Lee vs. Eastwood

A few of my friends have a long thread of emails going that was initiated by Clint Eastwood bitch slapping Spike Lee.  It has evolved into a discussion over the merits of each of their movies.  I’ve spent most of my time on the sidelines of this discussion; all I really needed to do was type in the word “Unforgiven” to get my point across.

I’m not much of a movie critic…most fall into the category “really good”, like Juno (take that HM) or “that sucked”, like “Starship Troopers”.  As I’ve said before, picking movies is a complicated matter.  Luckily, my old age has allowed me to hone my criteria for what constitutes a good movie down to a pretty simple litmus test…

If it ain’t got Jackie Gleason chasin’ Burt Reynolds I ain’t gonna bother watchin’ it.

A Great Story Opportunity

A while back, I wrote a post about a few advantages newspapers have in the market and how they could use them to remain relevant. Using these assets–excellent writing, investigative journalism, and local marketplace branding–newspapers can give us something no one else can.

Today in the KNS, at least on their web site, there is a relatively short piece from the AP about a man who escaped prison 46 years ago and has been apprehended. This is the exact type of story I’d love to see local newspapers tackle. It’s the perfect opportunity for them to give me something no one else can give me.

Leroy Albert Morgan’s crimes occurred in Hamilton County, he escaped from a Nashville prison, and he was caught in East Tennessee, so it is of local interest. Using great writing and investigative journalism, why not tell us this story? Take us beyond, “he escaped in 1961, he’s been using an alias, and he was arrested this week.”

Tell us the story.

How did he escape prison, and how was he able to avoid authorities for so long? Has he been in Tennessee the entire time? Was he assisted by friends and family–how many people were in on it? What has he done in the time since the escape? What did the State do immediately following the escape to try to catch him, and why did these efforts fail? What (exactly) have they done since? How did they eventually track him down, how long did it take to find him, and how long have they known his whereabouts?

Seriously…this is the stuff movies (or at least made for TV movies) are made of. A good great writer can do some investigative journalism and tell us a great story from so many angles–the escapee, his friends and family, the penal system. And again, most bloggers don’t have the time and resources available to cover something like this.

Time For SNL To Get Beat Down By the Hansons

SlapshotA couple of weeks ago I watched Saturday Night Live for the first time in a long time. It was the first show after the writers’ strike ended, and Tina Fey was hosting. It was one of the best episodes I’ve ever seen. I didn’t get to see last week’s episode, but I started watching tonight thinking they’d gotten back on track.

Nope. Honestly, I think it may be time to end this show. Just a few reasons why…

Weekend Update

Weekend Update, when it was good, worked because of the snarky commentary on current events. But it doesn’t work anymore. Why? Because by the time I watch the Weekend Update snarky commentary on Tuesday’s primaries, I’ve already been reading snarky commentary on blogs for five days.

The Intro Skit

This skit is almost always political in nature, and because of that it is much like Weekend Update…played out by the time Saturday rolls around. This week they did a spoof of Hillary’s “3 am phone call” commercial. That’s great. It was even better on YouTube this week when everybody else did it.

Musical Guests

I know I’m old, but geez. Does anyone care about these musical guests anymore? They had Tom Petty in his prime, The Cars in their prime, and next week’s musical guest is…Janet Jackson? She was on Tyra Banks this week…’nuff said.

Anyway, I turned SNL off and am watching Slapshot for the upteenth time instead. It’s still funny. Besides the digital shorts there’s nothing left worth watching on SNL.

Time to put on the foil coach.

Sort The Viewers, Not The Movies

My buddy IB sent this article to me…very interesting.  Netflix is running a contest for data crunchers and offering $1M to anyone (or any team) that can beat their current recommendation system by 10%.  One of the leaders is a psychologist working by himself who is looking less at raw data and more at human nature.

One such phenomenon is the anchoring effect, a problem endemic to any numerical rating scheme. If a customer watches three movies in a row that merit four stars — say, the Star Wars trilogy — and then sees one that’s a bit better — say, Blade Runner — they’ll likely give the last movie five stars. But if they started the week with one-star stinkers like the Star Wars prequels, Blade Runner might get only a 4 or even a 3. Anchoring suggests that rating systems need to take account of inertia — a user who has recently given a lot of above-average ratings is likely to continue to do so.

I think this guy is onto something, and I’d like to see this move a step further.  Associating movies using k nearest neighbor is relatively straightforward, but attacking the other side of the equation (the viewer) is a lot tougher.  Here’s an example…

“The Outlaw Josie Wales” is one of my favorite movies, but that doesn’t mean that an algorithm could spit out a bunch of westerns and give me something I like.  Clint Eastwood movies wouldn’t do it either, but it would be a little closer.  The real way to suggest movies for me would be to look at some other factors that aren’t so obvious.  You need to be able to draw conclusions from my other favorites–“Fight Club”, “Pulp Fiction”, “Smoky and the Bandit”, and “Swingers”.  You may peg all of these as “guy movies”, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to like “Gladiator”.  In fact, I hated “Gladiator”.  A movie like “Thelma and Louise” is a much better suggestion for me than “Gladiator”.  Why?  Because it is much more quotable, and that’s something my favorite movies suggest that I like.

Just an example, but that’s the direction we’re going.  In order to make a powerful suggester for anything (books, movies, music, raincoats, etc.), it is now necessary to consider the individual making the purchase instead of a one-size-fits all approach.  How else can you help a guy like me who hates sci-fi but loved “The Matrix” and can’t stand to watch horror flicks but has seen “Scream” several times?

I’m oversimplifying it a bit, but this is a very difficult problem.  You’re basically tasked with generalizing a solution which has to consider literally millions of individual problems within the problem.  It’s very tough to quantify so many parameters in so many dimensions.

What amazes me most is that this is such a simple task for us to complete in our heads.  Computers are still so far behind us in our ability to do something as simple as watch a movie and think to ourselves, “That movie sucked, but my buddy really likes movies like this…I think I’ll suggest it to him.”

Check Out the Tom Petty Movie

I Tivo’d Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Runnin’ Down a Dream Thursday, I’m about halfway through it (it’s four hours long). This is without a doubt the best music documentary I’ve ever seen. Imagine Motley Crue Behind the Music without all of the crap about drugs and chicks. This documentary is about guys making good music.

You know they have a lot of good songs, but you don’t realize how many and how great until they are all thrown at you at once. There are a few other singers/bands I’d like to see documented in this format for that same reason–Mellencamp, Springsteen, Fogerty, Prince, Stevie Wonder, U2…

Young MC, Quiet Riot, and Winger almost made the list too.

Movies, Music, and Newspapers

This post by Jack Lail made me revisit a thought that has been rolling around in my empty skull off and on for a while now.

Truth be told, the history of newspapers on the Internet is littered with missed opportunities, wrong turns, and a lack of investment that all seemed smart (or at least prudent) at the time because of the industry’s strong herd instincts.

As an outsider, it seems to me these three industries are facing the same basic challenge. They are industries that completely rely on talent to exist, but whose current business model is centered around delivery, not the talent itself.

People are going to find good music to listen to, good stuff to watch, and good writing to read, and in an open market, the cream will rise to the top. The reality of the situation is that musicians, writers, and actors/directors no longer need the old media structure to be found, all they need is to have talent.

For now, old media has the market on talent cornered for the most part, but they’d better quickly find a way to monetize or they’ll be history.

Never Ask Me About My Business

Sonny CorleoneIn my last poll, I asked people to choose which Corleone they’d most likely be–Michael, Connie, Sonny, or Fredo.

The answers were pretty surprising to me for several reasons. First of all, someone actually chose Fredo. I had a suspicion that my friend Rooster may stop by this blog, but I didn’t think he actually read it. I figured he just looked at the pictures. Thanks for stopping by!

Secondly, there are several women who read this blog, but no one chose Connie. Not one. Hmmm.

Most surprising was that almost everyone chose Michael. Hmmm…draw your own conclusions about these people.

As much as I wish I were like Michael, I had to be honest with myself and choose Sonny.

This week’s poll should be a little easier to answer.

Blogging The Iowa Debate Part II

Getting a new post going here since they’ve decided to move to domestic issues.

Huckabee is now in favor of nationalized health care. Why can’t this just be left up to the individual states? Huckabee buddy, I hate to tell you this, but there is way more money in illness than there is in health unfortunately.

Thompson was Secretary of Health and is big on wellness and prevention. And you know, I am too, but it is up to individuals. Sorry.

Tancredo at least is against nationalized health care. That’s about the only sentence he gets out before he starts stumbling over his words again. Of course, he turns it into an immigration issue.

Does Romney ever answer the question that he is asked? EVER? He never addressed the bill that he was asked about.

I predict that Duncan Hunter will use the “525 wrist braces” as his battle cry until he bows out of the race.

Brownback misses an important point when talking about the desire to nationalize health care. Those that are in favor of nationalized health care don’t want better health care. They’d rather have average health care for everyone.

Stephanopoulos catches Guiliani waffling on whether or not he’d go in to Pakistan. Sort of petty on George’s part, but funny nonetheless.

George lets him off the hook and instead pins Romney down on the issue of going around Pakistan to get Bin Laden.

So much for domestic issues…let’s get right back to what is most important to the average Americans, a geography lesson about Pakistan and a discussion about spreading “democracy” half way around the world.

Huckabee is aware that our government should serve us, not the rest of the world. What a novel idea. Have these guys broken into Ron Paul’s hotel room and plagiarized his talking points?

Ron Paul expands on Huckabee’s statements be making it a philosophical argument. You can’t do it by force. When are people going to learn that this really is true. You get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. Of course, a dead squirrel gets the most.

What the hell is Guiliani talking about? Going to the movies in New York City? The argument isn’t over how to spread democracy and build nations. The argument is whether or not it is philosophically correct to spread democracy and build nations.

McCain, we won the cold war because communism is a terrible idea.

Hey Bud, What’s Your Problem?


Fast Times at Ridgemont High
is a great movie:

Mr. Hand Chavez: Am I hallucinating here? Just what in the hell do you think you’re doing?
Jeff Spicoli: Learning about Cuba, and having some food.

Has your economy been hijacked by a socialist dictatorship?

Relax, all right? My old man is a television repairman, he’s got this ultimate set of tools. I can fix it.

No shirt, no shoes, no wonder.

Jeff Spicoli and Hugo Chavez

The Most Disappointing Movies of the 80s

I was born in the early 70s, and like a lot of my contemporaries, I spent a lot of time during my middle school years at the mall/movies. One of the worst memories I have from my childhood is being all amped up to see a movie, only for it to be a complete waste of time and money. Looking back as an adult and admitted movie snob, it’s pretty obvious that most of these films never had a chance at being worth $4 to see. At the time, however, I was excited about all of them.

With a couple of exceptions, these aren’t the worst movies of the 80s, just the most disappointing.

Star Wars Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)

Why I couldn’t wait to see it: Wasn’t everybody excited about this movie? I was too young to really understand the first Star Warsmovie, but I thought it was really “neat”, had the lunchbox, the action figures, and was Darth Vader for Halloween. With The Empire Strikes Back, I understood a lot more about what was happening and was sucked in by the story. I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen next.

Why I was disappointed:Just as I was starting to like the Star Wars series for the story, not just because things were getting blown up in space, someone got wise to the fact that they could make more money on merchandise than box office. Consequently, we got cuddly little teddy bears that kids would love–Ewoks. This wasn’t a bad movie at all, but it wasn’t as good as it could have and should have been. I can’t help but think that some of the story was traded in for merchandising efforts.

Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)

Why I couldn’t wait to see it:Unless you were living on another planet in 1985, you knew all about Madonna. Now, imagine you’re a 13 year old boy. You see my point.

Why I was disappointed:I was expecting to see basically an hour and a half of Madonna’s videos. Yeah, she looked hot in this movie, but this was our first clue that she can’t act. Remarkably, this didn’t stop her from starring in several movies later in her career. They were all pretty disappointing too.

Quicksilver (1986)

Why I Couldn’t Wait to See It: Badass BMX tricks–on TEN SPEEDS!!!

Why I was Disappointed:This one actually is one of the worst movies ever. Probably the only thing that keeps this from being the absolute worst I’ve ever seen is that my cousin and I were asked to leave before the end of the movie. From what I remember, we got bored watching Kevin Bacon working as a bicycle messenger and started throwing popcorn at people. Look, there were plenty of movies in the 80s that featured bad acting, no plot, and horrible writing. However, they delivered cool stuff like tons of skateboarding and breakdancing, so we were all okay with it. This movie had nothing.

The All Nighter (1987)

Why I Couldn’t Wait to See It:  Susanna Hoffs.  The previews for this movie made it look like it was going to be nothing but her and her hottie friends having a tickle fight that lasted into the wee hours of the morning and culminated in all of them going out the next day and looking for a redneck eighth grader (me) to hook up with.

Why I was Disappointed:  Maybe they should have hired the guys who edited and marketed the trailer to do the whole movie, because I bought it hook, line, and sinker.  All they did in this movie was talk!  Maybe if I’d known anything about girls at the time I would have paid enough attention to somehow gain some knowledge in picking up some chicks on my own.  Instead, I sat there and watched them talk about who knows what for the whole movie.  I honestly don’t remember anything about it except that there was no tickling.  Pam Grier was in it, but I didn’t know at the time how cool she is.

Light of Day (1987)

Why I Couldn’t Wait to See It:  Michael J. Fox and Joan Jett.  I love rock ‘n’ roll, and Teen Wolf and Back to the Future were cool too.  This seemed like it would be cool because Michael J. Fox actually was into playing guitar, and the idea of Joan Jett playing his sister and rocking out for an hour and a half was AWESOME.

Why I was Disappointed:  That’s not at all what this movie was about.  I was expecting something like what we see on Behind the Music…rock and roll craziness, drinking, drugs, boobs.  Instead it was about stuff like relationships, personal struggles, etc.  Instead of the cookie-cutter 80s rocker movie, this one had a real plot and was a unique story.  Sounds like something I’d really like now.  Now that I think about it, I should probably rent it and see if it’s really any good.