MOVIE REVIEW: “BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD”
The opening scene in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” begins with great promise. We’re introduced to an enchanting seven-year-old girl, played to perfection by newcomer Quvenzhane Wallis. She takes us by the hand on what will be a narrative adventure into her unseen world — the murky backwaters of the Louisiana Bayou. As starting credits rolled, I thought to myself that I was about to experience one of the best films of the year.
Instead, an hour later, I was standing out in the lobby following a walkout.
So — what happened?
Critics have fallen all over themselves in reviews of this film. It’s received almost universal praise – for cinematography, story, performances, and originality.
It’s easy to see why the reviews have been so positive. Indeed, the film is original. It’s emotional. It’s a tremendous cinematic achievement, especially given its low budget ($1.8 million, paltry by Hollywood standards). Filming in a swamp, which is the setting for the entire film, must have been a daunting challenge. Moreover, for a film with no known actors, the performances prove to be not only realistic, but perhaps too convincing for conventional tastes.
So – why did I storm out of this film?
There was some encouraging news last week. A series of polls was conducted in several nations. The polls intended to measure religious faith and atheism. The findings were published last Friday.
The bottom line is — religion is on the decline. Or, as I prefer to think of it — enlightenment is on the rise.
That’s positive news to those of us fatigued by the insufferable influences of religion on politics and society. How refreshing to learn that increasing numbers of people everywhere are rebuffing the archaic superstition of some giant “sky daddy,” rejecting the whimsy of a paternal heavenly dictator who sees and knows all.
If the poll numbers are to be believed, the shifts in faith (and lack thereof) are stunning. Globally, belief in religion declined 9 percent since a similar poll was taken back in 2005. That’s just eight years ago. This number is based on 50,000 people who were polled in 57 different countries.
In the United States, the number of religious followers declined by 13 percent. But that number pales in comparison to Ireland, where religiosity declined by a whopping 22 percent. To be fair, the weakening of Irish faith may have a lot to do with recent scandals that have plagued the Catholic Church, which remains the dominant faith in Ireland.
After a Buffalo Bills game in 1998
AN UPDATE (ENTERING 2012 REGULAR SEASON):
In 2001, I spent the entire summer creating my halftime betting angles, which could be applied across the board to all NFL regular season and playoff games.
I released these betting angles at a major sports betting information website. The angles were later re-printed numerous times in several other betting forums and publications.
These seven betting angles hit in the 53-60 percent rate over two decades. They actually performed even better after their public release — hitting around 62 percent in both 2001 and 2002. There were about 4 to 5 plays per week, so not only were these angles extremely profitable, they also produced a fair amount of volume. Best of all, these was absolutely no handicapping involved.
The downside to releasing and popularizing these halftime betting angles is many football bettors gradually caught on to them. They began to lose value as heavy money poured in every time there was a play. Opening halftime lines began changing. Totals moved by a point, or move. For instance, we never used to see anything below a 17 as a second-half total. Now, 16s are commonplace.
Over the course of the next few seasons (2003 and beyond), the sportsbooks/oddsmakers caught on to these angles and began adjusting their numbers so much that betting these angles blindly was no longer profitable.
Moreover, two trends in recent years have severely hurt the angles. First, NFL rule changes tend to favor offenses which creates more scoring. Second, NFL quarterback play is now at its all-time historic pinnacle, which kills opportunities to bet second-half UNDERS.
Unlike what I first released ten years ago, I do not have confidence that all of these angles will produce a profit. However, I am posting them here for consideration if anyone wants to tinker with them, try and refine them, or run the W-L results since 2005. Some bettors have told me that some of these angles (mostly the OVERS) are still profitable. But I have not run the actual the data. So, tread with caution.
You will please forgive one disclaimer. I put in a massive number of hours doing research coming up with these angles. Over the years, many writers and fellow football handicappers have purged them without proper attribution. All I ask is to be credited with doing the research. I think that’s fair.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED — MAY BE REPRINTED ONLY IF AUTHOR IS CREDITED
PART 1: GENERAL THOUGHTS
Just as there are “key” numbers is side betting and game totals, there are also key numbers in second-half totals. The key numbers are as follows: 17, 20, and 24.
Leave it to three casino industry tycoons to display the most brazen acts of hypocrisy in recent memory.
What would you call someone who repeatedly blasts our president for his “socialist-style economy,” while raking in billions in profits during the time frame the president has been in office?
What would you call someone who refers to our leader “the greatest wet blanket to business,” yet managed to double the size of his casino empire and increase his net personal worth by $200 million during the president’s first term?
What would you call someone who declared bankruptcy four years ago (at the end of the previous administration), and then preposterously claimed his net worth is several billion today?
If you’re having trouble coming up with the right words, let me help you.
It’s impossible to imagine three more hypocritical blowhards than casino moguls Sheldon Adelson, Steve Wynn, and Donald Trump. Their political posturing would be side-splitting if it were not so downright shameful.
The three current and former casino owner-executives have repeatedly blasted President Obama since he took office in early 2009. They are certainly entitled to their opinions — outlandish as they may be. But the facts clearly reveal, like the rest of the top one-percent of wealthiest Americans, they have enriched themselves handsomely under the current administration.
But that doesn’t stop the posturing nor the hyperbole. Never let the facts get in the way of creative sound bites. President Obama is anti-business, they say. President Obama is bad for the economy, they say. President Obama is a Socialist, they say. Yada. Yada. Yada.
One would think the three musketeers of malaise have suffered while President Obama’s been residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. One would be led to believe their businesses have lost money or that they suffered personal financial setbacks. But a look at the facts reveals quite the opposite. In fact, these three hypocrites have – by any measure – made astronomical profits since President Obama took office.
Let’s look at the record, shall we?
MOVIE REVIEW: THE INTOUCHABLES
A French movie with English subtitles enters the finicky American movie market with two strikes against it.
It’s French — strike one.
It has subtitles — strike two.
Which is a crying shame, because one of the year’s most enjoyable and uplifting films has pretty much come and vanished from theaters, unable to garner much attention during another summer filled with mindless action adventure “thrillers” and sleep-inducing “comedies.”
The Intouchables is a marvelous film. Carried by two outstanding lead performances by Francois Cluzet (who bears an uncanny resemblance to Dustin Hoffman) and Omar Cy (who deserves an Oscar nomination for a movie-stealing performance), this film has wit, candor, humor, sadness, and ultimately great inspiration. The film’s credibility is boosted by it being based on a true story.
Cluzet plays a quadriplegic, which means he is confined to a wheelchair unable to feel any sensation below his neck. If there’s any upside, it’s that he’s also very wealthy, giving him considerable options that would not otherwise be available to a person of lesser means.
Cluzet is utterly bored with his life, not the least of which has anything to do with his physical impairment. One senses that even if he were not parked in a wheelchair, he would still need something more. A great deal more, in fact. What Cluzet needs is stimulation, excitement, and most of all – someone he can call a friend.
He finds all of this in the unlikeliest of places.
MOVIE REVIEW: TO ROME WITH LOVE
Woody Allen’s seventh postcard from Europe lacks enough postage. It should be rubber-stamped “Return to Sender.” This is undoubtedly the most disappointing of all his films set in Europe.
Following a lifetime spent channeling New York’s neurotic side, creating some of the most memorable roles in modern film history (Annie Hall, Leonard Zelig, Danny Rose, and of course – Allen himself), the 76-year-old film legend abruptly departed his familiar Manhattan backdrop in 2004, taking his introspective wit across the Atlantic, initially to London, then Barcelona, followed by Paris, and now Rome.
His latest release To Rome with Love has all the ingredients of yet another tasty Allen stew. But in the end, all we sample is watered-down broth, poorly seasoned, with stale recollections of the spicy flavors that made Match Point, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and Midnight in Paris so thoroughly original and enjoyable.
To be fair to Allen, he’s coming off his biggest commercial success ever, which is a hard act to follow. Since his heyday as a writer-director-star during the 1970s, Allen’s films haven’t performed particularly well at the box office. But like summer stock theater, they tend to make just enough money to keep Allen atop the list of directors most actors long to work with. For that reason, Allen pretty much gets his pick of the litter as to who he casts in his films, and often writes characters perfectly suited to the typecasting.
NOLAN’S GUIDE TO RESTAURANT TIPPING
1. Food Service
Start with 20 percent of full bill (tax included) and work way either up or down, based on the following events.
If server approaches my table within the first two minutes, maintain 20 percent tip. Then, deduct one percent for every minute the server is tardy. If server shows up 2 to 3 minutes late and then profusely apologizes, reset meter to 20 percent. Moreover, if server stops by and asks for more time, allow one reset. But no more than one reset permitted.
If no waiter shows up within five minutes, bolt for the door. No questions asked.
If I am alone or dining with Marieta, we ALWAYS order everything IMMEDIATELY. I do not want to fuck around and have multiple visits from some college kid asking what I want on each course — drinks, appetizers, and main course. Let’s get to the point, I am here to E-A-T. Not listen to someone’s life story.
Furthermore, I DO NOT WANT TO KNOW THE WAITER’S NAME! I am ordering a meal from you, not buying a fucking house.
IF WATERGATE DIDN’T HAPPEN, WOULD WE NOW HAVE UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE?
Thirty-eight years ago tonight, President Richard Nixon resigned from the most powerful job in the world.
August 9, 1974 was a particularly muggy night in Washington, fitting for the national tragedy that was the final tortured two years of Richard Nixon’s doomed presidency.
Everyone in America knew what Nixon was going to say on television that incredible night — announcing to the world that he would become the first and only president in American history to resign from office. But until we actually watched it for ourselves, until we witnessed it, until we heard the President tearfully utter the fateful words, “I shall resign the presidency,” no one really contemplated the full force of gravity that was the tragedy and sorrow of that memorable night.
I was 12 years old when I watched Nixon’s resignation. During the spring leading up to that night, in school classrooms we watched the Senate committee hearings on Watergate, which were carried live on all three major networks. This was long before cable television, so everyone knew what was going on politically in this country, since that was all that was shown. And what grand theater it was — the nation’s first real reality show, with an astounding cast of characters, entwined in the gravest of controversies.
By the summer of 1974, just about everyone in America loathed Nixon — even Republicans. His job approval ratings hit an all-time low of 12 percent. Resignation was inevitable.
Richard Nixon was a divisive figure, to be sure, and very much remains so. He’s arguably the most vilified American political leader of the 20th Century by those on the left, and in the judgment of many. Perhaps, even deservedly so.
Yet behind his utter disregard for the U.S. Constitution during the crisis, and the crimes which eventually became known as the Watergate scandal, was a highly-accomplished man of tremendous intellect and great potential. Indeed, he very well might have gone down as the greatest LIBERAL since FDR, had his executive agenda not been diverted by the massive cover up and all-consuming series of events that led to his downfall.
Romanian Army forces during the 1989 Romanian Revolution
The Romanian Revolution took place in December 1989. I lived in Romania at the time and was assigned to the American Embassy in Bucharest.
Few Americans or Westerners lived in Romania during that period. It was one of the East Bloc’s most repressive regimes. Media were not allowed into the country, and so there remains relatively little coverage of one of the most extraordinary political upheavals since World War II.
Romania was one of the final Eastern European Communist dictatorships to collapse, following a series of relatively peaceful revolutions in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and East Germany — which had taken place during the preceding months.
However, aside from the aftermath of Yugoslavia’s demise in the early 1990s, Romania’s “revolution” was by far the most violent. Thousands died in the bloody street battles between the dissidents aligned with the Romanian Army and dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s private military forces known as “Securitate.” In fact, a series of demonstrations and riots plagued Romania over the next six months leading into the Summer of 1990.
I’ll be writing a series of narratives about these experiences in the weeks to come. In the meantime, here’s a glimpse of some photography (most of it mine, which is why it’s of lesser quality) which has not been seen before. Most of these photos have been kept in my garage. Keep in mind these photos were taken before digital cameras. Moreover, film was very difficult to obtain in Romania at the time, which makes photographs (and especially video) of the revolution somewhat rare.
Nolan (in white) with officers in the Romanian Army
Yesterday’s blog ended with the following statement:
“President Obama’s first term has been a failure not because he has been one of us – which means being a Liberal. His presidency up to this point has been a crushing disappointment, because — the fact of the matter is — he has been one of them.”
So, what do I mean by – “one of them?”
President Obama has failed to break from the mainstream establishment on any major issue of importance. Never mind that he’s been falsely labeled a leftist, a liberal, a socialist, and (gasp!) even a Marxist — preposterous characterizations to anyone with an understanding of what those terms mean aside from all the demagoguery. Fact is, the current Administration has taken virtually no major risks in it’s first three-and-a-half years and has essentially governed from the political center.