Hall of Flame

I’m intending to write more on this year’s baseball Hall of Fame election results after they’re announced on Wednesday. But, after reading Jayson Stark’s article on how he filled out his ballot, I will say this:

Anyone who submitted a blank ballot should be banned from having a vote. I’ll be happy to name names when they’re published.

The Cost of Life

Wanna watch the NCAA college basketball tournament (aka March Madness) online (presumably at work) this year? It’ll cost you. If you’re a cable or dish subscriber, you can ‘authenticate’1 with your account and watch all the games for ‘free’. If you’re not one of those people, you can pay $3.99 for the whole slate of games.

“We had to protect our distributors, and part of that protection is to make sure when people are cable, satellite or Telco subscribers, they have the opportunity to watch all these games for free on any device they want,” [Turner Sports president David] Levy told SI.com.

Translation: “Why aren’t you witless sheep spending $100/month to buy cable and watch all of our quality programming? Then this would be ‘free’ for you.”

I will allow that four bucks is a reasonable price point. However, this does nothing to lessen my view that the cable companies are doing EVERYTHING they can to protect their cartel model for television against those of us who would prefer not to pay a maximum amount of money to watch the minimal amount of what we’d like to see on television.

  1. We’ll see how well that works.

Thursday Night Movies: Unforgiven (1992)

Short version: The last of an era?

Watching True Grit last week put me in a Western mood, and since I had never seen Unforgiven, I queued it up from The Netflix. Great cast (Eastwood, Hackman, Freeman, and Richard Harris). It won Best Picture (and Hackman won for Best Supporting). And I’d bet it’s the last True Western made, or at least I can’t think of another like it since.

If you’ve seen a classic Clint Eastwood Western, you pretty much know what to expect from Unforgiven, with the twist that this is basically capital-C Clint coming out of retirement to do one last killin’. He teams up with his old partner (Freeman), and a new ‘kid’ (Jaimz Woolvett) to kill two cowboys who cut up a lady, and claim the bounty for it.1

I think there are two things that mark this movie as the last of the Westerns, at least in our current movie climate. First, the pace. It’s a slow movie. (Note: I do not think that this is a bad thing.) We get plenty of time with all the characters to establish who they are,

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and what they’re doing, and why. I enjoyed it, but it was jarring. I’m not used to watching movies like this anymore. The second thing: Not only did this movie not glorify killing, it made shooting a man a very difficult thing. Morgan Freeman lost his nerve and couldn’t shoot the first cowboy, and the Kid, for all his big talk, had never shot a man until he killed the second cowboy, and he couldn’t handle it afterwards. The movie spent time on this to make a point of it. (Note: I also do not think that this is a bad thing.) Even Gene Hackman’s character, played so well as an almost reluctant villain, never shot anyone in the movie.

In any case, for a 20 year old movie, Unforgiven holds up quite well. I’m glad I watched it.

  1. Thought: Is this the Lethal Weapon of Westerns? Sadly, at no point does Morgan Freeman say: “I’m gettin’ too old for this shit!”

Thursday Night Movies: True Grit (2010)

Short version: A simple story, wonderfully told. Highly recommended.

Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin. Directed by the Coen Brothers. True Grit is the story of a US Marshall and a Texas Ranger, teamed up to hunt down the killer of a little girl’s father (at the insistence of the girl). Hailee Steinfeld does wonderfully in the role of the mature-beyond-her-years 14 year old, Mattie Ross. Bridges and Damon are both wonderful as the drunken Marshall and rogue Ranger (respectively). Brolin does well in a small role as the killer, and the underrated Barry Pepper has a good role as the leader of an outlaw gang.

What I personally loved about True Grit is that it simply told its own story. No ‘shocking’ twists or plot devices. We get time to learn about each of the three main characters (Steinfeld, Bridges, and Damon) so that we actually care about them as they get to hunting down Brolin, who’s travelling with Pepper’s gang. The dialogue and pacing are great, and the movie is very visually appealing, set in the Arkansas wilderness in Winter. The few scenes shot in the snow looked especially good to me.

It’s as simple as that for me. If you like a good Western, or even just a good story, True Grit is absolutely for you.

Thursday Night Movies: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Short version: Really quite enjoyable.

Mr. Scott Walters took me up on my big screen offer this week, so TNM hit the Riverview Theater for 2011’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, the sequel to 2009’s Sherlock Holmes. All the major talent returned for this one: Robert Downey Jr (Sherlock), Jude Law (Watson), Rachel McAdams (Adler), as well as director Guy Ritchie. New to AGoS, Stephen Fry played a wonderful Mycroft, Jared Harris was solid as Moriarity, and Noomi Rapace played a gypsy fortune teller/revolutionary, which actually worked pretty well as sort of a sidekick to Watson in a few scenes.

Pretty straight-forward plot in this one – Holmes plays a game of cat-and-mouse with Moriarity, who’s manipulating national dignitaries in an attempt to start (and profit from) a war. He lures Watson away from his honeymoon (subplot A) and joins with Rapace’s character because her brother is mixed up in Moriarity’s schemes (subplot B). The movie is a little light on dialogue and development, but it doesn’t really have to be deep. AGoS builds directly off the 2009 SH movie, including the slick action scenes where we see Holmes fighting out the scene in his mind, and then fighting it out for real. It’s well paced, and interesting enough to hold together.

I remember walking away from SH thinking that it could have been outstanding, but fell just short of that, which was disappointing. Perhaps my expectations were lowered for AGoS, so while I thought it didn’t come as close to being an outstanding movie, I enjoyed it from start to finish. Unfortunately for this set of Holmes characters, what the movie also showed me was just how absolutely outstanding the current BBC run of Sherlock is, in both story and cast. Especially Moriarity. Seriously, Sherlock is worth watching once JUST for Andrew Scott’s turn as Moriarity. It’s a little unfair to compare the two, but inevitable since they’re two Sherlock franchises running at the same time.

In the end, I do recommend seeing Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – especially if you enjoyed the first movie, but it also stands well on its own. …and then after that go rent the Sherlock DVDs, because seriously, everyone needs to see that show.