Saturday, June 30, 2007

To the people who left...

On the same day that Frank Thomas hit 500 homers, Craig Biggio inducted himself into the 3,000 hits club - a pretty exclusive group to be joining, full of names that make you go "oh yeah - that guy! Yeah, he was good." But most of the names have faded from memory completely, 'cause singles hitters three-quarters of a century ago lack the snap of command that our home run hitters had. It's the flip side of the problem from my last post - we don't like our new sluggers who might've cheated because we love the ones who came before them: Ruth and Aaron and Mays and Mantle and Williams. Whereas I doubt before Biggio got there on Thursday most people could name 10 of those 26 players. Tris Speaker? Nap Lajoie? Cap Anson? When's the last time you thought about Cap Anson? That's what I thought.

Because this is becoming more of a prestigious club - outside of Rose, a lot of the names at the top of this list are people who have been dead for a long time: Cobb, Musial, Wagner, etc. So this moment has a decidedly different feel from Thomas' breakthrough. Really, there are a number of differences between the Thomas moment and the Biggio moment. The biggest one would have to be that I was there to see Biggio do it.

Steph, who moves into the group called "the most wonderful people I know" for this one, offered me a ticket to come along and see the game. I figured it was unlikely that Biggio would have a three-hit game and get to 3,000; but it seemed worth the chance. I blew off all my plans and went.

I was right, he didn't have a three-hit game. He had a five-hit game, and he did it in style. Forgotten in the midst of the theatrics of the evening was that Biggio hit in the tying run with his 3,000 hit - and it was he who got the first two-out hit in the 12th inning to start the rally that won the game for them.

The best part of the moment was Biggio himself - having successfully hit his historic single, he tried to stretch it into a double - a beautifully classic competitive moment: "it's my 3,000 hit, but I've got to get into scoring position, even if I didn't actually hit it anywhere far enough to be a double." He was out by a mile.

His teammates and family streamed out onto the field, and Biggio hugged and kissed his kids and his weeping wife before wandering through his the crowd around him hugging teammates and coaches. I'm an old softie sometimes, and the sight of a faithful athlete crying and waving to the fans that he's played in front of for twenty years brought a distinct lump to my throat. And up until that moment, I'd never particularly been a Biggio fan. But it was one of those moments, standing there clapping and yelling with 40,000 Houstonians. It made me say "y'know, I could get attached to this team."

Biggio made a dash for the dugout and grabbed Jeff Bagwell and bodily hauled him out onto the field to bask in the applause, and I suddenly got what the moment was about. These were two guys who had played their whole lives for these people, had never been disloyal or fought about money or done anything but toil every day to turn generally subpar teams into playoff contenders. And they'd never seen anything for it: there'd never been any those big contracts or World Series rings on big clubs that the more mercenary major league players had collected. Two Hall of Fame players working day in and day out for these fans, and this was their reward. The unabashed adulation from the throats of 40,000 local fans. The recognition that what they'd done had meant a lot to the people in this city. I started tearing up a little.

And then I noticed people leaving. And when I say people leaving, I don't mean "people with small children taking them home to bed." I mean "people who said 'eh, I saw history, screw the rest of the game.'" And not just a couple. 15,000 people left the stadium over the next ten minutes, a quick-moving, steady flood of fans disappearing even as Biggio continued to stand and wave on the field. More steadfast fans started standing up and yelling at them as they went by for being fickle, but everyone just kept their head down and didn't make eye contact.

I wondered if Biggio could see all the people leaving from where he stood on the field. I hoped he couldn't. I hoped he didn't know.

The Astros ending up winning in the 12th inning on a grand slam from Carlos Lee in front of a sparse crowd of about 10,000 people. Every time Biggio came up, we all stood up and gave him a resounding cheer, chanting his name as loud as we could in honor of what he'd done that day. But it sounded weak and hollow in comparison to the ruckus we were causing before, and I felt sad for Biggio that no one was watching him fight back in the bottom of the twelfth and score the tying run. I felt sad that even on the biggest night in his career, the night when everything was supposed to be about him, nobody had stuck around to cheer him on.

Cheering for sports is a silly thing, and everyone knows it. But it seems like if you're going to cheer for them, if you're going to believe in them, then you should stick around. You should chant your players' names and boo the pitchers who throw brushbacks and let the ump know that your boys are always safe when stealing second and he should know that.

It seems that if you're going to be involved in such a silly, ridiculous thing, you should do it for real. You should stick around. You should let your players know that it means something to you that they stuck around for you, that they ignored the money and the fame and kept on toiling right here under your nose. You should let them know it wasn't for nothing.

And you should stick around and see what happens when your boy tries to stretch a single into a double in order to win a game on a night where everyone would be fine if he worried more about his own statistics than the final outcome. You should stick around and root for a guy who's more about winning than ringing up big numbers. You should stick around because you're the reason he's trying so hard, and you owe him that. Just that one night. The night he finally got his reward.

Just that one night. You should've stayed.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

500 Homers

Frank Thomas hit his 500th homer today, putting him 20th all-time on the HR list. Ken Griffey is at 584, about to pass Frank Robinson and be 6th all-time. Sammy Sosa has 600 homers now, 5th all-time. Rafael Palmeiro has 569, 10th. If Jim Thome or Manny Ramirez hit a hot streak, they'll pass 500 homers by the end of the season, A-Rod's on pace for 60 homers this year and a lock to hit 500 by the end of July. And you know about Bonds.

And yet I have a tough time getting excited for the Hall of Fame for some of these guys. Have we reached a day where big home run numbers just don't mean a lock for Cooperstown? These guys have hit home runs right and left, powered through season upon season, and yet I don't know if I can see all of them in the Hall.

Sure it's hard to compare eras... Babe Ruth hit 136 triples in his career, A-Rod 26, but it's hard to argue that Ruth was a great deal faster than A-Rod. And A-Rod could be much worse: McGwire only hit 6. But it's more than that.

Jim Thome has struck out more times (1,909) than he's gotten a hit (1,806). So did Jose Canseco, at 1,942 strikeouts versus 1,877 hits. Sammy Sosa has struck out 2,194 times in his career, the only player comparable is Reggie Jackson, everyone else's numbers are much lower, some a lot lower - Joe Dimaggio averaged a home run (361) for every one of his strikeouts (369).

500 homers is traditionally a lock for the Hall, yet I - and, I feel, baseball fans everywhere - remain unexcited. In this era of steroids and enhancers, power numbers just don't impress anymore. We can't get excited for a guy who hits more home runs than ever before because we feel it's unearned, that he's tainted the game. But more has been tainted than that, every player who blows us away with home run totals is viewed with suspicion, disrespect, through no fault of his own.

You see, some of these guys deserve the Hall, deserve it badly. Try to make the case that Griffey used steroids. You can't. A glance at his career numbers shows that if he'd started using steroids at the same point Bonds did, it would be Griffey on the cusp of immortality right now. Steroids or no steroids, Griffey is one of the greatest hitters ever to play the game. And yet people still fret that the injury-prone center fielder is a question mark for the Hall because he had all of his best years at the beginning of his career. Whereas Bonds' place is secure, though I doubt he'll draw a lot of cheers on that day. It's a shame.

Some of the greatest hitters in the world are playing in front of us right now, yet we can't admit it to ourselves. We're all too afraid that we're getting tricked into caring about players who'll be revealed to be fakes, cheats, people not worthy of our adulation.

Later this year, Bonds will hit number home run 756, will pass Hank Aaron and become the greatest home run hitter of all time. And we will hate him for it. And we'll hate Sosa for his 600, and Griffey for his 584, and Thome and A-Rod and Manny for their 500. We won't have any reason to, but we've lost our passion for these great numbers, we can't believe in them anymore.

Ultimately, that's the true legacy that Bonds is leaving behind him.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Arthur The Intern 4

Hey, we just did another Arthur The Intern and this one's really fun. Even if you didn't like the first one, you should check this one out. This is by far the best we've done.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The (Mid) Summer Movie Preview

That's right, folks, it's the summer movie preview! You've been waiting and waiting, and the day has arrived.

And not a moment too soon. Already this summer, Spiderman 3, Shrek 3, the third Ocean's movies, and Pirates of the Caribbean 3 have come out and exploded onto the scene with a huge bang. Naturally, in two or three weeks they'll be forgotten, since another huge Part III movie will be around the corner. Because there are a lot of Part III movies this summer. You see, every movie franchise is "completing the trilogy" this summer; which is such a load of crap that I simply have to address it right now.

I don't really know why we feel the need to have everything be a trilogy these days. I know that there's such a balanced feel to having three movies in a sequence that has become a pattern for a successful movie to plan to launch a second movie that only sets up the third. I know that there are usually diminishing returns on each successive sequel unless we view these movies as part of a larger fabric: Revenge of the Sith makes more than Attack of the Clones, or Return of the King makes more money than The Two Towers, since it's the last of the movies and we finally get to see what happens to these characters. Movie studios refer to it as "the completion of the journey," which is code for "come see it even if you don't care - this is the last one, and it's your last chance." But it's just a marketing ploy, albeit an extremely clever one.

Spiderman isn't a trilogy, there's no finishing arc to this story. Not to give anything away, but at the end of Spiderman 3, Spidey does not die, nor does he disappear forever into the sunset, or hand his spidey-suit over to someone else. There's always room for another movie. Even in Alien3, when David Fincher killed off Sigourney Weaver at the end, they just brought her back for Alien: Resurrection anyway ("c'mon guys, it's a one-line fix: 'Quick! Run the DNA through the Clone-o-matic!'"). Sure, we were all raised on trilogies: Star Wars, Back To The Future, The Godfather, etc. But doing three movies is still an arbitrary number.

Of course, that's a tough argument this summer. But even with the Part III's getting all the hype this summer, there are more sequels than just that. The following movies - and essentially, the only movies anyone is talking about - are all sequels:

Part II's:
28 Weeks Later
Fay Grim

Day Watch

Hostel: Part II

Fantastic 4: Rise of The Silver Surfer

Evan Almighty
Daddy Day Camp

Part III's:
Spiderman 3
Shrek the Third

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

Ocean's 13

The Bourne Ultimatum
Rush Hour 3
Resident Evil: Extinction

Part IV's:
Live Free Or Die Hard

Part V's:
Harry Potter and The Order Of The Phoenix

I think, and I'm not sure, but I think that's everything. I'm tired of sequels already. Therefore, this movie guide will be completely free of predictions on what sequels are going to be good and which ones are going to suck. You saw the originals, and you can judge for yourself. I'm going to try to highlight other, lesser-known movies, and tell you what to see out of the crowded pack of films that comes out this summer. That's depending on whether you can find a theater playing them. When I went to see Pirates in a theater with 24 screens, Shrek or Pirates was playing on 22 of them. Doesn't leave a lot of room for low-budget comedies.

Still, before I highlight what I like, let's lead in with everyone's favorite - a short dissertation on movies that suck. Links to the trailers in order to determine the degree of suckiness will be available whenever possible.

Movies That Are, In All Likelihood, Going To Suck Like A Giant Maelstrom:

1. Bee Movie. The trailers for it feature Jerry Seinfeld in a giant bee costume, trying to create a live-action bee movie with help from Chris Rock and Steven Spielberg. They're cute spots, but you get the definite sense while watching it that, like Comedian, the trailer will be the best part. Far and away the best part.

I mean, can you really see Seinfeld anchoring a kid's animated movie? It reeks of "stuck-between-two-worlds." Is it for the kids, or nostalgic '90s sitcom fans? The studios are clearly hoping it's for both. I'm betting it's for neither.

2. Rise: Blood Hunter. This title would make sense if there was another Rise movie, and this was the sequel, but that's not the case. This is the first movie, and likely the only one - a poor man's Blade knockoff, with Lucy Liu as the central undead/vampire/spiritual warrior/whatever. Lucy, you're a fantastically talented actress and there's not a chance in hell I'm going to see this movie, because your presence in it is as close as we come to a Hollywood guarantee that this movie will be terrible. It is time to fire your agent. In fact, that time came and went about the time you signed on to Ballstic: Ecks Vs. Sever, another movie that was not a sequel but looked like one anyway, and became overwhelmingly obvious through Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and Code Name: The Cleaner, though I did enjoy Kill Bill: Vol. 1. Is it possible you have some sort of colon fetish? Not a single one of those movies sounds good just from the title. Neither does your next project, Kung Fu Panda. In fact, that movie could not sound any worse.

I'm begging you, Lucy: you are a huge movie star (see, I can use colons, too. They're not that cool). Stop starring in movies that sound like they're being made with an eye on landing a three a.m. Tuesday night slot on the USA network, after two hours of MacGyver reruns. In three years, you're gonna end up the third lead in "Law & Order: Drug Trafficking Unit" if you aren't careful, and no colon will make you happy then.

3. Speaking of overuse of colons, let's take a look at DOA: Dead or Alive.

I'm not even going to comment on it. I'm just going to copy-and-paste in this little promotional paragraph, and then I'm going to move on; you'll see why in a minute.

Four beautiful women begin as rivals in a secret invitational-only martial arts contest, but find themselves teaming up with one another against a sinister force. Tina Armstrong, played by Jamie Pressly, is a superstar in the world of women's wrestling. Christie, played by best-selling pop recording artist and actor Holly Valance, is a beautiful cat-thief and assassin-for-hire. Princess Kasumi, played by international fashion model and actor Devon Aoki, is an Asian warrior-aristocrat, schooled by martial arts masters. Helena Douglas, played by Sarah Carter, is an extreme sports athlete whose tragic past binds her to the remote palace in Southeast Asia where the Dead or Alive tournament takes place.

See, I can't even say anything. If I tried to bear down and write something about it, I'd just start thinking about Princess Kasumi, the warrior-aristocrat, and then it'd just ha ha ha hahahahaIcan'tstophahahahahaha...

4. Eagle Vs. Shark. An uncreative romantic comedy that out-and-out steals its laughs from Napoleon Dynamite? Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! What ripping fun!

5. Fat Girls. Ash Christian wrote, directed, and stars in this poorly lit, strangely acted coming-of-age and coming-out comedy about a high school boy channeling his inner fat girl. No, really. Look at the trailer. It also steals its laughs from Napoleon Dynamite, so that's a big plus, too.

6. Bratz: 4 Real. The weirdly sexual preteen cartoon craze gets its own live-action movie about high school cliques, fitting in, being yourself, and sticking it to the snotty know-it-all student body president the only way you possibly can - by defeating her in the school talent show. You know it'll be fun because no one has ever charted this particular cinematic territory before. Ever. In case you're still not convinced this movie's for you, you'll be pleased to see that the last graphic in the trailer before the release date says simply "OMG." It's a good thing you put that there, guys, now we know that you're relevant to this MySpace generation. Now paying out 1:1 odds on the possibility of "hidden" sex jokes amidst the teen's dialogue.

7. Daddy Day Camp. The follow-up to the Eddie Murphy atrocity replaces Murphy with Cuba Gooding Jr. as the not-funny main character who gets picked on by kids spouting not-cute dialogue in a not-believable and not-interesting story about how a dad starts a day camp in order to spend more time with his son, who just turned seven and zzzzzzzzzzz...... I'm sorry, did I doze off?

Slapstick, groin hits, puke jokes, explosions, awkwardly written puppy love, and outhouse jokes are sure to follow. In fact, they're all in the trailer, if you can make it through that far without saying "My God, some poor executive greenlit this project and now he's about to have it handed to him when it crashes on opening weekend. I'd feel bad for the man, except if you're that breathtakingly stupid, you shoulda seen it coming. Frankly, I would fire you myself, given the chance." Did you watch the whole trailer? If you did, admit it. That's what ran through your mind.

8. Care Bears: Oopsy Does It! That exclamation point is part of the title, not a statement of my enthusiasm for this movie. In case you thought that. I doubt you thought that.

I swear, I'm not lying about this one, I couldn't make something like this up (though, disappointingly, I couldn't find a trailer). This movie is so ripe for jokes that I thought about leaving it alone entirely, then realized that a team of creative executives sat in a room and agreed that Care Bears: Oopsy Does It! was the best possible name for this movie. And I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to give 'em a couple suggestions that are a touch more appropriate:

Care Bears: We Didn't Sell Enough Lunchboxes The First Go-Round!
Care Bears: In Case You Want To Be Stoned And Nostalgic At The Same Time!
Care Bears: The First Ever Movie To Be Made Just For One Creepy Guy Living In A Basement!
Care Bears: Blood Hunter!
Care Bears: Drug Trafficking Unit!
Care Bears: The Biggest Animated TV Show-Turned-Movie Since Rugrats 2!
Care Bears: Shitting All Over Your Childhood Memories!

Gosh, I could go on all day.

Anyway, that wraps it up for me. Maybe later I'll post a few movies sure to be overlooked this summer that you should check out. For example, New Zealand has exported a film to us called Black Sheep, the tagline of which is "There are over 40 million sheep in New Zealand, AND THEY'RE PISSED OFF!" Which sounds like a guaranteed winner to me.

Until then, I'll be scouring the entertainment news and petitioning for the making of Care Bears: Hard Times In The Slammer! I think I know of some executives who might think it sounds lucrative. I better find an agent soon.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Approaching: The Summer Movie Preview

Now that almost every single huge movie of the summer has been released, I will be putting out my summer movie preview soon. It'll sure to be full of phrases like "I'm thinking the magic of those Shrek movies will have finally run out this time" and "I'll bet you any money that this Pirates movie will be even more confusing than the last one." But it'll be okay because, y'know, I thought of all this stuff months in advance. I totally did.

Now, run along before I tell you who I think will die at the end of Spider-man 3.



I'd just like to put a little addendum on the previous post here: I'd meant to bring up Apatow's use of the same actors in every movie and TV show in a little more detail, but I felt the post was going on too long anyway, and just skipped ahead. But one of my points that I'd thought of was that in every project Apatow does, almost all the actors translate over and receive major parts in the new project, but the actresses do not. Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell, Jason Segel, etc. - they've got all the screentime on every project. Sometimes people like Busy Phillips and Carla Gallo show up for a small cameo, but Apatow essentially leaves all the actresses behind on each project and takes the actors with him to star in the next project. He even built that group up over time, adding people like Rudd and Carrell as they fit in, never leaving someone behind, but never picking up an actress in that group.

I wondered why that was, what that said about Apatow's personality. Was it perhaps a little misogynistic? Did he feel that the actresses he'd worked with were untalented or replaceable? Did he just feel more connected to the actors he worked with than the actresses, and kept them accordingly? Did he feel he could either take one or the other with him, and decided to take the actors? I seriously thought about this for a while. These are the things I think about when I'm driving, which is a major reason I should probably not have a license.

Then I realized there was an exception (not, like, out of thin air. I was on the internet). From The Cable Guy all the way to Knocked Up, Leslie Mann appeared in a lot of Apatow's major projects. So I decided maybe I'd misjudged Apatow and it was just a coincidence.

And then I discovered that Leslie Mann is Apatow's wife. Ah. That makes sense.

In other news, I saw another cut of the Celebrex commercial. It's now even longer, and mentions "death" as a side effect twice. Excellent. Really drive that point home, boys.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Review: Knocked Up (2007)

The title is a lie. This is not a review of Knocked Up.

There's a reason for the lie, of course, and that is that when I started to sit down and write a review of Knocked Up and why I liked it so much, I realized that the reasons I liked it had less to do with the movie and more to do with the process that took place that before the movie, the series of events that brought the movie to the screen. I realized that I like this movie in kind of the same way you would like watching one of your friends win a marathon, or your kid win a geography bee. It's about being proud of something, of following something from its struggling early beginnings to its greatest victory. It's about being a part of that world. So, this is a review of that world. This is a review of Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen, and everything they created.

Eight years ago, "Freaks and Geeks," Paul Feig and Apatow's high school misfits drama, was released upon an unsuspecting NBC audience, who for the most part rejected it out of hand. It was an hour-long drama that was equal parts comedy and youthful angst in the most compassionate, honest way possible. A huge number of the storylines were ripped from the personal embarrassments of the writing team's high school years. It was a TV show about what high school was really like, where everyone looked like people you actually knew in high school, everyone was as uncomfortable and emotional as they really were - and it was always, always extremely funny. Five or six years later, shows like it would start popping up on television, but at the time nothing like it had ever been done. NBC never really knew what it had, never knew how to promote it, yanked it around for a season, pulling it on and off the air, and finally canceled it before the season ended. It was a knife to the heart for Apatow, he never forgot it.

Two years later, realizing he'd gotten all sorts of talented actors involved in the acting business who were now getting no work, he launched "Undeclared," a half-hour comedy in the same style about a bunch of slacker college students who spend most of their time hanging around the dorm and trying to entertain themselves - basically, a half-hour comedy about real college students. He brought back Seth Rogen, he fought tooth and nail and found a way to bring back Jason Segel, he ended up bringing back six or seven more actors from "Freaks and Geeks" before the show was pulled, because of course it was canceled before the first season finished. Virtually everything Apatow did ended up being canceled in those days: he had a mess of pilots under his belt that had never been picked up, and his attempts to launch the careers of the actors and actresses he picked were usually laughed at.

Naturally, those careers ended up taking off anyway - James Franco, David Krumholtz, Tom Welling, Jenna Fisher, Linda Cardellini, Charlie Hunnam, Monica Keena - because all of those actors were just as talented as he said they were. That was what was so frustrating to Apatow about his career; everything he touched was pulled away from him, but at the end of the day he was always right. The actors he discovered always turned out to be gems, everything he made would garner oceans of critical acclaim and loyal fans. But the audience, that giant audience that has networks wining and dining you and begging you to stay, that audience was never quite there. Mainstream success never arrived, and Apatow left the television industry and went back to movies, and it seemed hardly anyone noticed he was gone. Maybe nobody did.

Eventually, though, "Freaks and Geeks" and "Undeclared" came out on DVD. And word spread around, people began to follow the stories from beginning to end, and Apatow began to gather a larger contingent. But it wasn't just seeing the shows that brought him support, it was the world that he offered on these DVDs. Every single episode had commentary, sometimes more than one. But rather than just a commentary from the show's creator, or from the executive producers, up to seven or eight people involved would get together to contribute the track: half a dozen actors, sometimes the director or the writer would join, and often Apatow himself would sit in to guide the commentary. Rather than spend the time back-patting or breaking down the elements of the story, the commentary tracks were about telling old jokes and bringing up forgotten stories. And there was an honesty to them - during one, Jon Kasdan (the writer of the episode) and Apatow talked about how Kasdan had quit the business after the show was canceled, sending Apatow a letter that basically said "you broke me." The fact that there were able to get together a few years later and discuss the episode was a testament to Apatow's ability to admit mistakes and move on.

It's that honesty that makes Apatow and his projects so appealing. Apatow never pretended that he was making great art, he never gave interviews that maligned people for not appreciating his genius, he never claimed to be a genius. In the world of Hollywood producing, that's a rare feat: everything made is important and made by people of exceptional, untouchable talent, nothing is made by someone who just likes making TV shows that are funny. Apatow never pretended he wasn't working hard, he was clearly putting his own lifeblood into everything he made, you could feel it just hearing him talk about it. In interviews years later, he talked about how he managed to put himself in the hospital through the stress, he estimates he might've taken ten, twenty years off his life in those more stressful times. But by then he was out of the industry and producing movies again, and nothing had been heard from him in a few years.

In the meantime, as far as I can tell, Rogen did nothing. Rogen states that the lazy, unfocused life that he and his apartment mates live in Knocked Up is a fairly close approximation to his actual life for a while. Pretty much the only person who hired him as an actor was Apatow, and so Rogen kept standing by, waiting. Eventually, he ended co-writing a script with Apatow called "The 40-Year Old Virgin." Rogen pushed to have it be as profane as possible, the argument if you're going to have someone as sweet and awkward and honest-looking as Steve Carell as your lead, doesn't it make it that much funnier to have him be surrounded by completely opposite characters? He turned out to be more right than he knew.

And of course, The 40-Year Old Virgin ended up being a smash success, but what was important about it was that it wasn't that was the first time Apatow had something hit big but rather that the thing that hit big wasn't any different from the things he'd made before. It was that same loose, improvisational style, that blend of comedy and honesty, all those things that had been the trademark of everything that Apatow had done that had failed. It was a vindication that he'd been right all along.

Knocked Up is an extension of that success, in fact the culmination of it. It features only actors who've been in Apatow productions before, and the four actors playing Rogen's best friends are his actual best friends, three of whom played his friends all the way back on "Undeclared." Even the day players are roles filled by people connected with Apatow in some way - actors from "The Office," or Loudon Wainwright III, who played the father on "Undeclared" and contributed the soundtrack to Knocked Up. The world created is the world they built from the ground up, filled only with people they discovered and trained. It's like these films operate in their own universe, their own tiny Golden-Era Hollywood filled with actors who only appear on screen when summoned by Apatow. And you got to see it all come together right before your eyes.

My brother didn't like the film, found it just coarse and unfunny, full of drug jokes and constant profanity, and I see his point, because it is full of drug jokes and constant profanity and it's easy to get turned off by it all those things, I know a lot of people who were. But watching this movie meant I got to watch the moment when all the awkward young actors I've followed finally truly found their feet. And I don't mean to say - I can't emphasize this strongly enough - that it wasn't funny but I found it funny because I've gotten attached to these actors. I mean to say that I've gotten so in tune with how these movies feel and flow and how the jokes land that it just made it that much funnier, and I got to see all the sweetness and camaraderie that's apparent, not in spite of, but actually through the dirty jokes and drug humor. It was everything I'd been waiting for. And that's saying something.

Four stars out of Five.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Top Power Forwards In The Game

I was watching the NBA Finals tonight, and one of the announcers laid out his Top-Five list for the best power forwards of all time, which I instantly committed to memory for its pure ignorance. The list looked like this:

1. Tim Duncan
2. Charles Barkley
3. Karl Malone
4. Kevin Garnett
5. Kevin McHale

I shouldn't be surprised at this, I suppose; ESPN did a similar poll of ten sportscasters a few years back and came up with virtually the same result. There's a human instinct to quickly forget the players of the past, to believe that what we're seeing now is the best that's ever been. But it's just not the case.

After overpraising LeBron's overdue 48-Special against the Pistons, Bill Simmons hearkened back to his youth, and wrote an illuminating article last week about how quickly our memories fade. He was dead-on. We want to believe that everything before us is history being made - and in some cases, it is. Duncan's quest for his fourth ring in nine years is just one more trophy on one of the most distinguished careers in NBA history. Tim Duncan is not one of the top-ten players of all time, but he is most likely the greatest power forward to play the game. Unlike most sportscasters these days, I think the matter's still up for debate.

Though if you asked me to cast my vote today for who that would be, I would unquestionably pick Duncan. I think it's still up for debate, but I do know who I think should win the debate. I just wish more people were legitimately asking the question, "where does Duncan rate among the greatest power forwards of all time?"

Here's my answer to that question: "Not one notch above Charles Barkley." Barkley is not the second-best power forward in history. Garnett is certainly not the fourth-best power forward in history. Let's look at the stats of these players, the first four of whom were playing NBA ball within the last ten years:

1. Tim Duncan - 21.8 ppg, 11.9 rpg, 3.2 apg, 2-time MVP, 3-time Finals MVP, 9-time All-Star, 9-time All-NBA First Team, 9-time All-Defense First or Second Team.

Those numbers aren't stunning, but they've been consistent year in and year out. And a 3-time Finals MVP, with possibly one more on the way this year (though Tony Parker's probably going to nab this one). Remember, the following three players have zero rings between the three of them

2. Charles Barkley - 22.1 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 3.9 apg, 1 MVP, 10-time All-NBA First or Second Team, 11-time All-Star

3. Karl Malone - 25.0 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 3.6 apg, 2-time MVP, 13-time All-Star, 11-time All-NBA First Team

4. Kevin Garnett- 20.5 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 4.5 apg, 1 MVP, 10-time All-Star, 6-time First or Second All-NBA, 8-time First or Second All-Defense.

5. Kevin McHale - 17.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.7 apg, 7-time All-Star, 6-time First or Second All-Defense. McHale's stats are lower than the players ahead of him since he was one of a number of great players on one of the greatest teams in NBA history, with a number of other scorers: Bird, Parish, Ainge, Johnson, etc. As a result, he's got as many championships as Duncan.

Now, take a look at some of these challengers. Can you think of any reason for these players not to be on this list other than the fact that they played 20-30 years earlier than these five players?
  • Elgin Baylor - 27.4 ppg, 13.5 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1 MVP Award (his rookie year), 10 years All-NBA First Team, 11-Time All-Star
  • Bob Petit - 26.4 ppg, 16.2 rpg, 3.0 apg, 2-time MVP, 11-time All-Star, 10-time All-NBA First Team
  • Elvin Hayes - 21.0 pgpg, 12.5 rpg, 1.8 apg, 12-time All-Star, 6-time All-NBA First or Second Team
We've lost the ability to rationally evaluate the players we see on SportsCenter every night - when someone's better than anyone we've ever seen, it's easy for that person to become the best player of all time. Anyone who's ready to hand over Jordan's legacy and call LeBron "potentially the greatest player ever to play the game" is an idiot. It's still arguable if Jordan was the best of all-time, since we've lost the ability to accurately compare him to players like Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson. It's impossible to weigh the things we've seen against the things we've only seen on paper. It can't be done.

Duncan's going to win another championship in a couple days. When he does, we'll see him hoist that giant awkward looking trophy over his head one more time, grinning through the shower of ticker tape. When he does, the announcers are going to say something like "the greatest power forward in NBA history takes home yet another championship." And I think they'll be right.

I just think that maybe it should still be up for debate.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Arthur The Intern: Week One

Andy asked me to make an "Arthur The Intern" video that was sort of like the Ross The Intern bits Letterman (actually, it was Leno, but that's understandable) used to do, only "not gay." The new guideline for what's going up on the screens in church: something that's not gay. Though that does give me a lot of room to play with, for once.

Arthur and I had met for the first time the day before, so we weren't really sure how this was going to work, but we chatted a bit and came up with this. Apparently people were in hysterics, rolling in the aisles. I'm not really sure why... it's not that funny. But here it is anyway. Andy decided that we're going to do one every week now.


I''ll put the second one up in a day or two.

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