Thursday, June 03, 2010

For Thursday, no laughing matter in baseball, great movie news and a cache of funny clips

I suppose I would actually get a few people to read this if I ever bothered to make it single entries rather than a fairly free-flowing outpouring of whatever enters my mind at 6 in the morning, but than it would stop being fun, so what then would be the point?

But I, like many people, was watching baseball on ESPN last night (actually out of the corner of my eye while watching something else on Netflix, about the most multitasking I can actually do) when Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers was absolutely robbed and jobbed out of a perfect game.

That was the lead story on NPR when I woke up this morning, so it's obviously already a lot bigger than baseball, which it should be. For me, however, as angry as it initially made me, it was Galarraga's classy reaction to the obviously blown umpiring call that sticks with me: "No one is perfect."

He's certainly right there, and it is, in my own warped way, while I'll always be opposed to the introduction of replay in baseball (though I'd be willing to bet Galarraga would vote for in an instant.) Baseball is and always be a sport with as many opportunities for error as grace, and that all goes into what makes it the world's second-most beautiful game (second to, only of course, soccer.) It's far preferable that these errors be committed by the players than the umpires charged with regulating the game, but even in extreme cases like this one, think about it for a second.

Do we really want the game to be stopped every time there's a close call on the base path or anywhere in the field? That slippery slope will eventually lead to recalls on balls and strikes, and games that could easily go on for five hours or more. It would simply disrupt the natural flow of the game, which often, yes, does involve the extremely human act of umpiring, and would be a disaster.

OK, enough about baseball in what is supposed to be a movie site, especially since it's a day full of good news about directors I really like.

To start, does anyone remember Whit Stillman? He made his debut with what lingers as one of my favorite movies in "Metropolitan," a very dryly witty look at the lives of wealthy young NYC socialites (it's a lot better than I'm making it sound here, and rather amazingly, you can watch in on Hulu.) He followed that up with two movies that were not quite as good but still entertaining, "Barcelona" and "The Last Days of Disco," and then pretty much disappeared, at least until now.

He tried to make a comeback a couple of years ago with an adaptation of Christopher Buckley's satirical novel "Little Green Men," but like many ventures in our brave new world, that fizzled fast. Now, however, it seems like he's actually going to be able to make a movie, and it will be called "Damsels in Distress." Here's a synopsis:

[The picture] centers on a group of college girls who take in a new student and teach her their own misguided ways of helping people. Lily, a new student at Seven Oaks University, winds up filling in with a dynamic and highly individualistic group of girls, addicted to the elegance of the past: Heather, Violet and Rose all volunteer at the campus Suicide Prevention Center, convinced that musical dance, sharp clothes and good hygiene — the Dior perfume “Diorissimo” is their trademark — can all contribute to staving off the inevitable self-destructive impulses that follow hard on the heels of failed college romances. Despite their sophisticated talk and savvy use of perfume, the girls are plagued by Cupid’s arrows and must adjust their psyches to the onset of amour.

That all sounds really funny to me already, and casting is apparently going on now, with eyes set on a five-week July shoot in NYC, so it looks like, yes, we will actually get another movie out of Whit Stillman.

In other news, I didn't know that Spike Lee was working on a sequel to his sensational Katrina documentary "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts," but it certainly makes sense, especially since those same poor folks could find their land covered in oil any day now. Never being one for half-measures, however, it now seems that Lee is also now filming in Haiti, to draw obvious parallels between what happened there and in N'awlins.

The fate of Haiti is worthy of a Spike Lee documentary on its own, but whatever he comes up with here should be as painful to watch as it should be thoroughly engaging (and frankly, thank God that he keeps doing things like this as the attention of the rest of us understandably turns elsewhere.)

And, in a final bit before we get to the, I promise, extremely silly clips, it seems that director Sam Mendes has very, very wisely turned his back on some kind of "Wizard of Oz" prequel, sequel or whatever the hell it might be called "Oz the Great and Powerful" to instead direct a movie based on the Ian McEwan short novel "On Chesil Beach," a minor McEwan work but one of my favorites, and even better, "An Education" star Carey Mulligan will apparently star in it (even with Robert Downey Jr. as the wizard, there's just no way you could have gotten me to watch that "Oz" crap.)

As for "On Chesil Beach," it's about a couple on their honeymoon on the titular beach in the 1960s, and like Mendes' best movies so far, it explores the psychological barriers to and burdens of intimacy. Again, I'm surely not summing that up very well, but trust me, it's great stuff, and Mulligan as one half of the couple at its center will surely be fantastic.

OK, you have my solemn promise that from here on out today, it will be nothing but silly in the clips. First up comes something that needs absolutely no more description from me: Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert vs. Conan O'Brien and Andy Richter in a fatal danceoff. Enjoy.

I was already convinced that "Get Him to the Greek" is gonna be exactly my kind of raunchy funny with just enough heart, but just in case anyone else needs some convincing here, courtesy of Funny or Die (I'll take the former with this) are the movie's first five minutes. As were the best parts of Nicholas Stoller's "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," it's a pretty spot-on hit on our celebrity culture, and I think that even if you can't stand Russell Brand (which I can, because he's just friggin' funny), this is still gonna be a winner. Enjoy.

Next up comes the second trailer for one I'm not as sure about, Jay Roach's remake of the sublime French farce "Diner de Cons," which is now called "Dinner for Schmucks" and stars Steve Carell and Paul Rudd (and as you'll see from the trailer, Zach Galifianakis too.) This has a high hurdle to jump in being compared to the original flick by Francis Veber, but it at least looks like Carell will be in full geek mode when this comes out July 23. Enjoy.

Well, these last two are probably more silly than funny, but Ben Kingsley trying out for a part in "Transformers 3"? Why not? (Sorry to break it to you, Sir Ben, but I'm afraid you somehow missed out on this to Victoria's Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whitely - say what you want about Michael Bay, but the man does certainly at least have a type.) Enjoy the clip and compare it to Heidi Montag's apparently earnest "Transformers" audition tape he's spoofing, and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.

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