Trailer: Roma (2018)
Coming to select theaters and on Netflix. See it in theaters, people.
Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story
I was walking around lower Manhattan last week, focusing on Chinatown, then decided to visit Trinity Church again. We'd been there in 2015 before “Hamilton” broke big—with me or the country—and I was curious if it felt any different. It didn‘t. Not much. There were a few more people hanging around, and a lot more reverence, and more coins left on the tombs of Alexander and Eliza. But that was about it on a hot, muggy Monday afternoon in early August.
This time I was particularly struck by the inscription on Hamilton’s marble tomb. It touts his career as a PATRIOT, SOLDIER and STATESMAN...
Whose TALENTS and VIRTUES will be admired
Long after this MARBLE shall have mouldered into DUST
Except between these two lines there's an ornamental flourish and the lines “Grateful Posterity,” so you don't initially connect the second line with the first. It reads like Hamilton is a patriot, soldier and statesman “whose talents and virtures will be admired.” I.e., one day. I.e., in the future. I.e., maybe after Lin-Manuel Miranda picks up Ron Chernow's biography for vacation reading, sees his father in the story, and music begins to form in his head.
Quote of the Day
“[Citizens United] changed our political system from a democracy to an oligarchy. Money is now preeminent. I mean, it's just gone to hell now.”
(Former) Pres. Jimmy Carter, 93, in the Washington Post piece, “The Un-Celebrity President: Jimmy Carter shuns riches, lives modestly in his Georgia hometown,” by Kevin Sullivan and Mary Jordan. It's about simple living. He's not exactly kind to Trump, either, calling him a disaster, and saying there's an “attitude of ignorance toward the truth” with him. But his harshest words seem to be for this idiot SCOTUS decision.
Interesting tidbit: “Carter has been an ex-president for 37 years, longer than anyone else in history.”
- Via my friend Andy, the best Shakespeare movies of the 1990s. Agree with the top 3.
- Trevor Noah and Roy Wood Jr. on the 50th anniversary of the first appearance of Franklin in “Peanuts”: its origins, breakthroughs and TV/movie oddities.
- Should this be in contention for greatest rock song ever? It's never mentioned. Nothing. It's not even mentioned among top 10 Elvis songs. Time to change that.
- What's your NPR name? According to Lianablog, you add your middle initial somewhere in your first name, then choose the smallest foreign town you‘ve visited for your last name. Don’t really know the smallest foreign town I‘ve visited, but how’s this: Erika Enkhuizen. I'm Erika Enkhuizen and this is “Fresh Air.” I'm Erika Enkhuizen and let me interview Wisconsin farmers who are hurt by Trump's trade war but still support the president “because he's the president” and not ask one decent follow-up question. Yeah. Works.
- Are Netflix movies from China actually helping American cinephiles appreciate Chinese cinema? Via China Film Insider.
- MLB.com gathers the coolest baseball cards every year from 1950 to today, with guest editors for every decade. Quibble: I love Joey Poz, but how was Josh “Cardboard Gods” Wilker not chosen for the ‘70s? Secondary quibble: I think the ’65 card, with the team name within a pennant, is the greatest card created. But guest editor and M's broadcast Dave Sims goes with a blurry Bob Gibson? I might go Tony Oliva. Because c‘mon. Or maybe I’d save Tony for the ‘68 “Manager’s Dream” card with Chico Cardenas and Roberto Clemente. It not only introduces the first great Latino players, it gets all of their first names wrong. Welcome to America, guys.
- Speaking of: Did you get see the A's Ramon Laureano's throw the other day? Shouldn't you?
- Amazing story by Jayson Jenks on everyone's favorite new Mariner, the continually upbeat Dee Gordon. Two things I didn't know: His father is former pitcher Tom “Flash” Gordon, about whom Stephen King wrote a novel (which I reviewed for the Times); and his mother was shot to death by her boyfriend when Dee was only 7.
- My friend Jerry had a stroke and lived to write about it.
In the Trump era, you grab joy where you can, and this isn't a bad one for me today. It wasn't just that the Yankees lost, 3-1, it‘s how they lost:
That’s a thing of beauty. Yanks down by 2, get the bases loaded with nobody out ... and then can't get the ball in play: foul out, strike out, strike out. Better, the pitcher who did this to them is Adam Kolarek, who's 29, in only his second MLB season, came in with a 6.00 ERA, and somehow managed to nab the save. His first. In his career. Helluva way to start out, kid.
The win also gave the Rays their first series victory at Yankee Stadium since 2014, and, at 8-7, they‘re now one of two AL teams that have a winning record against the Baby Bombers. BoSox are 8-5.
If it almost feels over for the Yanks, it’s not. Yes, they‘re an astonishing 10.5 games back of Boston in the AL East, but they still have the second-best record in baseball. How nuts is that? It means that unless the A’s and Mariners can both steamroll past NYY for the two wildcard spots, and they're 3 and 5.5 games back respectively, Yanks are in the postseason again, where almost anything can happen.
But in the meantime: FO, K, K. Mm-wah.
Aretha Franklin (1942-2018)
How isolated was I as a kid in the ‘70s? How segregated are we as a society and a culture even though we had national meeting places like the three big networks back then? I saw “The Blues Brothers” in 1980, age 17, with some little knowledge of the world and music; and when Jake and Ellwood, on a mission from God, are putting together their band again, and recruit Matt “Guitar” Murphy at the diner, and his wife, a waitress, tries to stop him, singing “Think,” this was my thought halfway through that song:
Wow, that waitress sure can sing.
I’d heard Aretha's name, of course, I just didn't know what she looked like. Of the big-name singers from that movie, Aretha, James Brown, Ray Charles and Cab Calloway, I only knew Ray. This was my intro to the others. So at least it gave us that.
The Queen of Soul died this morning at the age of 76. Other remembrances here. The greatest remembrance of all is the music, which everyone is listening to this morning, and which lives on and on and on.
The other day, when news broke that Aretha was sick, my friend David, a good Southern boy, posted this clip from the 2013 documentary “Muscle Shoals” to social media. It's a reminder that even with all that talent, even with all that power, it didn't have to happen. It's not just talent and hard work. You need people who know what they're doing. And even if you have all that, sometimes you need the right piano riff.
‘One of the Best Things We’ll See All Year'
“In baseball's odd parlance, we say that Laureano has a hose on him. In less euphemistic terms, we dub that a cannon. Either way, it's an absurd throw—321 feet on the fly, perfectly on target, dumbfounding everyone involved. It's not just the best thing you or I or anyone else saw this week; it's one of the best things we‘ll see all year. It makes you want to rush home and tell your friends.”
SI’s Jon Tayler on rookie Ramon Laureano's throw from center field that doubled up Eric Young Saturday night. I like the little cap tip Young gives him afterward. I assumed Laureano had been up all year and I just hadn't heard of him but it's only his fifth game in the Majors. No matter. We'll be talking about it for years.
Movie Review: Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018)
I was bored.
I know: 97% RT rating, good word-of-mouth, “greatest action movie ever.” People I know and respect liked it.
Was it the sense of déjà vu? The fact that no one seems to remember the previous movies so they get repeated, again and again, world without end? It’s the same roller coaster ride, people:
- Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and IMF begin the movie under suspicion
- Introduce new IMF/CIA agent played by handsome B-lister (Dougray Scott, Billy Cruddup, Henry Cavill), who is the real traitor
- Introduce crazy man and his crazy terrorist plans
- Crazy man makes it personal with Ethan
- Include scene of Ethan running through foreign city in his super upright, arm slicing motion
- Include crazy stunt everyone will talk about: outside skyscraper, outside airplane, in helicopter
- Don’t worry about making sense
It’s the “under suspicion” thing that bugs me most. In every movie, Ethan saves the world, and every new movie begins with him back at square one. At some point, Ethan should wonder if it’s all worth it. He should get drunk at a bar and just ramble.
I saved you ... and you and you. And you didn’t even know it. You don’t know shit. I saved you from Chimera, I saved you from Rabbit’s Foot, I saved you from the Syndicate and the Apostles. I stopped San Francisco from getting nuked, motherfucker. That was me. And what did I get for it? Did I get a medal? Do you see any medals on me? Helloooo, medals! No. I got blamed. They blamed me. I went blam blam blam and they went blame blame blame.
I’d pay to see that. Maybe I'd be less bored.
Needs of the many
In the past, Ethan was distrusted for being reckless—blowing up the Kremlin, etc.—but here he’s too caring. In a bit of a “Star Trek: Wrath of Khan” ripoff, he’d rather spare the life of one member of his team, the useless Luther (Ving Rhames), even if it means plutonium getting into the hands of terrorists and risking billions. Me, I would’ve taken the plutonium and run. Sorry, Luther, but you were only on the team anyway because “M:I” was made a year after your big splash in “Pulp Fiction.” You’re doing straight-to-video piranha movies now. Time to cut you loose.
I'd forgotten a lot of the last movie. I’d forgotten that the new CIA director, Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), subsumed IMF into his org. Now he’s such an Ethan fan he’s demoted himself to director of IMF. Except, oops, the new CIA chief, Erika Sloane (Angela Bassett), like all new CIA directors, doesn’t trust Ethan and IMF, so she crashes their party with her own heavy hitter, Walker (Cavill). Ethan is the scalpel, she says, and Walker is the hammer. He’s the real man. He’s the Superman.
He’s also the traitor. The mustache is a dead giveaway.
Last movie’s villain, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), all whispering brogue, is back, too. His organization, The Syndicate, has morphed into “the Apostles,” and there’s another dude, John Lark, who’s trying to acquire plutonium from an arms dealer, the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby, Princess Margaret on “The Crown”). Ethan gets all this intel in the usual tape-recorded message that self-destructs in five seconds. What made me laugh? Lark and the 12 apostles are all represented by blank avatars. U.S. intelligence knows there’s 13 guys, knows their codenames, and can’t get one decent photo? Not even a blurry Bigfoot shot?
As writer-director Christopher McQuarrie moves the pieces around the board, from Belfast to Berlin to Paris to London to Kashmir, I kept losing the thread. Like why did Ethan and Walker need to parachute into that Paris party rather than, you know, walk in the front door? IMF can fake faces but not invites? And how odd was that Eiffel Tower meeting between Walker and Sloane? It’s just kinda stuck there. And what was the White Widow’s game anyway? Just money? She’s giving plutonium to fundamentalist terrorists without a second thought? Does she wind up in prison? Shouldn’t she? Where’s the accountability?
Speaking of: Let’s talk about the movie’s 11th-hour save of Sloane. As CIA director, she forces her right-hand man onto IMF’s search for a terrorist ... when he’s the terrorist. Then after IMF tricks him into confessing that he’s the terrorist, she still insists on sending in her agents ... except half are Apostles, Walker escapes and Hunley is killed. Imagine that. She’s responsible for the death of the former director of the CIA. Her right-hand man is a terrorist ready to kill billions. Yet because she sends a helicopter for Ethan in the end, we’re supposed to forgive and forget?
And, for a change, could the shadowy villain not be one of the five people in the room? There’s seven billion people on the planet. Spread the wealth.
Meet your second wife
This is McQuarrie’s second “M:I” movie. No “M:I” director has ever done that:
- I: Brian De Palma
- II: John Woo
- III: J.J. Abrams
- Ghost Protocol: Brad Bird
- Rogue Nation: McQuarrie
- Fallout: McQuarrie
BTW: What a shame they didn’t stick with the numerals. This one could’ve been called “MI6” rather than subtitled “Fallout,” which is a little flaccid and forgettable.
Cruise? He gives it his all, and he looks great for 56, but his face is getting oddly puffy. An injury? Bad plastic surgery? Age? Is it time for him to hang up Ethan? He won‘t, of course, it’s his only true moneymaker these days, but maybe he should. Consider what Ethan's “Fallout” love interests and nemeses were doing when the first “M:I” was released back in '96:
- Michelle Monaghan was studying college journalism
- Henry Cavill was 13
- Rebecca Ferguson was 13
- Vanessa Kirby was 8