90’s Film Frenzy: Fly Round 2

Welcome back to Round 2 of 90’s Film Frenzy!! We went thru the Dope and Phat divisions a couple of weeks ago and I apologize for the delay. I won’t bore y’all with a long preamble because discussion of these great movies is lengthy enough, but let me take this opportunity to wish The Manoverse a delightful Labor Day Weekend. The catch-22 of this time of year is that summer is ending, which signifies colder weather & gloomier skies in the not-so-distant future, but it also means football is back and a few other fun things about autumn, so let us not despair. Have fun and enjoy life!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forrest Gump

Release:    7/6/94

Starring:     Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Sally Field, Gary Sinise

Directed By:        Robert Zemeckis (Romancing the Stone, The Back to the Future Trilogy, Cast Away)

 

vs.

 

Presumed Innocent

 

Quotes

It is a practical impossibility to try two people for the same crime. Even if it wasn’t, I couldn’t take his mother from my son.

 

You understand what happened had to happen. It couldn’t have turned out any other way. A woman’s depressed…with herself, with life. With her husband, who had made life possible for her…until he was bewitched by another woman. A destroyer. Abandoned…like someone left for dead…she plans her suicide…until the dream begins. In the dream, the destroyer is destroyed. That’s a dream worth living for.

 

Odds & Ends

Before the book was published in August 1987 producer Sydney Pollack purchased the rights to the film for $1 million.

 

Harrison Ford’s hair was cut in such a way to make him look “wimpier” than his previous brave leading man roles.

 

Kevin Costner and Robert Redford turned down the role of Rusty Sabich.

 

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Tom Hanks followed his Oscar winning role in Philadelphia with Forrest Gump, for which he won a second consecutive Academy Award for Best Actor. Gump is based on a 1986 novel by Winston Groom. I’ve pondered the idea of reading the book because I am generally inclined to believe a book is usually better than the movie, but most of the time the film closely follows the original story and the reason the book is better is a matter of subplots & nuance that might have been cut from the movie. However, it is my understanding that Forrest Gump the film completely alters the tone and character development of Forrest Gump the book, so I have been hesitant to read it lest it diminish my affection for the movie. At any rate, the film essentially tells diverging stories of two childhood friends who grew up in 1950’s Alabama. The titular Forrest is what we might now call a “special needs student” or a “low IQ learner”, but he defies the odds by graduating from college, serving in Vietnam, becoming an international ping pong star, meeting multiple U.S. Presidents, and eventually co-founding a successful shrimping business. The love of his life…Jenny…isn’t so lucky. She is abused by her father at a young age, works as a stripper, gets involved with drugs, becomes a hippie, & eventually dies from a mysterious disease (likely either AIDS or hepatitis). Forrest Gump shows these two lives diverging & intersecting at various times, and is unique in its ability to make the viewer chuckle one moment and shed a tear two seconds later. It actually won six Academy Awards, including Best Director (Zemeckis), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture (beating out Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption). It was the #1 film at the box office in 1994 and holds a 72% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The Boston Globe called it “a one-of-a-kind treat”. The NY Daily News had a really interesting take, observing that “what looks at first like a bright, bouncy, & sentimental trip through the baby-boom era turns out, on closer inspection, to be a dark and driven work, haunted by violence, cruelty, & a sense of the tragically absurd” but goes on to say that “where most American movies of the ’90s strike a single note over & over, Forrest Gump is a symphony” that is “an original and deeply moving experience”. People Magazine thought it a “plodding, heavy-handed parable”, while Rolling Stone called it a “heart-breaker of oddball wit & startling grace” and our old pal Ebert simply referred to it as “a magical movie”. Presumed Innocent got past Honeymoon in Vegas in Round 1 because an 87% Rotten Tomatoes score is pretty hard to overlook and I really loved the book back in the day. Harrison Ford is a tremendously talented actor that shouldn’t be pigeonholed as Han Solo, Jack Ryan, or Indiana Jones. Some of his best work has been in films that didn’t get any sequels.

 

The Verdict:       Forrest Gump. Just a really tough draw for Presumed Innocent. Between books, TV, & movies the entertainment landscape is overflowing with legal dramas, and the public’s thirst for such stories has made “true crime” a powerful sub-genre. Amongst Forrest Gump’s many strengths is its distinctiveness…there aren’t many comparable stories, so this is sort of like lobster versus a gourmet hamburger…it may be perfectly cooked with loads of flavor, but at the end of the day it’s still a hamburger.

 

 

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The Fugitive

Release:    8/6/93

Starring:     Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones

Directed By:        Andrew Davis (Above the Law, Under Seige)

 

vs.

 

Joe Versus the Volcano

 

Quotes

I don’t know what your situation is but I wanted you to know what mine is not just to explain some rude behavior, but because we’re on a little boat for a while and I’m soul sick…and you’re going to see that.

 

Do you think I feel good? Nobody feels good. After childhood, it’s a fact of life. I feel rotten. So what? I don’t let it bother me. I don’t let it interfere with my job.

 

90% of people are asleep, and those of who are awake look around us in wonder.

 

I have no interest in myself. I think about myself, I get bored out of my mind.

 

My father says almost the whole world’s asleep. Everybody you know, everybody you see, everybody you talk to. He says only a few people are awake. And they live in a state of constant, total amazement.

 

You have some life left. My advice to you is: live it well.

 

I ask myself, why have I put up with you? I can’t imagine, but now I know. Fear. Yellow freakin’ fear. I’ve been too chicken shit afraid to live my life so I sold it to you for 300 freakin’ dollars a week!

 

I don’t know who you are. I don’t want to know. It’s taken me my whole life to find out who I am, and I’m tired now.

 

There are certain times in your life when I guess you’re not supposed to have anybody. There are certain doors you have to go through alone.

 

If you have a choice between killing yourself and doing something you’re scared of doing, why not take the leap and do the thing you’re scared of doing?

 

Odds & Ends

The lamp that Joe brings into his office displays future events in the movie, including the yacht, a volcano, & a large full moon.

 

If one really pays attention you’ll notice several references to losing one’s soul.

 

The coordinates that Patricia gives… -10.1333, -150.3…places the island ten miles SSW of Caroline Island in the South Pacific.

 

______________________

 

Hey…more Harrison Ford!! Back in the mid-60’s ABC aired four seasons of a drama about a doctor wrongly convicted of murdering his wife and his vagabond lifestyle as he eluded law enforcement while searching for the one-armed man that he claimed was the real killer. Dr. Richard Kimble would move from town to town under an assumed name, work at various menial jobs, and inevitably risk being caught to help someone in need. The 1967 series finale was the most watched television show in history until the 1980 episode of Dallas during which the answer to the question “Who shot J.R.??” is revealed. The Fugitive aired on television long before I was a gleam in my Daddy’s eye, but at some point in the 80’s one channel or another began showing reruns and I was hooked. The big screen adaptation condenses the time frame and changes a few minor details, but retains the spirit of the original premise. It was the third highest grossing film of 1993, has a stellar 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and was nominated for seven Academy Awards, though the only one it took home was Best Supporting Actor for Tommy Lee Jones. Best Picture went to Schindler’s List, which is exactly the kind of thing one would expect from the Oscars, while Jones beat out Leonardo DiCaprio (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?) and John Malkovich (In the Line of Fire) for his award. Joe Versus the Volcano benefitted from a total cop out from Yours Truly in Round 1, tying Hook and therefore moving forward in the competition. Here’s the thing about JVtV…if you watch it as if it is just a silly rom-com it’ll be slightly weird, mostly enjoyable, but ultimately forgettable. However, if you recognize the symbolism, value the metaphor, and truly grasp the existential subtext it will blow your freakin’ mind. I kinda sorta understood it on my own, but there is a video on YouTube that really explains everything that one might have missed about JVtV, and I highly recommend re-watching the movie thru that prism. I’ve seen it called “a near-masterpiece of cinema”. It is about life. It is about death. It is about morality & spirituality. It is about values. It is about heroism. It is about failure. It is about destiny. Everyone who has ever had a job they despised can appreciate the first twenty minutes of JVtV, and anyone who can get thru those depressing twenty minutes will thoroughly enjoy the rest of the journey.

 

The Verdict:       The Fugitive. I feel really guilty about this one. JVtV deserves a better outcome. But I have to be honest, and the truth is that anytime The Fugitive is on I will stop and watch. Ford & Jones have never been better. The film’s tense moments are so well done, and frivolous action & violence are minimal. The strength of Joe Versus the Volcano is also its weakness. If one chooses to simply enjoy it as just another silly rom-com it gets lost in the shuffle amidst movies that are funnier and more romantic, charming, & quotable. But if one makes the correct choice to recognize the imagery & meaning behind it all then it ceases to become the kind of breezy & watchable escapism that a good movie should be. It is a film best reserved for those rare moments of philosophical self-reflection.

 

 

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Billy Madison

Release:    2/10/95

Starring:     Adam Sandler

Directed By:        Tamra Davis (Half Baked)

 

vs.

 

The American President

 

Quotes

Being President of this country is entirely about character. America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad.

 

You cannot address crime prevention without getting rid of assault weapons and hand guns. I consider them a threat to national security, and I will go door-to-door if I have to, but I’m gonna convince Americans that I’m right, and I’m gonna get the guns.

 

The American people have a funny way of deciding on their own what is and what is not their business.

 

Somewhere in Libya right now a janitor’s working the night shift at Libyan intelligence headquarters. He’s going about doing his job because he has no idea that in about an hour he’s going to die in a massive explosion. He has no idea that about an hour ago I gave an order to have him killed. You’ve just seen me do the least Presidential thing I do.

 

Perhaps I didn’t properly explain the fundamentals of the slowdown plan.

 

People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They’re so thirsty for it they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.

 

Odds & Ends

The telephone number President Shepherd gives Sydney to call him back (456-1414) is in fact the number to the White House (area code 202).

 

Robert Redford was originally cast in the lead role, but was replaced with Michael Douglas after a falling out with Rob Reiner.

 

Early versions of the script depicted President Andrew Shepherd as a military veteran and former Special Ops Agent. Rob Reiner discussed the lead role with Bruce Willis and Steven Seagal before Aaron Sorkin’s re-writes transitioned Shepherd to a more academic character.

 

The screenplay for the film inspired many aspects of Sorkin’s later television drama The West Wing. The two productions follow the staff of a largely idealized White House, and like many of Sorkin’s projects, share ideologies. Even the set of the Oval Office in The American President was later used in The West Wing. Sorkin has indicated that much of the first season of The West Wing was actually taken from material he edited out of the first draft of The American President script.

 

___________________

Adam Sandler was a cast member on Saturday Night Live for the first half of the 1990s. He had bit parts in barely notable films like Shakes the Clown, Airheads, & Mixed Nuts while he was also doing SNL, but immediately following his departure from television he hit the ground running with Billy Madison, the story of a lazy & dim-witted 20-something coasting thru life in a state of arrested development and living off of his father’s hard earned wealth. When dear old Dad decides that one of his staff members would be more equipped to take over his business someday Billy objects, only to find out that the reason he made it thru grade school, middle school, & high school was because his father bribed teachers to pass him. Billy convinces his father to change his plan of succession on the condition that the young man complete twelve grades of school within six months. Hilarity ensues. Yes it is a bizarre & inane premise. Yes the critics hated it (46% on Rotten Tomatoes). Your 75 year old father probably doesn’t get it, and most teenagers won’t either, because Billy Madison is a very specific film for a smallish target audience. But more than two decades later those of us that got a chuckle out of Sandler’s antics back then are still watching Billy Madison now. It was the 65th highest grossing film of 1995, but a lot of movies that made more money that year…Major Payne, Rob Roy, Judge Dredd, Man of the House, The Net, Sabrina, Outbreak…have been forgotten, while television continues to air Billy Madison and people continue to watch. The American President slipped past Boogie Nights in Round 1 because I just can’t wrap my mind around a drama about the porn industry, and because it eventually sparked a greater legacy called The West Wing, one of the finest television shows of the past quarter century. Michael Douglas is an underrated actor and Annette Bening can be compelling in the right role. They both shine in lighthearted fare that allows them to smile & laugh.

 

The Verdict:       Billy Madison. Aaron Sorkin should consider The American President a beta test for what eventually became his best creation. I don’t know if it was him or someone else, but somebody somewhere figured out that an idealistic rendition of The White House with a charming President, dogmatic & loyal staffers, and snappy dialogue would make a much better TV show than a movie. Adam Sandler isn’t everyone’s cup o’ tea and no one is saying that he’s ever made a great film, but Billy Madison is harmless fun that has weathered the sands of time.

 

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Grumpy Old Men

Release:    12/25/93

Starring:     Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Ann Margret

Directed By:        Donald Petrie (Mystic Pizza, Miss Congeniality)

 

vs.

 

Mr. Saturday Night

Quotes

For me, my family was like, uh, Dances With Jews. Oh sure, we had names for our relatives like they had in that movie. We had “Eats With His Hands,” “Spits When He Talks,” “Makes Noise When He Bends,” “Sweats Like a Pig,” “Whines In a Cab,” “Never Buys Retail,” “Shaves His Back.”

 

Buddy, my whole life I listened to ya’ bellyache about your luck. Well, you are where you are because of who you are.

 

Odds & Ends

Marisa Tomei auditioned for the part of Buddy’s wife, Elaine, but was deemed too young for the role. Tomei later played Billy Crystal’s daughter in 2012’s Parental Guidance.

 

Billy Crystal’s directorial debut.

 

The film is based on a SNL Weekend Update sketch in which Billy Crystal plays Buddy Young Jr. reviewing a restaurant.

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Jack Lemmon & Walter Matthau starred in eleven movies together, the most famous of which is probably 1968’s The Odd Couple, an adaptation of Neil Simon’s stage play from a few years earlier. The play & film would eventually find its way to television in a series starring Tony Randall & Jack Klugman that ran thru the first half of the 1970s. Nearly three decades after their greatest success together the pair reunited in this charming comedy about two old geezers fighting over a woman. John Gustafson & Max Goldman are next door neighbors in the frozen tundra of Wabasha, MN. They spend their days fishing, drinking beer, watching TV, and insulting one other. We learn that they’ve known each other all of their lives but battled it out over a woman named Mae decades ago. Mae apparently chose John, but was unfaithful and eventually divorced him. Max ended up with a better woman (now deceased), but still harbors resentment over the one that got away. When a new lady moves in across the street…beautiful, slightly younger, & full of the spirit that Max & John lost long ago…the old rivalry finds new life. Grumpy Old Men was the 14th highest grossing film of 1993, ahead of Cool Runnings and Demolition Man but behind Free Willy and The Pelican Brief. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 62%, with the NY Times cautioning “don’t expect their bickering to be on the level of Neil Simon and you won’t be disappointed”, Ebert calling it “too pat and practiced to really be convincing”, the Washington Post advising that “if you poke through the cheap sentimentality you’ll find a worthy picture somewhere”, and Entertainment Weekly observing that “the shallow pratfalls hide richly funny observations”. Mr. Saturday Night upset Scream in the first round because horror movies just don’t frost my cupcake. If Billy Crystal were an employee at an average 9-5 business his boss would describe him as solid, dependable, trustworthy, & proficient. In Hollywood terms that means that he’s rarely brought up in discussions about the biggest, hottest, most talented top box office stars, but he has carved out a nice career that’s lasted several decades and produced some quality entertainment. Mr. Saturday Night is unlikely to appeal to anyone younger than 35, which obviously has a negative impact on the kinds of numbers that Hollywood deems important. If it were made today instead of 25 years ago it might be direct-to-video or more likely an original production of Netflix or Hulu, which would be fine. That’s the world we live in, right?? As a writer I recognize the movie’s flaws but also have to give kudos to some outstanding performances. Crystal is known to be a big baseball fan, and in that sport’s parlance I’ll call this movie a single stretched into a double thru good base running, but there is no one on base, two outs, and the next batter strikes out, rendering the previous play somewhat futile.

 

The Verdict:       Grumpy Old Men. I still love you Billy Crystal!!

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Father of the Bride

Release:    12/20/91

Starring:     Steve Martin, Kimberly Williams, Diane Keaton, Martin Short

Directed By:        Charles Shyer (Private Benjamin, Baby Boom)

 

vs.

 

City Slickers

 

Quotes

Value this time in your life kids, because this is the time in your life when you still have your choices, and it goes by so quickly. When you’re a teenager you think you can do anything, and you do. Your twenties are a blur. Your thirties, you raise your family, you make a little money and you think to yourself, “What happened to my twenties?” Your forties, you grow a little pot belly you grow another chin. The music starts to get too loud and one of your old girlfriends from high school becomes a grandmother. Your fifties you have a minor surgery. You’ll call it a procedure, but it’s a surgery. Your sixties you have a major surgery, the music is still loud but it doesn’t matter because you can’t hear it anyway. Seventies, you and the wife retire to Fort Lauderdale, you start eating dinner at two, lunch around ten, breakfast the night before. And you spend most of your time wandering around malls looking for the ultimate in soft yogurt and muttering “how come the kids don’t call?” By your eighties, you’ve had a major stroke, and you end up babbling to some Jamaican nurse who your wife can’t stand but who you call mama. Any questions?

 

Women need a reason to have sex, men just need a place.

 

Have you ever had that feeling that this is the best I’m ever gonna do, this is the best I’m ever gonna feel… and it ain’t that great?

 

We’re black and we’re dentists. Let’s not make an issue out of it.

 

We had different needs. I needed him to treat me decently and get a job, and he needed to empty my bank account and leave.

 

Ed, have you noticed that the older you get, the younger your girlfriends get? Soon you’ll be dating sperm.

 

Odds & Ends

The story that Billy Crystal tells about his “best day” of going to a Yankee game with his father is a true story from his childhood. He notes at one point that, “I still have the program.” Not only does he really still have it, but he got Mickey Mantle to autograph it twice: once at the game that day and once again some 20 years later on a talk show they were both guests on.

 

This was Jake Gyllenhaal’s film debut.

 

Billy Crystal is a diehard New York Yankees fan but wears a New York Mets cap in the film because the Mets made a major contribution to Comic Relief.

 

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See, I told you!! Billy Crystal is still in it to win it dawg!! City Slickers got past Hocus Pocus in Round 1 because who can deny the trifecta of an Academy Award, Crystal, and a 90% score from the critics?? Comedy is tricky. We like to divide everything into categories and stack things into neat little piles, but there are so many different kinds of comedy. When it comes to movies there are some that are just a jumbled mess that can’t decide what they are or the idea they are trying to convey. To my understanding the reason for that is oftentimes because so many writers, producers, directors, actors, & suits have tampered with the product in pre-production that by the time we see it on the big screen it’s like consuming a dish that dozens of cooks have had a hand in making without really communicating with one another, to the point that no one knows what the hell we’re eating. Conversely, great films have been infused with different flavors that are expertly blended, resulting in a pleasurable outcome. City Slickers is a cut above so many of the idiotic comedies that seem to find their way to our local cineplex in the 21st century. It actually has a point, with well-written characters that develop thru the story. None of the actors are the kind of popular hot commodities that seem to be in a different movie every other month, but the performances are tremendous and the cast gels together nicely. A sequel…called City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold…was made a few years later, but the magic was gone, and it didn’t help that Jon Lovitz joined the cast. Lovitz ruins everything. Father of the Bride is a remake of a 1950 film starring Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor. Steve Martin plays the beleaguered father of a 20-something daughter who has just announced her engagement. Despite Dad’s dreams of a simple backyard BBQ wedding the bride-to-be and her mother have a different idea and hire a hilariously weird wedding planner. Dad’s a cheapskate who isn’t emotionally ready to let his little girl go, so the whole process is torturous & expensive for him, but everything works out just fine in the end. FotB was 9th highest grossing film of 1991 and has a solid 71% score on Rotten Tomatoes. In comparing the remake to the original the NY Times said “the material has been successfully refurbished with new jokes and new attitudes”. Ebert called it “a movie with heart” with “little moments in it when Martin is deeply moved”. Entertainment Weekly liked the “feel-good finale’, but wasn’t overly impressed by “the pat, amiable, and rather dawdling farce that preceded it”.

 

The Verdict:       Father of the Bride. I suppose one might consider it a slight upset. Most critics would probably say that City Slickers is clearly the better movie. For me it is largely about repeat viewings. As good as many seem to think it is, City Slickers just hasn’t popped up on television all that much in the past 27 years, and as such it is kind of easily forgotten. Father of the Bride, on the other hand, seems to be on an awful lot, and at some point in the past couple of decades I have developed a deep affection for it.

 

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Office Space

Release:    2/19/99

Starring:     Ron Livingston, Stephen Root, Gary Cole, Jennifer Aniston

Directed By:        Mike Judge (Beavis & Butt-Head Do America, Idiocracy)

 

vs.

 

Hook

 

Quotes

Oh, I hate being disappointed, Smee. And I hate living in this flawed body. And I hate living in Neverland. And I hate, I hate, I hate Peter Pan!

 

The stories are true! I swear to you! I swear to you on everything I hold dear! And now he’s come back to seek his revenge. The fight isn’t over for Captain James Hook. He wants you back. He knows that you’ll follow Jack and Maggie to the ends of the earth and beyond. And by heavens, you must find a way. Only you can save your children. Somehow, you must go back. You must make yourself remember.

 

Your children love you, they want to play with you. How long do you think that lasts? Just a few years, and it’s over. And you are not being careful. And you are missing it.

 

You know you’re not really Peter Pan, don’t you? This is only a dream. When you wake up, you’ll just be Peter Banning…a cold, selfish man who drinks too much, is obsessed with success, and runs & hides from his wife & children.

 

That is the same window and this is the same room where we made up bedtime stories telling about Peter, Neverland, and scary old Captain Hook. But did you know that Mr. Barrie… well, Sir James, our neighbor, he loved our stories so much that he wrote them all down in a book… oh dear me… eighty years ago.

 

Odds & Ends

The kissing couple who begin to float when some fairy dust lands on them are actually George Lucas and Carrie Fisher in a cameo.

 

Williams & Spielberg became close friends after making this film. Reportedly, after Williams’s death, Spielberg decided to watch this film out of remembrance but couldn’t finish it because he couldn’t stop crying for hours.

 

Maggie Smith, being only 56 years old at the time of filming, was aged up by makeup to play 92-year-old Granny Wendy.

 

Julia Roberts was nicknamed “Tinkerhell” because she was difficult to deal with, a reaction to her working conditions of solitude & a green screen.

 

Dustin Hoffman’s former co-star, Jon Voight, asked him if he could bring his children, James Haven and Angelina Jolie, to the set because they were “dying to meet Captain Hook.” Hoffman agreed to meet them while in costume. Jolie was 16 years old, and Hoffman described her as a “tall, thin, gawky-looking girl with a mouth full of braces.” After Jolie told Hoffman she was going to be an actress, Hoffman went home to his wife and said, “I don’t think this kid has any idea what a tough road she’s got.”

 

Steven Spielberg admitted to being disappointed with final result of the movie. He had such a hard time working with the rebellious crew of young actors that he later said, only somewhat kiddingly, that the experience made him wonder if he wanted to have any more kids. He also felt guilty that he wasn’t able to find an economical method to filming the many complex human-flight sequences in the film.

 

Gwyneth Paltrow appears briefly as the teenage Wendy.

 

Dustin Hoffman based the voice of Captain Hook on that of the columnist William F. Buckley.

 

Glenn Close, Phil Collins, Steven Spielberg, David Crosby, & Jimmy Buffett all make cameos.

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Office Space is the very definition of a cult classic. No one paid attention to it in theaters. It ranked 121st at the box office in 1999. 121st!! Something called The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland made more money. I knew nothing about it until 3 or 4 years later when a co-worker kept quoting it and told me how awesome it is. At the time he & I both worked at a place strikingly similar to the business depicted in the film. Actually I think anyone who has ever worked in any kind of office can see similarities between their reality and what we see onscreen, which is a huge reason Office Space became such a big hit on home video. The cast is filled with character actors that have never done much beyond supporting roles on both television & film, with the lone exception being Jennifer Aniston. In 1999 she was halfway thru her run as Rachel on Friends, and I guess she was supposed to help Office Space make money, but her role is smallish and not at all why people love the movie. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 79% score, though most of those reviews were done in hindsight, long after it had gained traction and gained popularity. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that very few critics even bothered to watch it or write a review back in 1999. The Washington Post called it “a knowing, somewhat slight, often hilarious sendup of cubicle culture” that “exploits the yuks in the chronic misery of those routinely exposed to the monotonous gray of corporate minds and company décor”. Variety said it is “frequently uproarious”, Ebert observed that “movie’s dialogue is smart”, and the Village Voice dubbed it “a surprisingly good-natured comedy about the suppressed rage and paranoia of unappreciated employees”. As a perpetually underappreciated employee I must agree. Hook benefitted from a first round cop-out tie from me, though with a cast that includes Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, & Julia Roberts, all directed by Steven Spielberg, one would think it shouldn’t have to rely on such benevolence. I’ve told this story before, but I fondly recall seeing Hook in an old historic theater in downtown Huntington, WV. I was with a few of my fraternity brothers and we were the only people there, which began my lifelong affection for an essentially empty theater versus being in a crowded one. At any rate, that memorable viewing experience combined with my fondness for Williams has combined to elevate Hook a bit higher in my heart & mind than it probably deserves.

 

The Verdict:       Office Space. If I’m being honest I have to admit that Hook has its flaws. Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell was a huge mistake. The whole “Peter Pan grew up to be an uptight Type A neglectful workaholic that ignores his family” thing is a premise that probably sounded really cool in the early 90’s, but in retrospect a straight retelling of the Peter Pan story might have been a better choice. Spielberg is indisputably brilliant, but he could have benefitted from the kind of CGI and technological movie magic that probably wasn’t available in the 90’s. Office Space is more proof that when a story really works, the script is well written, and the jokes are funny a big budget and top shelf actors aren’t necessary. It further illustrates the difference between a movie that’ll make a splash on the big screen for a few weeks but quickly evaporate into the pop culture ether versus something that is built to last and make a long term impact.

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The Wedding Singer

Release:    2/13/98

Starring:     Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore

Directed By:        Frank Coraci (The Waterboy, Blended)

 

vs.

 

Edward Scissorhands

 

Quotes

It’s not heaven he’s from! It’s straight from the stinking flames of hell! The power of Satan is in him; I can feel it. Can’t you? Have you poor sheep strayed so far from the path? He has been sent first to tempt you. But it’s not too late. You must push him from you, expel him! Trample down the perversion of nature!

 

Sweetheart, you can’t buy the necessities of life with cookies.

 

The years spent in isolation have not equipped him with the tools necessary to judge right from wrong. He’s had no context. He’s been completely without guidance.

 

You see, before he came down here, it never snowed. And afterwards, it did. If he weren’t up there now, I don’t think it would be snowing. Sometimes you can still catch me dancing in it.

 

Odds & Ends

The idea for the movie was inspired by a drawing Tim Burton had done when he was a teenager,The drawing depicted a thin, solemn man with long, sharp blades for fingers. Burton stated that he was often alone and had trouble retaining friendships. “I get the feeling people just got this urge to want to leave me alone for some reason, I don’t know exactly why.”

 

Winona Ryder dropped out of The Godfather: Part III to appear in this film. Reportedly, it was Johnny Depp who actually convinced her to do so.

 

Vincent Price’s role was intended to be larger, but the veteran actor was very ill with emphysema and Parkinson’s disease, so his scenes were cut to a minimum.

 

The houses used in the film were a real community in Florida, completely unchanged, except for their garish exterior paint.

 

Some of the topiary that Edward makes in the movie can be seen permanently at the New York City restaurant Tavern On the Green.

 

Viewers are left to decide whether they think Kim is telling a fairy tale to her granddaughter or relating a story about something that really happened to her.

 

Burton and screenwriter Caroline Thompson cite various monster stories like The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Phantom of the Opera, Frankenstein, King Kong, and Creature from the Black Lagoon as an influential to the film.

 

___________________________

When did I become old enough that the 1980’s could be deemed proper fodder for nostalgia?? Apparently the answer to that question is 1998. Sandler followed-up his successful hits Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore with a story about Robbie Hart, an aspiring musician who lives with his sister & her family in New Jersey. Robbie’s dreams of becoming a rock star seem to have faded as he has settled into an apathetic existence as the leader of a cover band that performs at weddings, birthday parties, & bar mitzvahs. His girlfriend has grown weary of this lack of vision & ambition and ditches him at the altar on their wedding day. Robbie has a hilarious yet pitiful breakdown, but the clouds begin to lift when he meets Julia, a waitress at the catering hall where he often performs. If rom-coms were sports teams Sandler & Barrymore would be great backups coming off the bench behind starters Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan. They’ve done three movies together and this first collaboration is the best. It was the 24th highest grossing film of 1998 (behind Shakespeare in Love but ahead of Halloween: H2O) and holds a 68% score on Rotten Tomatoes. The L.A. Times glowingly called it “a sparkling romantic comedy…the kind that glides by so gracefully & unpretentiously that it’s only upon reflection that you realize how much skill, caring, and good judgment had to have gone into its making”, while Ebert opined that “one of the sad byproducts of the dumbing-down of America is that we’re now forced to witness the goofy plots of the 1930s played sincerely, as if they were really deep”. I’m not really sure exactly what that means, but it makes me wonder what Roger Ebert…who died in 2013…would think of some of the absolute crapfests that besmirch theaters these days, because The Wedding Singer is Citizen Kane in comparison to many of them. Edward Scissorhands got past Mallrats in Round 1 because I just don’t understand what the big deal is about Kevin Smith. It’s hard to categorize Edward Scissorhands, but I think that’s part of its charm. It appeals to different people for various reasons, and all of those perspectives are valid. The film is visually stunning, with the fascinating contrast between Edward’s gothic existence and the colorful 50’s vibe of the human neighborhood he is brought to, and as a person with a disability who has oftentimes found it challenging to fit into “normal” society I appreciate that theme. Burton squashed the idea of a sequel a few years ago, and one can only hope he doesn’t ever let anyone do a stupid remake.

 

The Verdict:       The Wedding Singer. This one comes down to repeat viewings for me, and I can’t remember the last time I watched Edward Scissorhands. Burton is a weird dude who’s made some strange movies. Some of them aren’t bad, but personally I have to be in the right kind of mood to enjoy his stuff. The Wedding Singer has wider appeal, and especially speaks to an 80’s kid like myself.

 

*************************

 

Die Hard: With A Vengeance

Release:    5/19/95

Starring:     Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Irons

Directed By:        John McTiernan (Predator, The Hunt for Red October. The Last Action Hero)

 

vs.

 

Goodfellas

Release:    9/19/90

Starring:     Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci

Directed By:        Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Last Temptation of Christ)

 

vs.

 

Twister

 

Quotes

When you told me you used to chase tornados I always thought it was a metaphor!

 

It’s the Fujita Scale. It measures the intensity of a tornado by how much it eats.

 

He’s a nightcrawler. We all started out working in the same lab, but Jonas went out and got some corporate sponsors. He’s in it for the money not the science. He has a lot of high tech gadgets, but he doesn’t have any instinct.

 

Odds & Ends

Filming in Oklahoma was briefly delayed due to the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Much of the crew went to the site to help with recovery efforts.

 

A recording of a camel’s moan was slowed down and used as the sound of the tornado.

 

The characters are alarmed when TV screens go blank, showing only static, before the tornado hits. In the days before digital TV, it was discovered that tornadoes generate a signal that will override and blank channel 2 on TV sets. Digital TVs do not react that way.

 

In the town of Wakita, the building the actors used to get ready for filming was turned into a museum for the movie where they have “Dorothy” on display as well as many other items from the movie.

 

As one of the characters looks at the screen of their weather computer, he screams “That’s no moon, it’s a space station!” That’s Obi-Wan Kenobi’s line when he, Luke, Han, and Chewbacca first discover the Death Star.

 

____________________________________

 

Bruce Willis has now made five Die Hard films, with one final swan song allegedly on the way (reportedly a prequel). I don’t think it’s possible to surpass the first one, but Vengeance gives it a heck of a try. Seven years after the dramatic Christmas party at Nakatomi Plaza and five years after another memorable yuletide at an airport Detective John McClane is again estranged from his wife, suspended from the NYPD, and apparently an alcoholic. But then a terrorist threatens to blow up a school and specifically requests McClane’s involvement in the case, which involves a cat & mouse game of solving riddles throughout The Big Apple. McClane’s impromptu partner this time is a Harlem store owner named Zeus, who inadvertently gets pulled into the action. The criminal turns out to be the brother of the bad guy from the first film, and there is a similar twist as far as what his motives are. Jackson was a welcome addition to the franchise and breathes a lot of life into the story. Vengeance was the tenth highest grossing film of 1995 but holds an unimpressive 52% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Variety said that it “degenerates into an improbable & confusing series of chases and an overly involved heist that takes far too long to set up”, Rolling Stone called it “a tense, terrifically funny action dazzler”, Ebert referred to it as “a wind-up action toy…cleverly made and delivered with high energy”, and Entertainment Weekly thought it was “a more racially charged Lethal Weapon”, opining that the mad bomber “toys with McClane like a villain on the old Batman TV series”. Twister easily beat Very Bad Things in Round 1 but now faces a stiffer challenge. Time Magazine harshly observed that “you know a movie is in trouble when a cow provides its only moment of authentic human interest”. Variety said that the movie “conveys the overwhelming impression of a mechanical entertainment, a very high concept in which the characters and their problems seem like utterly arbitrary creations”. The NY Times thought that “science aside… it works as escapism even if you do know enough to come in out of the rain”. Goodfellas is a mob movie far different from anything we saw in The Godfather films. Based on the story of real life mobster Henry Hill, Goodfellas is a grittier and less cinematic story than The Godfather, but I suspect that it’s a more accurate portrayal of mob life. The cast is first rate, and the movie was nominated for a half dozen Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. However, the only Oscar it took home was Best Supporting Actor for Pesci. Goodfellas was the 26th highest grossing film of 1990, behind Problem Child, Days of Thunder, and the much maligned Godfather Part III, but ahead of Rocky V, Predator 2, and Ernest Goes to Jail. It has a near perfect Rotten Tomatoes score of 96%. The NY Daily News said that “Scorsese succeeds in smashing all the foolishly romantic myths about the mob with this shocking, vigorously honest portrait”, Rolling Stone observed that it “bristles with violent passion, howitzer wit, and virtuoso style”, and Variety dissented from the majority by calling it “colorful but dramatically unsatisfying”. Our buddy Ebert didn’t hold back when he said that “no finer film has ever been made about organized crime…not even The Godfather”, which is where I have to draw the line. I have no doubt that Goodfellas is more authentic, but Variety hit the nail on the head by calling it dramatically unsatisfying. The old saying is that truth is stranger than fiction…but is it more entertaining?? I don’t think so.

 

The Verdict:       Die Hard: With a Vengeance. With all due respect, I must defend The Godfather. It may be more realistic, but Goodfellas is NOT a better movie…not in any universe I’d ever want to inhabit. That’s just crazy talk. I’m not really into violence, and Goodfellas is a much more vicious film than The Godfather, while none of its characters are as well written or performed with the exception of Pesci’s Tommy DeVito. Twister is a decent disaster flick, but gets lost in the shuffle amongst much better movies of that genre. Vengeance isn’t as good as the original Die Hard, but it’s certainly better than any of the other sequels, and it’s one of my favorite Samuel L. Jackson performances.

50 Favorite TV Shows…..20-11

Please be sure to catch up on the previous entries in this series here, here, here, and here. I will be taking a brief intermission from this series before we get to the highly anticipated (I hope) Top 10. God has laid it on my heart that it is time to get back to writing about some more meaningful things. Please be sure to read those when they are finished, and we will get back to the exciting conclusion of this adventure eventually.

 

 

 

20     M*A*S*H

          CBS 1972-83

I hated MASH as a kid. First of all I was way too young to “get it”. To me it was just another “war story” that my Dad watched that bored the crap out of me. Secondly, as I recall, it came on at 9pm on Monday night…the same time as Monday Night Football. I always had a bedtime (which I loathed since I’m a night owl but am now thankful for because left to my own devices I would have stayed up til 3am every night and probably flunked out of school), and I wanted to spend my last 30-60 minutes of “freedom” watching the ball game. Unfortunately my father was King of the Castle (something which I now truly understand) and he wanted to watch MASH…hence my animosity. However, a strange thing occurred in my adult years. I began to watch reruns of MASH and realized what a remarkably well written, well performed show it had been. This may have been the genesis of my affection for the dramedy genre, because sometimes one has to laugh to keep from crying.

 

 

19     Taxi

          ABC 1978-83

I called WKRP in Cincinnati one of the most underrated sitcoms ever, and here we have a similar situation…yet another workplace comedy that didn’t last as long as it should have and has never gotten the love it deserves from the masses. Set in a NY City cab company, the casting director gave us such luminaries as Danny Devito, Tony Danza, Judd Hirsch, Christopher Lloyd (who would star as Doc Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy a few years later), and Andy Kaufman. I think that is why Taxi outranks WKRP…its stars went on to become even bigger stars. Devito’s Louie DePalma was your typical smarmy, immoral, narcissistic boss character, but Devito played it for laughs…lots of them…instead of making the audience hate him. My father LOVED Louie, and my father isn’t easily entertained. Personally I was as amused by Lloyd’s Rev. Jim Ignatowski, a former Harvard student turned hilariously burned out reminder of the drug infested 60’s. Every sitcom writer ought to study Taxi like a science experiment and learn how to create memorable characters and a funny show.

 

 

18     Later with Bob Costas

          NBC 1988-94

I ranked The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder 25th on this list, and coming in just a few spots higher is a show with the same general vibe…two people sitting down to have a meaningful tete-a-tete for an hour…no band, no comedy, no sidekicks, no live audience. I think Bob Costas may be one of the smartest people on television, and what makes him so cool is that he seems blissfully unaware of that fact, unlike smug windbags like Oprah, Bill Maher, Dr. Phil, Bryant Gumbel, Matt Lauer, ESPN’s Skip Bayless, or just about any successful movie star of the past 20 years (really George Clooney & Brad Pitt…we don’t care what your opinions are on sociopolitical issues). I also like the fact that Costas has always pretty much stuck with his first love…sports. Could he do weightier, supposedly more important things?? Sure. He is probably the most talented person to walk the halls of NBC in my lifetime. But he enjoys doing sports and doesn’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone. However, the one time he did step beyond his usual boundaries was this show, and it’s a crying shame it didn’t last very long. I read somewhere that Costas himself stepped away because he & his family lived in St. Louis and the show taped in New York, which became too much of a grind. If I would have been in charge I would have moved the damn show to St. Louis. In what rule book does it say that every movie & TV show has to be produced in New York or Los Angeles?? At any rate after Costas’ departure Later went thru a plethora of hosts, including Greg Kinnear, MTV’s Cynthia Garrett, & comedienne Rita Sever, and even “presented” old reruns of SCTV (Canada’s answer to Saturday Night Live), before ultimately being repackaged as Last Call, hosted by former MTV tool Carson Daly. Not that it matters to me, because after the departure of Bob Costas I stopped watching.

 

 

17     The West Wing

          NBC 1999-2006

I really didn’t want to like this show. The writers, producers, and practically the entire cast were complicit in presenting an obviously liberal spin on political issues, but I’ll be darned if it wasn’t amongst the best written, best acted, best directed dramas in my lifetime. I have no idea if what was portrayed on screen was in any way an accurate representation of how the real White House works, but I must say that, regardless of party affiliation or philosophy, if the American people were ever fortunate enough to be able to vote for a guy like Jed Bartlet we could do much much worse. Unfortunately I don’t believe for one second that real politicians…especially liberals…are as honest, honorable, compassionate, and intellectually sincere as those portrayed on The West Wing. Writer/producer Aaron Sorkin…leftist though he may be…is a terrific scribe and I enjoy almost anything with which he is involved. The performers on this show were sublime…folks like Richard Schiff, Allison Janney, John Spencer, Joshua Malina, and Bradley Whitford. Martin Sheen was already a proven commodity and The West Wing was just the cherry on top of a memorable career, but the majority of the rest of the cast were little known character actors who probably plateaued with this show. Even former Brat Packer Rob Lowe was made to look like a credible actor, either due to the company he was in the midst of or because of Sorkin’s deft skill. In my humble opinion this show…this concept…is tailor made for an eventual revival. Would Sorkin return?? Would the idea work with a whole new cast?? I don’t know, but it is an interesting idea to ponder.

 

 

16     Late Night with David Letterman

          NBC 1982-93

David Letterman circa 2012 is a bitter old man who doesn’t even try to hide his extreme left political bias. It is my opinion that the events of September 11, 2001 combined with a month long hiatus due to heart surgery in early 2000 changed the Letterman we’d all known and loved for two decades. I rarely watch these days because I just don’t find him funny anymore. However, before 9/11, before his heart problems, and even before his move to CBS & the 11:30pm time slot in 1993 Letterman spent a glorious decade at NBC in the 12:30am period immediately following Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, and he was absolutely brilliant. Late Night in the 80’s was quirky, bold, sardonic, original, irreverent, unpredictable, odd…and most of all very very funny. Every effort was made to be different from Carson and attract a younger, hipper demographic. Letterman utilized his actual staff…bandleader Paul Shaffer, stage manager Biff Henderson, producer Robert Morton, director Hal Gurnee, and a host of others…in comedy bits unlike anything that had been done on late night television. Current staples like the nightly Top Ten list, Stupid Pet Tricks, and Viewer Mail were fresh back in the 80’s. Letterman made a star out of little known actor Calvert Deforest (aka Larry “Bud” Melman), dropped things off buildings, wore crazy Velcro suits, crushed things with a steamroller, introduced the world to his mother Dorothy, had frequent (and amusing) phone conversations with paper pusher Meg at Simon & Schuster, and mercilessly berated his bosses at NBC & General Electric. It was all quite silly, but hey…silly is exactly what most people enjoy at 1 o’clock in the morning.

 

 

15     Star Trek:The Next Generation

          Syndicated 1987-94

I have to give a shout out to my friend The Owl for turning me into a Trekkie. Before college I had a passing familiarity with Star Trek, but hadn’t really paid all that much attention. 20+ years later I love almost all the films and dig the original series. However, my initial affection started right here, with Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Lieutenant Commander Data, Commander Riker, Dr. Beverly Crusher, Lieutenant Worf (a Klingon!!), chief engineer Geordi LaForge, and Counselor Troi. This show is more character driven and explores more interpersonal relationships than the original, yet it still has its share of ass kickin’ action. Alot of plot points seem to involve a bit of sociopolitical commentary, but it is rarely preachy or trite. My preference for TNG over TOS (if you don’t get the acronyms then you obviously aren’t a Trekkie) is simply due to TNG being something I watched while it was actually on television instead of watching two decades after it was over like TOS. The series finale “All Good Things”, originally aired on May 23, 1994, remains one of the finest TV episodes I have ever seen. Indeed, the trial never ends. See you…out there.

 

 

14     Night Court

          NBC 1984-92

I have been in a courtroom exactly twice in my life, both times in a supportive role for friends who were facing legal battles. But it only took those two occasions to solidify my notion that a real court isn’t nearly as interesting as the stuff we see on TV or in movies. Usually what we see are dramatic situations in shows like L.A. Law, Perry Mason, and Law & Order, or films like To Kill A Mockingbird, 12 Angry Men, A Time to Kill, and Presumed Innocent. But in the 80’s NBC decided to give us a courtroom comedy, and oh what fun it was. Set during New York City’s night shift, the presumption was that most cases at that hour are of the eccentric, offbeat, absurd variety. That premise combined with the court’s quirky cast of employees made for a unique & memorable (if not necessarily accurate) take on America’s legal system.

 

 

13     Happy Days

          ABC 1974-84

Happy Days is the TV equivalent of the movie Grease…a story about high schoolers created in the 70’s, set in the 50’s. I am a sucker for that kind of thing. Creator Garry Marshall also gave us notable shows Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy (both spin-offs of Happy Days), as well as The Odd Couple. He would direct the Julia Roberts hit film Pretty Woman in 1990, and a host of other less celebrated movies. However Happy Days remains his most endearing legacy. In many ways it was your typical family sitcom, but the characters were so unique and, with one notable exception, very relatable & real. I loved the fact that it was set in Milwaukee instead of New York, L.A., or Chicago. Ron Howard, who had been a child star on The Andy Griffith Show and went on to become a big time movie director, embodied the classic awkward, insecure teenager yearning to be cool alongside his best buddies Ralph & Potsie (one of the all-time great sitcom nicknames). Ritchie’s parents…hardware store owner Howard and homemaker Marion…were the kind of parents every kid dreams of having. And of course eventually the real star of the show became a bike riding, leather jacket wearing, finger snapping ladies’ man named Fonzie, who wasn’t necessarily realistic (trust me…I’ve tried slapping a jukebox…fetching young ladies did not emerge from nowhere), but was such a well written, well performed character that it didn’t really matter. Sitcoms like Happy Days simply aren’t made in the cynical, vulgar, envelope pushing 21st century, and we’re all worse off because of that fact.

 

 

12     Friends

          NBC 1994-2004

Timing is everything, and this show about a group of young adults trying to make their way in the world came along just as I was a young adult dealing with many of the same issues. Unfortunately for me my close pals from college spread out across the country…Texas, Ohio, the Carolinas, etc.…so I wasn’t able to live across the hall from them or gather on a daily basis in the neighborhood coffee shop. Looking back I suppose Friends allowed me the chance to live vicariously and envision just how awesome it’d be to have the opportunity to hang out with my chums. Plus the characters had really cool jobs and lived in a kickass loft that I would never be able to afford. I most closely identified with Ross, the lovelorn, neurotic, socially awkward nerd, whose unrequited love for the beautiful Rachel eventually blossomed into an on-again off-again relationship that was the centerpiece of the show for much of its run. Friends probably lasted a year or two too long, but one cannot blame the suits for keeping their cash cow alive. Hindsight is always 20/20, and what one recognizes all these years later is that Friends was actually a very well written program, a skillful mix of old school sitcom with an edgier 90’s sensibility.

 

 

11     The Dukes of Hazzard

          CBS 1979-85

Corny?? Yes. Wholesome?? Sure. Entertaining?? You bet. And what exactly is wrong with any of that?? I may have mentioned previously that my friend The Owl contends that much of entertainment today embodies “the spirit of the age”…dark, profane, violent, and proudly sacrilegious. Dukes of Hazzard may not have been highbrow, culturally refined, or intellectually enriching in any way, but it was good clean fun that promoted family values, good triumphing over evil (if you can go so far as to call Boss Hogg & Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane evil), and a general sense of morality & friendship. That’s more than one can say about 99% of the crap currently on TV. I have fond memories of happily sitting in front of the television at 8pm every Friday night for several years loving every minute of the adventures of The Duke Boys, their wise old Uncle Jessie, and their exquisite cousin Daisy. Sure there were car chases and stuff got blown up, but unlike the vacuous special effects productions so prevalent these days there was also a storyline. It wasn’t exactly Shakespeare, but it was cool enough to put a smile on the faces of young boys nationwide, and I think that’s a pretty decent legacy.

 

 

 

 

The Inaugural Sammy Awards – 2010 Edition

Traditionally I do a Year In Review, a rundown of all the significant events of the past 12 months infused with my sardonic wit. However, I have decided to change things up a little. Every time one turns around there is an awards show on television, with insiders from all manner of industry patting themselves on the back, usually for maintaining the status quo level of mediocrity. So I got to thinking…why not me?? Why can’t I have my own awards?? And since this is my site and I can do pretty much anything I darn well please within the confines of decency and good taste that is exactly what I am going to do. Therefore, it is with pleasure that I present to you what I hope will become a long lasting annual staple here at The Manofesto. I present to you the inaugural edition of The Sammys.



Best Movie (That I’ve Actually Seen)



Hot Tub Time Machine

The powers-that-be wanted it to be the second coming of The Hangover, but it falls short of the mark. Still, it’s an entertaining movie with time travel and a fun cameo or two. I don’t feel like I wasted my time or money.



Shrek 4Ever After

Supposedly this was the final Shrek film. It has an It’s A Wonderful Life zeitgeist and isn’t a bad film, but at this point there’s just no juice left in the tank for the franchise and this fourth entry is nothing more than superfluous.



Grown-Ups

I have always been an unabashed Adam Sandler fan, even if his comedies are completely pointless and stupid. Unfortunately he (and an all star cast) attempt to have a point in this movie and it just fell flat. Or maybe it just wasn’t what I was expecting.



Toy Story 3

Now this is an example…hopefully…of a franchise ending on a high note. Don’t let the PR for 3D fool you…this movie doesn’t need gimmicks. These Toy Story movies are well written and have great performances, making the entire trilogy a cut above most animated fare.



The Social Network

I spend way too much time on Facebook, so I was excited to see a movie based on its origins. Even better, the script was written by Aaron Sorkin, the scribe behind TV gems like The West Wing and Sports Night.



And The Sammy goes to…..



The Social Network. Honestly, it was a close race, with Toy Story 3 a very very close 2nd. But I really enjoy Sorkin’s writing, and Jesse Eisenberg starring as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was mesmerizing. I even liked the performance of Justin Timberlake, who may want to consider giving up singing in favor of acting.




Assclown of the Year



Jay Leno

Leno should have walked away…it’s that simple. In the fall of 2009 Jay had handed over the reigns of The Tonight Show to Conan O’Brien and settled into his own 10pm show. Unfortunately the ratings for both shows were less than stellar so by January 2010 the suits at NBC panicked, wanting Leno back at 11:30 (for a half hour) and The Tonight Show at midnight. Conan, understandably, did not like this plan. Instead of ditching NBC and getting a late night gig somewhere else Leno played the “I just do what I’m told” card, going back to Tonight while Conan was unceremoniously dumped, albeit with a nice buyout. As of this moment Leno’s Tonight Show is going strong, while Conan’s new show…Monday-Thursday at 11pm on TBS…started out on fire but seems to be headed toward a downward spiral. Jay Leno, in my humble opinion, has shown his true colors, and he isn’t as nice of a guy as most thought a year ago.



Barack Hussein Obama, Nancy Pelosi, & Harry Reid

The three headed ultra liberal monster that has lead the Democrat Party the past couple of years cannot be separated. They work as one, in concert with one another, forcing upon an unsuspecting, easily distracted, sadly uninformed American public a quasi-Communist agenda that will have negative ramifications for decades. And besides all that they are just buffoons. Voters took a step in the right direction (pun unavoidable) last month by significantly altering the makeup of Congress, ensuring that Pelosi would not continue as Speaker of the House. But that is next year. In 2010 this unholy triple threat got a lot done, and most of it won’t be good for America in the long run. Your mileage may vary, and that’s okay.



Jim Joyce

On June 2, 2010 MLB umpire Joyce was working first base for a Detroit Tigers/Cleveland Indians game. Tigers’ pitcher Armando Galarraga was one out away from a perfect game. A close play at first was ruled an infield hit by Joyce, costing Galarraga a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at perfection. Replays showed the runner should have been called out, and to his credit the umpire was deeply apologetic while the pitcher showed an unparalleled level of grace and class. Jim Joyce’s heartfelt remorse and frank honesty earned him a measure of redemption, but making such a critical mistake and screwing another individual out of a monumentally singular accomplishment, an opportunity Armando Galarraga will almost certainly never have again, dictates a nomination for this “honor”.



Ben Roethlisberger

Big Ben may be one of the top 5 quarterbacks in the NFL, but his off-the-field reputation took quite a hit in 2010. In March Ben was partying with college students at some dive bar in Georgia, which right off the bat seems below a 28 year old professional athlete. Even worse, he was accused of sexually assaulting a 20 year old co-ed in a bathroom. No charges were filed, but the district attorney, by the words he used in addressing the situation, seemed to strongly infer that it is likely something improper occurred but that it would be too difficult to secure a slam dunk conviction. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who doesn’t have to answer to anyone and has no problem doing whatever he wants, suspended Roethlisberger for the first 5 weeks of the season. Roethlisberger rebounded nicely and has the Steelers on a roll, but the public perception of him is undeniably altered forever. Only two people know what really happened in that bathroom, but I believe that where there is smoke there is almost always fire. My prayers are with that young girl, that she can move forward as easily as the man who may or may not have raped her.



Tiger Woods

The self destruction of Tiger Woods actually began right around Thanksgiving of 2009, but by January 2010 the situation had spiraled completely out of control. For awhile it seemed like every day a different woman came out of the woodwork admitting to an affair with the very married golfer. To Tiger’s credit he didn’t try to deny the allegations, although how could he?? If one woman says she has slept with a married guy he can deny it, but when more than a dozen tell similar stories there is just no way out of the mess. Tiger’s indiscretions cost him his wife and tore apart his family. The situation also effectively destroyed his career, atleast in the short term. For over a decade Tiger Woods was unquestionably the world’s #1 golfer, mowing down the competition like no one since the classic Jack Nicklaus-Arnold Palmer rivalry years. That all changed in 2010, as for the first time in his professional life he did not win a single tournament, let alone one of the coveted “majors”. Before this scandal it seemed inevitable that Tiger would breaks Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships, but now the possibility of that record being broken is much more in doubt. Woods lost a ton of money off the course too, as sponsors scurried away from him like roaches from sunlight. Some folks may never look at Tiger Woods the same, some have already moved on and anxiously await the day he re-ascends the throne as the much feared king of the links. We shall see what 2011 brings, but nothing can erase the horror that was the past 12 months.



Lebron James

Speaking of kings, we must nominate basketball’s King James, the modern NBA’s biggest star. Up until 2010 Lebron seemed like an excellent role model for the league. He comes across as intelligent, thoughtful, well spoken, and likeable. I always thought he was reminiscent of Magic Johnson, with the amiable smile dialed down and replaced with Michael Jordan’s competitive intensity. The exclamation point was that, after deciding to come straight out of high school in 2003 the Akron born & bred Lebron was drafted by his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. All that was lacking was a storybook ending, i.e. the kid leading the team of his childhood from the cellar to an NBA Championship. Unfortunately that was not how the story ended. Instead Lebron decided to go into full diva mode, stringing the Cavaliers and several other teams along during a long, self aggrandizing process at the end of which King James ditched the small market Cavaliers and “took his talents to South Beach”, aka the glitz & glamor of Miami. I have no issue with a free agent deciding to go to another team where he thinks the chances of long term success are more solid. This is America, and Lebron James simply took advantage of the opportunities afforded to him within the system by which the NBA runs. That is fine. What I and many others took exception to was the arrogant way the situation was handled, culminating in a TV special on ESPN called The Decision, during which James took a full hour to tell us what he could have said via Twitter or a normal news conference in about 30 seconds. There is a way to conduct business and a way not to conduct business, and it’s a lesson Lebron James has yet to learn. When I look at him now I don’t see intelligence, thoughtfulness, or likeability…I see a spoiled child whose amazing, God given athletic talent has provided for him a lifetime of being coddled to and put up on a pedestal. Funny thing about pedestals though…they are really fragile and easily come crashing down.



And The Sammy goes to…..



Tiger Woods. A huge part of me would love to give the award to James, but at the end of the day what he did was within the rules and probably a smart business decision, even if the process was gone about awkwardly. Tiger, on the other hand, committed adultery…over & over & over again. I am not trying to be judgmental, just honest. What Tiger Woods did destroyed his personal life AND his professional life, and completely changed the public perception of him as a human being. I am quite sure he will get his game back and win more tournaments, but I doubt if he ever completely recovers from a series of monumentally stupid decisions that were obviously made with the wrong head.



Best TV Show



The Big Bang Theory

The adventures of two super intelligent but socially awkward nerds and their gorgeous, blonde, airheaded next door neighbor. It’s an old fashioned sitcom with rapier sharp wit, excellent writing, and a talented cast.



Mike & Mike in the Morning

If shows like this would have been around 30 years ago the course of my life would have been so much different. I mean really…two guys getting paid to sit around talking about sports for four hours every day??What a great gig!! It’s a radio show that is simulcast on television’s ESPN2 each morning from 6-10am, starring an Odd Couple-esque pairing of ubernerd sportscaster Greeny and former journeyman NFL lineman Golic. I am not generally a morning person, but this is appointment TV for me.



Entourage

Male bonding at its best. HBO’s series have been hit & miss in my opinion. I never watched The Sopranos or Oz and unlike the werewolf/vampire enamored masses I have no interest in True Blood, though I did enjoy Sex & the City and Six Feet Under, and have occasionally watched Hung, Curb Your Enthusiasm, & Big Love. But from the moment it hit the air in 2004 I have been enamored with Entourage. It is the ongoing adventures of popular young actor Vincent Chase and his posse of friends, including an older brother who is also an actor but not a very good or sought after one, his manager who also happens to be his best childhood friend, and another buddy from the old neighborhood in Queens named Turtle who doesn’t seem to serve any useful purpose. Then there is Ari, an agent…a manic, foul mouthed, hyper, over-the-top, ultra Type A personality whose antics are mesmerizingly hilarious. HBO doesn’t really adhere to what we tend to think of as a normal television season (usually a couple dozen episodes beginning in the fall and ending in the spring, with summertime being a bunch of reruns). Entourage runs in the summer and has somewhere around a dozen episodes per season, and it is literally almost an entire year between seasons. I think this has the effect of “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, because I get excited when I know a new season is on the horizon. Sadly 2011 will mark the 8th and final go round for a great show, but there is talk of a potential film franchise. When that happens I am SO there.



How I Met Your Mother

Anyone who still thinks of Neil Patrick Harris as early 90’s wunderkind doctor Doogie Howser hasn’t watched this show. Is it kind of a Friends ripoff?? Maybe kinda sorta. But it has a vibe all its own and is a completely fresh take on the NY City apartment dweller posse genre. There is even an element of The Wonder Years, as the entire show is framed as a flashback wherein a narrator (Bob Saget) is showing his children thru supposed flashbacks how…well…how he met their mother. It doesn’t seem like a show that’s been on the air five years, which is a testament to the writers and actors who keep things crisp and funny. Harris is a revelation as a vain womanizer that doesn’t resemble Doogie one bit. It’s a show that doesn’t necessarily cover new territory, but does a type of familiar, comfortable comedy in ways that keep the viewer interested.



Pawn Stars

I must give a shout out to my friend The Owl for introducing me to The History Channel’s documentary show about a family owned Vegas pawn shop. On the surface it would seem like a limited concept, but I find it fascinating. The family dynamic between the three generations of men who own & operate the shop is real and amusing, and each episode is like a mini history lesson since the stuff folks bring in to pawn/sell isn’t your usual junk, or at least the producers are intelligent enough not to show the mundane, pedestrian items on TV. Instead we see things like Civil War memorabilia, early 19th Century firearms, and rare coins. I don’t feel like I’ve completely wasted my time after spending 60 minutes with this program, and with all the crap on our televisions these days that’s saying something.



Hawaii-Five-0

Remakes are generally cause for a healthy dose of skepticism and railing against lack of creativity or imagination. I have to admit I was a little hesitant to check out this “reimagining” of the legendary 1970’s show, of which I have a vague childhood recollection. This apprehension was not only because it is a remake but also because cop shows are a dime a dozen and I’ve never really been a big fan of any of them. However, I was wrong and this is a good show on all fronts. Once again no new ground is broken, but I think what I have realized is that is a good thing. I like my comedies formulaic and my dramas to fit a certain mold. Hollywood seems to royally screw things up when they take a proven formula and try to make it unique and modern. This applies to both movies and television. I guess I am just an old fashioned kind of guy. I can usually guess who the real villain is about 10 minutes into the show, but that’s okay. The acting is solid and the writing is above average even if the plots are a bit predictable.



And The Sammy goes to…..


Mike & Mike. I love this show. It has no offseason and no reruns. Both Greeny & Golic seem to take copious amounts of time off, but even when one or both are gone the regular lineup of guest hosts adequately fills the chairs. Sports lends itself to this format because there is always always always something going on and more than enough topics to discuss. The guests and experts that call into the show add depth, and various subject matter is examined from all angles. The show can be irreverent and fun, but also serious and thoughtful when necessary. Mike & Mike may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for the serious, hardcore, die hard sports fan there is nothing better.





Best Water Cooler Topic



Twilight

I’ve never read the books or seen the movies. I most likely never will. However, I do realize I am in the minority.



The Late Night Wars

During the first few months of 2010 a dominant subject of conversation was the controversy surrounding NBC’s bungling of its late night lineup, Leno’s return to The Tonight Show, and the unfair ouster of Conan O’Brien. Things were made all the more hilarious by late night hosts David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel, who didn’t hesitate to use their shows as a forum to jump into the fray and show support for Conan. It was definitely a fun ride while it lasted.



The End of Lost

Yet another subject on which I am not really qualified to comment. I never watched the show even though I had numerous friends tell me they thought I’d love it. I suppose by the time I considered giving it a whirl I just knew it was too late. This was a show one had to have been in on since the beginning, and for those that were the end came too soon.



World Cup Soccer

Well…it is the world’s most popular sport, so I am sure people were buzzing about it somewhere…probably outside of The United States. All I know is…speaking of buzzing…I learned what a vuvuzela is and think it may be something a lot of folks will encounter again in the fiery pits of Hell.



Sandra Bullock/Jesse James Split

America’s Sweetheart (now that Meg Ryan is all Botoxed up) found out her tattooed biker husband was cheating on her with an even more tattooed biker chic. Shocker. But hey, atleast Bullock won an Oscar.


Apple’s iPhone 4 & iPad

I’d love to have an iPad, but I’m not paying $800 for one. I do have an iPhone, but have not upgraded to the 4 because it seemed superfluous and unnecessary. Still, I have to give Apple credit for getting folks excited about these items, even if it is just tricky marketing of products that don’t really do anything new or special.



True Blood

Yet another show I have never watched and never will. I really don’t get America’s fascination with werewolves and vampires.



Oprah’s Final Season

Faithful citizens of The Manoverse will recall my deeply held belief that Oprah Winfrey is a minion in Satan’s Army. It does my heart good to know that we are now in the midst of her final season. Yes, I am aware that she is going on to helm her own network, but hopefully she will remain behind the scenes and it will be a channel I can completely ignore, like Lifetime, QVC, or MSNBC. Farewell Oprah, and good riddance you obnoxious shrew.



Bristol Palin on DWTS

Surprisingly enough Dancing with the Stars is a show I do watch. I find it fascinating, and appreciate the talents of the professional dancers. Scantily clad hot women may have something to do with it too I suppose. Anyway, when it was announced that former Alaska Governor, former VP candidate, future Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s eldest was to be a contestant on the latest season of the show it got some attention. Sarah Palin is a lightning rod that people either adore or despise, so the hype was predictable. It turns out that poor Bristol dances about as well as Jar Jar Binks on acid and has the personality of stale rice cakes, but somehow she still made it to the finals of the competition. This brought about a myriad of conspiracy theories, but in essence it just exposed DWTS for the popularity contest it really is and validated Sarah Palin’s level of popularity, despite her shortcomings.



And The Sammy goes to…..


The Late Night Wars. Admittedly this is a very personal, biased choice, because as noted some of 2010’s hottest topics were things in which I just had no interest whatsoever. But late night television has long been a favorite of mine, so the real life soap opera that viewers saw play out each night on TV for several weeks was extremely entertaining in my world.




Biggest News Story



The Haiti Earthquake

2010 got off to a rough start in Haiti, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit on January 12, killing nearly a quarter million people (roughly the population of Birmingham, AL) and affecting atleast a million. American citizens of all ilks offered humanitarian aid, spearheaded by former Presidents George W. Bush & Bill Clinton, and singer Wyclef Jean.



Unemployment

Despite President Obama’s plucky enthusiasm about the economy finally being in recovery mode, unemployment has still lagged around the 10% mark all year. I’m no economics guru, but I don’t think it is accurate to say the economy has recovered if nearly 10% of the population can’t find a job.



The Gulf Oil Spill

On April 20, 2010 an explosion on an offshore oil rig 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana set off what would become the biggest disaster in the history of the petroleum industry. It took three months for the well to be capped and the oil to stop flowing. In those three months over 200 million gallons of oil spilled into The Gulf of Mexico, causing extensive damage to wildlife and marine life, the delicate ecosystem, the fishing and tourism industries, and the general economy of an area covering 68,000 square miles. The U.S. Government and British Petroleum engaged in a battle of wills over responsibility and cleanup efforts, with neither party coming out looking all that impressive. The effects of this spill continue to this day.



Obamacare/National Health Care Reform

In March of 2010 President Obama and a Congress controlled by liberals passed a nationalized health care bill. This was a topic that had been hotly debated for years and successfully defeated at first, but eventually resistance was futile. I like to refer to an old Ronald Reagan quote that says “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” Conversely, a growing majority of Americans seem to be perfectly comfortable with The Nanny State, wanting Big Brother to take care of their every need from birth thru death. Any law that takes free choice away and fines a person who chooses not to be insured scares the hell out of me. Any law that enacts anything resembling end of life counseling, making whether an ill person will or will not be treated an economic decision makes my skin crawl. Any law that rations how much health care folks may receive is troublesome. I fear that this massive expansion of governmental power will lead down a lot of other even more frightening roads, and that the masses will not truly understand what havoc they have opened the door to until it is much too late.



The Death of Senator Robert C. Byrd

West Virginia’s senior Senator was 92 and had been a fixture in Washington DC for well over 50 years when he died back in June. Byrd served three terms in the House of Representatives and nine terms in the Senate, impressive considering the fact that his role as a public servant was preceded by serving as a leader in a local Ku Klux Klan unit, once writing The Grand Wizard and saying “The Klan is needed today as never before, and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virginia and in every state in the nation.” Boy we sure can pick ’em here in The Mountain State, huh?? Byrd later renounced his membership and appeared to have a change of heart, but one can easily assume that was just the politically expedient thing to do. During his decades in Washington Senator Byrd became an extremely powerful figure and was able to funnel a lot of much appreciated pork back home to WV, which is obviously why he kept getting re-elected. Anyway, it is not my intention to kick a person when they’re down…or dead. So let me just say that Byrd’s death may not have been that big of a deal elsewhere, but here in West Virginia it was huge news.



The Tea Party

A year ago no one would have believed that the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat would be filled by a Republican, but in January 2010 that is exactly what happened when Tea Party backed Scott Brown won an election in Massachusetts. The Tea Party is not an officially recognized political party, but more of an energetic movement based on conservative core principles of reduced government spending, lower taxes, strict interpretation of The Constitution, and debt/deficit reduction. It sprang up in 2007, really hit its stride in 2009, and in 2010 had an impact of everything from the midterm elections to Dancing with the Stars. The de facto leaders seem to be former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, among others. The Tea Party was instrumental in costing several RHINOs (Republicans in Name Only) victories in primary elections in atleast a dozen states, and helped Republicans take back control of The House of Representatives. Liberals and their fluffers in the drive-by media have been predictably derisive of the movement, calling followers Tea Baggers. However, sticks & stones may break bones but name calling has thus far done no good in slowing down the momentum of this unofficial yet powerful organization.



2010 Midterm Election

Tuesday 11/2/10 was a day when, if I may borrow a phrase, chickens came home to roost for liberals in our nation’s capitol and elsewhere. Republicans gained 6 seats in the Senate, took control of the House with a swing of 63 seats, won an additional 6 Governorships, and gained 680 seats in statehouses nationwide. No matter how the media tries to spin it the election was a total rejection of liberal policies championed by President Obama, outgoing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (who inexplicably won re-election). However, the work for conservatives has only just begun, with the next vital step being to find a viable Presidential candidate for 2012 (i.e. NOT Sarah Palin).



The Ground Zero Mosque

Back in the spring of 2010 plans were made public for what became known as The Ground Zero Mosque. The building is actually going to be a community center two blocks from Ground Zero, but it will have a Muslim “prayer center”, so the controversy aroused by having such a facility that close to where thousands of Americans were massacred by Muslim extremists/terrorists is understandable. I can see both sides. On one hand it is a free country and folks can build what they want where they want within the boundaries of the law. On the flip side I get how the idea can be perceived as offensive and distasteful. It just amazes me how the masses seem to bend over backward to make provision for Islam while even hinting at anything related to Jesus brings forth scorn and mockery.



End of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell

In 1993 The Clinton Administration signed into law a policy prohibiting the military from inquiring about a person’s sexual orientation since being openly gay was considered just cause for discharge. At the end of the 2010 Congressional session this law was repealed and the military ban on being openly gay lifted completely. I have made my faith based beliefs about homosexuality and issues like same sex marriage quite clear over the years, but if someone is willing to serve their country and put their life at risk in the defense of freedom then that’s fine with me.



The Arizona Immigration Law

I am still blown away by the fact that anyone would have an issue with laws being enforced, which is all this law does – make sure existing laws are followed. Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free?? Okay…fine. But if you are going to come into is country and take advantage of all the freedom, liberty, and other benefits then I don’t think being required to jump through a few hoops and following a legal process is too much to ask. Predictably it’s been the whiny, bleeding heart ultra libs who’ve cried about this bill the most. These are the same people who are ready to fine me if I choose not to buy health insurance, yet they have no problem with undocumented illegal aliens running rampant, eating our food, enjoying our public services, and utilizing our resources all while thumbing their noses at our laws and receiving a free ride because if they aren’t legal then they darn sure aren’t paying taxes. Yeah, that makes perfect sense. To my knowledge this law is still languishing under red tape, with various legal protests preventing it from being put into effect. I hope 2011 brings about an end to these silly court proceedings and sees laws like this spread nationwide.



TSA Groping Controversy

The Transportation Safety Administration, specializing specifically in airport security, is part of the Department of Homeland Security, created after the events of 9/11. Not a bad idea. However, in November of 2010, new screening procedures went into effect, including x-ray scans that display images of passengers’ bodies to TSA officers and pat-downs in which TSA officers fondle passengers’ breasts, buttocks, and genitals. Sounds like every pervert’s dream job. Predictably travelers haven’t been too keen on these procedures, as many feel like it’s just a bit too invasive. A lot of crazy incidents have been reported, including folks being forced to remove prostheses, small children being patted down, and hot babes claiming they’ve receive some…extra attention (if you know what I’m sayin’). TSA agents fired back whining about how awful their jobs are because they have to touch fat people. The ACLU has gotten involved. Lawsuits have been filed. It’s a big mess. Shocking, considering it’s a government run program. “Don’t touch my junk” indeed.



And The Sammy goes to…..



The Oil Spill. Not that the other nominees weren’t worthy, but let’s face it…when we look back in hindsight at 2010 two words will automatically pop into our brains: oil spill. It was almost as big of a story as 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, with many similarities including slow response from the federal government, who’d rather take over our health care, hate rich people, and try to eliminate Jesus from the world altogether rather than doing things they actually should be doing. As for BP, I understand that it was an accident and accidents happen, but their response…or lack thereof…was even more painfully slow than the government’s, and when (now former) CEO Tony Hayward called the spill “relatively tiny”, stated that he wanted “his life back”, and was then spotted at a yacht race while oil was still spilling into the Gulf the American public had its whipping boy. My prayers are with the people of the Gulf Coast, many of whom hadn’t even recovered from Katrina yet and now they’ve had to endure the ramifications of this situation.




The Rosie O’Donnell Memorial Just Go Away Award



Justin Bieber

I’ve honestly never listened to one of his songs, but the tastes of 12 year old girls are notoriously bad and the kid needs a haircut. If rumors about Bieber starring in a remakes of Grease and Back to the Future come true I may finally decide humanity is beyond redemption.



Glee

I watched this idiotic show once. It might be the gayest thing I’ve ever seen on television, no disrespect to alternate lifestyles intended. The acting was bad, the singing was not much better, and the overt sexuality was troubling. Honest to God Glee makes Dawson’s Creek look like freakin’ Shakespeare.



Kim Kardashian

Is she hot?? Yes. But what other redeeming qualities does this bimbo have?? Atleast Britney Spears can kind of sing and Lindsay Lohan can act when she stays sober. Kardashian and her entire clan add nothing of substance to the human race.



Jersey Shore

Reality shows, as a general rule, are awful. So a reality show about a bunch of clichéd Guidos just can’t be good. I have watched a few times and was completely unimpressed and not entertained in the least. People that are entertained by such garbage make me sad.



Lady Gaga

I saw Gaga on an episode of Saturday Night Live several months ago, and you want to know something interesting?? She can sing. The gal has some pipes. So why does she have to hide behind the stupid name & outrageous outfits and sing crappy songs about sex with lyrics like “bluffin’ with my muffin’”?? Take off the stupid clothes, use that great voice to sing quality songs, and use your real name (Stephanie something-or-other) and maybe I’ll be interested.



Stephen Colbert

I just don’t find him funny. It has nothing to do with politics, as Bill Maher is also a raging lib yet I find him rather amusing.



Brett Favre

If there has been a sadder public figure in 2010 I’m not sure who it would be. Favre has annoyed football fans for the past few years with his on again/off again retirement/comeback act. Last year he had what was arguably the best year of his career yet fell short of leading the Minnesota Vikings to the Super Bowl. Favre is to football what Mario Andretti was to the Indy 500…so close so many times but always felled by bad luck, karma, timing, or whatever other negative forces in which one may believe. After playing his annual “Will he or won’t he??” game again last summer he was predictably cajoled into “one last season”, only this time I think Bret Favre really is finished. The Vikings, beset by injuries, poor leadership, a midseason coaching change, and other calamities, have been horrible. Favre’s 41 year old body has finally let him down, and his consecutive games streak was broken at 297. On top of that the aging quarterback has been mired in an embarrassing scandal in which he is accused of sending naughty text messages…complete with pics of himself au naturel…to a female reporter a couple years back when he was playing for the NY Jets. You’ve heard of sports stars who “went out on top”?? This is the direct opposite.



Katy Perry

Is she hot?? Yes. But come on…put on some clothes for pete’s sake. No one gives a damn about Katy Perry, it’s Katy Perry’s breasts that have had the successful career.



Twilight

As noted previously I have never read the books or seen the movies. And I find people who are just a bit too obsessed by the whole thing really annoying.



Heidi & Spencer

He’s a tool, her body has more plastic than a Tupperware factory.


Hey Soul Sista/Train & I’m Yours/Jason Mraz

Every freakin’ time I’ve gotten in my truck the past several months and turned on the radio I have heard one or both of these songs. I sort of liked them at first, but that mild affection ended after about the 400th listening. Let’s move forward. Or maybe I will just listen to more talk radio.



Miley Cyrus

A role model she is not. I am not sure when it became mandated that all female singers & actresses had to be airheaded sluts to succeed, but if that’s the rule Miley is following it to the tee. And let’s be honest…she’s not a very talented actress or singer.


Lindsay Lohan

Is Lindsay still in rehab?? I don’t know and I don’t care. Lohan is the poster child for wasted potential. Unlike the average Hollywood tart this gal has skills. It was apparent from childhood that she had all the makings of a fantastic actress, one that might someday be thought of in the same vein as well respected performers like Meryl Streep, Jodie Foster, Holly Hunter, or Sally Field. Instead Lindsay has pissed away nearly all that potential.



And The Sammy goes to…..



Ladies and gentlemen, you are a witness to history. For the first time in the storied annals of awards shows we have a 13 way tie – they all win…or lose (depending on one’s perspective).



Moment of the Year



The Rescue of 33 Chilean Miners

I am born & bred in the great state of West Virginia and my grandfather lost a leg in the coal mines, so I am familiar with mining disasters. In August of 2010 a different sort of mine accident occurred in Chile. A cave in at a copper mine left 33 miners trapped underground but, thankfully, still alive and mostly unhurt. Rescuers quickly figured out that the men could be retrieved from their prison 2300 feet underground…but it would take months. Not hours, not days, not weeks…months. Suddenly hope turned to fear. However…miraculously…all 33 men were able to survive 69 days in a spot built for such situations. Rescuing the men took a lot of effort on the part of many many individuals from all walks of life, but on 10/13/10 all 33 men were safely retrieved from what could have been their graves. The story was an inspiring one of hope, faith, effort, and teamwork.



WV’s DaSean Butler & Coach Bob Huggins At The Final Four

It is likely that no one outside the state of West Virginia considered this much of a story. The West Virginia Mountaineer men’s basketball team won the Big East tournament and entered the NCAA Championship as a #2 seed, making it all the way to The Final Four. In the second half of the semifinal contest against Duke, Butler, the Mountaineers key player and leader in every way, went down with what looked like a very painful knee injury. As he lay on the court crying in agony Coach Bob Huggins, a man who has been much maligned for most of his career, went to his senior captain and cradled him in his arms, reassuring and comforting the fallen young man. It was a rare glimpse inside the heart of an otherwise tough as nails coach, and it was a moment that reinforced the reason many of us are sports fans.



Betty White’s Career Renaissance

Hollywood always has and always will cater to The Pretty People. Stars put their bodies through hell and have more elective surgery than anyone in their right minds should just to please a shallow industry and remain relevant and employed. Usually by the time a performer, especially a female, turns the corner past 50 she’s done. In 2010 Betty White went against the grain and was the exception to the rule, at the age of 88 having as big a year as anyone. It all started with a hilarious Snickers commercial during the Super Bowl, which for some reason spawned a viral campaign on Facebook to have the octogenarian host Saturday Night Live, which she finally did on May 8. That guest host spot even got her an Emmy nomination. White went on to do guest spots on sitcoms Community, The Middle, Hot in Cleveland, and 30 Rock. Betty White is proof that true talent overrides superficial indicators like age and breast size.



Phil Mickelson Wins The Masters

While the golf world was busy kvetching over Tiger Woods’ sex life Phil Mickelson offered a touching counterpoint. Both Phil’s wife Amy and his Mom had been battling cancer, and Phil had steadfastly stood by them. When Mickelson won his third Green Jacket in April and embraced his recovering wife on the 18th green one couldn’t help but think “Now THERE’S a role model”.



The 2010 Winter Olympics

Honestly I am giving a nod to the 21st Winter Olympiad more out of politeness than anything. Did it have some fun stuff going on?? Sure. The U.S./Canada battle for hockey gold was compelling, some of the ice skating was entertaining, and curling is always awesome. But really, if a Russian luger hadn’t been tragically killed then there would be virtually nothing memorable about these Olympics.



The Conservative Uprising

We’ve already covered the Tea Party movement and the results of November’s mid-term elections. Those two things combined with President Obama’s low approval numbers are all the proof anyone should need that this country leans right and that conservative values and principles are alive & well.



Zuckerberg Donates $100 Million To NJ Schools

Most wealthy people get a bad rap. They are perceived as selfish, haughty, and only concerned with money. However, back in September Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who is portrayed in a rather negative light in the movie The Social Network, donated a huge amount of money to the Newark, NJ school system for education reform. I am not privy to the details of what they are attempting to accomplish in Newark or how they are utilizing the funds, but that big of a chunk of change should have a significant impact. Zuckerberg wanted to make the donation anonymously but was coaxed into making it public by both the mayor of Newark and the Governor of New Jersey. And while it may be true that $100 million dollars is pocket change to a man reportedly worth over $7 billion it is equally as true that such a donation cannot be overlooked and must be respected and appreciated.



The Theatrical Release of Part 1 of the Final Harry Potter Film

In November the 7th installment of the highest grossing film series of all time, one that has made over $6 billion, was released. It is the first of two films that cover the last Harry Potter novel, The Deathly Hallows. Personally I have enjoyed the books far more than the movies, but the release of these final two films marks the conclusion of a 14 year love affair between an adoring public and its boy wizard. Both the books and the movies become darker and more sinister as they progress, and at some point the story really evolved from a childrens’ tale to something much more mature and literary.



3 Day, 11 Hour Wimbledon Match

I’m not a huge tennis fan, not at all. I will watch a match occasionally if I am really bored and if the circumstances are compelling for some reason. In the first round of tennis; crown jewel, Wimbledon, in June, such circumstances arose. American John Isner was pitted against Frenchman Nicolas Mahut, with Isner the favorite. The two men proceeded to engage in the longest match in the history of tennis. It was suspended twice due to darkness and played out over 3 days, equally over 11 hours of playing time. The two men broke all kinds of records, with Isner eventually coming out as the victor. By the time the third day rolled around the attention of the masses had been captured and even lukewarm fans like myself were mesmerized.



The New Orleans Saints Win The Super Bowl

Most people are familiar with what the city of New Orleans has had to endure since being hit with Hurricane Katrina in 2005. And while sports is a relatively unimportant cog in the societal machine it can provide a unique sense of inspiration, motivation, and validation. When the Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 on February 7, 2010 to hoist their first ever Lombardi Trophy, it was a triumph not just for the team, but for an entire city. It seemed to signify that New Orleans was indeed back. Super Bowl XLIV was watched by over 106 million people, making it not only the highest rated Super Bowl in its 44 year history but also the highest rated television program of any sort ever, besting the legendary 1983 farewell episode of MASH. Just a few months later New Orleans would be hit with disaster once again due to the aforementioned Gulf Oil Spill, but for one night its citizens were able to put all their troubles on the backburner and celebrate like only they can, and it was a pretty darn nice story for the rest of us too.



Glen Beck’s “Rally To Restore Honor”

Glen Beck seems to have surpassed Sean Hannity and even The Godfather of Talk Radio himself Rush Limbaugh as the conservative raging libs seem to despise the most. Admittedly Beck is a bit too histrionic for my tastes, but if one is able to put aside the theatrics and listen to what he says Glen Beck makes a lot of sense most of the time. On 8/28/10 ol’ Glen really peed in the Cheerios of a lot of his critics by holding a rally where he and guest speakers weren’t shy about emphasizing faith, character, values, and conservative principles as much needed things our nation needs to fall back on. Not coincidentally (no matter what Mr. Beck says) this shindig was held at The Lincoln Memorial on the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr’s memorable “I Have A Dream” speech. It was bad enough Glen Beck was openly talking about God, but the fact that he was co-opting liberals’ self-righteous “we’re the only ones who give a damn about black people” vibe really had a lot of folks on the left foaming at the mouth. The event was attended by anywhere from 80k to over 1 million people, depending on what source one believes. I watched it on television and saw absolutely nothing that anyone of any political persuasion should have been offended by. The speeches were uplifting and invigorating, tribute was repeatedly paid to our military, and there was really not a lot of political rhetoric. It is sad that we have come to a point in history when openly talking about God raises the ire of a not insignificant portion of the populace. A few months later TV personalities Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert held their own event that basically mocked Beck and all things conservative, and it was predictably obnoxious, offensive, and sophomoric.



And The Sammy goes to…..



The Rescue of the Chilean Miners. The fact that all 33 survived the initial cave in was a miracle. Then to have them endure that long underground was a testament to the efforts of countless people and the spirit & fortitude of the men themselves. And on top of that what was an extremely delicate rescue went off without a hitch and no one sustained any injuries. I don’t know what is in store for the lives of these 33 individuals, but God was certainly in the midst of this situation and I pray that all involved appreciate the blessings bestowed upon them and do extraordinary things with the second chance they were given.





NFL lineman Gaines Adams…wrestling legends General Skandor Akbar, Angelo Poffo (father of Randy “Macho Man” Savage & Leapin’ Lanny Poffo), & Jack Brisco…Hall of Fame baseball manager Sparky Anderson…former Pirates pitcher Jimmy Bibby…NFL Hall of Famers George Blanda, Jack Tatum, and Don Meredith…former NBA standouts Manute Bol, Lorenzen Wright, and Melvin Turpin…pro wrestlers Trent Acid, Bastion Booger, Chris Kanyon, & Lance Cade…legendary Pittsburgh Pirates executive Joe L. Brown…Senator Robert C. Byrd…uber-producers David L. Wolper (Roots, The Thorn Birds, North & South, L.A. Confidential, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles) and Stephen J. Cannell (The A-Team, Riptide, The Rockford Files)…actresses Barbara Billingsley (Leave It to Beaver), Lynn Redgrave, Frances Reid (Days of Our Lives), Dixie Carter (Designing Women), Rue McClanahan (Golden Girls), Helen Wagner (As the World Turns), and Jill Clayburgh…actors Tom Bosley (Happy Days), Pernell Roberts (Trapper John, M.D.), Gary Coleman (Different Strokes), Tony Curtis, Kevin McCarthy, Steve Landesberg (Barney Miller), Andrew Koenig (Growing Pains), Robert Culp, Dennis Hopper, Leslie Nielsen, Corey Haim, Peter Graves, & John Forsythe (Charlie’s Angels, Dynasty)…musician and sausage king Jimmy Dean…musician Ronnie James Dio…directors Blake Edwards (The Pink Panther) and Irvin Kershner (The Empire Strikes Back)…Elizabeth Edwards…Penthouse founder Bob Guccione…former Secretary of State General Alexander Haig…voice of the Detroit Tigers Ernie Harwell…singers Teena Marie, Teddy Pendergrass, and Lena Horne…former Major Leaguers Jose Lima and Bobby Thompson (The Shot Heard ‘Round the World)…Art Linkletter…NBA legend Maurice Lucas…actor, NFL lineman, and commentator Merlin Olsen…authors Robert B. Parker Erich Segal, and JD Salinger…former Congressman Dan Rostenkowski…Olympic organizer Juan Antonio Samaranch…former NBA player and collegiate athletic director Fred Schaus…former head of NBC Sports, Commissioner of the USFL, and President of ESPN Chet Simmons…gym teacher and inspiration for southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd Leonard Skinner…NY Yankees owner George Steinbrenner…fabled college basketball coach John Wooden