Warm Up Those Celtics Appetizers for the Big Day

DATELINE: Celts and Pats Underfed

Jones & O'Brien

On the Sunday before the Patriots travel to Lambeau Stadium in Green Bay to play the Packers in a dress rehearsal for the Super Bowl, the lowly Celtics have been relegated to hors d’oeuvres status.

As we look at the struggles of the team, Rajon Rondo remains the superstar of the present. Of course, with the team sinking faster than a leaky rowboat, Rondo begins to look like a hot dog on a toothpick when it comes to Sunday appetizers.

Jelly O’Sully may be the only sweet cake on the menu.

Otherwise, we have bacon-wrapped shrimps like Avery Bradley.

Most of the team makes a delicious party toast, which can be topped with beans and red onions. Unfortunately, as Coach Brad Stevens will tell you: the finish may mean bicarb for all eaters.

Green limejuice seems to be the seasonal choice for Celtics as you cover your favorite peanuts, fried by game’s end.

This cocktail favor will go down much easier after three or four apertifs during halftime.

If you put your little meatballs in a chafing dish, you may find you don’t break out in a rash by the fourth quarter when all hors d’oeuvres go south.

When the team starts to dip in midperiod, it may be time for a caramelized onion dip or you could look into the heart of an artichoke before the Celtics choke. Guacamole is a great game dip, but we urge you to save that for Green Bay’s demise.

As you can see, the holidays often mean the Celtics will be a mere cracker with cheese before the mighty Patriotic appetizers whet our taste for a February football game. By then, most of the hors d’oeuvres on the Celtics will be traded for a pig in a blanket.

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A Comedy Tonight: the Life of Mel Brooks

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP

hitch

Mel Brooks makes lots of noise in the documentary Mel Brooks: Make a Noise.

With his participation through extensive interviews annotating parts of his career, this little film covers the complete oeuvre of Brooks from a gag man with Sid Caesar to his ultimate Broadway conquest with a musical version of The Producers.

There are so many milestones of hilarity along the way, you begin to comprehend the impact of this writer who, though not particularly religious, played up his Jewish angle like a dog with a bone.

Along the way you will find explanations of the variations of “Springtime for Hitler,” and how it was not well received—at first. You will learn Brooks was an 18-year old soldier in World War II, that he was a mentor and god to Gene Wilder. Wildly peppered with film clips from Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety, The Producers, Spaceballs, and others, the laughs keep coming even in retrospect.

Many interviews are vintage because the actors and personalities are no longer alive, but Brooks is more than alive. He is energetic, sharp, and full of himself—and what more could you expect?

In one anecdote, he reveals that he had a private showing of High Anxiety for Alfred Hitchcock. The film was a send-up and homage to the Master of Suspense. After the shower scene, Hitch turned to Brooks and said, “Absolutely brilliant, but you used 13 shower curtain rings and I used only ten.”

If you ever laughed at a Mel Brooks movie, you will love this ultimate compendium from the Master himself.

 

Pat Patriot Picked a Pack of Picky Packers

DATELINE: HUMOR BOWL

Aaron's stalker

Today the faint of heart expect that some feint hearted blow will explain the Super Bowl.

Yes, for the first time in years, the New England Patriots are up at Lambeau field where cold and cruel weather warms the cockle of Bill Belichick’s pea-sized heart.

This time of year Aaron Rodgers flourishes in the igloo known as Lambeau. Tom Brady, often thought to be some California softie, will freeze up like the Tin Woodman. Of course, Tom did much playing in nearby Michigan where Frostbite Falls, Wisconsin, is given a run for its money.

We distrust those who claim the Super Bowl is being given an out of town tryout in Cheesehead country.

Gronky

It’s too early to make such prognostications. When the Packers pack in switchie king Adrian Peterson or Ray Rice-a-Roni among the cheese chards, we might agree. But, double-check that, Aaron Rodgers.

Might the Patriots upset the applecart and sign Old Hickory Stick and take the heat in liberal Massachusetts? We hate to be the one asking if Rice-a-Roni is still beating his wife.

You never know from week to week who will be left standing for the month of December. Signing disreputable saviors may become the most distasteful of options by next week.

Who you may well ask will be the real winner of today’s big game between the Patriots and the Packers? We can safely say that it will be the team that leaves the field unscathed, regardless of the score.

Hanks&Efron.

Forget turnovers and Weather Channel mistakes. The real winner of the big game will be good health for the team with destiny written on its Super Bowl ring.

 

 

Off To See the Wizard Again

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP

Wicked Margaret Hamilton

Wicked Margaret Hamilton

Back in the dark golden age of television, old movies were revered. Around Thanksgiving each year, one film was shown as a national event. It therefore rose into the pantheon of everyday metaphor. It was, of course, 1939’s The Wizard of Oz.

We watched it again on Thanksgiving as the ultimate homage to sentiment, wondering what another trip to see the Wizard would bring upon us. We feared something akin to a plague of flying monkeys. Would it even hold up to CGI fakery of today?

The results were hardly shocking or unexpected.

The opening sequences of the movie are in stark black and white, reminiscent of the Kansas Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Indeed, the characters on a bleak farm could have stepped out of another movie of the time: The Grapes of Wrath.

It certainly made the notion that “there is no place like home,” ring hollow as the movie’s mantra. Why would anyone want to return there?

Judy Garland remained ageless, if not timeless. She could be a teenager or a toddler. Her demeanor made her an immature teen and an overgrown kid. She seemed overfed in some scenes and underfed in others. The ruby slippers looked like a flash of bad taste.

Yet, the film belonged to an actress who won no awards for her scene-stealing. Margaret Hamilton in garish green makeup played The Wicked Witch of the West with such poisonous delight that she seemed like a character actress freed of all restraint. Never again would she have carte blanche to chew scenery. She even broke the magical wall for one moment and looked directly at the camera, shades of Oliver Hardy. What a performance!

Making the film has been endlessly annotated—from the Munchkin actors and their lack of control to the literal horse of another color. We did not look for the dead actor whose suicidal body was inadvertently filmed hanging in the distance far from the Yellow Brick Road. We simply checked off every famous line as they raced past us.

You wouldn’t have that kind of impact in films again until Casablanca came along. The Wizard of Oz did not transport us back to childhood. It just unreeled like a cultural happening, and there was no stopping it.

Most Wanted, Now More than Ever

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP

Dirty Pool among Spies

Robin Wright & Phillip Seymour Hoffman

The loss of Phillip Seymour Hoffman is most felt in movies like A Most Wanted Man.

The John LeCarre spy tale set in contemporary Hamburg, Germany, features the usual banal, world-weary characters. Small-time spies do their ignominious work, trying to save the world.

Like Richard Burton, James Mason, Alec Guinness, and more lately Gary Oldman, Hoffman is perfect as a middle-aged, disdainful agent of some national security group and protagonist of a John LeCarre spy tale. In this story, Hoffman’s ally and nemesis is the American attaché, played with duplicitious snakelike charm by actress Robin Wright.

American hubris has caused Hoffman’s spy to lose his best job and toil in relative obscurity in a small European city. Even there, the long tentacle of American power can ruin the best-laid plans of allies and terrorists.

The spy business still uses influence and blackmail to gain the cooperation of citizens like a liberal cause lawyer (Rachel McAdams) or a banker (Willem Dafoe). How Hoffman’s chief spy wheedles and cajoles people into the most unpleasant jobs is about the only action you will find in a movie like this.

Without major stars like Hoffman, films like this are harder to make and less likely to be a success. Yet, these are prestige-acting movies—though the audiences are a diminishing group of literary and educated people seeking cynical entertainment.

We were in our métier.

Aaron Hernandez or Bigfoot? The Usual Suspects

DATELINE: Just Do It

 

Yep, it’s a really big “shoe” when police return to Aaron Hernandez’s home 18 months after his arrest and start looking for his king-size kicks.

It seems they have now suddenly realized that three sets of footprints were at Odin Lloyd’s murder scene—and one may match up to Hernandez’s Nike sneakers. The former Patriot always took to heart the motto, “Just do it.”bigfoot

Big Shoes to Fill

Whether the prints indicate a game of one-on-one—or a slam-dunk for detectives, only a trial in January will show.

Media experts report that police only “recently noticed” the number of tell-tale shoe prints at the crime scene—and since Aaron’s home remains in tact, they went looking for the clues. Lo and behold, there were a bunch of sneakers there for the plucking.

Sherlock would have checked for clay deposits months ago.

Crackerjack detectives had gone earlier this week to the N. Attleboro MacMansion of Hernandez, but came out with no new evidence. The light dawned several days later.

We are not feeling comfort at the slow reaction time shown by the investigators. If new evidence comes to light so close to trial date, the prosecutors may not have an open and shut case.

Besides all this, Judge Susan Garsh will likely take some pleasure in denying the sneakers can be used as evidence at trial. They merely prove that someone like Bigfoot could have been impersonating Bigfoot.

You’d think the impounding of all Hernandez’s clothes on the night of Odin Lloyd’s murder would be seized before Shayanna sent everything over to the dry cleaners.

We wonder if they are checking Aaron’s unmentionables for semen stains and bloodstains. They’d surely check such basics on any of the CSI TV shows.

Boston’s Tofu Turkey Awards

DATELINE:  Cranberry Sauce Optional

tofu turkey

Yes, it’s that time again when patriotic Red Riding Hoodie makes his way out to Green Bay to lay a turkey on the doorstep of Big Bad Wolf Aaron Rodgers.

The real winner of this year’s Tofu Turkey Award is Boston’s weather, dropping snow, rain, sleet, and whatever else was up in the atmosphere on the head of Bill Belichick. Not even a friendly weatherman could save the New England Coach.

Another Tofu Turkey will likely end up on the table of free agent pitcher Jon Lester, sent COD by King John Henry VIII.

Tofu Turkeys seem to be on the tables of all those extraneous players for the Red Sox that seem doomed to be traded for a pitcher: so long, Will Middlebrooks, Mookie Betts, Brock Holt, and Daniel Nava. Let’s not forget Yopenis.

Rajon Rondo of the Celtics, chef par excellence, plans on cooking a Tofu Turkey for all the teammates he hopes he never has to play with again. They have dropped more passes than a butterball turkey still frozen.

He also sent a Tofu Turkey to Kevin Love in Cleveland. It was like rubbing tofu in the wound. Love already knows his bird is overcooked, and he should have bought a microwave in Boston.

No Celtics seemed to be at the Reggie Lewis turkey giveaway for poor people this year. Tofu Turkey all around for those genuine turkeys in the Celtics organization.

Jelly O’Sully will receive the cranberries runner-up award for making a losing team fun. Thank you, Olynyk and Sullinger.

Of course, the big Tofu Turkey again goes this year to Aaron Hernandez who waived his court appearance this week, making his fans anticipate the big Tofu Turkey’s trial in January.

Boston Manager Puts Kiss of Death on Jon Lester

DATELINE: DO-RIGHT

John Farrell

Red Sox Dudley Do-Right John Farrell put his own version of the kiss of death on Jon Lester.

What did the Sox manager say and how did he say it?

First, he thinks the remainder of the team propositions are “interesting.” That puts Lester on a less than top priority status.

Second, Farrell is looking for ways to go through this offseason. He means the sooner some other team signs Lester, the easier it will be for the Sox.

Third, he has complete trust in GM Ben Cherington. It’s like the Godfather relying upon the murderous abilities of his hired assassin to find the right cement overshoes.

Fourth, he sees work that needs to be done. That means they are looking at options other than Lester.

Fifth, Farrell believes the Sox are doing what needs to be done to bring Lester back, but other teams have great interest in him and “deservedly so.”

Sixth, there are plenty of other options available to the Sox—and Lester is a mere bagatelle.

If you haven’t reached the uh-oh moment yet, you never will. Lester is moving away from Boston faster than an Andromeda galaxy.

Blame the Messenger in Ferguson

DATELINE: FERGUSON, MISSOURI

Imbeciles of the media, unite.

We do on occasion diverge from the usual humor of movies and sports to tackle idiocy in society.

Last night we watched the town of Ferguson fill with hate, protestors, news media, and wall-to-wall social media coverage, including CNN.

The story, in case you have been hiding under a rock, concerns the shooting of a black teenager named Michael Brown by a police officer name Darren Wilson.

Some members of society believe Wilson shot and killed the youth out of latent, or not so latent, racism. They demanded he be charged with a crime, ostensibly murder. If not, they would torch the town.

These kind of threats bring hand-wringing and a plea from society leaders for calm and peaceful protest, as if a call for reason ever works.

So, last night, as protestors gathered to hear the verdict, inexplicably announced at night when crowds can hide in the dark and masked culprits feel emboldened. What moron decided to announce the decision at night?

CNN reporters and anchors, notably Anderson Cooper usually thought to be a smart-ass, kept asking how the gathering thousands might hear the verdict on the street. Reporters told him: car radios. Of course, viewers could see people milling about with their smartphones on the CNN app watching dumb Anderson Cooper.

Then, the media wondered why so many people showed up suddenly with intent to commit vandalism. Well, when you bring in hundreds of media members and cameras and put it on live television, it tends to attract the elements of society who want to be seen as activists on television.

So, after luring people to their network with a promise of an 8pm announcement (no truth in advertising), they noted they meant 8pm central time, not eastern. Oh, that ropes in the east coast with false information.

Then, trouble ensued. What a surprise. Actually, it was only a surprise to the news media who created the problem in the first place.

 

 

 

Death of QB Salesmen: Manning, Rodgers, & Brady

DATELINE: Inadvertent Advert Humor

Aaron's stalker

Tom Brady’s opponents make terrible TV commercials.

You know the entire story of Peyton Manning who for years now has moonlighted as a Papa John’s pizza waitress.

Peyton & pizza

If he isn’t selling pizza, Manning is hawking cheap auto insurance in case you are hit by a bus or refrigerator, likely scenarios in the NFL.

Manning also sells cars. Sometimes we have a hard time figuring out what product he has placed in his self-promoting commercials.

This week’s bad TV huckster is Aaron Rodgers.

BradyPullsRabbit

We all know Aaron from rumors about his peccadilloes off the field. It didn’t help that for years he did commercials in which an androgynous Packer fan with cheese on his head chased Rogers all over the countryside.

If you are going to have a stalker, make sure you double-check your rear view mirror because your rear may be in view.

puny rodgers

Nowadays the stalking stalk of cheese stalker has been retired in favor of two musclemen with Schwarzenegger accents. These guys in fat suits want to remake Aaron in the form of a male pinup model.

We half expect his next costar will be a gecko or a gerbil.

Tom&Peyton

All we can add about Tom and his high-toned salespitches is Uggh. Tom’s commercials generally run the gamut from film noir to artsy museum piece.

If the style of Manning and Rodgers is a hot tub time machine, then Tom’s approach is more in the line of last year at Marienbad, or a bad perfume commercial. We must blame Giselle’s friends at the New York agencies.

Boston Peace Talks with Lester & Ramirez To Start

DATELINE: 2015 Red Sox Turmoil

 

lester&beckett

The Red Sox have signed their biggest tandem of hitters since Dick Stuart and Roman Mejias in 1962. And, we all know how that turned out.

So, the Sox have decided to open King John Henry VIII’s wallet and sign Kung Fu Panda and Hanley Being Hanley.

Did anyone ask Jon Lester what he thinks?

Lester and Ramirez were hardly pals back in the minors a decade ago. They were, in fact, openly hostile. But, perhaps adulthood and maturity have become new factors. Who are we kidding? These are baseball players.

This could mean Lester will go anywhere else that gives him the chance to throw a beanball at Ramirez.

If Ben Cherington, no model of social decorum himself, can broker a peace between Lester and Ramirez, he may be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Of course, all that is dependent on the notion that Lester wants to return to Boston now that the stakes have changed.

No one said players had to love each other. They only have to love winning—and money.

Will Hanley and Pablo become the new Stuart and Mejias? And that raises the question: which one will be the big bust for two years?

Dick Stuart hit some home runs in his two seasons: a goodly amount of 42 and 35. Alas, if hits were vowels on Wheel of Fortune, Roman couldn’t buy a hit and would never solve the puzzle.

Red Sox pundits promise that Cherington will turn into the Henry Kissinger of baseball. The summer of love is about to return to Boston. Good luck to that.

Sox Sign Another Ramirez Again

Hanny not Manny

DATELINE: Hannywood, Not Mannywood

The Red Sox can’t help themselves.

They have an organizational addiction. It may be an indication of unfinished business, or simple lack of control.

Yes, it’s happened again: the Sox are bringing another Ramirez back into the fold.

This time it’s the return of Ben Cherington’s first Ramirez, Hanley.

Yet, at the back of every Ramirez sighting, we feel the specter of Manny. We aren’t sure if Hanley being Hanley will top Manny being Manny.

There have been other Ramirezes in between, but those were one-night stands compared to this one. The Sox are shelling out big bucks for a five-year commitment. It’s a marriage guaranteed to keep a Ramirez in a Sox uniform until 2020 or until hindsight becomes clearer.

It could be worse. They could sign morons like the chicken and beer brigade. Oh, wait, they traded Hanley Ramirez for the ringleader of the chicken and beer brigade. So, this signing of free agent Hanley is actually a makeup to fans!

They are bringing back the original Hanley that was meant to be a Doppleganger of Manny. We had them together for a brief moment in time. Now, like Aulde Lang Syne gone awry, the Sox are returning the native.

Hanley is another shortstop, though wags are saying he will play leftfield or third base with equal aplomb. The Sox have one other weakness. It’s signing shortstops. To sign a shortstop who is also a Ramirez will kill two birds with one contract.

We love cheap sentiment, and signing Hanley gives us goosebumps.

Stand Up Comic Jonas Gray Stands on Sidelines

DATELINE: BENCHED

Man without a Clock

Jonas Gray has become the new Stevan Ridley.

The Patriots used to sit out Ridley after he developed a bad case of fumbling. NFL insiders were shocked, shocked, shocked, to hear that Bill Belichick simply refused to play someone who screwed up.

Well, those who don’t learn from history tend to repeat it. So, fans and media insiders are shocked again, deja vu redux, to discover that golden boy Jonas Gray has gone from fool’s gold to grey ghost in one week.

Bill Belichick beat the powerhouse Detroit Lions without the services of SI coverboy and standup comic, Jonas Gray.

So much for laughter being the best medicine. Gray looked glum on the sidelines. He more than likely saw his career going up in gray smoke.

Not since the Papal Cardinals (soon to be an NFL franchise) at their enclave failed to elect a pope have we seen so much gray smoke.

It’s a foggy night in Foxboro town for the man who scored four touchdowns in his debut and looked like the Messiah last week. He has been lugging around a giant cross in the shape of a grandfather’s clock.

Ridley couldn’t believe what happened to him, but the punishment woke him up. Let’s hope Gray finds a clear path out of the slumberland that engulfed him this week.

Oh, by the way, stay away from tweets that disparage your coach, Jonas, or you will become the Patriot Jonah. Furthermore, the Belichick Patriots won handily without any scoring by Sidelines Gray who looked like a man whose jokes fell flat in the locker room.

Mona Lisa’s Last Laugh

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP

mona

Most documentaries are now falling into the re-enactment variation with sensational directors doing their best to enliven history. Mona Lisa Is Missing, a 2012 film by Joe Mederios, takes on an amateur-hour approach to stand apart from others.

We reluctantly settled into a crime melodrama with a little bit of everything to offer the viewer.

The film is actually quite professional. The researcher has made himself the Orson Welles of the movie: he produces, directs, writes, narrates, and stars. This might quickly devolve into a vanity project—but it does not.

One interviewed cemetery worker wonders why anyone would be interested in some minor thief who committed his crime 100 years ago. People become obsessed by much less.

Vicenzio Peruggia was a minor housepainter who worked part-time at the Louvre in 1911 and came in on the day the museum was closed, saw the smallish Da Vinci masterpiece, and decided it was the easiest to steal. His motives seemed to be patriotic—returning a masterpiece to his native Italy.

He kept the painting in his room for two years, perhaps even using it as a place-mat. It is painted on wood and fit neatly under a tablecloth.

The filmmaker interviews Peruggia’s family without much luck, except to find they were eager to learn the truth. However, an amateur researcher with no official funding source must rely on friends and volunteers who will read various police reports in French and Italian. Stacks of daunting material were available, but no English-speaking researchers had bothered. It is testimony to Mederios that he cared enough to find out what really happened, indicting the police for their quaint notion that an uneducated thief would never be able to escape with the greatest masterpiece in the history of art.

The film amuses when it should, fascinates often, and finally seems a satisfying explanation for a crime of the century.

Devilish Fun with Charles Coburn

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP

 Devilish fun

A cheesy porn film with a similar title has done a grave disservice to a chestnut movie way ahead of its time.

The Devil and Miss Jones would be called dramedy decades later, but it is a charming romantic comedy film of 1941. It is too often confused with the notorious The Devil in Miss Jones. What a shame.

We were stunned by the pairing of crotchety old Charles Coburn as a billionaire without a conscience and a shoe salesgirl in the form of Jean Arthur. It seems the department store chain is having union organizers burning the owner in effigy. Coburn, a recluse with billions, is offended and decides to go undercover to deal with the morons personally.

So many TV shows have played off the concept of an undercover boss, but this film is not a reality ripoff. It is a well-honed film from the classic period. Its politics and satiric approach are timeless.

On top of that, we were stunned in the opening credits with names like Edmund Gwenn, Spring Byington, William Demarest, Robert Cummings, and S.Z. Sakall. It is a who’s who of brilliant character actors from the great studio era.

The opening and the closing scenes make the entire film worth the viewing.

The film even uses some of the Citizen Kane set, thanks to genius set designer William Cameron Menzies. And, Sam Wood directs comedy deftly. Heretofore, we associated him with social dramas that extracted stunning performances out of child actors.

In the final analysis the movie is not revolutionary or one of the great films, but it is something special despite its hoary sexism toward women. Yet, star Jean Arthur has spunk and is clearly engineering the road to independent women in business.