Once-sentence movie reviews

“A Serious Man”

Imagine the entire Bible was reduced to the book of Job, and the Coen Brothers did a modern metaphor for that.

Grade: **1/2

“The Invention of Lying”

Spends about an hour answering the question, “What would it be like if the concept of lying didn’t exist?” — hint: HILARIOUS! — then mixes in an implausible love story.

Grade: **

“Up in the Air”

In a recession, it is a timely movie that includes a lot of people getting fired while exploring the idea that people need love, or at the very least, meaningful human interaction.

Grade: *****

Fun with reader e-mails

Pictured: A reader of mine.

Pictured: A reader

In Saturday’s paper, I wrote this column suggesting the Big 12 redraw its divisional lines, from North-South to East-West. I wrote it as a response to Kansas’ sixth-consecutive Big 12 championship, on the basic premise that KU has an advantage in the conference race because it plays Iowa State, Colorado and Nebraska a combined six times, while the South division teams only play them three times.

Going East-West would make the league more balanced.

I expected people to disagree. That’s cool. But what I was not expecting was somebody to read that column and conclude I was a KU homer. I mean, the column was based on the premise that KU has had an unfair advantage for all these years. Agree or disagree, surely you can’t see a pro-KU bias in that column, can you?

That is exactly what happened, from a reader named Kathy.

I have changed nothing about these e-mails, except to redact her e-mail address.

From: Kathy L [mailto:xxxxx@yahoo.com]
Sent: Sun 3/7/2010 9:35 AM
To: Corcoran, Tully
Subject: RE: wow

Man, Tully, where did that come from? Granted, KU is a basketball school and they are good. I had no idea that gives you the right to beat your chest and thumb your nose at us “lesser” teams – I remember teams and parents that did that in middle school when they had a good team and it was just as annoying then, but we just figured they had no class.

I think the fact of the matter is, at least for KSU fans,(and I would guess the other programs you referred to) putting KU in another division would take away easy wins for us in 3 other sports – football, volleyball and women’s basketball (see past 15 years). I guess we have had to just concede men’s basketball in order to have an annual “whipping boy” in other sports – so be it.

And remember, what goes around, comes around – who knows what will happen next year in basketball, or the year after that, etc.

And, if KU is all about national championshps, how many have they won – and how many have they won without major NCAA infractions?

And my response:


From: Corcoran, Tully <tully.corcoran@cjonline.com>
Subject: RE: wow
To: “Kathy L” <xxxxx@yahoo.com>
Date: Saturday, March 6, 2010, 4:18 PM

Man, Tully, where did that come from?

Years of watching Big 12 North basketball and
football.

Granted, KU is a basketball school and they are good.
I had no idea that gives you the right to beat your chest
and thumb your nose at us “lesser” teams – I remember
teams and parents that did that in middle school when they had a
good team and it was just as annoying then, but we just
figured they had no class.

There was no chest beating or nose thumbing, there.
The facts are unavoidable. Iowa State, Nebraska and
Colorado are not competitive with the top tier teams in the Big
12.

I think the fact of the matter is, at least for KSU
fans,(and I would guess the other programs you
referred to) putting KU in another division would take away easy wins for us in 3 other sports – football, volleyball and women’s basketball (see past 15 years). I guess we have had to
just concede men’s basketball in order to have an annual
“whipping boy” in other sports – so be it.

With all due respect, when conferences re-align, add
teams, lose teams, whatever, nobody cares about
non-revenue-generating sports, and the only
revenue-generating sports at Big 12 schools are
football and men’s basketball.

And remember, what goes around, comes around – who
knows what will happen next year in basketball, or the year
after that, etc.

We can’t predict the future, of course. I’m sure
Kansas is not going to win six more Big 12 championships in a
row, but the Big 12 has been around since 1996, and, as was the
basis of the column, Kansas has owned it the whole time, in
part because its gets to roll the bottom feeders in the
north six time a year. Re-alignment would make the league more
fair to South teams, who face better competition in their
division.

And, if KU is all about national championshps, how
many have they won – and how many have they won without
major NCAA infractions?

Kansas has won three NCAA titles and two Helms
national titles. KU was on NCAA probation after the 1988 title
and during the 2008 title run. But the point I was making
was that KU’s program and its fans are pretty much always
evaluating their team’s season based on how close it
came to winning the national championship, not the conference
championship.

But I suppose your question was meant to be rhetorical.

Anyway, thanks for reading,

Tully

Here is where the wheels really come off. Try to figure out what Kathy is trying to argue, here.

From: Kathy L [mailto:xxxxx@yahoo.com]
Sent: Sun 3/7/2010 9:35 AM
To: Corcoran, Tully
Subject: RE: wow

So if you were talking about football and basketball
“revenue” your point doesn’t even apply – we (KSU, CU, Nebr)
never got less money for administering severe beatings in
football to KU for many years in a row. It seemed to me that
you were talking about KU not being challenged enough in the
North because they happen to be good at 1 sport.

Anyway, ESPN lists KU’s ratio of national championships to
major NCAA infractions at minus 2, just so you know.

Have a good day

Tag, I’m it.

From: Corcoran, Tully <tully.corcoran@cjonline.com>
Subject: RE: wow
To: “Kathy L” <xxxxx@yahoo.com>
Date: Sunday, March 7, 2010, 4:58 PM
I’m afraid you might not understand
the meaning of the term “revenue generating” in this
context.

The only point I was making about revenue-generating sports
is that they are the only sports that are given
consideration when conferences are formed or re-aligned.
Conferences are about money. Revenue generation in this
context doesn’t have anything to do with the results of the
games, and I never suggested anything like that.

I’m also afraid you disagree with the premise of my column
— that Kansas has dominated the Big 12 in basketball, and
has been especially good against three schools. You may not
like my suggestion for changing that, but to argue against
the premise would be aggressively ignorant.

Good day,

Tully Corcoran
Kansas beat writer
The Capital-Journal
(785) 295-5652

And here comes a response I don’t even know how to answer.

From: Kathy L [mailto:xxxxxx@yahoo.com]
Sent: Mon 3/8/2010 9:28 AM
To: Corcoran, Tully
Subject: RE: wow

Hey, no need to be defensive – I thought you guys were supposed to be impartial…..

I have no idea how either of those points are related. I don’t know why she used a dash instead of a period. I don’t know why there are ellipses on the end. I can understand why she thinks I’m being defensive, but I don’t understand the point about being impartial.

I reply.

From: Corcoran, Tully <tully.corcoran@cjonline.com>
Subject: RE: wow
To: “Kathy L” <xxxxx@yahoo.com>
Date: Sunday, March 8, 2010, 11:388 AM

Let me make sure I understand you.

You think I’m a Kansas fan who wants the Big 12 to make it MORE difficult for Kansas to win Big 12 championships? Is this accurate?

Tully

I try, and fail, to write about The Bachelor

I don’t like to be The Ripper Guy. There are a million Ripper Guys out there, bashing away at everything. The goal here — generally, but with many exceptions — is to write thoughtfully and insightfully about things whose meaning might otherwise be overlooked. I’m not sure I ever really succeed in that, but at the very least I’m usually taking the subject seriously when I write about it.

That was the attempt, here.

For the first season in its history, I watched The Bachelor, which was the tale of a ham sandwich falling in love with one of the girls from Coyote Ugly.

Or something.

I’ll admit, I had plenty of preconceived notions about The Bachelor, most of which were not good, almost all of which were confirmed. So I’ll say this right off: I am not a fan of the show. I think it is ridiculous, and I think even fans would have to agree with that. The premise — the way for a man to find “true love” is to run 25 (moderately insane) women through a tournament — is preposterous.

None of this is to say I wasn’t interested. Tournaments are inherently interesting. The single-elimination tournament is by far the most entertaining way to determine sports champions, even if it isn’t necessarily the most accurate. And the show does a nice job of setting up the People’s Champ vs. Villain matchup that pretty much single-handedly made professional wrestling the success it was (is?) and has been the overwhelming narrative in every Major League Baseball season since 1996.

Fortunately, the entertainment media play along.

Based on the photos alone, guess how Us Weekly wants us to feel about the respective girls in this photo.

Some Googling, combined with sitting next to my fiance, Abby, revealed there has been a tremendous amount of vitriol expended in Vienna Girardi’s direction. America, it seems, really, really did not want the ham sandwich to love Vienna, most likely because she is divorced, has surgically augmented breasts and had allegedly been a stripper or a Hooter’s waitress or posed not-quite topless for a photo or once kissed a girl and liked it. Nobody seems to know for sure what she did, just that at some point she did something vaguely skanky and therefore does not deserve to be loved. And certainly not by someone with abs, blue eyes and the charisma of a squash.

That, and it is painfully obvious she is going to systematically destroy the ham sandwich, who seems like the kind of guy you could literally kick in the face and then reasonably expect¬† to hear laugh and say something like, “Well, I just got kicked in the face, so I’m feeling¬† a little overwhelmed right now.” But that is neither here nor there.

"If you look at my biceps long enough, you will not notice the crater where my personality should be."

I’m trying hard to be fair to this show,* and to give it the treatment it deserves as a pop culture phenomenon. I have, after all, written about Miley Cyrus in this space, so I don’t have any room to look down my nose at anything.

*Not that hard.

By, man, this show makes that difficult. During the season finale, I had already begun annoying Abby with my commentary, so I avoided saying anything when Tenley, upon being tearfully discarded¬† from the ham sandwich’s life, actually said these words: “Goodbye St. Lucia sun.” I did not question the sincerity of a man who, let’s face it, barely knows these women after just a few weeks of filming and, oh yes, dating up to 24 other women at the same time. I did not note that in 13 seasons of this show, not one single couple has gotten married (although supposedly one is about to do so), despite that seven of them got engaged on the season finale*.

*Granted, this was mainly because I did not know that at the time.

But when the ham sandwich chose the Coyote Ugly girl, and in total sincerity they played this song …

I mean, even Abby was shaking her head.

This show is awful. The shame of it is, it doesn’t have to be awful. This is not “Rock of Love.” The Bachelor, while ridiculous, is at least actually a show, not just a 30-minute YouTube clip. It’s formulaic, emotionally manipulative, and startlingly misogynistic*, but I can forgive all that as long as the show is willing to operate within some reasonable bounds of believability.

*If there was no opportunity to be on television involved, would any woman willingly enter a situation in which she was dating a guy who was also dating 24 other women? It requires the total forfeiture of pride and dignity.

I’m somewhat baffled women like this show. It would seem to represent the worst possible scenario a woman could imagine for dating a man. Women seem to desire, above all else, being made to feel special. This show makes all of them completely expendable. I don’t get the appeal, but I’m obviously wrong.

I’m not asking the show to admit it is ridiculous, but a little self awareness would be nice. Just don’t ask me to suspend everything I’ve learned about people and relationships in order to believe what I’m seeing is plausible. It is interesting enough to watch a single man date 25 girls and narrow it down to one. There’s enough intrigue and enough drama there to carry the show, especially when we’re all in on the secret that all of these women have a screw loose.

Why stuff the love down our throats? Why can’t we just watch the tournament and make our own decisions?

Actually, don’t answer that.