erik lundegaard

Sunday February 18, 2018

Paul Ryan's Jerk Reactions to Mass Killings

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Posted at 01:51 PM on Feb 18, 2018 in category Politics
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Box Office: Black Panther Roars to $192 Million Record-Breaking Opening

Black Panther breaks box office records with $192 million opening

This is how the world changes: not with a bang but a ka-ching.

OK, there was a bang in there, too. 

In case you didn't hear, three movies opened this weekend:

  • “Samson,” a “bargain-bin Biblical epic” whose main critical watchword appears to be “sluggish”—although it is the kind of thing right-wing Christians have demanded from Hollywood for years. It grossed $1.9 million and finished in 10th place.
  • “Early Man,” a British stop-action animation from the makers of “Wallace and Grommit.” It grossed $3.1 million and finished in 7th place.
  • “Black Panther,” about the titular Wakandan/Marvel superhero, starring Chadwick Boseman (“42,” “Get On Up,” “Marshall”—basically every 20th-century African-American icon), and directed by Ryan Coogler (“Fruitvale Station,” “Creed”). It got great reviews (97% at RT) and grossed $192 million. It finished in 1st place. With a fucking bullet. 

You could actually say “Black Panther” finished in 5th place since that's where its $192 mil places it on the all-time opening weekend chart. Only “The Avengers,” “Jurassic World,” and “Star Wars” VII and VIII opened better.

Wow.

I wish I saw it coming. Not even close. I always thought of Black Panther as a minor character in the Marvel universe. Even among black characters in the Marvel universe, I would‘ve placed him behind Luke Cage and maybe the Falcon. And here he’s blowing everybody away. He's blowing Batman and Superman away. He reigns. 

Plus it's February. You know the biggest all-time Feb. opening before this? “Deadpool” at $132 million two years ago. Then “Fifty Shades of Grey” at $85 and “Passion of the Christ” at $84. It's not a big box-office month. February has generally been a dumping ground for shitty romances (“Valentine's Day,” “The Vow”), cut-rate Christian movies (“Son of God,” “Risen”), and second-rate superheroes (“Daredevil,” “Ghost Rider”). Maybe that's what Buena Vista originally thought “Black Panther” was. Or maybe they saw unstaked territory. But I doubt they saw $192. 

Here's the records “Black Panther” has already shattered:

  • Biggest Feb. opening
  • Biggest single-character Marvel opening
  • Biggest single-character superhero opening

But that's actually downplaying the achievement. This feels like a game-changer. $192 million is something even Hollywood can't ignore. 

Would it be wrong to suggest that some part of this box office feels like a reaction against our cultural times? That if Trump wasn't in the White House, “Black Panther” would‘ve done well but not $192 million well? Unprovable, of course. And just a sense. Raising the question: Has some part of our box office become politicized? We go to the theater to hear/see what we’re not hearing/seeing in the public/political realms. Or what we think we‘re not hearing in the public/political realm. During the Obama years, Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” broke January box-office records; but with Trump fulminating in the Oval Office the same people couldn't be bothered to see Clint Eastwood's “The 15:17 to Paris,” which, after two weekends, stands at $25 mil. The right-wing crazies don't need that fix; they get it every day on Twitter.

I was curious how Breitbart's Big Hollywood was dealing with BP's huge weekend. Doesn't it go against what they always argue? That Hollywood does poorly at the box office because conservative values aren't honored by Hollywood liberals? So how are they justifying this? So I went there. And no, you don't want to know. Their critic, John Nolte, is arguing that “Black Panther” is not a movie about race but about values. Conservative values. Nolte is actually arguing that Black Panther is Trump while the villain is Black Lives Matter. Yes. Yes, he is. 

Patricia and I see the movie tomorrow.

Breitbart can spin however it wants, this is a roar. This is such a roar that everyone has to pay attention. It's James Baldwin's line backed by money: “The world is white no longer, and it will never be white again.”

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Posted at 10:27 AM on Feb 18, 2018 in category Movies - Box Office
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Saturday February 17, 2018

Person of Interest

Earlier this month, I wrote more than 1,000 words on a shitty movie, “Mark Felt,” which is basically “All the President's Men” from Deep Throat's perspective, but I forgot to add this. It's a small thing, barely worth mentioning. But I'm going to mention it. 

It's from a late-movie meeting between Felt and an unnamed CIA figure played by Eddie Marsan. They sit on park benches. Without many wasted words, we get the sense that the agency man knows Felt is Deep Throat. He's warning him. He says he‘ll cover for him as long as he can, then reminds him: “Presidents come and go. The CIA stays, the FBI stays. We are the constants.” It’s a good scene.

So what's my problem? This line from the agency man:

Time magazine's Person of the Year is going to be Richard Nixon. I thought you'd like to know.

The line has the vibe of something Ben Bradlee says at the end of “All the President's Men”: “Have you seen the latest polls? Half the country hasn't even heard of Watergate. No one gives a shit.” I.e., You‘re risking all of this but Nixon’s as popular as ever. No one gives a shit.  

I'm fine with the ATPM echo. I'm fine with “No one gives a shit,” because no words are truer, sadly. I'm not fine with one word. 

Person of the Year? In 1972? That just leapt out at me. Watching, I thought, “It didn‘t become Person of the Year until when? The 1980s? At least? Before that it was ’Man of the Year.' Or ‘Woman.’ Or ‘Men’ or ‘Women.’” I was right. And wrong. Time didn't change it to “Person of the Year” until 1999. More than a quarter century after that scene.

I know. It's a tiny detail. But you get the details right. Because some of the details—as here—tell you the story of the culture.

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Posted at 07:03 AM on Feb 17, 2018 in category Movies
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Friday February 16, 2018

NPR Thought It Thaw a Thaw

The mainstream media still bends over backwards to appease the right-wing in this country. Even The Washington Post, which normally does better, ran this headline over a post-Parkland piece about the grades given to U.S. Senators by the NRA:

52 senators have an A-minus NRA rating or higher — including four Democrats

“Including four Democrats.” Republicans don't even make the cut. They don't get the blame unless you do the obvious math: Ninety-two percent of the politicians who back the NRA's agenda are Republicans. In what world does the 8% become the headline rather than the 92%?

You can argue the headline is pushing back against the conventional wisdom that says it's all the Republicans' fault—except they never run that headline. They run headlines blaming “Washington” or “Congress” or “politicians.” So the above pushes back against a conventional wisdom that is never aired. 

Christ. 

On NPR this morning, as part of their top-of-the-hour news rundown, they mentioned that Mitt Romney officially declared his run for U.S. Senate in Utah, then talked about his icy relationship with Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign. This icy relationship, NPR said, thawed after the election. 

Thawed? This is that thaw:

Trump Romney meeting

These small things add up. You can't keep describing a reality that doesn't exist without losing readers and listeners.

Thufferin' thuccotash.

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Posted at 07:32 AM on Feb 16, 2018 in category Media
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Thursday February 15, 2018

Someone Finally Said It

“If we actually want to do something about gun violence, both the dramatic mass shootings and the relentless toll of 30 or so gun homicides we experience each and every day, there is something we can do. It's simple and straightforward. Are you ready? Here it is:

Don't vote for Republicans.”

— Paul Waldman, “The one thing we can do to address gun violence,”  The Washington Post

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Posted at 08:24 PM on Feb 15, 2018 in category Quote of the Day
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To Do

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Posted at 08:52 AM on Feb 15, 2018 in category Quote of the Day
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‘It doesn’t seem to matter to our government that children are being shot to death day after day'

“Nothing has been done. It doesn't seem to matter to our government that children are being shot to death day after day in schools. It doesn't matter that people are being shot at a concert, in a movie theater. It's not enough, apparently, to move our leadership, our government, people that are running this country, to actually do anything. That's demoralizing.

”But we can do something about it. We can vote people in who actually have the courage to protect people's lives and not just bow down to the NRA because they‘ve financed their campaign for them. So, hopefully we’ll find enough people, first of all, to vote good people in, but hopefully we can find enough people with courage to help our citizens remain safe and focus on the real safety issues. Not building some stupid wall for billions of dollars that has nothing to do with our safety, but actually protecting us from what truly is dangerous, which is maniacs with semi-automatic weapons just slaughtering our children. It's disgusting."

Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors, following the killing of 17 children and adults at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

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Posted at 07:46 AM on Feb 15, 2018 in category Politics
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Wednesday February 14, 2018

Who's Who (and White) in Baseball?

I suppose this is less trivia question than history lesson. But it's still a trivia question. 

About a year ago I bought a copy of the book, “100 Years of Who's Who in Baseball,” a compendium of the annual baseball magazine's covers from 1916 to 2015—with the cover of the very first issue, a one-off in 1912, tossed in. The only cover missing is the final one in 2016, featuring Bryce Harper. The magazine stopped publishing after that.

Who's Who in Baseball 1916For the kids: “Who's Who...” had a distinctive red cover and included the relevant stats of every active Major Leaguer. I think I bought it every year between 1971 and 1975 when there wasn't much else to go on, and when its appearance, like the appearance of baseball cards, signaled spring was finally here. 

Those “relevant stats” are interesting, by the way. The very first issue in 1912 included only three: games, batting average, and (of all things) fielding average. By 1928, according to Marty Appel in his foreword to the book, readers could peruse six stats: games, at-bats, runs, hits, stolen bases and batting average. Appel writes: “The readers would know that Babe [Ruth] had seven stolen bases in 1927, but not 60 home runs. Crazy.” Home runs were finally added in 1940. 

Flipping through the book, I began to notice something odd, and it led to this trivia question.

Who was the first African-American/person of color on the cover of “Who's Who in Baseball”? And in what year? 

The answer has several gradations, which I‘ll get to by and by. 

Since the cover of “Who’s Who...” featured a dynamic player from the previous season, the first year an African-American could have been on the cover was 1948—the year after Jackie Robinson's debut. He wouldn't have been a bad choice, either: Rookie of the Year, fifth in MVP voting, changed the game forever. But not to be. WWIB opted for another good choice, “The Home Run Twins of 1947,” Ralph Kiner and Johnny Mize, both of whom hit 51. 

Who's Who in Baseball 1952Year to year, cover subjects often switched leagues, since you didn't want one league dominating too much. For the ‘49 cover, for example, WWIB went with 1948 AL MVP winner Lou Boudreau. And if they’d switched back to the NL for the following year, Jackie Robinson, again, wouldn't have been a bad choice. He won the 1949 NL MVP, hitting .342 and slugging .528, while leading the league in stolen bases (37). By modern metrics, too, he was the best player in baseball, with a 9.6 WAR. But he didn't make the cover. (Jackie never made the cover.) Instead, WWIB stayed in the AL. It didn't highlight the AL MVP winner, either, Ted Williams (.343/.490/.650), who'd graced the cover back in ‘43, but his teammate, pitcher Mel Parnel, who went 25-7 with a 2.77 ERA. I guess they didn’t want to double up on Ted. Plus you gotta get pitchers in the mix, too. 

Next year, another pitcher: NL MVP Jim Konstanty of the Phillies. The year after, they skipped over the NL MVP (Roy Campanella) for Stan Musial, who'd finished second in MVP voting, and who'd already been on the cover in ‘44. He’d certainly had a great season (.355/.449/.614), but you can begin to see a pattern emerging.

For the ‘53 cover, apparently someone on the WWIB staff thought, “Hey, why not both MVPs?” So it was done: A’s pitcher Bobby Shantz (24-7, 2.48 ERA) and Cubs slugger Hank Sauer (37 HRs, 121 RBIs). That idea (both MVPs) lasted but a year. For the ‘53 season, Al Rosen won the AL MVP, and Roy Campanella (again) the NL, and WWIB opted for ... just Rosen.

Who's Who in Baseball 1955But it’s the next year that blows the lid off things. They'd just featured Rosen so the likely cover would be a National Leaguer. Maybe even the NL MVP, Willie Mays, who'd just had a season for the ages. He led the league in hitting, slugging, OPS and triples. He went .345/.411/.667. His WAR was 10.6. Plus there was that World Series catch, now known simply as “The Catch.” But they didn't choose Willie. Of course not. They didn't go AL, either. They stayed in the NL. In fact, they stayed on the same team. The ‘55 cover was Willie’s teammate, Al Dark, who hit a respectable .293/.325/.446, and finished fifth in the MVP voting. But he didn't exactly have a season for the ages. 

By now the pattern has fully emerged. 

I‘ll cut to the chase. Here is a list of NL MVPs from 1949 to 1963, along with the following year’s “Who's Who” cover choice. I‘ve highlighted the African-American players:

YEAR NL MVP WWIB cover Why?
1949 Jackie Robinson Mel Parnell Leader in W, ERA, IP
1950 Phil Konstanty Phil Konstanty NL MVP
1951 Roy Campanella Stan Musial (2) 2nd in NL MVP
1952 Hank Sauer Hank Sauer/Bobby Shantz NL/AL MVP
1953 Roy Campanella Al Rosen AL MVP
1954 Willie Mays Al Dark 5th in NL MVP
1955 Roy Campanella Duke Snider 2nd in NL MVP
1956 Don Newcombe Mickey Mantle AL MVP
1957 Hank Aaron Warren Spahn MLB Cy Young
1958 Ernie Banks Bob Turley MLB Cy Young
1959 Ernie Banks Don Drysdale ??
1960 Dick Groat Roger Maris AL MVP
1961 Frank Robinson Whitey Ford MLB Cy Young
1962 Maury Wills Don Drysdale (2) MLB Cy Young
1963 Sandy Koufax Sandy Koufax NL MVP/Cy Young

In 15 years, 11 black players were voted NL MVP, and none of them wound up on the cover. In that same time, four white players were voted NL MVP and three of them wound up on the cover. Only Dick Groat, among white players, got the scroogie. Welcome to the party, pal. 

The second half of that above list is particularly odd. Six pitchers in seven years? And four Dodgers and four Yankees in nine years? The Yanks, of course, were one of the last teams to integrate. The Dodgers had been the first, but somehow WWIB kept missing its black stars (Robinson, Campanella, Newcombe, Wills) but not the white (Snider, Drysdale, Koufax). 

But at least we’re getting around to the answer to the trivia question. Or an answer. For the ‘64 season, Brooks Robinson won the AL MVP and Ken Boyer won the NL. And “Who’s Who” went with ... Ken Boyer. 

No, Boyer wasn't black. But this was the first year that WWIB, along with its “in action” shot, included several headshots along the side of the cover. And in the ‘65 issue, those headshots included Larry Jackson (2nd in MLB Cy Young voting), Joe Torre (5th in NL MVP voting), Juan Marichal (15th in NL MVP voting) and Tony Oliva (AL batting champion/Rookie of the Year).

Who's Who in BaseballSo that’s your answer. Tony Oliva and Juan Marichal in 1965 were the first people of color on the cover of “Who's Who in Baseball.”

At the same time, it's a bit of a cheat, isn't it? Since they‘re not the main cover subject? So that’s the follow-up: When did WWIB first feature an African-American/person of color as its main cover subject?

1966? Willie Mays had another season for the ages in ‘65, hitting .317 with 52 homers while leading the league OBP, SLG, OPS, TB, and winning his ninth Gold Glove and his second NL MVP. And he did make the cover—finally. But it’s a headshot. The bigger, dominant headshot belongs to Sandy Koufax.

1967? Frank Robinson won the ‘66 AL triple crown, and he’s one of four equal-sized headshots on the cover, sharing space with Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax and Jim Kaat. But he's not the feature.

The ‘67 season was all about Yaz, and WWIB made their cover all about him, too. There’s no one else on it.  

And if ‘67 makes you think of Yaz, ’68 surely makes you think of Bob Gibson. And, along with Yaz and Pete Rose, he is one of three headshots on the cover. But the big “in action” shot belongs to 30-game winner Denny McLain.

Who's Who in Baseball 1975Tom Seaver on the ‘70 cover makes sense, as does Johnny Bench on the ’71 cover. But ‘72? Gotta be Vida Blue, right? Dude won the 1971 AL Cy Young and MVP. He made the cover of Time magazine. He was the talk of baseball. But he’s just the headshot. The dominating photo belongs to NL MVP Joe Torre.

I‘ll cut to the chase for the second time. After ’73 (Steve Carlton) and ‘74 (Nolan Ryan), “Who’s Who in Baseball,” in 1975, finally made a person of color their main cover image. The irony is that this is one of the few seasons during these decades when no person of color won the MVP (Jeff Burroughs, Steve Garvey) or Cy Young award (Catfish Hunter and Mike Marshall). But this player performed a big feat in ‘74. He broke a record. 

Not Hank Aaron. Yes, Aaron broke the most hallowed record in baseball in ’74, Babe Ruth's 714 homeruns, but he didn't make the cover. (He never made the cover—not even as a headshot.) The ‘75 cover belonged to Lou Brock, who stole 118 bases in ’74. And that's the answer to the second part of our question. The first African-American to be the featured cover subject on “Who's Who in Baseball” is Lou Brock in 1975—nearly three decades after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.

As I said, this was both trivia question and history lesson. But the history is American rather than baseball; and the answer isn't exactly trivial.

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Posted at 07:23 AM on Feb 14, 2018 in category Baseball
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