Tag Archives: Kendrick Lamar

The Coen Brothers new movie is a total mess. Kendrick Lamar and “Hamilton” rock the Grammys. And a fascinating profile of the guy who knows Obama better than anyone

HailCaesar

Here’s what I feel about Coen Brothers movies: They have the widest range of quality of any filmmakers I’ve ever seen.

When their movies are good, they’re great, tremendous, classics: I’m talking about “Fargo,” and “No Country for Old Men,” and “True Grit,” and of course “The Big Lebowski.”

But when their movies are bad… man, they are more putrid than my son’s diaper Genie. I cannot tell you how much I hated “A Serious Man,” and “Intolerable Cruelty,” and “The Man Who Wasn’t There.” I walked out of those flicks wondering “how could the same people who gave us “Fargo” also do this?”

With all that in my head, I went to see “Hail Caesar” on Tuesday, their newest flick. It has an all-star cast, with George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Ralph Fiennes, and Scarlett Johannson.

I had high hopes. The trailer looked fabulous.

And … it was awful. Really, really bad.

The plot, such as it was, was barely fleshed out. The acting was meh. Even the production numbers were so-so.

The basic “story” was this: It’s 1950s Hollywood, and Eddie Mannix (Brolin) runs Capitol Pictures, a big movie studio. During filming of a big picture, his star Baird Whitlock (Clooney) is kidnapped by some Communists, who then spend a long time convincing Whitlock their philosophies about the world are correct. There are a few other subplots, featuring a dumb-as-rocks country boy actor being forced to be a dramatic leading man, and Mannix having a career crisis, but mostly it’s Clooney in a room with Communists.

I nearly fell asleep during the movie, and I never do that. There were maybe three laughs the whole film, and it wasn’t dramatic enough to be a drama.

So disappointing. Joel and Ethan Coen are like Dave Kingman now, either they hit a massive home run or strike out feebly.

Sadly, this was a big strikeout.

**Next up today, I experienced my annual shame and confusion viewing of the Grammy Awards Monday night, the one night where I try to catch up on all the “current” music that I’ve ignored for the past year, so I can sound partly intelligent should I ever get into a music discussion.

And while, of course, my favorite performance of the night was Jackson Browne jamming with the remaining members of The Eagles (Jackson Browne is phenomenal, always), I thought these two songs brought the house down.

First, Kendrick Lamar, who I first took notice of at the Grammys two years ago, was blazing during his set (above):

Then, the cast of the Broadway sensation “Hamilton” performed the opening scene of their show live. Getting tickets to this show is only slightly more difficult than a Super Bowl ticket; somehow, someway, I gotta get myself to see this.

**Finally today, this was a very cool “behind the scenes” story I really enjoyed. For the past seven years, Brian Mosteller has been the closest person to President Barack Obama, literally being with him for almost every meeting, speech and plane ride. He’s part body man, part “fixer,” and he basically just makes the President’s life easier (think Gary on “Veep” but nowhere near as nutty).

The Washington Post’s Colby Itkowitz wrote a terrific profile on the anonymous Mosteller. Here’s a quick excerpt; I highly recommend reading the whole story:

Mosteller’s official title is director of Oval Office operations, although a more apt name might be anticipator in chief. When Obama is in Washington, every move the president makes, every person he meets and every meeting he attends has been carefully orchestrated by Mosteller.

He knows where Obama likes his water glass placed on the table at meetings and whom he’d want to sit beside. He knows how he prefers the height of a lectern. He researches a head of state’s favorite drink so that the president can offer it. He readies Obama’s remarks and sets them, open to the first page, wherever the president will be speaking. He tells Obama when a sock is bunched at his ankle or his shirt is wrinkled, before an interview…

Mosteller “knows the president very well. He pays attention to everything,” said Valerie Jarrett, the president’s longtime senior adviser. “The president knows how much Brian cares about him and that it isn’t ‘I care about you from afar,’ it’s ‘I’m going to ensure the nitty-gritty details of your life from large to small are attended to.’ The president trusts him completely.”

 

Hockey at Yankee Stadium looked awesome. The Grammys were awesome this year. And Nadal is stunned at the Aussie Open

YankeeStadiumhockey.

Pretty terrific Sunday, headlined by the New York Rangers kicking the tushies of the New Jersey Devils before a crowd of 50,000 at Yankee Stadium in the first-ever outdoor NHL game in New York.

Was asked a bunch of times leading up to Sunday if, as a die-hard Rangers fan, I was going to see this live. Each time I replied “Are you crazy? Sit in 20-degree weather, 500 yards from the ice, and pay hundreds of bucks to do it?”

Nah, I had a pretty great seat in front of my TV in my warm apartment. The visuals on TV were, of course, stunning, especially when it started snowing midway through the game.

Big win for the Rangers, and very cool that they knocked out Devils “starting pitcher” Brodeur after scoring six goals on him.

I really hope the NHL keeps these outdoor games to one or two a year, because each one this year has been special.

**Next up,  I say this every year when I blog about the Grammys: I know almost nothing about current popular music, and I’m OK with that. My wife has vastly broadened my knowledge, but still, I’m in no way qualified to comment on the music that does or doesn’t win Grammys.

I can however, happily comment on other aspects of the show, such as:

–Wow. That Macklemore/Ryan Lewis/Queen Latifah/Madonna/Mary Lambert performance near the end of the show, with the awesome “Same Love” song playing and 34 couples getting married live in the Grammy audience? Best thing I’ve seen on an awards show in many, many years. Just a chill-bump-inducing moment, about how far we’ve come in America. I may need a whole separate blog post tomorrow to talk more about this. Two quick thoughts:
A, If Archie Bunker were alive today, his head would’ve exploded at that, and 2, why did Madonna feel the need to dress up like Dolly Parton in “9 to 5?”

— Also, I’m not the only one who thought Macklemore looked a little too much like Vanilla Ice, am I? And has it ever been established which one is Ryan Lewis and which one is Macklemore?

— My mother was quite upset at the “stupid song” Mrs. Carter and her husband sang to open the show. “How can they sing about something that bad?” she hissed at me. (On the other hand, my father-in-law’s response: “Beyonce looked fabulous, who cares what she sings?” Ah, ‘Merica.)

— Must echo what so many else said on Twitter when it happened: Robin Thicke performing with Chicago may have been the whitest moment in pop music history.

— Taylor Swift really is a pretty fantastic singer, and a great talent. I just feel like she tries too hard at awards shows to seem earnest. And she looks totally ridiculous when she dances.

— I have no idea who Kendrick Lamar is, but that performance was super-intense.

— That said, Pink kicks her, and everyone else’s, ass. Another awesome performance from a woman I got to see live twice last year.

— Do you think LL Cool J wears that outfit every Saturday night, or just for the Grammys?

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**And finally, the Australian Open men’s final threw me and every other tennis fan for a loop Sunday morning. Rafael Nadal, who looked so indomitable at the Open this year, and destroyed Roger Federer Friday, surely was going to beat Stan Wawrinka, a Swiss player now in the Top 10 but not nearly in Rafa’s class.

And yet… amazing things happen in sports sometimes. Like Wawrinka dominating the first set, and going up a break in the second. And then Nadal hurting his back on a serve, and being unable to move, and being down two sets.

And then Rafa, an unbelievable fighter and competitor, somehow hanging in and getting a set, and even at 2-2 in the fourth. But he just couldn’t move much at all, and Wawrinka pulled it together to win a most-unlikely Aussie Open.

Shocking, that someone other than the Big 4 in men’s tennis won a Slam. Shocking, too, that it was Wawrinka, who never before seemed to have the stones to win 7 matches at a major.

This was great for tennis to see someone else break through the Big 4 monopoly. Sure, Nadal’s practically a lock for the French, but who knows?