Monday, January 28, 2008

Movie Review: Cloverfield

If you can get over the issue of the way the story is told, you'll likely enjoy Cloverfield. Cloverfield belongs to a genre, along with Blair Witch Project, of movies told in the first person, as video footage of "real" events captured by someone who just happened to have a camera at the ready. Typically, movies of this genre present two particular obstacles to the suspension of disbelief. First, the shaky camera movements can take you out of the cinematic experience by making it too hard--and sometimes too nauseating--to follow the action. Second, you have to believe that a person would be so dedicated to documenting their experience that they would keep the camera rolling, even in situations where they're in grave personal danger and it would make more sense to turn the thing off and just concentrate on running away.

If you can get over those two things--and for the most part I did--then there's nothing to keep you from enjoying an exciting disaster/horror flick, that, after a very slow beginning, is relentless and well-paced. Sure, there are other problems, but I tend to look at them more as features than flaws: the characters are fairly unsympathetic, and they make poor decisions, but you pretty much don't have any horror flicks these days without those elements being in place. In this case, the unsympathetic characters are yuppies who live in Tribeca, who've gathered together for a going-away party for their friend Rob, who's taken a Vice-President job with a company in Japan. If you've ever heard of the term "viral marketing," it's likely you already know that Rob's party will be disrupted by the arrival of something terrible enough to send the Statue of Liberty's head rolling down the street like a bowling ball, and that the rest of the evening will track a handful of the partygoers' struggle to survive the catastrophe.

The result is a lot like Titanic, with all the extraneous junk scraped away--the unbelievable love story, the awkward "eighty years later" framing device, the various clinical dissections of what went wrong and how--and everything is just pared down to people reacting to the danger of near-certain death, just of a more fantastic nature. The camcorder's-eye-view of Cloverfield traps you in the perspective of these characters, who have extremely limited information about what peril they're facing or what they should do about it. The story never cuts away to a briefing at the White House (a typical scene in this kind of film) to get a dose of exposition about the situation...and distance from our imperiled main characters.

Because of the lack of exposition, there really isn't much of a message to Cloverfield. Although the film appropriates some of the imagery of the September 11 attacks, it's not about our fear of terrorism; nor is it about Iraq (like last year's horrible 28 Weeks Later), ecology (The Host, The Day After Tomorrow, and the original Godzilla films), hubris (Towering Inferno, and many other similar disaster movies), racism (the original Night of the Living Dead), class warfare (Titanic), or man's inhumanity to man (28 Days Later, among many others). In Cloverfield's case, a monster is just a monster--and that's one of the things about it that worked for me. Recommended.


As an additional review, I'll fess up that I've been watching the clunkily-named weekly series, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles on FOX. The idea of the show is that, after the events of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the eponymous Ms. Connor and her savior-of-the-human-race teenage son, John, continue to have adventures while battling to keep the artificial intelligence known as Skynet from ever existing--even though at the end of T2 it was believed that Skynet had been retroactively destroyed, thereby creating a hopeless paradox (how can robots come from the future to kill you/save you if you've eliminated the system that created the robots?). The series pretends that the second Terminator sequel (2003's T3: Rise of the Machines)--(SPOILER ALERT)in which the paradox is essentially undone, and the robotic apocalypse occurs as scheduled (/spoiler)--never happened.

Maybe it's because I've spent the past few weeks acquainting myself on DVD with a show with similar man-against-robot issues, the SciFi version of Battlestar Galactica, but I'm unimpressed. Chronicles, for all the cachet of its heavy-duty license and expansive special effects budget, isn't terribly deep, so far. In its mythology, time travel is much more common than in the films--and while that discovery opens up possibilities, it also weakens the premise to the point of flimsiness. The cool thing about the earlier Terminator films was that the protagonists were left on their own, without hope of backup or relief. This development throws those elements out the window, and opens up the way for all sorts of Deus Ex Machina b.s.

For the second time in a TV season, a network has turned over its most-hyped property to a relatively obscure British actress. When NBC did it for the Bionic Woman, it was a fiasco--Michelle Ryan, an actress who sounds smart and confident using her own accent, was whiny and unfocused as a Californian twentysomething-turned superhero. Chronicles' leading Brit is Lena Headey, and although her accent is better than Ryan's, she's still not entirely right for the role she's playing. Linda Hamilton reimagined the role of Sarah Connor in Terminator 2, turning the disco-era waitress she played in the first film into a grim-faced warrior woman. She was buff, ruthless, and more than a little crazy. You were scared of this woman--she had no compunction about harming people if they endangered her son or simply got in her way.

Headey, on the other hand, isn't scaring anyone. Her Sarah Connor is a fairly generic action heroine. She looks athletic and is credible in the show's action scenes, but she isn't the physically imposing presence that Hamilton was in T2. Headey's take on the character talks like someone ruthless, but she's also emotionally fragile and conflicted--qualities that might make her character more sympathetic than Hamilton's Connor was, but they also make her less interesting. Summer Glau is more intriguing as the latest friendly Terminator model: the girl's become a science fiction fan favorite by being pretty and having a strange affect, and both of those qualities are still in evidence here. There's some promise in the relationship between Glau's Terminatrix and Thomas Dekker's savior-cum-teenage-whiner, John Connor; but the first three episodes haven't really placed the focus there.

If it weren't for the writer's strike, it's likely that I'd dismiss Chronicles off-hand as something that isn't, for the moment, worth the space it would occupy on my DVR. Right now, however, it doesn't have much competition in the scripted drama category, so I'll keep watching it until I lose interest or it gets superseded by better shows. Mildest possible recommendation, for now.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Odds and Ends

Apparently, Don Mattingly won't be an on-the-field coach for the Dodgers, after all:

Mattingly Steps Down as Hitting Coach (

The Daily News is reporting that the reason Mattingly's stepping away from the job is because Mattingly and his wife of 28 years, Kim, have separated:

Mattingly Leaves Joe Torre's Side Because of Family Matters (McCarron, NY Daily News)

This is horrible news, and our thoughts and prayers go out to Don and his family. My most prominent memory of Kim Mattingly was courtesy of the really drunk guy behind me at Don Mattingly Day, who spent the entire ceremony yelling "Kiiiiim! Show us your legs! Kiiiiim!" This also happened to be the fellow for whom the expression "Say it, don't spray it," was coined.


Ex-Yank Chuck Knoblauch is being subpoenaed to testify before the House of Representatives in the Clemens-McNamee-Pettitte inquiry:

Feds Issue Subpoena for Knoblauch (Thompson & Red, NY Daily News)

The interesting point here is that Knoblauch blew off a deposition that'd been scheduled, which is why a subpoena was issued. Knoblauch has indicated that he no longer wants to be involved with baseball, but as Al Pacino once said, "I try to get out...but they keep pulling me back in!"


Given the choice of the Yankees giving up the farm for Johan Santana, the Red Sox lording Santana over the Yanks after acquiring him for a much weaker package, or the Demon Lefty of Minnesota nestling safely in the, let's go Mets?

Mets' Santana Offer Remains the Same (Cothran--Star Ledger)

Yeah, they're rivals too. But it would still be waaaaay less annoying.


Everybody has dreams, mine just happen to involve Tim Raines and Mediterranean sidewalk cafes:

Prospectus Toolbox: How to Write a Letter of Complaint (

Quick quote from that column about the burgeoning Jim Rice crowd out there:

Be political: Like any election, that to the Hall of Fame election is a political process, so you might do well by co-opting some of the language and tactics of political discourse. Many of Jim Rice's Hall of Fame proponents have adopted a rhetorical stance that seems torn from the land of "job-killing taxes" and "Washington-insider special-interest lobbyists." Their campaign is no longer to get Rice inducted to Cooperstown, it's to keep his detractors from "excluding" him from the Hall of Fame. This "exclusion" language takes Rice's qualifications for induction as a foregone conclusion, and places the burden on his opponents to say why he doesn't belong. It also invites accusations that Rice's detractors are doing something wrong or harmful when they criticize his Hall-worthiness—they're accused of "attacking" Rice or "denigrating" his achievements. Regardless of whether you agree with the sentiment, the tactic seems to be working—Rice has gained votes each of the past five years—so a similar rhetorical stance could help you make the case for your favorite Hall-worthy candidate.

That kind of talk bugs me, as does political-speak in general. And to think, we're only in January of an election year! Aside from Hall of Fame commentary and useful advice, this week's column also features a contest, where the winner will get a free copy of the 2008 Baseball Prospectus annual--so feel free to enter!

I've also been paying attention to developments in the Dominican League Finals:

The Trials of Tejada (BP Unfiltered)

Colon-o-Scopy (BP Unfiltered)

Thanks to ESPN Deportes, I think I might have seen more baseball in January this year than I saw in May of last. I'll admit, I thought my team, Licey, was dead in the water when they lost the first three games. Luckily, the Dominican finals are a best-of-nine, so there's still time for them to recover after winning games 4 and 5.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sabado Gigante!

A quick breakdown of the Yankees' Arbitration asked/offered, and some notes. In reverse order of how interesting they are:

Brian Bruney: Asks: $845,000, Offered: $640,000

In the bigger scheme of things, $205,000 doesn't seem like a lot of money in Yankeeland, so this should settle. But, looked at another way, the Yankees are offering about 24% less than Bruney's asking--so in his world, this is pretty big. A bigger question is whether there's any room for Bruney in the Yankee bullpen, regardless of what pricepoint he receives.

Chien Ming Wang -- Asks: $4.6MM, Offered: $4MM

This settles. Has to. I'd think that the Yanks would be well-served to try to make a long-term deal here, but if not, they're still only $600,000 away on a bargain of a contract.

Robinson Cano -- Asks: $4.55MM, Offered: $3.2MM

Now, at $1.35 million, these folks are far enough apart that you don't just say "split the difference." The Yanks' figure seems criminally low for a player who might be the best-hitting second baseman in the AL, over the last two years; but it's important to remember that Cano, like Wang, is a "Super Two" arbitration-eligible player, who has less than 3 full years' playing time. As such, he's at a lower level of arbitration than a player with more playing time--still, it's hard to see the Yanks winning this arbitration, or the settlement turning out closer to their figure. Still, it's worth a second look.


Nice profile of Humberto Sanchez over at the site. Prospects tend to drop off the radar after they've had surgery, and the Yanks seem to have more pitching prospects recently under the knife than anyone else. Good to keep up.

Wilson Betemit is back with the club, with a $1.15MM contract. It's been a while since the team had a useful, legitimate four-position utility infielder, and Betemit gives them that. Like a number of other Yankees, he's vulnerable against lefthanded pitching--that's why the team is dishing out minor league contracts to guys like Jason Lane, and should consider approaching Chris Shelton, if he makes it through waivers.

This year, Time Warner Cable has finally given me my ESPN Deportes, which means that I'm mainlining winter league ball. Right now, my ancestral team, Licey, is getting rolled by their arch-rivals, las Agulas del Cibao, in the Dominican League finals. The Aguilas are up 3-0 in a best of nine, on the strength of an offensive explosion. Yankee Edwar Ramirez is with Licey and he took a whupping in the first game of the series; former Yankees playing in the series include Luis Polonia patrolling the outfield and Randy Choate coming out of the bullpen for the Aguilas, Wil Nieves playing behind the plate and D'Angelo Jimenez backing up in the infield for Licey. Check it out, if you have the chance.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Small World

My parents aren't really baseball fans, except for by relation to me and my brothers. Still, having one casual fan and two stark-raving insane Yankee fans for offspring, they absorbed a lot of baseball by osmosis. The ballgames were always on the tube, or the radio. So when it comes to the national pastime, my parents know more than they think they know.

So it wasn't that weird when my dad brought up Bernie Williams last night, out of the blue. We were at dinner, and we'd been talking about my writing, and the whole Roger Clemens mess, and just at random Dad asks me about Bernie, as if he was one of my high school friends I still keep in touch with. So I filled my parents in as well as I could about the last year-plus: the un-vite (as Seinfeld would say) to Tampa for Spring Training, his kinda-sorta retirement, the speculation that he might be invited to camp with the Dodgers, his Jazz guitar work.

So that wasn't weird, but what happened today was. My parents were flying to Puerto Rico, and since they practically live on planes these days, they get upgraded to first class. Since these are the seats left over when first class isn't booked full, they often don't get to sit together, but you don't complain when you get bumped up. Anyway, my dad goes to take his seat, and who's he sitting next to? You guessed it, Bernie Williams.

Sometimes small doesn't even begin to describe the world.


Saw Michael Clayton last weekend, and it was phenomenal. It's a legal thriller that meanders a little bit on the way to where it's going, but the performances are so compelling you're unlikely to mind a few digressions. George Clooney plays the title character, a big-firm lawyer who doesn't fit the profile: he's a Fordham Law grad in a sea of Ivy League suits, a guy who's been with this giant legal machine for 15 years without making partner. He's the kind of guy who can't ever be a partner--you could say he's the lawyer in charge of non-legal solutions. When the law firm's top litigator goes crazy in a deposition, Clayton's the guy you send to smooth things over with the cops and the client. The litigator, Arthur (Tom Wilkinson) is off his meds and out of his mind, and his timing is lousy because the firm's representing a big corporate client in a billion-dollar class action suit.

How things play out with the suit is a bit predictable (what, you thought the big corporate client was going to be innocent?) but that's kind of beside the point. The point is how Wilkinson, clearly out of his mind, suddenly snaps back into clarity to explain why no one's going to successfully have him committed. It's how Tilda Swinton, as the big corporation's head lawyer, seems constantly on the edge of jumping out of her skin, even when she's in control of the situation. It's the honesty and seriousness with which Michael tells his son that he won't grow up to be a screwup like him.

Clooney's performance straddles the line between the deglamorized character he played in Syriana, and the typical, smooth, Clooney persona--streetsmart and cynical, but without the smug smile when he pulls one over on the powers-that-be. Wilkinson, a Brit whose American accent usually annoys and distracts me, is dead perfect in this role. The nasal drone of his accent works well with a character whose manic rants rarely give him a chance to breathe. If I were doing my Top Ten list now, Michael Clayton would make the top five--maybe the top three--and Wilkinson is neck-in-neck with Javier Bardem for the best supporting performance of the year. Very highly recommended.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Fame & Infamy, Part II

A Goose Flies into Cooperstown...

...with 86% of the vote. That's a huge increase (130 votes more than he got two years ago) and it brings us to the point: what changed? The BBWAA didn't get fifty new voters, I don't think--some of these guys had to have changed their minds after years of not voting for Gossage. Same thing applies to Jim Rice--he's reached the 72% mark, just 16 votes shy of entry this year, and virtually a lock to make it next season on his 15th(!) try. Down the ballot, Bert Blyleven picked up 76 votes(!) a year after taking a step back. This is why Hall of Fame voting doesn't make much sense. Blyleven's been on the ballot for 11 years, and his vote total has quadrupled in that time, almost quintupled from its low point in 1999 (70 votes, 14%). He lost support last year, slipping under 50% after he'd broken into the majority in 2006, which made it look like his candidacy was stalled. Now that he's reached the point Gossage was at in the 2006 election, who knows? I swear, it feels like some of these guys are just throwing darts at the ballot.

And if that's the case, Tim Raines's name must have been at the bullseye, 'cause most of the voters couldn't hit it. Only 132 voters (24.3%, less than a third of what's required for election) checked his name on his first turn on the ballot. Fortunately for him, as we've seen, the voters are incredibly inconsistent from year to year, so this is far from the last word. Next year, a whole bunch of guys might just "discover" Raines, or offer some lame excuse about him not being a first ballot guy, blah, blah, blah. Or we might be in for a decade-long saga, like Rice and Blyleven. Mark McGwire's fans might also be in for a fifteen-year campaign, maybe hoping that by 2020, people will be so up in arms about gene doping and the use of bionic limbs that they'll get a massive surge of nostalgia for guys who "just" used steroids.

By the way, speaking of 'roids (and not at all to rain on Goose's well-deserved day) here's a question. Goose was a big guy, threw hard, had a long career, and appears to have been an endless reservoir of rage both on and off the field. Anyone else think that if he played today, he'd be one of the guys suspected of juicing?

Rocket Defense

A dozen years after Goose's career ended, other big, hard-throwing righties with on-the-mound anger issues don't seem to be getting the benefit of the doubt. Roger Clemens came out on 60 minutes and denied Brian McNamee's accusations against him as definitively as possible. The same day that interview aired, he sued McNamee, and on Monday he faced the press. Still, no one seems convinced, and it's unlikely they'll be swayed even if/when Clemens goes before Congress next week, and tells them the same thing. If Clemens tells the same story before next week's hearing of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, he'll have passed the point of no return. That means that if there's anyone out there that can corroborate McNamee's story, or link Clemens to steroids in any way, he'll likely face perjury charges--that's the risk he's taking by initiating this litigation and keeping this issue in the public eye.

I broke down the Clemens litigation over at Baseball Prospectus, and I think the final paragraph is instructive:
However, let me offer a final cautionary note for Clemens. When I was in practice, and someone threatened one of my clients with a defamation claim, the warning to the would-be litigant was often, "Remember Oscar Wilde." In 1895 Wilde brought a criminal defamation suit against the Marquis of Queensberry (the same one who promulgated the rules of boxing) because of an insult the Marquis made about Wilde's sexuality. At trial, the defense was able to produce witnesses to Wilde's lifestyle, who proved that the insult was actually truthful and not defamatory. As a result of the inquiry he initiated, Wilde wound up being convicted of "gross indecency" and sentenced to two years' hard labor. The lesson? If you sue for defamation, you better have the truth on your side—otherwise, it might be more than your reputation that gets hurt.
Unless he's clean, Roger's opening up a huge can of worms. I hope for his sake the risk is worth it.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Fame & Infamy, Part I

We're just a few hours away from Roger Clemens and Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes, a couple of days away from the Baseball Hall of Fame's announcement of the BWAA class of 2008, a couple of weeks away from the Mitchell Report clown show going to Washington, and just over a month away from pitchers and catchers. So now looks like a decent time to take on a few topics of interest, starting with the Hall of Fame.

It's been a bad few years with me and the Hall of Fame, ranging from them accepting the Mark Ecko Asterisk Ball, to the failure to induct Buck O'Neill while he was alive to enjoy it (a mistake everyone seems willing to repeat with someone who's even more obviously qualified for induction, Marvin Miller), down to petty crap like the fiasco when the Hall's president canceled a 15th Anniversary presentation of Bull Durham in an attempt to muzzle Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins's views about the war in Iraq.

Don't get me wrong. The Hall of Fame is still a great institution. When you say "Hall of Fame", without any modifiers, people assume you're talking about the one in Cooperstown, New York (unlike other sports where you have to be very specific in your identifications, like the "Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio," which, I suppose, distinguishes it from the Flag Football Hall of Fame, in Mentor, Ohio). Unlike other sports, which sometimes induct ten people at a shot, the baseball Hall of Fame is pretty exclusive.

But I'm dreading the announcement of the Hall of Famers come Tuesday. I have the distinct feeling that it's going to be upsetting--there are four people on the ballot who are amply qualified to be in the Hall of Fame, and three of them are unlikely to get in for bad reasons. Saying that Bert Blyleven's a Hall of Famer is a trope by now, an argument that's been had over and over, and there's not much more to say. Mark McGwire's case hinged on a single bad day in his life, where the negotiated terms for his testifying before Congress were that he was "not there to talk about the past," an unfortunate lawyer-scripted phrase that's come to signify pathetic chumpitude nation-wide. Onetime Yankee Goose Gossage is the best reliever not currently in the Hall, and arguably better than the relievers who've already been inducted. And then there's the new guy, former Yankee Tim Raines, who's probably the third best left fielder I've seen play, behind Rickey Henderson and Barry Bonds.

All these men had long, distinguished careers. Each helped teams to championships, and were respected by their peers. But I don't think Raines, McGwire, or Blyleven have any chance of making the required 75% of BWAA votes to get inducted. For McGwire, the flames of indignation over the use of PEDs were fanned during the voters' prime time by the Mitchell Report. Even though Mitchell had nothing new to say about McGwire (indeed, precious little new information about anything) the Report politicizes Big Mac's induction possibilities beyond "we'll punish him by not making him a first-year inductee." The longer McGwire waits, the more alternate rationales--beyond the suspected-but-never-proven steroid use--for denying him the vote his detractors will conjure. It's a downward cycle. Blyleven's case was made by my fellow stat-heads; it's a compelling argument, but the movement already peaked without Blyleven getting in--there's no reason to think that he'll suddenly start to pick up support again. And Raines? He suffers by direct comparison to Rickey, since Henderson was the one with the MVP and stolen base records, while Raines fell short on both counts. When you get labeled the "poor man's version" of anything, it diminishes you--not enough people pay attention to the fact that Raines is the poor man's version of an inner circle Hall of Famer--what I like to call a member of the Broom Closet of the Immortals. The fact is, you can fall short of Immortal and still be Hall-worthy...but it's not expected that the BWAA will get that idea, either.

If I were a betting man, I'd think that the writers will elect a slate in honor of the 30th anniversary of the 1978 pennant race, inducting Gossage and fellow AL East antagonist, Jim Rice. At this point, Rice has been on the ballot almost as long (14 years) as he played in the major leagues (16 seasons). I can't fathom why it's a good idea to consider someone's candidacy for anything that long--sure, maybe it's not all love at first sight, but what, exactly, could have changed in the last 10 years that Rice has been eligible that wasn't so for the first four? The new thing that seems to be driving the Rice lobby is revisionism--a repackaging of Rice as the last "natural" slugger (a claim which is far more presumptive than anything else), and using the steroid controversy to retroactively boost his bona-fides. Sadly, nothing about current or recent steroid use changes the fact that those bona-fides, were simply not good for long enough to merit induction.

I could be wrong, but the election of a Goose/Rice slate would be bittersweet--a happy recognition of one of the most dominant pitchers of the last 40 years, but a decision that would leave a bad taste in the mouth both because of the many worthies who were excluded.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Top 10 Movies of 2007*

* That I saw...

1. Once -- I'd expected that one of the Fall's heavy hitters would take this plucky Irish musical out of the top spot, but it persevered, and takes the crown as my best movie of 2007. I missed quite a few of the challengers--particularly There Will Be Blood, Michael Clayton, and Atonement--but I still feel comfortable with this pick.

2. The Wind that Shakes the Barley -- A savage tale of the Irish fighting for independence against the British, and once the British are gone, against each other. Cillian Murphy, starring here as a med student who decides to join his brother in the IRA, might actually be too good-looking to be a star in Hollywood, but he's definitely got the acting chops to go with the face. This film featured the single most heartbreaking scene I saw all year, although that might say more about me than about the movie.

3. No Country for Old Men -- This was the one that I expected to knock Once off its perch, and from that standpoint, I'm disappointed. Mind you, it was beautiful. Javier Bardem was mesmerizing as the villanous Anton Chigurh, Josh Brolin actually managed to make me forget his dad's married to Barbra Streisand, and Tommy Lee Jones gives a gut-punch of a performance as a Texas sheriff left to process the carnage in Chigurh's wake. But I guess I wasn't as blown away as everyone else was by the scene with the dog in the river, or by the plot, which doesn't go much farther than a simple (and not incredibly satisfying) chase film.

4. Ratatouille -- Brad Bird is the man. Who isn't leery about the idea of an animated movie about a French rat who hallucinates conversations with a great chef, and who lives his cullinary dreams by acting as a puppeteer to an unskilled kitchen apprentice? Just trust Brad Bird, the guy behind The Incredibles. More imaginatively directed than any other movie on the list.

5. The Lives of Others -- The first time I'd heard of this film, it'd just beaten Pan's Labyrinth for best foreign film, and I was indignant. I still don't think it's better than Guillermo del Toro's masterpiece, but it's another lively take on the death-throes of the Soviet Bloc, and the perils of a surveillance culture.

6. Breach -- We discussed this one when it first came out. I still don't think I've seen a lead performance as good as Chris Cooper's Robert Hanssen, except maybe Bardem's turn in No Country. Strange that Cooper's work here--much like Forrest Whitaker's in the Last King of Scotland and Denzel Washington's in Training Day--is considered a lead performance even though he's a villain and not the main character, but Bardem's being pushed as a supporting actor.

7. Hot Fuzz -- All told, the funniest movie I saw all year, although it took a while to pick up speed, spending much of its running time setting up jokes that pay off only in the last 15 or so minutes. A better film than Shaun of the Dead, but less accessible--unless you're well-versed in '80s and '90s American action films, much of what's on the screen won't register.

8. Helvetica -- A documentary about a typeface? That's right. The filmmakers managed to tap into a genius discovery: graphic designers, whose work straddles the line between art and the written word, often combine the eloquence of writers with the insane passion and conviction of artists (those of us who know Jay Jaffe already had an inkling of this). What that gives you is some very intelligent and off-beat discussions about how a font can affect your world. Don't think I've seen a documentary this good since Capturing the Friedmans or Fog of War.

9. The Bourne Ultimatum -- Another one discussed previously. Gets downgraded because of the veritable drinking game you can play by taking a shot whenever someone incredulously asks Matt Damon's Jason Bourne "You really don't remember, do you?" Still, it had to make the top 10--otherwise, I'd run afoul of "The Asset."

10. Waitress -- We start with a chick flick, we end with a chick flick...what's happened to this blog? It seems like 2007 was a pretty slim year for female performances--Keri Russell has the best female performance I saw last year, and I can't think of enough good lead performances to populate a decent top five.

Others from 2007: Darjeeling Limited didn't quite make the list--I enjoyed it, but didn't fall in love--and I'm not even sure I liked it more than its companion short film, Hotel Chevalier, which has many of Darjeeling's virtues, a 100% reduction in Luke Wilson playing his stock Wes Anderson character, and a nice helping of Natalie Portman in various states of undress. The Host just missed inclusion by much less than Darjeeling; it was my favorite horror film of the year, but the only competition was the annoying 28 Weeks Later.

Any thoughts? Suggestions about other films I should watch? Put 'em in the comments.


Now that the Holidays are over, and most of my big writing assignments are done, I should be able to get on more of a regular posting schedule. Back when I started this blog, four years ago today, I never imagined that I'd have to interrupt writing it to work on the Baseball Prospectus annual, or any of the other stuff that's been going on in my life. One of my resolutions for 2008 is to figure out if I can do my minimum of three posts per week here, or else consider shutting down shop...but that's talk for another time. In the meanwhile, Happy Birthday to the WTDB!