Monday, July 28, 2014

Costner’s Arms Caused Draft Day Harm

According to the Web site Box Office Mojo, as of June 18, 2014, the Kevin Costner film Draft Day grossed $29.4 million worldwide. Against a budget of $25 million, this constitutes a major disappointment for Lions Gate Entertainment.

I was not among the few who forked over money to see a film that, seemingly, only a rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth football fanatic given a free bucket of Milk Duds could tolerate. However, it’s clear that, apart from the insipid drama of the behind-the-scenes string-pulling that occurs on the NFL’s most crucial day of the off-season, the prime reason why Draft Day failed at the box office is Costner’s glaringly obvious lack of range as an actor.

I mean, compare his performance in Draft Day (above) to some of his major roles over the last quarter-century. Clockwise from upper left, in Field of Dreams, JFK, Wyatt Earp, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, and A Perfect World, Costner’s standard acting technique remains unchanged. It matters not whether he’s portraying a historical figure such as New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison or Old West lawman Wyatt Earp, or if Costner’s role is a completely fictional character—he has not altered that cool, calm, arms-crossed stance that so defines his image across the decades.

Sure, arm-crossing is called for in some roles—but to keep drawing from that well for one’s entire career is to sabotage that career by desensitizing the audience. “We no longer care that he’s acting casually confident—he’s done it,” filmgoers clearly said by staying away from Draft Day in droves. Do we really need more proof of the potential of arms on the screen than Molly Shannon in Episode 156 of Seinfeld, “The Summer of George”? Letting her arms “hang like salamis” as she “lurches around like a caveman” led to interoffice chaos.

And the less said how disastrous is Raquel Welch’s lack of arm movement in that episode, the better…
Okay, said arm-swinging led to a pair of arousing catfights involving Elaine…but who wants to see Kevin Costner in a catfight, even if it were to produce the drama Draft Day so sorely missed?

The bottom line is that arms = conflict. Can you imagine the bore-fest Raging Bull would have been had DeNiro stood scene after scene in the ring with his arms crossed? You can’t throw the title and pathetically destroy your career and reputation if you don’t first move your arms to punch and win the title...

Perhaps I’m being too harsh on Costner. He could well be an unknowing victim of Hollywood typecasting, selected for these roles solely because of his experience and proficiency in characters that cross their arms—not unlike Marlon Brando, whose outstanding ability to ooze psychotic torment by grabbing his skull landed him many a classic role.

So I suppose I’ll cut Costner some slack and give him until Draft Day II: I Can’t Believe They Green-Lighted This One Also to sort himself out…

(Image from Draft Day copyright Summit Entertainment Lions Gate; image from Field of Dreams copyright Universal Pictures; images from JFK, Wyatt Earp, and A Streetcar Named Desire copyright Warner Brothers; image from Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit copyright Paramount Pictures; image from A Perfect World copyright Malpaso Productions; image from Apocalypse Now copyright Zoetrope Studios.)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

This Guy's Got a Little Too Much Nike on the Psyche

These photos have recently made the rounds on I know nothing of their source nor the reason for the drivers unorthodox technique.

My guess is that hes constantly saying embarrassingly asinine things.

Or perhaps hes suffering from a particularly virulent case of Aphthae epizooticae.

If the former, we can only hope that this man is en route to sensitivity training; if the latter, that hes on his way to a top-notch veterinarian.

Then again, I suppose this could be a pre-2005 photo of him placing a call on his mobile to Don Adams. (Laws prohibiting using a phone while driving were not widespread or well-enforced back then...)

Friday, July 25, 2014

It's Not a Lie...if You Believed It in 1937

Beg, Borrow or Steal, a rather obscure comedy from 1937, aired on the Turner Classic Movies channel this afternoon. Its description in the Comcast grid:

As a gesture, an American in Paris invites his daughters wedding party to his nonexistent châteauand they all accept.

This plot sounds remarkably similar to Seinfeld Episode 171, The Wizard, in which George Costanza is caught in a lie to his would-have-been in-laws, the Rosses, about not being able to attend a charity event on behalf of his deceased fiancé because he is closing a lease on a house in The Hamptons. When the Rosses dont call him on his lie, an infuriated George decides its time to get nuts and takes it up a notch by inviting the Rosses to his new summer home. Hilarity ensues when the Rosses call his bluff, and George spends two painfully awkward hours driving them to the very end of Long Island, all the while describing in exquisite detail his nonexistent house, including two solariums and a pair of horses, Snoopy and Prickly Pete.

I didnt get to watch the film, but reading Comcasts description of Beg, Borrow or Steal, its not hard to picture American expatriate Ingraham Steward (Frank Morgan) squirming to keep his Costanza-esque lie going as the wedding guests inquire about his” château. A lavish, pre-war, French home likely built in the 19th century most certainly had two solariumsas did Georges purported lease. And horses for sureIm betting Snupây and Épineux Pierre. Lets face it: lies and deceit were all the rage throughout Europe in the 1930s...

It seems as though MGM got nuts and took it up a notch sixty years before George did...

(Beg, Borrow or Steal image copyright MGM; Seinfeld image copyright NBC.)

Carl Spackler's Lifetime of Learning to Think Like an Animal

This U.S. Department of Agriculture bulletin was published in January 1940. No wonder the United States was so unprepared for Pearl Harbor and the Second World War: While the Axis powers were running rampant across Europe, Asia, and Africa, Franklin D. Roosevelts administration worried about relatively harmless mammals that, although endangering American lawns and golf courses with their burrowing, certainly posed less threat to democracy than Hitler, Hirohito, and the other guy.

Geopolitical commentary aside, I believe that very well might be little Carl Spackler learning greenskeeping tips from his father. Carls age is never indicated in Caddyshack, but he could well be in his mid-forties. A life of golf-course maintenance in the unforgiving sun and liberal indulgence with northern California sinsemilla cannonballed by white wine likely has weathered Carl beyond his years, so being the youngster pictured on this 1940 cover is not beyond the realm of possibility.

Sure, as assistant greenskeeper at Bushwood Country Club, Carls primary task is to keep the course free of the destructive gopher, but its burrowing brethren, the mole, poses just as much threat to the American way of pretending to be athleticso dont think for one minute that the mole isnt also Varmint Cong, even if it doesnt prefer dancing to folk-pop as much as its tunneling counterpart. Thus, there is no reason that an experienced groundskeeper such as the man pictured on the Mole Control coveras well as his apprentice sonwouldnt also know how to deal with the pesky gopher that decades later would plague Bushwood and its upper-crust members.

True, one would think that a greenskeeper training since the 1940s wouldnt still be six years from the position of head greenskeeper in 1980, but who knows how long Carl spent in Tibet caddying for the Dalai Lama as well as practicing to become a Cinderella-story Masters champion, himself? And lets not forget that Carl devoted a lot of time to broadening his education on chinch bugs, manganese, and nitrogen, not to mention inventing and registering his own kind of hybrid grass. So even though hes got that going for himwhich clearly is niceCarls career development might be lagging...

Au revoir, mole...

(Image of Carl Spackler copyright Warner Brothers Pictures.)     

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Apparently, The History Channel Don't Know Much About History

I was recently re-watching episodes of How the Earth Was Made, a 25-episode History Channel series that premiered in 2009. I had some gripes about it during the original run but never put them to keyboard. So it’s high time I vented about the series—particularly Episode 9 of Season 2: “Mount St. Helen’s.” Clearly, the writers and producers of the show were starting to scrape the barrel for topics in Season 2, but this episode’s premise is especially ridiculous.

As you no doubt surmised, this episode centers on the eruption of Mount St. Helen’s in Washington State—the only major volcanic eruption in the continental United States in modern times. Twelve years old when the volcano blew itself apart, I know full well the significance of the event and remember well the havoc it wrought.

But that was 1980—and this is a series about how the Earth was made. By all scientific consensus, the Earth is 4.6 billion years old. I hardly need to do the math for you, but to illustrate my point…

Earth’s 4.6-billion-year age had long been established by the episode’s debut

This episode first aired in February 2010—30 years after the eruption

So, 4.6 × 109 – 30 = 4,599,999,970 years.

Therefore, 4,599,999,970 years—or 99.99999934782609% of Earth’s existence by this episode’s original airing—had already elapsed by the time Mount St. Helen’s erupted in 1980.* In other words, Earth had long been made when the Washington volcano went kablooey. To purport that the Mount St. Helen’s eruption had anything to do with the making of the Earth would be like a centenarian trying to pass off his latest birthday cake as his birth certificate.

* Even in Christian fundamentalist Ken Ham’s creationist world of nonsense, a volcanic eruption so recent would mean that 99.5% of the 6,000-year-old Earth’s history had already elapsed—making Mount St. Helen’s just as irrelevant in the context of this series.

But the Mount St. Helen’s episode wasn’t the only relatively recent event that made for highly questionable television. How the Earth Was Made also featured episodes about the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883; the Vesuvius catastrophe of ad 79; the formation of the Sahara, which occurred a mere few thousand years before that; and a general overview of tsunamiswhich have absolutely nothing to do with the formation of the waterless Earth and have less to do with ongoing processes that currently affect it than any other phenomenon spotlighted in the series. 

Don’t misinterpret my harsh criticism as utter disapproval—I enjoy the series and find it highly informative. I just think that the series’ title is deceptive and ill-conceived. Considering the immense timeline of topics covered, it would have done much better with a less-specific title…perhaps something along the lines of How the Earth Did Stuff or When Bad Things Happen to Good Planets.

After all, it’s not as if History Channel doesn’t have a…um…history of broadcasting programs and series that utterly contradict its mission statement, viz., Life After People. (It similarly ran the future-based The Road Warrior several times about a decade ago.) Hardly the stuff of history

I don’t demand much from History Channel…but I do demand thematic fidelity!