Monday Morning Critic – 6.15

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On tap this week:
— A Tale of Two Pacinos
— 2009: Worst movie year ever?
— David Letterman jokes
And slightly much more!

One of the funny things about being in the car is that you get an awesome insight into the human condition via talk radio. From sports to politics and all points between, listening to people talk about what’s happening in the world makes for interesting stuff. Case in point: David Letterman’s ill-advised joke about one of Sarah Palin’s daughters,

It was amusing to listen to the story unfold over the span of the week. While I’ve never been a fan of Letterman, preferring Johnny Carson’s rotting corpse as host (Johnny was the man, always), but he has his fans and I don’t begrudge them their liking of the man. So listening to his joke the day after he made it, two things came to mind.

First, I knew exactly what he was saying. Anyone with half a brain could realize he was making a crack that Bristol Palin had a kid out of wedlock. Making fun of A-Rod knocking her up was “topical” considering he’s just recently come back from major hip surgery after the steroid scandal and the Palin family was recently in New York.

Second, it was such an ill-advised joke that anyone with half a brain could realize that David had just stepped in what he’s been shoveling for years.

As I was listening to the outcry that followed, as well as Letterman’s apology in the vein of the one that Michael Richards made after using racial slurs and invoking the concept of lynching, it got me thinking. A quick apology from the heart would’ve made the story go away as quickly as it had appeared. If he’d just said “I made a bad joke, I’m sorry if I offended the Palin family and I invite them on anytime they’re in the area again to make amends” everyone would’ve let it go. But he didn’t and it’s still a story, unfortunately.

I get why Letterman made the joke. You hear “Sarah Palin and her daughter are in town” and the one you think of is Bristol, the one who got knocked up. And she’s hot, for sure. That was like the greatest thing about the last election. Everywhere they went it’s the hot ass vice president and her burgeoning hot barely legal daughter. And I think his writers all thought of that as well; in the writing room I bet they’re still thinking it’s the greatest joke ever. Hence the extended half-ass posture that Letterman is taking. There can’t be a reason other than that to explain Letterman’s behavior in the same manner than Michael Richards’ apology was from a guy who probably could teach a clinic on racial slurs. I bet David and his writers are telling the joke to each other all the time because they think it’s a classic; there can’t be any other reason for him to not just cave in and make a good apology that seems sincere.

I’ve always thought that sometimes you can’t defend something EVERYONE is pissed off against. There comes a point when you have to concede and throw yourself on the sword if only to make the issue go away. And it’s not like people are lining up to defend the late night talk show host. He’s managed to get NOW to make a statement against him. That’s right, the National Organization of Women have gone after letterman FOR a Republican woman. A conservative Republican woman, mind you. You know it’s on when NOW is defending someone who doesn’t stand behind their leftist screed of what they think women in America want. Anytime a group like NOW crosses political lines to go after one of them you just have to concede the point.

Letterman has two options at this point:

The logical one would be to issue a mea culpa and be done with it. Apologize profusely if he offended the Palin family, donate some money to teenage moms and issue a press release that’s nicely worded as well. It’d kill the whole story as nothing indicates a story is over then one party conceding the point and moving on.

The idiotic one is to stop the half-defense and go all in and defend his joke like Perez Hilton. You know him; he’s that gay dude with Down’s syndrome who insulted the beauty queen about gay marriage or something. Go on the offensive and be that guy, really get under people’s skin and tell some more jokes in awful taste about the Palin daughters in every opening monologue. He could even bring on the dirt bag that knocked Bristol up and give him his own segment called “Nailin’ Palin” where he talks about his bedroom escapades with Bristol.

Hell, hearing him talk about how he “filled her out like a welfare application” would be the line of the millennium and Time Magazine would profile the bugger like he just cured cancer or something.

If the pink-haired one can be called an “intellectual giant” by Keith Olbermann then Letterman should earn “Man of the Century” honors from the former ESPN anchor for something like that. He’s already called Dave “the victim” in all of this, so he’d probably give the same apologetic ass kissing he gives the President if he went on the offensive. Hell, hearing Olbermann defend that sort of remarkably offensive humor would be unintentionally funny in and of itself.

I wish Letterman would reach between his skirt and make sure he has a set when it comes to the situation as opposed to trying to occupy some sort of middle ground where he defends the joke but tries to give it a different context then it arrived. It’s annoying. But then again, reasoning like this is probably why I didn’t get into the good colleges.

Random Thoughts of the Week

It’s hard to keep writing about the state of film, week in week out, when the overall quality of film is so disappointing on a regular basis. I’m not going to complain about how movie-making awful, et al is boring. I wish I could talk about some glory day in the past when every movie was wonderful because frankly it never was. It’s just that 2009 is, well, such a disappointing year for film for lack of a phrase that isn’t laden with profanity.

It’s the first half of the year, of course, and normally I don’t expect much from at least the first three months of the year. There’s been less than 10 that I’d consider “really good,” which isn’t a big deal if it weren’t for the fact that usually there’s much more than 10 which could be at least considered a solid viewing experience. And probably only two so far (Tyson and State of Play) that will end up on my Top 10 of 2009 list. Usually it’s about half and half and unless something changes I’m really thinking that this is going to be a bottom-heavy year.

Listen to me now and believe me later.

2009 is a bad year for the economy, a fact I know firsthand, but in terms of cinema it seems that the good films are fewer and fewer in number. It’s been a trend in the last couple years but usually you can count on 25-40 or so films per year that can be counted on to a) add into the DVD collection and b) be good experiences in the theatre. And the goofy thing is that this year has significantly less films coming out, too. It’s the middle of June and we’re getting one or two films a week or so when usually there’s 2-3 with at least one set up for counter programming. 2009 seems to be the year where everyone is scared of competition for a shrinking available dollar pool.

But then again, the last couple years have had a higher quality of film so there had to be a point where Hollywood kind of reloads with a subpar year. So it was bound to happen, and it’s not like 2009 doesn’t have some great films lined up for the rest of the year. July looks to have some great films, as Public Enemies and Funny People carry some slight Oscar implications and Bruno should be incendiary fun. Inglorious Basterds could be excellent, plus Sherlock Holmes and Avatar are on the horizon too. So there’s going to be some great films, hopefully, to be found by the end of 2009. But the first decade of the new century is going to close with a whimper, not a bang, and that’s kind of sad.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s Film – Dog Day Afternoon


There’s two different Al Pacinos out there. There’s the one who smoked five packs a day and has a deep voice, screaming “Hoo Ahh” a lot. He’s the one anyone under 35, myself included, when you mention “Al Pacino.” The cop from HEAT, the howling colonel in Scent of a Woman, the gambler in Two for the Money and virtually every character he’s played since winning his lifetime Oscar.

Then there’s the quiet, smoldering one that seemingly only exists in old movies. He’s the guy people think of when you mention the legend that is Pacino. Films like Serpico and the first two Godfather films seem like from an entirely different person. It’s like Rome as described in Gladiator; you have to whisper or else he’ll disappear.

That’s what Dog Day Afternoon really is: an extended look back when Pacino had that powerful whisper and smoldering intensity as opposed to being a ranting, raving lunatic who commands the screen as a geriatric. It’s a pretty simple story, too, that was ripped from the headlines about a man who actually did try and rob a bank to pay for his transvestite girlfriend to become a shim, a dude who becomes a lady. That’s about the best phrase I can come up with.

Pacino plays a gay man who tries to rob a bank to pay for a sex change operation for his partner. When the plan goes awry, he hunkers down and the whole thing gets way more complicated then the quick smash and grab he had envisioned.

Excellent flick, strong recommendation.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds at the Alumni Club

The Proposal – Sandra Bullock is a Canadian about to get deported when she cons Ryan Reynolds into marrying her for the Green Card. Shenanigans ensue.

See It – Sandy Bullock is the anti-Matt McConaughey when it comes to romantic comedies. If she’s in it, it’s probably pretty solid.

Year One – Jack Black and Michael Cera are cavemen who go on a road trip.

Skip It – Either all the best jokes are in the movie or in the trailer. My bet is the trailer, as the film looks 100 ways of awful.

Do you have questions about movies, life, love, or Branigan’s Law? Shoot me an e-mail at and you could be featured in the next “Monday Morning Critic.” Include your name and hometown to improve your odds.