Saturday, February 27, 2010
THE STING (1973)
Starring- Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw
The best picture of 1973 was this fun, witty caper film from director George Roy Hill. Newman and Redford re-teamed after the success of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to star as two con men who look to get revenge by grifting a mob boss played by Robert Shaw. This film is the gold standard to which all other caper films are compared. Before Clooney as Danny Ocean Pitt as Rusty Ryan there was Newman as Gondorf and Redford as Hooker.
Hooker is a small-time con man who goes to work with Gondorf when his partner is unexpectedly killed by the ruthless mobster, Doyle Lonegan. Together, these two set up a big score to get revenge and make enough money to live on for a long time. Hill expertly constructs the movie in several acts that are divided by title cards to keep the audience in on the steps of a big con operation. It is really cool to see how grifters do their business, and how they keep the law from intruding on their work.
Redford is great, as is Shaw, but to me, it is Newman who steals the show. The scene on the train that sets the grift in motion, in particular, is Newman at his best. The supporting cast is very strong as well, with great character actors filling out the group of con men. There are certainly more revolutionary and weighty films that have won Best Picture, but very few are more fun to watch than The Sting.
Things to watch for-
Edith Head's great costumes
The Ragtime score by Marvin Hamlisch by way of Scott Joplin
The diner that was also used in Back to the Future
The Norman Rockwell-esque artwork
"Not only are you a cheat, you're a gutless cheat as well."
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
I love basketball more than any other sport, and as such I have given a lot of thought to who would be on my all-time team. I have studied the game, the teams and the players over my whole life and have come up with 13 names. Obviously it is very difficult to have a perfect list, and someone will invariably come up with an argument for a great player who is left off. If you don't agree with my list, make your own. Before I present the list, I must say that I tried to have players from many different eras and teams to give the list variety. Here now, is the All-time Team.
C- BILL RUSSELL (Celtics) 11 Time Champion- the biggest winner and best leader of all time
F- KARL MALONE (Jazz) 2 Time MVP, 2nd in scoring all time, best power forward in the game
F- LARRY BIRD (Celtics) 3 Time Champion, Best clutch shooter ever
G- MICHAEL JORDAN (Bulls/Wizards) 6 Time Champion, 6 Time Finals MVP, Best player ever
G- MAGIC JOHNSON (Lakers) 5 Time Champion, 3 Time MVP, 6'9'' Point Guard
F- JULIUS ERVING (Nets/76ers) 1 Time MVP, 1 Time Champion, Dunking pioneer
G- JOHN STOCKTON (Jazz) All time steals and assists leader
C- KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR (Bucks/Lakers) 6 Time Champion, 6 Time MVP, Scoring Leader
G- OSCAR ROBERTSON (Royals/Bucks) 1 Time MVP, 1 Time Champion
C- WILT CHAMBERLAIN (76ers/Lakers) 4 Time MVP, 2 Time Champion
G- JERRY WEST (Lakers) 1 Time Champion, 1 Time Finals MVP, The Logo of the NBA
F- LEBRON JAMES (Cavaliers) 1 Time MVP, Currently the NBA's most dominant player
G- KOBE BRYANT (Lakers) 4 Time Champion, 1 Time MVP, 1 Time Finals MVP
There it is. I hope you Laker fans appreciate that Kobe, who I hate, made the list. I can be objective if I try.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
The United States was originally a British colony, but has since become independent and surpassed the U.K. in world power and influence. I have to say that even though the U.S.A. has had many great accomplishments in its 234 years of existence, the British still outrank us in many areas. I think that I would like to be British sometimes because of the things on the list that follows. Here now, are the best things that the British have given the world, that I love.
THE ROLLING STONES
NEWCASTLE BROWN ALE
See, I told you it was some good stuff. Thanks, England.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Starring- Kurt Russell, Patricia Clarkson, Eddie Cahill
The 1980 Miracle on Ice USA Hockey Team's defeat of the mighty Soviets in Lake Placid is arguably the greatest sports story of all time. It is the ultimate underdog story. It is chronicled very accurately and well in the 2004 film Miracle. Miracle focuses mainly on the team's innovative and unorthodox coach, Herb Brooks. Kurt Russell gives one of the best performances of his career as Brooks, as he drives his 20 players to be "uncommon men."
The film does a nice job of providing the backdrop of Soviet/U.S. tension and the overall malaise that was prevalent at the time to ratchet up the importance of what the U.S. Hockey Team's victory meant to the nation. In addition to being about hockey, the film is a nice time capsule and history lesson without getting too in your face about it. With that said, I love the movie most for its scenes with Brooks and his team.
Brooks is a master of knowing how to get to and motivate each player, and how to make them as good as they need to be to win the gold. For anyone who has ever coached, this film is a great example of what being a coach is all about. I studied some of Brooks' techniques and ideas so that I could perhaps use them in my work as a basketball coach. In addition to the great performance by Russell as Brooks, the young men who play the team make the film very believable. The team is played by hockey players, not actors, and that adds to the overall quality and drama of the game action, but rest assured, they do not come up short as thespians.
I get amped up by this movie every time I see it, and would rather watch it than the Olympics that are on right now. Even if you are enjoying the Vancouver games, pop in the DVD of Miracle and observe the greatest sports story ever.
Things to watch for-
Al Michaels' re-created commentary
"Do you believe in miracles? Yes!"
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
“To be able to lead others, a man must be willing to go forward alone.”
In my time away from the working world, I have spent a lot of time thinking about what my next job might be. At some point in my career I would like to be in charge. Whether that comes in my next job or not, I do not know. I have never been a boss. I need to preface everything I say with this statement. Having said that, I have had many bosses, managers, mentors and superiors, and working with and for all of these different people has given me a unique perspective on what it means to be a boss, or more importantly- a leader. Leadership is something that I think most people want to have as a skill. In the many jobs I have applied for, “leadership skills” is one of the many criteria that employers prize in their potential employees. I like to think I have leadership skills, but since I have never been a leader or boss I do not know whether or not it is fair to claim skills I may or may not possess. Usually, skills are only acquired by doing, and I typically agree with this statement, but not in the case of leadership.
Unless you are a self-employed office of one, or have never had a job, you have had a boss or supervisor of some kind. I myself have had more than fifteen bosses or superiors in my life, and I can say without a doubt that a vast majority of them have not been very good. They lacked the all important leadership skills necessary to be in a position of power. It is said that people are “born leaders” and can make being in charge look easy because of their innate skills. I agree that there are some things that we are born with, the ability to lead being one of them. But it is not enough with leadership to rely on your genetic gifts, nor can you simply learn by doing. There is an all important third element that I will talk about in a future blog entry. Until then, try to think about what that critical element might be.
Friday, February 12, 2010
I know you have all been anxiously awaiting the nominations for the Conor Awards, well here they are. I have expanded the awards this year to include not only Best Picture, but Best Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress and Director. I have seen most of the 2009 films of consequence, and feel that these represent the best of the year. The most notable snub is Avatar, which got 0 nominations. While it was a very beautiful film, and showed what is possible with filmmaking, it left me wishing James Cameron had spent part of the $300 million budget on a writer. Watching Avatar was like being given a beautiful car, and not being allowed to drive it. Sure, it's nice to look at, but who cares if you can't get behind the wheel? Sorry, James Cameron it just wasn't your year for a Conor Award. Maybe you can get a nomination for Avatar 2: The Search for More Money.
The Hurt Locker
Up In The Air
Robert Downey, Jr.- Sherlock Holmes
George Clooney- Up in the Air
Jeff Bridges- Crazy Heart
Meryl Streep- Julie and Julia
Meryl Streep- It’s Complicated
Sandra Bullock- The Blindside
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR-
Alec Baldwin- It’s Complicated
Zach Galifinakis- The Hangover
Christoph Waltz- Inglourious Basterds
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS-
Maggie Gyllenhall- Crazy Heart
Diane Kruger- Inglourious Basterds
Anna Kendrick- Up in the Air
J.J. Abrams- Star Trek
Kathryn Bigelow- The Hurt Locker
Neill Blomkamp- District 9
Please leave me a comment if you disagree with my picks. The award winners will be revealed on the Saturday before the Oscars, so you have time to lobby me for who should win.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Some men have a creed that they live by, a code that they believe in. I don't just have one, I have many, because there are many situations that come up in life, and you want to make sure that you are prepared for all of them. I hope that all you readers will think about what you value, and if there is a good quote that reflects your beliefs, try to use it as inspiration. Here now are a few of the quotes I live by.
"The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see." -Winston Churchill
I like this quote as a history major because it really hammers home the point that we need to know our past to understand our present and future, and also that it is important to know where you came from to know where you are going.
"Why would I go out for a burger when I have steak at home?" -Paul Newman
This quote was in response to a question about why Paul Newman never cheated on his wife. Tip for all you unmarrieds out there- marry a steak not a burger, and you won't have to worry.
"If it's petty don't sweat it, and if it's sweaty don't pet it."
It's just good advice.
"A 'No' uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a 'Yes' merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble." -Gandhi
This really just says to me, have a spine. Gandhi sure did.
"My mind rebels at stagnation." -Sherlock Holmes
Stay busy, even if you aren't. I think that it's important to have things that challenge you and keep you interested and stimulated.
"Don't be a dick." -William Bentley (my father)
Don't be one. It makes good sense.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981)
Starring- Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Denholm Elliott
Who doesn't love Indiana Jones? I am of course talking about the Indiana Jones of my youth, not the crappy Crystal Skull version. For me, Indiana Jones is all about this film. I appreciate Last Crusade, and to a much lesser extent, Temple of Doom, but Raiders will always be my favorite. It has it all- a great hero, a sassy heroine, great action, evil villains and a great McGuffin in the Ark of the Covenant. From the first time we see Indy emerge from the shadows to the final scene in the warehouse, Raiders is a nearly perfect movie.
The opening keeps you on the edge of your seat as Indy combats poison darts, turncoat guides and giant boulders, and never lets up. With him every step of the way is a fabulous supporting cast led by Karen Allen as the feisty Marion Ravenwood. Paul Freeman as Belloq is a charming, but deadly adversary for Jones, as is the Peter Lorre-esque Toht played by Ronald Lacey. I also love Indy's allies Marcus and Sallah who help him in his quest for the Ark.
I think one of the reasons that I like this movie and Indiana Jones as a hero is because he isn't perfect, and he knows it. He's not sure how he's going to get out of certain situations, he's afraid of snakes and he gets beat up. I dressed up as Indy many times as a kid, and loved to act out the movie as I watched it because I wanted to be like him. Not many screen characters inspired me in that way, but Indiana Jones was one of them. Cheers to a great tough guy!
Things to watch for-
The Monkey Heiling Hitler
The scariest hanger ever
That Big Boulder (How'd they get it so smooth?)
"I don't know. I'm making this up as I go."
Friday, February 5, 2010
Conor Bentley, teacher, writer and friend decided to take a dirt nap on Wednesday. He was loved by all who knew him, and will be missed. He was 105 years old and died surrounded by family and friends. He was born March 20, 1983 to Pam Stone and Bill Bentley and grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. He attended school at Rowland Hall-St. Mark’s where he went on to teach and the University of Utah where he became President. In addition to being an outstanding educational mind, Conor was hilariously funny. He wrote jokes and comedy sketches that he performed on his short-lived Television program “The Con Hour.” In addition to what he wrote for his show, Conor wrote the screenplays to four feature films, and he also wrote eight books, including his personal favorite- “What’s That Smell?”
He leaves behind an enduring legacy and is survived by his wife of 82 years Mary Anne Wetzel, their children James and Bond and their robot dog Basiltron 2000. The funeral will be open to the public, and will be held at the Bentley Auditorium. Conor's body will be kept in Cryogenic freeze until a cure can be found for Hoverboot related injuries. In lieu of flowers please send donations to Conor’s favorite charity- The Nook for Needy Nuns.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
The movie industry has given us some great villains over the years, and I feel compelled to recognize the ten that I think are the best. Here they are...
10. KHAN NOONIEN SINGH
Star Trek's best and most memorable villain gets us off to a great start. Khan is a genetically engineered genius who is hell-bent on revenge. It is Khan's determination that makes him a great villain, and his use of brain burrowing, mind controlling eels on his enemies doesn't hurt either. (Played by Ricardo Montalban in Star Trek II)
9. HARRY LIME
Perhaps the most charming villain on this list, Harry Lime is a criminal mastermind. His plot leaves many people dead or terminally ill, and he feels no remorse. He is a product of World War II and its aftermath, but that is no excuse for his sadistic behavior. (Played by Orson Welles in The Third Man)
8. CAPTAIN BLIGH
This is the only villain on this list who actually existed in real life. Captain Bligh is a cruel disciplinarian that forces his crew into mutiny because of his evil and irrational treatment of his men on the H.M.S. Bounty. Bligh has been played by many men, but make sure to see the 1935 Oscar winning version of Mutiny on the Bounty for the best and most villainous Bligh. (Played by Charles Laughton)
You might look at this guy and think, "Who's this old dork?" But while you're thinking that, he'll be planning to kill you and feed you to his pigs. That's right, he's a mob boss who kills his enemies and those who displease him and feeds them to his pet pigs. Don't cross Bricktop, he's a tough customer. (Played by Alan Ford in Snatch)
6. HARRY POWELL
There's nothing more villainous than a bad man who pretends to be good. Harry Powell claims to be a minister, but he is really a thief and a murderer. Worse than that, his target is two children who know his true intentions. I'll never hear the hymn "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" and not be creeped out. (Played by Robert Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter)
5. NURSE RATCHED
This woman makes mental hospitals less appealing than they already are. Her manipulative hold on her patients makes her a very evil villain, and responsible for more problems than she cures. She's also not willing to be challenged, and will use any means necessary to stay in control. (Played by Louise Fletcher in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest)
4. ROSA KLEBB/RED GRANT
These are the two best villains that James Bond creator Ian Fleming ever gave us. They get paired together because one is the brains and one is the braun. He's the most dangerous assassin SPECTRE has, and she's the creepy mastermind with poison knives in her shoes. 007 has a hard time getting the better of the these two. (Played by Lotte Lenya and Robert Shaw in From Russia With Love)
3. THE JOKER
Completely unpredictable, ruthless and sadistic, The Joker is in a class of his own. The fact that he believes in anarchy might make him the most dangerous villain on this list, and his wicked sense of humor only adds to his menacing personality. Wanna know how he got his scars? (Played by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight)
2. DR. HANNIBAL LECTER
This guy is a genius psychiatrist who eats people. He eats people! What else do you need to know? Maybe that he's always two steps ahead, and that he's really charming and manipulative. The Silence of the Lambs is scary as shit, and 99% of that is because of Dr. Lecter. (Played by Sir Anthony Hopkins)
1. DARTH VADER
You cannot think villain without picturing Darth Vader. He is the epitome of evil, with his force chokes, his light saber skills, the black helmet and that deep voice. I don't know if any villain before or since has made as big an impact as the Dark Lord of the Sith. (Played by David Prowse and James Earl Jones in the Original Star Wars trilogy)
Monday, February 1, 2010
Welcome to February, kids. I've noticed lately that there are many people and things that have "Jumped the Shark." The definition of jumping the shark is when something- usually a T.V. show, becomes absurd, strange and unwatchable. I also use it to mean when someone or something has gotten so popular that it "jumps the shark" and becomes annoyingly overdone. Here now, is a list of a few things/people that have Jumped the Shark.
Yeah, we get it, the burgers are fresh and the fries are fresh and there's cool code words for onions and two patties, but In-N-Out has definitely jumped the shark. I've had In-N-Out many times, and it is very good, but I can't see why people will travel miles out of the way or push their grandmother down the stairs to get it. Thanks to its over-popularity we now have a slew of chains that are basically the same, and in some cases better. Five Guys Burger and Fries is an example. I'll eat In-N-Out, but I won't use a whole tank of gas to get a burger, double double
I love Will Farrell, but he kinda sucks now. I thought he was great in his SNL days and in his first few movies, but he has totally jumped the shark. Because of his success, he has been ruined, and now instead of the awesomeness that was Anchorman we get crap like Step Brothers. Just like so many great comedians before him (Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy) he thinks that anything he does is just absolutely hilarious because he is the one doing it. Sadly, a lot of other people think so too, but just remember that Mike Myers was killing it in 1997 with Austin Powers and now he's doing Shrek VIII and The Love Guru. I hope Will can reverse the trend of shark jumping because I don't want to see him as an animated Mouse in a movie called "Who Cut the Cheese?"
Is there anything these morons won't film? I hear Jersey Shore is funny, and I know Flavor Flav deserves to find someone special, but come on! Round about season 97 of The Real World reality T.V. jumped the shark in the most in-your-face way imaginable. It has become a ridiculous joke what passes for entertainment these days, and the only good thing about reality T.V. is that people rip it to shreds for laughs. I don't need to see Kendra Wilkinson giving birth, or The Situation getting busy with the ladies, or Gary Busey losing weight. I just don't.
He's the least offensive one in this group, but Jon Stewart has jumped the shark. I love The Daily Show, and really appreciated what it did for news and politics back in the early part of the decade. Now, Jon Stewart's success has made him way too preachy. Just give me the fake news, and we'll move on.
Next time, I'll tell you which Disney star has jumped the shark. I'll give you a hint, her dad is Billy Ray Cyrus.