Wednesday, December 30, 2009

End of the Aughts: TV

We had a list of thirty movies but TV will be a bit more exhaustive for a couple of reasons. First, I spent a lot of time on movies when I did my RB100 a few months ago. Second, I have no doubt that the Aughts have been the best decade ever for TV. The emergence of quality original cable programming, especially on premium channels, expanded the offerings and allowed for the type of content that would never have made it on the networks, both due to a relative lack of censorship and a relatively high amount of patience as shows get off the ground. The idea that a show could have a long story arc that covered one or multiple seasons revolutionized the story-telling ability of shows' creators. Plus, HD! It's been a great decade, better than I realized when I started to put together this list and probably better than you realize, too. I forgot about some of the shows I compiled or thought they had been on in the '90s.

The methodology: I took a list from Wikipedia of every American show that debuted in 1999 or the 2000s. The shows had to have most of their episodes air in this decade or have been on the air the entire decade in order to qualify. I added some shows that weren't on the list, mostly because they began airing earlier than 1999 or were on the BBC. I then cut the list down to every show with which I deemed myself to have logged a significant amount of time. I also eliminated any new shows like Community or FlashForward, because it's just too soon. For most shows that means I've watched most or all of the episodes, especially if it's a show with a long story arc. For some reality or game shows (it'll be apparent which ones I mean), it could be just a few episodes, but long enough to get a feel for what the show was all about. There are three omissions that I could see as major: The Simpsons (the Maude Flanders episode aired on 2/13/2000 and the show was dead to me after that), Malcolm in the Middle (I don't remember watching regularly enough), and Spaced (didn't qualify, since only seven of its fourteen episodes aired in 2001 and the others aired in 1999).

Rather than cutting the list at thirty, I decided to run the whole thing. Fifty-five shows. Seems like a lot, but it's very, very small compared to the number of shows I don't watch. Many of these I don't watch that regularly, many have been off the air for a while. So, leaving out talk shows but combining every other genre into one list, I give you:

The Top 55 TV Shows of the Aughts:
  • 55. Blind Date (Syndication, 1999-2006): Not necessarily bad to be last on the list, since there a number of shows that I watched, but gave up on quickly (Fringe, Deadwood). If it's on the list, I actually enjoyed watching it to some extent. Blind Date is notable for the graphics and how it made fun of the "contestants". The kind of schadenfreude that would be en vogue throughout the decade.
  • 54. Deal or No Deal (NBC and Syndication, 2005-Present): Yes, it got old fast. Yes, the contestants were the most annoying people in the world and the "banker" was laughable. But this game was actually fascinating for a bit, in terms of the math and psychology behind how the offers changed and were accepted or rejected.
  • 53. Joe Millionaire (Fox, 2003): Didn't watch the second season, but the first season was everything I hoped it would be. The construction worker, Evan Marriott, was a good guy and most of the girls made fools of themselves for various reasons. It only worked once, but it was fun.
  • 52. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Fox, 2008-09): It was uneven, but there were some very good episodes, especially towards the end of its run, thanks to some nice work from Brian Austin Green as a resistance fighter from the future.
  • 51. Robot Chicken (Cartoon Network, 2005-Present): How about an eleven-minute show? Quick hits of comedy, no thinking involved.
  • 50. Cash Cab (Discovery, 2005-Present): Comedian Ben Bailey -- who had a great guest turn in a one-season show that didn't make the list, Knights of Prosperity -- as cabbie/quiz show host. A great show for the gym or when you only have ten minutes to watch something.
  • 49. Kid Nation (CBS, 2007): I've written about this at length. I understand, considering the child labor controversies, why the network had to cancel it. But it was engrossing and one of the most unintentionally funny shows ever (thanks, in part, to To Catch a Predator, which isn't on the list, because that would be wrong).
  • 48. Undeclared (Fox, 2001-02): Judd Apatow was one of the big names in film this decade, but he made this and, well, some other show first. The same comedy we'd come to find in movies like Knocked Up, but with a younger Seth Rogen and Jason Segel.
  • 47. Futurama (Fox, 1999-2003; Comedy Central, 2008-Present): Granted, I haven't watched the new episodes on Comedy Central, but the first few seasons were pretty good.
  • 46. The Biggest Loser (NBC, 2004-Present): I don't want to like this show, with its egregious product placement and its ability to stretch time to fill space, but it's hard to hate. Bob Harper is awesome and the live season finales are fun to watch because they are so chaotic and poorly managed.
  • 45. Rome (HBO, 2005-07): One of the first shows to be significantly better in HD, thanks to its color schemes and battle scenes. Not consistently strong, but very, very good in spots.
  • 44. 90210 (The CW, 2008-Present): I don't believe in guilty pleasures. This show is damn enjoyable on its own merit, especially since every show but this one needs to be more and more intellectual these days.
  • 43. Family Guy (Fox, 1999-2002, 2005-Present): It's not always good, but it's sometimes great. It's just too dumb most of the time, but the smart, satirical episodes are worth catching on Hulu.
  • 42. The Boondocks (Cartoon Network, 2005-Present): I think it took James Cameron less time to make Avatar than it takes Aaron McGruder to put out new episodes of this show, but they're worth it.
  • 41. The Colbert Report (Comedy Central, 2005-Present): When it first started, I figured it was a one-note joke that would be amusing for a short time. It's become an institution.
  • 40. Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO, 2003-Present): With endless cable news networks having to fill endless hours with an endless number of talking heads, Bill Maher cut right through all of the crap to provide an actual honest place for news opinions. I'm continually amazed at what the guests on his show, especially elected officials, will say or put up with. I imagine this is because of the atmosphere that Maher is able to create.
  • 39. Alias (ABC, 2001-06): The first two seasons of this J.J. Abrams show were awesome. By the last one, it got so bad that I've yet to see the last few episodes. But, who cared at that point? Abrams had come out with another show that, heh, may or may not be on this list.
  • 38. Heroes (NBC, 2006-Present): I'm trying to look critically at these shows and it doesn't help that I've yet to watch one episode of the fourth season, nor can I work up the motivation to do so. I don't give up on shows easily. The first season was awesome, though.
  • 37. 30 Days (FX, 2005-08): I had Super Size Me on the list last night and this show expanded upon Morgan Spurlock's looks at modern society. There aren't many shows whose cancellation I lamented more.
  • 36. Flight of the Conchords (HBO, 2007-09): The story of Jemaine and Bret and their trials and travails as Kiwi folk musicians in New York. It's officially over now, but it was great while it lasted.
  • 35. Extras (HBO, 2005-07): The thing about this show is how Ricky Gervais was able to get the huge guest stars to make fools out of themselves. Ian McKellen as an uber-gay playwright? Kate Winslet giving advice on phone sex? Patrick Stewart and Daniel Radcliffe as womanizers?
  • 34. The Soup (E!, 2004-Present): The show was rebranded to follow in Talk Soup's footsteps, but it was originally its own show. A must-watch every week.
  • 33. Monk (USA, 2002-09): It is very formulaic, so the first season is probably the best because the show was still fresh. Tony Shalhoub was so good in this role that it was worth watching just for him.
  • 32. Big Love (HBO, 2006-Present): An adult, complicated show that probably makes most of us think that all Mormons have multiple wives. Yes, there are some boring stretches, but it can also be as good as almost any other show when it's hitting its stride. It was really hitting its stride as the last season ended, so I'm really looking forward to the new season that starts next week.
  • 31. Weeds (Showtime, 2005-Present): It's totally a chick show disguised as an adult comedy, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it for the first three seasons. I've really disliked the last two seasons, except for any time Andy (Justin Kirk) is taking the lead. But those first three were excellent.
  • 30. Entourage (HBO, 2004-Present): So very, very flawed, but it can be so very, very good. It has so little true plot, but it shines when the writers actually decide to introduce adversity.
  • 29. How I Met Your Mother (CBS, 2005-Present): I have major problems with the frame story on this show, but the chemistry between the five stars drives a very funny show. Funny enough to overcome a laugh track, which is saying something.
  • 28. South Park (Comedy Central, 1997-Present): It keeps ticking away and putting out poignant, funny episodes. I know many people would put this much higher, but I barely watch it. Considering I watch a fair amount of TV, there has to be a reason I don't make sure I see every episode.
  • 27. My Name Is Earl (NBC, 2005-09): The jail and subsequent coma plots were pretty weak, but the episodes still had funny parts. The overall premise and the first season were fantastic. "Our Cops is on!" is one of my favorite comedic episodes of any show this decade.
  • 26. Arrested Development (Fox, 2003-06): "Cult show" means you weren't popular, and obviously it wasn't. But it was freaking funny, especially Will Arnett and David Cross.
  • 25. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX, 2005-Present): This is the sitcom we would write if we could write a sitcom. A bunch of guys (seriously, even Sweet Dee is basically a guy) who do despicable things. Simple and hilarious.
  • 24. MythBusters (Discovery, 2003-Present): Don't sleep! Probably the most fun show on TV.
  • 23. Battlestar Galactica (SciFi, 2004-09): Brilliantly written and deeply nuanced. Until the finale, at least. The pacing was weak at times, which makes this the perfect show to watch on DVD so you can see what's going to happen next even if you go through a run of episodes that don't advance the larger story.
  • 22. Pushing Daisies (ABC, 2007-09): I really loved this quirky, well-produced show. It was funnier and edgier than you'd think and the use of color was so good as to be Burton-esque.
  • 21. Freaks and Geeks (NBC, 1999-2000): Only five of the eighteen episodes aired in 1999. Eighteen episodes and it made #21 on this list. It launched the careers of stars that have just gotten big over the last few years, like Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, and James Franco. When you look up "before its time" in the encyclopedia, you find this show. It's the same type of humor that has made Judd Apatow so popular, just five or six years too early.
  • 20. Dexter (Showtime, 2006-Present): Even though there were edgy shows on TV in the late '90s, it's hard to imagine a show this profane and bloody. The first season is brilliant and, to be honest, you could stop there and be happy. The second was okay, the third and fourth much better, ending in a much-talked-about fourth season finale that will completely change the show. A lot of it comes down to the acting. Michael C. Hall is as good as anyone right now, but the seasons are strongest when the guest stars are strong, such as Jimmy Smits in the third and John Lithgow in the fourth.
  • 19. Pardon The Interruption (2001-Present): Simply, it has revolutionized sports television. Sure, maybe that's been for the worse in the long run, but this show has continued to be as good as ever, thanks to the dynamic between its two hosts.
  • 18. Da Ali G Show (HBO, 2003-04): Sacha Baron Cohen's no-stone-left-unmocked satire. What is it with British shows only being on for two seasons? Such a shame.
  • 17. The Daily Show (Comedy Central, 1996-Present): It changed journalism, period. Jon Stewart started in 1999 and had the best decade of any news guy. He made fun of Bush, he called out the government on torture, he used comedy to point out the problems with our society. One list of the best shows of the decade had this at #2. I disagree, but I understand.
  • 16. Grey's Anatomy (ABC, 2005-Present): I dislike almost every character and I complain about how unrealistic the show is, but I keep watching and enjoying. The show makes you invested, thanks to its great writing and fully fleshed-out character development.
  • 15. American Idol (Fox, 2002-Present): I'm not sure that any other show on this list has affected American culture the way this one has. It is an event program, the ultimate water-cooler show.
  • 14. The Amazing Race (CBS, 2001-Present): It's rarely as suspenseful as you think it's going to be and the suspense is often contrived, but it excels when the suspense is real. The real star is the world, as the show does a great job of showing off other cultures and how the racers interact with them. I'm sure there are logistical issues, but this show suffers more than any other from not being in HD.
  • 13. House (Fox, 2004-Present): Much like with Monk, it's formulaic but it has a great actor that makes the show perpetually worthwhile. It's much better than Monk though, and it's not quite as formulaic. Hugh Laurie's House and Robert Sean Leonard's Wilson are so good together that, while the show is based on the Sherlock Holmes stories, the new Sherlock Holmes steals their Holmes-Watson dynamic from this show's House-Wilson one.
  • 12. Friday Night Lights (NBC and The 101 Network, 2006-Present): I'm eighteen episodes into the twenty-two episode first season. Yes, I understand the second season is awful. But I've heard the third and fourth are much better and the first is just that good. Where the movie failed the book by being only about football, the show tackles the book's more important themes, like education, race, and the kids' futures. The kids themselves are great and the football is as realistic as you'll find, but the real delight here is the chemistry between Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton. The looks, the way the lines are delivered; you'd think they were actually a married couple.
  • 11. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (CBS, 2000-Present): The granddaddy of the rash of crime procedural dramas that have infested the airwaves, this show is still going strong. Perpetually underrated, able to survive the loss of their charismatic star, never afraid to try something out. It's so popular that it could rest on its laurels and churn out the same episode over and over, but it doesn't. That deserves a lot of credit.
  • 10. The Office (BBC Two, 2001-03): Yes, the real one. It's quite possible that Ricky Gervais is the funniest man in entertainment right now and it started with his portrayal of David Brent. It consisted of only twelve episodes and a two-episode series finale, but it looms large over almost all other sitcoms of the decade. The piece de resistance was the ending of the finale. "Never give up." So good.
  • 9. 30 Rock (NBC, 2006-Present): It has the smart kind of humor that Arrested Development had, but it came around at the right time to stay on the air and win award after award. The whole cast is funny, but I could watch Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin play off of each other all day.
  • 8. Chappelle's Show (Comedy Central, 2003-2006): It had a great, groundbreaking two seasons. Two seasons that were as funny and as brilliant as could be. It set a new bar for what's funny on television. Two amazing seasons. A third would have been one too many.
  • 7. 24 (Fox, 2001-Present): It, more than any other show, benefitted from the post-9/11 mentality. You think people weren't okay with the US torturing people because they had already seen Jack Bauer do it for years? The country wanted a superhero to protect us and they got Jack. It's had some weak seasons, but it's had more strong ones. How many people have spent sleepless nights watching episode after episode on DVD? "Just one more! I just want to see what happens next!"
  • 6. Lost (ABC, 2004-Present): I've written about this show ad nauseum. Everyone has. You won't be able to escape it come February 2. The best thing I can say about the movie Up In The Air is that it is as deep as you are willing to let it be. For all of the crazy peripheral stuff around Lost, that is true of this show. It's just that it's so much more fun to dig and dig and dig.
  • 5. Mad Men (AMC, 2007-Present): I'll let the review I wrote before the third season started speak for itself. The third season was just as good as the first two. The third season finale was as good as TV gets. Who ever thought a show on some third-rate basic cable network that would never have survived, or even been picked up, by a major network could influence fashion and culture the way this one can?
  • 4. Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO, 2000-Present): Larry David's adventures through life annoy us, teach us, worry us, make us uncomfortable. I not only think it's the funniest show ever, but its Season Four episode "The Survivor" is the funniest single episode ever. I laugh out loud when I even think about this show.
  • 3. Survivor (CBS, 2000-Present): If you hate reality TV, blame it on Survivor. In its own way, it may be the most influential show of the decade. Nobody had really ever thought about voting people off a show in this way before. It's hard to imagine that, but it's the truth. That first season changed everything and, eighteen "seasons" later, it continues to shine. There have been some bad iterations, but they are few and they haven't happened for a while. The casting has been superb as of late.
  • 2. The Sopranos (HBO, 1999-2007): With only the possible exception of Idol, it's the most talked-about show of the decade. The ending is still being pondered. It influenced the art of long-form stories in drama shows. It brought a more artistic form to TV. It was as frank as any show had been up to that point. It had some weak episodes, maybe even seasons, but it was as good as anything else when it was at the top of its game. It may not have been the first original show on HBO, but it completely revolutionized cable programming and television in general.
  • 1. The Wire (HBO, 2002-08): It's so difficult to gush about The Sopranos but have it as only my #2 show. Well, it's only but so difficult because of the following fact. The Wire is the greatest TV show of all time. Period. The Sopranos may not actually be that close. Nothing is as deep, as nuanced, as flat-out honest. It took a modern city and looked at every facet of its being. It not only turned a mirror on us to examine the society we've built, it put a gun to our head and screamed at us to face up to who we are. It never held back, it never came up short, it never failed. It went places in its fourth season, generally considered the best season of any show ever, that we could never have imagined a show would be brave enough to go. This has been the best decade of TV ever and this show reigns supreme.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

End of the Aughts: Movies

This isn't really a list of the best movies of the decade or my favorite movies of the decade. It's more a list of what I'd call the "essential" movies of the Aughts. The movies that affected pop culture and stand out as maybe the most cherished or most remembered. There's an argument to make for "guilty pleasure" movies (like Drumline; Euro Trip; Dude, Where's My Car?), but they don't make the list. Hard to explain because there was no science here, just a sniff test as to what movies felt "right". The rankings come from a mix of everything, so once a movie was on the list, quality could push it up higher. No sequels allowed, except for one obvious series that's here as a whole, because influence played a big role in my decisions and no sequel can be but so influential because they're only but so original. So, my top thirty movies of the decade (I'm sure there will be disagreements, so please air them out in the comments):

  • 30. Finding Neverland (2004): Marc Forster's adaptation of Allan Knee's play about the friendship that inspired Peter Pan. Pirates of the Caribbean propelled Johnny Depp to uber-stardom in 2003 and this film cemented that by garnering him his second consecutive Best Actor nomination.
  • 29. Unbreakable (2000): Was The Sixth Sense a fluke or could Shyamalan follow it up with another great film? In 2000, we couldn't have known to what heights superhero films were about to be propelled, but this first one of the decade snuck up on us and set its writer/director's place in the Hollywood elite.
  • 28. Avatar (2009): The newest movie on the list is here for the influence it will have on cinema in the future. So well done that I'm actually starting to hear quite a bit of Best Picture buzz.
  • 27. Garden State (2004): Yes, this hit me in the right time of life -- right after I finished grad school and right before I got married -- but I gather that this movie had the knack of doing that for a lot of people of my age. It also dropped one of the best movie soundtracks ever.
  • 26. Super Size Me (2004): Tell me this, the only documentary on my list, didn't have a significant impact on pop culture. Some might say that An Inconvenient Truth deserves the title as most important documentary of the decade, but it was just a freaking lecture!
  • 25. Napoleon Dynamite (2004): Wow, 2004 wasn't too bad. Jared Hess's bone-dry comedy that came out of nowhere.
  • 24. American Psycho (2000): Christian Bale's stepping stone to super-stardom.
  • 23. Pan's Labyrinth (2006): Beautiful, beautiful movie. Guillermo del Toro deserves recognition for this visual masterpiece.
  • 22. Best in Show (2000): 2000 was also pretty good. The UK (read: real) version of The Office premiered in 2001. Does that become as big if this movie hadn't brought the "mockumentary" format back to light?
  • 21. Remember the Titans (2000): Disney made out like bandits this decade with what I like to call their "chick flick sports movies." None were as big as this one, which started the whole trend.
  • 20. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000): The highest-grossing foreign language film ever and beautifully shot. It made Ang Lee famous enough to get Hulk made, but don't hold that against it.
  • 19. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003): A big decade for Disney as they defied the "all-movies-based-on-theme-park-rides-are-garbage" conventional wisdom to unleash an epic action film for the whole family.
  • 18. Shrek (2001): As Pixar changed the face of animation, DreamWorks showed they could do it, too.
  • 17. Spider-Man (2002): None of the other big superhero movies of the decade happen unless this one is as good and as successful as it was.
  • 16. Finding Nemo (2003): Toy Story was cute, but Pixar made the first truly great computer-animated film. But not the last, by a long shot.
  • 15. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004): This isn't my top comedy of the decade -- I'm hoping the top one is reasonably obvious -- but why? It was the "oop" to Old School's "Alley-" to make Will Ferrell a superstar. It wasn't the same kind of "gross-out" comedy as Knocked Up or The 40-Year-Old Virgin or The Hangover, but it still managed to push the comedy envelope. I guess that's it -- it didn't push the envelope quite as much as my top comedy, but we'll get there.
  • 14. Ocean's Eleven (2001): Coolest movie of the decade.
  • 13. Inglourious Basterds (2009): Upon consideration, the movie theater scene is, yes, my single favorite scene from any movie of the Aughts. It is among the most glorious and exhilarating scenes I've ever seen on film.
  • 12. Little Miss Sunshine (2006): The buzz on this coming out of Sundance was immense and yet it lived up to the hype. How did this movie not immediately get picked up by a major distributor?
  • 11. Catch Me If You Can (2002): Spielberg deserves a mention here for putting out a lot of good (AI, War of the Worlds, yes, Indiana Jones) to great (Munich, Minority Report) films in this decade, but I'll go with this one. It's probably the best and it's certainly the most fun to watch. Who could not love this movie?
  • 10. Memento (2000): I think it's (no pun intended) surprisingly easy to forget this one because a) it came out so long ago, and b) it was only the first of the great movie after great movie that Christopher Nolan has put out this decade.
  • 9. Slumdog Millionaire (2008): Best feel-good movie of the decade. The kind of movie that might win a lot of awards in a time when, say, people are feeling pretty depressed and unsettled about their economic situations.
  • 8. Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001): The third of three foreign films on the list. The only other foreign film I pondered was City of God (which I'm mentioning because it deserves it). Director Alfonso Cuaron also made the best Harry Potter film (Prisoner of Azkaban) and the criminally underappreciated Children of Men.
  • 7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004): Of all of the stars of cinema this decade, writer Charlie Kaufman was one of the most underrated. This film tops a lot of "best of" lists because of its script and because it's totally not cool to like big movies.
  • 6. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006): This one pushed the envelope. How far? Nobody will be able to duplicate it. Ever. Sacha Baron Cohen invented a new type of movie and then laid the genre to rest. Anything from now on will not be as successful technically and will only be copying this one. Also, while Anchorman may be the best-made actual comedy of the decade, this one is the funniest movie of the decade. I'd like to see someone try to argue that.
  • 5. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000): The Coen Brothers deserve representation and they've also had a pretty good decade. Besides this and their Best Picture winner, they've put out The Man Who Wasn't There, Intolerable Cruelty, The Ladykillers, Burn After Reading, and A Serious Man. All very strong. This one gets the nod because it helped cement Clooney as one of the leading men in Hollywood and it even made Bluegrass music popular for a second.
  • 4. Mystic River (2003): It would have won Best Picture in any other year. It also put Clint Eastwood into the directorial elite and he has earned that place well since then.
  • 3. WALL-E (2008): Much like Avatar, this will mean more in five years than it does now. It opened up the idea of a dramatic animated film.
  • 2. The Lord of the Rings (2001, 2002, 2003): The great epic achievement in film for the decade must rank among the greatest ever. To spend that much money making three movies of those lengths at the same time, and to succeed? It may seem like a no-brainer now because they were so successful, but that's a heck of a risk for a studio and a not that well-known director to take.
  • 1. Gladiator (2000): The first epic film of the decade, the first Best Picture winner, the movie that vaulted Russell Crowe into superstardom, the movie that unleashed a cliche that has been beaten to death by football players. When I think of movies in the Aughts, this is the movie I think of.

I can see complaints about leaving off Almost Famous (not that big a fan). The last few cut from the list were the aforementioned City of God, V for Vendetta, and Stranger Than Fiction. Have at it.

Monday, December 28, 2009

End Of The Aughts: Sports

A half-assed attempt at the best sports stuff at the decade because I'm spending more time on movies and TV. Who needs any more lists of any kind, especially sports ones? Just play the games! Here are a few:

Best Athlete:

  • 10. Randy Moss
  • 9. LaDainian Tomlinson
  • 8. Michael Phelps
  • 7. LeBron James
  • 6. Albert Pujols
  • 5. Kobe Bryant
  • 4. Tom Brady
  • 3. Peyton Manning
  • 2. Lance Armstrong
  • 1. Tiger Woods

Best Team:

  • 5. 2009 New York Yankees
  • 4. 2007-08 Boston Celtics
  • 3. 2006-07 Indianapolis Colts
  • 2. 2001-02 New England Patriots
  • 1. 2004 Boston Red Sox

Best Sports Moment(s):

  • 5. Michael Phelps' Win in the 100m Butterfly, 2008 Olympics
  • 4. Jack Buck's Poem, 1st Game after 9/11
  • 3. Luis Gonzalez's Game-Winning Hit in 2001 World Series Game 7
  • 2. Tom Brady's Game-Winning Drive in Super Bowl XXXVI
  • 1. 2004 ALCS

Best Game:

  • 5. 2009 Big East Semi-Final (Syracuse vs. Connecticut)
  • 4. 2008 NCAA Final (Kansas vs. Memphis)
  • 3. Game 6, 2009 NBA First Round (Bulls vs. Celtics)
  • 2. Super Bowl XXXIV (Rams vs. Titans)
  • 1. Game 7, 2001 World Series (Yankees vs. Diamondbacks)

Any thoughts?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

16 Down, 1 To Go

Thanks to Denver's loss to Philadelphia, the Ravens are going to find a way to sneak into the playoffs. They need to beat Oakland next week, but as frustrating as the Ravens are against good teams, they always beat up on the bad ones. Looks like the Jets are in the 5th seed if they win. After them, the pecking order for the 6th seed goes Baltimore, Houston, Pittsburgh, Denver. Decent shot -- with the Jets hosting the Bengals and the Texans hosting the Patriots -- that the Ravens and Steelers will both make the playoffs. The crappiest thing is that both of them would have a shot to make a little noise. I'm really sick of how undisciplined this Ravens team is. I don't know when it started, but they're pretty annoying.

Starting tomorrow, the best of the Aughts. Monday: sports; Tuesday: movies; Wednesday: TV; Thursday: catch-all.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


I need to get cracking on the end-of-decade stuff (crammed in the last 24 hours with TV shows -- five episodes of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and ten episodes of Friday Night Lights, along with finally seeing Up), so I'm going to quickly throw out my awards for what was a fairly lame year. It went by quickly and the best thing you can say is that, after January 20 and other than Michael Jackson's death, the biggest thing that happened was that the economy wasn't quite so catastrophically awful as it had been. So, here:
  • Athlete of the Year: Joe Mauer. He put up ridiculous numbers and nobody else really stands out.
  • Team of the Year: New York Yankees. It has to be, unfortunately.
  • Moment of the Year: The Inauguration. Being there was amazing.
  • Not-As-Big Moment of the Year: Michael Jackson's death. Everything stopped for a while, very eerie.
  • Joke of the Year: Kanye interrupting Taylor Swift. Sure, the Tiger Woods thing has legs, but there hasn't been one joke that has been run into the ground as much as "I'ma let you finish..."
  • Best New TV Show of the Year: Community.
  • TV Quote of the Year: "I'll spend the rest of my life trying to hire you." (Don Draper on Mad Men) Honorable mentions include: "Very good, happy Christmas." (Lane Pryce on Mad Men) "Danny Duberstein knows two things: math and f***ing." (Leon on Curb Your Enthusiasm) "There are only two ways to hurt your neck..." (Larry on Curb Your Enthusiasm)
  • TV Episode of the Year: The season finale of Mad Men, among the best single episodes of any TV drama ever. Honorable mentions to the season premiere of House, the vacuum-sealed plastic episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and the season finale of Lost.
  • TV Show of the Year: I suppose, in light of the previous two categories, that it must be Mad Men. Surprise!
  • TV Comeback of the Year: 24. Risen from the dead like Jack himself has done so many times.
  • Movie Acting Performance of the Year: Christoph Waltz as the Jew Hunter in Inglorious Basterds. Honorable mentions include: George Clooney in Up in the Air, Matt Damon in The Informant!, Vera Formiga in Up in the Air, Robert Downey, Jr. in Sherlock Holmes
  • Movie Moment of the Year: The theater scene in Inglorious Basterds. That's going to challenge for movie moment of the decade. Honorable mentions include: the photo montage at the end of The Hangover, the first fifteen minutes of Up, the first scene of Inglorious Basterds.
  • Worst Movie of the Year: The Goods and nothing comes close (with the caveat that I haven't yet seen the three movies from 2009 on that Worst of the Worst list).
  • Prettiest Movie of the Year: I needed some way to put Avatar in here and say again: Go freaking see it in 3D!
  • Top 5 Movies of the Year (from #5 to #1): Up, The Hangover, District 9, Up in the Air, Inglorious Basterds. Honorable mentions include: Avatar, Star Trek, A Serious Man.

I'm probably forgetting things because I sped through this with little prep time. More to come this week.

Sherlock Holmes

Quick review of my Christmas movie for the year, Sherlock Holmes. Really quick. The movie is exactly what I thought it would be going in. No better, no worse. There's a lot to be said for something not being disappointing, so I'm not even angry that it didn't surprise me on the positive side. If you like the kind of movie you assume this one to be, you'll like the movie. I did.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Worst of the Worst: #91, Surviving Christmas

I've now seen sixteen movies on Rotten Tomatoes' list of the worst films of the decade and they have ranged from inane (Corky Romano) to offensively bad (3 Strikes), but Surviving Christmas, #91, is the first film on the list that just missed actually being good. You'd think that would leave a film as merely mediocre, but the badness is in how good is barely missed. That "how" can be summed up in one word: Affleck.

Surviving Christmas is about a young millionaire (Affleck) who won't talk about his family and has no friends, except for his girlfriend (Jennifer Morrison). Complaining about not spending Christmas with her family, she leaves him and he tries to find a way to not be alone. He ends up at the house in which he was raised, but the family there (James Gandolfini, Catherine O'Hara, and some kid) are not happy about him snooping around their house. Affleck decides to pay them $250,000 if they will pretend to be his family for the holiday. A contract is drawn up and hilarity is supposed to ensue. After some of those attempts at hilarity, the family's older daughter (Christina Applegate) arrives home and immediately hates the situation and wants Affleck gone. Things are confused even more when the girlfriend shows up and everyone has to pretend it's all a real family. I'll leave you to wonder about whether or not Affleck and Applegate end up falling in love and the whole family learns the real meaning of Christmas.

The real problem here is that Affleck just can't act, certainly not as the lead in a movie. He's fine throwing around Kevin Smith's dialogue as long as he has Matt Damon or Jason Lee to give it back. Affleck should never be the one going across the country to see about a girl. He should always be the one who trudges through life and is happy to find that his more talented counterpart has skipped town to chase Minnie Driver. In Surviving Christmas, Affleck takes the lead with a frenetic desperation that makes you want to look away. He's the focal point of the movie and that's what keeps any hilarity from ensuing. He's just not funny. He's not a good enough actor to pull off funny. It's shameful. Not that Gandolfini necessarily helps with his one-note Tony Soprano-esque performance, but the movie has a great comedic actress in O'Hara and a very good comedic actress in Applegate. Once Applegate comes in, the movie has a lot more soul. She just comes in too late to save it. If you just watched the last twenty minutes or so, you may actually not hate the movie. Unfortunately, it wouldn't make much sense without the first awful Affleck-laden hour.

There's a lot of schlock thrown around this time of year. More than half of the kids shows that the networks run are beyond garbage. Most of the music is crap compared to real music. People get sucked up in the season and are willing to put up with what seems like almost anything. You end up with these sentimental family movies. Christmas stuff can only be compared to Christmas stuff, because if you compare Christmas stuff to non-Christmas stuff on an even playing field, Christmas stuff gets its collective holly-decked ass kicked. For Christmas stuff, the heart of Surviving Christmas is not too bad. If only it had a better-acting angel at the top of the tree.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Crimble

Assuming that not many people will check this out on Friday, I'll post my favorite Christmas video tonight. For the record, it will be Sherlock Holmes (preferably in the morning so the theater is as empty -- of people in general and goyim specifically -- as possible) and then dim sum. That's how we Jews roll. To be fair, I'll be logging time with It's A Wonderful Life tomorrow night.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Click Click Click

Between trying to go to bed relatively early and horrible traffic not getting me home until relatively very late, it was a very uneventful night. I found time to watch a side movie about Battlestar Galactica, that was a bit weird and didn't seem to quite fit with the rest of the series. Since nobody else that I know watched the show, it's not really worth going into detail.

So I'll leave you with this video, heard on the Mike O'Meara Show. This is what happens when you let people out of the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast use websites. Let's try to not let that happen again. It really cracks me up when the hick says, "FB friends."

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Very Few Words

Speechless. I want to find the right words to review the experience of seeing Avatar in 3D, but I'm not sure there are any. I spent the first 15 or 20 minutes of the movie with my jaw dropped wide open, alternating between shivering and feeling like I was about to tear up. I've heard critics say that what James Cameron accomplished visually with this movie is the equivalent of when color or sound were added. Don't know if I'd go that far, but he has definitely changed the course of cinema forever.

All of the improvements in special effects in the last fifteen or so years, from Jurassic Park's CGI to The Lord of the Rings'/ Attack of the Clones' motion capture, were along the same continuum. We were watching advancements that made certain things that had been shown for years -- monsters, aliens -- look more realistic and that allowed the directors to show more complicated actions or even emotions (like in King Kong). Still, it was along the same path, each one slightly improving on the one before. With Avatar, Cameron has jumped a mile down the path. When you're watching it in 3D, you feel like you're in the movie. I am not exaggerating. Specifically in the sequences with only human actors (because of the better frame of reference than with the aliens), you feel like you are sitting in the room and the action is unfolding around you. The 3D not only adds to the depth of what Cameron gives you visually, it personalizes the movie-going experience. The audience disappears. It's just you and the action on the screen. It is an entirely new way of watching movies.

I feel like I started repeating myself and I still didn't get across the feeling of watching this movie. The story's fine, nothing special, but okay. The dialogue is a bit cheesy, but it's not horrible. The acting is pretty good, especially those doing the motion capture stuff. Whatever, someone will eventually take this new technology and make a better all-around movie, though this one is still pretty freaking good. Just go see it, go see it in 3D, and prepare to have your view of what's possible in cinema changed.

Worst of the Worst: #32, Deuces Wild

We should all write a movie together. We've seen a lot of movies from a lot of different genres. Let's pick one specific genre that we're familiar with, say, Mafia/gang films set in the 1950s. Sure, we've never been in the Mafia or a gang and we weren't alive in the 1950s, but we've seen a lot of those movies. So let's take what we know, all the most cliched parts of any of those movies (from The Outsiders to The Godfather), throw them together in a pile, sort them into a random order, and make a movie. I give you Deuces Wild, #32 in Rotten Tomatoes' list of the worst films of the decade.

There are a lot of problems with the movie. The acting is pretty poor even though there are some decent actors like Matt Dillon, James Franco, and Johnny Knoxville (yep). The action scenes are shot in some sort of weird slow-motion that includes the same shot from multiple angles and out-of-place sound effects. The plot twist, which never pays off, is so guessable that I thought they had already revealed it earlier in the movie than they did.

My biggest complaint, though, is the cliches. Every possible cliche you can think of shows up. In fact, there probably isn't a line in the movie that isn't cliched. The lines are tired, the characters act exactly the way you thought they would. There are even Sopranos side characters (Adriana, Big Pussy, Skip), a staple of bad gang movies. It's so cliched and stilted that it comes off as West Side Story without the music. Every time the gangs go to fight, you expect them to break into song. It certainly would have made the movie more interesting. There's a lot of profanity, all of it seeming gratuitous because of this potential to be a musical or a music video. That potential makes the movie enjoyably bad, to some extent, which is always a plus for this list.

Side note: It's going to be tough to get over the ending of Survivor. It's as if the Patriots had gone 16-0 and then lost the Super Bowl to the Giants, not because New York beat them but because the league felt like the Giants deserved to win just because they showed up. The list of the best strategic players in Survivor history goes like this: Richard, Russell. Period. Which one is better? Richard invented the alliance and how to play the game; he's been as influential on the course of the game as the show itself has been in the course of reality TV. Russell came in after eighteen seasons of liars and alliances and still managed to control the game even as everybody knew what to look out for. Tina beat Colby, Amber beat Rob. The person who wins isn't always remembered as the best player in a given season (or remembered at all). I understand all of this. It still hurts to see Natalie take it down. I'm just hoping that I get to see more Russell on the next season.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Was supposed to stay in NYC until today, but left yesterday evening to beat the storm (and we almost made it). The drive from Baltimore to DC ended up taking about three-and-a-half hours as the roads got more and more covered. Made it home, though, in time to do nothing much today but shovel snow, watch what is continuing to be the best season in Survivor history, and work on my first YouTube video. Very little motivation to write anything, so I'll put it off until tomorrow when I'll watch my bad movie. The Ravens game is apparently on, but it's doubful that I'll make it.

The best-of stuff will start this week, so if you want to add anything or do any of your own lists, let me know and we'll get it up.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Off Again

I'm rushing to pack and get to sleep with a 6:35AM train from Union Station tomorrow, but I should be able to blog a bit more from New York this week than I did before. Still reeling from the last two minutes of the Dexter season finale. Unbelievable. I'll get to the decade in review soon, but this has to have been the best decade ever for dramatic TV, right?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Worst of the Worst: #80, Big Momma's House 2

There's no goddamn way that this was only the 80th worst movie of the decade. Insipid, just fucking insipid. But I watched the whole thing. Happy? Sure, maybe I didn't get it because I didn't see the first one. Or maybe I'm happier than I've only had to sit through one of these.

Up In The Air

Went tonight to see Up In The Air, the new movie from Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking, Juno). It's won a couple of critics' awards so far for best picture of the year. I think it might be the second best movie I've seen so far (Inglourious Basterds is really, really good), but definitely no worse than second, and nothing else is a close third (we're talking Star Trek or The Hangover at that point). I can see why critics would love the film so much, it's what one might call a "movie lover's movie".

It's the kind of movie that's perfectly enjoyable at face value. George Clooney's performance is note perfect, the kind of role at which he excels and it's hard to imagine anyone else playing it. The other performances are very strong. The script is touching at times and very funny, flirting with movie cliches but never giving into them. It's poignant as a letter to the many people who have been laid off in this economy, using real people at times talking about what it felt like to be fired. The film is stylish, the music is that sort of acoustic guitar that pulls at the heartstrings, etc.

The "movie lover's movie" bit comes because of how subtle and nuanced the film is. There are very slight motions that add unlimited depth to the story, a nod of the head here, a small smile there. There are lines that are funny, but, when examined more closely, provide a deeper look into the character's soul. One such line, "I type with purpose," seems to be a total throwaway line that got a couple of laughs, but I can't stop thinking about what it said about the character that delivered it. The camera work even changes subtly at one point to show a change in theme. It's the kind of movie one could watch two or three times and discover something new with each viewing. Go see it at least once. It will surely get nominated for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay -- it's based on a book -- and Clooney will most likely get nominated for Best Actor.

A side note on the previews before the movie. There was a trailer for a movie starring Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, and Tracy Jordan Morgan. They go to a funeral for Rock's father and weird things start to happen. Someone takes drugs, starts hallucinating, and gets naked up on the roof. Peter Dinklage appears, to insinuate that he had had a homosexual affair with the deceased. Chaos and hilarity ensue. This may sound familiar, as it is the plot of the great British movie Death at a Funeral, that came out two years ago. Shoot, Dinklage was even in that one. As the trailer progressed, I kept looking at the people with me and we couldn't quite believe this movie could be so similar. The name of the Chris Rock movie? Death at a Funeral. It's a remake of a movie that came out in 2007. Forget the fact that there's no chance that the new one will be as good as the original -- Netflix it if you haven't seen it, it's really funny. How do you remake a movie that's two years old?! And nobody's remade Death Wish or Dirty Harry yet, which are just begging for updates?!?!?!?!?!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sweeter Than Honey

  • Reading List:
    • Friday's a great time to catch up on a couple of articles.
    • Jason Whitlock has not just written the best columns about the Tiger Woods situation, nobody is a close second. Rather than dealing with the gory details, he's been focusing on the media's (hypocritical) reaction. In today's column, he attacked Rick Reilly and Herm Edwards and he brought up some interesting points about how race plays into the coverage. Whitlock is also really, really funny on Twitter (@WhitlockJason).
    • You probably don't know that perhaps the foremost historian of 19th-century baseball is a guy named Pete Nash. If not, you may be surprised to find out that Pete Nash used to be known as Prime Minister Pete Nice from the rap group 3rd Bass. Here is the crazy tale of his life and why the FBI is investigating him.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • Community creator Dan Harmon said on Twitter that tonight's episode was his favorite yet. Agreed. Too much good stuff to point out any one thing, but the highlight was the way it made fun of different religions. Both Community and 30 Rock tonight had great Jew-mocking jokes.
    • I'm thrown for a loop with this season of Survivor at this point. It's all edge-of-your-seat and anything can happen at any tribal council. Hard to imagine that Russell, who is now clearly the most entertaining player in show history, can keep surviving now that the target is squarely on him, but I keep saying that. His move at the second tribal tonight was jaw-droppingly ballsy.
    • I stopped doing football picks on here because, well, who really cares? But I seriously thought (and had I remembered to make my picks against the spread) that Cleveland had a chance to beat Pittsburgh tonight. Didn't have the guts to pick the Browns in my office pool. Not only are the Steelers out of the playoffs, but they're not guaranteed a .500 record. In fact, with their remaining games being Green Bay, Baltimore, and at Miami, they could actually lose ten games.
    • Going to see Up In The Air tomorrow, I'll let you all know.
  • Random Music Video:
    • Thirty-two years ago today, Otis Redding died when his tour plane crashed. His most famous recording is probably "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay", but I'd argue that the best song he ever wrote is this one, made famous by Aretha Franklin, but performed live here by Redding.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Joke In Your Town

  • The Monologue:
    • I can't top this with any other joke. The greatest newspaper correction of all time.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • It's Wednesday night and that means the next two episodes of Steven Seagal, Lawman! Tonight we learned that Seagal enjoys training attack dogs and letting them go to work on defenseless targets (quote of the night: "Those dogs can smell any amount of drugs in the middle of a bag of doggie treats."). Also, he has a blues band in which he plays lead guitar and sings. He is an amazing person. If he were to come face-to-face with Gozer the Gozerian, he wouldn't have to lie to save his life because he is actually a god.
    • Seriously, the show is great. I actually like how they focus on a different theme each episode. It makes for a nice flow between the ride-along footage and the parts about his life.
    • The producers of 90210 made a very good decision when they dumped Ethan at the end of last season, made Liam a regular, and replaced Ethan with Teddy. Also, the end of this week's episode -- the cliffhanger for the winter hiatus -- was killer. Just when you thought they were going to annoyingly forget that Annie killed someone last year, they brought it back in a shocking way.
  • Random Movie Scene:
    • The movie in question missed being in this decade by six weeks or so, but today being the actor in question's fifty-sixth birthday, I think this is appropriate.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

And They Are Indisputable

These are the facts:
  • Tiger Woods jokes are getting difficult, mostly because they are too easy and too dirty. I found myself sitting at work today and opening my mouth to blurt something out before thankfully stopping myself.
  • Peter Gammons leaves ESPN for MLB Network. As if I needed one more reason to watch MLB Tonight over Baseball Tonight. It's already the best sports studio show on TV, now it has an embarrassment of riches.
  • I was looking at Yahoo's main page and caught this. Wow. They fixed it soon after.
  • As The World Turns was cancelled after being on for 54 years. Shoot, Michael Jackson only made it 50 before he was cancelled.
  • The finale of The Biggest Loser was on tonight. It's one of the more underrated unintentionally funny shows of any year. The live finale is always really, really disorganized.
  • The best TV show of the '00s is obvious, but how big do I make the lists for both TV and movies? Five or ten seem too small. And do I lump it all together, TV-wise -- drama, comedy, reality? I think I may.

Don't Need To Discuss Much

I'm fairly disgusted with the way the Ravens crapped the bed so I have nothing I feel like saying. Heard this song today and, not only is it an all-time great, but I'm ready for my breakup with the 2009 season.

Monday, December 7, 2009


Random babbles from the day:
  • The finales of The Amazing Race and Survivor are always so much more fun than the finale of American Idol. I think one reason is that we know the contestants better because we haven't only been seeing them at their most made up -- one big reason why Idol fails when it doesn't focus on Hollywood Week as much -- and another reason is that the Idol finale is always way too long and often very boring. The other shows just get down to it. So tonight's Race finale wasn't that surprising and it was very quick, but it was just fun.
  • And a whole other kind of fun is John Lithgow at his psychotic best in Dexter. The end of tonight's episode, the penultimate of the season, was delightful. I can come up with a number of big stars that play the psycho well (Depp, Pitt, Nicholson), but Lithgow is pretty underrated when it comes to that.
  • Last night, I watched the pilot episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, because I have heard lots of good things and wanted to see for myself. I watched almost the entire first season by this morning. Wow. Not only is it a different kind of funny than any other show I watch, but it's the kind of funny I would write if I were so blessed.
  • I also discovered that the second season of Discovery's Everest series is now available on Netflix Watch Instantly. The first season is amazing and the second is looking pretty good so far, too.
  • I don't know how anyone in the NFC beats the Saints. Brees looks like crap today and still manages 400+ yards and a comeback win. Lucky, sure. But as he said in the post-game press conference, why shouldn't New Orleans deserve some luck?
  • And in the AFC? Assuming the Colts' potential defensive backfields issues show up in the playoffs, I don't know who comes out of there. It really looks like either them or San Diego.
  • It's been the case the last few years that the loser of the Super Bowl does not make the playoffs the next year. The last defending champion to not make it was the Patriots, in 2002. Looking like a switch-up: the Cardinals are in and the Steelers are now most likely out. Maybe the refs should have given Warner that last chance last year and he would have pulled off the win?
  • Going to be in New York again all next week. Think I'll come up with the beginnings of my "best of" lists this week so I can start running them.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Worst of the Worst: #59, 88 Minutes

There's much to be made of Al Pacino's decline from his heights as the understated, controlled Michael Corleone of The Godfather to the screaming, overacting laughing-stock he's become now. With every new performance, the critics gush about how awful the movie is and we laugh at what a caricature the man has become. Maybe it's time to stop laughing and start lamenting. We're talking about a man once considered one of the greatest actors of all time. His current state hasn't made his older performances seem worse, but it does make me sad when I watch, say, Dog Day Afternoon. It makes me never want to watch a newer Al Pacino movie again. Indeed, in 88 Minutes, #59 on Rotten Tomatoes' list of the worst movies of the decade, even Pacino himself looks like he's tired of this crap.

Sure, he screams with his overdone accent that he seems to have developed around the time of Scent of a Woman, but he does it with no flair. He just looks tired. The bad hair he has in the film is more enthralling than he is. In one scene, Alicia Witt acts circles around him, so much so that the scene fails because he can't live up to her performance. It's all depressing and it deadens the entire experience of watching the movie, making it seem more mediocre than flat-out bad, until you think hard about what the movie has to offer beyond Pacino and all that he brings.

88 Minutes is about a forensic psychologist who helps to put a serial rapist-murderer behind bars. The bad guy, protesting that he is innocent, turns to Pacino and says, "Tick tock, doc." Sure enough, nine years later, long after any clock would have run out of batteries, Pacino gets a phone call on the day of the killer's execution. "Tick tock, you have eighty-eight minutes to live." I'm all about real-time thrillers. I love 24, liked Johnny Depp's movie Nick of Time, and feel that using time in that manner lays a foundation of suspense upon which the film maker can build the plot. However, a real-time thriller 88 Minutes is not. I think it means to be, but it jumps four minutes almost immediately and then jumps a bit later on. It never shows you a clock clearly enough for you to do a calculation to figure out when exactly the deadline is in relation to other clocks you see. In fact, the first time it shows you one, it unravels the entire movie with one of the worst continuity decisions I can remember.

Pacino, teaching a class, gets a call that he has eighty-whatever minutes left and looks around to see one of his students playing with their cell phone. He grabs it and asks the student what is going on. The student says that he was just checking the score of the Mariners game (the movie takes place in Seattle) and we see that the Mariners are leading the Yankees 3-1 in the bottom of the first, at Seattle. A couple of minutes later, Pacino looks at a clock to reveal that it is 10:47AM. What? What?!? I had to pause the movie and think about that for a minute. How could anyone choose to include a detail that had the Mariners playing a home game that started at 10AM? Not that the movie had any credibility -- given that it was on this list and that it stars Pacino and was made in the last ten years -- but it immediately made me question every single thing the movie put forward. And when a movie is as poorly constructed as this one, that's not a good thing to have happen.

The real flaw in this movie is that none of the details make sense, just red herring after red herring. The writer continuously introduces new things deep into the story that either don't add to the (lack of) suspense or are laughable. The film tries to throw you for loop after loop as the mystery unfolds but, much like the DVD of this movie, nobody buys it. It becomes a mush of details that nobody would care about, leading to a climax with a horrible continuity error and a misuse of the real-time concept. Although time jumps at a couple of places in the movie, the time at the end actually seems to stretch out longer than it should.

So, as the depression over Pacino's career deadens any hard feelings I have towards this movie, the fact that this review is significantly longer than I originally meant it to be says that 88 Minutes was really bad. You want to know how bad? Just watch from 3:55 to 5:55 of the clip below. You get all of Pacino's bad hair and bad acting that you need from just those two minutes. Who talks into a cell phone like that?

Update: I realized after watching the above clip again that Pacino recaps the entire plot of the movie in that cell phone conversation. That's one way to know a mystery movie is awful; when they feel they have to tell you exactly what happened at the end.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Because it's all about making stupid new words. We're just hours away from Stormageddon.

So Long To Find Out

  • The Monologue:
    • The Conservative Bible Project wants to publish their own Bible because they say that the common language is too liberal. Some of the changes:
    • Jesus will not heal anyone indiscriminately because that's socialism! Instead, he'll only heal those who can afford a small fee and who are not actually sick.
    • Jesus doesn't ride a donkey to Jerusalem because only a punk would care that much about the environment. Enter the Holy Hummer!
    • Jesus can see Egypt from his house!
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • After last week's episode, the vote in tonight's Survivor was so sweet. Yet another huge blindside, but the producers let us in on the secret this time so that we could laugh at John and Shambo. The preview for next week looks very promising, but, of course, every episode this season has been tremendous.
    • Not the strongest Community, but it had a bunch of funny side jokes, mostly having to do with condoms and STDs. The "thumb in a turtleneck" line was pretty good.
    • On the other hand, tonight's 30 Rock was the best of the season to date. They finally got away from the "real America" jokes and back into the behind-the-scenes show business stuff. Best part: the scene when Liz is nervously trying to shoot the opening to Deal Breakers, followed by the jokes about what people look like in HD.
    • How many 30 Rock episodes until the "Comcastic" jokes begin? It's coming very soon.
    • Anybody else watch any of Jets-Bills? Have you woken up yet? I promise it's over.
  • Random Music Video:
    • This single was released on December 3, 1965, in the United Kingdom.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Steven Seagal, Lawman

If you did not heed my call and watch Steven Seagal, Lawman tonight then I don't know what to say. You punished yourself. No amount of disappointment on my part would add to that. It has already become a must-watch show for me. Here's what you missed if you didn't see it:
  • Seagal, now 57 and with a good amount of extra weight, has been a deputy sherriff (I gather an honorary one at first, but now for real) with a police department in New Orleans for the last twenty years. This show is like Cops, but following his patrols, interspersed with him teaching his fellow officers lessons about martial arts.
  • The thing he apparently most prides himself on is his ability to see small things that tip him off as to how someone is about to act. They show this by essentially giving him super-vision (or Seagal-vision), slowing down the film and highlighting a person while playing a neat sound effect. This happens often and always with great unintentional humor.
  • He likes to remind everyone that he knows martial arts. Often. There's no doubt that he is legitimately a great master, but he keeps saying it over and over. And as quick as he is, he gets out of breath quickly when he's chasing down a criminal.
  • He likes to impart wisdom to everyone he comes across. Wisdom about guns, about martial arts, about Zen Buddhism, about drunk people, and so on.
  • One might think the show could have also been called Steven Seagal Accosts Black People, because while the vast majority of the people in his area are black (and, therefore, the vast majority of the criminals), he and his team made a boo-boo that looked bad racially. Seagal-vision showed that a car the patrol passed most likely had a drunk driver. So they proceeded to pull all of the guys out of the car, yell at them, find a gun and take it, yell some more, and even threaten a little. Of course, the car, with all black people in it, is not in fact stolen, nobody in it is drunk, and the gun was perfectly legal. Whoops!
  • Seagal not only takes himself very seriously, which adds to the comedy, but he speaks with a heavy Lousiana patois throughout. He's from Michigan.
  • One of the police officers at one point says that he sometimes forgets that Seagal was a big movie star. Amen, brother. Well, if he ever really was one in the first place.
  • The key crime moment of the two episodes that aired tonight was when, after breaking up a huge fight, the cops threw a big guy into the back of a police cruiser. The guy, cuffed and angry, kicked out the window. So the cops tasered the s*** out of him. Good times.
  • But it's really all about a quote towards the end of the episode, one that can inform the rest of our lives. Some new recruits come in to learn self defense at the hands of the aikido master and Seagal really is quick. It's pretty cool. As they all sit there, smiling, the star of the show says this: "You can say, 'wow, that's Steven Seagal the movie star," or you can get that s*** out of your head and say, 'Steven Seagal can save my life.'" Yes.

Bonus Video:

This is freaking fantastic.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Emergency Announcement

I rarely do this, but I have an important emergency announcement. Tonight, 10PM, A&E: the premiere of Steven Seagal, Lawman. It is a reality show that follows Seagal as he moonlights as a deputy in Louisiana. I have heard from multiple sources that it obliterates the unintentional comedy scale.

Now, back to calling everyone I know to ask them to change their outgoing voice mail message to only numbers.


  • The Monologue:
    • Lisa Loeb, one-hit wonder, had her first child. She's going to try really hard to have a second, but nobody will be interested.
    • Sheila Dixon, soon to be former mayor of Baltimore, was found guilty of embezzlement for taking gift cards given to the city. It's a total frame job, though. It was all about Commissioner Burrell cooking the stats.
    • Who cares about this story? Really, like Cheney would have any shot. It's all about the title, "Cheney beats back 2012 efforts." If one did not know better, one might think it was about his plan to end the world.
  • Random Pop Culture:
    • When I was at a major Jewish conference downtown -- the one where I saw Netanyahu -- a few weeks ago, Fred Phelps' people were down there protesting. Now, his daughter is on Twitter and I'm enthralled. Those folks are so crazy with the "God Hates Fags" and "God Hates Jews" stuff that they've achieved irony status. They've succeeded in being funnier than any shock comedian could hope to be. Yes, it's scary that they actually believe it, but there are so few of them that I don't feel so bad.
    • Now that I'm done with Under The Dome, Stephen King's latest book (it's very good and unabashedly a not-at-all-veiled metaphor about how horrible Bush was), I'm looking for something to read. Any suggestions?
  • Coming Soon:
    • With the end of the year quickly approaching, I'll be working on my usual best-of lists. However, we have an added bonus with this being the end of a decade, so I'll throw some of that together as well. Let me know if you have any ideas or want to participate.