Friday, January 17, 2014

PRIDE OF KNOWLEDGE GAPS: On Twitter tonight, we got into a discussion of Flowers In The Attic and how few of us have actually read it, and there was a request for a thread for folks to confess/disclose famous/infamous works of "literature" (and I use that term loosely) that they have never read.  As in the past, once we've got some suggestions, I'll set up a Doodle poll, and we'll see what our readership hasn't read.  In addition to Flowers, I'll offer another oddball gap for me--I've never read any George Owell--high school teachers didn't assign 1984 or Animal Farm, and I've never felt compelled to read them as an adult.  Shameful, I know.  (I also only got to Great Gatsby when it was serialized in the NYT a few years ago.)
TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN:I finished seeing all the major Oscar nominees today with Wolf of Wall Street, and figure folks might want some space to talk about it.  As for me, I thought the performances were very good (especially DiCaprio and Margot Robbie), but the film as a whole didn't entirely work--there wasn't a strong enough narrative arc--either it needed to be a caper kind of film where we expressly root for the "bad guys" (a la American Hustle) or we needed to devote more time to the "cop" side of the story.  I did want to address two things that have come up in much criticism:

1.  "The Movie Is Morally Repugnant/Approving of Belfort's Conduct"--It's absolutely true that there's no moral authority figure in the film (or at least not a prominent one), aside from Kyle Chandler's underdeveloped FBI Agent, nor does Belfort get a substantial comeuppance in the end (though he does go to prison for 4 years).  I think this Jezebel piece does a good job of articulating what I think Scorsese was probably trying for, though I'm not sure how effective it is.  I'm sure that there will be folks who watch it and take the wrong message, but that's true of a lot of things.

2.  "The Movie Is Too Long"--This is absolutely true--at 3 hours, the level of debauchery is almost numbing, and an assuredly highly-expensive sojurn to Europe and shipwreck scene could easily have been cut with basically no harm to the film.  (In addition, at 3 hours plus trailers, it tests the human bladder--never a fun thing.)  However, Scorsese has claimed to have had difficulty cutting it down from four hours, and there's clearly stuff left on the cutting room floor (I'm assuming McConaughey's part was originally a fair bit larger, as was Rob Reiner's).  I wonder what it would have looked like as a 6 week "limited series event" on HBO, sort of like how they did Angels In America.  Spend an hour with Belfort's introduction to the world of stocks through him finding penny stocks, an hour with the rise of Stratton Oakmont, an hour with the Steve Madden IPO, an hour with the European sojurn, an hour ending with Belfort agreeing to turn informer, and an hour final epilogue.  By breaking it over 6 weeks, you don't have the sensory overload.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

TIME ENOUGH TO BUILD THAT BRIDGE TO HAWAI'I:  The Professor has died.  No idea he could have lived so long to be dead only now.  The premorse is strong here.
CLEARLY, HE'S CHECKING IN ON HIS BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY INVESTMENTS:  Peyton Manning explains his favorite audible.
CALL THE FOLKS AT PRICE WATERHOUSE: So, Oscar nominations are out, and we have things both non-shocking (lead nominees include Gravity, American Hustle, and 12 Years A Slave), and things more surprising (not a single nomination for one-time frontrunner Lee Daniels' The Butler, and only lower category recognition for Saving Mr. Banks (just a score nomination), and Prisoners (just a cinematography nomination)).  A few other things of note:
  • If one could have bet in September on Captain Phillips getting a Supporting Actor nomination for Abdi, as well as picture and screenplay nominations, but Hanks not being in, I expect one would have made a pretty penny today.
  • The power of Meryl compels you to nominate her, even for the not-particularly well-received August: Osage County (and her power is strong enough to get Roberts a nomination as well), and the power of Marty Scorsese is powerful enough to get the highly polarizing Wolf of Wall Street in for all the major categories it had a shot at.
  • Her was clearly much more of a darling of the writers than it was of the actors--no acting nomination for Phoenix, but a Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay nomination.
  • Most competitive category?  Supporting Actress, where I can plausibly see 4/5 nominees winning--the one exception would be Sally Hawkins, for whom a win would shock me.
  • I think it's likely we're going to see a pretty spread out year, with Gravity (rightly) dominating the technical awards and Director, but the acting awards going all over the place (my best guess would be McConaughey, Blanchett, Leto, Lawrence at this point).

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

MAE YOUNG (1924-2014): Given how much I've written in the past about the WWE's problems with so many wrestlers dying young**, it's worth paying tribute to Mae Young, who passed away yesterday at the age of 90. Young started as a "girl wrestler" at age 15 in 1939, and remained active with occasional appearances even until the past few months, nine consecutive decades of performing. By the end, she was the much-beloved Tough Old Broad of the organization, willing to take a bump, make a joke, show up for a bikini contest, do what it took to entertain the fans. This tribute video will give some flavor for why she was so beloved.

** One which seems to have abated over the past few years with increased attention to the PED-painkiller nexus.
FOURTH TRY IS THE CHARM: Based on the photo, it appears that the next effort at creating The Greatest Event In Television History will be Adam Scott and Paul Rudd filling the shoes of Bosom Buddies.
"DOISANNT" IS STILL APPARENTLY AVAILABLE:  "Cronut" is now a federally registered trademark, so you're going to have to think harder for the name of your next pastry-spawn.
ARE WE GOING TO GET AN AMERIKA REBOOT?  Because miniseries are becoming increasingly common (and because networks have created things like American Horror Story, True Detective, and Fargo, which straddle the line between miniseries and series), the Emmys are going to deconsolidate TV Movie and Miniseries into separate categories again. I'm guessing HBO pushed this one pretty hard, so it doesn't have to deal with True Detective and Normal Heart competing with each other in the acting categories.
PULL OUT THE WABAC:OK, let's journey 5 years into the past--which of these statements would have seemed most implausible then?
  • Jimmy Fallon will (a) take over The Tonight Show and (b) critics and the hip young audience will eagerly anticipate him doing so.
  • Andy Samberg will be starring in and winning awards for a critically admired sitcom on Fox.
  • Matthew McConaughey is an Oscar frontrunner.
THIS IS....OF MARGINAL RELEVANCE:I've never been much for any of the talent shows that have proliferated on television, but American Idol returns for a 13th season tonight.  Do we care about a show that hasn't produced a "Superstar" since Carrie Underwood?

Monday, January 13, 2014

DO LITTLE BEARS, LIKE LITTLE LAMBS, EAT IVY?  Awww ... the Chicago Cubs have a mascot, Clark the Cub. I'm sure that'll fix everything.
A LONG JOURNEY TO A FAMILIAR DESTINATION:  Yes, it took 264 football games to figure out that the penultimate weekend should feature Seattle-San Francisco III and Brady-Manning XV, and Mike Tanier is On It.

[How long ago was Brady-Manning I?  The iPod had yet to be introduced, Zoolander was a new release that weekend, and the Houston Astros were in first place in the NL Central.]

Sunday, January 12, 2014

U.S. FIGURE SKATING GOES BCS?  Well, that's one explanation for why skating officials today decided to bypass last night's women's championship results to place Ashley Wagner, the 4th-place finisher who fell twice during her long program, on the Olympic team over 3rd-place Mirai Nagasu.
COVERED:  Tom Junod's "An Ode to Waffle House":
So what makes Waffle Houses so great? Well, like many other Southern institutions, Waffle House overcompensates. Just as your big Southern university overcompensates for the SAT scores of its students by playing some kickass SEC football, Waffle House overcompensates for its bitter brew by serving truly delicious fountain products, including the best made-from-syrup Cherry Cokes extant in these United States, with free refills yet. It overcompensates for serving frozen, grated hash-brown potatoes by a) keeping them on the grill until they form a golden crust, thereby making them a perfect delivery system for the salt grains you can hear bouncing around on their surface when you shake the shaker, and b) serving them a dozen ways... All I know is that by the time Waffle House gets through with the variations on its frozen potatoes, it has made frozen potatoes into what Italians have made pasta, i.e., the bedrock of an entire culinary universe. And that's how Waffle House works, in general. Its menu is narrow the way the selection of notes in "The Goldberg Variations" is narrow.