Sunday, September 30, 2007


Remakes — as a general rule — usually result in angry movie-goers. Psycho, anyone? Diabolique? Planet of the Apes?

And westerns have been declared dead more times than Neidermeyer.

So what to make of 3:10 to Yuma — a remake of an obscure western? Purists may howl about that "obscure" claim but, frankly, who cares about howling purists?

In any event, I never saw the 1957 original and I'm glad I didn't. I went in fresh.

Cutting to the chase, 3:10 to Yuma is the best western I've ever seen. Yes, it's better than Unforgiven if only because my wife didn't fall asleep this time.

This is one great movie. Director James Mangold — who wonderfully mined similar territory in Copland and directed Reese Witherspoon to a statuette in Walk The Line — delivers an amazing experience. It's rare when you truly don't know what is going to happen next — and at the same time desperately care what's going to happen.

Mangold shares the credit for that with a great script (adapted from Elmore Leonard's short story) by three credited writers — which also usually spells trouble — but not here.

The script is a marvel of terse philosophical musings and classic western one-liners that sum up more than eighty paragraphs of Tarantino hyper-babble ever could.

The actors are simply perfect. Christian Bale and Russell Crowe work wonders together. Bale plays Dan Evans, a down-on-his-luck rancher and Civil War veteran (a visceral parallel to today's scrap-heaped veterans), who takes on the near-impossible task of getting the legendary outlaw Ben Wade (Crowe — having what looks like the time of his life) on the titular train to prison.

Christian Bale has what most actors only play at — complexity and emotional depth. You just believe every single thing this dude does and says. Bale finds every ounce of pain, regret and anger in Evans and breaks your heart.

Crowe is a movie star. He is also a juggernaut talent. He puts these two things together and creates possibly the most charismatic villain in western history.

The revelation — and there is always a revelation in a great movie, isn't there? — is Ben Foster as Charlie Prince, Wade's unhinged hair-trigger right-hand man. He is unrecognizable from his Six Feet Under days and nearly steals the movie from the two stars.

Westerns have always been good at supplying great supporting roles to great character actors. "3:10 to Yuma" delivers — Foster, Peter Fonda, Alan Tudyk and Dallas Roberts all hit home runs.

And remember this name — Logan Lerman. He is 15. He plays Dan Evans' son Will who worships Ben Wade. He is a star. You heard it here.

The violence is fast and furious in this film — but not one shell is fired gratuitously. It all has a purpose. It's not flashy ... it's violence.

Above all — everyone in "3:10 to Yuma" finds the truth. It's a morality tale with no easy answers and alot of hard questions.

Who knew a western could be so relevant in 2007?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Are You Kidding Me??

Are You Kidding Me??? What else can I say after reading what our elected knuckleheads decided to waste time [and tax payers money] on yesterday. Were they helping bring an end to the war? No. Were they working on affordable Health Care for everyone in the richest land in the world? No. Were they doing anything that would help you ... or anyone else, for that matter ... at all? No.

Read on, my friends. It's your tax dollars at work.

Behind a Republican push, and with the full force of President Bush, the Senate approved a resolution on Thursday, September 20th, 2007, denouncing the liberal antiwar group over an advertisement that questioned the credibility of Gen. David H. Petraeus , the American commander in Iraq .

For those of you who didn’t see the add – it was a pun:
General Petraeus or General Betray Us?

And why? Because the Republican party has pretty much fucked up everything that they have touched when it comes to their war [along with payoff scandals, sex scandals and a entire list of seedy behavior that would make a pimp blush], well, like I said, they have fucked things up so bad that they have to take pot shots like this to seem like they are the moral superiors to people who are calling them out on their bullshit.

Where the hell was this outrage when the Republicans ran the TV ad that morphed Max Cleland's face into Saddam Hussein's - while suggesting that Cleland was indifferent to the safety of the American people?

Here is part of Max Cleland’s bio.
Does this man seem like he is indifferent to the safety of the American people?
Is this the kind of man we should allow anyone throw dirt on?

Joseph Maxwell Cleland (born August 24, 1942) is an American politician from Georgia. Cleland, a Democrat, is a former U.S. Senator, disabled US Army veteran of the Vietnam War, and a critic of the Bush Administration. From 2003 to 2007, he served on the Board of Directors of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, a Presidentially appointed position.

Military Service:
Cleland served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War, attaining the rank of Captain. He was awarded the Silver Star and the Bronze Star for valorous action in combat, including during the Battle of Khe Sanh on April 4th, 1968.

On April 8, 1968, Captain Cleland was the Battalion Signal Officer for the 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division; he was wounded during the Battle of Khe Sanh. Due to the severity of his injuries, doctors amputated both his legs above the knee and his right forearm.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Dennis Miller has moments of brilliance. He has made me laugh until I cried. He has made me nasal-spank my beer with his uniquely acerbic and ultra-hyphenated, multi-tiered references and rants. His outrage made for sporadically great, often hilarious social and political commentary. Dennis Miller could be downright inspiring.

Because of that, it was easy to overlook his occasional pretension. His apparent bottomless need to appear hip and ingratiate himself with other celebrities. His interview skills — rivaled only by those of Chevy Chase. And the fact that he always seemed spectacularly ill-at-ease on-camera and on-stage. No problemo.

Because he was funny.

Now he’s on radio — ostensibly the perfect medium for his jittery, self-conscious mode of expression.

On Monday, I caught his radio act for the first time. I listened for fifteen minutes. With that comprehensive data, I am ready to render a verdict:

Dennis Miller has lost his funny.

Now, much has been made of his “conversion” after 9/11. His point of view has become increasingly conservative. He has been co-opted by the right. He has been pilloried by the left.

Frankly, I could care less about his political persuasion. I’m a left-leaning commie pinko (so I’m told) but I love the writing of P.J. O’Rourke. For one reason — he is funny. He may be dead wrong about a lot of things but he kills me.

For those fifteen minutes, Dennis Miller was a strident, groping mess. He was lathered up about how Democratic leaders keep harping on the absence of WMD and that they should just give it up after 5 years already. “Can we just move on, please?” he wants to know. He then went on to make the case that, instead of vilifying the actions of the Bush administration and carping about a hopeless war, we should hail ourselves as feminists. That’s right — the latest and best reason that we are at war in Iraq is, according to Dennis Miller, because Iraqi men treat their women like shit.

Of course, if by being in Iraq, soldiers are able to improve the lot of abused women there, that is great. But to use that as the new, shiny reason that American men and women are turning the sand maroon with their blood ... it was disturbing to hear.

Besides, if that’s really the case, certain pockets of Philly better get ready for some serious daisy-cutters and bunker-busters. You know who you are, fuckers.

It was a sad moment. It felt like a death blow to a rare comic talent. Miller was borderline hysterical. He's made the fatal mistake of becoming an ideologue. He’s now blinded by the light of righteousness. He is now comedy’s version of Jackson Browne circa Lives in the Balance and World in Motion. In a word — an unbearable blowhard.

Fine … three words.

Now — Jackson Browne has made some of my all-time favorite music. His first 5 records are classics. However in the 1980’s he began churning out ideological song after strident message tune after unwieldy “important” ditty. Only they weren’t songs at all, they were lectures. As he found ideology, he lost me.

Jackson Browne has wended his way back — realizing somewhat that no one interested in buying records wants to be barked at. Especially by a wife-beating folk singer.

One can only hope that Dennis Miller gives up the dogma and remembers what made him great — the ability to see reality as more than black and white … and then give it a pie in the face.

Thursday, September 6, 2007


(Ed. A while back we blogged in honor of Howard Porter, the former Villanova basketball star who was found beaten to death in Minneapolis. We lauded his hoop greatness and his battle back from the abyss of drug addiction.
He was one of my first sports idols. And I called him a hero for turning his life around and helping others.

He did do all that.

But Porter was unable to conquer his demons entirely. According to murder charges filed Tuesday, Porter was trying to trade money and crack cocaine for sex with a hooker when he was beaten to death.

What is more tragic than tragedy? Whatever that word is, it fits here.
The irony is that I had just finished writing about another long-ago sports hero. Not to spoil it — but — this one ends better.)

I watched the recent ESPN miniseries “The Bronx is Burning” — a relentlessly entertaining chronicle of the 1977 New York Yankees’ dysfunctional run to the World Series. The show centered on the triangle of Billy Martin (a Spock-eared and intense John Turturro), Reggie Jackson (the estimable Daniel Sunjata — who you can see weekly on friggin’ RESCUE ME, people!) and George Steinbrenner (a fun, if scenery-pulverizing, Oliver Platt.)

Reggie Jackson took center stage in the miniseries. He was the lightning rod. And he cemented his legend by hitting three home runs in Game Six to clinch the Series for the Yanks. In 1977, Reggie Jackson became a folk hero.

In one episode, amidst all the bluster and drama, was a fleeting glimpse of a forgotten star doing his own home run trot. It was just a second or two but it was unmistakable.

It was the “other” Reggie.

Reggie Smith was a member of the ’77 Dodger team that lost to the Yankees. He was also their best player. He may be the greatest player in major league history you’ve never heard of.

With career stats that surpass a number of Hall-of-Famers, he was a seven-time All-Star, a Gold Glover, and the most feared switch-hitter in the game. He also possessed the most lethal throwing arm of any outfielder during his career.

In that epic ’77 World Series, he also hit three home runs. Just not in one game. So Reggie Jackson got a candy bar named after him, a bust at Cooperstown and immortality. Reggie Smith got the undying adulation of a pasty-white Irish-Catholic coke-bottle-glasses complexion-challenged 14-year-old in Philly (Okay, I was a late bloomer.)

Reggie Smith was the epitome of cool — from the menacing, gum-chomping stare to the pre-Sheffield bat waggle to the rifle right arm he used to just erase guys at the plate. Reggie Smith did the impossible — he made playing right field cool.

For that alone, he deserves to be in Cooperstown.

In his career, Reggie Smith hit 314 home runs, was one clutch bastard and led the league in simmering competitive fire. He had run-ins with teammates, the media, management and fans. But all he did was win. In 16 years, his teams had winning records 13 times. He played in 4 World Series, getting a ring with the Dodgers in 1981. And he was a keeper of the long lost art of the helmet ‘fro.

I wanted to be Reggie Smith. In fact, there was a large chunk of time when I wished I was black. Everywhere I turned for inspiration back then, it seemed like an African-American was holding the torch. In ’77 — Reggie Smith’s best season — my favorite hoopster was Doctor J. My favorite musician was pre-nutjob Michael. My favorite football player was Walter Payton. I even went deep into The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I cried when Jim Brown died in The Dirty Dozen. And Billy Dee Willliams in Brian’s Song? I ran like him for years. Not Gayle Sayres. Billy Dee Williams. Might explain my less-than-stellar football career.

I thought being black must be the coolest because they were the best at everything — except, of course, golf and hockey. Black was beautiful. Sugar Ray Leonard. Lola Falana. Ben Vereen. Sidney Poitier. Even the sister on Good Times.

Black is still beautiful but Reggie Smith is one who endured for me.

I followed him even through his bizarre year in Japan, where he clashed with everyone and weathered racial attacks — both physical and verbal. Through it all, Reggie Smith never got his due, it seems. And that made his cool factor go even deeper.

When his major league career ended in 1982, Smith had more home runs than any other switch-hitter in history except one — some dude named Mantle.

Reggie Smith is a baseball lifer. And, by all accounts, a stand-up guy. He worked for the Dodgers after he retired. He was a hitting instructor, a first base coach, a front office jockey.
He coached the 2000 Olympic baseball team to it’s stunning upset of Cuba for the gold.
Billy Crystal hired him to get Barry Pepper to play like Roger Maris and Thomas Jane to swing like Mickey Mantle for the movie *61. His baseball instruction company, Reggie Smith Baseball Centers, is well-respected and successful.

Yet Reggie Smith still flies under the radar. He is still the “other” Reggie.

But not here.

Here and now — he is the “only” Reggie. One sports hero who never disappointed.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Dead Certain

Last night, I tried to think of exactly what I wanted to say about the situation our country is in. Basically, we’re currently stuck with a president [small ‘p’ intentional] who lies to us. And he lies to us on a daily basis. Last night, Keith Olbermann voiced what I could not find the words for.

Thank you, sir.

By Keith Olbermann
Anchor, 'Countdown'

And so he is back from his annual surprise gratuitous photo-op in Iraq, and what a sorry spectacle it was. But it was nothing compared to the spectacle of one unfiltered, unguarded, horrifying quotation in the new biography to which Mr. Bush has consented.

As he deceived the troops at Al-Asad Air Base yesterday with the tantalizing prospect that some of them might not have to risk being killed and might get to go home, Mr. Bush probably did not know that, with his own words, he had already proved that he had been lying, is lying and will be lying about Iraq.
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He presumably did not know that there had already appeared those damning excerpts from Robert Draper's book “Dead Certain."

“I'm playing for October-November," Mr. Bush said to Draper. That, evidently, is the time during which, he thinks he can sell us the real plan, which is “to get us in a position where the presidential candidates will be comfortable about sustaining a presence."

Comfortable, that is, with saying about Iraq, again quoting the President, “stay... longer."

And there it is. We've caught you. Your goal is not to bring some troops home, maybe, if we let you have your way now. Your goal is not to set the stage for eventual withdrawal. You are, to use your own disrespectful, tone-deaf word, playing at getting the next Republican nominee to agree to jump into this bottomless pit with you, and take us with him, as we stay in Iraq for another year, and another, and another, and anon.

Everything you said about Iraq yesterday, and everything you will say, is a deception, for the purpose of this one cynical, unacceptable, brutal goal: perpetuating this war indefinitely.

War today, war tomorrow, war forever!

And you are playing at it! Playing!

A man with any self respect, having inadvertently revealed such an evil secret, would have already resigned and fled the country! You have no remaining credibility about Iraq.

And yet, yesterday at Al-Asad, Mr. Bush kept playing, and this time, using the second of his two faces.

The president told reporters, “They (General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker) tell me if the kind of success we are now seeing continues, it will be possible to maintain the same level of security with fewer American forces."

And so, Mr. Bush got his fraudulent headlines today. “Bush May Bring Some Troops Home."

While the reality is, we know from what he told Draper, that the president's true hope is that they will not come home; but that they will stay there, because he is keeping them there now, in hope that those from his political party fighting to succeed him will prolong this unendurable disaster into the next decade.

But, to a country dying of thirst, the president seemed to vaguely promise a drink from a full canteen -- a promise predicated on the assumption that he is not lying.

Yet you are lying, Mr. Bush. Again. But now, we know why.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Time Seems Right

Hey All;

The times seems right to remind everyone ... with the help of John Prine:

Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore
© John Prine

While digesting Reader's Digest
In the back of a dirty book store,
A plastic flag, with gum on the back,
Fell out on the floor.
Well, I picked it up and I ran outside
Slapped it on my window shield,
And if I could see old Betsy Ross
I'd tell her how good I feel.

But your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more.
They're already overcrowded
From this dirty little war.
Now Jesus don't like killin'
No matter what the reason's for,
And your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more.

Well, I went to the bank this morning
And the cashier he said to me,
"If you join the Christmas club
We'll give you ten of them flags for free."
Well, I didn't mess around a bit
I took him up on what he said.
And I stuck them stickers all over my car
And one on my wife's forehead.

Well, I got my window shield so filled
With flags I couldn't see.
So, I ran the car upside a curb
And right into a tree.
By the time they got a doctor down
I was already dead.
And I'll never understand why the man
Standing in the Pearly Gates said...

"But your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more.
We're already overcrowded
From this dirty little war.
Now Jesus don't like killin'
No matter what the reason's for,
And your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more."