Thursday, September 25, 2008

Shea Goodbye

If you care at all about baseball – and even if you don't – stop whatever you're doing and go HERE to read Tom Verducci's Sports Illustrated cover story about the last days of Yankee Stadium. This incredibly moving piece – and I say that as a well-documented New York Mets fan – is written from the perspective of the Stadium itself, sharing a few of its greatest moments and secrets and telling the reader how it'd like to be remembered when it's torn down this winter to make way for its state-of-the-art replacement.

The last game at Yankee Stadium was last Sunday. The final day was filled with emotional tributes to the House that Ruth Built, the home to more great moments in American sports history than any other place. Seven days later, as an afterthought to most, the Mets will say goodbye to Shea Stadium, Yankee Stadium's redheaded, blue-walled stepchild, the House that No One Wanted to Take Credit For. Most people outside New York won't notice – many people inside New York won't notice – but for the proud few like myself, who have rejoiced there or – more frequently - suffered there, it will be a sad day. For those of you who have no attachment to baseball or the parks in which it is played think of your favorite place in the world. Then imagine being told you can never go there again.

You'd have to be an idiot to claim that Shea Stadium is even half as important as Yankee Stadium in the macro view. It's been home to two winners (three if we want to count the Jets) and a couple of very famous concerts by The Beatles and that's about it. Small potatoes when compared with 26 championships, the greatest football game ever played, and three papal visits. It's both buildings' final seasons and I've run into many people who have gone out of their way to make a pilgrimage to Yankee Stadium, to see it one last time (or one first time) before it's demolition. Even my mother, who hears the phrase "baseball diamond" and assumes you're talking about a really big rock, went to a game and took the walk through Monument Park. In contrast, nobody except true Mets fans are making a final trip to Shea. I know: I've invited people. They could care less.

But the Mets, much like the Brooklyn Dodgers before them, are New York baseball's loveable losers, and it befits them to play in a park equally lumpy. The Dodgers were affectionately known as "Dem Bums;" someday, we may look back at Shea with fond remembrance as "Dat Dump." And it certainly is a dump. Every inch of the concrete is cracked and dirty and no matter how long it's been since the last storm, puddles seem to accumulate everywhere. The food options, particularly in the upper deck where I spend most of my time, are laughably limited: if you're not into overcooked encased meats you're gonna be awfully hungry by the seventh inning stretch. Huge patches of seats in right field offer stunning views of the left field stands and absolutely horrendous sightlines to home. If you've got a Loge or Mezzanine seat more than ten or twelve rows back, I've got good news and bad news: the good news is if it starts to rain you'll stay bone dry; the bad news is that's because you're sitting under an overhang so severe you'll think you're watching the game through a slit cut in the bottom of a cardboard box. To say nothing about the team itself, which tonight suffered yet another heartbreaking loss; scoring only once with the based loaded on the eighth, and not scoring at all in the bottom of the ninth after the leadoff man reached third base. Watching New York Mets baseball is both thrilling and hazardous to your health; every game is exciting because no game is out of reach for the opponent. In tonight's game, they led 5-1 before losing 9-6. This sort of come-from-ahead loss has become the norm for a bullpen that leaks more (and stinks worse) than a corroded port-o-john.

The team will continue on, though one hopes with a better core of relievers. But for Dat Dump this weekend is the end of the road. And despite all of its problems, I will miss it dearly. It's where my parents took me to my first major league baseball games, where I learned my first taste of the brutal sting of defeat after the Mets suffered a crushing late-inning defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers (as we've seen tonight, it was a taste of things to come). I can still remember the awestruck reaction I had when I first saw the massive neon figures that ring Shea's exterior at night: now they look a little hokey but to an eight or nine year old kid they struck a chord. This place, and the people inside it, they told me, were larger than life.

I've gone to one playoff game, a victory in game one of the 2006 NLDS, and one Mets-Yankees game that ended with a walkoff hit in the bottom of the ninth for the Mets. I've seen two big concerts there: Bruce Springsteen, on the last night of The Rising tour (Bob Dylan made an appearance), and Billy Joel at his "Last Play at Shea" (with a guest spot by Paul McCartney). I've even got some regrets; though Melissa and I have talked about doing it for years, we never saw a game from the left field bleachers. Now we never will.

The Mets new home, Citi Field, is the silver lining in a dark cloud but it comes with a literal heavy price. Everything there will be more expensive than it was at Shea, including the seats themselves, the glorious days of $5 tickets in the upper deck for games against the Nats die with Dat Dump. And while I'm looking forward to Citi's Blue Smoke BBQ, the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, and the rest of the (fairly pointless) amenities, I honestly would rather still have Shea. That's where my memories are. And that's what baseball is about.

Sweeney and I will be at the final game this Sunday. We'll file a report.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008


From Variety:

"Universal Pictures has made a splashy preemptive buy of Moby Dick, a reimagining of the Herman Melville whale tale that Timur Bekmambetov ("Wanted") will direct. Studio paid high six figures to Adam Cooper and Bill Collage to pen the screenplay.

The writers revere Melville’s original text, but their graphic novel-style version will change the structure. Gone is the first-person narration by the young seaman Ishmael, who observes how Ahab’s obsession with killing the great white whale overwhelms his good judgment as captain."

"Our vision isn’t your grandfather’s ‘Moby Dick,’ " Cooper said. "This is an opportunity to take a timeless classic and capitalize on the advances in visual effects to tell what at its core is an action-adventure revenge story."

Nice. Stupid grandfather, what does he know! Hopefully they'll be able to stick in some Mountain Dew product placement to add to the edgy nature of this project.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Heat (1995) Question

The critical party line on Heat is that its one of the best movies of 1995, maybe one of the best of the entire decade, and certainly one of the greatest cop movies ever made. IMDb has it ranked on its list of the Top 50 Crime Films ever made and on its list of the Top 250 Movies of all-time as well. I've had trouble seeing it that way and lord knows I've tried — this is the sort of movie I should love, don't you think? Two previous viewings, though, never did it for me. I've just had a third.

I now see the movie as a great Robert De Niro performance — maybe the last truly great Robert De Niro performance we've gotten — alongside a truly bizarre and I'd say not particularly successful Al Pacino performance. I know some people love the movie and love him in it. Frankly, I think some scenes are hilarious. But they're utterly distracting to the movie. Consider these two scenes from the film, one with De Niro and his crew — which is pure menace — and one with Pacino and his — which is pure lunacy:

I put forth a challenge to the Heat lovers out there: Defend that Pacino scene and the numerous other ones in the movie where he acts like a lunatic. I have read plenty of defenses of the movie, many of them quite persuasive, on the grounds of its treatment of cop and criminal as equals and as professionals or for its authentic underworld flavor and so on. But I've yet to have someone convince me that Pacino's performance in this movie works. Yes it's funny. Yes I love imitating it. But why does it work?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Best News of the Year

At long last, Sony is releasing a Budd Boetticher Box Set on November 4th that includes The Tall T, Decision at Sundown, Buchanan Rides Alone, Ride Lonesome, and Comanche Station. With Seven Men From Now available from Paramount for a few years now, all 6 features from the "Ranown" cycle of westerns that Boetticher and star Randolph Scott made together between 1956 and 1960 will be on DVD. Westbound (1959) is the only feature from the Boetticher-Scott duo that will not be available. Not produced by his Ranown production company, Budd disowned it later in his career.

Looking past the awful cover, and the deathly pallor of Boetticher's PhotoShopped face, this is a wonderful release, and a lot of thanks have to go to Martin Scorsese's The Film Foundation, which has partnered with Sony in releasing some of their ignored gems. Undoubtedly these would have languished for many more years without their intervention, despite the years of clamoring from fans.

Needless to say these are essential films, with Ride Lonesome and The Tall T two of the best Westerns ever made. Spare, bitter, and lean, they should be shown to anyone who claims that the Western genre didn't get "serious" until the '70s.

I realize this announcement is old news, but I just got back from vacation. And I have one tip for future Barcelona-goers. Go to Jamonisimo, a veritable museum of ham, and purveyors of the best pig I've ever eaten. Go, and rejoice:


Monday, September 15, 2008

Worst Photoshop Ever?

Friday, September 12, 2008

YouTubeArt: Hulk Hogan vs. Arsenio Hall

Greatest talk show interview ever? Greatest outfits by a talk show host AND talk show guest ever?

Finally a talk show host brave enough to wear bike shorts on the air. How this show failed is beyond my comprehension...

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Monday, September 08, 2008

YouTubeArt: After Rewatching Blades of Glory...

...I couldn't resist posting this terrifying companion piece. And you thought the Iron Lotus was a joke.

That's the reality! Just another layer to the legend.

(By the way, after rewatching BoG, I simply won't hear a bad word against it. I just won't.)


Thursday, September 04, 2008

News: Matt joins the new At the Movies

And while I'm off galavanting in Toronto, I should mention this. No doubt you've heard that E!'s Ben Lyons and TCM's Ben Mankiewicz are the new hosts of of the syndicated movie review At the Movies, which for years was known as Siskel & Ebert and later Ebert & Roeper. Well I'm happy to say I'm joining the cast too, as part of the new "Critics RoundUp" segment along with Wesley Morris from the Boston Globe and Tory Shulman from Reelz Channel. We're discussing two movies on the premiere: Hamlet 2 and Babylon A.D.. I haven't seen the finished versions of anything but as I understand it we should be on about six minutes of the half hour.

The first episode airs this weekend. You can find out when and where At the Movies airs in your area by putting your zip code into the "Station Finder" tab at the top of

In other news, Chad Johnson legally changed his name to Chad Ocho Cinco. This started when Johnson, whose nickname is Ocho Cinco (an incorrect Spanish translation of his jersey number), showed up to a game with the name Ocho Cinco on his jersey as one of his many on field escapades:

Putting anything but your name on the back of your jersey is a no-no so there was some sort of penalty so basically Johnson has gone to the ridiculous length of legally adopting "Ocho Cinco" so he can have it on his jersey. This man is a national treasure.

Oh and in other news, I legally changed my name to Matthew Laurence Spider-Man. Update your address books accordingly.

UPDATE: You can now watch Critics Roundup online. Click away!

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Leo McCarey´s Divine Tragicomedies

While I´m off gallivanting in Barcelona, here´s something to read. It´s my first article for the Dennis Lim-helmed Moving Image Source, about Leo McCarey´s underseen 30s greats, Ruggles of Red Gap and Make Way for Tomorrow. If you don´t read the article, you should see the movies. I won´t mind.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Don LaFontaine (1940-2008)

The king of movie trailer voiceovers has died. In tribute:

"A boy...too know the truth."

"One can't be controlled...the other...cannot be stopped!"

"Imagine this arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons...falling into...the wrong hands."

"Now...for the first time...the true story of America's super agent Frank Dux...can be revealed."

"His is loyalty is to a child...and his the deadliest machine ever built."

"In a future world..."

The man had gravitas. Movie trailers will seem a lot less important without him.


Interesting: All Time Box Office Adjusted for Inflation

I saw that The Dark Knight passed the $500 million mark at the domestic box office last weekend, which made the second highest grossing movie, after Titanic, in U.S. history. But those figures do not take inflation into account. Thankfully, Box Office Mojo has a list of the highest grossing movies that does. There, The Dark Knight ranks just 29th all time. The link will take you to the full list, but here's the top ten (parenthesis indicate the actual monetary total):

1)Gone With the Wind - $1,430,476,000 ($198,676,459)
2)Star Wars - $1,261,086,700 ($460,998,007)
3)The Sound of Music - $1,008,300,900 ($158,671,368)
4)E.T. - $1,004,328,700 ($435,110,554)
5)The Ten Commandments - $927,480,000 ($65,500,000)
6)Titanic - $908,688,900 ($600,788,188)
7)Jaws - $906,798,000 ($260,000,000)
8)Doctor Zhivago - $878,879,000 ($111,721,910)
9)The Exorcist - $782,826,200 ($232,671,011)
10)Snow White and the Seve Dwarfs - $771,720,000 ($184,925,486)

This is a nice reminder that in the background of every article about record receipts at the U.S. box office is the unspoken truth that rising ticket prices have an awful lot to do with it. If you just take the straight figures, seven of the ten highest grossing movies have been released in the last decade. Post-inflation, the number is zero (the highest ranking movie from the past ten years is Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace at #19).

Some additional thoughts:

-I'm sure the Gone With the Wind figure factors in at least a couple rereleases, but think about how many people must have seen that movie to push it up to almost $200 million! During the depression! And the movie is four hours long! It's simply staggering.

-The movie I was most shocked to see on the list: Doctor Zhivago. I don't think I know anyone who's seen Doctor Zhivago. I certainly haven't.

-Movies that, adjusted for inflation, have grossed more than The Dark Knight: The Sting ($631.1 million), The Graduate ($605.8 million), and Grease ($544.6 million).

-Other surprising "super-blockbusters" (figures adjusted for inflation): The Bells of St. Mary - $444.2 million, Smokey and the Bandit - $402.3 The Best Years of Our Lives - $389.4 million, House of Wax - $357.7 million

Very interesting stuff. That Box Office Mojo always delivers. Again, full list here