erik lundegaard

Wednesday February 25, 2015

Obama's Veto of the Keystone XL Pipeline is the Third of His Presidency; What Does That Mean Historically?

Via Senate.gov, which should know:

President Reg. Pocket Total
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945) 372  263  635
Grover Cleveland (1885-1889) 304  110  414
Harry S. Truman (1945-1953) 180  70  250
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) 73  108  181
Grover Cleveland (1893-1897) 42  128  170
Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877) 45  48  93
Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) 42  40  82
Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) 39  39  78
Gerald R. Ford (1974-1977) 48  18  66
Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929) 20  30  50
Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893) 19  25  44
George H. W. Bush (1989-1993)
29  15  44
Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) 33  11  44
Richard M. Nixon (1969-1974) 26  17  43
William McKinley (1897-1901) 36  42
William H. Taft (1909-1913) 30  39
Herbert Hoover (1929-1933) 21  16  37
William J. Clinton (1993-2001) 36  37
Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) 13  18  31
Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969) 16  14  30
Andrew Johnson (1865-1869) 21  29
John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) 12  21
Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881) 12  13
Andrew Jackson(1829-1837) 12
Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885) 12
George W. Bush (2001-2009) 12  12
John Tyler (1841-1845) 10
Franklin Pierce (1853-1857) 9
Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865) 7
James Buchanan (1857-1861) 7
James Madison (1809-1817) 7
Warren G. Harding(1921-1923) 6
Barack H. Obama (2009-present) 3 3
James K. Polk (1845-1849) 3
George Washington (1789-1797) 2
Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) 2
James Monroe (1817-1825) 1
Martin Van Buren (1837-1841) 1
James A. Garfield (1881) 0
John Adams (1797-1801) 0
John Q. Adams (1825-1829) 0
Millard Fillmore (1850-1853) 0
William H. Harrison (1841) 0
Zachary Taylor (1849-1850) 0

May there be more. 

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Posted at 05:31 PM on Feb 25, 2015 in category Politics
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Monday February 23, 2015

Sweathog Again

“The disco music shifts to the Bee Gees, white men who have done this wonderful thing of making themselves sound like black women. 'Stay' Alive' comes on with all that amplified throbbleo and a strange nasal whining underneath: the John Travolta theme song. Rabbit still thinks of him as one of the Sweathogs from Mr. Kotter's class but for awhile back there last summer the U.S.A. was one hundred percent his, every twat under fifteen wanting to be humped by a former Sweathog in the back seat of a car parked in Brooklyn.”

-- part of Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom's driving-home musings in the summer of '79, in John Updike's 1981 novel, “Rabbit is Rich.” I thought of this passage after last night's doubly odd showing from John Travolta: both on the red carpet with Scarlett Johansson (below), and on stage with Idina Menzel. I think John needs another talk with Quentin Tarantino. Maybe QT (who's got issues of his own) could at least get him to lose the rug. 

Scarlett Johansson and John Travolta: red carpet moment

Sweathog again.

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Posted at 05:40 PM on Feb 23, 2015 in category Books
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Sunday February 22, 2015

Best Picture Box Office: Yeah Yeah, 'American Sniper': But Which Film Did Best Overseas?

2014 best picture nominees

First, how great is it that the Oscar race is coming down to two artistic, independent and original movies like “Boyhood” and “Birdman”? I've been thinking about this all week and wanted to reiterate it here as a kind of thank you to the cinematic (or Academic) universe, before delving into the dirt of the numbers. 

Second, a mea culpa on my post-Oscar nomination, um, post, “The Bad Box Office of the Best Picture Nominees,” in which I worried over the low, low box office of the nominees, adding, “I could see 'Imitation Game' gaining some moviegoers.” (I was right.) “Will they expand 'Birdman'?” (They did, barely.) “Will they re-release 'Whiplash'?” (Dunno.) And finally:

“Are people psyched to see 'American Sniper' now? Will its distributor let folks outside NYC and LA see it?”

Five days later, it had grossed more than $100 million and counting. It will probably be the biggest box-office hit of 2014. So ... culpa from mea.

Even with that sudden turnaround, though, the Oscar box office numbers are down. 2009 was the first year since World War II with more than five best picture nominees—when they Academy, trying to boost ratings, went from five nominees to 10. A few years later, they opted for 5 to 10. Here's what that b.o. has looked like:

Year No. Films Total Gross Avg. Gross High Low
2009 10 $1.7 billion $170 m Avatar: $749 A Serious Man: $9
2010 10 $1.3 billion $135 m Toy Story 3: $415 Winter's Bone: $6.5
2011 9 $628 million $69 m The Help: $169 The Tree of Life: $13
2012 9 $1 billion $111 m Lincoln: $182 Amour: $6.7
2013 9 $813 million $90 m Gravity: $274 Nebraska: $17
2014 8 $620 million $77 m American Sniper: $319 Whiplash: $11

Huge blockbusters the first few years with this format. Then a tapering off.

2014's numbers will continue to rise a bit, maybe another $30-$50 million, mostly on the back of “American Sniper.” So it won't be the worst total b.o. since 2009. But close. 

And it will certainly be the most lopsided. Even “Avatar,” the most dominant box-office hit of all time (unadjusted), didn't dominate its fellow nominees the way “Sniper” has done this year. Eastwood's flick has grossed $319 million domestically. The other seven movies combined? $301 million. 

Here are the numbers, with worldwide gross (domestic + foreign), along with the non-UK foreign market where it's made the most money:

Picture Domestic Worldwide Big Foreign Mkt.
American Sniper $319,607,000 $428,107,000 Italy
The Imitation Game $83,921,000 $160,840,682 Australia/ Italy
The Grand Budapest Hotel $59,100,318 $174,600,318 France/Australia
Selma $49,598,000 $53,598,000 Italy
Birdman $37,733,000 $73,333,000 Australia/ Italy
The Theory of Everything $34,145,000 $104,145,000 Italy/ S. Korea
Boyhood $25,295,600 $44,438,600 Germany/ Neth.
Whiplash $11,330,000 $12,231,092 Turkey

How great that “The Grand Budapest Hotel” did better abroad than any other best picture nominee—even “Sniper”? Little Wes Anderson and his quirky characters. Who knew? Bravo, too, Germany and the Netherlands for the “Boyhood” support. 

See you in a few hours. 

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Posted at 01:14 PM on Feb 22, 2015 in category Movies - The Oscars
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GREAT 'Birdman' Spoof to Open Spirit Awards

Saw it via Jeff Wells' “Hollywood Elsewhere” site. Guy doesn't miss a beat. Except for the “Lincoln” debacle, in which he told Daniel Day-Lewis how to act. Plus his odd “42” poster defense, where he gave tips on baserunning to Jackie Robinson. But ... you know.

Here's another “Birdman” spoof, which is less exact but brings a bigger smile: “Big Birdman.”

There will be more of these spoofs. That's how iconic the movie already is. 

Oh, as for Spirit Award winners for best independent films? “Birdman,” Richard Linklater, Michael Keaton, Julianne Moore, J.K. Simmons, Patricia Arquette, “Ida,” Dan Gilroy (screenplay). 

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Posted at 12:25 PM on Feb 22, 2015 in category Movies - Awards
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Box Office: 'Fifty Shades' Goes Down

Fifty Shades of Grey

Three new movies opened this weekend, grossing $11 million (“McFarland, USA”—nice '70s-era title), $11 million (“The DUFF”), and $5.8 million (“Hot Tub Time Machine 2”). The less said about this last the better, other than the usual “ad wizards” talk. Was any sequel less wanted? Clamored for nowhere?

As a result, the top three spots remained unchanged: 1) “Fifty Shades of Grey” with $23 (down 72.7%), 2) “Kingsman” at $17 (down 51%) and 3) “SpongeBob” at $15 (down 50%).

That 72.7% second-weekend drop for “Fifty Shades,” btw, is the 39th-biggest drop ever. If you discount movies that opened in fewer than 2,000 theaters, it's the 11th-biggest drop ever. For movies in more than 3,000 theaters? Tied for second worst. Only the 2009 “Friday the 13th” remake dropped faster (80.4%). The aptly named “Doom,” from 2005, dropped at the same rate as “Fifty Shades,” and it had the aptly named “Rock” to accompany its fall. Apparently we're done with Mr. Grey now. It was all over so fast, wasn't it?

Among the Oscar nominees, “American Sniper” grossed another $9.6 for a $319 domestic gross and a $406 worldwide gross, while “The Imitation Game” pulled in $2.5 for $83 domestic gross and $160 worldwide. More on Oscar box office in a moment. 

As for what should win the box-office headline sweepstakes this weekend?

  • “Fifty Shades” Goes Down
  • “Fifty Shades” Drops To Its Knees
  • “Fifty Shades” Shoots Wad
  • You Won't See Mr. Grey Now

You have my pick. 

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Posted at 09:39 AM on Feb 22, 2015 in category Movies - Box Office
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My Favorite Oscar Acceptance Speech

I thought I'd posted this before, maybe I have, but it never hurts to do it again. It's Dustin Hoffman winning for “Kramer vs. Kramer” in 1979 (technically April 14, 1980). 

Keep in mind that this was a period of political and Academy controversy. During the previous decade, George C. Scott turned down his Oscar for “Patton,” Marlon Brando sent up Sacheen Littlefeather to protest the treatment of American Indians in Hollywood films, Bert Schenider said what he said after winning best doc for “Hearts and Minds,” Vanessa Redgrave said what she said after winning best supporting for “Julia.” Hell, only one of the other four nominees even bothered to show up that night.

Plus Hoffman, as he says, had been critical of the Academy. He was critical of the process, of the concept of “winners” and “losers.” So it appears when he gets onstage that he might ... protest. He might reject the award. He places it on the lectern as if it's something he doesn't want. He makes jokes about it, and about himself. 

The speech is a protest of a kind, but it's not sharp-edged and accusatory; it's humanistic and embracing. Particularly these words near the end:

We are part of an artistic family. There are sixty thousand actors in this Academy—pardon me, in the Screen Actors Guild—and probably one-hundred thousand in Equity. And most actors don't work, and a few of us are so lucky to have a chance to work with writing and to work with directing. Because when you're a broke actor, you can't write, you can't paint; you have to practice accents while you're driving a taxi cab. And to that artistic family that strives for excellence, none of you have ever lost.

 Here it is:

Plus, damn, Jane Fonda was hot. 

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Posted at 07:28 AM on Feb 22, 2015 in category Movies - The Oscars
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Saturday February 21, 2015

David Cone, the '98 Yankees, and the Rewards of Self-Delusion

Reading Buster Olney's “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty” (recommended), I came across this:

Before games [Tino Martinez] and [David] Cone would talk about reasons to dislike that day’s opponents, a method of manufacturing a mental edge. They might focus on a rival’s quote in the newspaper, translating benign remarks into inflammatory slights, or concentrate on an annoying mannerism. “If the opposing pitcher struck out one of our hitters,” Cone said, “and pimped around the mound a little bit, we were all over him—‘Who does this guy think he is?’ ‘Is he showing us up?’ It could be something completely innocuous.” It was an old-school way of competing, Cone thought, a method of tricking yourself into a competitive fury.

What did that remind me of? Tom Verducci and Joe Torre's bookk “The Yankee Years,” and this story from the start of the '98 season:

After five games, the 1998 Yankees were 1-4, in last place, already 3 1/2 games out of first, outscored 36-15, at risk of losing their manager and letting teams like the Mariners kick sand in their faces. ... Like Torre, Cone was angered by what he saw the previous night. He watched Seattle designated hitter Edgar Martinez, batting in the 8th inning with a 4-0 lead, take a huge hack on a 3-and-0 pitch from reliever Mike Buddie—five innings after Moyer had dusted [Paul] O'Neill with a pitch.  

So Cone led a team meeting in which he worked himself into an angry froth over the supposed slights by the Mariners: Edgar swinging on a 3-0 pitch when his team already had a massive 4-run lead, and Jamie Moyer plunking Paul O'Neill with either his 84-mph fastball or his 68-mph changeup. And it worked. They went out and beat the M's and changed things around. The two teams respective trajectories changed after that: the M's down, the Yanks up.

Not sure what the lesson is here. Other than the rewards of self-delusion.

David Cone Perfect Game

Cone: I can't believe Jamie Moyer would blister Paul O'Neill with that 68-mph change-up!

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Posted at 11:46 AM on Feb 21, 2015 in category Yankees Suck
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Friday February 20, 2015

Q&A with Eugene G. Iredale

Q: Over the course of your career, have the kinds of cases that come to you shifted? If so, does it represent a change in the larger culture?
A: You know what I’ve noticed? The mentality that you used to see only in drug cases is the same mentality that you see in many white-collar cases.

Q: Meaning?
A: Meaning that at some point, the people who do business in this country adopted the ethic of gangsters. Except that the drug dealers are far more honest and straightforward.

-- from my Q&A with San Diego criminal defense attorney Eugene G. Iredale. The whole interview is worth reading even if you don't care about the law but do care about any of the following: nuance, literature, battling against bullies, and “lessons of common human decency and politeness.”

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Posted at 07:27 AM on Feb 20, 2015 in category Law
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Thursday February 19, 2015

Movie Review: Hannah Arendt (2012)

WARNING: SPOILERS

I knew the phrase “banality of evil” but I didn’t know it was controversial. I simply thought it said something meaningful about human nature generally and the Holocaust specifically. To kill six million, you need more than monsters; you need bureaucrats. You need people to keep the trains running.

I also knew Arendt’s reporting on the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem first appeared in William Shawn’s The New Yorker; but I didn’t know Arendt (Barbara Sukowa) was a friend of Mary McCarthy (Janet McTeer), that she was a well-known political theorist/philosopher, and that she had been a student and lover of Martin Heidegger. I didn’t know Arendt’s various philosophies—nor Heidegger’s for that matter. I still don’t. I didn’t know Heidegger had Nazi issues.

Hannah Arendt filmSo I learned all of these things watching “Hannah Arendt,” a 2012 film with mixed pedigree (Germany, Luxemburg, France), directed by Margarethe von Trotta (“Rosenstrasse”), and written by von Trotta and Pamela Katz (ditto).

What I didn’t learn? Why Arendt’s articles were controversial in the first place. I get it ... but don’t.

Here are some of the complaints we hear in the film.

“Eichmann not an anti-Semite? That’s absurd!” says Arendt’s friend, Kurt Blumenfeld, living in Israel, where Eichmann is put on trial.

“You don’t need to be smart or powerful to behave like a monster,” says Hans Jonas, a German-born philosopher living in New York City, where Hannah lives.

“That’s Hannah Arendt: all cleverness and no feeling” says Norman, one of her many detractors, superciliously.

Meanwhile, The New Yorker’s editor in chief, William Shawn, is portrayed as a genial human doormat, while another editor, Francis Wells, is portrayed as a domineering harpy who can’t wait to get her claws into Hannah.

Obviously there’s some difficulty in making a movie (a visual presentation) about someone who thinks (a non-visual action). But Hannah doesn’t just think; she talks, and argues, and smokes, and the movie captures all of this, it’s just that the arguments themselves—the movie’s core element—aren’t that interesting. They’re repetitive. She states her case, the other side can’t believe she could feel that way, she’s shocked by their shock, retreats, regroups, states her case again ... and the other side can’t believe she could feel that way.

There are good supporting performances, particularly by Axel Milberg as her husband, Heinrich Blucher, and particularly in a scene where he has a brain aneurysm; it’s one of the most effective renditions of sudden, overwhelming pain I’ve seen on film. I also liked Julia Jentsch (“Sophie Scholl”) as Hannah’s sly, amused secretary. And of course I loved being in a milieu where everyone waited for the next The New Yorker to come out and then discussed it as if it mattered. Instead of, you know, what we have today.

But “Hannah Arendt” isn’t a deep movie. Part of the problem, I suppose, is that she won the argument so overwhelmingly. There’s not much for the opposition to say. 

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Posted at 06:54 AM on Feb 19, 2015 in category Movie Reviews - 2012
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Tuesday February 17, 2015

Lancelot Links

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Posted at 07:23 AM on Feb 17, 2015 in category Lancelot Links
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