I don’t mean to make a habit out of posts that bash beloved holidays (watch out, Arbor Day!), but I feel the need to address tonight’s celebration of the New Year. It’s not that I hate New Year’s like I hate Christmas—I don’t. I just think New Year’s Eve is a poorly conceived holiday.
New Year’s Eve is a celebration built around a technicality. The Gregorian calendar lasts twelve months, but “beginning” in January is totally arbitrary. A continuous revolution, such as the Earth’s around the Sun, has no beginning and no end. In fact, because the length of the aforementioned revolution is technically slightly longer than 365 days (hence the need for Leap years), New Year’s Eve isn’t even consistent on which point signifies a “new” year. (Not to mention the fact that the current calendar has been altered and revised so many times throughout history that historical years have not always even been the same length, let alone had the same starting point.) Continue reading »
In a three part conclusion to Aught Lang Syne, we at NPI turn our attention away from the past and towards the future. Josh presents what he’s looking forward to in the Teens. Tim and John S’s posts on the matter will follow this afternoon.
In the Teens, I am looking forward to…
…The Next Film that Charlie Kaufman Writes and Directs: Charlie Kaufman (who looks kind of like Malcolm Gladwell, doesn’t he?) wrote arguably the best film of the Aughts, despite what John S doesn’t have to say. Being John Malkovich, a great film too, just missed the Aughts, and he wrote the screenplay for Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, one of the better films of the Aughts. And, Adaptation ain’t too shabby either. Wired has rightly pegged Kaufman as Hollywood’s brainiest screenwriter, and the themes and developments in his movies force you to consider and reconsider psychological and cognitive scientific assumptions. And, he seems to have a knack for generating excellent acting performances (see Sam Rockwell in Confessions, Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine, and Catherine Keener in Being John Malkovich, among others). Kaufman wrote one film this decade—Synecdoche, NY—which tried very hard to be groundbreaking and innovative but unfortunately bordered on incomprehensibility. But, Kaufman is too talented not to try again and it may just result in one of the best movies of the Teens.
…Whether Lacrosse Becomes a Major Sport: I’m finally reading The Tipping Point, which has gotten me thinking about what’s going to tip in a variety of domains. Of course, much of tipping is due to luck—though not arbitrary luck—which is why I’m so intrigued about whether lacrosse is going to become a major sport. Bill Simmons implies that it is going to tip soon, largely because it’s a safer sport than football. If it does, this would be the first time a sport—not initially major—has became a major sport in a VERY long time, arguably since basketball in the 1950s. Although, I sincerely hope it doesn’t come at the expense of football, which has become in recent years, unquestionably, my favorite sport to watch.
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After John S wrote what, in blog terms, amounts to a thesis on the presidency of George W. Bush earlier today, I figured I’d be a bit more visceral.
In my older less vulnerable years, when I consider our 43rd president, my first thought will be of his physical reflexes, of the moment when George W. Bush proved that he could dodge the shoes of journalists as well as his administration did their questions.
It is hard for me to imagine any other sitting president of the United States inspiring enough ire to compel a foreign journalist to take off his shoes and fling them one at a time at him. It is harder still to imagine America itself being as amused by the whole situation if it had happened to any other president in our history. I doubt there would have been editorials extolling the journalist as a hero, top 10 lists for why the whole event was “completely awesome,” or dozens of Internet games that allowed you to play the role of the first-person shoe thrower if some Soviet scribe had thrown his footwear at FDR in Yalta.*
*A perhaps unfair analogy for several reasons, the least of which is the lack of the Internet in 1940s USSR.
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Thus far, our retrospective on the 2000s has focused mainly on “trivial” pop culture issues: things like what books we liked, which movies were good, whose album was the best, what sports team was the most memorable, etc. We’ve completely ignored things like 9/11, the war in Iraq, and the recession. Part of this is merely out of prudence: We like to show restraint in areas that seem to require some expertise. It’s also been out of charity: Unlike Mark Antony, we come to praise the Aughts, not to bury them, so focusing on the darker aspects of the Aughts is beyond our stated purpose.
Any look at this decade, though, would feel horribly insufficient without a look at the presidency of George W. Bush. Like no other single individual, President Bush defined the Aughts. Indeed, Bush may have defined the Aughts more than anyone has defined a decade since Julius Caesar—his global impact is that wide.
At this point, though, criticizing Bush is kind of like setting fire to an already beaten and bloodied horse carcass. After all, the failures of Bush are common knowledge by now, right? Continue reading »
Here’s what makes rivalries so great: There will come a time in the moments before the game starts where you as a fan will feel internally a contradiction between the overwhelming excitement at the thought of beating your rival and the crippling fear at the idea that you might lose to them. It will be great, or it will be terrible. There is no in-between in rivalry games. There is nothing else in sports that provokes such a paradoxical sentiment in a fan.
That’s why we’re taking the time to figure out, “What was the best sports rivalry of the Aughts?” John S, Tim, and Pierre all took different stances on this one, and they anxiously await your opinions. After all, they’re kind of rivals themselves. Continue reading »
“For where there is no battle there is no life.”
I had that quote all set up to use at halftime of the Giants-Panthers debacle (which we’ll get to later) before realizing that it would work even better for what transpired in that other New York football team’s game.
For many, the signature play of the Indianapolis Colts’ decade did not take place in their overwhelmingly forgettable Super Bowl XLI win over the Bears;* rather, it was in the 2004 Divisional Playoff game in New England, when Dominic Rhodes had the ball ripped out of his hands by Tedy Bruschi. “They don’t want it!” Bruschi yelled, pointing to the ball as he jogged to the sidelines.
*To substantiate my “overwhelmingly forgettable” claim: What was the score? Who really deserved MVP? What was the key play, and who made it?
That has long been the perception about the Indianapolis Colts: They don’t want it as much as New England or San Diego. On Sunday afternoon in Lucas Oil Stadium, Jim Caldwell proved all the doubters true. In pulling Peyton Manning and several of his starters from the second half of a tight game with the New York Jets, Caldwell—and it should be noted that the coach was simply acting under the orders of GM Bill Polian—took the coward’s way out.
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Despite my general negativity about movies of the Aughts, there were still plenty of great films released this decade (although I think a Top Ten list of 90s movies would probably omit films that could be #1 on this list). I’ve already provided a list of the ten funniest films of the decade, and there were other great comedies that didn’t make the list. Today, though, we turn our attention to the dramatic category. As Josh has already declared, though, genre concerns can be distracting, so I will not be bound my technical genre classifications. Consider this a list of films I like for “dramatic” reasons:
Commercially speaking, the Aughts were an excellent decade for film. Even in poor economic conditions, box office records continued—and still continue as we speak—to be broken. Box Office Mojo’s list of highest grossing films is littered with movies from the Aughts. Much of this is due to inflation, of course, but even on an inflation-adjusted list of all films to pass $100 million in gross, 273 of 665 films—or 41%—come from this decade alone.
For those who make their living off of movies, then, there was plenty to be happy about in the Aughts. But for the audience, for those who like to watch daring and innovative films, the decade was surprisingly disappointing.
Of course, painting in such broad strokes is always a tricky game, particularly for something as ingrained and multi-faceted as film. Unlike television, cinema has been established as a medium for serious art since before I was even born, so the Aughts couldn’t really see a general creative leap of that sort. Unlike music, in which production costs are lower and output generally faster, film cannot experience the kind of rapid flourishing and integration of entire genres. Continue reading »