December 30, 2005

Top Ten Films of 2005

1. “Munich” (Steven Spielberg)
2. “Rent” (Chris Columbus)
3. “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” (Andrew Adamson)
4. “Sin City” (Robert Rodriguez/Frank Miller)
5. “Good Night, and Good Luck” (George Clooney)
6. “Murderball” (Henry Alex Rubin/Dana Adam Shapiro)
7. “Wedding Crashers” (David Dobkin)
8. “Shopgirl” (Anand Tucker)
9. “Layer Cake” (Matthew Vaughn)
10. “The Aristocrats” (Penn Gillette/Paul Provenza)

Honorable mention: Batman Begins, Brokeback Mountain, Elizabethtown, Fever Pitch, The 40 Year Old Virgin, The Producers, Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Street Fight, Walk the Line.

Omitted because I didn’t see them: Broken Flowers, Capote, The Constant Gardner, A History of Violence, Jarhead, Junebug, Match Point, The Squid and the Whale, 2046.

Omitted because they're overrated: Cinderella Man, Crash, King Kong, March of the Penguins, Me and You and Everyone We Know, Syriana, War of the Worlds.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 03:25 PM | Comments (6)

Top Ten Albums of 2005

1. Coldplay- “X&Y”
2. Spoon- “Gimme Fiction”
3. Weezer- “Make Believe”
4. Bruce Springsteen- “Devils & Dust”
5. Stars- “Set Yourself on Fire”
6. Kanye West- “Late Registration”
7. Death Cab For Cutie- “Plans”
8. Sufjan Stevens- “Illinois”
9. The Hold Steady- “Separation Sunday”
10. Beck- “Guero”

Posted by Stephen Silver at 03:23 PM | Comments (1)

The 40 Most Shameful Events of 2005 (in no particular order):

-The head of the Philadelphia NAACP, J. Whyatt Mondesire, turns a blind eye to crime, poverty, and other local problems within his purview in order to publish a hateful attack on Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb

-Focus on the Family blowhard James Dobson alleges that the childrens’ cartoon character Spongebob Squarepants is a puppet of the “homosexual agenda,” and his spokesman later accuses the sponge of “manipulating and potentially brainwashing kids."

-One of the craziest people in the Democratic Party, Howard Dean, is for some reason elected its chairman.

-Four words: “Pat O’Brien sex scandal.”

-The New York alt-weekly New York Press publishes a “humor” piece titled “52 Funniest Things About the Upcoming Death of the Pope.” But the paper redeems itself, first with a staff purge and then by hiring yours truly to write a football column.

-University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill refers to those killed in the World Trade Center as “Little Eichmanns”; Churchill is subsequently the subject of around 574 different Fox News segments, all of which attempt to paint him as a major figure in American liberalism, even though most people have never heard of him.

-Congress sets aside more urgent business for frivolous purposes, first to “save” Terri Schiavo, and then to spend 12 hours discussing steroids in baseball. And worst of all, the steroid scandal results in Jose Canseco returning to public life.

-Paris Hilton, even worse, remains in public life.

-At those steroid hearings, Rafael Palmeiro points his finger at the committee and states that “I have never used steroids”; a few months later he tests positive, putting both his career and Hall of Fame chances in doubt.

-A 13-year-old blogger is called a “little shit,” –and threatened with lawsuits- by another blogger after he accidentally copies a photograph from another blog.

-ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, for reasons known to absolutely no one, gets his own show on a major cable network. As does MSNBC’s Rita Cosby, for even more mysterious reasons.

-On top of countless embarrassment caused by its role in the Plame/Libby/Miller affair, the New York Times voluntarily makes its own op-ed page irrelevant, by instituting the pay-per-view “TimesSelect” system.

-Lindsay Lohan goes from one of the most beautiful young women in Hollywood to an emaciated, skeleton-like shell of her former self. As does Teri Hatcher. But on the bright side, no one is any longer asking if either actress’ breasts are real.

-A man in Washington State dies after the horse he was having sex with falls on him.

-Falcons quarterback Michael Vick is sued by a woman who accuses him of giving her herpes, and alleges that he registered at an STD clinic as “Ron Mexico.” Luckily for Vick, his subpar play makes everyone forget this by the end of the year.

-While you’d think running off with Katie Holmes would make an over-40 actor look good, most people end the year with the impression that Tom Cruise has gone insane. The lesson, as always: never hire your sister as your publicist.

-New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Doug Forrester uses damning quotes from opponent Jon Corzine’s former wife in a campaign ad which, somehow, doesn’t work; Forrester loses. But that’s nothing compared to…

-New York mayoral candidate Freddy Ferrer produces an ad featuring animated likenesses of Mayor Bloomberg and President Bush riding a horse together, in which the mayor appears to be masturbating the president. Ferrer loses in a landslide and even worse, the ad misses the “Brokeback Mountain” craze by just a month or so.

-Eliminating any remaining doubt that he is an anti-Semite, Pat Buchanan writes a column questioning whether America was right to fight World War II- neglecting to mention the words “Jews,” “Holocaust,” “concentration camps,” or “genocide.” Buchanan, for some reason, remains employed by MSNBC as a commentator.

-The Pat Buchanan of baseball, John Rocker, makes an ill-fated comeback attempt with the Long Island Ducks, and distinguishes himself primarily with an interview where he says he has suffered more than any player in baseball history, including Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron.

-Maureen Dowd writes a bestselling book called “Are Men Necessary,” the point of which seems elusive to both everyone who reviews the book and everyone who buys it. But thankfully, a sizable MoDo backlash begins to emerge.

-In shameful Red Sox-related events, they’re swept in the first round of the playoffs, general manager Theo Epstein resigns, Manny Ramirez refuses to return to the team, Johnny Damon defects to the Yankees, and their dispute with Doug Mientkiewicz over the 2004 World Series ball continues.

-In addition to continuing to crush Russia’s nascent hopes for democracy, Vladimir Putin steals Robert Kraft’s Super Bowl ring for good measure.

-Texas Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers attacks several cameramen before a game, as cameras continue to film him attacking other cameras.

-ESPN’s SportsCenter continues to slide into irrelevance- among other offenses, they broadcast “simulated press conferences,” featuring Steve Phillips pretending to be a general manager, and real reporters pretending to be fake reporters.

-The St. Paul Winter Carnival’s “King Vulcan” is arrested on charges that he molested three women while surrounded by fellow Vulcans.

-In an act of hypocrisy unmatched in recent American political history, Michelle Malkin publishes a book called “Unhinged.”

-Newsweek publishes an incorrect story, about American soldiers flushing Korans down a toilet in Guantanamo, that Iranian clerics use to incite riots in their country; the right-wing blogosphere is too busy cackling about the embarrassment to an “MSM” outfit to care that people actually died.

-Dallas Cowboy-turned-ESPN commentator Michael Irvin is arrested on drug charges in Texas, and he uses the “those drugs belonged to some other guy” defense, a bit of nostalgia coming after a year of the “how’d those steroids get in my system?” defense.

-A Missouri finance executive makes worldwide headlines when it’s revealed that he drunkenly spent more than $240,000 at the Manhattan topless club Scores in 2003. American Express sues the man after he refuses to pay the bill.

-A public-school fundraiser in Richmond, Virginia, goes tragically wrong when the rush to purchase $50 laptop computers devolves into a stampede, and later a full-fledged riot.

-President Bush nominates his personal lawyer, Harriet Miers, to the Supreme Court; the outcry from the right and left alike is so pronounced that Miers withdraws less than a month later. Which didn’t have nearly the calamitous effect as…

-Bush’s appointment of Michael Brown, who previously served as head of the International Arabian Horse Association, as director of FEMA, as Brown’s incompetent performance is indicative of the general failure at all levels of government to anticipate, or handle, Hurricane Katrina.

-Bush’s mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush, with survivors at the Houston Astrodome, is quoted as saying that “so many of the people here were underprivileged anyway, so this is working out well for them."

-Texas high school football coach Herc Palmquist is disciplined after he hires a team of college-aged ringers to masquerade as his team in a sanctioned game. Palmquist had told his real players that the game was canceled.

-In other football coaching malfeasance, Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Tice is caught scalping Super Bowl tickets, and despite that and his less-than-stellar coaching skills, he’s not fired. Even after…

-Vikings running back Onterrio Smith is caught at the Minneapolis airport carrying The Original Whizzinator, a penis-like contraption used for drug-test evasion. Smith is suspended for the season, which you’d think would be the most embarrassing off-field moment of the year for the team, if not for…

-The Vikings, during their bye week, take a sex cruise on Minnesota’s Lake Minnetonka, during which numerous debauchery is reported to take place, leading to the indictments of four players and the virtual end of the team’s season. You wouldn’t think anything worse could have happened in the NFL in 2005, except for the tiny little matter of…

-Terrell Owens, the Philadelphia Eagles’ controversial receiver, plays in the Super Bowl, asks immediately afterwards for a renegotiation in year two of his 7-year, $49 million contract; hires borderline-subhuman agent Drew Rosenhaus; rips Donovan McNabb and the coaching staff numerous times; is tossed from training camp; wears a Cowboys jersey home from a game against the Cowboys; throws the entire organization under the bus in an ESPN interview, and finally suspended for the year in November. All along, this stupid, repetitive story all but dominates NFL news, in Philly and nationwide.

-And finally, on the first weekend following Hurricane Katrina, MSNBC is surveying the wreckage until, suddenly, Richard Simmons appears on screen, to discuss his missing relatives in the New Orleans area. But despite the gravity of the situation, Simmons has showed up to the interview in his usual tank top/short shorts uniform. Apparently, he doesn’t own a suit.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 03:10 PM | Comments (3)

2005 Achievement Awards

Man of the Year: Bill Simmons. With the publication of his first book and ESPN work that’s now bigger and better than ever, Simmons is now officially on top of the world.

Blog of the Year: An uproariously hilarious “tournament” that pitted ESPN personalities against one another, with biting commentary from author Mac Thomason and dozens of commentators.

Chutzpah Award Winner: Terrell Owens. I don’t have to tell you why.

Runnerup: John Rocker, for saying in an interview that "I've taken a lot of crap from a lot of people… probably more than anybody in the history of the sport… I know Hank [Aaron] and Jackie [Robinson] took a good deal of crap, but I guarantee it wasn't for six years. I just keep thinking: 'How much am I supposed to take?'"

Eckstein Award Winner (for excellence in being a gentile with a Jewish-sounding name): Wake Forest forward Jamal Levy, the only player in college basketball history with a Muslim first name and Jewish last name, who played at a Baptist university in North Carolina.

Levy beat out a late charge from 2003 winner Rex Grossman, and White Sox bench player Geoff Blum, who hit a key homer in the World Series.

Burn Your Siddur Award Winner (for embarrassing statements/actions by Jewish clergy): The Union of Reform Judaism, for passing a resolution urging withdrawal from Iraq.

Weinkauf Award Winner (for arts criticism injecting political analysis in reviewing a work that has nothing whatsoever to do with politics):

"To his credit, Mr. Howard does not wave the flag as vigorously as Mr. Ross, though the new film's tagline ("When America was on its knees, he brought us to our feet") prepares you for the worst. In any event, given that Mr. Howard and his writers would be hard-pressed to bend this underdog narrative to our current political nightmare, it's a good thing they don't venture down that path."
Manohla Dargis, in the New York Times, reviewing “Cinderella Man”- calling American flag-waving “the worst,” praising Ron Howard for not making the movie about something it has nothing to do with, and referencing “our current political nightmare” while reviewing a movie about the Great Depression.

Quote of the Year:

“Watching football last Sunday with my friends, I brought up the topic, "What touchdown dance would cause the biggest possible fine?"

I think this one would be [the worst]: "The Delivery." What if Moss scored a TD and immediately fell to the ground on his back, with his legs up in the air like a pregnant woman, and two receivers stood on either side "cheering him on," and Randy pretended he was pushing, and finally the QB leaned over him and "pulled" the football from Randy's loins, then held the football to his shoulder like a baby for a few seconds before Moss stood up, gingerly grabbed the "baby," cut an imaginary umbilical cord, then spiked the ball as hard as he possibly could? I think that would be like a three-game suspension and a $500,000 fine, right? Plus, Buck would be more distraught than Walter Cronkite after JFK's assassination.”

Bill Simmons.

Film Critic Quote of the Year:

"[Dukes of Hazzard] is a film that is not there. It can't really be reviewed because it doesn't really exist. It is not empty calories, which implies pleasure, but simply empty. It's a cosmic void where a movie ought to be... with no plot, character, or dialogue worth experiencing, let alone remembering, the film merely occupies space on the screen and hopes for the best."
Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times.


“In interviews, Theron and her director, Niki Caro, have said that the original screenplay (by Michael Seitzman) was a little too black-and-white, and that they tried to introduce "shades of gray." I can only infer that said shades are moments when some of the men—after hissing the c-word and pushing over a Port-A-Potty with one of Josey's co-workers (Michelle Monaghan) in it, who emerges screaming and sobbing and covered in liquid shit—are shown, for a second or two, with a look of shame. But those looks are fleeting. There is, after all, harassment to be done.

North Country is powerful and then some. I came out shaking, dabbing at my eyes, and vowing never again to write the c-word in shit on the walls of a women's room."-

David Edelstein, reviewing “North Country” in Slate.

TV Critic Quote of the Week:

“To suggest someone watch 'The Andy Milonakis Show' would also require suggesting the use of mind-altering drugs or alcohol. Having watched a tape of the premiere episode, airing 9:30 p.m. Sunday on MTV, being under the influence is about the only way I can see someone sitting through a full show... is a stretch, but Milonakis might be funnier if seen after an hours-long bender."
Richard Huff, in the New York Daily News.

Music Critic Quote of the Year:

"Consider the Los Angeles hip-hop quartet the Black Eyed Peas. Their current single, "My Humps," is one of the most popular hit singles in history. It is also proof that a song can be so bad as to veer toward evil...

It's a song that tries to evoke a coquettish nudge and wink, but head-butts and bloodies the target instead. It isolates sectors of the female anatomy that obsessive young men have been inventing language for since their skulls fused, and yet it emerges only with "humps" and "lumps"—at least "Milkshake" sounded delicious."

Hua Hsu, in Slate, in a piece that calls "My Humps" a "song so awful it hurts the mind."

Theological Quote of the Year:

“To those who want profound change, consider an outsider’s perspective: the Catholic Church is the National Review of religion. You may live long enough to see it become the Weekly Standard. In your dreams it might become the New Republic. But it’s never going to be the Nation. And if ever it does, it will have roughly the same subscriber base.”
- James Lileks.

Headline of the Year: "Ass Backwards: The Media's Silence About Rampant Anal Sex" -Slate.

First runnerup: "Dick to Replace Johnson vs. Gamecocks" (for a story about Arkansas coach Houston Nutt replacing quarterback Robert Johnson with Casey Dick for a game against South Carolina.

Lede of the Year:

OP-ED COLUMNIST W. Won't Read This


Published: December 14, 2005
Never ask a guy who's in a bubble if he's in a bubble. He can't answer.

To continue reading this article, you must be a subscriber to TimesSelect.

Poster of the Year:

Catchphrase of the Year: "Is it because I'm a lesbian?"

Tabloid Front Page of the Year:

T-shirt of the Year:

Yes, we’re still glad to be rid of him.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 02:39 PM | Comments (3)

Thoughts on "King Kong"

Man, what a disappointment. I loved the first and last thirds, the rendering of 1930s New York was absolutely fantastic, and Naomi Watts played the Darrow role to perfection. But that middle section, in Skull Island, just ruined it for me- stretching what should have been 20 minutes of material into over an hour.

If there's one thing I couldn't stand about Peter Jackson's otherwise exemplary "Lord of the Rings" films, it was the director's annoying habit of stopping the plot dead in its tracks so its hero could fight off some grotesque creature. Then, once the creature is dispatched, there's another, even more grotesque one waiting, and then another after that. We never learn much about which creature is which, and we mostly just want the scene to be over so we can go on with the movie.

That, in a nutshell, is the entire second act of "King Kong." Why must there be dinosaurs? And all those other creatures? Why must they all just fight amongst themselves for 45 minutes, while all the rest of us are waiting for the third act to start?

'Kong' won't be making my Top Ten list, which will be posted tomorrow. I've now seen every relevant '05 film that I'm going to see in the theater, though everything left will be making its way through my Netflix in the next three or four months.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:56 AM | Comments (0)

December 28, 2005

Why I Love Sullivan

He, like few others, sees that left-wing lunatics and right-wing lunatics are really not so different from one another. See the 2005 Moore Awards, and the accompanying Malkin Awards. I'll have my own awards and other year-end stuff later in the week. It's hard whittling down the Shameful Events list to just 40- I feel like I could fill it just with references to Hurricane Katrina, Terrell Owens, the Vikings, and the Black-Eyed Peas.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 08:34 PM | Comments (1)

Two More Thoughts on the Jeff Reardon Arrest

I feel sorry for Rick Aguilera. Everyone's gonna confuse him with the other bearded closer who won a World Series for the Twins, and will think he's the one who robbed a jewelry store. It's almost as bad as the four-year period, starting in 1999, when every other person who Rick met asked him if he was Christina Aguilera's father.

And as a commenter pointed out, Reardon's resemblance to George Lucas in his mugshot is uncanny. Lucas' stature in the culture may have fallen, but no where near as much as his lookalike.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 08:29 PM | Comments (0)

Welcome to the WBC, Bitch

My thoughts on the World Baseball Classic controversy: let Cuba in. Rather than punishing Castro one way (by keeping the Cuban team out), punish him two ways: watch the Americans' beat his players' ass on the field, and (hopefully) get at least a few of them to defect. Guaranteed ratings winner both ways.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 08:26 PM | Comments (0)

The Right Embraces Porno Terminology, Cont'd

A story in the Weekly Standard on the dwindling percentage of males in college gets the headline "Where the Boys Aren't." No, it's not a story about lesbian pornography, but you'll be forgiven if you get that impression.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 08:23 PM | Comments (1)

Stephen A. What?

A real head-scratcher in Scoop Jackson's year-in-review column, on "things that mattered" in '05:

When "Quite Frankly" aired on Aug. 1, 2005, it broke down a barrier that had been up for over a decade. And the following sentence is no disrespect to Bryant Gumbel, Michael Wilbon, John Saunders, Montell Williams, Orlando Jones or DL Hugley, but ... not since they pulled Arsenio Hall off the air in 1994 has a black man had his own talk show -- or been slated to host one with his name in the title. The fact that Stephen A. was given the format to do him -- to be himself, unscripted, unapologetic, unleashed -- was historical in the landscape of broadcast television.
Say what? Didn't Gumbel, Wilbon, Saunders, Williams, Jones and Hughley all have their own shows? In Gumbel, Jones, and Hughley's case, with their names in the title? Do those not count as real talk shows? Do the hosts not count as black? Did they not break barriers themselves?

And more importantly, doesn't the fact that, despite the most hyped launch in the network's history, "Quite Frankly" got lower ratings than billiards used to get in the same timeslot, sort of indicate that "Quite Frankly" doesn't matter so much after all? Especially since it’s clear no one wants to watch a screaming buffoon doing a bad, hip-hop-inflected Howard Cosell impression? I thought so.

Another reason not to read Scoop: he actually likes those creepy commercials with four different LeBron Jameses.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 08:22 PM | Comments (2)

December 27, 2005

Movie Critic Quote of the Day

'Tis the season for pages and pages of film criticism- this week gives us (among many other things) the Onion AV Club's year in film, the Village Voice film critics' poll, and Slate's Movie Club. From the latter comes this gem, from the NYT's A.O. Scott:

All of these objections have been raised, in various quarters, to Munich, The Constant Gardener, Good Night, and Good Luck, Crash, and Syriana, among others. I'm not talking so much about accusations of ideological bias as about the easier and more basic knock against these movies for being, well, movies—for simplifying history, for preferring spectacle to nuance, for counterfeiting emotion, etc. Some of Joseph McCarthy's targets really were communists. Steven Spielberg does not have a strategy for Middle East Peace. The CIA doesn't really operate at the bidding of the oil industry. Big Pharma wouldn't kill Rachel Weisz. Not everyone in Los Angeles is a racist. Couldn't Jack and Ennis just get a place in San Francisco?

Posted by Stephen Silver at 10:14 PM | Comments (0)

Good For the Jews?

Lawrence Kaplan (usually of TNR) has written an excellent Wall Street Journal op-ed about the recent decision by the Union of Reform Judaism to come out for withdrawal from Iraq. Kaplan says what I've been saying for almost ten years- that the URJ has no business making political pronouncements, and then turning around and wacking the religious right for doing the same thing. And even worse, it has no business suborning Jewish teachings to leftist political belief, as though the two were one and the same:

What is "good for the Jews" seems to concern the organization less than what is good for American liberalism. A premature withdrawal from Iraq would be devastating to the cause of the Jewish state. That observation does not reflect the motives for having gone to war, but simply the outcome of abandoning a fellow democracy without condition and regardless of consequence--and the obvious consequence would be Iraq's transformation into a den of terror. None of this seems to have made an impression on the reform Jewish organization....

The American Jewish community's attachment to the political left goes beyond obstinacy--to the point of running counter to the very requirements of that same community. Hence, when asked to choose between the security of Jews, on the one hand, and clichés about social equality and inadequate domestic expenditures, on the other, Reform Jewish leaders have put what they presume to be the secular equivalent to Judaism above the interests of Judaism itself. The Union for Reform Judaism stands for many causes. It's no longer so clear that Jews count among them.


Posted by Stephen Silver at 04:48 PM | Comments (0)

The Downside of Anger

According to the Inquirer's Phil Sheridan, 2005 was the year that fan rage "really became corrosive" among the Philadelphia sports fan base. Funny, I thought that was every year. Here's Sheridan:

Rage? Fury? The kind of contempt that was unleashed on Donovan McNabb this year? There's something really troubling about the state of things.

It comes down to this: If following the Eagles or Phillies or any other team is making you bitter and angry and cruel, then maybe it's time to turn your attention and your passion elsewhere.

Let me be clear here. We're not talking about critically analyzing the performance of a player, a coach or an organization. We're not suggesting fans should root, root, root for the home team uncritically, or cheerfully accept whatever happens and then dutifully renew their season tickets.

We're talking about the difference between disappointment and fury, about the line between discussion and screaming, about the gap between wanting your favorite players or teams to succeed and feeling personally betrayed if they fall short....

The root of the anger seems to be this idea, which has gained an awful lot of momentum, that being a sports fan somehow entitles you to a championship. That leads directly to contempt for any coach or player who is perceived as denying you the championship you're owed.

David Aldridge, meanwhile, writes about "Iverson Fatigue," questioning whether fan apathy about the team's superstar is to blame for the team's lackluster ticket sales this year. Because clearly, there's nothing more terrible than being a Hall of Fame-caliber player who stays in the same town for his entire career and keeps the team in contention almost every season. And if you don't believe that, ask Donovan McNabb, or Mike Schmidt.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 04:47 PM | Comments (0)

Most Embarrassing Closer Arrest, Non-Venezuela Division

Wow, I certainly wasn't expecting this news this morning...

Former major league relief pitcher Jeff Reardon, who was of course the closer on the Twins' 1987 championship-winning team and sixth on the all-time saves list, apparently forgot he's an ex-ballplayer and not an ex-wrestler. Reardon was arrested Monday morning for armed robbery of a Florida jewelry store, and cops busted Reardon... sitting in a nearby restaurant. Apparently he's not as good at closing out robberies as he was at closing out games.

Reardon's arrest, following the Kirby Puckett spousal abuse thing, continues the '87 team's campaign to shred every illusion I ever had about them. What next? Juan Berenguer arrested for running drugs?

Check out Reardon's mugshot -and you thought he looked scary when he was on the mound.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 09:43 AM | Comments (2)

End of the Purple

The Vikings' 2005 season, one of the strangest in history, ended for all intents and purposes on Sunday, when the Vikes lost to the Ravens, falling to 0-2 since the Smootgate indictments were announced. They nominally finish off the campaign against the Bears next week.

Talk, of course, will now turn to Mike Tice's future with the team, and he and all of his assistants are on contracts that expire at the end of the season. Either they'll all get raises (cheapskate former owner Red McCombs infamously low-balled his coaches in the salary department), or they'll all be shown the door. I vote for the latter option.

Yes, Tice did a good job revving up the team after the scandal-plagued 2-5 start and did steer them to a six-game winning streak. But they're not making the playoffs, and it's hard to imagine Zygi Wilf concluding that Tice is worthy of an extension, especially with Daunte Culpepper said to be unhappy. And really- there's no way Tice is ever taking them to a Super Bowl. I guess we'll all find out the answer next Monday.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 02:24 AM | Comments (2)

Holiday Movie Roundup

Hope everyone had an excellent holiday weekend. I spent my four days doing not much but spending time with the girlfriend's family, and seeing movies, lots of them. A few brief reviews:

"Brokeback Mountain"- Ang Lee's "gay cowboy movie," as you may have heard it called, was certainly a quality film, and deserves much better than to be a mere avatar for every viewer's political prejudices. In fact, it's lack of any type of political statement was probably my favorite thing about it. At any rate- wonderful cinematography, great performance by Heath Ledger- just don't expect it to change cinema as we know it.

Meanwhile, I'm amused to no end by the idea of Karol having gone to see the film with Ace of Spade and Allahpundit- oh to be a fly on the wall for that post-movie conversation.

"March of the Penguins"- After reading about a thousand articles about it, I finally caught this one on Netflix last week, and... I really don't see what the big deal was. They're penguins, they go a really long way to mate, we get it. How is this any more intriguing than your average Discovery channel special? And I can think of at least five other movies, better than this one, that are narrated by Morgan Freeman.

"Rumor Has It..."- This Rob Reiner-directed Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy is what it is- cute, and with the eye-wink of a hook that the heroine's family was the basis for "The Graduate." It's enjoyable, but don't expect to ever think about it again after you see it. My two biggest questions- since the movie is set in 1997, why don't all the women- Aniston included- sport the "Rachel" haircut? And if the movie is based on "The Graduate," why is the Benjamin character played by Kevin Costner and not Dustin Hoffman, who is still alive, active, and a successful actor?

"Syriana"- Not since "American Beauty" has a Hollywood film been so clearly calculated to flatter liberal prejudices. A hodgepodge of potshots at oil companies, the CIA, and other lefty buggaboos circa the 1970s, this nonsensical film plays like an unintentional homage to Bush Derangement Syndrome- "we're mad at lots of things, and we're not sure how, but they're all connected!" It also tosses in a "corruption is good" speech, which is at the same time wildly unconvincing, and ripped directly from Michael Douglas' "Wall Street" monologue.

We're also asked to believe that the CIA regularly assassinates reformist Arab princes at the behest of oil companies- when in fact, it's now the uberconservative Bush Administration that supports reform in the Arab world, and the CIA that opposes it. And we're also introduced to a shadowy group called the "Committee for the Liberation of Iran," which is depicted both as consisting of several evil white oilmen and no actual Iranians. Couldn't Iran stand to liberated? I wish the CLI actually existed, because I'd be sure to join it.

Richard Cohen, the liberal Washington Post columnist, has the best take on this laughable motion picture:

"It would be nice if those who agree with Hollywood -- who think, as [director Stephen] Gaghan does, that this is a brave, speaking-truth-to-power movie when it's really just an outdated cliche -- could release their fervid grip on old-left bromides about Big Oil, Big Business, Big Government and the inherent evil of George Bush, and come up with something new and relevant. I say that because something new and relevant is desperately needed. Neoconservatism crashed and burned in Iraq, but liberalism never even showed up. The left's criticism of the war from the very start was too often a porridge of inanities about oil or empire or Halliburton -- or isolationism by another name. It was childish and ultimately ineffective. The war came and Bush was reelected. How's that for a clean whiff?"
Conservatives should set aside their outrage about "Munich"- which, for all its political faults, truly is an amazing cinematic achievement- and cackle about "Syriana" instead.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 02:13 AM | Comments (2)

December 22, 2005

New Stuff

My latest New York Press column is here, and my newest SportsByBrooks update is here. Lots of Smootgate news in both- who'd have thought that the most embarrassing phallic object wielded by a Vikings player in 2005 would not be the Whizzinator?

Posted by Stephen Silver at 11:58 AM | Comments (1)

December 20, 2005

There Goes Johnny

Red Sox fans will now have a new Most Hated Yankee, because the leader of the Idiots, Johnny Damon, has jumped from Boston to the Bronx. Damon signed a 4-year, $52 million dollar deal to become the new Yankees' centerfielder. For that money, he'll have to do three unpleasant things: get booed at Fenway, shave, and cut his hair.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 11:36 PM | Comments (2)

So Long, Jacque

Outfielder Jacque Jones has left the only organization he's ever known, the Minnesota Twins, and signed a three-year free-agent deal with the Chicago Cubs. In making the move, Jones joins such notable Twins-to-Cubs transplants as LaTroy Hawkins, Rich "El Guapo" Garces, Henry Blanco and (of course) Ron Davis.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 11:32 PM | Comments (1)

The Wide World of Sports (By Brooks)

Read all about the media movement against Ron Artest, Anna Benson's affair with Santa Claus, the insurrection against Matt Millen, the latest Vikings indictment news and more, in my long-awaited return to As always, scroll down until you see my name.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 08:38 PM | Comments (0)

Scalper Envy

Report: Tice Unhappy With Vikings Scalpers

Yes Mike Tice, the guy who was almost fired last summer for illegally scalping Super Bowl tickets, is upset that Vikings fans sold off their tickets to last Sunday's game, causing the visible presence at the stadium of hundreds of Steelers fans.

Predictable effects of the Smootgate indictment: the Vikes go back to losing, and Tice goes back to being a moron.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 08:37 PM | Comments (0)

Quote of the Day

"'The personal is the political' has to be one of my least favorite phrases; I don't want every aspect of my life to be consumed and defined by political perspectives or political arguments. Though I haven't read Frank Rich's piece, I don't need to because it sounds like every other Frank Rich piece of the last 4 years. When I read things like this I want to wring the writer's neck. He obviously sees the emotions and experiences depicted in "Brokeback Mountain" as just more ammo to shoot at Bush and his army of empty-eyed religious zealots, like a kid opening his food-filled mouth to gross out his sister. Well, that's not what this movie is, Mr Rich, and our lives are more than just a chance for you to score some points against your white whale. Take your pathetic agenda elsewhere."
-Commenter Palladian, on a great Ann Althouse thread on the political implications of Ang Lee's film.
Posted by Stephen Silver at 08:35 PM | Comments (0)

Strike Out

While on the whole I'm certainly glad I decided to be move from New York to Philadelphia five months ago, I do miss the Big Apple, and there haven't been that many days where I've said "damn, I'm sure as hell glad to be out of New York." Today, however, is one of those days.

The Transit Workers Union has gone out on strike, putting to a halt all trains and busses in a city in which the majority of residents don't have cars. It's a recipe for complete anarchy, of course, and if the TWU wanted to come up with a really good idea to turn the entire city against them, this was as good as they could possibly do. I'm normally generally supportive of organized labor, but not this time.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 08:30 PM | Comments (2)

Defending Donovan, Cont'd

Les Bowen of the Inquirer writes the column that every yammering talk-radio idiot should read:

THE NEXT person who spews an anti-Donovan McNabb screed should be forced to watch the tape of Sunday's Eagles-Rams game until he or she repents.

McNabb - despite the overpublicized griping of some former political aide who writes for a newspaper nobody knew existed a month ago - is far from "mediocre at best." He's made five Pro Bowls, set a number of franchise passing records, led a team to five successive playoff berths and the Super Bowl.

"Mediocre at best" is what the Eagles have now, and what they are likely to have whenever McNabb's tenure here ends...

The Eagles aren't about to go off in another quarterbacking direction, but if they did, the odds say they'd likely end up with an Akili Smith or a Tim Couch. Precious years would be wasted figuring out that the developing quarterback wasn't developing. Then they'd start over...

It's not OK to think that guys capable of throwing more than 30 TD passes and fewer than 10 interceptions, as McNabb did last season, grow on trees, and all the Eagles have to do is reach out and grab another one. In fact, McNabb was the first QB in NFL history to ever accomplish that feat, which would be truly remarkable for someone who was "mediocre at best."

Quarterback is the most important position on the field, and the Eagles have a talented one, who has tried to conduct himself with dignity and restraint. I don't buy the idea - pitched mostly by people who have never seen the Eagles' locker room except in the background of interviews they watch on TV - that McNabb has somehow lost some of his teammates in this bewildering mess of a season. But if he has, maybe the Eagles need to lose those teammates, and find some who understand what a privilege it is to play with a franchise QB.

But... but... he's aloof! And he can't win the big one!

Posted by Stephen Silver at 08:28 PM | Comments (0)

December 19, 2005

Liberal Iran?

My good friend Karol of Alarming News had a post the other day that bothered me a bit. It concerned the lunatic president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has lately been calling for the destruction of the state of Israel, as well as espousing Holocaust denial.

Karol, in her post, rightly mocked an Iranian regime spokesman for stating that the West should show "tolerance" of the view that there was no Holocaust. But then she made an argument that gave me pause: "do they have the liberal playbook, or what?"

My first reaction was that Iran isn't so keen on allowing books, so even if there were such a thing as the "liberal playbook," they probably wouldn't even let it in their country.

In other words: Iran is a repressive, fascist, theocracy. If it's not the least liberal nation on Earth, it's at least in the bottom five. And there's nothing the slightest bit "liberal" about Holocaust denial, either. Just because a conservative such as Karol doesn't like Iran, and doesn't like liberals, it doesn't mean liberals and Iran are the same. In fact, they're polar opposites. This reminds me of those people who blamed John Walker Lindh's upbringing in Marin County for his joining the Taliban, as though membership in a fascist religious militia were a natural extension of teenage hippiedom.

Liberalism is a rich, Western political tradition that is responsible for the freedom that each of us in America enjoys. Iran has none of that, although it certainly could use a hell of a lot more. As for Holocaust denial or defense of it, if someone's a liberal, that's not their position, and if someone has that position, they're not a liberal.

I know that what Karol is saying is that some on the hard left overuse moral equivalence on the subject of the war on terrorism, and I certainly don't deny that. But I have, absolutely, never heard a leftist- no matter how crazy- stoop to advocating for "tolerance" of Holocaust denial. If that's an example of liberal moral equivalence, than it's the most extreme I can possibly imagine- as well as, as far as I can tell, fictional.

Sorry to pick on you Karol- and I feel bad that I had to miss the recent NYC holiday blogger bash.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 04:56 PM | Comments (0)

Dammit, How'd They Know?

New York Post: "Silver's 'Controls' Don't Work"

Posted by Stephen Silver at 04:52 PM | Comments (1)

Ad Critic Quote of the Day

"I was thinking about the fact that Monica Lewinsky's famous blue dress came from the Gap. That was back in the mid-1990s—rosier days for the company. Can you imagine a White House intern now—a well-off woman from Beverly Hills who considers herself fashion-forward—buying a dress from the Gap? I can't. Maybe Banana Republic. … It's just a sign of how badly things have gone for the brand: They can't even get world leaders to ejaculate on their clothes anymore."
-Seth Stevenson, bemoaning the Gap's declining fortunes, in Slate.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 04:51 PM | Comments (0)

The World According to Roger

=Roger Ebert on Sunday released his top ten films of 2005, and well, it won't do much to assuage those who accuse Ebert of leading with his liberalism. He's got "Crash" #1, followed by "Syriana" and "Munich" at #2 and #3, and "Brokeback Mountain" at #5.

I haven't seen Syriana, Brokeback, "Junebug"(#4), or numbers 7-10 ("Nine Lives," "King Kong," "Yes," or "Millions"). Though I'm sure the only one we'll have in common will be "Munich."

"Crash" wasn't a bad film, but, like "Mystic River," it depended way too much on contrived plot coincidences for me to enjoy it (what, there's only 12 people in LA?) I also thought it should've borrowed its title from the "Avenue Q" number, "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist." Even more dumbfounding is Ebert's inclusion, at #6, of the nonsensical indie film "Me and You and Everyone We Know," which I happened to watch over the weekend. Miranda July's movie is for people who didn't think Todd Solondz's "Happiness" had enough random perversity.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 04:48 PM | Comments (2)

Good Persons

I may be the only one in America who feels this way, but I like the idea of Bill and Melinda Gates, and Bono, as Time magazine persons of the year. The biggest news story of the year was unquestionably Hurricane Katrina, and the most positive development of that was the outpouring of charitable support. So why not highlight those who have helped spur America's outstanding charitable response, in Katrina, the Tsunami, and elsewhere?

The American right, of course, is outraged (as they always are) that members of "the elite" took away the award- simultaneously arguing that "we don't care what MSM says!" and "how dare MSM say what they said!" (you'll hear the same talking-out-of-both-sides around Oscar time, by the way). And those who argued for the last few weeks that Time would "almost certainly" name Cindy Sheehan or someone like her, keep in mind- last year, they picked George W. Bush, calling him "An American Revolutionary." The year before, it was "The American Soldier." In 2001, Rudy Giuliani. The year before that, Bush.

But that MSM is just monolithic hard-left, aren't they?

Posted by Stephen Silver at 04:46 PM | Comments (0)

Gonzaga Upsets

Last week, in linking to a piece from Slate that complained about white basketball players being compared to Larry Bird, I inadvertently referred to Gonzaga forward Adam Morrison as "Andrew." I did this in haste, mostly because I merely cut-and-pasted the Slate quote and added the first name, and also because I'm not a huge follower of college basketball (at least prior to March Madness) and his name didn't quite roll off the tongue.

But some Gonzaga supporters apparently got wind of the post, and even though I corrected the mistake, I got a few not-so-nice comments. For example:

Steve Silver, you are a coprophage for posting this. Adam (not Andrew) Morrison could choke-slam your pretentiousness figuratively into a weeping mound of hyperbolic literary refuse. All that your readership asks is that you keep it real. Pax
And, even better:
Too bad for you, Steve Silver, a small portion of GU supporters caught wind of you being unable to correctly name the best college basketball player in the country. Unfortunately, whether you realize it or not (I think, not) you are part of the East Coast bias that us Westerners detest. You know nothing of sports or athletes west of the Mississippi River. You and your type will be forced to grudgingly pay homage when USC wins the national title (again) and when the Seattle Seahawks continue to destroy every NFL team in its path. Dispicable.
In my defense, allow me to make a few points:

1. I am not now, nor have I ever been, an eater of feces, so to refer to me as a "coprophage" is factually incorrect.

2. I'm sure Mr. Morrison has the physical ability to choke-slam me, but since he has said in the past that he's a bit of a pacifist, I'm not so sure he'd like to. And besides, he's listed as majoring in sports management, not hyperbolic literary refuse.

3. Since I grew in Minneapolis, which is West of the Mississippi, I still root for teams from there, and I regularly bemoan the East Coast-centricity of much of sports media, I suppose it's not accurate to say that I'm "part of the East Coast bias that us Westerners detest," or that "know nothing of sports or athletes west of the Mississippi River."

4. And also, since I'm fairly certain USC will in fact win the national championship, and have written myself that the Seahawks get no respect, I suppose I'm not the best example of "East Coast Bias." And since when did the national media doubt that USC could win the title?

5. I have, in fact, picked Gonzaga to go far in the NCAA tournament each of the last few years, and one of my favorite professors in college was an alum (though he claimed that he'd never heard of John Stockton).

6. And finally, I get Morrison's first name right from now on, I swear. But at least I didn't spell "despicable" wrong.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:37 AM | Comments (3)

Red Sox West

The Dodgers added another piece that's more commonly associated with the Red Sox, as they signed Nomar Garciaparra to an incentive-laden, one-year deal. I suppose it's just good that he didn't go to the Yankees- that would leave him persona non grata in Boston forever, and besides, it would be quite unfair if all three of the superstar AL shortstops from the late '90s were all playing in the Yankee infield.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:09 AM | Comments (1)

Slo Vikings

Well, so much for that winning streak, and the Vikings putting the boat scandal aside a second time this year. The Vikes got crushed at home by Pittsburgh 18-3, as the Steelers ended the winning streak of a streaking NFC North team for the second time in as many weeks.

As Deadspin said, "they went down like Bryant McKinnie."

The Bears, meanwhile, bounced back and crushed Atlanta, as their defense continued to dominate, and their offense came alive in the second half when 2003 Eckstein Award winner Rex Grossman returned to action and led Chicago to two quick scores. And within the hour, I got almost 100 Google hits for "Rex Grossman Jewish."

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:07 AM | Comments (3)

December 17, 2005

John Spencer, RIP

This wonderful actor passed away last night of a heart attack, at the age of 58. Best known for his role as White House chief of staff-turned-vice presidential candidate Leo McGarry on "The West Wing," Spencer also played lawyer Tommy Mullaney on the last few seasons of "LA Law," and was one of the few bright spots of the show in the deep decline of its latter years.

Spencer was also an accomplished stage and screen actor; in movies, I'll always remember him best as the FBI director in the bombastic 1996 action movie "The Rock," who Sean Connery throws off the balcony of a building, hanging from a rope.

No idea what "West Wing" will do with his character, as it's hard to imagine how a presidential election wouldn't be influenced by the death of a vice presidential nominee weeks before election day.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 04:27 PM | Comments (3)

December 16, 2005

Mondesire Explodes

And suddenly, this McNabb vs. Mondesire story has gone national, about two weeks after the fact. So much for "East Coast Bias"/media synergy. Just about every columnist on weighed in on it yesterday, and even the national president of the NAACP has come out against Mondesire. Good for him. Mondesire is a silly and laughable man, and I hope he has to resign. And if he runs for Congress as has been rumored, I hope McNabb campaigns for his opponent.

Again, Jerry should've learned Rush Limbaugh's lesson: if know a lot about racial demoguery and very little about football, it's not wise to ever say anything in public about football.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:36 PM | Comments (0)

Stern Exits

Today marked the final broadcast of the Howard Stern show on free radio, as his run on K-ROCK concluded with a "walk" to Sirius Satellite Radio's offices, and a giant rally in New York. Thankfully for Stern and his fans, expected rain never materialized- and neither did a planned transit strike, as New York's transit union chickened out at the last minute for the second time in three years.

I've never been more than a casual Stern fan, but I admire his ability to keep that many people entertained for that long a time, as well as in standing up to the "indecency" police, whether in government or in the Viacom executive suite. I wish him best of luck on satellite.

UPDATE: Here's Stern fan Jeff Jarvis' take on the scene.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:35 PM | Comments (1)

Becky Comes Up Short

"The Apprentice" aired its season finale last night, and the winner of the job with Donald Trump was New Jersey consultant Roland Pinkett.

Really, the only reason I watched the show was that the other finalist, Rebecca Jarvis, is an old friend of my sister's. They went to camp together and Becky (as she was then known) came to her Bat Mitzvah. Now a financial journalist in Chicago, the St. Paul native did an excellent job on the show- especially considering she's only 24, and spent almost the entire run of the show on crutches.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:31 PM | Comments (4)

Chillin' With the 'Bollah

My friend Michael Totten recently met with Hezbollah in Lebanon, and he writes about the experience in LA Weekly. His conclusion? They're duplicitous swine. Surprising, I know.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:30 PM | Comments (0)


Because the NYT's "TimesSelect" feature is working so wonderfully (see Mickey Kaus today for a priceless example), the Times-owned Boston Globe is considering doing the same- charging for content to its sports section.

I haven't lived in Boston in six years, but I still read the Globe sports (especially Gordon Edes on baseball and Peter May on the NBA) every single Sunday. Way for the Globe to neuter the only part of the paper still worth reading.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:27 PM | Comments (0)

December 15, 2005

Vikings in the Dock

And I'm guessing they're not nearly as happy as they were last time they were on a dock...

Four members of the Minnesota Vikings were indicted today on charges that include indecent conduct, disorderly conduct and lewd or lascivious conduct, in connection with the team's infamous "sex cruise" on Lake Minnetonka on October 6. The four players named were quarterback Daunte Culpepper, running back Moe Williams, tackle Bryant McKinnie and cornerback Fred Smoot.

The news hits especially hard because after several weeks of good news due to the team's winning streak and improved play, the indictments bring the sex cruise story back onto the front page again- and it's also bad news that the previously respectable Culpepper was named in the indictment.

But on the bright side, none of the four players named are playing a key role in the Vikings' current run, and on a more personal note, I'm writing a SportsByBrooks bit this weekend, so the indictment should give me some good material.

The charges were brought by Steve Tallen, who is the chief prosecutor for something called the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District- governing the large lake and the numerous multi-million dollar homes that surround it. Since he likely signed up for the job expecting to prosecute such crimes as fishing without a license, I hope Tallen isn't out of his depth in taking on a quartet of rich, horny athletes.

Indeed, the LMDC's home page currently has as its most prominent link the announcement of an upcoming meeting of the Lake Minnetonka Boat Density Committee.

Then again, I suppose the summer camp I went to as a kid, Camp Teko, must have fallen under Tallen's jurisdiction as well. Some kids once showed up stoned to a high school retreat there, but charges were never filed, as far as I know.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 02:58 PM | Comments (3)

December 14, 2005

Bringing It All Back Home

My latest football column for New York Press is online here.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 11:21 PM | Comments (0)

Judge Quarterbacks Not By the Color of Their Skin, But By The Content of Their Game

Here's the Inquirer's Phil Sheridan with another excellent putdown of J. Wyatt Mondesire and his stupid anti-Donovan McNabb rant:

For too many years now, I have been ignorantly trying to assess athletes and coaches by the quality of their performances, not by the amount of melanin they have in their skin.

This is what makes the leadership and example-setting of men like J. Whyatt Mondesire so very important. As president of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP, Mondesire had the wisdom and courage to criticize Donovan McNabb for "hiding behind excuses dripping in make-believe racial stereotypes."

Well, no one likes their excuses dripping in any kind of racial stereotypes, let alone make-believe ones. Thanks to Mondesire's column in the Philadelphia Sun, I realized two things.

First, there is a Philadelphia Sun.

Second, I learned that a player's winning percentage, statistics and overall character weren't as important means of measurement as his ability to live up to my own arbitrary racial prejudices...

Personally, I'm grateful for being shown the light. For far too long, I worried about things like facts, logic and fairness when forming my opinions and writing my columns. This is a huge waste of precious time when my head is full of perfectly good assumptions, misconceptions and outright misrepresentations.

Sheridan also points out that Eagles fans should feel fortunate that McNabb is their quarterback, rather than "Bubby Brister, Jim McMahon, A.J. Feeley, [or] assorted Detmers."

Posted by Stephen Silver at 11:18 PM | Comments (0)

Life Imitates "Bad Santa"


(CBS4) SALEM, NH Holiday shoppers got more than they bargained for at one New Hampshire mall.

Police say Richard Mullen dressed as Santa Claus, walked into the Mall at Rockingham Park on Sunday and dropped his pants.

Fortunately for the shoppers he was wearing sweatpants underneath the red suit. Police say if he hadn't been wearing those extra pants, he'd be facing indecent exposure charges. Instead he's charged with disorderly conduct.

52 year-old Mullen is from Malden and was not working as a mall Santa.

Police say he told them, he was just having some fun with the kids.

At least he didn't rob the store afterwards.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 11:13 PM | Comments (0)

Thoughts on "Munich"

I saw Spielberg's new film tonight, and three observations to start out:

1. It's a wonderfully and skillfully made film, with some of the best storytelling of any movie in recent memory.
2. It's in no way anti-Israel or anti-Semitic.
3. What was, for 140 minutes, the best movie of the year is undermined by a ridiculous and insulting conclusion, which very much undercuts everything that came before it.

When I first heard Spielberg was planning to tackle the aftermath of the massacre of the Israeli Olympic team, I was incredibly excited- it's a serious, important subject that could be trusted in the hands of very few directors. And for the first two-plus hours, "Munich" is everything all Spielberg-lovers thought it would be- a fascinating and powerful look at historical events, in the tradition of "Schindler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan." Filmed in numerous countries in just four months, the film also works as a spy thriller, with multiple layers of international intrigue.

From a political standpoint, the film does nothing objectionable for the majority of its running time. Yes, 'Munich" depicts the Israeli assassins as engaging in killing of those behind the massacre, though it takes pains, on multiple occasions, to depict the agents as going to extraordinary lengths to avoid killing civilians, and eventually having moral qualms about being assassins. (Are the depictions of such qualms themselves anti-Israel? If you ask me, they're pro-Israel). There is moral ambiguity, yes, but the Israelis are never, for one second, depicted as villains.

Remember when "A.I.: Artificial Intelligence" came out four years ago, and cineastes debated which parts had Spielberg's fingerprints and which had Stanley Kubrick's? I found myself doing much the same watching "Munich," spotting which parts had the director's fingerprint and which bore that of screenwriter Tony Kushner. And while the first 95% of the film is mostly Spielberg, the film's sorry epilogue is all Kushner.

Like "A.I.," "Munich" has about five endings, and also like "A.I.," the last one is the worst. It indulges all of Kushner's worst tics as a writer: bizarre dreams/visions, the insertion of sex where it doesn't belong, a disturbing lack of subtlety, and wildly off-the-charts leftism.

There's a scene set at the Israeli consolate that doesn't fit thematically at all; a sequence of "visions" for some reason set while the hero is having sex with his wife; a nonsensical final scene of dialogue, and (worst of all), the film's final shot, which shatters the previous two-plus hours of nuance and subtlety with a hammer-over-the-head connection between its events and September 11. It doesn't fit, it doesn't belong, and it draws wildly incorrect conclusions.

It's really a shame, because had "Munich" been a straight re-telling of the story, and kept its tone throughout, it would likely have been an all-time classic, on par with 'Schindler's' and 'Private Ryan.' The performances by the international cast are top-notch across the board, especially Eric Bana as the lead Israeli agent, Daniel Craig as a hard-line member of this team, and Geoffrey Rush as his Mossad handler. The cinematography by Spielberg regular Janusz Kaminski is exemplary and, once again, the film holds up well on its own as a spy thriller, even divorced from all the political implications.

For those reasons, I recommend seeing "Munich." But I don't remember when I was more disappointed by the ending of a movie.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:19 AM | Comments (3)

Quote of the Day

"Take a look at these tidbits from [Adam] Morrison's scouting report: "Old school right down to the stripes on the socks ... Like a coach on the floor ... Great intangibles, competes and inspires others to play hard ... Fundamentally solid, does all the little things to help his team win ... Sees the floor well, and is creative finding teammates for baskets ... Runs decent, but needs a head of steam." Let's run that through the racial translator: "[White] right down to the [white] on the [white] ... Like a [white] on the [white] ... [White, white] and [white] ... [White], and is [white] ... [White], but [he's really slow and also he's white]."
-Josh Levin of Slate, in a piece on how every young white basketball player inevitably gets compared to Larry Bird.
Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:04 AM | Comments (2)


Headline of Maureen Dowd's column Wednesday: "W. Won't Read This."

That's 'cause W doesn't have TimesSelect.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:00 AM | Comments (0)

The Corrections

The blog Regret the Error gives us its favorite newspaper corrections of 2005. The one confusing Richard Nixon with Hunter S. Thompson is probably my favorite.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:58 AM | Comments (0)

Strange Bedfellows

The Wall Street Journal editorial page praises Arlo Guthrie, as the author
of the song "City of New Orleans" is assisting with Katrina relief efforts.
Other surprising WSJ endorsements: Porn; P. Diddy, and sodomy.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:56 AM | Comments (1)

December 13, 2005

The War on the War on Christmas

Chris Satullo in the Philadelphia Inquirer has an excellent op-ed mocking Bill O'Reilly for his endless prattling about the "war on Christmas." At this stage, I'd say we're up to the backlash against the backlash against the backlash against Christmas. Even National Review says enough is enough.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:45 AM | Comments (1)

Know Your Onion

My friend, Twin Cities musician Dan Israel, is interviewed in the Minneapolis edition of the Onion AV Club, on the occasion of his new, self-titled album, which you can buy here.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:39 AM | Comments (1)

December 12, 2005 Moving to Langley?

Jack Shafer of Slate suggests that my employer, Knight Ridder, be sold to the CIA. And you thought I didn't blog much about work before.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 10:37 PM | Comments (1)

Defending Donovan, Cont'd

John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News had a dynamite column on Friday, tearing down the latest absurdity about Donovan McNabb and race. It was in reaction to the appalling rant by "civic leader" Jerry Mondesire, published the week before in the Philadelphia son, in which the local NAACP head called McNabb a mediocre quarterback and a sellout, because of his unwillingness to run the ball.

Here's Smallwood:

I guess what I'd really like to know is how or why the quarterback's performance, Terrell Owens' self-created banishment and the Eagles' fall from Super Bowl to the cellar of the NFC East has evolved into a referendum on "blackness" in some segments of Philadelphia's African-American community...

What this black-on-black verbal violence has caused me to wonder is: Who gets to determine who is truly African-American and what is or isn't a part of African-American culture?

Is McNabb only sort of black because his parents, Sam and Wilma, stayed together and raised him to act like an adult when confronted with something such as Owens' repeated criticism?

When did handling a difficult situation with class and dignity become a negative in the black community?

Is Owens a full-fledged brother now because he stood up to the man while minstrel-acting his way out of millions of dollars?

Does T.O. lose some of his street credibility because he dropped his "hard-ass brotha" act and basically begged "Massa" to take him back as soon as he realized he really was getting kicked out of the house and off the plantation?

So what is the criteria for being black?

I will leave this debate for my friends in the black community to resolve. But I can say that anyone who calls Donovan McNabb "mediocre at best" knows absolutely nothing about football, and has no business discussing the sport in any type of public forum. Mondesire was doing the exact same thing Rush Limbaugh did three years ago: Judging McNabb's ability as a quarterback, unfairly and inaccurately, purely on the basis of racial politics.

Donovan, to his credit, responded to the comments today: "I always thought the NAACP supported African-Americans and didn't talk bad about them.Now you learn a little bit more about it."

Posted by Stephen Silver at 11:54 AM | Comments (1)

So Long, Hedgehog

Stan Van Gundy has resigned as head coach of the Miami Heat, depriving the sports world of its most visible Ron Jeremy lookalike. This is significantly less fortunate news than the time the terrorist world lost its most visible Ron doppelganger, when Khalid Sheikh Muhammad was captured in 2003.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 11:45 AM | Comments (0)

The Miracle Continues

The Vikings have now won six in a row, with today's 27-13 victory over St. Louis. The defense continues to dominate, and the combination of Brad Johnson and Koren Robinson continues to make everyone forget all about Culpepper and Moss. The Vikes are now merely one game out of first place in the NFC North; their Week 17 matchup against the Bears looms large.

After watching three quarters of the early games we headed down to the Linc for the Eagles-Giants game, where the Iggles actually showed signs of life for the first time in weeks, but nonetheless lost in overtime on a Jay Feely field goal, to earn mathematical elimination from the playoffs. An exciting game nonetheless- with rookie running back Ryan Moats even running for two touchdowns- and not such an impressive performance by the Giants, considering they were essentially facing Philly's second team.

Also- fights in the crowd. Lots of them, and lots of ejections from the stadium of Giants fans (though the Jints backer behind us with "Growing Up Gotti" hair managed to escape banishment). My favorite part was the scatological insults to Giants fans in the mens' room, especially the ones with creative scenarios involving Jeremy Shockey's mother.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 02:05 AM | Comments (0)

Richard Pryor, RIP

The world lost one of its greatest comedians when Richard Pryor died Saturday at the age of 65. Pryor was a little bit before my time, although I always enjoyed everything I saw of his stand-up, as well as his movies. "Brewster's Millions," I'd say, was my favorite, though I also liked "Stir Crazy" and his other team-ups with Gene Wilder.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:53 AM | Comments (1)

The Bevilacqua Killing, Part II

Since playing one-half of a dimwitted duo worked so well for him on "The Sopranos," Lillo Brancato Jr. apparently decided to try it in real life. The actor, who played wannabe mobster Matt Bevilacqua on a few episodes of the second season of "The Sopranos," allegedly was shot by a cop during a burglary attempt by Brancato and his partner over the weekend in the Bronx; the cop later died. Bevilacqua was one of the two dumb-ass sidekicks of Christopher, whom they later turned on and shot; Tony and Big Pussy later killed both of them and were nearly caught doing so, so the incident was referred to several times as "the Bevilacqua killing."

This joins other celebrated off-set "Sopranos" incidents as Big Pussy slapping his girlfriend, and Robert Iler's arrest for participating in a mugging.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:50 AM | Comments (5)

Eckstein Award Nominee

University of California quarterback Steve Levy. He may be the starting quarterback for Cal in the upcoming Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl, but he's not a Jew. Even though he once won a "Jewish Athlete of the Year" award, and even though he shares a name with the ESPN anchor, who is Jewish.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:15 AM | Comments (2)

The College Newspaper MO

On the heels of the latest college newspaper brouhaha- when a columnist at the Kent State paper wrote a column titled "Black People Need to Start Sharing"- a letter-writer to Romanesko has an astute observation on what always happens in those situations:

1. Student columnist writes something provocative (or even not provocative) on race/gender/ethnicity/religion.
2. Campus advocacy/grievance groups howl in outrage.
3. (sometimes) Editor stands up for publication of column as free speech issue.
4. PC/Diversity Police/Administration swoops in.
5. Columnist caves, sees error of ways, apologizes.
6. Editor caves, realizes he/she made the wrong call; writes weasely explanation (might even "fire" the student) of why he/she published the column and why he/she was wrong to have done so.

About the only distinctive aspects of the Kent State case were the extent of the groveling by the columnist -- you could almost see the knee and palm marks on the apology -- and the weeping of the editor.

Wow. Sound familiar?

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:07 AM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2005

Quote of the Day

"Every Monday afternoon, my buddy Sal calls me and we guess the lines for the upcoming week. Frankly, I'm not sure how this hasn't been turned into a show on ESPN2 yet, although I guess it would be humiliating for the Worldwide Leader if two borderline gambling addicts babbling about NFL lines on their cell phones drew higher ratings than "Quite Frankly."
-Bill Simmons, in Friday's column. Apparently his editors didn't read that column, or else they would have caught Bill's breaching of ESPN's "dirty little secret" that Stephen A's show gets worse ratings than billiards used to in the same timeslot.
Posted by Stephen Silver at 11:57 PM | Comments (0)

The Lex Express Derailed

This time it's the erstwhile "Total Package," Lex Luger, who is currently detained at Hennepin County jail in Minneapolis (what is it with all these people ending up in the Twin Cities?) Lex, who last we heard was living with the lovely Miss Elizabeth at the time of her death, was reportedly taken off an airplane after "causing a disturbance," after which authorities discovered Luger was a fugitive from justice with outstanding warrants on multiple drug charges. Accompanying Luger on the adventure were fellow former wrestlers Marcus "Buff" Bagwell and Scott Steiner.

Scott Keith had the best take:

Man, Luger's career has turned into the second half of Boogie Nights or something, with Bagwell as Reed Rothchild and Scott Steiner as Todd.
In their version, I'd imagine Jimmy Hart would play the Alfred Molina role.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 11:51 PM | Comments (1)

December 08, 2005

Meeting Sports Guy

I had the honor last night of finally meeting Bill Simmons, who readers of this blog might have gotten an inkling that I'm a big fan of. LilB and I went to his book-signing at the Borders near City Hall in Philly, and got to talk sports with Sports Guy for a couple minutes.

LilB asked if Ray King vs. David Ortiz in the 2004 Series was the fattest pitcher/batter matchup in World Series history, though Simmons said he remembered one involving La Marr Hoyt that may have busted the record, though I later looked it up and discovered Hoyt never played in a World Series. Then I asked Simmons about what's gonna happen with Manny Ramirez, and he talked about some rumors he'd heard about why Manny has to be traded so quickly- before predicting that the Sox will trade him right around Christmas, "just to ruin it for everybody." Bill said he'd seen my stuff on SportsByBrooks, which he has said before is one of only three sports blogs that he reads.

After the signing LilB and I headed down Broad Street for the Sixers' game against the Bucks. A very small and very dead crowd saw Iverson and Co. trail for the whole first half and lead for most of the second, until the Sixers blew it at the end. Samuel Dalembert was the goat- all in the final minute he committed a crucial foul, deflected an important rebound out of bounds, and missed both free-throws to cost Philly the game, as the crowd awoke from their game-long slumber just long enough to boo.

I'm going again on Monday when the Wolves are in town- it'll be my third NBA game of the season, but I've only seen three teams (the Sixers, Wolves, and Bucks).

Posted by Stephen Silver at 06:16 PM | Comments (2)

Not Much of a Prize

Ladies and gentlemen, your new Philadelphia Eagles, starring quarterback Mike McMahon, running back Ryan Moats, wide receiver Reggie Brown, and lots of other people you've probably never heard of. At this point, they look more like a replacement team. I'm going to the game against the Giants Sunday- and you thought there was lots of booing for the Sixers last night.

Funny doings on Angelo Cataldi's WIP show this morning- they ran a contest to see which listener's life has been dealt the most misery as a result of the Eagles' poor season, with the grand prize being... tickets to Sunday's game. Why? So they can get even more misery? Haven't they suffered enough? Isn't this like someone getting food poisoning at a restaurant, and their friend trying to cheer them up by getting them a gift certificate to the same restaurant?

But that's only the second-dumbest thing I've heard on WIP this week. The dumbest was the caller who suggested to Howard Eskin that the Eagles fire Andy Reid- and replace him with Joe Paterno. Even Howard was shocked at the implausibility of the 78-year-old JoePa jumping to the NFL, but he quickly changed the subject back to pimping for his stupid bobblehead.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 06:13 PM | Comments (0)

DDP vs. Jay-Z

You thought pro wrestlers only made the mainstream news when they got arrested or died? This week, one did because he sued Jay-Z.

Former pro wrestler Diamond Dallas Page has taken Young HOV to court, alleging that the Jigga-man has stolen his signature hand gesture, known as the "self-high five." Sort of a pathetic move by DDP, since he didn't exactly invent the gesture, he's probably not got much else going on in his life, and he clearly hasn't has much success in his "retirement" as Jay-Z has.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 05:53 PM | Comments (2)

It Was 25 Years Ago Today

That John Lennon was shot. Since the Beatles broke up so long ago, we're running out of "it was 20 years ago today" puns.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 05:51 PM | Comments (2)

It's Menendez, Brother

New Jersey has a new U.S. Senator, and it's Rep. Robert Menendez, who was nominated by new Gov. Jon Corzine to fill out the final year of Corzine's Senate term. Though Menendez, of course, will have to immediately begin running for re-election.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 05:49 PM | Comments (3)

This Week in Baseball

Lots of baseball news from Day 3 of the winter meetings:

- The Astros have declined to offer Roger Clemens arbitration, meaning he will not return to Houston. Once he finally makes up his mind on whether to retire, he'll likely set off another Yankees/Red Sox showdown, though the Rangers have to be considered in the mix as well. That way, we'll get version #5 of "The last game of Roger Clemens' career."

- When Alfonso Soriano was a young second base prospect with the Yankees, there seemed to be trade rumors every week about him being traded to the Expos for some star. But it never happened, Soriano made it to the Yankees, and was later traded to Texas in the A-Rod deal. Now, Soriano has finally landed with the (former) Expos, as the ownerless Washington Nationals traded for him tonight. Then again, the Nats want him in the outfield, and he won't play there, so watch him get traded again.

- Other than signing reliever Kyle Farnsworth, the Yankees have done zippo so far. I kind of like it that way.

- The Twins, according to LaVelle E. Neal III ("LEN 3"), are exploring a trade for Rangers third baseman "Hey Now" Hank Blalock, with Kevin Mench possibly in the deal as well. They'd give up pitching, in the person of JC Romero, who wouldn't really be missed. LEN3 also suggests a three-way trade rumor that would send pitching to Milwaukee, Lyle Overbay to Toronto and Shea Hillenbrand to the Twins, but the Jays and Brewers already made the deal themselves without "Minny"'s help. Frank Thomas is still in the picture for the Twinkies too, hmm.

- The Red Sox solved their second base problem by getting Mark "Get Back" Loretta from San Diego for backup catcher Doug Mirabelli. I see no reason for the Red Sox not to make the deal, except that it marks the end of "Dougie's going deep tonight!" in Boston.

- No, Bobby Abreu hasn't been traded yet, as the Derek Lowe deal became just the latest to not happen. Okay, I'll try one- Abreu to St. Louis for Mark Mulder. What do you mean, the Cardinals wouldn't do it? Gillick needs to be more aggressive!

And finally, if you're not reading Ken Rosenthal on for baseball news every day, you should be. He's just been doing incredible stuff all offseason.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:49 AM | Comments (1)

December 07, 2005

Trade Rumor of the Day

Bobby Abreu for Derek Lowe, says the Inquirer. Expect this one to get shot down by sundown, just like the previous seven.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 02:39 PM | Comments (0)

Good Riddance

News Item: Colorado Fires Football Coach Gary Barnett.

Proof positive that presiding over a culture of serial rape won't get you fired, but getting outscored 130-22 in your last two games will.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 02:38 PM | Comments (0)

Leo and Max

Saw the new version of "The Producers" tonight at a critic's screening. I generally liked it- gorgeous production design, good performances, plenty of energy, and good songs, which took it over the hump in terms of justifying its own existence as a remake of the 1967 classic. Will Ferrell, however, stole the movie. It's worth seeing just for him.

My only beef? Way too long. It could have excised three or four musical numbers and been a much better film. But I still recommend seeing it when it's released Christmas Day.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:51 AM | Comments (3)

Chavez Ravine is Littletown

The Los Angeles Dodgers have finally filled baseball's final managerial vacancy, and the choice is... Grady Little. The former Red Sox skipper, best known for leaving Pedro Martinez on the field to face way too many batters in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, replacing Jim Tracy.

Still no comment on the news from, although one commenter suggested they now set up a West Coast sister site.

The truth is, aside from the bitterly ugly end, Little didn't do that bad a job in Boston, winning more than 90 games in both of his seasons there. He deserved the chance to manage again, though I was sort of hoping for his sake it would be in a smaller market with a less hostile media. But after dealing with Shaughnessy and Co., Grady should have no trouble saying "up yours" to the likes of Bill Plaschke.

One more winter meetings note: does the Blue Jays' signings of B.J. Ryan and A.J. Burnett remind anyone else of the year the Rockies signed both Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle the same offseason, expecting success? Don't be surprised if one of the new Jays' pitchers requests a trade to a city with better schools, while the other gets his contract invalidated after a misadventure with a prostitute.

And with A.J. and B.J. already in the fold, why haven't the Jays signed C.J. Nitkowski? D.J. Carrasco? R.J. Reynolds? T.J. Mathews? Vijay Singh?

UPDATE: David Pinto apparently had the same idea. Great minds.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:35 AM | Comments (0)

December 06, 2005

It's the Great Latke, Charlie Brown

I saw an ad in the New Republic's literary section for a new book, released through the University of Chicago Press, called "The Great Latke-Hamantashan Debate." Edited by Ruth Fredman Cernea, the book aims to solve once and for all the conflict of which is better, the primary food of Hannukah, or that of Purim. I prefer latkes, personally.

Rabbi Joe Black, the famed Jewish musician who at the time was my rabbi in Minneapolis, once wrote a "Hamantashan-Latke Debate" song, and later on even hosted an actual debate between two Twin Cities sports media figures who both belong to the synagogue- WCCO anchorman Mark Rosen and the Star Tribune's Sid Hartman. I have no recollection of which of them took the latke side.

And speaking of Sid, he wrote in his column Monday that due to poor penalty calls in the Vikings-Lions game, "I wonder if is not time for referee Tom White to retire." Yes, you read that right: Sid Hartman, who has been writing for the Strib for over 60 years and has been noticably slipping for at least 15 of them, is telling someone else that they should retire.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 04:24 PM | Comments (2)

Music Critic Quote of the Week

"Consider the Los Angeles hip-hop quartet the Black Eyed Peas. Their current single, "My Humps," is one of the most popular hit singles in history. It is also proof that a song can be so bad as to veer toward evil...

It's a song that tries to evoke a coquettish nudge and wink, but head-butts and bloodies the target instead. It isolates sectors of the female anatomy that obsessive young men have been inventing language for since their skulls fused, and yet it emerges only with "humps" and "lumps"—at least "Milkshake" sounded delicious."

Slate's Hua Hsu, in a dynamite piece referring to "My Humps" as "a song so awful it hurts the mind." It hurts the humps, too.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 04:19 PM | Comments (0)

Another Day, Another Brandeis-Connected Political Brouhaha

You'd think that Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall would be enough of a reviled figure on the right, seeing as how she authored the decision in 2004 that recognized the right of gays to marry in that state. But now she's in trouble for comments she made at Brandeis last spring, in her commencement address to the Class of 2005.

During the speech, Marshall looked up, noticed that all of the graduation balloons were blue and white (in accordance with Brandeis colors) and not red, and then ad-libbed, "no red states here." No indication that anyone even noticed at the time, except (according to Boston Globe columnist Brian McGrory):

Someone, of course, filed a confidential complaint to the Commission on Judicial Conduct, because that's what people do these days -- they complain. They find insult where none was intended. They see agendas where people are only trying to live normal lives...
the commission took the complaint seriously, probed it, and required an extraordinary public apology from the most powerful jurist in the state.
Funny that the people who bitch all the time about "frivilous lawsuits" feel the need to adjudicate such meaningless crap as this. At any rate, Marshall apologized- this week, i.e., seven months after the fact, bringing this sorry affair to a close.

People ask why I don't blog very much about politics anymore. This is why- American political discourse has been reduced to nothing but an endless series of liberals making stupid but innocuous comments, and conservatives getting outraged outraged OUTRAGED!!!!!!!! about them. And vice versa. And after four of five rounds of this, they accuse each other of being "partisan," and "politicizing the issue." And that's when I change the channel away from MSNBC and/or Fox News.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 04:18 PM | Comments (1)

Abreu for Prior?

The latest baseball trade rumor, coming from the Phillies' continuous shopping of Bobby Abreu: the slugger going to the Cubs for... pitcher Mark Prior, a true #1 starter who is only 25 years old and three years away from free agency. The Phillies, if they can make this trade, should do it in a heartbeat, no matter how much of Abreu's contract they have to pick up.

UPDATE: Oops... Jayson Stark says this one's not happening either. We're now 0-for-5 on Abreu rumors for the offseason.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 04:15 PM | Comments (3)

December 05, 2005

Just One Thought on the Seahawks-Eagles Blowout

Seneca Wallace is in the game for the Seahawks! He was awesome at Iowa State, but then dropped off the face of the Earth, and I forgot he was even in the league. Even better? Next up on the Seattle depth chart at quarterback is... David Greene, the 2004 Eckstein Award Winner.

I was worried work would be canceled tomorrow because of snow, but after this game, I'm worried about riots.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 11:45 PM | Comments (0)

Louie, Louie

Is HBO's upcoming "Lucky Louie" the next great American sitcom? If it's anything like creator Louis C.K.'s recent HBO special, then it may very well be exactly that. The Boston Globe Magazine has a feature about the comic and the show, which sounds like a truly groundbreaking piece of work.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 07:44 PM | Comments (1)

Breaking the Silence on "Munich"

When I first heard that Steven Spielberg was working on a movie called "Munich," dealing with the aftermath of the murders of the Israeli Olympic team at the 1972 Olympics, I assumed the film would create a wild political controversy months in advance of its release, much like "The Passion of the Christ" and "Fahrenheit 9/11" did in 2004. But somewhat surprisingly, such a controversy never materialized. That might be because Spielberg has largely kept details about the film under wraps. But more likely it's because, unlike Mel Gibson and Michael Moore, he's not a shameless media whore.

Spielberg, who I believe is the greatest living American filmmaker, breaks his silence this week in Time magazine with the one and only interview he has planned for the film, talking a bit about the movie, and about how he wishes to show the humanity of both sides in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, while also bashing the International Olympic Committee for their refusal to ever adequetely memorialize the victims of the '72 massacre. I can't promise the film will be good or not- and I'm sort of glad that unlike the two 2004 films, this one has not been preemptively reviewed, sight unseen, by everyone in direct accordance with their political prejudices. But I am prepared to give Spielberg the benefit of the doubt, and I can't wait for the film.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 07:42 PM | Comments (4)

Anna Begins... and Ends

Anna Benson is back in the news. Once again the Hottest Met Wife* now that Mike Piazza and Doug Mientkiewicz (and their hot wives) are gone from the team, the spouse of pitcher Kris Benson has accused the Mets of attempting to trade her husband, in part because of Anna's recent negotiations to appear in Playboy. You'd think that with the new TV network in place the Mets would merely give Anna her own show ("The Anna Benson Lingerie Hour"?) and watch the money roll in, but apparently they're not as smart as I thought.

The funniest part of all? Anna claims that she's been "Miss politically correct the entire time we've been here." Except for the time, of course, where she threatened to schtup the entire team in the event of her husband cheating on her.

(*I can't totally vouch for this claim, having never seen the wives of Carlos Delgado, Billy Wagner, Paul LoDuca, Xavier Nady, or any of the other new Mets. But reports out of Boston suggest that Mrs. Manny Ramirez is quite the looker).

Posted by Stephen Silver at 04:18 PM | Comments (1)

Jumping the Curb?

"Curb Your Enthusiasm"'s fifth season ended last night with a weak coda to a weak year, one more than a little reminiscent of Larry David's previous career low-point, the final episode of "Seinfeld." The episode, like the entire season, was full of good ideas that were either carried way beyond their natural punchline, or simply failed to pay off at all.

In truth, "Curb"'s brand of comedy has always walked a tight rope- with a misanthropic lead character and a series of trademark "uncomfortable situations," the comedy will always either hit a home run or strike out, and it's clear that uncomfortable situations minus laughs equals death, as proven by the abominable Lisa Kudrow reality show/sitcom "The Comeback." See also the difference between the British version of "The Office" (home run) and the American (strike out).

"Curb"'s season contained a few germs of good ideas- the best of those being the Rosh Hashanah ticket scalper, the one with the racist dog/Larry losing the support of LA's lesbian community, and the brilliant "Passion of the Christ" parody that ended with Larry and Jeff chased by a cross-wielding Puerto Rican electrician named "Jesus," who then stepped on a nail and started screaming in Aramaic. The one with Larry having to navigate a drive-through window on foot was pretty smart too. But too often in Season 5, good ideas that should have been confined to one episode were expanded to two or three, and continued to be mined long after they'd exhausted their comedic value.

For instance- the Richard Lewis kidney-donation subplot should have ended the episode it started, when his cousin Louis Lewis went in the coma. There's nothing inherently funny about kidney disease, of course, and even worse, Larry's selfishness in refusing to donate his kidney never provoked any single funny moment in the four episodes afterward.

Ditto the season's other major plot, Larry's quest to find out whether or not he was adopted. Nevermind that neither of the guest stars associated with this -Shelley Berman as Larry's father and Mekhi Phifer as his investigator- was given anything funny or entertaining to do whatsoever. Nevermind also that the entire bit was ripped off from the much funnier Ben Stiller movie "Flirting With Disaster." The plotline just plain didn't work at any point. And while the idea of Larry discovering who he thought were his birth parents- and in the process, that he's actually a gentile- had a germ of comedy to it as well, it was executed so poorly as to keep from being memorable.

Other bits over the course of the season that looked promising but failed to deliver- Larry and Susie pretending to be husband and wife; the sex offender (Rob Corddry) showing up at Seder (which was a lot more creepy than it was funny); and, in the last episode, Larry arriving in heaven, to be "guided" by Dustin Hoffman and Sacha Baron Cohen. If you're bringing in talent like those two, shouldn't you, you know, give them something funny to do? (Though I did like Bea Arthur as Larry's mom). Then the end of the episode returned to a 7-week-old punchline- Larry fighting with someone over a handicapped bathroom stall- that was never particularly funny in the first place. Perhaps all of this is a function of the show's improvised structure, as there will be times when the actors simply come up with nothing.

Also weird- the seasonal timeline of the shows. The season premiere was set at Rosh Hashanah time (September), then just a few weeks later it's Passover (March/April), and a couple weeks after that, it's the NBA season (starting in November). We're supposed to think Richard Lewis was waiting for Larry's decision on the kidney transplant for as long as a year? Wouldn't he have found another donor, or gone into kidney failure during that time?

"Curb Your Enthusiasm" has been a very funny show before, and it has enough talented people surrounding it to be so again. It pains me to say all this about a show that's given me a lot of entertainment over the years. But I'd advise the creators, before they go into production for their next season, to come up with enough good ideas and to have the means and werewithall to carry them out.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 04:12 PM | Comments (3)

If Even The Competition is Fake, How Can We Trust the Testing?

News Item: WWE To Institute Random Drug Testing

I guess, unlike Bud Selig, Vince McMahon didn't have to run this by his union- because he doesn't have one.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 04:09 PM | Comments (0)

Brady is Sportsman

Sports Illustrated has named Tom Brady Sportsman of the Year, which I suppose is a good choice, especially since football players are at a natural disadvantage due to their season ending in January. I figured it was between Brady and Peyton Manning, though I was afraid they'd go with Danica Patrick. Jason Giambi's candidacy, mercifully, was not supported by anyone at SI other than Franz Lidz. Considering Lidz's choice in 2004 was Kobe Bryant, look for him to stump for Rae Carruth in '06.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 04:08 PM | Comments (0)

Quote of the Day

Blogger Jim Lowney, as part of a great post on his trip to the Open Source/Pajamas Media launch party:

The talk went straight to the media coverage [of 9/11]. One woman made comments about how the flow of information about it all slowed dramatically in the weeks shortly after the attacks. Why did “they” stop showing certain pictures from that day, another asked. A mainstream media conspiracy was afoot, it seemed to them. It was clear to me that none of them have ever worked in the news business.

I believe many of these people have come up with the information equivalent of the biggest mistake in dirty politics. As we know in politics, it’s not the alleged crime but the cover-up that takes you down. To some of these bloggers, it is not the story that matters but the coverage. And they want to use the coverage to take down whatever news outlet doesn’t fit in their world.

It's actually kind of nice to see that OSM has failed the way it has, as the people behind it have shown themselves to be every bit as arrogant and self-centered as they say "MSM" is.

(Via Eric Deamer).

Posted by Stephen Silver at 04:02 PM | Comments (1)

Sorry, You've Come to the Wrong Place

On Blogger's search engine, this blog is in the top ten of results for "nude fun." Sorry, you've got the wrong Steve.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 04:01 PM | Comments (0)

December 04, 2005

Five in a Row

The Minnesota Vikings beat Detroit today for their fifth victory in a row, giving them a 7-5 record. Further butressing both the Ewing Theory, and my theory that the sideline hit in the Giants game had the "Phenomenon"-like effect of turning Mike Tice into a genius. And with just two tough but winnable games (Bears, Steelers) left in the final four, they could conceivably go 10-6 and make the playoffs. Can't imagine the celebration, but it'll probably be on land.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 09:27 PM | Comments (0)

Yankenfraude, Cont'd

News Item: Yankees May Have Lost $85 Million in 2005.

And they didn't win the World Series, either. One more reason to love revenue sharing.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 08:46 PM | Comments (1)

On the Border

My friend Michael Totten is still in Lebanon, and recently paid a visit to the Israel/Lebanon border. Great stuff, and also check out his blog.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 08:35 PM | Comments (0)

Castillo to Twins

Yes, the Twins did something! After sitting on their hands for the entire offseasion, the Twins on Friday made a deal with the fire-selling Florida Marlins for second baseman Luis Castillo, surrendering only two mid-level pitching prospects. With their pitching staff all set, the Twins now merely need to add a third baseman and DH, and are looking at some combination of Nomar Garciaparra, Frank Thomas, Mike Piazza and Bill Mueller. Any of those would be fine.

Winter meetings coming this week, should be quite a lot of excitement.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 08:30 PM | Comments (4)

December 02, 2005

Bad ESPN, Cont'd

In the tradition of the brilliant Road From Bristol, it's a list of the 52 worst things about ESPN/ABC/Disney. I'm all for it, except for the part where they out Suzy Kolber as a lesbian.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 06:13 PM | Comments (2)

Ringer-ing In The New Year

A Rick Reilly column driving me to laughter is about a once-in-five-years occurance, but he did the trick this week with the hilarious tale of Houston's Texas Christian High School and their football coach, the wonderfully named Herc Palmquist.

Palmquist, whose school apparently plays in a league in which there are only six players per team on the field at a time, pulled a gambit recently in which he told his team that a scheduled game against the equally wonderfully named Not Your Ordinary School was "canceled," and then went out and hired college-aged ringers (some of whom had beards, mustaches, and tattoos) in their place. And they lost, 26-18.

But that wasn't the only area in which the gambit failed- the faux-team couldn't remember the team's nickname during the coin toss, one kickoff attempt was downed behind the kicker, and the roster submitted to the officials had only the players' first names. And even though his team was leading at the time, Palmquist offered to forfeit the game both at halftime and during the fourth quarter. The ruse was discovered when the mother of one of the regular, non-ringer players was surfing and saw the score for the game her son had been told was canceled.

Palmquist was suspended from coaching for five games but not fired- because, according to Reilly, he also owns the school. Only in Texas.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 01:00 AM | Comments (0)

December 01, 2005

Manny For Abreu?

With the baseball hot stove league in full swing (it's the most wonderful time of the year!), the Twins are yet to do anything whatsoever, so I'll talk about the Phillies instead.

It's been determined by consensus of Phillies fans that they must get rid of right fielder Bobby Abreu. He may be a reliable 100-RBI man and the team's biggest home run threat, but he's got a reputation for being "lazy"- an unforgivable offense for Philly's marauding talk-radio monsters. I've heard all sorts of rumors this week alone, most notably Abreu to the Giants for Jason Schmidt, and Abreu (with Mike Lieberthal) for Jorge Posada, Carl Pavano, and Eric Duncan (the Yankees would be nuts, absolutely batshit insane, to make that deal). The latest, according to the New York Post: Abreu to the Red Sox for Manny Ramirez.

Makes sense on a certain level- they're similar players, about the same age, each signed to three more years, though Manny's a bit better and making a lot more money ($57 million to Abreu's $30 million). Both teams would be able to get rid of problem players without sacrificing much in terms of production. And the Phils would get the added bonus of stealing Manny from right under the Mets' nose, just days after the Mets stole away Billy Wagner.

One problem though- Ramirez has a full no-trade clause, and has been quite vocal about only being traded to the West Coast. If he's sick of Boston, its hostile fans and suffocating sports media, would he really approve a deal to Philly, which in terms of sports culture is the closest thing to Beantown in America? And even worse, if the Philly fans have a problem with Abreu being lazy, wait 'til they get a load of "Manny being Manny."

Fascinating developments. Can't wait to see what goes down at the winter meetings next week.

UPDATE: Maybe not so fascinating. Jayson Stark of ESPN reports the trade is "highly unlikely," as the Phillies would reportedly only trade Abreu for "top of the rotation starting pitching" (namely, Schmdit).

Posted by Stephen Silver at 07:10 AM | Comments (0)

Cruising To Jail?

Just when the Vikings were finally starting to generate some good will again, comes news that the police report on the infamous Minnesota Vikings boat party has been submitted to Hennepin County prosecutors, with a decision on whether to indict coming as soon as next week, according to the Star Tribune. Because nothing takes the wind out of the sails of a late-December playoff contender quite like the multi-count indictment of the entire defensive secondary.

Posted by Stephen Silver at 12:42 AM | Comments (0)