Monthly Archives: March 2016

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” a funny and moving look at war reporting in Afghanistan. Two incredible kids with big voices blow me away. And Nathan Lane and Keri Russell play “Pyramid” on Fallon.

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Quick Wednesday morning edit: “BER-NIE!” BER-NIE! BER-NIE!” Yuuuge win in Michigan last night for Senator Sanders. Not a “game-changer” yet, but man, it makes the next few weeks even more interesting. OK, on with the show…

“I’m leaving because this is becoming too normal,” Kim Baker says toward the end of “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.” “And this place is really, not normal.”

I don’t generally like war movies, and I generally haven’t liked many of Tina Fey’s movies so far, either (I did thoroughly enjoy “Mean Girls” but she was almost a bit player in that.)

But we went to see “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” last Saturday night because it looked like my kind of movie, it told an important story about the never-ending Afghanistan war, and the third reason maybe most importantly, it fit into our schedule.

And with lines like that one above, as TV war correspondent Kim Baker (Fey) comes to grips with why she must finally leave Afghanistan after three years, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” got me.

This is a really interesting, good movie, with terrific acting by Fey (seriously, she’s sensational here), Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman and others. A bored local news reporter looking for adventure in 2003, Baker responds to a volunteer request from her editor asking if any reporters want to go to Afghanistan.

Of course when she arrives we get the typical “fish out of water” scenes, as Baker had no clue what life in Kabul is really like (Loved it when Robbie, the only other prominent woman in the film as a rival reporter, tells her that physical appearance-wise, a “6 in New York is like a 9 here.”)

But as Baker adjusts to life in the “Ka-bubble” in Kabul, the movie really takes off. We see her with a gruff drill-seargeant (Billy Bob Thornton), starting a relationship with another reporter (Freeman, who’s as great in this as he was in the first season of “Fargo,”) and over time become very attached to Afghanistan as she fights her news department bosses in New York for more airtime.

Fey is so likable as an actress that even when Baker gives you some groan-worthy moments, you’re still rooting for her.

The movie is also a pretty accurate commentary on our media consumption priorities; just like people in the 1960s learned to tune out TV news on Vietnam War, Afghanistan got lost in the U.S. media shuffle as the years went by, and it’s a damn shame. That war is going on 13 years now, and despite President Obama’s promises back in 2008, isn’t ending anytime soon. One quibble with the movie: We really don’t see too many Afghan citizens and the suffering they go through on a daily basis, but then again, this movie is focused on the reporters more than the place itself.

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” isn’t a classic, but it’s definitely worth seeing.

**OK next up today, one of my Facebook friends, Tracy L., posted this incredible video yesterday and I just had to share it. It’s a clip from a Hong Kong singing show modeled on “The Voice”, and it features Celine Tam and Jeffrey Li, two little kids with huge voices.

They’re going to be on the new Ellen Degeneres variety show “Little Big Shot” debuting this Sunday on NBC. This version of “You Lift Me Up” is absolutely breathtaking. Such huge voices for such small people!

**And finally today, I think I wrote a blog post a few years ago about how my all-time favorite game show was “25,000 Pyramid.”

Jimmy Fallon had Keri Russell (star of “The Americans,” which comes back next week and you better believe I’ll be writing a blog post about it), and Nathan Lane on his show last week to play “Pyramid,” and I thought it was pretty funny.

Lane is terrible at first, but gets much better.

Bernie and Hillary spar once again in terrific Dem Debate. Nancy Reagan’s indelible impact on Gen X’ers like me, in one TV clip. And remembering the great Bud Collins, as fine a man tennis has seen

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That was one heck of a newsy weekend, on a lot of fronts, in my world. Two very famous people died (more on them below), my Duke basketball boys lost to North Carolina Saturday night (not crushing because Duke is so undermanned but still, I hate losing to the Heels), Ted Cruz looks like the only person who might be able to stop Donald Trump, and Peyton Manning is going to announce his retirement today (and maybe Maria Sharapova too?)

No way to cover all that in one blog post, so let’s start with with a crucially important Democratic debate from Flint, Mich. Sunday night.

First of all, I don’t know what kind of “presidential debate” this was. Nobody made reference to their penis size, nobody called each other liars, and I don’t think in the whole two hours anyone obsessively bragged about their poll numbers. Weren’t Hillary and Bernie watching the GOP Debate last week, to see how it’s done? Geez, all we got Sunday night was a couple hours on substantive issues, policy, and real answers. Madness!

— In all seriousness, what a damn breath of fresh air this Dem debate was. Actual policy discussion, no ridiculous braggadoccio, and very few insults.  Tweeted NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof: “Listening to tonight’s debate  and the audience, it appears the Democrats and Republicans are competing to lead different countries.”

And said Yahoo!’s Matt Bai: “Watching these GOP and Dem debates isn’t like watching 2 different parties. It’s like watching 2 different political systems entirely.”

— Personally I thought it was another even debate. Hillary was outstanding on the schools question, her “blind spot” when it comes to race, and on guns. Bernie was terrific as always in pushing her about her Wall Street ties, his forcefulness about income inequality, and his fantastic line about mental health (“Either President Clinton or President Sanders is going to invest a lot of money in mental health, and when you watch these Republican debates you know why.”)

— But as a huge Bernie backer, I must admit that an “even” debate doesn’t help. He needs, in boxing parlance, some 10-8 rounds here. He had a strong weekend, winning Kansas and Nebraska and Maine caucuses, but he needs a yuge state win. He needs Michigan, or Florida, or Ohio on March 15 to really turn the tide here.

— I thought Bernie was fantastic and moving, in embracing his Jewishness really for the first time in front of a national audience. But I also think it’s completely ridiculous that in 2016, candidates still get asked about God and religion in their life, when it’s completely irrelevant and immaterial to them doing the job of President.

— Final thought: Bernie has to be careful with his hectoring and his temper and his “Excuse me, don’t interrupt me” like he did a few times tonight. Comes off looking bad.

**Next up today, Sunday brought news of the death of Nancy Reagan, who symbolized so much to so many. For a lot of people, she was a symbol of style of grace, the first lady of the 1980s and the strength behind her husband, Ronald Reagan.

For others, she was a cold, shrewish woman who consulted an astrologer on major decisions and helped her President husband do some terrible things for non-rich white people in that decade.

But for me, and my fellow Generation X’ers? Nancy Reagan will always be associated with three words: “Just Say No.” Her preaching on the drug issue to children was by far what we will remember her for, nevermind that her husband was doing absolutely nothing to help poor and inner-city people get off drugs, or give them economic opportunities besides selling on the corner.

Yep, for us and Nancy, it’ll always be about this “Diff’rent Strokes” episode…

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**Finally today, the tributes have been pouring in since word came down Friday that the great Bud Collins, a wonderful sportswriter and sportscaster of my favorite sport, tennis, had died.

Everyone in tennis has a Bud Collins story, or at least, they do if they’re lucky. As good a sportswriter and broadcaster as he was, he was an even better person. There was no one he didn’t have time for, whether you were from Sports Illustrated or a two-bit weekly with a circulation of 12.

Me? I got a Christmas e-card from Bud and his wife twice, and felt honored. I had interviewed the legend a few times by phone that year for a few freelance stories I wrote for Tennis Week magazine, and thoroughly enjoyed both conversations.

You couldn’t not enjoy talking to Bud; I saw in one of the tributes to him a comparison to Dick Vitale, in that both were so passionate about their sport that you couldn’t help feeling energized.

I’m sure I got the card because I had first emailed Bud through his wife, Anita, who took care of him in all ways, and that thousands of other people got the same card.

Still, I was excited. I felt, somehow, part of the big, beautiful world of Bud Collins. He made everyone feel that way, and he will be sorely missed.

I hope he’s got a great seat for this year’s French Open up there in heaven.

Here’s the best Bud tribute I’ve read, by the great S.L. Price on SI.com.

 

Good News Friday: LEGO makes a Stay-At-Home Dad character just for dudes like me. A Rangers star helps a kid get a prom date. And Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane update “The Producers” for The Donald

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Happy Friday to you all! It’s March, which means the NCAA Tournament is just around the corner, which makes me exceedingly happy, and the weather has been great in NYC this week, and my son almost went a whole day without throwing his milk cup on the floor and laughing maniacally.

So, life is good.

And thanks to the fine folks at LEGO, Dads like me finally are getting our due. After (apparently) years of complaints, the toy giant has decided to better reflect our times and changing work/home lifestyles, and created a Stay at Home Dad and Working Mom collection.

The Dad set, part of the Lego City line, comes with a baby in a stroller and a working mom wife (my favorite real-world accessory!)

The stay-at-home dad is part of the Lego City line, The brand told Fortune magazine that the mini-figures “mirror the world we live in today.”

We need to stay in tune with the world around us,” President of LEGO Systems Soren Torp Laursen told Fortune. “We aren’t responding to demand from anyone. We are trying to portray the world around us and listen to our consumer base.”

Bravo, LEGO people. Now if you really want to be accurate, take it from this stay-at-home Dad (me): Add on a few bandages to the Dad’s feet from all the toys we step on, clothes that we can wear for 2-3 days in a row, and a “deep sigh” noise every few hours as the Dad picks up the food thrown on the floor after each meal.

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**Finally today, anytime I can write about my beloved New York Rangers doing something good, I do. Monday night an 18-year-old high school senior from Long Island named Vinny Mutone wanted a unique way to ask his new girlfriend Catherine De Pinho to the prom.

So he made the sign (above), hoping diminutive Rangers star Mats Zuccarello would see it.

Not only did Zucc see it, he had a trainer go give Vinny a stick, then signed it for the couple after the game.

Gotta help a buddy out,” Zuccarello said. “Gotta help him get to prom.”

The Norwegian winger signed the poster and stick after the game, writing on the stick: “Have fun at prom. Treat her right!!”

**And finally today, there have been many humorous takedowns of Donald Trump this week (I highly, highly recommend this John Oliver evisceration from Sunday), and here’s a great one from “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane reprise their famous “The Producers” roles to talk about how finding a horrible, losing candidate for President could make them a ton of money. And, well, there happens to be one of those running…

Super Tuesday brings more Trump victories, and it’s almost over for Bernie. And The latest “Mean Tweets” is great.

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Well that kind of sucked.

Super Tuesday came and went in the Presidential race, and some of the things I was hoping for (somebody slowing down the Trump-mentum, Bernie Sanders outperforming expectations) didn’t quite happen.

Instead, the man the great Charlie Pierce calls “the vulgar, talking yam” dominated yet again. As I write this late Tuesday night the orange-faced idiot has won six states, and could win a couple more.

He is amazingly, truly an unstoppable force right now. Marco Rubio ain’t stopping him (Headline of the night: “Rub-i-No”), Ted Cruz ain’t stopping him, and all this bluster and bravado about millions of dollars suddenly coming in from the GOP Establishment, and the horror they’re all suddenly feeling and their insistence that they’ll be the ones to destroy Trump… yeah, I’m not seeing it.

It’s March 2 and a racist, sexist, xenophobic ego-whore is going to be a major party candidate for President. God save us all.

Even though Tuesday night didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, I sure had lots of fun watching, Tweeting, and reading all the coverage. Lots of thoughts on the results…

— First and most importantly in my mind, on the Democratic side, Hillary continued to do what she needed to do. She dominated the South, she dominated among African-American voters, and except for Massachusetts, none of the states she won were particularly close.

My  man Bernie won Vermont, Oklahoma, Minnesota, and Colorado, but lost Mass., which I think he really needed to win. It’s not over Bernie, the fat lady isn’t singing yet, but she’s sure warming up her vocal chords.

— Hillary continues to astound me with her firebrand liberal speeches on primary  nights. I don’t care if she comes out holding copies of “The Nation” and reading from Paul Wellstone’s autobiography, she is NOT a liberal (And yes, I understand maybe only three of my readers got those references). I gotta take my hat off to her, she is trying so damn hard to be a liberal. Maybe somehow all of this leftward movement will lead to a more liberal Presidency from her. I sure hope so.

— I really don’t know why Bernie isn’t making inroads with minorities. He’s so, so much more progressive on issues like police brutality, incarceration, and unemployment than she is. He’s done a hell of a job getting this far and scaring Hillary so much, but I think Bernie’s got about 2-3 more good weeks left.

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— So… Trump. Let’s forget for a minute the improbability of a slick, fast-talking con man from New York winning primaries in the Deep South. And forget that it looked like Chris Christie was making a hostage tape while introducing Trump, then staring up at him from behind for 20 minutes (“Seriously Governor, blink three times if you’re being held against your will” was a popular Twitter comment made by many).

I have to admit it was brilliant stagecraft for Trump to hold a press conference and not a pep rally. He actually seemed calmer and almost rational for a few minutes, but then he reverted back to his old self (he basically threatened the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, that he better get along with President Trump or “he’s going to pay a big price.”)

He was trying to seem Presidential, and it almost worked. I got a little scared.

— I’m finally giving up on Rubio. I’ve been saying for months he’d be the nominee, but the dude just cannot win anywhere. His speech Tuesday night, saying we’re getting closer and Trump’s numbers are falling, was pathetic. He did finally win something late, Minnesota. Way to go, Marco!

— The GOP elite have a real problem: The one guy who’s beaten Trump, Ted Cruz, is the most hated man in Washington, by Republicans. Can they really swallow their hatred and support him to ward off a Trump landslide defeat in November?

— And finally, I watched MSNBC most of the night and can someone tell me how Brian Williams so easily got his reputation back? I mean, hasn’t he lost all credibility as a newsman?

— Sorry, one more thing: Anyone know if Ben Carson is still alive?

**Finally today, I haven’t featured one of these in a while but they always make me laugh. In honor of Sunday’s Academy Awards, Jimmy Kimmel offered up his latest edition of “Mean Tweets,” where celebrities read out loud the horrible things said to them on Twitter lately.

This is the all Hollywood edition; I think Susan Sarandon’s response was the best, at around 1:05…