Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The winner and loser in today’s city council gas leases debate

Clear winner: City Manager Mary Suhm, who received the approval and support of 12 of the 15 council members for her actions.

Clear loser: District 14 council member Angela Hunt who, in calling for an independent investigation of Suhm’s actions regarding leasing city-owned land for gas drilling, called the city manager "a liar" and "dishonest," and then had the audacity, after 12 of her colleagues backed Suhm, to declare "no one has the right to attack my character." Thus, she goes on record as being the world’s thinnest skinned pit bull.

City Manager Mary Suhm
the winner and still champion
This whole debate has been much ado about nothing. It has to do with the difference between "city parks" and "city parklands." City parks are those places set aside by the city for some type of recreational purpose, whether it’s playing on swings, swimming, hiking, engaging in activities at a recreational center, cavorting at a splashground or just a marvelous semi-wilderness area like Moss Park where I can let my dog run wild and free without bothering another human soul. City parklands includes all these areas plus any other land owned by the Parks Department. It turns out some of this land is isolated swampland in the far corners of the city where no human being would venture unless they wanted to dump a body in place where they could be assured no one would find it.

When the city council said they didn’t want drilling on parklands it was obvious members were referring to city parks and not to Dallas’ answer to the swamps of the Meadowlands or Pelham Bay.

As a strict environmentalist, I do not support the concept of gas drilling within the city limits of Dallas. But an overwhelming majority of the city council disagrees with me on this issue and I would not argue with anyone who contends that a majority of the residents of this city supports drilling. Plus, when this matter first came up for debate almost six years ago, the city was going through such severe financial straits the council was forced to raise property tax rates just to continue to provide most basic services. At that time they instructed the city manager to "be creative" and (one of my least favorite expressions) "think outside the box" in finding new ways to increase revenues.

Now it seems a small handful of demagogues on the council want to chastise and punish her for doing exactly what they told her to do.

I worked alongside Mary Suhm for a few years when she was first assistant city manager. She has her faults. She tends to overreact in many situations. She can make decisions before all the facts are in. And, occasionally, she puts her faith and trust in individuals who do not deserve that faith and trust.

But I’ll tell you three things about Mary Suhm you can take to the bank. One: She is truthful. Two: She is honest. Three: She always — always — acts in a way she is convinced is in the best interest of the city and the citizens of Dallas.

Hopefully, when she does decide to step down, her replacement will have half of her integrity.

Wimpy city council to vote today on wimpy waste management plan

Want to get rid of some trash? First, dump the Dallas’ proposed waste management plan which hopes and prays but does nothing to guarantee the city will achieve zero waste by the year 2040, at least 10 years later than what any reasonable plan should call for.

Chief Wimp
Forrest Turner
But, according to the city’s chief wimp, Assistant City Manager Forrest Turner, this is the will of the people of Dallas. Ha! The constantly misguided and misinformed Turner is basing this on the fact that 50 people — 50 out of a city with a population of 1,223,229 — attended a meeting at City Hall back on Jan. 26 and, according to the city’s own presentation Monday to the Transportation and Environment Committee, could not agree on one single thing.

Here’s the plan in a nutshell: We’re hoping the good citizens of Dallas will voluntarily help us achieve zero waste by the year 2040 and if we see they are not volunteering to do this we’re going to get very, very mad.

Don’t believe me? Read it yourself. I wish I could link you right to the presentation but this link will get you close. It takes you to a list of Monday’s city council committee meetings. Just scroll down to the Transportation and Environment Committee and click on Local Solid Waste Management Plan Update. Your computer needs to be equipped with Adobe Reader to see this travesty in all its glory.

Here’s another kicker. The plan completely removed any mention of bans on plastic bags and foam cups because, chief wimp Turner argues, these are an "environmental and litter related issue."

WHAT? What is that man thinking? What is he drinking? A solid waste management plan, by definition, is an "environmental and litter related issue." When push comes to shove, what we’re talking about here is trash and garbage and please — please! — tell me how can anyone in their right mind can try to argue that garbage is not an environmental issue and litter is not a trash issue. And if the solid waste plan is not an environmental issue, what the hell is he doing briefing it to a body called the Transportation and Environment Committee?

Of course, this city administration has proved time and time again it doesn’t give a damn about the environment anyway. If it did, it wouldn’t be signing leases to drill for shale oil within the city limits or pushing for plans to construct a high speed tollroad through a city park and wilderness area. So this is just another way by chief wimp Turner to shunt aside product bans.

What the City Council will do, ultimately, is embrace this plan today that doesn’t ruffle any feathers. Heaven forbid, that body should demonstrate actual leadership, which often involves major feather ruffling. District 12's Sandy Greyson will argue the plan is "not very proactive" (her words at Monday’s committee hearing), but I’ll bet she, too, will cave and ultimately vote for it.

So what’s the big deal? Because it appears the city is also caving in on the Flow Control issue, in about 50 years the city will be looking for a spot for a new landfill and because that landfill will have to be hundreds of miles away, sanitation rates will climb at least 1,000 times of what they are today. But these wimps don’t care. They won’t be around then. That will be somebody else’s problem. How’s that for leadership.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The shortest film ever nominated for an Oscar

It’s only a minute and 45 seconds long and here it is in its entirety. Check it out. It’s amazing.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Quick Oscar reaction

Relatively dull show, with Seth McFarlane definitely out of his element. And that entire William Shatner episode was an unmitigated disaster. I still maintain the Oscar show would be better without a "host."

Couldn't disagree more with the Dallas Morning News' pronouncement that Ang Lee's win over Steven Spielberg was "a huge upset." The Lincoln bandwagon ground to a halt a couple of weeks ago (right around the time Spielberg arranged to have former President Bill Clinton introduce the film at the Golden Globes) and by the time the awards were ready to be handed out, both Lee and David O. Russell had better chances to win than Spielberg.

I only had two award surprises: Christoph Waltz winning supporting actor (I thought it was close between Tommy Lee Jones and Robert DeNiro) and, of course, the tie in the sound editing category.

I thought Catherine Zeta Jones nailed the All That Jazz number from Chicago, the best musical moment of the night. The sound mixing on Adele's Skyfall was abysmal. Any engineer who allows an orchestra and a chorus to overwhelm that woman's voice should be dismissed on the spot, no appeals allowed.

My Top Basketball Teams

Last week's rank in parenthesis
1.  Indiana 24-3 (1)
2.  Duke 24-3 (3)
3.  Florida 22-4 (2)
4.  Gonzaga 27-2 (5)
5.  Michigan 23-4 (6)
6.  Kansas 23-4 (9)
7.  Louisville 22-5 (7)
8.  Miami, Fla, 22-4 (4)
9.  Michigan State 22-6 (8)
10. Syracuse 22-5 (10)
11. Georgetown 21-4 (12)
12. Arizona 23-4 (11)
13. Ohio State 20-7 (18)
14. New Mexico 23-4 (16)
15. Wisconsin 19-8 (14)
16. Pittsburgh 21-7 (13)
17. Oklahoma State 20-6 (15)
18. Kansas State 22-5 (22)
19. Marquette 19-7 (19)
20. Memphis 24-3 (21)
21. Colorado State 21-6 (17)
22. St. Louis 21-5 (NR)
23. Minnesota 18-9 (20)
24. Virginia Commonwealth 22-6 (23)
25. UNLV 21-7 (NR)
Dropped out: Butler, (25), Cincinnati (24).
1.  Baylor 26-1 (1)
2.  Connecticut 25-2 (2)
3.  Duke 26-1 (3)
4.  Notre Dame 25-1 (4)
5.  Stanford 26-2 (5)
6.  California 25-2 (6)
7.  Maryland 22-5 (7)
8.  Penn State 23-3 (10)
9.  Kentucky 23-4 (9)
10. Tennessee 22-5 (12)
11. Texas A&M 21-7 (8)
12. North Carolina 25-4 (13)
13.  Louisville 22-6 (11)
14. South Carolina 22-5 (14)
15. Iowa State 19-6 (17)
16. Georgia 23-4 (18)
17. Colorado 22-5 (16)
18. Delaware 24-3 (15)
19. UCLA 21-6 (20)
20. Nebraska 21-6 (24)
21. Dayton 24-1 (21)
22. Syracuse 22-4 (19)
23. Texas Tech 20-7 (25)
24. Wisconsin-Green Bay 22-2 (NR)
25. Michigan State 20-6 (NR)
Dropped out: Florida State (22), Oklahoma State (23).
1.  San Antonio 45-13 (1)
2.  Miami 40-14 (3)
3.  Oklahoma City 41-15 (2)
4.  Los Angeles Clippers 40-18 (4)
5.  Memphis 37-18 (5)
6.  Denver 35-22 (6)
7. Indiana 35-21 (NR)
8.  Golden State 33-23 (8)
9.  Chicago 32-24 (10)
10. Brooklyn 33-24 (9)
Dropped out: New York (7)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Available on DVD: “Celeste and Jesse Forever”

There are some good movies about breakups (Woody Allen's Annie Hall, Albert Brooks' Modern Romance) but not many where the breakup is amicable. The essence of storytelling is conflict, so someone needs to be unhappy before the happily ever after.

In the case of Celeste and Jesse (Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg), the unhappiness belongs to their friends, who can't understand how the couple can laugh, love and live together several months after agreeing to a divorce.

Celeste is a successful marketing executive. Jesse is an unsuccessful artist who sleeps in the studio of the Los Angeles home they share. He's more than a little lazy, but in the secret, silly language they share, Celeste can vent her frustrations about clients such as pop tart Riley Banks (Emma Roberts). So when Jesse meets Belgian beauty Veronica (Rebecca Dayan), Celeste finds herself jealous.

While Celeste fends off a suitor of her own (Chris Messina as a nice guy from her yoga class with whom she has little in common), she tries to prepare for the wedding of her best friend (Ari Graynor) but goes into a tailspin co-piloted by her pot dealer (Will McCormack, whose brief real-life relationship with Jones became the basis for their script).

Jones has been an engagingly patient co-star in comedies such as I Love You, Man and The Big Year and in the TV series Parks and Recreation. In her first starring role, Jones is self-effacingly funny in a Kristen Wiig way without down-playing the intelligence she showed in The Social Network. By comparison, rubber-faced Samberg is irritatingly broad, although the character does grow when he's presented with a sobering challenge. Likewise, Roberts evolves from a cartoonish teen queen to something like a real person.

To its credit, Celeste and Jesse Forever wants to be more than a formulaic farce. It succeeds to the extent that the neighbors keep up with Jones.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Available on DVD: “Killer Joe”

One of the rarest qualities of a Hollywood film is provocation — the capacity to shock us. Even horror movies have become predictable.

In 1973, director William Friedkin followed the pioneering gay drama The Boys in the Band and the Oscar-winning thriller The French Connection with arguably the most shocking film in Hollywood history: The Exorcist. Friedkin has never came close to that level of success again, but almost 40 years later, he's made a movie that's equally ripe for dissection, if not consumption.

Killer Joe based on the play by Tracy Letts, is a tasteless tour of the rural underclasss, yet the gun-toting guide is hard to ignore. He's Matthew McConaughey, continuing his midcareer diversion into dangerous territory (Magic Mike, Bernie). He's downright scary as the title character, a swaggering, leather-jacketed Texas cop who moonlights as a hired killer.
Joe is hired by dimwitted trailer trash Ansel (Thomas Haden Church) and his debt-ridden son, Chris (Emile Hirsch), to exterminate Ansel's ex-wife and collect her life insurance. The supposed beneficiary is spacey pubescent daughter Dottie (Juno Temple); but the secret schemer in the background is Ansel's stripper squeeze, Sharla (Gina Gershon).

When Chris gambles away the down payment on the murder contract, Joe asks for collateral: Dottie, whom he woos like a rapist Romeo while the rest of the clan cowers outside the double-wide.

Killer Joe is one of the most repugnant parodies of small-town stupidity that you will ever see, and Friedkin amplifies the shrill obscenities with blaring cartoon and kung-fu footage from his art director's fever dreams.

Yet the smeared colors, vivid dialogue and fearlessly unsympathetic cast compel our attention until a ferocious finale of sexualized violence that merits the NC-17 rating (and will permanently curb your appetite for fried chicken).

Watching Killer Joe to the bitter end is like playing the Pick 6 lottery and getting three of the numbers right. You don't win anything, but you still think you're smarter than all those other idiots.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

City's Congressional program acknowledges climate change

I was about to criticize the City of Dallas’ Legislation Program for the 113th Congress, which was briefed to City Council today, for only paying lip service to deficit reduction — and I’m still going to do that — but first I must applaud the city for accepting the reality of global science change.

This is a big step forward for a council that, regardless of how blue the county is trending, is still a rather conservative body. There are Tea Party nuts out there who, regardless of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, absolutely refuse to accept the reality of climate change and many of those right-wingnuts are Congressmen representing the North Central Texas area.

Yet here is the city of Dallas, saying in its Legislation Program: "Although the challenges created by global climate change (emphasis mine), air pollution and energy security are international in scope, local governments are well placed to implement policies and pursue innovations to meet these challenges, especially if they are given the resources to do so."

What the City is saying in this section is basically this: Don’t order us to do anything that reduces greenhouse gases unless you give us the money to carry out those orders.

But the overall message of the program is "Don’t cut any more of our funding." And that’s where I have a problem.

If there is one thing upon which Democrats and Republicans can agree it is that the national deficit must be reduced. Where they disagree, of course, is how to reduce it. The Democrats argue that the deficit should be reduced with a combination of budget cuts and tax increases, primarily by eliminating deductions that benefit only the wealthiest of our citizens and the largest of our profit-making corporations. Republicans, for the most part, want the deficit reduced solely by cutting spending.

It appears to me the City is siding more with the Democrats on this issue. Here is what it had to say on deficit reduction:

"The City of Dallas supports efforts to reduce the federal deficit through a balanced approach (emphasis mine). Elimination of the federal deficit solely through discretionary spending cuts is impossible. Deficit reduction efforts should neither disproportionately focus on core local government programs nor reduce or delay much-needed investments in our nation’s core infrastructure. The reduction of the federal deficit should share the burden evenly and should not disproportionately harm national defense and our troops, safety net programs, or our nation’s cities."

My problem here is a lack of specificity on what the city means by "a balanced approach." That phrase is the one Democrats use to argue for both revenue increases and spending cuts. It appears the City doesn’t want to offend those millionaires here in Dallas, many of whom give money to the City, or the Congressional leaders from the area like Pete Sessions, Joe Barton, Sam Johnson, Jeb Hensarling et al to whom "a balanced approach" is anathema.

So my reaction to the city’s congressional legislative plan, if I was a member of Congress, would be "All well and good, but don’t tell me what not to cut until you give me a viable alternative for reducing the deficit."

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Still the greatest inaugural address

I was 19 years old — a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin. The summer before, my father, a vice president at Brown & Root, had been a delegate from Texas to the 1960 Democratic National Convention. Although he was a major supporter of Adlai Stevenson, he was pledged to Sen. Lyndon Johnson of Texas because, back then, Texas had something called the Unit Rule. The Unit Rule stated that the candidate supported by the majority of the delegation would be the candidate supported by the entire delegation.

There were five serious candidates vying for the Democration nomination for president — Stevenson, Johnson, Washington Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson, Missouri Senator Stuart Symington and a brash young Irish-Catholic senator from Massachusetts, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

My dad did me an immense favor by taking me with him to the convention in Los Angeles. On Monday of that week, former President Harry S Truman, an avid Symington supporter, blew into town and held a news conference at the train station saying that, at 41. Kennedy was simply too young to be president. Kennedy’s camp announced the Massachusetts senator would not only answer the charge, but answer it a meeting of the Missouri delegation’s caucus the following day. My dad took me to that caucus and I heard Kennedy deliver a speech in which he outlined all the things that could not have happened in our history had individuals 41 or under be denied positions of responsibility. He ended his list with these words "…and Columbus could not have discovered America." My dad turned to me at that moment and said "There’s your next president."

I was not in Washington when Kennedy delivered his inaugural address — still the greatest in history (Proof: I doubt if anyone can quote a line from any other inaugural address, but millions who weren’t even born when Kennedy was elected knows "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.") But I’ll never forget how it electrified and energized me when I saw it on a black and white TV in Austin, Texas.

When I saw this superb re-interpretation of this great speech, prepared by the Harvard Kennedy School, it saddens me more than it electrifies or energizes. Perhaps that’s because the Kennedy presidency lasted only around 1,000 days and ended so tragically. If watching this doesn’t bring a lump to your throat or a tear to your eye, then you’re just too young. But you can still appreciate its majesty and purity of thought.

My Top Basketball Teams

Last week's rank in parenthesis.
1.  Indiana 23-3 (1)
2.  Florida 21-3 (3)
3.  Duke 22-3 (2)
4.  Miami, Fla. 21-3 (5)
5.  Gonzaga 25-2 (6)
6.  Michigan 22-4 (4)
7.  Louisville 21-5 (8)
8.  Michigan State 22-4 (11)
9.  Kansas 21-4 (10)
10. Syracuse 21-4 (7)
11. Arizona 21-4 (9)
12. Georgetown 19-4 (17)
13. Pittsburgh 20-6 (12)
14. Wisconsin 18-8 (20)
15. Oklahoma State 19-5 (19)
16. New Mexico 22-4 (15)
17. Colorado State 21-4 (18)
18. Ohio State 18-7 (13)
19. Marquette 18-6 (23)
20. Minnesota 18-8 (14)
21. Memphis 22-3 (NR)
22. Kansas State 20-5 (16)
23. Virginia Commonwealth 21-5 (NR)
24. Cincinnati 19-7 (21)
25. Butler 21-5 (24)
Dropped out: Creighton (22), San Diego State (25).
1.  Baylor 24-1 (1)
2.  Connecticut 24-1 (2)
3.  Notre Dame 24-1 (3)
4.  Duke 24-1 (4)
5.  Stanford 24-2 (5)
6.  California 23-2 (6)
7.  Maryland 21-4 (7)
8.  Texas A&M 20-5 (8)
9.  Kentucky 22-3 (9)
10. Penn State 21-3 (10)
11. Louisville 21-5 (12)
12. Tennessee 20-5 (13)
13. North Carolina 23-4 (11)
14. South Carolina 21-5 (14)
15. Delaware 22-3 (17)
16. Colorado 20-5 (19)
17. Iowa State 18-6 (16)
18. Georgia 21-4 (21)
19. Syracuse 21-3 (22)
20. UCLA 19-6 (15)
21. Dayton 21-1 (20)
22. Florida State 20-5 (18)
23. Oklahoma State 18-6 (NR)
24. Nebraska 19-6 (NR)
25. Texas Tech 19-7 (NR)
Dropped out: Michigan State (25), Oklahoma (24), Purdue (23).
1.  San Antonio 42-12 (1)
2.  Oklahoma City 39-15 (2)
3.  Miami 36-14 (3)
4.  Los Angeles Clippers 39-17 (4)
5.  Memphis 33-18 (7)
6.  Denver 33-21 (5)
7.  New York 32-18 (8)
8.  Golden State 30-22 (6)
9.  Brooklyn 31-22 (NR)
10. Chicago 30-22 (10)
Dropped out: Indiana (9)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Available on DVD “10 Years”

It takes a while to sort out who’s who in the gabby high school reunion comedy 10 Years. But once you do, the movie that comes together is an unpretentious, well-acted ensemble piece that doesn’t aspire to be a portentous generational time capsule like The Big Chill, American Graffiti or Diner. But it has enough markers — a grown-up, married white rapper who break dances; a karaoke bar — to suggest an approximate date.

This first feature directed by Jamie Linden, a writer of We Are Marshall and Dear John, who also wrote the screenplay for 10 Years, doesn’t define a generational mood beyond observing that a decade after graduation, several former classmates at Lake Howell High School (named after Linden’s alma mater in Florida) are struggling to grow up.

About 20 revelers converge at a hotel — the reunion was filmed at the Hotel Andaluz in Albuquerque — for a well-lubricated evening of reminiscing and catching up. The movie focuses on about a dozen of them, with Jake (Channing Tatum), the class jock, receiving the most attention.

Tatum, one of the movie’s producers, gives a disarmingly natural and appealing performance as this 28-year-old former high school hero who brings his longtime girlfriend, Jess (Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Tatum’s wife), to the fete. He is contemplating giving her an engagement ring he has stowed in his car’s glove compartment.

When a former sweetheart, Mary (Rosario Dawson), unexpectedly shows up with a husband, Paul (Ron Livingston), there is some awkwardness as the old flame sputters to life. The glum, wordless Paul leaves the party early, as does the beautiful and understanding Jess. But the movie wisely refrains from turning these pangs of desire and regret into shrill melodrama.

One alumnus, Reeves (Oscar Isaac), is a pop star who serenades the assemblage with his biggest hit, a sweet folk-pop love song inspired by the demure, hesitant Elise (Kate Mara), his secret high school crush. She is not into pop music and is only vaguely aware of his renown. The rootless, itinerant life he describes to her is a lonely existence, and although they have chemistry, she resists jumping into his arms.

Other characters regress alarmingly. The competitive buddies Marty (Justin Long) and A J (Max Minghella) vie for the attention of the radiant Anna (Lynn Collins), a sultry beauty who arrives in a fur stole, and end up making fools of themselves when they play a childish prank. Once their defenses are down, these three are not as they first presented themselves to be.

The most badly behaved of the group, Cully (Chris Pratt), was the class bully, who ostentatiously apologizes to those he teased, especially Peter (Aaron Yoo), a nerd he used to torment with homophobic remarks and who cringes at the sight of him. Then Cully repeats his ugly pattern while drinking himself into oblivion as his embarrassed wife (Ari Graynor) stands by. Stumbling onto the stage, he sings the worst version you’ve ever heard of The Lady in Red.

10 Years settles into a sweet and sad ending, with enough hints of bitterness to keep it from being cloying.

Available on DVD: “Sleepwalk With Me”

It takes a kind of crazy tenacity for an aspiring stand-up comedian to endure the grubby humiliations of life on the bottom rung of the professional ladder. Watching Matt Pandamiglio, the jocular, slightly schlubby alter ego of the comic performer and writer Mike Birbiglia, take his act on the road in Sleepwalk With Me is like observing an out-of-shape military recruit stumbling through the first week of boot camp. Survival depends less on talent than on having a thick enough skin to recover after every setback and still maintain a facade of genial equanimity.

Matt’s ordeal is not as excruciating as you might expect because he is unflappable and reasonably good-humored even in the worst of times. Before his road trip he works as a bartender in a New York comedy club, where he is seldom allowed to test his skills.

Despite scant evidence of significant talent in his early performances, which rely on flat jokes that elicit more groans than giggles, he refuses to give up. The first time he earns genuine laughs is when he muses out loud about his troubled relationship with Abby (Lauren Ambrose), his loyal, supportive live-in girlfriend of eight years.

Suddenly he connects with an audience on a human level. But that involves betraying his relationship by dismissing it. His remark — "I decided I’m not going to get married until I’m sure that nothing else good can happen in my life" — is not an encouraging sign for the couple’s future happiness.

This small, likable movie, which Birbiglia adapted from his 2008 one-man show with the producer Ira Glass (This American Life), Joe Birbiglia (his brother) and Seth Barrish, is several things loosely wound together by Matt’s breezy narration directly to the camera.

It is an unvarnished portrait of the kill-or-be-killed stand-up comedy world’s lower echelon, in which paying dues means driving from gig to gig for meager wages in places that are nearly empty or are home to crowds that subject the performer to brutal heckling.

It is also the story of a relationship that deteriorates as Matt’s ambition outweighs his uncertain commitment to Abby, who demonstrates extraordinary tolerance for his childishness and reluctance to marry. Beautiful, smart, funny and empathetic, Abby is about as good as it gets. And Ambrose infuses her with a warmer, more mature version of the sensitivity that she brought to Claire Fisher, her character in the much missed HBO series Six Feet Under.

The strangest thread of the movie has to do with Matt’s worsening sleep disorder, brought on by relationship anxiety, which he refuses to deal with until it endangers his safety. He has weird dreams during which he walks in his sleep. In the most perilous somnambulistic misadventure he hurts himself jumping from a second-story hotel window.

These episodes, some staged as surreal dream sequences, inject this otherwise prosaic-looking movie with a visual pizazz that makes Sleepwalk With Me more than just a glorified stand-up act.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The enemy of my enemy is my friend

The blood-drenched National Rifle Association exposed -- a must-see video.

Cruz wastes no time embarassing Texas

Newly elected Republican senator Ted Cruz of Texas is already being compared to Joe McCarthy. And we're going to have to put up with his antics for at least six years. What a shame! What a travesty!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Rubio kills presidential chances

With one ill-advised move Senator Marco Rubio destroyed any dreams he might have harbored to be elected President of the United States.

And here’s another tip for the Republican from Florida (free of charge, because that’s the kind of guy I am): Before he goes on national television rebutting the President Obama’s State of the Union Speech by saying "Mr. President, I still live in the same working class neighborhood I grew up in," he should not be doing this.

Monday, February 11, 2013

My Top Basketball Teams

Last week's rank in parenthesis
1. Indiana 21-3 (4)
2.  Duke 21-2 (2)
3.  Florida 19-3 (1)
4.  Michigan 21-3 (3)
5.  Miami, Fla. 19-3 (8)
6.  Gonzaga 23-2 (6)
7.  Syracuse 20-3 (10)
8.  Louisville 19-5 (9)
9.  Arizona 20-3 (7)
10. Kansas 19-4 (5)
11. Michigan State 20-4 (14)
12. Pittsburgh 20-5 (15)
13. Ohio State 17-6 (11)
14. Minnesota 17-7 (12)
15. New Mexico 20-4 (18)
16. Kansas State 19-4 (19)
17. Georgetown 17-4 (20)
18. Colorado State 19-4 (17)
19. Oklahoma State 17-5 (23)
20. Wisconsin 17-7 (25)
21. Cincinnati 18-6 (16)
22. Creighton 20-5 (13)
23. Marquette17-5 (NR)
24. Butler 20-4 (22)
25. San Diego State 18-5 (NR)
Dropped out: North Carolina State (21), UNLV (24).
1.  Baylor 22-1 (1)
2.  Connecticut 22-1 (2)
3.  Notre Dame 22-1 (3)
4.  Duke 21-1 (4)
5.  Stanford 22-2 (5)
6.  California 21-2 (6)
7.  Maryland 19-3 (7)
8.  Texas A&M 19-5 (8)
9.  Kentucky 21-3 (9)
10. Penn State 20-3 (10)
11. North Carolina 22-3 (13)
12. Louisville 20-4 (12)
13. Tennessee 19-5 (11)
14. South Carolina 20-4 (14)
15. UCLA 19-4 (17)
16. Iowa State 17-5 (18)
17. Delaware 20-3 (19)
18. Florida State 19-4 (24)
19. Colorado 18-5 (20)
20. Dayton 21-1 (21)
21. Georgia 20-4 (16)
22. Syracuse 19-3 (22)
23. Purdue 18-5 (15)
24. Oklahoma 18-5 (NR)
25. Michigan State 18-5 (NR)
Dropped out: Oklahoma State (25), Wisconsin Green Bay (23)
1.  San Antonio 40-12 (1)
2.  Oklahoma City 39-12 (2)
3.  Miami 34-14 (3)
4.  Los Angeles Clippers 36-17 (4)
5.  Denver 33-19 (6)
6.  Memphis 32-18 (5)
7.  New York 32-17 (8)
8.  Chicago 30-20 (9)
9.  Golden State 30-21 (7)
10. Indiana 31-20 (NR)
Dropped out: Brooklyn (10)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Second run at Oscar Predictions

Picture: Argo
Actor: Daniel Day Lewis, Lincoln
Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Supporting Actor (the toughest race to call): Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook just barely over Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables 
Director: Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Adapted Screenplay: Tony Kushner, Lincoln
Original Screenplay: Michael Haneke, Amour
Animated Feature: Wreck-It Ralph
Cinematography: Life Of Pi
Costume Design (no contest): Anna Karenina
Documentary Feature: Searching for Sugar Man
Documentary Short (who knows?): Open Heart narrowly over Inocente
Film Editing: Argo
Foreign Language (Duh): Amour
Makeup: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Score: Life of Pi
Song: "Skyfall," Skyfall
Production Design: Anna Karenina
Animated Short: Paperboy
Live Action Short (I never get this one right): Curfew
Sound Editing: Skyfall
Sound Mixing: Les Miserables
Visual Effects: Life of Pi

Monday, February 4, 2013

My Top Basketball Teams

Last week's rank in parenthesis

1.  Florida 18-2 (3)
2.  Duke 19-2 (4)
3.  Michigan 20-2 (1)
4.  Indiana 20-2 (5)
5.  Kansas 19-2 (2)
6.  Gonzaga 21-2 (8)
7.  Arizona 19-2 (6)
8.  Miami, Fla. 17-3 (9)
9.  Louisville 18-4 (10)
10. Syracuse 18-3 (7)
11, Ohio State 17-4 (11)
12. Minnesota 17-5 (12)
13. Creighton 20-3 (13)
14. Michigan State 18-4 (14)
15. Pittsburgh 18-5 (20)
16. Cincinnati 18-4 (17)
17. Colorado State 18-4 (NR)
18. New Mexico 19-3 (22)
19. Kansas State 17-4 (NR)
20. Georgetown 16-4 (NR)
21. North Carolina State 16-6 (21)
22. Butler 18-4 (18)
23. Oklahoma State 15-5 (NR)
24. UNLV 17-5 (23)
25. Wisconsin 15-7 (NR)
Dropped out: Marquette (25), Mississippi (19), Oregon (15), San Diego State (24), Wichita State (16).

1.  Baylor 20-1 (2)
2.  Connecticut 20-1 (1)
3.  Notre Dame 20-1 (3)
4.  Duke 20-1 (5)
5.  Stanford 20-2 (4)
6.  California 19-2 (6)
7.  Maryland 18-3 (7)
8.  Texas A&M 17-5 (11)
9.  Kentucky 19-3 (10)
10. Penn State 17-3 (8)
11. Tennessee 17-5 (9)
12. Louisville 19-4 (15)
13. North Carolina 20-3 (12)
14. South Carolina 19-3 (13)
15. Purdue 18-3 (14)
16. Georgia 19-3 (21)
17. UCLA 17-4 (24)
18. Iowa State 15-5 (16)
19. Delaware 18-3 (22)
20. Colorado 16-5 (17)
21. Dayton 19-1 (19)
22. Syracuse 18-3 (25)
23. Wisconsin Green Bay 17-2 (23)
24. Florida State 18-4 (20)
25. Oklahoma State 25-5 (18)

1.  San Antonion 38-11 (1)
2.  Oklahoma City 35-12 (2)
3.  Miamia 30-14 (4)
4.  Los Angeles Clippers 24-15 (3)
5.  Memphis 30-16 (5)
6.  Denver 30-18 (6)
7.  Golden State 30-17 (7)
8.  New York 30-15 (8)
9.  Chicago 29-18 (10)
10. Brooklyn 28-19 (9)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

All it takes is a little ripple to get the week started

Available on DVD: “Unforgivable”

Literate, intelligent and a model of accomplished European filmmaking, Unforgivable showcases the kind of emotional complexity that is all but gone from the screen these days. The interplay between its characters is so intricate that the very nature of the film seems to change, more than once, as we watch it.

Directed by France’s veteran André Téchiné and co-written by him from a novel by Philippe Dijan, Unforgivable starts as an adult romance but quickly becomes a thriller. It then takes an unexpected turn toward bleakness before transitioning into something altogether different.

To do something this psychologically involved requires not just an accomplished director (Wild Reeds and The Girl on the Train are among Téchiné’s best-known works) but also actors up to the task, and Unforgivable has what it needs in French stars André Dussollier and Carole Bouquet. Plus there’s Italy’s Adriana Asti, a luminary as far back as 1964's Before the Revolution, a sequence from which is inserted in this film.

What’s at stake in Unforgivable is an exploration of the unknowability of the human heart, a look at the inexplicable, often painful things people do to each other, especially — like children to parents, lovers to each other — to those they care most about.

It’s not surprising that Unforgivable has a thriller element, because its protagonist, Francis (Dussolier), is a French writer who’s done so well with them that he’s become known as "the king of neo-Gothic thrillers."

Francis is introduced in Venice, where he wants to temporarily relocate to write his next book. Judith (Bouquet) is a French-born real estate agent he consults who makes an immediate impression. So immediate that before the afternoon is over, he impulsively asks her to move in with him, and she eventually agrees.

Following Judith’s advice, Francis rents a house not in the touristic heart of Venice but on the remote island of Sant ‘Erasmo, accessible only by boat. (Taking a similar tack, cinematographer Julien Hirsch has concentrated on deftly providing unexpected looks at a very familiar city.)

Unforgivable cuts almost immediately to 18 months later, when the happy couple welcomes a visit from Alice (Melanie Thierry), Francis’ adult daughter from an earlier marriage, and her daughter.

Though Alice seems friendly enough, there is an edge to everything she says, almost as if making trouble is second nature to her. She soon proceeds to do exactly that: Leaving her daughter behind, Alice promptly disappears.

Francis assumes Alice is with Alvise (Andrea Pergolesi), the wastrel son of an aristocratic family, but the young man denies it. What is undeniable is that his daughter’s disappearance is a serpent that worms its way into Francis’ and Judith’s previously happy lives.

Frustrated, worried, unable to sleep, Francis hires Anna Maria (Asti), a local private detective who happens to be an earlier lover of Judith’s, to try to find out where his daughter is.

Unable to leave well enough alone, the obsessive, suddenly jealous Francis also ends up hiring Anna Maria’s reprobate ex-con son Jeremie (Mauro Conte) to follow Judith, to see where she is going and, more to the point, to find out whether she is seeing anyone on the side. It’s no wonder that Judith says at one point, "The better I know you, the less I know who you are."

If any of this sounds familiar, rest assured it is not. Téchiné is a restless director, a fastidious storyteller who is not interested in what less adventurous movies have to say about human relationships. He wants to dig deeper, even if the results aren’t always clear.

Helping the director enormously is co-star Bouquet, who is exceptionally good as a woman of mystery almost despite herself. With an air of coolness projected through profound blue eyes, Bouquet as Judith projects a combination of independence and unknowability that both attracts and frustrates Dussollier’s Francis. This is the way people are, Unforgivable says, and we’d better get used to it.