Friday, December 14, 2007

Movies that "welsh out"

Hollywood has an unfortunate tendency to choose a happy ending over a good ending. On the few occasions when the good ending wins out, the film tends to be a box-office disappointment (often for other reasons; think of The Break Up, which was inexplicably advertised as a romantic comedy, and is still listed as such by Amazon) and/or eventually released with an alternate "happier" ending (consider Butterfly Effect , in which the original ending concluded the movie perfectly, but only an alternate "happier" ending has been shown on television).
While happy endings can make us feel good for a moment, it is tragedies that are remembered as great. Compare two of Shakespeare's best-known romances: A Midsummer Night's Dream with Romeo and Juliet . Compare Oedipus Rex or Antigone with a comedy like The Frogs or Lysistrata. Compare the end of The Lord of the Rings with the end of the Harry Potter series (more characters die in Harry Potter -- in fact, to my recollection, only a handful of characters die in LOTR -- but Harry Potter ends on a much happier note than the melancholy last chapters of LOTR). Compare Cool Hand Luke with The Shawshank Redemption. I am sure there are some people out there who like to have everything tidied up nicely at the end, but for me, movies, stories, and plays like that just seem false. Life isn't like that.
I bring this up, having just read Time's review of the new movie of I Am Legend. I Am Legend is a great book by Richard Matheson, and part of what makes it great is Matheson's willingness to consider the unthinkable. The reviewer's comment that "It's funny how filmmakers are drawn to Matheson's subject of post-apocalyptic annihilation, yet feel the need to "fix" the story and welsh out on its conclusions," really struck a chord with me.
I will probably see this movie anyway, I will probably enjoy the first hour, and I will probably be disappointed by the end.
If you're looking for some good movies that don't "welsh out" at the end, here are 20 that I've enjoyed.
Cool Hand Luke, Titus, Fargo, Dancer in the Dark, Moulin Rouge, Unforgiven, The Break Up, Touch of Evil, Dr Strangelove, Terminator 3, A Fistful of Dollars, Casablanca, American Beauty, Falling Down, Fiddler on the Roof, Seven, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Memento, Twelve Monkeys, and Nosferatu (1922).
And the "hall of shame", 10 movies that ended the wrong way. Interestingly, the first three are all really the same story (damn you, Pygmalion!). The last two are pretty good up until the very end.
Pretty Woman, Grease, My Fair Lady, The Omega Man, Gladiator, You've Got Mail, Waterworld, The Postman, and The Patriot, Mean Girls, and The Lake House.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Merriam-Webster Inc. announced yesterday that their Word of the Year for 2007 is w00t.
There are so many problems with this it's hard to know where to start.
- When this announcement was made, there were still 20 days left in the year, more than 5%. That's like ending a football game with more than three minutes on the clock, or ending a marathon with 1 1/2 miles remaining!
- This decision was made by visitors to the Merriam-Webster website voting. Even if you accept that this decision should be made democratically, rather than by a panel of experts or by a computer algorithm, online voting like this just doesn't give truly representative results; does anyone really think that Ron Paul is going to win in a landslide, as many online polls suggest?
- No one but a n00b would spell it as "w00t." The word is "woot," and replacing the "o"s with"0"s is definitely n00bish. And if they're going with a democratic decision, they should have looked at this.
- Woot is not a new word. Consider that was founded in July 2004.
Add to this that the folks at Merriam-Webster don't really seem to grok woot, and the only reasonable conclusion is that this announcement is l4m3.

Friday, December 07, 2007

How the mighty have fallen

As a former Ann Arbor resident (and still an area resident) who is not a University of Michigan fan, this debacle of a coaching search is delicious.
All season, everyone around Ann Arbor assumed that Les Miles would leave LSU and return to Michigan, the school that chose Lloyd Carr over him in 1995. When he made it clear that he was staying in Louisiana, we heard a lot of sour grapes comments, to the effect that Miles is not really that good of a coach, and that Athletic Director Bill Martin was never really interested in getting him. Then the news was that, from the beginning, Martin's first choice was Rutgers coach Greg Schiano. Everyone around here assumed that if Martin offerred the job, Schiano would surely take it -- what football coach would choose Rutgers over Michigan? Apparently Schiano would.
At some point, Michigan fans are going to have to realize that their program is only great in their minds, and only of consequence in the mediocre-at-best Big Ten. For all that they claim more national championships, more wins, etc. than any other program, nearly all of those championships came at a time when football was a very different sport. Michigan has only won one national championship in the last 50 years (1997), and they shared it with Nebraska. From year to year, Michigan is simply not in the top tier of football teams; compare their recent "success" to the real success of Southern California, Ohio State, Florida, and LSU.
I couldn't be happier to see Lloyd Carr's last game coming against Urban Meier and Tim Tebow. Carr is going to go out with a humiliating blow-out loss.