- The other day my father was searching for a Ring Lardner quote on the origin of the phrase “crossword puzzles,” clicked a link to Salt Lake City's Deseret News and came across...his own article on the history of the crossword puzzle that he wrote for The Minneapolis Star-Tribune 20 years ago. They give credit but no money (at least not to the author). But follow them on Facebook! Follow them on Twitter! As for the quote? Lardner said crosswords were so-called because “husbands and wives generally try to solve them together.” Nice line.
- Speaking of quotes: A few weeks back the L.A. Times asked screenwriters for the origins of their famous movie lines, such as “Go ahead...make my day.” Most of the screenwriters give a lot of credit to the actors saying the lines, and two of those lines are said by Tom Hanks, but my favorite anecdote of the bunch, maybe because it's my favorite line of the bunch, is Frank Pierson on “What we got here is failure to communicate.”
- New York Magazine asked critics around the country for their worst movies of 2009. It's fun to read—not least because some of them try to outdo each other with their contrarianism. Really, Nathan Lee? Really really, Rex Reed? And either remove the caps lock, Choire Sicha, or get a new job before you give yourself a heart attack. On the other hand: Exactly, Joe Morgenstern. And thanks for the laugh, Michelle Orange. Elsewhere Patrick Goldstein does us the favor of adding up these “worst ofs” and getting the top 10 worst films of 2009. Number one? Guess.
- Snkkt! They‘re prosecuting the guy who uploaded that copy of “Wolverine” onto the Web last March, more than a month before its theatrical debut. His name is Gilberto Sanchez, 47, a glass installer and musician from the Bronx, who says he bought a bootleg copy of the movie from an Asian, possibly Korean, man in a Chinese restaurant, watched it with his grandkids, then posted it on the Web so others could enjoy it. Not smart. Worth jail time? I don’t know. The bigger question is how the bootleg got into that Chinese restaurant in the first place. But that's the difficult part. Which is why Sanchez is being prosecuted by himself.
- Tom Shone's Slate piece on the politics of “Avatar” was fun reading. It's not only smart but kept me off-balance, veering from “What are talkin' about?” to “Exactly!” to “Oh, please,” to “Right effin' on!” The slide over into the Cameron oeuvre is particularly good and the ending packs a whallop. Smart smart smart. Even if Slate's headline is dumb dumb dumb.
- By the way: If “Avatar” wins the weekend, as it's predicted to do, it will be no. 1 for the fifth weekend in a row. When was the last time our throwaway culture kept the same movie no. 1 for five weekends in a row? Way back in 1999, when “The Sixth Sense” was also no. 1 for five weekends in a row. (Three other films in the 2000s managed four weekends at no. 1:“The Dark Knight,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” More here, in a piece I wrote in 2006.) And if “Avatar” manages a sixth weekend at no. 1? That‘ll be the most since, of course, “Titanic,” back in ’97-‘98, when it spent... wait for it...15 weekends at no. 1. As I’ve said and said and said: fanboys are all well and good but there are no repeat customers like teenage girls dying to see Leonardo DiCaprio dying for them.
- Nathaniel over at Film Experience raps up his 100 best films of the 2000s with his top 15. It's not that I agree with him—although I do some of the time (Brokeback, Habla Con Ella, Rachel); it‘s, as he writes, “List-making is, by its very nature, personal. If you’re doing it right that is.”
- How about some baseball action? Joe Posnanski takes apart Tom Verducci—not for arguing that Edgar Martinez shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame, but for arguing that Edgar Martinez shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame because “Only four times did Martinez play in 150 games and put up an adjusted OPS of 120.” Edgar's adjusted OPS in those seasons, Posnanski notes, was considerably higher than 120. “There are many ways to mess around with the numbers and one is to make the qualifying standard way below a player’s standing,” Posnanski writes. “If you do that, you can come up with all sorts of crazy stuff.” He gives examples. Most seasons with 10 or more home runs? Turns out Chili Davis is tied at no. 24...with Babe Ruth! Who knew?
- Finally, if you know me, if you read me, if you love me, you know how much I love both baseball and Charles Schulz's “Peanuts.” Which is why I think this is the greatest thing ever.
Ballplayers: Daddy-o, Papa, and a boy named Charlie Brown