Introducing One Sentence Movie Reviews!

Any time you see these three together, you know whats coming.

Any time you see these three together, you know what's coming.

Here’s the thing about movie reviews. If you haven’t read Roger Ebert’s review, you’d better, and if you have read Roger Ebert’s review, why would you read anybody else’s?

Competing with Ebert on movie review is like taking on Spencer Pratt in douchiness. You will be destroyed.

So I had an idea last night, the One Sentence Movie Review©.

Revolutionary Road

The American Dream kills babies.

No Country for Old Men

The world is messed up, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Little Miss Sunshine

Competition makes people sad.

Borat: Cultural Learning of America for make benefit Glorious Nation of Kazahkstan

Americans are morons.

Whatever Works

Christians are stupid, especially if they’re from the South.

I Am Legend

Uh, Will Smith looks good with his shirt off, or, mankind needs a savior.

Taken

Revenge is not necessarily sweet, but totally necessary.

Goodfellas

Your sins will find you out.

Any Jud Apatow Movie

LOL boners LOL.

Remember the Titans

Racial harmony and trick plays are what state championships are made of.

Friday Night Lights

Part of life is learning to deal with failure.

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The first pitch, an exercise in awesome and a Presidential metaphor (?)

The genius of the ceremonial first pitch is that it concisely combines things that Americans love:

1) Celebrities

2) Failure (known on the Internet as FAIL)

3) Celebrity FAIL

The ceremonial first pitch is one of the few ceremonial sports events that grab me every time. As a kid, I remembered making sure I was watching NBC at least five minutes before the Bulls tipped off in the Finals, because in the Finals, they always showed the starting lineups with that Allan Parsons Project song and the announcer that called Luc Longley “the man in the middle.”

I used to imagine being  Bulls player and how fired up I would be after that. I did not consider that, for example, Scottie Pippen went through that routine roughly 460 times in his career, not including the playoffs, or that he was a grown man, and I was an 11-year-old boy. It probably affected him a little less than it affected me.

Nonetheless, I still find pregame introductions interesting. But that’s about it. I don’t care about coin flips or commemorations or jersey retirements.

But the ceremonial first pitch is something I can get behind. It always feels like it reveals something about the pitcher. There’s something so honest about it. You can’t fake anything with the first pitch. In their element, these celebrities and politicians are so smooth, so orchestrated, sometimes contrived. They have PR guys and publicists and agents. They reveal only what they want to reveal. They spin things. They brand themselves.

And then they step out there on the mound, and it’s all gone. There is no hiding. Either you can accurately throw a baseball 60 feet or you cannot. When Mark Wahlberg girls one up there, doesn’t that change your opinion of him just a little? Obviously, the result of the first pitch is entirely inconsequential. But that doesn’t stop it from feeling meaningful. Maybe this is a stupid thing for me to think, but I think you can tell a lot about a person by the way they throw a baseball. You can tell if they’re confident or insecure. You can tell if they’re rugged or pampered. If they’ve never played a sport in their life, you can definitely tell that.

Cincinnati mayor Mark Mallory:

What you can tell: Mallory has never thrown a baseball to anybody before. He might not have ever thrown anything, period.

Mark Mangino:

What you can tell: Mangino used to play baseball. Good form. Accurate throw. Didn’t bloop it. But not standing on the rubber indicates he wasn’t completely sure he wasn’t going to mess it up.

And then there’s this link to the worst seven first pitches off all time, which demonstrates, among other things, that Carl Lewis has some kind of pathological need to humiliate himself in public.

Which brings us to George W. Bush vs. Barack Obama®. Now, as we sit here waiting for Change© and worrying about what the Swiss think of us, we’ll make little comment on the success or failure of the two men’s presidencies, but only on their ceremonial first pitches.

Obviously, Bush is the better baseball player, which shouldn’t be surprising. I think Bush would defeat almost any other President in U.S. history (except Teddy Rosevelt, obviously) in any feat of Americana. I mean, is there any doubt Bush can shoot skeet better than anybody you know? How many times during his presidency did someone walk into the Oval Office and find him arm wrestling with Donald Rumsfeld? Of course he can throw a baseball.

But I think it’s important to note how much pressure he was under. This was the first game played in New York after September 11. He’s in Yankee Stadium and everybody is just dying for something inspirational to happen. It’s easy to forget this, now, but people were looking for anything at that point. Nothing was normal. I think the confusion and despair was best expressed, actually, by David Letterman in a painful monologue six days after the attacks.

So that’s how fresh everything still was. One day after that, Bush is standing on the mound at Yankee Stadium wearing more kevlar than 50 Cent. And they hand him the ball. And he’s the leader of the free world. And his country, for all anyone knows, could be headed into World War III. And 40,000 New Yorkers are desperate for something to cheer about. He absolutely cannot bury one in the dirt.

And he didn’t. Shot one right down the middle. And the 40,000 desperate New Yorkers started chanting “USA! USA!”

As with all ceremonial first pitches, the outcome was of no real consequence, yet it still felt meaningful, didn’t it? It’s too bad he didn’t handle the next seven years as masterfully as he did that pitch at Yankee Stadium. Which is why we shouldn’t draw any conclusions, even metaphorical ones, about Obama’s pitch.

Still, it sure would have been nice to seem him get it there.

Kanye West definitions: 1) absurd, 2) the new media 3) a genius

Listen, I don’t have to explain anything to you. I’m not getting defensive, here. I’m not. I’m just saying that if I want to write about Kanye West for no reason, that’s what I’ll do.

The fly Malcolm X

The fly Malcolm X

Kanye West is an absurd person. I mean that literally. Kayne West’s persona has no rational or orderly relationship to human life. This is a guy who writes rap songs about how stylish he is and believes this would qualify him for inclusion in the Bible, were it written today. That obviously is ridiculous, but it is also central to who Kanye West believes he is.

This is why he is absurd.

In his song, “Good Morning” off his album, “Graduation” he raps, “I’m like the fly Malcolm X, buy any jeans necessary.”

A clever play on Malcolm X’s famous 1964 “by any means necessary,” speech, this line (probably) is the best existing definition of Kanye West. This is a man who does not consider himself meaningful, yet considers himself important, anyway. He believes he has a surplus of coolness, and believes this coolness gives him gravity, which is probably true, even if it is the kind of rationale that causes people to elect the pretty girl STUCO president and care what Rosie O’Donnell thinks about the Iraq War.

This is why Kanye West is the new media.

He has figured out that what is important (read: sells) in the modern media climate is not expertise and credibility, but fame. He understands that famous people are allowed to skip the credibility step and go straight to the “speaking to massive audiences” step, which unfamous people don’t get to do.

More importantly, he has figured out that making rhetorical music is a great way to remain unfamous. U2, Tupac and (recently and hilariously) Green Day are exceptions that prove this rule. The quickest path to the podium is fame, and the quickest path to fame (for a musician) is making catchy pop music and branding yourself.

This is the way of popular culture in our generation. Why do statements by Elizabeth Hasselbeck make news? Why do some people want Tiger Woods politicized? Does it matter what Bill Maher thinks of the economy? There are scores of much more qualified people available to inform our opinions on current events, but we don’t listen to those people. Qualifications are secondary to fame.

Here is how this relates to Kanye West:

Kanye, see, is the son of a former Black Panther from Atlanta, who happened to be one of the first black photographers at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His mother was an English professor. They lived a comfortable life in Chicago.

While he certainly isn’t far removed from the civil rights movement, his experience of it is only vicarious. And while he certainly wasn’t far removed from the crime and poverty that provide the anecdotes for most mainstream rap music, his experience of that is only vicarious. He senses a perception that he is inauthentic. This seems reflexive.

He is insecure about all of this, which is why he addresses this situation constantly in his music.

It comes across most explicitly in “Everything I am,” the chorus to which includes the line, “everything I’m not made me everything I am.”

People talk so much shit about me in barber shops, they forget to get their hair cut.

Ok, fair enough. The streets is flaring up,

because they want gun talk, or I don’t wear enough

Baggy clothes, Reeboks or Adidas

Can I add that he do spazz out at his shows?

So say goodbye to the NAACP award

say goodbye to the India Arie award.

They’d rather give me that ‘nigga please’ award,

but I’ll just take the ‘I got a lot of cheese’ award.

“Everything I am,” Graduation (2007)

What makes Kanye a star is the dichotomy of a man who possesses 1) a cartoonishly overinflated sense of his own importance, and 2) a cache of self-awareness and candor that distinguishes his music from the bulk of the genre.

Kanye can’t be Jay-Z or Lil Wayne, because you have to write about what you know. So Kayne just writes about how he can’t  be Jay-Z or Lil Wayne. This seems circular and silly, but it has to be addressed and is probably the second or third main reason he is famous. In this way, Kanye West is not unlike Eminem, who has always expended a lot of musical energy in reminding us what he is not (namely, black, attractive, sober or able to avoid bullies).

The music is almost totally unpolitical and his persona is almost totally unthreatening, which is why it appeals to a mass audience, which is why Kanye West can stand next to Mike Meyers on live TV and say “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” in one of the most hilarious live TV moments of this or any generation.

There’s no way they’re putting Lil Wayne next to Mike Meyers on a Red Cross pledge drive, because Lil Wayne wears enough baggy clothes*.

*And has tears tattooed on his face.

Yet it’s because of this broad appeal that Kanye’s words splashed down like Shaq slipping in his bathtub. Kanye has found a middleground between Will Smith and Tupac that has allowed him to be a) superfamous and b) ideologically offensive. This is a rare position to attain.

This is why he is a genius.