Posts Tagged ‘review’

There was a recent Daily Double on the game show JEOPARDY, in the category PARDONER: Ronald Reagan pardoned this owner for illegal campaign contributions in 1989–the Gipper a Yankees fan?

The contestant guessed George Steinbrenner and was, of course, correct. What other owner of that American League franchise could many people name? And which other owner would be in need of Presidential absolution?

Steinbrenner – The Last Lion of Baseball was written by Bill Madden, a well-regarded writer who had a “mostly pleasant working relationship with George in his “capacity as a baseball writer” for UPI and then the New York Daily News. But Madden was furious when he had been fed some bogus story by Steinbrenner about how Lou Pinella, a manager George fired, was trying to steal the furniture.

Steinbrenner was always firing managers, publicity directors, and general managers, who presumably run the day-to-day operations of a team. But it was difficult for all of them because he was a hands-on owner, luring or aggravating the players.

George grew up in Ohio and made his wealth first by reviving the family-owned Kinsman Marine Transit Company, then purchasing it from his family. He later was a co-owner of the American Shipbuilding Company, and, in 1967, he became its chairman and chief executive officer. By 1972, the company’s gross sales were more than $100 million annually.

CBS bought the New York Yankees in 1965, but it was not a good fit. Early in 1973, Steinbrenner, who had tried and failed to buy the Cleveland Indians in 1971, led a group of investors in purchasing the Yankees for $10 million. However, part of the price was two parking garages that CBS bought back the garages for $1.2 million, so the net cost was $8.8 million.

One of my friends recently told me that, though he grew up as a Yankees fan, he changed allegiances, and it was entirely because of the massive amounts Steinbrenner spent in trying to buy championships. I get that. During his 37-year ownership from 1973 to his death in July 2010, the Yankees did earn seven World Series titles and 11 American League pennants.

Madden’s book was exceedingly thorough and obviously well researched. I was feeling a bit exhausted, though, about three-quarters of the way through the 430-page book. Oh, yeah, ANOTHER manager fired – he hired and fired former Yankee infielder Billy Martin FIVE times as manager!

Or dissing one of his players; in 1990, baseball commissioner Fay Vincent booted Steinbrenner out of baseball “for having paid a two-bit gambler to dig up dirt on the Dave Winfield Foundation.” George once dubbed Winfield Mr. May for a poor post-season.

In many ways, George Steinbrenner was a loud, pompous, opinionated, stubborn rich fellow who reminded me of a current part-time DC resident. At least George could play the stadium organ. Oh, yeah, Reagan pardoned Steinbrenner for his really minor financial role in the Watergate scandal.

Fahrenheit 11 9.The family saw Fahrenheit 11/9 at the Spectrum Theater this month. I knew it was going to be heavily about the guy currently running the regime, but it was a lot more than that.

In fact, what filmmaker Michael Moore said about him early on was, as Moore noted, known or at least knowable. OK, there was one thing I was not aware of, involved Gwen Stefani. The filmmaker did confirm what I suspected about the motivation for the candidate’s campaign run.

Moore showed Michigan governor Rick Snyder, a Republican elected in 2010, as a prototype for the former Apprentice star. The agendas were similar: reduce democracy, big tax breaks for the rich, “remove services from the people, especially from the poor. There’s a racial element to it” as well, as seen painfully in the Flint water crisis that his administration created.

One of the members of my church who saw Fahrenheit 11/9 before I did, complained that Barack Obama came to Flint and did nothing. I disagree; he deflated people’s hopes, and in an unnecessary manner.

Even though I noted it in this blog at the time, listening to now-former CBS head honcho Les Moonves tout the great ratings the reality show guy was creating for the network was really revolting. Likewise that interview Matt Lauer did of the party’s presidential candidates in the summer of 2016; he was unrelenting about Hillary’s emails but offered up softballs to the Republican. Ditto Charlie Rose’s coverage. All three, not so incidentally, were ousted from their positions as sexual predators.

The news outlets, as my friend Dan noted, presented “him nonstop as an entertaining TV personality full of outrageous antics while suppressing mention of other candidates… that is, besides a coordinated campaign of negatives about Ms. Clinton as a sideshow.” The reality show host was able to “normalize” some outrageous behavior.

“Also, [Moore] convincingly demonstrates that Bernie Sanders actually won more than half a dozen other states in the Primary election, but” the use of the superdelegates undermined the will of the electorate. “For example, Mr. Sanders won all 55 counties in the West Virginia Primary…”

Can we stop this “calculated slide into fascism and chaos”? A stream of often young, frequently female candidates, give hope, though the pushback from establishment Democrats, embodied here by House party whip Steny Hoyer, makes one wonder.

I’ve seen a lot of Michael Moore films over the years. This one is less optimistic than most, but perhaps that’s the nature of the situation. If you like Moore’s work, you’ll probably appreciate – enjoy isn’t the right word – Fahrenheit 11/9. If you hate his documentaries, you’ll likely despise this movie.

My wife and I are probably the perfect demographic, a teacher and a librarian, for a movie such as The Bookshop. And note the protagonist’s surname. The story takes place in 1959 England, where a determined widow Florence Green (Emily Mortimer) decides to open a bookstore in a coastal town.

She does this with little help, save for a schoolgirl named Christine (Honor Kneafsey), and in spite of the keen opposition of Violet Gamart (Patricia Clarkson), wife of a general (Reg Wilson). But she has a fan in Edmund Brundish, a reclusive book-loving widower (Bill Nighy), to whom she introduces the works of Ray Bradbury and Vladimir Nabokov.

There is also a slick, morally unmoored character Mr. Keble (Hunter Tremayne), who slithers in and out of scenes.

The Bookshop is based on Penelope Fitzgerald’s novel and directed by Isabel Coixet (Learning to Drive). I think my wife enjoyed the film as “an elegant yet incisive rendering of personal resolve, tested in the battle for the soul of a community.”

Alas, I found it rather bland and often lugubrious. Some critics believe it hewed too closely to the source material, which we had not read.

Moreover, the business librarian in me couldn’t understand why Florence was so determined to have a bookstore at all. “Is there a place for a bookshop in a town that may not want one?” Know your market, any business adviser would recommend. Nor could I really discern why Violet was so gung-ho for a community center in the venue instead.

That said, the film was a moderately interesting study of power dynamics, and how the system can be manipulated. And speaking of power, I always loved it when Nighy’s Edmund was on screen; he had a presence.

I can’t really recommend The Bookshop, but my wife would. As usual, we saw it at the Spectrum 8 in Albany.

blackkklansmanAfter BlacKkKlansman, which the three of us saw at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany, my daughter wanted to be held by her parents. I’m still not sure it was as a result of seeing the main story or it in combination with the coda. You may have already read about it, but I’m not sharing that.

The film starts off with a George Rockwell-like character (Alec Baldwin) setting the stage for the main, true story.

Ron Stallworth (John David Washington, Denzel’s son) becomes the first black police officer in the Colorado Springs Police Department. Initially, he’s stuck in the records room, where he’s harassed by his colleagues. He’s then assigned to check out a speech by Kwame Ture, ne Stokely Carmichael (Corey Hawkins). He seemingly befriends the head of the black student union, Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier), who doesn’t know Ron’s real profession.

Ron then discovers the phone number of a local branch of the Ku Klux Klan, er, The Organization. For the face-to-face meetings, Stallworth recruits his Jewish coworker, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), who meets Walter (Ryan Eggold) and the somewhat unhinged Felix Kendrickson (Jasper Pääkkönen). Stallworth calls Klan headquarters in Louisiana to expedite his membership and speaks with David Duke (Topher Grace), the Grand Wizard, with whom he begins regular conversations on the phone.

The story tracks along at a pace, but I start feeling nervous when the story bounces back and forth between a Klan initiation rite and Jerome Turner (Harry Belafonte) telling painful stories of American history.

Director Spike Lee responded to criticism of BlacKkKlansman by Sorry to Bother You director Boots Riley. Riley took issue with Lee’s film, co-written by Kevin Willmott, David Rabinowitz, and Charlie Wachtel, for making a cop a hero against racism. Lee noted, correctly, “Black people are not a monolithic group.” I also noted in the movie Ron’s ambivalence when he was undercover investigating the black student union’s activities.

The funniest thing surrounding BlacKkKlansman is real Ron Stallworth telling Lester Holt of NBC News that the real David Duke called him to find out if Spike Lee’s Cannes-winning film was going to be fair to Duke. Highly recommended.

eighth gradeThere was an easy way my wife and I knew the movie Eighth Grade was definitely on the right track; we brought our recent eighth grader with us to the Spectrum Theatre in Albany. She sat between her mother and me at the cinema, and alternated burying her face in into the arm of one parent or another in mortified recognition.

The film is an honest and poignant comedy about Kayla (newcomer Elsie Fisher) as she’s continually trying to figure out adolescence during the last week of middle school. Her father Mark (Josh Hamilton) tries to negotiate the terrain between showing that he cares and trying to give his daughter space, but just ends up leaving her exasperated. (Sometimes I know the feeling.)

I suppose what I like about the film is what it’s not. It largely avoids being a knock-off of Mean Girls or Clueless. Social media plays a large part in this endeavor – Kayla records a bunch of self-help videos – but she doesn’t become a YouTube star. It’s not an emo bummer.

Writer/director Bo Burnham, who says that he’s never been a 13-year old girl, talked on The Daily Show about how his stand-up comedy was really appealing to that middle school demographic.

Maybe it’s that there’s something universal about being person unprepared for the challenges of being on the cusp of adulthood, a period many look back upon with an odd mixture of nostalgia and horror.

The film is rated R for “language and some sexual material”, none of which was ribald enough to suggest you keep your teen home. In fact, some of the sex ed stuff is hysterically funny, and true.

Naomi Fry of The New Yorker says the movie has “queasy verisimilitude.” If you’ve ever been thirteen, you should watch Eighth Grade, and drag a teenager with you if you can.

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