, but it's got a deserved cult.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
It was only a matter of time before the most overrated film of all time made it into the Registry.

Sink or Swim (1990)
An avant-garde work I've never seen.

The Story of Menstruation (1946)
Disney could be informative and entertaining at the same time.

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (1968)
Not great, but an imaginative time capsule from the 60s.

Top Gun (1986)
Not my kind of film, but I guess it's achieved classic status.

Winchester ’73 (1950)
Not bad, though I'm not enamored of Anthony Mann/Jimmy Stewart Westerns.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Their own private aerie

. . . and nobody looking over their shoulders.

What's The 411?

James Gleick is one of the top science writers for a popular audience.  Even so, I found his bestseller The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood hard going at times.  I read the first half (when I borrowed it from the library) a few years ago, and only just finished it recently (when I borrowed it from a different library).

Science has always been about information, but Gleick tries to make it a tangible thing, and this book its biography as it were.  He starts with jungle drums in Africa, which were an effective means of spreading information far and wide.  Different beats told different stories, and there was a lot of redundancy built in so you wouldn't miss the message.

From there we get writing and telegraphs and telephones and computers and whatever else is next.  And all along, various people have not just added to faster and better ways to communicate, but also to the theory of just what is information--Charles Babbage, Claude Shannon, Alan Turing and so on.  Much of Gleick's book deals with short bios of these people.

And when we get to the technical stuff, we're not just talking about a dry lecture--information can get very wet.  Biology, for instance, used to be thought of as the study of pulsating life, but with Watson and Crick and the double helix, we can also see life as a set of instructions to create more life.  (Gleick even goes into Richards Dawkins' "memes"--self-replicating information that spreads through culture.  There's a page about my friend Jon Hein and his "Jump The Shark" meme, incidentally.)

Making the story more complex, we've got certain issues that always need to be dealt with--compression, correction and that old demon entropy.  When you think about it, it's sort of an odd idea for a book--if Gleick hadn't already been a name author, I doubt he could have sold it.  But now here it is, being read by millions (well, thousands, anyway)--Gleick is spreading information about information.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Lending Hamas a helping hand

"Hamas Has 3,000 Elite Soldiers Ready to Die in Suicide Attacks on Israel"

All I can say is, I support Hamas.

Not since Bill Clinton promised to grab a gun and jump in a ditch and die if Iraq or Iran ever attacked Israel have I been more optimistic about peace in the Middle East. "I would," said the former president, for emphasis. (Anonymous, do you suppose it would depend on the meaning of "would"?)

I Have A Good Feeling About This

They really battened down the hatches on the new Star Wars film.  There was simply no buzz, good or bad.  But after Monday night's premiere the word is finally getting out.  And it's good.

Okay, it's just celebrities at the premiere, which isn't the same as a paying audience, much less hardened critics, but still, they could just keep quiet.  I think they did that with The Phantom Menace.

So the tweets have it. It does seem the film delivers.  Everyone knew The Force Awakens would open huge, but now not only will it fly, it'll also have legs.

(The funny thing is while I want to know if it's thumbs up or down, otherwise I'm trying my best to keep radio silence.  When Star Wars actors appear on talk shows--as they've been doing regularly--I don't watch.  They might casually drop a plot point.)

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