Sunday, January 31, 2016

You can't argue with the math

Three percent growth is not 1 percent better than 2 percent growth, it is 50 percent better.

Showoff.

And big deal. I want to see him explain property tax and mills.

!yaD drawkcaB

.thgiN doog  .yaD drawkcaB si yadoT  .sdrawkcab gnihtyreve od ot yrT

.gnitsuahxe si sihT  .ereh fo tuo teg dna semordnilap wef a epyt ot gniog m'I.

.ablE was I ere I saw elbA

!amanaP--lanac a ,nalp a ,nam A

.straw no toos tup I  .daf a diputs oot ,oN  ?wartS

".madA m'I ,madaM"

".evE"

Saturday, January 30, 2016

No means yes, yes means anal

The House Of Burgess

Gelett Burgess was born 160 years ago today.  In his day he was a fairly well known critic, poet, author and wit.

He did much work, almost all of it forgotten.  In fact, if he hadn't written one deathless poem, I doubt we'd ever hear his name.

I never saw a purple cow
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I'd rather see than be one!

"The Purple Cow" became, by far, the most famous thing he ever wrote.  In fact, he got so tired of it a few years later he wrote this:

Ah, yes, I wrote the "Purple Cow"—
I'm Sorry, now, I wrote it;
But I can tell you Anyhow
I'll Kill you if you Quote it!


You may have been sorry then, Gelett, but would you complain now about the four lines that brought you immortality?

By the way, he also invented the world "blurb" and the meaning of "bromide" as something trite or unoriginal.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Leverage

"A stock image of an angry female is shown."

AP finally seems to be providing balanced coverage

He Flew High

Continuing the streak of major rock stars leaving us, Paul Kantner, founder of the Jefferson Airplane/Starship, has died. (When he left the band he sued them for the ownership of "Jefferson" and they became just Starship.) He sang, composed and played guitar for some of the band's most memorable tunes.











Thursday, January 28, 2016

It was that close

News from 1980: "Hopes of a turnaround in Flint jeopardized by water crisis"

Plus, not to be left out, the paper that has been pushing Kasich for president is doing a little more home cooking:


Us too! Us too! (Wait til The Donald gets hold of this. It might be enough to bring him back into tonight's debate.)

Judd, The No-Longer Obscure

If you had to pick a single person to represent modern comedy, it would probably be Judd Apatow.  As a young man he wrote material for stand-up comedians (after giving up the art form himself), including Roseanne Barr and Garry Shandling.  Then he was a writer and producer on The Ben Stiller Show and The Larry Sanders Show.  Then he created Freaks And Geeks and Undeclared before going mostly into the movies.  For instance, he's written and directed The 40-Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and This Is 40 and is still going strong, having directed Trainwreck last year.  Along the way he's also produced Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Superbad, Pineapple Express, Step Brothers and Bridesmaids.  Quite a resume.

Growing up, Apatow was a self-described comedy nerd.   Comedians like Mel Brooks, Woody Allen and the Monty Python troupe were his personal gods. He watched shows like Saturday Night Live religiously, even transcribing them to try to understand how they did what they did.

In high school, he worked for the school's radio station. As such, he would call up his favorite comedians' managers and line up interviews.  Plenty of them fell for it, and soon the comedian would find himself being interviewed by a fifteen-year-old kid with a tape recorder.  These tapes were collecting dust until Apatow decided to make a book out of them.

But not just them.  To complete his book, he went around interviewing a number of other modern names in comedy.   In fact, the book is made up of three types of interviews--the old interviews from the 1980s, the new interviews, and transcripts of interviews he's done over the past several years during big events or for magazine publication.

They're arranged quite oddly.  Instead of chronologically, they're alphabetical--and then by the first name.  I'm not sure if this is whimsy or if Apatow had a point to make. In any case, I don't think it makes too much difference.

The young Apatow figured he could get his own comedy career going if only these comedians would explain to him just how to do it.  They're quite helpful, and quite accommodating, to this young man. This interviews include such illustrious names as Jerry Seinfeld, Garry Shandling, Harry Anderson, Jay Leno, Martin Short, Michael O'Donoghue (who's not the type to suffer fools gladly), Sandra Bernhard and voluble old-timer Steve Allen.

Later interviews, including names like Adam Sandler (a roommate before either was famous), Albert Brooks, Chris Rock, Harold Ramis, James L. Brooks, Jmmy Fallon, Jon Stewart, Louis C.K. Mel Brooks, Mike Nichols, Sarah Silverman and Steve Martin, not to mention catch-up interviews with Seinfeld and Shandling--feel different.  By this point, Apatow is a peer, and often they compare notes--about success and failure, about family and career, even about religion--and maybe talk a bit less about the pure mechanics of comedy.

When it's so easy to go to YouTube and see interviews with famous entertainers, perhaps such a book doesn't seem necessary.  But its secret, I suppose, is it reveals more about Apatow than it does about its subjects.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The one defense strategy that's never been available to Hillary

"Hot Circleville woman on trial in murder-for-hire scheme"

Okay, I added the 'hot,' but it was implicit. The original story (since edited) stated, " . . . a striking and lithe blond who was wearing a tight black dress and black stiletto heels in court today . . ."

Her (handsome-on-his-own-terms) attorney said, "Hell, yes, she's gorgeous, I'd do her, just look at her, but she's damaged goods. Just look at her." I wonder how often that strategy works?

The real question, though, is what the husband is like. How has he managed to live with her lo these many years?

The Kernel

Happy birthday, Jerome Kern.  He was one of the top tunesmiths of Broadway, master of the flowing, shimmering melody.  Born in 1885, he died when he was only sixty.  Too soon. (Though he overslept and missed his spot on the Lusitania in 1915, so it could have been worse.)













Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Comeback

Bush Wins Norm Coleman Backing

Maybe Iowans know him.

Ready When You Are, CB

Louie is probably the most idiosyncratic show--I'm not sure I can call it a sitcom--on TV.  Perhaps ever.  But after five seasons, it's not clear if Louis C. K. wants to do more.  (It's nice to be wanted, though.) So coming to the rescue is Baskets.

It stars Zach Galifianakis in the title role--yes, his character's name is Chip Baskets.  He wants to be a clown--but one named "Renoir," not "Baskets." So he goes to a prestigious clown school in Paris, though he doesn't learn much as he can't speak French.

He has a girlfriend, of sorts--Penelope.  She doesn't seem to like Chip, however, and tells him she'll marry him and move to America only so she can get a green card and abandon him as soon as a better-looking offer comes along.  Once they get to the USA, she lives separate from him and only calls when she wants something, such as $40 to get an HBO hookup.

Chip, living in a motel, gets a job as a rodeo clown. He's not particularly good, but the crowd enjoys it when the bulls hit him.  When he wrecks his scooter in an accident, a friendly female insurance agent drives him around.  She seems to like him, though he treats her with something close to contempt.

We get to meet his family, who live in Bakersfield, California.  There's his mother, who just wants him to be happy, and his twin, Dale, who's made a success of himself with a training school and lords it over Chip.

The plot is odd enough--and I have no idea where it's going--but the deadpan style is even weirder.  Of the supporting cast, I especially liked Martha Kelly as the too-helpful insurance agent.  On the other hand, I'm not sure why comedian Louie Anderson plays the mother.

Baskets was created by Galifianakis along with Jonathan Krisel--who's worked with Tim & Eric as well as on Portlandia and SNL--and Louis C.K. himself.  The pilot wasn't exactly laugh out loud funny, but I can see it growing on me.  Anyway, this season has only five episodes, and that's not too big an investment to make, even if it goes nowhere.

Monday, January 25, 2016

But there will be a sharp drop off in 2070

Sex will be more popular with ROBOTS than with humans by 2050

Who are they trying to kid? 2020, tops. (And how do we know what is popular with robots, anyway?)

Whitney's Wit

I just watched the HBO special Whitney Cummings: I'm Your Girlfriend.  I'd caught an episode of her ill-fated sitcom Whitney, and a few episodes of the more successful show she created, 2 Broke Girls, but I'd never seen her do stand-up before, so I was interested.

Her subject matter is well-trod territory: how men describe sex, different methods of birth control, women paying for dates, cheating on your partner, unusual sexual practices, etc.  Sex and relationships are by far the most common topics in stand-up, so if you're going to do them, you better have a different take, or be a lot more clever than the others.  Cummings, however, is neither.

A few months ago I reviewed an Amy Schumer stand-up special, and it was interesting to see Amy and Whitney covering the same ground.  For instance, both discussed what life is like for women when they're in their twenties compared to their thirties.  I may not have gone crazy over Schumer's material, but it was considerably better (and better-delivered) than Cummings'.

The hour goes by painlessly, but that's about the nicest thing I can say.  Cummings is professional enough to keep it moving. That's not nothing.  But it's not much--if you're going to do an hour on HBO, there should be more.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Now we're thinkin'


Most excellent. Reminds me of Mel Brooks: Tragedy is if I can't enjoy unearned righteousness. Comedy is if someone shoots you.

Colonized

Ever since Lost left the air in 2010, fans (like me) have been looking for a replacement--a big, exciting show with a long arc and aspects of a thriller, a mystery and a sci-fi show.  Many have tried, all have come up short.

Still, I was hopeful when checking out Colony, a new drama on USA Network created by Ryan J. Condal and Carlton Cuse.  Yes, the same Carlton Cuse who, along with Damon Lindelof, ran Lost for most of its time on the air.  (He and Lindelof have been involved in a number of shows since Lost, and from them I get the impression Lindelof was more interested in character and Cuse in plot.)

Colony starts with a familiar, domestic scene.  A family--mom, dad and two kids--in a nice house in a nice neighborhood getting ready for breakfast.  But then the dad drops an egg on the floor and seems far too angry about it.  It's slowly revealed that though this picture-perfect family lives in a lovely neighborhood in Los Angeles, the entire town is living under some kind of martial law.  It's walled off and there are strict rules about curfew and so on.  The egg was valuable because there isn't much of anything to go around, even if one trades on the black market.

As the plot goes wider, we realize that other population centers are walled up as well.  Apparently--though it's never fully spelled out--there was a moment known as the Arrival, when aliens invaded and took over.  Except we never see the aliens.  All we see are their humans proxies, who now run things and live the good life most are denied.  (For all we know there was no alien invasion, it's a cover story.  For all we know, areas outside Los Angeles aren't walled off.)

The main plot in the pilot has the father--played by Josh Holloway of Lost (who seemed poised for greater stardom, but hasn't found it yet)--trying to smuggle himself out of L.A. to find his lost 12-year-old son.  He's caught, however, and those in charge discover he's been living under an assumed named. He's actually a former FBI and military operative who specializes in tracking down fugitives.

He's taken to the Green Zone, the cushy area where the leaders live.  The proxy governor of Los Angeles (played by Peter Jacobson from House) gives him a choice--work for Homeland Security (that's what they call it--makes sense though it's a bit heavy-handed) and get his family a far better lifestyle, or he and his family can be sent to the Factory--presumably a slave labor camp (though we can't be sure).

He decides to become a collaborator with the promise if he cooperates, they'll bring him back his son. (How he and his wife lost their son is another unrevealed plot point.)  But there's another twist. His wife, played by Sarah Wayne Callies of The Walking Dead, is a member of the Resistance, so now she can track what her husband's doing and give them a heads up.  I'm not sure if I love them working at cross-purposes--it may be one twist too many.  There's also a subplot with their teenage son's activities at high school which, so far, I don't care about.

That's the pilot.  The second episode, shown last Thursday, gives a better idea of how the series will continue each week.  Holloway settles into his job, and meets some familiar faces from TV and movies, including his boss, played by Kathy Baker, a cold coworker, played by Kathleen Rose Perkins and, of all people, Carl Weathers as his partner.

Holloway proves himself a valuable asset, picking up the guy who bombed the truck he was in when he tried to escape.  The idea is they'll interrogate the perp and work their way up the chain until they get the leader of the Resistance, a chap named Geronimo.  Meanwhile, Holloway's wife tells the Resistance what's happening and they take countermeasures.  The plot was okay, but I don't really want a show that'll mostly be a procedural each week.

There's also a subplot where an old friend of Holloway's is arrested and sent to the Factory. Holloway and Callies help the man's wife and kid get new IDs so they won't be picked up.

Overall, the show isn't bad, and there's certainly plenty of mystery as to what is going on with the world.  (The proxy governor early on suggests the aliens just need to fulfill their "needs," after which they'll leave and things will go back to normal.  What does that mean?  And why didn't Peter Jacobson return for the second episode? I hope he hasn't disappeared, I like him.)

You might think the Resistance is doing the right thing, since the heavily militarized Homeland Security is pretty tough, but--not unlike Lost--it's impossible to be sure who the good guys are, since we don't have enough information regarding everyone's plans. (Not entirely unlike Billions, actually--another new show with two leads on opposite sides.)

I guess I'll keep watching, at least for a little while, but I can't see this show being another Lost. It's not even another Mr. Robot, soon to return to USA Network for its second season.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Decade Of Truth

A doctor told me I had six months to live.  I said I couldn't pay his bill so he gave me another six months.

You probably know that joke.  I get the feeling we're going to hear another version soon.  That's because ten years ago Al Gore was at the Sundance Film Festival debuting his hit documentary on climate change, An Inconvenient Truth.  Back then Al was warning us we had ten years to solve this problem before it was too late.

Here it is, ten years later.  So I guess it's too late.  Or will Al give us a ten-year extension?

There are other possibilities.  Maybe we solved the problem--we've had a lot of climate change conferences, after all, that's got to mean something.  Or maybe the world has ended and I didn't notice. (That was a Zippy the Pinhead cartoon punchline I saw years ago but I can't find it to link to.)

Or maybe Al Gore is not a scientist but a politician prone to making statements about science that he can't back up and doesn't even fully understand.  I know that that sounds pretty silly, but we've got to consider every possibility when the Earth is at stake.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Angie

My favorite sitcom these days is Brooklyn Nine-Nine.  Now there's a new comedy, Angie Tribeca, that's also about cops and robbers.  How will it compare?

Not particularly well (to break the suspense).  I've only seen the first two episodes--ten are available On Demand--but I think I get the idea.  Whereas Brooklyn Nine-Nine is wacky, Angie Tribeca is silly.  Brooklyn, for all its gags, has consistent characters with plots that matter.  Angie Tribeca is anything for a laugh.

The show emulates Police Squad!, then, with a bit of Sledge Hammer! thrown in (though it doesn't have an exclamation point).  The danger of such a show is that, since it's impossible to take anything seriously, it lives or dies on its jokes.  And while some of them are funny, I think it need a higher percentage of hits.

The show is created by Steve Carrell and his wife Nancy Walls Carrell.  The lead is Rashida Jones, last seen in Parks And Recreation (where she played it relatively straight).  She's Angie Tribeca, veteran of the LAPD.  Her partner, Jay Geils, is played by Hayes MacArthur   (In the pilot the final gags had him plummeting to his death in an elevator shaft, but it turned out he survived.  Would have been cooler if they killed him off).  Her boss is Lieutenant Chet Atkins, played by Jere Burns (of Dear John).  Deon Cole plays office mate DJ Tanner.  The characters have certain characteristics, but mostly serve as vessels for the jokes--bizarre sight gags, puns and lots of reduction ad absurdum.

The show also features lots of guest shots.  The pilot had, for instance, Lisa Kudrow and Gary Cole.  The second episode had James Franco and Adam Scott.  (I guess Steve Carrell knows a lot of people.)  And Alfred Molina seems to have a recurring role as Dr. Edelweiss, a forensic pathologist who pretends to be disabled.  These characters add a certain amount of fun to the proceedings, but the writing is still more important.

Overall, the episodes go by painlessly.  I may check out the rest when there's nothing else to watch, but I won't binge watch them.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Austin Tossed In

Just by chance I recently saw two rarely-shown films that feature Austin Pendleton.  He's a character actor, still going strong at 75, who usually plays fussy or wimpy types.  He started on the stage, creating the role of Motel in the original Broadway production of Fiddler On The Roof.  Since the late 1960s, when not doing theatre, he's popped up in numerous movie and TV roles.

First I saw him in The Thief Who Came To Dinner, a 1973 comedy caper starring Ryan O'Neal at the height of his popularity. He's a cat burglar whose signature is to leave chess moves in place of the jewels he pilfers.  Jacqueline Bisset is his love interest, Jill Clayburgh his ex, and Warren Oates the investigator who's always one step behind.  Bud Yorkin (who died not too long ago) directed, and Walter Hill wrote the screenplay based on a novel.

Pendleton comes into the plot as a chess columnist for the local paper.  He starts playing against the moves of the burglar.  What he doesn't know is O'Neal has access to one of those powerful early 1970s computers, which gives him each move.  Sure enough, Pendleton loses the game, and doesn't take it very well.  He's amusing, but the whole plot is rather silly and the film is a misfire--pleasant enough, but never really taking off.

Then I saw Simon, a 1980 comedy starring Alan Arkin.  It's written and directed by Marshall Brickman, who had already co-written Sleeper, Annie Hall and Manhattan with Woody Allen.  The concept is a group of geniuses, living in a retreat financed by the government, who secretly have control over all sorts of things.  They were supposed to solve the world's problems, but instead just do projects to amuse themselves.  Since America is fascinated with UFOs, they decide they're going to find an orphan, take him in, and convince him he's of extra-terrestrial origin.

This is where Arkin, a community college professor whose dreams are greater than his intelligence, comes in.  He believes he's part of the group when in fact he's only a guinea pig.  After they've convinced him he's an ET, he starts making pronouncements to the world that get a lot of attention.  The geniuses think he's gone too far and plan to get rid of him. It's here he and his girlfriend (played by The Electric Company's Judy Graubart) escape from the compound and have a battle of wits with the geniuses.

Pendleton has a major part as the head genius who runs the entire operation.  He's the villain, though I find him so likable as an actor I was almost rooting for him.  He has a final confrontation with Simon and loses, of course, but it's probably one of Pendleton's biggest roles on film.

The concept isn't bad, but the film doesn't quite make it.  There are some fine comic ideas, but they're not carried through well enough.  Maybe Brickman should have had Woody punch up the script.

So there's Pendleton in two films that don't really make it. But he's one of those guys you're always glad to see, even when the movie doesn't work.  Especially when the movie doesn't work.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Judy Judy Judy

Judy Greer isn't famous and she knows it. But she's been in hundreds of movies and TV shows, and has quite a few fans who love her, even if she's the kind of celebrity who can go shopping without being mobbed. Of course, some come up to her and ask "what do I know you from?"  Hence, her memoir, I Don't Know What You Know Me From: My Life As A Co-Star.

It tells of a girl from Detroit, without any particular dreams of stardom, who grew up in an eccentric family.  She later moved to Chicago, and then to LA and semi-fame. (Hey, I went from Detroit to Chicago to LA, too.)

A good portion of her book is about her early years.  Once she gets to the show biz section, the story is less organized.  She talks about this movie or that premiere or meeting with one celebrity or another, all in a haphazard fashion. It's charming, but far from comprehensive.  The last portion of the book is mostly about her personal life today, with her dog, her husband, her step-kids and so on.  It's not bad, but not as interesting as what went on before.

I've been a fan of Greer for years, at least since I saw her in a small part as a waitress in Adaptation (2002).  Since then she's been in so many roles--usually comic ones--that I can hardly keep track.  Everyone who knows her name, or her face, knows she's talented.  She also beautiful, even if Hollywood considers it the kind of beauty that's relegated to best friend roles.

So if we ever meet, we'll have plenty to talk about, and I will know where I know her from.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

You know who else rose to power in accordance with her fundamental vision of what power is? Hitler! That's who!

No one, of course, genuinely longs for Hillary Clinton

All Of Us Are Sad

Glenn Frey has died. This is turning out to be a bad year for male celebrities in their 60s.

Anyone who knows me knows I'm not a big fan of the Eagles.  But if I had to pick a favorite, it would be Frey, a singer, songwriter and guitarist.










Monday, January 18, 2016

Nine Zeroes

Billions, a new drama, just debuted on Showtime. ("Showtime--if you can't make it on HBO, bring your show to us.") Created by Brian Koppelman, David Levien and Andrew Ross Sorkin, it's about the world of high finance.  This is a world that fascinates me, but not Hollywood.   Maybe that's because the financial stuff is too complex, or maybe because it's hard to build up sympathy for people marinating in money.  So what Hollywood invariably does is make the rich people crooks and turn things into a crime drama--something they're more comfortable with.

So far, it seems Billions is traveling down that path. As far as I can tell after the pilot, there are two equal leads--Damian Lewis as Bobby Axelrod, a hedge fund manager who knows how to get good press, and Paul Giamatti as crusading U. S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades, who is trying to bring down Axelrod.  Did Axelrod do anything wrong?  At the very least, he seems to be involved in some insider trading, but it takes a lot to make a case, so I suppose the season will show the battle of wits between these two.

The hour starts with a dominatrix having her way with Chuck.  Ah, premium cable.  So far this aspect of his life doesn't seem to have anything to do with the plot, but perhaps it will later on.  Eventually we find out that Chuck is a crusader who's good at what he does--his office has a perfect record--but he can be harsh and borders on the self-righteous.  More care is taken to show Bobby Axelrod, head of Axe Capital, as a good guy.  He's a caring family man, a tough but fair boss, a savvy businessman and big into charity.  I suppose they need to do this because so many will automatically resent him anyway, or suspect he's a criminal.

Both Chuck and Bobby have a wife and two kids.  Bobby's wife Lara (Malin Ackerman) has risen up from the poor side of town, and doesn't plan to go back.  Chuck's wife Wendy (Maggie Siff), in a plot twist almost too convenient, is an in-house counselor (she says she went to medical school so I guess she's a psychiatrist) at Axe Capital, which leads, arguably, to a conflict of interest.  (She also seems to be the dominatrix, in a plot twist that probably makes things less interesting.)

It's just the pilot, so both leads are circling each other.  Early on an SEC official brings in some evidence that may lead to Bobby, but Chuck is wary--he doesn't just want Bobby to pay a fine, and also doesn't want to ruin his perfect record. (Which reminds me, at one point one of the government lawyers quotes Warren Buffet to one of the business lawyers, saying "If a cop follows you for 500 miles, you're going to get a ticket"--I'm not sure if the government lawyer gets the full meaning of that quote.)

One of the big plot points is Bobby's purchase of an expensive mansion on the beach.  Chuck warns Bobby the purchase will lose him a lot of good will, and figures if Bobby ignores him, somehow this means he's a crook. I don't get it either.

The show is a bit odd in that you don't quite know who to root for.  (Well, I didn't.  Maybe I'm just confused.)  I've never been much of a fan of Lewis, but both he and Giamatti seem up to the task.  It's good enough for a second viewing, but doesn't make me stop thinking that the next season of Game Of Thrones can't get here fast enough.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Ten Months Notice

If you check our archives, you'll see this blog began in 2004 just before the Bush/Kerry election.  It was started by Pajama Guy himself, and I came aboard on his invitation soon after.  Pajama Guy left before too long, and ever since I've been this blog's mainstay.

I actually did it as a lark.  In the first few months I wondered how I could keep going--how will I find new things to say?  Once I realized you don't have to have anything to say, it got easier.

Since then I've continued this blog not only as a way of communicating occasional thoughts, but as something to force myself to write every day.  I saw it as an exercise to keep my writing tools in fighting trim.  (I think that's a mixed metaphor, but who's counting?)

For a while now I've been thinking it's probably time to move on (and perhaps some readers feel the same way).  If I haven't mastered blog writing by now, I never will.  So here we are, in another election year.  I think I've got enough left in me to stick around and greet our new President.  But after that, I may be done.  Certainly as a regular writer.  Maybe I'll still do some annual features, or drop in when there's something to say.

Anyway, I thought I'd let you know.  That should give everyone plenty of time to make the transition to something else.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Sounds about right

"Foster's Daily Democrat Endorses Kasich"

Amazing, really, how easily the man could have been president. How fortunate that he won't be.

So, anyone up for a PajamaGuy pool as to when he drops out? For me, I can't even decide if it's before Feb. 16, or after. He's got the Black Knight's ego, so for all I know he'll be strategizing for a floor fight six months after President Trump has the nomination locked up.

Go At It

I bought the June 2015 issue of Vanity Fair because it had stuff about the new Star Wars movie. Then I set it aside because I decided I didn't want to see any spoilers, even if it was just sets and costumes.

Anyway, I just picked it up recently (figured I might as well read it before I threw it out) and a short piece by Michael Kinsley caught my eye.  It's about Ted Cruz.  I didn't figure the article would be particularly telling, since it was written before Donald Trump entered the race and anyway, it's just filler before anyone really knew how the race would shape up.  (We still don't know).  In other words, Kinsley gotta eat.

Still, it was amusing in its own way. Kinsley insists in each race there has to be a goat--someone who's the joke candidate that no one can take seriously.  For instance, in 2012, that turned out to be--to the surprise of many--Rick Perry.  And at first Kinsley thought it might be Rand Paul.  Or perhaps Ben Carson.  But then Ted Cruz announced and Kinsley, looking at the reaction, assumed he'd found his man...or goat.

Why?  Because of the way the press attacked him.  CNN made a big deal of how Cruz had applied for Obamacare. Kinsley admits this story meant nothing (and didn't actually go anywhere), but was a sign that everyone wanted to laugh at his candidacy.  And then The New York Times went out of its way to note how Cruz tailored his message to the crowds he spoke to in New Hampshire. Once again, no real story, just a sign--to Kinsley--that Cruz was the designated goat.

It would seem from today's vantage point that Kinsley was way off.  But then, if it's not Cruz, who is the goat (assuming there has to be one)?  If I had to say right now, I guess it would be Jeb Bush. I'd be a lot more impressed if Kinsley had foreseen that.

Friday, January 15, 2016

What if it adds up to zero?


I'm guessing identity is more likely.

Best Fascist Dictator--Adolf Hitler

The Oscar nominations are out.  Almost as exciting as the Oscars themselves.  (I guess you could read that two ways.)

So let's look at the major awards, with my comments:

Best motion picture of the year:

“The Big Short”
“Bridge of Spies”
“Brooklyn”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Room”
“Spotlight”

There's room for up to ten, but only eight made it.  I guess there were too many choices and not enough obvious ones.

The big shock here, I guess, is no Carol.  Some were hoping for Inside Out, but since they started a separate category for animation, that sort of thing doesn't happen.

Also, no Hateful Eight, though the Academy is simply following the audience in its lukewarm feelings.  And no Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but that was never in the cards anyway.

Performance by an actor in a leading role:

Bryan Cranston in “Trumbo”
Matt Damon in “The Martian”
Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Revenant”
Michael Fassbender in “Steve Jobs”
Eddie Redmayne in “The Danish Girl”

The favorites came in.  Both Trumbo and Steve Jobs were disappointments at the box office, but the leading performances were enough, I guess.

Eddie Redmayne won last year, which may make it a bit tougher to win again, but you never know.  None of the other have ever won an Oscar for acting. 

This may be the first time every nominee in this category is the character named in the title.

Tom Hanks didn't get nominated, but no one was really expecting it. I just want to note that though he at one time seemed an Academy favorite, they haven't nominated him in fifteen years.  Johnny Depp didn't make it for Black Mass. Right call, but a lot of critics thought it was a comeback for him.

Some people thought maybe Idris Elba for Beasts Of No Nation, but I'm not even sure if the voters watched it.  Also, no Will Smith--his performance in Concussion was good, but no one really liked the film.  And nothing for Michael B. Jordan for Creed.  Some will note that no black man got nominated, but there's only so much room, and no limit to the number of snubs allowed.

Performance by an actress in a leading role:

Cate Blanchett in “Carol”
Brie Larson in “Room”
Jennifer Lawrence in “Joy”
Charlotte Rampling in “45 Years”
Saoirse Ronan in “Brooklyn”

Yet again the five favorites take it.  Even though Joy didn't overwhelm, Jennifer Lawrence gets her fourth nomination in six years.  Perhaps because it was a weak year for female leads.

While Blanchett and Lawrence are Academy favorites and former winners, the other three have, before this year, only one nomination and no wins between them

Performance by an actor in a supporting role:

Christian Bale in “The Big Short”
Tom Hardy in “The Revenant”
Mark Ruffalo in “Spotlight”
Mark Rylance in “Bridge of Spies”
Sylvester Stallone in “Creed”

No shocks here, and, as is often the case, this category looks to be the most competitive.

Nominees were expected from The Big Short and Spotlight, which had solid ensembles--the only question was which ones.  So now the rest of those casts can hate Ruffalo and Bale (who are both Academy favorites).  Michael Keaton and Steve Carell got Best Actor nominations last year, but couldn't even manage a supporting actor nod this year.

Stallone hasn't been nominated since the original Rocky, released in 1976.  He's also being nominated for playing the same character--a rarity.

Mark Rylance has won three Tonys, but who cares--this is his first Oscar nomination.

Some thought Jacob Tremblay would make it for Room, but it's hard for a little kid to get nominated.  If you don't like it, Jake, blame Stallone. Some thought Michael Shannon had a good chance for 99 Homes, but I don't think anyone saw that film.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role:

Jennifer Jason Leigh in “The Hateful Eight”
Rooney Mara in “Carol”
Rachel McAdams in “Spotlight”
Alicia Vikander in “The Danish Girl”
Kate Winslet in “Steve Jobs”

Finally a little love for The Hateful Eight.

The rest were sort of expected, and are all from films that got acting nominations elsewhere.

Some thought Kristen Stewart might sneak in for the little seen Clouds Of Sils Maria.  She won the Cesar award for it (the French Oscar) but I guess no one in Hollywood was impressed.

Also, no Helen Mirren for Trumbo.  The Academy likes her, but really, it wasn't much of a performance (or a role).

Achievement in directing:

“The Big Short” Adam McKay
“Mad Max: Fury Road” George Miller
“The Revenant” Alejandro G. Iñárritu
“Room” Lenny Abrahamson
“Spotlight” Tom McCarthy

The biggest surprise here is no Ridley Scott for The Martian, which was a big hit and a true director's film.  No Todd Haynes, but if Carol isn't nominated for Best Picture, it's hard to give him Best Director.  Also, there's no Spielberg here, though his film is nominated for Best Picture.  I guess there's no real excitement for Bridge Of Spies.

Scott, Haynes and Spielberg are probably looking at relative newcomer Lenny Abrahamson and wondering how he made it.

Inarritu won last year.  He made a speech about immigration for some reason.  Based on the subject matter of this year's list, I would guess Adam McKay or Tom McCarthy would be most likely to make a blowhard speech if they won.

Adapted screenplay:

“The Big Short” Screenplay by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay
“Brooklyn” Screenplay by Nick Hornby
“Carol” Screenplay by Phyllis Nagy
“The Martian” Screenplay by Drew Goddard
“Room” Screenplay by Emma Donoghue

No surprises, except maybe The Revenant is missing--this is the film with the most nominations overall.  Perhaps the Academy sees the film as too visual to get a writing nod. Four of these are nominated for Best Picture.

Also, Aaron Sorkin, an Academy favorite, gets nothing for Steve Jobs.  That'll teach him to write an inert gabfest.

Original screenplay:

“Bridge of Spies” Written by Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
“Ex Machina” Written by Alex Garland
“Inside Out” Screenplay by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley; Original story by Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen
“Spotlight” Written by Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy
“Straight Outta Compton” Screenplay by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff; Story by S. Leigh Savidge & Alan Wenkus and Andrea Berloff

No Mad Max.  Maybe for the same reason The Revenant missed out--Max has the second-most nominations, but hardly any dialogue.

Ex Machina sneaks in with its only major nomination.  (Some thought Alicia Vikander might get an acting nomination, but who can remember that far back--better to give it to her for The Danish Girl.)  And Straight Outta Compton, which some expected to get a bunch of nominations, only gets this.

Quentin Tarantino has won two screenplay Oscars, but his Hateful Eight doesn't even get a nomination.

Best animated feature film of the year:

“Anomalisa” Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson and Rosa Tran
“Boy and the World” Alê Abreu
“Inside Out” Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera
“Shaun the Sheep Movie” Mark Burton and Richard Starzak
“When Marnie Was There” Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Yoshiaki Nishimura

It would be a true shock if Inside Out didn't win.  Note Pixar's other film, The Good Dinosaur, didn't even get a nomination.  Same for The Peanuts Movie.

Best documentary feature:

“Amy” Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees
“Cartel Land” Matthew Heineman and Tom Yellin
“The Look of Silence” Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen
“What Happened, Miss Simone?” Liz Garbus, Amy Hobby and Justin Wilkes
“Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” Evgeny Afineevsky and Den Tolmor

Haven't seen most of these, but we can all rest easy that The Hunting Ground, which many saw as playing fast and loose with the facts, isn't nominated.  However, that film did get a nod for its song, "Til It Happens To You," written by Diane Warren and Lady Gaga, so if that wins who knows what'll happen.  (But anything would be better than "Simple Song #3" from Youth winning that category--the whole movie we're told how great this composer is, then we hear this unlistenable piece at the end and wonder what other lies they told us.)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

My most common yearbook comment

"Found dead in prison"

(Actually, did law school have yearbooks? Why not?)

Odd To See Todd

Todd Margaret is back.  If you didn't watch the first two seasons on IFC, that may not be a surprise.  But if you watched them, you'd know that the show ended--or so we thought--with the earth being destroyed.  Not a likely candidate for a sequel.

But I guess David Cross--who also returned in updated episodes of Arrested Development and Mr. Show (even if they called it something else)--thought it would be fun.  Having watched three of the six episodes that make up this season, I'm enjoying it, but I'm not quite sure where it's going.

The original show I liked but didn't love.  It was cringe comedy--not my favorite genre.  Todd Margaret, played by Cross, was a loser who was inexplicably given a major job to do for an energy drink concern in London.  Each episode had him getting deeper and deeper in trouble, lying to cover up his failures until, at the end of season one, he was being prosecuted for his many crimes, and at the end of season two, was pushing the button to fire the nuclear warheads.  (I was disappointed when it turned that the guy behind everything was a spoiled son of a Lord who was trying to get even with Todd for a stray joke he made.)

But season three starts with Todd Margaret waking up.  He just had the oddest dream, which was the first two seasons.  This new Todd Margaret is very different.  He's actually quite good at his job, but ruthless, and a big jerk.  He also has to go to London to get a campaign going for an energy drink. But along the way, he keeps getting deja vu at how similar people and situations are to what he dreamed.  I assume the next three episodes will reveal what's really going on, and which is the real dream.

It takes a little getting used to, and almost requires the audience to have seen the earlier episodes, but I've come this far--guess I'll stick till the end.

Speaking of shows no one thought we'd see again, ABC is now airing the second season of the comedy Galavant.  It's about a brave knight and the princess he hopes to save, not to mention lots of kings and queens and servants and so on.  The jokes tend to be corny, and also self-conscious and anachronistic.  But the cast is game, so at least it has the proper spirit.

Also, it's done as a musical.  The tunes, by well-known Disney composer Alan Menken, are surprisingly good, though the lyrics are cheap and often don't rhyme properly.  My favorite tune in the first season was the theme, but the second season started out with the cast making it more than clear they never intend to sing that song again. Too bad.



While we're at it, CBS is offering a sitcom that's actually new--Angel From Hell.  It stars Jane Lynch as Amy, a woman who appears in another woman's life and claims to be her guardian angel.  The other woman is Allison, a dermatologist, played by Maggie Lawson.  Her sad sack brother, Brad, is played by Kyle Borkheimer and her widowed father Marv is played by Kevin Pollak.

I've liked all these actors in previous roles, but seeing Lynch, week in week out, as an annoying, obnoxious angel is not my idea of fun, even if she ends up helping Allison by the end of the story.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Obama's economy is so bad . . .

. . . seniors have to take jobs after retirement. Two guesses as to which famous actor has had to take to reporting, of all things:

"A car barreled into him, dragged his tiny body 600 yards, and ripped his dick clean off."

Suggs

Graham McPherson turns 55 today.  Better known as Suggs, he's the lead singer of Madness, a tuneful band that deserved to be as popular in the U.S. as it was in England.










Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Truer words

Google’s chairman thinks artificial intelligence will solve some of the world’s "hard problems," like population growth.

A final solution, no doubt.

Haters Gonna Hate

Here's a post from Don Surber about how Vincent Canby's negative review of the original Rocky destroyed the reputation of The New York Times and even helped number Canby's days as a film critic.  I'm not a huge fan of Canby's, but this is just stupid.

First, it's not a critic's job to agree with the public.  It's a critic's job to discuss the film in question, to be discerning and to give an opinion.  If the critic's job is to like what the public likes, why bother to have one--just report on the grosses.

Second, any critic who lasts long enough--and Canby reviewed films at the Times for about 25 years--is simply going to hate things you like and like things you hate.  A reader may even get used to certain prejudices of the critic and judge accordingly.  But Surber lists a bunch of hits Canby didn't like as if this is proof something was wrong.  (And I'm just talking here about reviewers at dailies.  If you're a critic for a classy periodical, you gain respect for not liking hits.)

Third, the facts (even as Surber notes them) don't add up.  Canby was a film critic at the Times from 1969 to 1994, and during those years was an influential critic.  Rocky was early in his tenure, as were some of the other films that Surber is disturbed Canby didn't like.  If there was any trouble, Canby would have been kicked out (or more likely, upstairs) earlier.

The irony is there was a Times film critic who was famously fired for being out of touch--Bosley Crowther.  He was a film writer there from 1940 to 1967 (not a particularly good one, I'd say).  When Bonnie And Clyde was released, something seemed to snap in him.  He panned it and when the film became divisive, went out of his way to attack it in print several more times.  But the film was a huge hit, and a harbinger of things to come.  Crowther was put out pasture, removed as the Times head film critic in 1968, and it's generally believed this was because the Times felt the fracas showed he was out-of-touch.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Film Year In Review--2015

The time has come for our eagerly awaited film wrap-up for 2015.  It's a bit later than those of professional critics because I see movies with regular folks at the cineplex.  As always, there are some notable titles I missed--big hits that I couldn't force myself to see, critical favorites that looked boring--but not so many that my list is pointless (I hope).

Overall, a lackluster year.  I often say that, but let's face it, most years aren't great.  As it is, I'm halfhearted about my top ten list.  And quite a few films that got critical approval didn't do it for me.  (I also saw a lot of documentaries that were okay more because of the subject than the filmmaking.)

First, a few ground rules.  I discuss only feature films released or made widely available in U. S. theatres in 2015.  No shorts, no TV (though that's getting tougher, with a lot of films coming out in all formats at once, or getting token releases before going to video).  I will give out some awards, note some trends, tell you which films were good, bad and ugly, and then list my top ten.  You can rush to the bottom right now, but really, the best stuff is along the way.

Feel free to leave a comment, whether you agree with me or not.  In fact, comments tend to be better when you don't agree.


2015 AWARDS:

Performance Of The Year: There was no single lead performance that stood out so strongly that I can give this award, but here are some supporting performances that I enjoyed, and went places I didn't expect: Elizabeth Banks in Love & Mercy, Jon Bernthal in Me And Earl And The Dying Girl; Peter Sarsgaard in Pawn Sacrifice.

Star Of The Year:  Daisy Ridley as Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Yes, there's plenty to complain about regarding the film and her character, but Ridley, an unknown, held the center of the story in the biggest money-maker ever.  Runner-up: Amy Poehler, who, the same year her sitcom Parks And Recreation ended, acquitted herself well as the lead of the hit comedy Sisters as well as the voice of Joy in Inside Out.

Comedy Star Of The Year:  Muscleman John Cena, who turns up in three of the biggest comedies of 2015, Trainwreck, Sisters and Daddy's Home.

Biggest Range Award: Tom Hardy, who played very different roles in Mad Max: Fury Road, Legend (where he had two parts) and The Revenant.

Not Quite A Star Yet Award:  It should have been a big year for Alicia Vikander, who played the lead in four major films--Ex Machina, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Burnt and The Danish Girl--but I don't think most people know who she is yet.

Best Opening CreditsEntourage. It's the same thing the TV version did--putting the names of the cast in Los Angeles landmarks--but it's done on a grander scale. (Might be more fun if you live out here.)



Best SequelMission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation

Worst Sequel:  The most competitive category of the year.  And the winner is...The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 2.

Best Reboot:  Mad Max: Fury Road.

Worst Reboot:  The Man From U.N.C.L.E.  There wasn't exactly a crying need for this film, but if you're gonna do it, do it right.  It's fun to see two cool guys solving crimes, but, alas, following the Men In Black template, the filmmakers decided the two leads should be at each other's throats.  Worse, rather than make Illya Kuryakin a romantic and mysterious figure, they decided to make him a sociopathic brute.

Put It Out Of Its Misery AwardTaken 3.  How much more can they take from Liam Neeson? How much more can we take?

Most Generic Title:  I thought it would be tough to beat last year's winner Men, Women & Children, but People Places Things manages to do it.

Worst Title:  The Good Dinosaur.  Kind of vague, and, let's face it, he wasn't that good.  Runner-up.  Bridge Of Spies. We gotta wait till the end to get to the bridge, and when we do, there weren't even that many spies.

Most Ironically Titled Film: Truth

Best Opening:  Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  We see the "Lucasfilm Ltd" logo, followed by "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...." followed by a receding "STAR WARS" accompanied by John William's theme, followed by a crawl announcing the episode number and title, followed by the sentence "Luke Skywalker has vanished."  That's how you start a film, though the rest doesn't quite live up to that.

Best Ending:  Meadowland.  The movie wasn't much, but the ending really worked--didn't see it coming but it made sense.  Runner-up:  Krampus.  Didn't like the film at all, but I have to admit the ending is memorable.

Worst Ending:  Our Brand Is Crisis.  When cynical political consultant Sandra Bullock has a change of heart (though I question if it will help anyone), the film turns its back on the one thing we enjoyed.

Worst Last ActTomorrowland--we wait the whole movie to get there and when we do it's just depressing.

Song Of The Year: From A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence:



Worst Performance In A New Film From Someone Who Was Winning An Oscar For A Previous Film:  Eddie Redmayne, just horrible in Jupiter Ascending, at the same time winning the Best Actor Oscar for The Theory Of Everything.

Worst Line:  It's from The Big Short.  I don't have the exact quote, but near the end of the film Mark Baum (Steve Carell), who's about the make a ton of dough betting against Wall Street, bemoans the fact that people will blame the 2008 crash on "immigrants and poor people." Perhaps the person Baum was based on actually did go around saying things like this, but that's no reason to put it in the movie.  It's a line where the filmmakers stop the action to make a political point and tell us what we're supposed to think.  Funny thing is, the film is just as simplistic in blaming bankers for everything that happened. (I suppose I should be happy this time around it's only "bankers" and not "Jewish bankers.")

Jason Statham Award For Actor Who Appears In One Bad Film After Another But Still Manages To Be Appealing:  Bill Murray was in two of the worst films of 2015, Rock The Kasbah and Aloha, not to mention his underdone Christmas special, but we still like him.  Though I should warn him our patience isn't unlimited.  Runner-up (with same warning):  Emma Stone in Aloha (best cast, worst movie) and Irrational Man.

Actor With Most Thankless Roles:  Everyone loves Judy Greer, so why, when she got to appear in three of the most prominent films of the year--Jurassic World, Tomorrowland and Ant-Man--was she stuck with mom roles where she gets left behind when anything exciting happens?  Runner-up:  Gwendoline Christie, a favorite from Game Of Thrones, was featured in two huge hits--The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 2 and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  However, in the former she has only one scene, where she discusses some war plans she won't take part in, and in the latter plays a general who fails at everything she tries and, in any case, is behind a mask the entire movie so the part could have been played by anyone.

You Me And Dupree Award For The Film That While Nominally A Hollywood Comedy Is Actually A Surrealist Masterpiece Where Plot Points Are Introduced And Dropped For No Reason, Dialogue Is Unrelated To The Action, And Characters Do Things That Bear No Resemblance To How Humans Act: Hot Pursuit.

There's Something About Mary Award for the comedy that most confuses being disgusting with being funny (not that There's Something About Mary isn't funny, just that too many people learned the wrong lesson from it):  Vacation

Film With The Most Jokes:  Very Semi-Serious, since it must show at least 100 New Yorker cartoons.

Worst Date Movie:  The Tribe--lots of violence, lots of ugly sex, prostitution and abortion, all performed in Ukrainian sign language.

Best Trend:  Some longish films--The Hateful Eight and Star Wars: The Force Awakens--ran without trailers (at least where I saw them).  I've got nothing against trailers, but when films are well over two hours, I don't need my bladder tested any more than it already is.

Worst Trend:  More theatres (where I live, anyway) switching to presold seats.  I prefer to see the house first before I decide where to sit.  Instead, I have to pay extra money for something that makes my experience less enjoyable.

Lamest Enemy:  Donald Sutherland in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 2.  After setting him up as the alpha villain for three movies, he's pretty much over before they get to him.

Worst Premise:  Concussion.  Does anyone really want to see a film about a crusading doctor who discovers getting hit on the head a lot isn't good for you?


TRENDS AND OBSERVATIONS

Sequels No One Was Asking For: Hot Tub Time Machine 2, Ted 2, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Entourage, Vacation

The Name Game: Carol, Joy, Danny Collins, Ned Rifle, Alex Of Venice, When Marnie Was There, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Mad Max: Fury Road, Ted 2, Mr. Holmes, Z For Zachariah, Steve Jobs, Trumbo, Son Of Saul

What State (Or City) Are You In?:  Alex Of Venice, Live From New York!, Straight Outta Compton, San Andreas, Mississippi Grind, Brooklyn

Land Ho!:  Tomorrowland, Meadowland, McFarland, USA

A Little Bit Country: Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation, Beasts Of No Nation, Mistress America, American Ultra

What Planet Are You From?:  Jupiter Ascending, Jurassic World, Queen Of Earth, The Martian, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

It's A Numbers Game:  The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, 4Got10, Mr. Six, Furious Seven, 7 Chinese Brothers, The Hateful Eight, 45 Years, Fifty Shades Of Grey

Dick Jokes:  Ted 2, Trainwreck, The Overnight, Daddy's Home

Alec Baldwin Is An Authority Figure Who Turn On A Dime When Presented With New Information:  Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation, Aloha, Concussion

I Get It, It's Hard To Make A Movie -- A Bunch Of Documentaries On The Travails Of Filmmaking:  Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey Of Richard Stanley's Island Of Dr. Moreau, Doomed!, The Death Of “Superman Lives”: What Happened?, even Meru

Decade Of The Year:  The 1950s, as featured in Carol, Brooklyn, Bridge Of Spies, Trumbo

Profession Of The Year: Cartoonist, as seen in Diary Of A Teenage Girl, People Places Things, Very Semi-Serious and American Ultra.  Runner-up: gambler, as seen in Cold Deck, Mississippi Grind and, sort of, The Big Short

Violence In The Snow: The Revenant, The Hateful Eight, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Krampus

Trouble In The Sand: Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, Rock The Kasbah, Maze Runner: Scorch Trials, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Old People Have Stories, Too: I'll See You In My Dreams, Youth, Grandma, Mr. Holmes, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, 45 Years

Got A Comedy?  Put A Sports Star In It:  Serena Williams in Pixels, Tom Brady in Ted 2, Ronda Rousey--and Tom Brady again--in Entourage, Kobe Bryant in Daddy's Home, LeBron James (who was great) in Trainwreck.

Stuck In A Car:  San Andreas, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Cop Car, American Ultra, Krampus

Young Salesladies In New York In The 1950s In Big Department Stores Find Romance:  Brooklyn, Carol

Help Him, He Spoke French: American actors Bradley Cooper in Burnt and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in The Walk required to speak some French (and Adam Scott gets a bit of German in Krampus)

Saving An Unconscious Man Who's Underwater:  Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Slamming Into Livestock With A Motor Vehicle:  Cop Car, Vacation

The Easiest Way To Deal With People Is To Lock Them Up In Your Backyard:  Room, Secret In Their Eyes

If You Put Mark Wahlberg In A Comedy, Sooner Or Later There'll Be Semen:  Ted 2, Daddy's Home

Busting Through Dry Wall: Daddy's Home, Sisters, Concussion

In The Cold Snowy America Of The 1800s You Communicate By Blinking:  The Revenant, The Hateful Eight

Robert De Niro Likes To Help Young Women Building Huge New Businesses:  Joy, The Intern

Beasts Of Some Nations:  Olivia Wilde pets an elephant in Meadowland, Catherina Deneuve sleeps with a gorilla in The Brand New Testament and a bear has his way with Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant

Older Women Need A Little Sam Elliott In Their Lives:  I'll See You In My Dreams, Grandma

Deaf Dumb And Blind:  The Tribe (entire cast is deaf), Bajrangi Bhaijaan (feauring a little girl who can't speak) and Blind, of course

It's No Fun Getting Stabbed In The Left Part Of The Stomach:  Mississippi Grind, The Martian

Two Erudite White Men Bob And Weave:  True Story, The End Of The Tour, Best Of Enemies

Stay Away From That Pond:  Z For Zachariah, Vacation

Climb Every Mountain:  Everest, Meru, Sunshine Superman, A Walk In The Woods, The Good Dinosaur

Science Proves It--We Stink:  Experimenter, The Stanford Prison Experiment


RANKINGS

Good

Wild Tales, Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey Of Richard Stanley's Island Of Dr. Moreau, Mad Max: Fury Road, A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence, Deep Web, Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation, The End Of The Tour, Mistress America, Blind, The Martian, Brooklyn, Star Wars: The Force Awakens (almost entirely for nostalgic reasons), He Never Died, The Revenant, Mustang, The Brand New Testament, The Fencer

Okay

Still Alice, Kingsmen: The Secret Service, Focus, An Honest Liar, The Wrecking Crew, Danny Collins, While We're Young, Can't Stand Losing You, Furious Seven, Ned Rifle, Ex Machina, Alex Of Venice, The DUFF, Dior And I, Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Welcome To Me, Iris, McFarland, USA, Cobain: Montage Of Heck, Sunshine Superman, Tomorrowland, I'll See You In My Dreams, Love & Mercy, Live From New York!, Dope, A Poem Is A Naked Person, Trainwreck, 7 Chinese Brothers, Best Of Enemies, Sir Doug And The Genuine Texas Cosmic Groove, What She Said: The Art Of Pauline Kael, Bajranji Bhaijaan, Listen To Me Marlon, Mr. Holmes, Doomed!, Straight Outta Compton,  People Places Things, Meru, San Andreas, American Ultra, Gueros, Grandma, Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine, Sicario, The Intern, The Death Of "Superman Lives" What Happened?, Mississippi Grind, Drunk Stone Brilliant Dead: The Story Of The National Lampoon, Steve Jobs, All Things Must Pass, Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, Very Semi-Serious, Creed, The Good Dinosaur, The Peanuts Movie (better thirty minutes at a time), Hitchcock/Truffaut, The Big Short (liked this a lot till it got preachy), Sisters, Youth, The Hateful Eight, Anomalisa, Beasts Of No Nation, Daddy's Home

Not Okay

Taken 3, The Wedding Ringer, Son Of A Gun, Jupiter Ascending, Deli Man, Run All Night, Hot Tub Time Machine 2, Insurgent, Get Hard, True Story, Dior And I, Far From The Madding Crowd, Hot Pursuit, Pitch Perfect 2, Survivor, Spy, Results, Entourage, Jurassic World, Paul Blart Mall Cop 2, The Overnight, Ted 2, The Tribe, Terminator Genisys, The Wolfpack, Aloha, Irrational Man, The Stanford Prison Experiment, Cop Car, Call Me Lucky, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Z For Zachariah, A Walk In The Woods, Queen Of Earth, 4Got10, Black Mass, Vacation, Everest, Gravy, Northern Soul, Goodnight Mommy, Meadowland, Experimenter, Bridge Of Spies, Rock The Kasbah, Our Brand Is Crisis, Burnt, Pixels, Trumbo, Spectre, Spotlight, Maze Runner Scorch Trials, Entertainment, The Night Before, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 2, Carol, Unfinished Business, Fifty Shades Of Grey, Cold Deck, Secret In Their Eyes, Blackhat, Legend, Son Of Saul, Dreams Rewired, Love The Coopers, Joy, Krampus, 45 Years, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Concussion, Point Break


TOP TEN (In Alphabetical Order):

Let me note I feel less strong about this top ten than usual, and a lot of the films listed above as "good" could easily have made it on a different day.

Ant-Man

When I heard they were making this film, I thought it was a joke.  Instead, it became the best action film of the year--with real action (and a good sense of humor).

Faults

A small film that featured powerful performances and a went in directions you don't necessarily see coming.

Inside Out

Somewhere in the middle for Pixar, which is good enough for the top ten this year.

Korla

It helped that I knew next to nothing about the Godfather of Exotica.  It's quite a story, and plenty of great old footage.

Man Up

A romantic comedy mixed with farce, that actually had some juice.  No classic, but with so many romantic comedies forgetting the second half of that phrase, it reminds you the genre can be fun.

Room

A dramatic concept (from a book I hadn't read) that is really two movies in one, both of which work.

Tangerine

Shot on an iPhone just a few blocks from where I live, this story of two transvestite prostitutes on Christmas Eve showed movies don't need money to tell a story (though money is nice).

The Walk

No one wanted to see this--I guess they either felt they knew the story or were afraid they'd get vertigo. But, in general, it was the most charming film of the year.

What We Do In The Shadows

Just when you think there are no more twists in the vampire genre, we get this smart mock documentary.  Excellent character work.

When Marnie Was There

It's odd how so often drawings can elicit more emotions than actual actors.

Golden Years

Word had just come out that David Bowie has died.  A great figure of the rock era, he just celebrated his 69th birthday, as we noted a few days ago.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it

The paper, How Current Loops and Solenoids Curve Space-time, expresses the scientist’s frustration at the passive studies of gravitational fields.

web page hit counter