erik lundegaard

Saturday August 27, 2016

The 300-Strikeout Pitchers

300 strikeout pitchers

Sandy, Randy, and He.

First, here's the bigger trivia question. It's the one baseball fans can really mull over and have fun with at a bar with a friend:

Name the 15 pitchers in the modern era (post-1900) who have struck out 300 or more batters in a season.

Some you'll get right away (Koufax, Ryan, Randy, Feller). Some take a while (Richard, Schilling). Some you might not get (Blue, Scott). 

Here are a few follow-up trivia questions that I think are a little more interesting:

  1. In which three decades of the modern era did no pitcher strike out 300 batters in a season?
  2. In which decade did the most pitchers strike out 300 batters?
  3. Who was the first pitcher to strike out 300 or more batters in different decades?


  1. 1920s, '30s, '50s
  2. 1970s: six pitchers, 11 times (no other decade is close)
  3. Sudden Sam McDowell: 1965, 1970

Here's the chart:

1900s 2 Rube Waddell (2)    
1910s 2 Walter Johnson (2)    
1920s 0      
1930s 0      
1940s 1 Bob Feller    
1950s 0      
1960s 4 Sandy Koufax (3) Sam McDowell  
1970s 11 Sam McDowell Mickey Lolich Vida Blue
    Steve Carlton Nolan Ryan (5) J.R. Richard (2)
1980s 2 Mike Scott Nolan Ryan  
1990s 7 Randy Johnson (3) Curt Schilling (2) Pedro Martinez (2)
2000s 4 Randy Johnson (3) Curt Schilling  
2010s 1 Clayton Kershaw    

What happened in the 1970s? I assume it's some combo of the easy targets from expansion franchises (four joined MLB in 1969) and starting ptichers going long into games; before the rise of relief specialists. In the '90s the whiffs went up all around baseball, and you had three dominant strikeout pitchers that tended to last long into games, but since then (despite all the Ks) we've entered a fallow 300-K period again.

The fallowest period was the first six decades of the 20th century, when only three pitchers managed to strike out 300+ in a season: Waddell, Johnson, Feller. Then expansion came, Koufax arrived, and we were off to the races. 

Last year we had Kershaw squeaking over with 301. This year, with a month to go, Max Scherzer, helped by a 20-strikeout perfromance against Detroit in July, leads the Majors with 227. That's 73 away. He averages about 8.4 Ks per game and looks to have another seven or so games to pitch. That's about 15 short. And the Nats have no more games scheduled against Detroit. 

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Posted at 07:19 AM on Aug 27, 2016 in category Baseball
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Tuesday August 23, 2016

BBC's 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century: Annotated

Llewyn Davis

Cheer up, bro. All the critics love you at the Beeb.

We're 16/17 years into this thing, depending, so I guess it's expected. This list comes from the BBC, who asked 177 film critics around the world to name the greatest movies of the century. Then they tabulated. Voila. Or Eww, depending. 

Links go to my reviews. Annotated thoughts in red. Your mileage will differ.  

100. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, 2016)
100. Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky, 2000)
100. Carlos (Olivier Assayas, 2010) The only Assayas? It's like “Summer Hours” was never made. And wasn't this thing a mini-series anyway?
99. The Gleaners and I (Agnès Varda, 2000)
98. Ten (Abbas Kiarostami, 2002)
97. White Material (Claire Denis, 2009) 
96. Finding Nemo (Andrew Stanton, 2003) A little Pixar action. There will be more. 
95. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, 2012) Wes is named three times on this list, tied for most with P.T. Anderson and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. More on him later.
94. Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008) Deserved.
93. Ratatouille (Brad Bird, 2007) This makes it but not “Up”? Huh. 
92. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007) Nice to see. 
91. The Secret in Their Eyes (Juan José Campanella, 2009) Overrated. 
90. The Pianist (Roman Polanski, 2002) Yes.
89. The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel, 2008)
88. Spotlight (Tom McCarthy, 2015) More screenwriter-driven than director-driven, and the critics love the latter; so probably won't be on here in another five years. 
87. Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001) So long ago. Seems like I saw this in another life. 
86. Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002) Haynes has two. I get the appeal even if he doesn't appeal to me.  
85. A Prophet (Jacques Audiard, 2009) This should be much, much higher. Top 10. Criminally, it's the only Audiard. That's right: No “Rust and Bone.” 
84. Her (Spike Jonze, 2013) No....
83. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (Steven Spielberg, 2001) No...
82. A Serious Man (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2009) Higher
81. Shame (Steve McQueen, 2011) Hmm...
80. The Return (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2003)
79. Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe, 2000) Kinda shocked to see it here, but I liked it well enough. Rest in peace, PSH.
78. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013) I'd like to see this again.
77. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel, 2007) Higher. Top 20.
76. Dogville (Lars von Trier, 2003) Did I watch the whole thing? We get one more von Trier.
75. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2014) Could see this again, too, but for now I'd leave off.
74. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012) Good god, no. Awful. 
73. Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, 2004) Meh. But at least it's not “Before Midnight”...
72. Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch, 2013) Huh. Liked it. But ahead of “Un Prophete”?
71. Tabu (Miguel Gomes, 2012) Good god, no.
70. Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley, 2012) Nice, but...
69. Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015) Dreamy. Soporific. Like most Haynes. I need coffee after his movies. 
68. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001) Rest in peace, Gene Hackman. Oh, he's just writing novels? Apologies. 
67. The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, 2008) 
66. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring (Kim Ki-duk, 2003) I hope more people see this underrated movie. 
65. Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold, 2009)
64. The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino, 2013) Good. 
63. The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky, 2011) Never did get around to seeing this. Did I?
62. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009) Too high. Should it even be on? 
61. Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2013) Not for me. Not close.
60. Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006)
59. A History of Violence (David Cronenberg, 2005) Could see again. 
58. Moolaadé (Ousmane Sembène, 2004)
57. Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow, 2012) Iffy. Morally. I think. Need to see in 20 years to assess properly. 
56. Werckmeister Harmonies (Béla Tarr, director; Ágnes Hranitzky, co-director, 2000)
55. Ida (Paweł Pawlikowski, 2013) Yep.
54. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011)
53. Moulin Rouge! (Baz Luhrmann, 2001) Hmm...
52. Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2004)
51. Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010) I liked it, but...
50. The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2015) Wait, I DID see this, didn't I? Didn't stick. 
49. Goodbye to Language (Jean-Luc Godard, 2014)
48. Brooklyn (John Crowley, 2015) Really? Ahead of “Carol”? Surprising, given critics. 
47. Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2014) Saw it, didn't write about it. Came to me on waves of praise but didn't transcend or enlighten. 
46. Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2010) God, no. 
45. Blue Is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013) Went on too long. 
44. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013) Not as good as I wanted it to be. Yes, I'm a bad person. 
43. Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011) Beautiful images; made me nauseous. Yes, I'm a bad critic. 
42. Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012) Devastating. 
41. Inside Out (Pete Docter, 2015) My friend Vinny is happy anyway. “Take her to the moon for me.”
40. Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005) This was transformative just 11 years ago. We've come far. 
39. The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005) I keep trying to grasp onto this movie to like it but I can't get any toeholds. 
38. City of God (Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, 2002) From another life. 
37. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010) One of the most miserable times I've had at the movies in the last 10 years. I'm still apologizing to Vinny for taking him to it. 
36. Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako, 2014) I could see this again. 
35. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee, 2000) Hypnotic 
34. Son of Saul (László Nemes, 2015) Painful
33. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008) Yeah, no. It saddens me that for most critics this is the pinnacle of superhero movies. 
32. The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006) Definitely
31. Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011)
30. Oldboy (Park Chan-wook, 2003) Not this high. 
29. WALL-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008) So nice to see you! (But still no “Up”? The fuck?)
28. Talk to Her (Pedro Almodóvar, 2002) Yep.
27. The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010) Yep.
26. 25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002) Probably not.
25. ​Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000) Sure.
24. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012) Powerfully made, I'm still trying to wrestle meaning out of it. 
23. Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005) One of my favorite from Haneke, who's not one of my favorite directors. 
22. Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003) Oh, Bill. Oh, Scarlett. Whither Sofia?
21. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014) The highest Wes.
20. Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008) Again, worth a re-view.
19. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) Please. Get this shit off here. It's a two-hour chase movie. 
18. The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke, 2009) I could see again. Even though it's Haneke.
17. Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo Del Toro, 2006)
16. Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)
15. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2007)
14. The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012) Highest doc? Yes.
13. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)
12. Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007) I thought I was the only one. 
11. Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2013) Ditto. 
10. No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007) 
9. A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011) Of course.
8. Yi Yi: A One and a Two (Edward Yang, 2000) Good to see you on here. Taiwan in the house!
7. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011) Great movie but mixed feelings. 
6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
5. Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014)
4. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
3. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
2. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)
1. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)

 I stopped commenting near the end because I began to feel a little dispirited by the results. Is this the best we have? Shouldn't it be better? Of the top 25, I haven't seen “In the Mood for Love,” “Spirited Away,” “Holy Motors.” I still don't want to see “Holy Motors.” 

Of the movies not on the list that would be on my top 100 of the century? “United 93,” “Kung Fu Hustle,” “The Drop,” “Le Passé,” “Theeb,” “Restrepo,” “No End in Sight,” “Summer Hours,” “Rust and Bone,” “Moneyball,” “Young Adult,” “Des hommes et des dieux,” “American Hustle,” “The Revenant,” “Birdman.” No love for Inarritu here. Odd. 

Posted at 05:55 AM on Aug 23, 2016 in category Movies - Lists
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Monday August 22, 2016

Quote of the Day: Poz on A-Rod

“But here's something about Rodriguez, something that even some of his foremost critics have said: He has been a different public person since returning from his suspension. He hasn't complained about his plight. He hasn't made excuses. He hasn't allowed himself to get embroiled in the controversies that, for him, are always ready to blossom.

”He has been, dare I say it, something like admirable. Even the way he handled the hacky retirement business with the Yankees — with the team forcing him out for roster spots that will be available in two weeks anyway — has been commendable. 'With all the screw-ups and how badly I acted,' he said, 'the fact that I'm walking out the door and Hal (Steinbrenner, Yankees owner) wants me (as) part of the family, that's hitting 800 home runs for me.'

“That's a pretty good statement filled with humbleness and regret.”

-- Joe Posnanski, “Why 696 is Better Than 700,” NBC Sports

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Posted at 12:52 PM on Aug 22, 2016 in category Quote of the Day
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Box Office: 'Ben-Hur' Crashes

Ben-Hur 2016

Scream all you want.

Well, that sucks. 

“Suicide Squad” dropped another 52% to $20 mil, which would've been third place two weekends ago and fourth place last weekend, but this weekend it's good enough for first. “Sausage Party,” the raunchy, anthropo-mocking animated film from Seth Rogen and company, came in second with $15 mil. In its second weekend, it dropped 55%.

None of the new big releases did well:

  • “War Dogs”: $14.3 mil, 3rd place
  • “Kubo and the Two Strings”: $12.6, 4th place
  • “Ben-Hur”: $11.3, 5th place*

This last is the shocker. The film got so-so reviews, but I heard the filmmakers heaped on the Christianity to get out the faithful. Didn't work. The movie that was the second-biggest box-office smash of the 1950s (after “Ten Commandments,” $848 million adjusted) couldn't even win its late-August opening weekend in 2016. It finished in fifth place.*  

I've said it before: a religious movie alone doesn't cut it (see: “The Nativity”). To become a hit, it has to become embroiled in the culture wars (“Passion of the Christ”; “God's Not Dead”). Being devout is all well and good, but the faithful want to rub someone's nose in it—Hollywood's, if it can. I suppose they just did. 

Anyway, I'm bummed “Suicide Squad” is still humming along. Two weeks ago I predicted it would top out at $270, but now it's at $262. Where will it stop? $300, more likely. Short of that, if we're lucky. Last week I had dinner with a friend who was a fan. Or at least he saw “Suicide Squad” and liked it enough. I brought up a few of the issues I had with the film, its overwhelming stupidity, that it's just chunks of story placed together without thought for what connects them. I brought up the scene where Deadshot has to prove himself to Flag by firing weapon after weapon at cardboard cutouts. Why does he have to prove himself? Isn't Flag an underling? Isn't Waller the boss? Why does nobody else have to prove himself? And isn't it a little dangerous to be giving all of these weapons to this stone-cold killer—particularly with the sadistic guard he wants to kill right next to him? “Sure,” my friend said. “When you think about this stuff afterwards.” “No,” I said. “I think about it during. That's why it's painful.”

* ADDENDUM: The actuals have come in, and “Ben-Hur” actually finished in sixth place. Same gross but “Pete's Dragon” surpassed it. 

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Posted at 06:49 AM on Aug 22, 2016 in category Movies - Box Office
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Saturday August 20, 2016

Movie Review: Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)


Imagine if after the boy shouted “The emperor has no clothes!” he’d been smacked by his mom and booed by the crowd, and the naked emperor was allowed to continue his promenade to cheers, safely within the delusion that he was wearing resplendent clothes.

That’s the obvious metaphor for “Florence Foster Jenkins.” Here’s the less-obvious one.

There’s a 1989 Jackie Chan movie called “Miracles—Mr. Canton and Lady Rose,” in which several friendly gangsters spend most of the movie in an elaborate scheme to pass off a poor flower lady as a rich Cantonese woman for the benefit of her daughter's rich, prospective in-laws. Florence Foster JenkinsIn the end her true identity is nearly revealed, and in a Hollywood picture it would have been revealed, and revealed to be meaningless, because aren’t we all the same, blah blah. That’s our kind of requisite happy ending. Not in China. There, the flower lady's disguise remained intact. The in-laws never know.

I.e., in the east: FACE > TRUTH. In the west, TRUTH > FACE. Within the requisite lies of cinema, that is.

I mention all this because for a moment in “Florence Foster Jenkins” I wondered if we weren’t becoming a little eastern in our sensibilities.

The three secrets of St. Clair Bayfield
Meryl Streep plays the title character, a real-life society matron and patron of the arts, circa 1944, who believes she has a splendid voice. She doesn’t. She has a horrible voice, a comically awful voice.

She also has a younger husband, St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), with secrets. Three to be precise:

  1. He has his own village apartment, paid for by the Mrs., which he shares with his younger girlfriend Kathleen (Rebecca Ferguson) and her artsy friends. So a cad, right? Well....
  2. He’s spent the last 25 years keeping from Florence the knowledge that she can’t sing. As the movie progresses he pulls more and more people into this illusion to maintain it.
  3. The third secret is the one the movie keeps from us: he truly loves Florence.

Some portion of the movie is about maintaining the first secret. At one point, for example, Florence arrives in the morning to see party detritus on the floor—just missing the naked girl in the bed and the near-naked one in the bathroom.

But the movie is mostly about maintaining the second illusion, particularly as Florence, buoyed by applause and (paid-for) good reviews, takes her talents into 1) the recording studio; and 2) Carnegie Hall.

You’d think such a role would be perfect for Grant’s overly polite, befuddled comic sensibilities, but he’s not the one in the movie who makes us laugh; he’s actually the one who makes us cry. That death bed scene in the end? The depths of his affection for her? If Hugh Grant gets an Oscar nomination, it’ll be because of that scene. His eyes—cut more and more like Jack Kennedy’s as he ages—revealed worlds: the lies he keeps telling her (she can sing); the truth he can’t hide (he loves her).  

No, it’s Meryl, blissfully unaware and marvelously off-key, who makes us laugh. But I would add that even greater laughs are provided by Simon Helberg (“The Big Bang Theory”), who plays Cosmé McMoon, her soft-spoken accompanist, and who acts as our eyes and (mostly) ears throughout the movie. He first hears her voice when we first hear it, and some of his subtle reaction shots and line readings are close to comic perfection. With a glance, the kid upstages Streep.

The killing review
“Florence” is a movie about the worst kind of privilege—the illusions that the rich construct for themselves—so thumbs up to director Stephen Frears (“Philomena,” “The Queen,” “High Fidelity,” “Dangerous Liaisons”) and screenwriter Nicholas Martin (British TV), and, of course, the cast, for making us care. Occasionally my attention flagged, but then the movie would suck me back in—as when Florence, lonely with St. Clair on a “golfing excursion,” visits Cosmé in his small walk-up and does the dishes while he plays one of his own compositions. This inspires her to come up with lyrics on the spot, mumbled meaninglessly off-key, to his polite pain.

We also wonder how they’re going to make Carnegie Hall work. It’s one thing to fill a salon with the deaf and the bribed; how do you maintain the illusion when the place is filled with half-drunk soldiers who wolf-whistle Agnes, a brassy blonde trophy wife (Nina Arianda)? You don’t. The illusion crumbles. For a minute. Then the blonde stands up, tells the boys to show some respect, and everyone joins the fantasy. FACE > TRUTH.

The only one not joining the fantasy is Earl Wilson (Christian McKay of “Me and Orson Welles”), columnist for the Post, who can’t be bought. Florence eventually sees his scathing review, collapses, and, already sick (50 years of syphilis), lingers near death. Truth wins out, and it kills. A review kills. Man, those were the days.

Except truth doesn’t quite win out. Streep’s performance is both broadly comic and emotionally subtle, and in her eyes you see glimpses of the truth she knows is out there: that St. Clair cheats on her; that she can’t sing; that everyone is indulging her. But on her deathbed she again succumbs to the illusion; and her soul rises to the glorious aria she sees herself—that she remembers herself—singing.

Wonder how the movie will play in China? 

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Posted at 08:31 AM on Aug 20, 2016 in category Movie Reviews - 2016
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The Naked Donald Statues

Here's Jeff Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere on the statues of a naked, teeny-penised Donald Trump that an anarchist group erected in New York, Seattle, et al., this week: 

It’s pretty easy to mold a humiliating likeness of a naked Presidential candidate. I’m hardly a Donald Trump supporter and yes, the guy could obviously stand to lose 20 or 30 pounds. (No more Kentucky Fried Chicken or taco bowls.) But what 70 year-old looks good naked? Yes, he deserves to be slapped down and voted down, but this is below the belt. What if somebody were to erect a nude statue of Hillary Clinton in Union Square? You know what the reaction would be.

My thoughts exactly. Also this one: Once again, the anarchists aren't helping. Help, or get off the stage.

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Posted at 06:57 AM on Aug 20, 2016 in category Politics
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Friday August 19, 2016

When You Wish Upon a Star

I'm reading Neal Gabler's bio of Walt Disney, and it's good if long; portions could've used an editor. But the preface is breezy, a synopsis/analysis on the ying-yang of Disney—his love of nostalgia and the future, for example—and it includes this thought from Gabler:

... the most powerful source of his appeal as well as his greatest legacy may be that Walt Disney, more than any other American artist, defined the terms of wish fulfillment and demonstrated on a grand scale to his fellow Americans, and ultimately to the entire world, how one could be empowered by fantasy—how one could learn, in effect, to live within one’s own illusions and even to transform the world into those illusions.

I think this is true and it's in now way a positive. It's the forerunner to Ronald Reagan and Karl Rove and now Donald J. Trump. How thin is the line between the Big Lie and Hollywood wish fulfillment? Isn't the Big Lie just wish fulfillment? Aren't politicians and moviemakers both giving the people what they want? To get over their troubles? The movies just do it for two hours; the politicians we're stuck with for four years.

The real problem is when people can't distinguish between the two. I think we're in that territory now. I think a portion of the populace has been in that territory all of my life.

George W. Bush flight suit: Mission Accomplished

Mission accomplished.

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Posted at 03:13 PM on Aug 19, 2016 in category Books
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Movie Review: Catwoman (2004)


You should never make a superhero out of a domesticated animal. Seriously. There is no Dog Man, no Gerbilboy, no “The Goldfish.” And if maybe you can get away with it, like maybe you can get away with it with Catwoman, you should never have the hero adopt the mannerisms of the domesticated animal.

In “Catwoman,” once Patience Phillips (Halle Berry) dies and is reborn because an Egyptian Mau kitty named Midnight sits on her chest and breathes into her face, we witness her do the following:

  • go crazy for catnip
  • order cream at a bar and slurp it
  • stare at fish in a fish tank with goggle eyes
  • gobble sushi/tuna
  • run from rain

I’m surprised one of the villains didn’t get out a piece of string.

Quiet or papa spank 
Catwoman with Halle BerryWho’s the villain in “Catwoman”? Spider-Man fights the Green Goblin, who wants power; Batman fights the Joker, who wants chaos. Catwoman fights Laurel Hedare (Sharon Stone), former face of Hedare Beauty Products, who wants to stay younger-looking longer. OK.

Hedare is upset when she’s shunted aside for a younger model by her bitchy CEO husband George (Lambert Wilson). She’s a woman scorned. She’s also a tough executive. Her company is about to introduce a new product, Beau Line, pronounced bee-yew lean, which not only hides the effects of aging but actually removes them. Of course, women who use the cream complain of headaches and nausea, and its chief scientist warns that if someone stops using the product, their face kinda sorta disintegrates. So there are side-effects. For that bit of info, the scientist is killed—his death blamed on Catwoman—and Laurel pushes the product forward. Because they have millions invested in it? Won’t this side-effect be obvious eventually? Isn’t the FDA paying any attention?

Wait, there’s more. Because this is some magical beauty product.

Sure, if you stop using Beau Line your face disintegrates, but if you keep using it your skin turns into living marble. You become virtually invulnerable. And that’s what happens to Laurel, who I guess has been using it longer than anyone. And it finally gives the movie its requisite supervillain. A bit late, sure, about five minutes before the end, but it allows the usual WWE tide-turning in the final battle: 1) hero winning; 2) hero on ropes (clinging to top floor of skyscraper); 3) villain vanquished (falling from skyscraper).

Worse is why Laurel falls. She sees her reflection in the skyscraper’s glass, realizes her face is disintegrating, and can’t live in a world where she's not beautiful. It’s like the Green Goblin losing to Spider-Man because of shrinkage.

“I was everything they wanted me to be,” Laurel tells Catwoman. “I was never more beautiful, never more powerful. And then I turned 40 and they turned me away.” The movie is a metaphor for Sharon Stone’s entire shitty career. It's a metaphor for the shittiness of Hollywood. 

It’s also a primer for everything you shouldn’t do in a female superhero movie. Quickly: Don’t have your main character work at a cosmetic company. C’mon. The supervillain should be a man, I feel, but if it is a woman don’t pit youth against age; just leaves a bad taste. (Cf., “Supergirl”) And does any male character become hyper-sexualized when they develop powers? Does their sexuality become part of their power? Feels like the masturbatory dreams of boys who draw women well but interact with the real thing poorly.

There’s a way they might’ve justified Catwoman’s overt sexuality and slinking around. It’s in a line that Midnight’s owner, the crazy cat lady Ophelia (Frances Conroy), tells Patience as she’s explaining the history of her ancient Egyptian powers. “Catwomen are not contained by the rules of society,” she says. “You follow your own desires. This is both a blessing and a curse. ... But you will experience a freedom other women will never know.”

Many women I know are afraid to go out alone at night. They feel circumscribed by the constant, potential violence of men. This should’ve been Patience. Instead of a mousy, overly polite graphic designer who talks into her chest and whom nobody realizes is as beautiful as Halle Berry, she should’ve been someone who had experienced violence, possibly rape, or at least the threat of it. She was afraid to go out at night. Then she developed powers and owned the night. Hell, this could’ve been her raison d’etre. Spider-Man has the great power/responsibility line, Batman has revenge for the death of his parents, Catwoman could've had this. 

Instead, she licks Benjamin Bratt’s face, licks her lips after drinking cream, dances seductively at a club with a whip, struts on building parapets like she’s a model on a catwalk. She says meow.

To Wong Foo, thanks for everything
There’s such idiocy here: the sassy friend who becomes sick then gets the doctor of her dreams; the sets (industrial fan, etc.) like out of some shitty 1984 MTV video; the fact that Patience first displays her powers in a one-on-one basketball game. 

My favorite idiotic bit may be the rationale for why Patience becomes Catwoman in the first place. Seems Midnight the cat foresaw Patience’s fate, so she decided to see if she was worthy. How? By hanging out on Patience’s window ledge, three stories up, then climbing onto a higher ledge when Patience peeked out. And that’s how Patience proved her worth: by climbing out onto a ledge to save a cat that didn’t need saving. It's like jumping into the air to save a bird.

It didn’t have to be this way. “X-Men” had been released four years earlier, “Spider-Man” two years earlier. People knew how to do it. But Warner Bros. chose a one-named Frenchman, Pitof, who had directed exactly one feature, to helm it; they picked several journeyman screenwriters, John Brancato and Michael Ferris (“The Net”), to pen it; and we got this hot mess.

Hey, Halle Berry, you just became the first African-American actress to win an Oscar for acting in a lead role. What are you going to do now?

I’m gonna play Catwoman! 

Spilt milk.

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Posted at 06:55 AM on Aug 19, 2016 in category Movie Reviews - 2000s
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