Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Rocks: "Wish," by Nine Inch Nails

This one comes with a birthday dedication. To Dan ... 29 years, on your way to Hell.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Rocks: "This Is Not For You," by Pearl Jam

My favorite Pearl Jam song, in all its angry and shambling rock glory.

That Damned 'Mosque' Issue Won't Go Away


It feels like an eternity since I posted a "Debate of the Week" item on the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque." (It's not on Ground Zero, and it's more of a community center with a mosque component.) Yet, as the midterm congressional elections approach, the issue has re-emerged as THE political hot button of the season.

So, again, I'm going to ask you: what are your thoughts on this? Do you think the planners should build Cordoba House, or Park51, at its proposed site, a former Burlington Coat Factory two blocks away from Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan?  Please weigh in below in the comments section. Also, please avoid ad hominem attacks on people you may disagree with. If you disagree with their reasoning, however, point out why and please cite facts that support your case.

Before the commenting begins, I want to point out two opinions on the topic that haven't really been addressed in the media:

First, here's leading atheist thinker Sam Harris (The Daily Beast via The Daily Dish):
The claim that the events of September 11, 2001, had “nothing to do with Islam” is an abject and destabilizing lie. This murder of 3,000 innocents was viewed as a victory for the One True Faith by millions of Muslims throughout the world (even, idiotically, by those who think it was perpetrated by the Mossad). And the erection of a mosque upon the ashes of this atrocity will also be viewed by many millions of Muslims as a victory—and as a sign that the liberal values of the West are synonymous with decadence and cowardice. This may not be reason enough for the supporters of this mosque to reconsider their project. And perhaps they shouldn’t. Perhaps there is some form of Islam that could issue from this site that would be better, all things considered, than simply not building another mosque in the first place. But this leads me to a somewhat paradoxical conclusion: American Muslims should be absolutely free to build a mosque two blocks from ground zero; but the ones who should do it probably wouldn’t want to.
Now, here's former Bush administration solicitor general Ted Olson*, whose wife died in the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon (Talking Points Memo):
Well it may not make me hap- popular with some people, but I think probably the president was right about this. I do believe that people of all religions have a right to build edifices, or structures, or places of religious worship or study, where the community allows them to do it under zoning laws and that sort of thing, and that we don't want to turn an act of hate against us by extremists into an act of intolerance for people of religious faith. And I don't think it should be a political issue. It shouldn't be a Republican or Democratic issue, either. 
*Interesting, sad note: Olson's birthday is Sept. 11.

It's been a while.

But, hey, I have a couple of posts planned today!

So bust out that champagne. I'm back, baby!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Rocks: "Taxi," by Harry Chapin

 
Not exactly rockin', but it'll do.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Inception: What's the meaning of this?

Predictably, there's been a lot of debate over the meaning of "Inception." I'm curious to read what you think. I'll include some pertinent links and quotes after the jump, in case you want to discuss the movie.

SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT.

Movie Review: Inception

Director: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ken Watanabe, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine

"Inception" is quite simply a great time at the movies. It's as fun to watch its intricately designed and thrilling set pieces as it is to try to make sense of  the convoluted rules and logic of the simulated dream worlds it depicts.  Like director Christopher Nolan's previous works, particularly "Memento" and "The Prestige," it's a cleverly designed puzzle with lots of moving parts. A game, a magic trick, a mind-bending word problem. It can even be seen as a successful metaphor for film-making itself, but I'm just not sure it succeeds completely as art, though.

And you know what? That's not such a bad thing here. It's about time we got a somewhat original, intelligently made blockbuster action movie out of today's Hollywood. Nolan can continue to lazily fudge plot twists in Batman movies if it means more money for him to take on big, ambitious projects like this. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Movie Review: The Road



Director: John Hillcoat

Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce, Garret Dillahunt, Michael K. Williams, Molly Parker

"The Road" is a hopeful movie. Sure, it's set in a barren and scorched post-apocalyptic wasteland that used to be America, and, yes, it seems like most of the survivors of an unnamed catastrophe have teamed up to become roving bands of cannibals. But there is a fire that burns in the heart of this nightmarish vision. It's the fire of a father's love for his son and for the belief that there are still "good guys" out there who'll want to carry on in the face of seemingly unending horror.

Don't expect a sappy, overly sentimental two hours, though, and fans of Cormac McCarthy's novel should be satisfied, although the movie just misses the complete emotional devastation the book provides. Director John Hillcoat is exceptionally faithful to the brutal, uncompromising vision in the source material. Ash and soot cover everything. Water is gray and undrinkable without some very crude purification. Highways and bridges are shattered and abandoned. Every town's a ghost town, and the rare house that may still be occupied might just have a storeroom full of maimed people being kept alive for food.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Movie Review: The Killer Inside Me


Director: Michael Winterbottom

Starring: Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, Ned Beatty, Simon Baker, Elias Koteas, Bill Pullman

Just a warning. I recommend "The Killer Inside Me" enthusiastically, but it's not for everyone. It features some pretty frank depictions of violence against women. It's not glorified or glamorous. It's detestable and disgusting, which is entirely the point. This movie, which is incredibly faithful to its Jim Thompson-penned source novel, tells its story from the perspective of a deeply disturbed man, and while it seeks to understand the killer, it doesn't sympathize with him.

Thankfully, Casey Affleck, who plays the killer, gets this. He's one of the finest actors working today, and his performance here is another great one. That's no small task, since he already set such a high standard for himself in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" and "Gone Baby Gone." His ability to switch from awkward weirdness to keen intensity to terrifying blankness reminds me of a younger Robert DeNiro or Christopher Walken when they were establishing themselves as Hollywood's go-to psychologically interesting leading men in the 1970s.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Rocks: "Light Me Up," by Ween

"I'm a friggin' man of steel, 
I got lots of sex appeal,
Do you want to make a deal?"

Too hot to blog.

Jesus. This heat.

It is downright oppressive out there. Summer in the northeast sucks the energy out of me. The sun is blazing, the pollution is thick, and the humidity is saturating. Why even bother to move? I'm glad I've been on vacation during this heat wave. I couldn't imagine dragging myself to Midtown every day, sweating my face off at train platforms and bus stops.

Unfortunately, the heat has also sapped my inspiration to blog. Sorry about that. I promise I have stuff coming, including reviews of "The Killer Inside Me" and "The Road," a movie I had been looking forward to seeing but had put off for a while. I liked both a bit, although one more than the other. I'll get it up here soon.

Also, I have a Friday Rocks coming in just a few minutes. Here's hoping you're still out there!

Oh, and go fuck yourself, LeBron James. It takes a real asshole to celebrate the Heat with weather like this.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday Rocks: "Evidence," by Faith No More



I'm mere hours from seeing them in concert. I never believed I'd say that.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

LeBron Watch: Going to the Bulls. No, the Heat!

Or is it the Cavs?

I can't take much more of this. Can I induce my own coma and time it to end just at the precise moment it's confirmed where he'll sign? Is that possible? (Although I'm not so sure I'd want to come out of it if, after all the hype and rumor-mongering, he doesn't end up with the Bulls. But if he did end up signing with the Bulls, I'd at least hope that my dear fiancee would have a LeBron Bulls jersey on order for me, with the order confirmation printout in hand to greet me I emerge from my coma.)

Anyway, it seems like everything about where he's headed is both true and untrue. The more you look at his situation, the less it makes sense. It reminds me of this (which, by the way, could well be a hint about my next blogging project):



"Sometimes the more you look, the less you really know."

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday Rocks: "Somebody Super Like You," from "Phantom of the Paradise"

I can't get enough. And this time here's an actual clip from the movie! This really, really rocks.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What to do ... what to do ...

I admit I'm a little spent after The Countdown. All together, that's the most I've written over a sustained period of time since college. It was fun, but it drained my brain battery a little. I'll need to recharge before I get the ideas flowing again. It won't take long, though, I swear.

Until then, how about a little "Phantom of the Paradise"? Take it away, Mr. Williams ...



I just love it gets down at the end. Man, where would the Seventies have been without cocaine?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Colonel's Countdown: The Complete Top 25 List

I invite you to include your entire personal favorites list in the comments below. A smaller list will suffice if you haven't put together a top 25.  

1. Jaws
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey
3. The Godfather, Part II
4. The Big Lebowski
5. Raiders of the Lost Ark
6. The Third Man
7. The Lord of the Rings trilogy
8. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
9. The Godfather
10. Blade Runner

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Colonel's Countdown: Top 25 Movies (No. 1)

I just want to be clear: These are my 25 favorite films. They're not necessarily the best movies I've seen, although many of them certainly would rank high or near the top of that list. I understand that for some a favorites list is indistinguishable from a best-of list, and that's cool. But it's not my purpose here. I want to celebrate the movies that, for one reason or many, moved me in ways that I can barely describe ... even though I'm going to try here.


1. JAWS (1975)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton

Why it's No. 1: It all comes back to "Jaws." It's the first movie I fell in love with, and it's the movie I've identified with summer since I can remember. For those of you who know me this is not exactly a surprising choice. In fact, it may seem a little too predictable. But there's no denying it, "Jaws" is the reason I love movies to begin with. If I were allowed to watch only one movie for the rest of my life, this would be it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Colonel's Countdown: "Controversial" Omissions

I was going to use this space to discuss in some depth movies I omitted from my Top 25 movies countdown and the list of 25 that missed the cut, but I just started writing about one movie in particular, "The Dark Knight," and I couldn't stop, mainly because I've been inspired by an argument I had with some friends -- including my two best friends and my fiancee! -- the other night at a party. Okay, so that makes three subjects off-limits for me at bars or parties: Politics, religion and "The Dark Knight."

Before I get to that, though, I'll address in a pithy way other movies I've been asked about. And, as always, comments are encouraged.

THE DEPARTED: Great, bloody, fun movie. Just a little too sloppy, and the love triangle part of the story is a bit too contrived and dull. Jack Nicholson, while entertaining as always, overacts in some scenes to the point where it seems like he thinks he's in another movie.

THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS: I started watching this the other day and was reminded of its near-perfection. I regret leaving this out of my Top 50 and possibly my Top 25.

DR. STRANGELOVE: OR, HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB: I swear, I love this movie to death. If I had made a Top 60 list, it would be there.

THE DARK KNIGHT: Okay, deep breath. And ... here ... we ... go!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Rocks: "One Big Holiday," by My Morning Jacket



This thing just cooks, especially toward the end. Suck it, Skynard!

The Colonel's Countdown: Top 25 Movies (Nos. 3 & 2)

I just want to be clear: These are my 25 favorite films. They're not necessarily the best movies I've seen, although many of them certainly would rank high or near the top of that list. I understand that for some a favorites list is indistinguishable from a best-of list, and that's cool. But it's not my purpose here. I want to celebrate the movies that, for one reason or many, moved me in ways that I can barely describe ... even though I'm going to try here.
 
3. THE GODFATHER, PART II (1974)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Starring: Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall, John Cazale, Michael V. Gazzo, Lee Strasberg, Talia Shire, Bruno Kirby, Dominic Chianese, G.D. Spradlin

Why it's here: It can't be said enough. It's rare that a sequel outshines its predecessor, but when it happens it usually results in a classic movie. We've had two examples of superior sequels already on the Countdown, with "The Empire Strikes Back" at No. 13 and "The Silence of the Lambs" at No. 20. (Yeah, it's more of a de facto sequel. It follows Michael Mann's 1986 thriller "Manhunter," which is based on "Red Dragon," Thomas Harris' first novel to feature Hannibal the Cannibal.) I'd also argue that "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" not only blows away the first and second Potter movies but is by far the best of the series. These movies, though, are so-called genre movies, the kind that are made with franchise or sequel potential in mind. "The Godfather, Part II" is more like a sequel as conceived by Shakespeare.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Winter is Coming."

I can't help it. Here's another promo from this good folks at HBO, this time for "Game of Thrones," which is based on George R.R. Martin's unfinished "A Song of Ice and Fire" fantasy novel series.

Yes, I said "fantasy," but please, don't run away! Instead, run out and get these books, staring with "A Game of Thrones." Martin doesn't do fantasy in the traditional elves-and-fairies sense. Expect lots of violence, sex, backroom plotting and brutal, brutal plot twists. If HBO does the novels justice, the series will be more like "Rome" meets "The Sopranos" in Middle Earth.

This preview doesn't show much, but it hints at very promising things. I think I'm more excited for this series than I am for any upcoming movie.

The Colonel's Countdown: Top 25 Movies (Nos. 5 & 4)

I just want to be clear: These are my 25 favorite films. They're not necessarily the best movies I've seen, although many of them certainly would rank high or near the top of that list. I understand that for some a favorites list is indistinguishable from a best-of list, and that's cool. But it's not my purpose here. I want to celebrate the movies that, for one reason or many, moved me in ways that I can barely describe ... even though I'm going to try here.

5. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, John Rhys-Davies, Paul Freeman, Alfred Molina, Denholm Elliott, Ronald Lacey, Wolf Kahler

Why it's here: Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were at the height of their powers when they teamed to create Indiana Jones, the gruff, fedora-sporting archaeologist armed with a bullwhip. Lucas was in the midst of rolling out the original "Star Wars" trilogy, and Spielberg, while coming off the dud "1941," had rewritten the record book with "Jaws" in 1975, made the beloved "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" in 1977, and still had the immortal "E.T. The Extraterrestrial" in the hopper. Together, Lucas and Spielberg would blend much of what formed their tastes when they were young -- boys adventure stories, Saturday afternoon serials, James Bond movies -- into "Raiders of the Lost Ark," the movie that introduced Jones to audiences and helped influence pop culture in its own right.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

In which I pimp HBO's "Boardwalk Empire."



Scorsese and Buscemi? Set in Prohibition-era Atlantic City? Yup ...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Rocks: "Get Down Moses," by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros

The Colonel's Countdown: Top 25 Movies (Nos. 7 & 6)

I just want to be clear: These are my 25 favorite films. They're not necessarily the best movies I've seen, although many of them certainly would rank high or near the top of that list. I understand that for some a favorites list is indistinguishable from a best-of list, and that's cool. But it's not my purpose here. I want to celebrate the movies that, for one reason or many, moved me in ways that I can barely describe ... even though I'm going to try here.

7. THE LORD OF THE RINGS (2001 to 2003)

Director: Peter Jackson

Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Andy Serkis, Christopher Lee, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, Cate Blanchett, Sean Bean, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Hugo Weaving, Liv Tyler, Ian Holm, Bernard Hill, David Wenham, Miranda Otto, Brad Dourif, Karl Urban, John Noble

Why it's here: Yes, I'm counting all three installments of Frodo's (Elijah Wood) quest to destroy the evil Sauron's Ring of Power as one, big movie. They were all largely filmed concurrently as part of a larger whole, and they all tell parts of one, giant story that was already plotted out from the beginning, thanks to J.R.R. Tolkien. Still, for simplicity's sake, I'll break "The Lord of the Rings" down into its three parts.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

My Five Stages of Oil Spill Grief


A friend of mine remarked on Facebook the other day that she is now officially depressed over the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. I expect this feeling is hitting a lot of people right about now, 52 days into the disaster, as attempt after attempt by BP to cap the spill has failed or has had minimal success and more and more horrifying pictures of oil-soaked wildlife pop up on the news. I understand this because I reached the point of depression over the spill weeks ago.

No, I don't claim to be more empathetic or sensitive to these matters than everybody else. It's just that my job involves watching financial news networks for seven hours a day. For seven hours a day. FOR SEVEN HOURS A DAY. For seven hours every work day for much of the past seven weeks or so I have listened to a legion of pampered and puffy doyens and doyennes of the "free market" bloviate and blather about what the spill means to BP's bottom line or whether it's right for the government to pressure BP to pay claims and clean up the mess or whether the disaster is because of regulators instead of the company's error. Absolutely, the regulators deserve a good deal of the blame, but mainly because they've been bought over the years by the oil industry. In the wake of this catastrophe, the notion that doing away with any regulation of the oil industry instead of improving it is insanity.

Hearing this market-fundamentalist bullshit for seven hours a day while reading sober and depressing news stories from a variety of sources, seeing the latest horrific pictures of oil-soaked marshes and wildlife and watching the live feed of BP's spill cam is enough to make a man want to tattoo the entire "Communist Manifesto" on his body using only heated paperclips and the ink from a Bic pen. As if the spill weren't depressing enough, there are still people with power and influence who absolutely refuse to acknowledge the reality of this disaster, that it is not just another thing to spin.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Colonel's Countdown: Top 25 Movies (Nos. 9 & 8)

I just want to be clear: These are my 25 favorite films. They're not necessarily the best movies I've seen, although many of them certainly would rank high or near the top of that list. I understand that for some a favorites list is indistinguishable from a best-of list, and that's cool. But it's not my purpose here. I want to celebrate the movies that, for one reason or many, moved me in ways that I can barely describe ... even though I'm going to try here.

9. THE GODFATHER (1972)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Starring: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Jon Cazale

Why it's here: "The Godfather" has become one of those unassailable classics, like "Casablanca" or "Gone With the Wind," whose place in the Pantheon of Great Movies is assured until the sun burns out. This status has rubbed some people the wrong way, though. They're tired of being told they HAVE to see "The Godfather," that it's the greatest thing since, I dunno, the toaster. As a result, these rebellious cinephiles end up blaming the movie itself. "It insists upon itself," Peter Griffin once said on "Family Guy," articulating the view of that rare cinematic contrarian who refuses to see "The Godfather."

Monday, June 7, 2010

Debate of the Week: A 'Mosque' Near Ground Zero?

Please comment below. Remember to keep it civil. Don't assume anything about the people you disagree with. I will delete any comments that are offensive or veer too far off topic. Thank you in advance.

About 1,000 people on Sunday protested plans for a 15-story Muslim community center two blocks away from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. Critics of the plan say the center would be an insult to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center by Muslim terrorists. Several family members of 9-11 victims have come out against the center, with some saying it would remind them too much of the pain of losing a loved one. Others, like Tea Party Express leader Mark Williams, who called Allah a "monkey god" and Muslims the "animals of Allah," have been less civil in their opposition. Here's an argument against the center from conservative newspaper The Washington Times.

The facility, called the Cordoba House, would be more than just a space for prayer, however. It would also house classrooms, a fitness center and a swimming pool. The project also has the support of a community board and local politicians. Its leading proponent, a local imam named Feisal Abdul Rauf, says it's intended to help "bridge and heal a divide" and combat radicalism. Rauf's rebuttal to critics of the proposed center can be found here.

So, what do you think?  Are the protesters right, or should the community center proceed as planned? Where do you stand, and why?

Let the debate begin!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Movie Review: THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG (2009)

Disney heralded "The Princess and the Frog" as a return to the studio's glory days of hand-drawn animated classics, but other than a few flourishes, it amounts to nothing more than a middling, yet enjoyable, diversion. There was also much made about how this is the first Disney animated "masterpiece" that features a black female protagonist. The movie itself doesn't live up to its perceived event status, though.

Our heroine, Tiana, works as a waitress for two or three shifts daily, denying herself fun and romance in Jazz Age New Orleans. She's trying to save enough money to open the restaurant of her -- and her late father's -- dreams. Once it appears she has finally achieved her dream, some dark forces, both realistic and supernatural, interfere.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Friday Rocks: "First We Take Manhattan," by Leonard Cohen

The Colonel's Countdown: Top 25 Movies (Nos. 11 & 10)

I just want to be clear: These are my 25 favorite films. They're not necessarily the best movies I've seen, although many of them certainly would rank high or near the top of that list. I understand that for some a favorites list is indistinguishable from a best-of list, and that's cool. But it's not my purpose here. I want to celebrate the movies that, for one reason or many, moved me in ways that I can barely describe ... even though I'm going to try here.


11. SCARFACE (1983)

Director: Brian DePalma

Starring: Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer, Steven Bauer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Robert Loggia, F. Murray Abraham

Why it's here: "Scarface," with its Giorgio Moroder disco-synth score and its trashy pastels, is extremely dated, a time capsule straight out of the excess of the cocaine-frosted early 1980s, and yet it's timeless. Everything in this movie is over-the-top, from the acting -- I wonder if this movie is responsible for the hoarse Al Pacino voice we know today -- to the set design, to the violence, to its story, which feels like it was based on not the 1932 Howard Hawks movie of the same name, but a play from Shakespeare's time. In fact, one of my literature professors back in college used to compare "Scarface" to the play "Tamburlaine" by Shakespeare contemporary Christopher Marlowe. "Rise-and-fall" stories are especially durable, even if they're set in another time and context, because we can always draw parallels to our current situation, wherever we are.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Colonel's Countdown: Top 25 Movies (Nos. 13 & 12)

I just want to be clear: These are my 25 favorite films. They're not necessarily the best movies I've seen, although many of them certainly would rank high or near the top of that list. I understand that for some a favorites list is indistinguishable from a best-of list, and that's cool. But it's not my purpose here. I want to celebrate the movies that, for one reason or many, moved me in ways that I can barely describe ... even though I'm going to try here.

13. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)

Director: Irvin Kershner

Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Frank Oz, Billy Dee Williams, Peter Mayhew, James Earl Jones, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker

Why it's here: This is the first "Star Wars" movie I remember seeing. I could well have seen the first "Star Wars" earlier, but I may have been too young to remember, or it just didn't make too much of an impression on me. There's no question, however, about the impression "Empire" left on me as a wee, impressionable lad, and it's not just because of the big reveal from Darth Vader (voice by James Earl Jones, body by David Prowse) at the end, it's also because Han Solo (Harrison Ford) is frozen in carbonite. That just about shattered my naive, five- or six-year-old sensibilities. The good guy? Practically dead? WTF? For my childhood self, movies just didn't get much sadder than that, other than when Frankenstein's monster got sucked into Limbo at the end "Monster Squad" (uh, spoiler alert?).

Monday, May 31, 2010

Debate of the Week: Celtics or Lakers?

Please comment below. Remember to keep it civil. Don't assume anything about the people you disagree with. I will delete any comments that are offensive or veer too far off topic. Thank you in advance.


This one's a relatively clear-cut question: Who will win the NBA Finals, which begin Thursday: the Boston Celtics or the Los Angeles Lakers?

These Celtics and Lakers teams, apart from a few roster changes, met two years ago in the Finals, which the Celtics won in six games. The Lakers went back to the Finals last year, where they beat the Orlando Magic for the title. It's the twelfth time the franchises will clash for the NBA title. The Celtics won nine of the previous 11 Finals matchups. Overall, the Celtics have won 17 titles, and the Lakers have won 15.

Coming into the playoffs, these Celtics were considered too old, as their veteran core of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce had showed signs of slowing down over the course of the season. Instead, led by emerging superstar Rajon Rondo at point guard and their ever-tenacious defense, the Celtics tore through the Eastern Conference playoffs, upsetting favorites LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers before roughing up the defending Eastern champs, the Magic.

The Lakers, the defending champions, are coming off a six-game triumph over the overmatched but surprisingly tough Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference finals. They are led, of course, by arguably the best offensive player in the world, Kobe Bryant, and a long, athletic and versatile front line anchored by Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and the young but brittle Andrew Bynum. The Lakers' newest edition to the mix, Ron Artest, is a notoriously tough defender, but is known for being temperamental, too.

So, what do you think? Which team will prevail? How many games do you think it will go? What are the most intriguing matchups? In addition to which team you think will win, which one do you want to win?

Let the debate begin!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Still "Lost" ... and Lovin' It.


Toward a somewhat unified theory of "Lost," by Dan Milczarski, guest blogger.

A SPOILER WARNING IS IN EFFECT. Loads of "Lost" analysis, theorizing and speculation follow.
 
Okay, so "Lost" is over. Some people loved the ending. Some people hated it. I, for one, loved it.

There has been a ton of debate over what exactly happened. I think that everything that happened on the island, happened. And the flash sideways world was a sort of purgatory, a bus stop of sorts for the Losties to get together one last time before moving on to whatever their religious belief is, whether it's reincarnation, heaven, etc. (By the way, this article pretty much sums it up way better than I can: http://www.tvsquad.com/2010/05/24/lost-finale-theories-explanations/?ncid=webmaildl2 But don't read that just now. Read my take first!)

For those who interpreted the plane wreckage during the credits as meaning the island stuff never happened and the crash of Flight 815 killed everyone, just know that ABC has pretty much debunked that and said Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, the masterminds behind "Lost," did not have that footage as part of the story line. The story ended when the "Lost" logo flashed on the screen. The wreckage footage, with its calm ocean sounds in the background, was ABC's attempt to allow people decompress before the late local news.

So now that we’re on the same page about how I think the series ended, I wanted to do some interpretation of the finale. As I re-watch the finale and other episodes again, or hear/read good feedback from other "Lost" fans, my interpretation may change. For example, I have some thoughts on Eloise Hawking that will only be clarified when I watch all episodes that feature the character. Fun times!

Okay, let’s begin.

Friday Rocks: "The Many Things That Life Could Bring" by Hey OK Fantastic



The song starts at about one minute in. Man, that is one rock 'n' roll jacket.

The Colonel's Countdown: Top 25 Movies (Nos. 15 & 14)

I just want to be clear: These are my 25 favorite films. They're not necessarily the best movies I've seen, although many of them certainly would rank high or near the top of that list. I understand that for some a favorites list is indistinguishable from a best-of list, and that's cool. But it's not my purpose here. I want to celebrate the movies that, for one reason or many, moved me in ways that I can barely describe ... even though I'm going to try here.

15. MULHOLLAND DR. (2001)

Director: David Lynch

Starring: Naomi Watts, Laura Elena Harring, Justin Theroux, Dan Hedaya, Mark Pellegrino, Ann Miller, Robert Forster, Billy Ray Cyrus

Why it's here: Hollywood is often called The Dream Factory.  It's where fantasy is mass-produced, packaged in a glistening cover and sold all over the world. It's literally where dreams come true, at least in the corporate-minded, supply-and-demand sense. And there's no director better suited to probing the depths of both dreams and factories than David Lynch, whose movies are often a surrealistic blend of industrial imagery and dream logic. While he made some great movies before "Mulholland Drive," this is the movie where these two obsessions came together for Lynch in the most complete and heartbreaking way.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Leave Zach Randolph Alone!

The poor guy. Why is the police state persecuting him? Whatever happened to free enterprise???
According to a probable cause affidavit, a trusted police informant identified Memphis Grizzlies player Zach Randolph as a major marijuana supplier in Indianapolis, 6News' Jack Rinehart reported.
Look, he's just turning the money he makes playing basketball into a profit-making business. Is he not just pursuing the American Dream? Is this not just our free market at work?

All right, so there are no charges yet, but still. Poor bastard.

Okay, okay. On a quasi-serious note, this is another example of why pot should be legalized. Why should idiots like Zach Randolph ruin things for the rest of us?

"Uh, what do you mean by 'us,' sir?"

"Ahem ... uh ... um, nothing. Nothing at all ... Ahem."

(WRTV Indianapolis via Deadspin)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Colonel's Countdown: Top 25 Movies (Nos. 17 & 16)

I just want to be clear: These are my 25 favorite films. They're not necessarily the best movies I've seen, although many of them certainly would rank high or near the top of that list. I understand that for some a favorites list is indistinguishable from a best-of list, and that's cool. But it's not my purpose here. I want to celebrate the movies that, for one reason or many, moved me in ways that I can barely describe ... even though I'm going to try here.


17. NASHVILLE (1975)


Director: Robert Altman


Starring: Keith Carradine, Henry Gibson, David Arkin, Barbara Baxley, Ronee Blakley, Ned Beatty, Geraldine Chaplin, Lily Tomlin, Shelley Duvall, Robert DoQui, Barbara Harris, Karen Black, Scott Glenn, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Murphy, Gwen Welles, Timothy Brown, etc.


Why it's here: "Nashville" isn't a place in this movie, it's a state of mind.  Director Robert Altman presents the city as a twangy-voiced Hollywood, as much a cultural capital as a self-sustaining cult of personality.  No matter which character is in momentary focus in the movie, they're all striving toward or against this concept of "Nashville," whether it's a misguided quest for fame or coming to terms with the racial realities of the place. The characters -- brought to life by a cast of dozens as living, breathing people and not caricatures -- are dreamers, saints, hustlers, punks, mothers, cuckolds, fathers, politicians, and ... oh yeah, musicians.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Debate of the Week Special Edition: The End of "Lost"



Please comment below. Remember to keep it civil. Don't assume anything about the people you disagree with. I will delete any comments that are offensive or veer too far off topic. Thank you in advance.


That's all, folks. The end of "Lost." You know you want to write or talk about it furiously, but why bother your friends on Facebook or put up with hardcore trolls on other sites? 


Consider this your safe haven to geek out, or bitch and moan, or stammer on incoherently about the finale, aptly titled "The End," and the whole damned show itself. Oh yeah, this is a "Debate" thread, so feel free to argue with each other. Just don't be nasty!


A spoiler warning is in effect, so please stay away if you've never seen an episode of "Lost" but want to, or if you're behind on episodes. And, please, if you're decidedly not a "Lost" fan, or if you have no interest in it, please stay away from this thread. Trolls will not be tolerated.


Let the geekery, er, debate begin! (Well, just wait until the episode is over ... )



Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Rocks: "What's He Building in There?" by Tom Waits

More a poem set to music than a song, but it's sublimely creepy. I love the emphasis he puts on the word "building" in the refrain.

The Colonel's Countdown: Top 25 Movies (Nos. 19 & 18)

I just want to be clear: These are my 25 favorite films. They're not necessarily the best movies I've seen, although many of them certainly would rank high or near the top of that list. I understand that for some a favorites list is indistinguishable from a best-of list, and that's cool. But it's not my purpose here. I want to celebrate the movies that, for one reason or many, moved me in ways that I can barely describe ... even though I'm going to try here.


19. THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST (1988)


Director: Martin Scorsese


Starring: Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Barbara Hershey, Harry Dean Stanton, Verna Bloom, David Bowie


Why it's here: Nikos Kazantzakis, the author of the novel "The Last Temptation of Christ," once wrote:
The yearning, so human, so superhuman, of man to attain to God, or more exactly, to return to God and identify himself with him -- has always been a deep inscrutable mystery to me. ... My principal anguish, and the wellspring of all my joys and sorrows from my youth onward has been the incessant, merciless battle between the spirit and the flesh.
This quotation, which is also the epigraph at the beginning of Martin Scorsese's film adaptation, tells you all you need to know going into the movie. Put the Bible aside, the movie implores, and begin to reflect on what it takes to balance your spiritual or metaphysical needs with those of your physical existence. Now imagine that you are not you, but the offspring of all-powerful deity. Better yet, that you're the deity itself, made flesh, and you have the literal weight of the world upon your shoulders in addition to all the usual hang-ups associated with being human ... and you know you're going to suffer and die an agonizing death in the service of your highest ideals, love and forgiveness.



Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Colonel's Countdown: Top 25 Movies (Nos. 21 & 20)

I just want to be clear: These are my 25 favorite films. They're not necessarily the best movies I've seen, although many of them certainly would rank high or near the top of that list. I understand that for some a favorites list is indistinguishable from a best-of list, and that's cool. But it's not my purpose here. I want to celebrate the movies that, for one reason or many, moved me in ways that I can barely describe ... even though I'm going to try here.


21. DEAD RINGERS (1988)


Director: David Cronenberg


Starring: Jeremy Irons, Jeremy Irons, Genevieve Bujold, Stephen Lack


Why it's here: "Dead Ringers" tells the tale of brilliant twin gynecologists, both played by the immortal Jeremy Irons, whose dependency on each other leads to madness and death. But don't let the schlocky-sounding title (it was "Twins" at one point, but another movie from 1988, a certain comedy starring the Governator and Danny DeVito, ended up with that title) or the pulpy premise fool you: this is no cheap exploitation flick. (Not that there's anything wrong with cheap exploitation flicks!) It's a meticulously crafted and poetic exploration of identity, addiction, sexuality and, uh, abnormally formed female genitals. (Trust me, it's not exploitation!)


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Thought for the day.

The Palin family is the Fox broadcasting ethos become flesh.

Anchor 1: "Look at that. Isn't it horrible?"


Guest: "Repugnant!"


Anchor 2: "Disgusting!"


Guest: "Won't somebody please think of the children? How can parents let their kids do that?"


Anchor 1: "Let's see that video again."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Debate of the Week: Should Computer Makers be Able to Censor Content? (UPDATED)

Please comment below. Remember to keep it civil. Don't assume anything about the people you disagree with. I will delete any comments that are offensive or veer too far off topic. Thank you in advance.

Recently, in an email exchange with a Gawker blogger, Apple overlord Steve Jobs defended an ad that referred to the company's new iPad as a "revolution." The iPad, Jobs said, offers users freedom, including "freedom from porn."  


Apple and Jobs have faced criticism in recent years for censoring various applications on its iPhones and iPads for what the company has deemed inappropriate content. Critics say it could lead to other, more pervasive kinds of censorship.


What do you think? Do you want "freedom from porn"? Do you think Apple, or any other computer/device maker, should be able to censor content, such as images or stories? Do you think this kind of censorship could lead to more severe forms of censorship? 


Then again, do you think it's Apple's -- or any other device maker's -- right as a business to determine what kind of content can appear on its devices? 


Let the debate begin!

UPDATE: This item is tangentially related to this topic as another example of how Apple could be perceived as trying to influence consumer behavior. A woman in California was not permitted to pay cash for an iPad:

The company only pointed to their purchase policy. It says there is a limit of two iPads per customer and you must pay by credit or debit card. Gift cards will not work either. Apple did not respond to a 7 On Your Side request for an explanation of the policy, however, the store clerk told Campbell it was to prevent con artists from buying lots of iPads selling them overseas.

Tech blog Valleywag says credit cards help Apple track per-person sales of the device.


(Disclosure: I own an iPhone, an iPod and an iMac desktop computer.)


Photo illustration by Dan Milczarski

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Rocks: "Woodstock," By CSNY

This is stuck in my head because this week's highly divisive episode of "Lost" reminded me of some of the lyrics:

We are stardust, we are golden,
We are caught in the Devil's bargain,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.





A reminder for LeBron




Remember this, LeBron. 


Remember this when Chicago calls and offers you: 


- A max contract. Well, slightly less than what Cleveland can offer you. But Chicago, as a city, isn't under constant threat of being swallowed by a vortex of economic failure.


- An opportunity to play in cosmopolitan Chicago. You know who else moved to Chicago as he was about to enter his prime? That's right. President Obama. You want to be president one day, LeBron?


- A chance to play with a talented and young supporting cast, including fellow former No. 1 pick Derrick Rose, who could join you on several All-NBA First Teams and in the Hall of Fame one day.


- And, hopefully, a chance to play under a (somewhat) decent coach! (Please don't fuck this up, Bulls.)


Remember, LeBron: Cleveland sucks.


Okay, if that wasn't enough, here's another video for you, King.



Cleveland Tourism Video Part 2 - Watch more Funny Videos



"We see the sun almost three times a year ... "



The Colonel's Countdown: Top 25 Movies (Nos. 23 & 22)

I just want to be clear: These are my 25 favorite films. They're not necessarily the best movies I've seen, although many of them certainly would rank high or near the top of that list. I understand that for some a favorites list is indistinguishable from a best-of list, and that's cool. But it's not my purpose here. I want to celebrate the movies that, for one reason or many, moved me in ways that I can barely describe ... even though I'm going to try here.


23. JFK (1991)

Director: Oliver Stone

Starring: Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Pesci, Gary Oldman, Sissy Spacek, Jack Lemmon, Ed Asner, Kevin Bacon, John Candy, Walter Matthau, Donald Sutherland, Brian Doyle Murray, Michael Rooker, Jay O. Sanders, Wayne Knight, Laurie Metcalf

Why it's here: You'd think three-plus hours of people talking about the most insane conspiracy theories this side of Alex Jones' fat ass would make for some pretty boring cinema. WRONG. "JFK" is a first-rate thriller, only the suspense comes from the formulation of theories and the compilation of "evidence." Information is the killer here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Chaos.

"Some men just want to watch the world burn." -- Alfred

Count me as one of those men, at least when it comes to the upcoming NBA free agency period. There will be many star players on the market, led by Dwyane Wade, Amar'e Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, possibly Dirk Nowitzki, and none other than the king himself, LeBron James.

I would like to see most of the free agents leave for new teams, particularly the superstars. I would love to see the balance of power undergo a catastrophic shift. I want to see Dwyane Wade in a Bulls uniform. I want anarchy.

That's why I want the Cavs to lose to the Celitcs in game 6 tonight or in game 7, if necessary. I want an epic disappointment for LeBron. I want him so disgusted with Cleveland that he'll either skip town or prompt the franchise to really shake things up by firing their woefully overmatched coach, Mike Brown, and bringing in a blockbuster free agent themselves. Mostly, though, I want LeBron to flee, preferably to Chicago or N.Y.

I want chaos.

Go Celtics. For this week, at least.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Colonel's Countdown: Top 25 Movies (Nos. 25 & 24)

I just want to be clear: These are my 25 favorite films. They're not necessarily the best movies I've seen, although many of them certainly would rank high or near the top of that list. I understand that for some a favorites list is indistinguishable from a best-of list, and that's cool. But it's not my purpose here. I want to celebrate the movies that, for one reason or many, moved me in ways that I can barely describe ... even though I'm going to try here.

So begins our descent into movie madness. I can't wait to read what you have to say, and I can't wait to find out your favorites. And don't forget: We'll be doing this every Wednesday and Friday until we get to Numero Uno, which will merit its own post.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Debate of the Week is taking the week off.

I'm skipping this week's installment of our favorite feature because I'll be focusing on starting my Top 25 movies countdown. Debate of the Week will be back next week, though.

Let me know in the comments if you have any ideas for topics. Or email me.

Viva Los Suns!



Glory, glory Hallelujah! The Suns have SWEPT the Spurs!

Let's hear it for Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire and Jason Richardson and Grant Hill and Alvin Gentry and Goran Dragic! (GORAN DRAGIC!)

Let's hear it for entertaining, exciting playoff basketball!

Good riddance, Tim "Great Grey Mope" Duncan!

Good riddance, Tony "Popeye-Faced Frenchman" Parker!

Good riddance, Manu "The Schnoz" Ginobili!

Good riddance, Gregg "Toxie" Popovich!

Good riddance to your slow, ugly, criminally lucky style of basketball, San Antonio. You won't be missed.

MOPE, TIMMY, MOPE!



Sunday, May 9, 2010

25 Movies That Just Missed the Cut.


If you're a stone-cold movie lover, putting together a list of your 25 favorites is a painful task. There are just too many you love, warts and all; too many movies that refuse to be ignored.

I just finalized a list of my 25 favorites for the countdown we're starting this Wednesday (starting with Nos. 25 and 24, and adding two a day every Wednesday and Friday), and paring it down was really arduous. It hurt to leave out so many. So, in honor of those movies, here's my list of the 25 movies that just missed the cut (I could easily do a list of 50 or 100, but I don't want to bore you guys too much):

Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday Rocks: "Stray Bullet," by KMFDM


I could have picked any cut from KMFDM's "Symbols" album, but I was simply feeling this one today.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Coming Soon

Next Wednesday I will begin counting down my Top 25 favorite movies of all time. Starting with No. 25 and 24, I will write about two every Wednesday and Friday until I get to No. 1, which will have its own entry.

It would be selfish of me, however, to just force my favorites down your throats. I want to hear from you. What's your top 25? I think it could be pretty fun if you guys compiled your lists and posted yours to my comments section as I count down mine. So get your lists ready!

I'm also looking forward to reading what you think about my favorites, whether you agree with me or not. I welcome your praise, your curiosity, your kvetching.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Another reason to root for 'Los Suns.'

A fantastic development. The Phoenix Suns will wear their "Los Suns" jerseys tomorrow night against the Spurs in honor of Cinco de Mayo and in solidarity with the Hispanic community.

Here's the Suns' point guard, the great Steve Nash, on the controversial immigration law:
I think the law is very misguided. I think it is unfortunately to the determinate detriment to our society and our civil liberties and I think it is very important for us to stand up for things we believe in. ... I think the law obviously can target opportunities for racial profiling. Things we don't want to see and don't need to see in 2010.
Way to go. Now top it all off with another whuppin' of the Spurs' asses.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Summer Blockbuster Preview: Forget Iron Man 2, bring on Inception!


"Iron Man 2" is opening in the U.S. this weekend, and for many it tops the list of the most anticipated movies of the summer, if not the year. It'll probably do huge box office numbers and lead to a third "Iron Man."

But if I could only see one big Hollywood picture this summer, it'd be "Memento" and "The Dark Knight" director Christopher Nolan's "Inception," a thriller "set within the architecture of the mind." Yeah, I'm sold.

Anyway, here's Cynic by Trade, Romantic by Nature's Summer Movie Preview. I've isolated just a few movies: the ones I definitely want to see, the ones I'm on the fence about, and the ones I wouldn't watch with Stevie Wonder's eyes.

Hell yes:


IRON MAN 2 (Friday)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam Rockwell
Director: Jon Favreau
Yeah, I'm still pretty excited to see it, despite all of the tepid buzz I'm hearing. Plus, the impression out there in Internet-land is that the movie's a bit of a rush job and, hence, messy. Still, it's fucking "Iron Man," chief. These days, Downey makes anything worth watching, and then you throw in Rourke and Rockwell ... damn! But, as good as Cheadle usually is, I'll miss Terence Howard as Tony Stark's best buddy, Rhodey.

Debate of the Week: Should the U.S. Allow Offshore Oil Drilling? (Updated 2x)


Please comment below. Remember to keep it civil. Don't assume anything about the people you disagree with. I will delete any comments that are offensive or veer too far off topic. Thank you in advance.

This week's topic seems like a no-brainer, considering the massive oil spill in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon rig's explosion and sinking in the Gulf of Mexico.  The rig in question was leased by BP Plc and owned by Transocean Ltd., and its drill was cemented into place by Halliburton just 20 hours before the rig's blowout. BP says it will pay for all "necessary and appropriate" costs for the cleanup of the spill, which President Obama called a "potentially unprecedented environmental disaster."


Speaking of President Obama, just about a month ago he upset fellow Democrats and environmentalists by calling for an expansion of U.S. offshore drilling. He has since decided that the government would delay any new offshore drilling until causes of the explosion and spill in the Gulf have been reviewed.

Supporters of offshore drilling have said it should be part of an all-of-the-above approach to the U.S. gaining energy independence, while opponents, often citing environmental concerns, would rather the country focus time and resources on renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar.

So, where do you stand? As the oil spill spreads in the Gulf, do you think the U.S. should continue to allow offshore oil drilling? Is it worth the risk to the environment and the economy? Do you even think there's much of a risk? Will consumers even see much of a price impact from expanded drilling? What do you think?

Let the debate begin!

UPDATE: Oh, and courtesy of Dick Cheney, here's something else to chew on. Make of it what you will. 

2nd UPDATE: The Governator changes his mind on offshore drilling!

(Photo from the U.S. Department of Energy, via Talking Points Memo