meryl-streep-golden-globes

Remember those halcyon days when you could turn on a football game or awards show and not worry that you were going to be assaulted by someone’s inane political opinion?  Those were the days, way back in the early 2010’s.

We now live in a world where even a feel-good Budweiser ad can’t be shown during the Super Bowl without splitting the country in two over its purported political message.

As for the awards shows, they have become increasingly mouthy.  Even back in the Age of Obama, when award winners adored the president, they still found something to gripe about.  But now that Donald Trump is in the White House, Hollywood is melting down and the awards shows have become a major platform of dissent.

Meryl Streep, the industry’s grande dame, opened the floodgates with her anti-Trump tirade at the Golden Globes.   Then the SAG awards unleashed nearly a dozen speeches condemning the Administration.  The subsequent Director’s Guild Awards took it easy on the president – only five direct attacks.  As recently as last Saturday night, Streep doubled down at a fundraiser for the Human Rights Campaign and called Trump’s supporters “brown shirts,” a commonly used term for followers of Hitler. And then at the Grammys on Sunday, Busta Rhymes blasted “President Agent Orange.”

And into this environment comes the Academy Awards, the biggest stage of them all.  The Oscars show is usually the most-viewed non-football broadcast of the year.  It’s one of those special live events that keeps some people holding off on cord-cutting just a little while longer.

But while there is no official anti-Hollywood Oscar boycott in the works (not yet at least), there does seem to be considerable word-of-mouth chatter among Trump voters that this is the year to skip it.  I’m surprised by the number of people who have told me they won’t watch because of the politics.

This could be more than an idle threat.  In 2008, the left-leaning Jon Stewart delivered the least watched Oscar broadcast in history, drawing just 31.7 million viewers.  By 2015, the number of viewers had climbed back to 37.3 million but last year, in the middle of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, viewership fell back to 34.4 million.

Even if ABC and the Academy would like to see politics kept out of the ceremony, and they probably do, there’s no way for them to accomplish that.  For starters, there’s the case of the Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, whose film “The Salesman” is nominated for best foreign language film.  As a foreign national from one of the seven countries from which the Trump Administration suspended travel, Farhadi would have been prevented from coming to the U.S. if the travel pause hadn’t been suspended. He still might not attend in protest (and of course if the pause is reinstated by February 26, he will be officially shut out again).    Given that he is someone directly affected by a government policy, Farhardi becomes a potent symbol for Hollywood “resistance.”

Farhardi won the Oscar in 2012 for the excellent “A Separation” and would have been a favorite again this year, even without the martyred status.  Now, if there’s anything more certain than “La La Land” getting the best picture it’s an Oscar for “The Salesman” and a righteous speech by whomever is designated to accept on his behalf.

But if Farhardi has a legitimate reason to make a political statement, what’s the excuse from the fine folks who brought us “La La Land”?  If Ryan Gosling wins Best Actor is he going to mention that he’s an immigrant (albeit from Canada)?

“La La Land” is a lovely movie, but it’s a self-reverential paean to the movie-making industry itself and the fact that it is poised to win a slew of awards demonstrates what’s so aggravating about the political posturing at the Oscars.  After all, this is a movie about a white guy who wants to save Jazz from bastardizers like the African American bandleader played by John Legend.  Its hands aren’t exactly clean on the political correctness front.

The entertainment business is as brutally capitalistic as any industry in America, with a price tag applied to everything and executives who are as richly rewarded as you can get.  Male actors are routinely paid more than females.  By constantly portraying Muslims as terrorists Hollywood has done more to shape negative perceptions of Islam than any other institution in the country.  It doesn’t take much courage to stand up before a group of film colleagues and criticize Donald Trump.  It would take a lot more courage to criticize the industry itself.

Until now, conservative viewers have responded to the Oscars’ political speeches with bemused eye-rolling but in today’s hyper-politicized environment they might now be so forgiving.  We’ll know whether they voted with their eyeballs on February 27, when the ratings come out.

roger-goodell

The long football season comes to an end on Sunday with the annual nacho-fueled spectacle that is the Super Bowl.  It’s been a tough year for the NFL and its declining ratings, which means that it’s been a tough year for network television, which relies on the appeal of live viewing events to ward off cord-cutting.

The ratings decline was particularly severe in the beginning of the season when viewing declined by double-digit percentages.  Everyone had an opinion on this phenomenon, my own being that it was caused by an over-saturation of football, a lot of mediocre games, and a lack of positive story lines following the retirement of Peyton Manning, the suspension of Tom Brady and the underwhelming performance of other high-profile quarterbacks.

Of course anything as highly visible as pro football quickly becomes a huge target upon which we act out our personal obsessions, and in a white hot election year, the NFL quickly became tangled up in the political correctness debate, thanks to Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem.

I don’t think that the Kaepernick controversy actually eroded football viewing but it significantly infuriated many of the game’s most important constituencies and wiped out decades of effort by the league to wrap itself in the flag.  It got to a point where the right-wing Drudge Report was actively gloating each week about low NFL ratings.   When a lot of conservative white guys are actively rooting for your ratings to go down, you’re in a bad place if you’re a major sports league.

For its part, the NFL tried to blame the ratings slump on the election, the theory being, I suppose, that fans were out attending Donald Trump rallies on Sundays instead of staying home to watch football.   They claimed vindication of a sorts when it turned out that ratings were “only” down two percent in the six weeks after the election.    (Personally I think that it wasn’t until the final third of the season that the interesting storylines emerged.)

Better still for the NFL have been the play-offs.  When there was a good game the fans watched.  When the games stunk they didn’t.  For example, the thrilling Cowboys-Packers game on January 15, featuring two high-profile quarterbacks and a down-to-the-wire victory, was the most-watched NFL divisional play-off game ever.

For me, though, the relevant question is not why football ratings slumped this year but why they’ve soaring for the past few years in the first place?  In the last decade, football went from being a very popular sport to a hugely popular one.  For years and years the final episode of “M.A.S.H.” reigned supreme as the most-watched broadcast of all time, but since 2010 the Super Bowl has broken that record seven straight times.

And what’s particularly surprising about this rise in popularity is that it occurred just as we were coming to terms with the human cost of the concussions and other injuries inflicted on the players for our enjoyment.  Far from being turned off by literally watching fellow human beings beat their brains to mush, the American public actually embraced the sport even more enthusiastically.

For football to become more popular it had to expand its appeal beyond existing fans and convert casual viewers to regular ones.  It was able to do this via the rise in fantasy sports and online gambling, which gave fans a reason to watch more games with more intensity.  Even more important was the emergence of a new generation of charismatic quarterbacks who became the face of the league in the same way that Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan revived the fortunes of the NBA in the 1980s.

In other words, the biggest threat to football’s long-term health isn’t cord-cutting but the poor quality of quarterbacks coming out of college.  Because college football is increasingly dominated by spread offenses and no-huddle play, recent QB prospects are not prepared to lead an NFL offense.  With Manning retired and Brady, Aaron Rogers, Tony Romo and Drew Brees growing long in the tooth, the NFL has been unable to nurture a new generation of appealing superstars.

There will be one more chance to check-in on the health of the NFL this year.  If the Super Bowl sets yet another record for viewership this year, the league will be able to breathe a sigh of relief that football remains hugely popular despite the hiccups in the beginning of the season.  And with much of the nation wondering whether Tom Brady will be in a position to smash the Lombardi trophy into the face of Commissioner Roger Goodell, that might just happen.

 

 

 

Gardens earned a poor reputation in the Bible. The two worst betrayals in history occur in Gardens. Humankind betrays God in the Garden of Eden and Judas betrays Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. So if a cynic were to write a hymn he’d call it, “Stay Out of the Garden.”

Fortunately Alan Miles, who wrote “In the Garden,” was no cynic. A pharmacist yes, but a cynic no. Miles later claimed that a vision inspired him to write this song as he sat at his desk with his Bible open to John Chapter 20. In this vision he witnessed the weeping Magdalene being comforted by the resurrected Savior. As soon as he awoke he wrote the lyrics fast — as quickly as they could be put down on paper, and exactly as they appear in the hymnal. Later that night he wrote the music.

Sometimes I wonder if Alan Miles was fully aware of the song he’d written. He would not be the first creator to misinterpret his own creation. Because when I read John 20, I get a sense of happiness and joy. This is the moment when Christianity begins.

But “In the Garden” the hymn is a not a happy song. The music sounds like a sad slow waltz and the words have a wistful elegiac quality to them. Here’s the final verse: “I’d stay in the garden with him, though the night around me be falling, but he bids me go, through the voice of woe, His voice to me is calling.” These regretful lyrics signal the end of something, not the beginning of a movement that would transform the world.

The reason “In the Garden” is meaningful to me is because it’s traditionally sung at our family’s funerals. I first became aware how powerful it could be after my grandmother died. My mother had arranged for a soloist to sing it from the balcony at the rear of the church and when she sang the chorus “and He walked with me and He talked with me and He told me I am his own” my cousins and their kids began — one by one — to weep.

We also sang this at my Aunt Lee’s funeral and later at my Uncle Wayne’s. As many of you know, my father died over the Christmas vacation. Before he went into the hospital he handed over a set of funeral instructions that, unbeknownst to us, he had been preparing over the course of several years. And sure enough, he asked that we sing “In the Garden” at his funeral. And we did.

I think “In the Garden” is popular at funerals because it offers a different kind of comfort than the kind provided to Mary Magdalene, and that the garden is a different kind of garden than we see in John.

To me the garden represents heaven, and in the first verse, when we sing, “I come to the Garden alone,” we are coming to see God. We have fought the good fight, we have finished the race, we have kept the faith. It is time for rest, it is time for God to tell us we are His own.

“In the Garden” seems like a farewell song, mixing optimism and sadness simultaneously. The hymn was written to comfort and I do find it comforting that someday we’ll be welcomed into paradise and have a personal conversation with God in the heavenly garden. I imagine a conversation where we tell Him our story, our concerns, and where we fell short. He’ll already know all this, of course, but He’ll listen like an attentive father.

This interpretation is very different from the one Alan Miles intended, but over the years it’s how I’ve come to relate to the hymn. In a way, it’s emblematic of how a hymn operates – making its meaning known after a lifetime of listening and singing. But regardless of what Alan Miles intended, I’m grateful for hymn because it’s brought me comfort and hope at some of the saddest times of my life.

 

disco_duck

I recently argued that 1968 was the greatest year in pop musicyou can make the case that maybe it was 1967 or 1969, but there’s no debate that the late sixties were pretty terrific.

So it’s shocking to consider that just eight years later we had what is probably the worst year in pop music.  I had completely forgotten how bad it was until I listened to Chris Molanphy reviewing the number one hits of 1976 on Slate’s “The Gist” podcast.  I listened to the podcast with growing incredulity as one terrible song followed another.  The year was full of novelty songs, easy listening hits and disco-influenced garbage.

How did this happen?  First of all, it’s important to mention that every year — even 1968 (remember “Honey“?) — has its share of schlock.  But 1976 was impressive for being dominated by schlock. (Here are the top 100 songs of the year.)

It’s easy to point to contemporary events to explain the artistic output of an era, and in 1976 the U.S. was coming out of a bad time, with Watergate, the Vietnam War, gas shortages, inflation and a lousy economy still fresh in people’s mind.  Arguably, the consequence could have been a turn to mindless music.

Then too, there was a rise in Album Oriented Radio, with many of the more serious music fans focusing on albums instead of singles.  Indeed, 1976 had some great albums, including Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life”, the Ramones eponymous album, David Bowie’s “Station to Station,” The Eagles’ “Hotel California,” and Bob Dylan’s “Desire.” None of these artists had major hits on the singles charts in 1976.

My own explanation is simpler: cultural trends go in cycles and the tremendous tidal wave of great music from the 1960s had exhausted itself with nothing left to replace it except disco.

In any event, on to the actual music.  Here are some highlights (lowlights?) from Molanphy’s podcast.

50 Ways to Leave Your Lover

We’ll start with the one acceptable number one song of the year.  Believe it or not, this was Paul Simon’s only number one hit as a solo artist (he had three others with Simon and Garfunkel).  It’s not a bad song but is inferior to “Kodachrome,” “Graceland” and “You Can Call Me Al.”  It’s hard to remember what a major musical force Simon was in the 1970s, but he had a string of hits and was a frequent guest on Saturday Night Live (including the famed second episode, which put SNL on the map when he sang “Still Crazy After All Those Years” wearing a chicken suit.)

Disco Duck

From the best number one song of the year we now move to the worst. The problem with 1976 wasn’t disco per se, it was the way disco infected so many acts and spawned so many novelty songs.  Give Rick Dees credit.  He knew that the song was a joke, and maybe fun for about five minutes.  He even named his act “Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots,” suggesting that maybe this was a Mad Magazine spin-off.

A Fifth of Beethoven

Disco strikes again in a semi-novelty record.  Walter Murphy takes the opening bars of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, some of the most famous musical phrases in music history and gives it a disco beat. Is nothing sacred for crying out loud?  The song, if you can call it that, is not exactly terrible, and how could it be with all that Beethoven?  It’s just deeply weird.  How weird?  The writing credit goes to “Ludwig von Beethoven  and Walter Murphy.”  Talk about cultural appropriation!!!  The song eventually appeared on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, making Murphy a very rich man.

You Should be Dancing

The only pure disco song to top the charts in 1976, “You Should be Dancing,” is not bad a far as disco songs go.  It became even more famous the next year when John Travolta danced to it in Saturday Night Fever.  Oh, and The Brothers Gibb set a fashion style by flaunting their hairy chests, another trend that would not last.

Tonight’s The Night

Welcome to the 1970s, when Roman Polanski thought it was ok to seduce a 13-year-old and Woody Allen made a highly regarded movie about an older man’s affair with a 17-year-old. “Tonight’s the Night” fits right in there — a song about taking a young woman’s virginity that includes the line “spread your wings and let me come inside.”  This is the only number one hit that Rod Stewart wrote on his own, so it’s his full id on display.  Nice.

Afternoon Delight

People were obsessed about sex in the 1970s.  The sexual revolution of the 1960s went mainstream, as did porn (“Deep Throat”), “key parties,” the Playboy Mansion and divorce.  And here we have a number one song about having sex mid-day (“skyrockets in flight”).  The Starland Vocal Band won a Grammy for “Best New Artist” and then never had another hit single.  They did have a variety show for  six weeks in 1977; one of the show’s writers was David Letterman, so there’s that.

Convoy

Another huge fad in the mid-1970s was the CB Radio.  For about 20 years blue collar workers had used the citizen band frequency to communicate with each other. It became a mainstream fascination during the energy crisis when truck drivers started using the CB to evade the 55 mile-an-hour speed limit that the government had imposed to save gas.  The C.W. McCall song “Convoy” exploited that fad and eventually spawned a movie of the same name starring Kris Kristofferson and Ali McGraw.  Needles to say, like many other popular artists in 1976, C.W. McCall never had another pop hit.

Silly Love Songs

Now we come to the most popular song of 1976.  “Silly Love Songs,” was Paul McCartney’s answer to John Lennon, who claimed that McCartney wrote insipid love songs.  So Paul’s response was to write an insipid song with an underlying disco beat that asked the burning question, “Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs, and what’s wrong with that, I’d like to know?”  As Chris Molanphy points out, when “Silly Love Songs” became a massive hit, both Paul and John could point to the other and say “see, this proves my point.”  But really, Paul McCarney’s greatest songs, “Hey Jude,” “Let It Be,” “Penny Lane,” “Fool on the Hill”, “Back in the USSR,” and “Eleanor Rigby” were not even love songs so he had no reason to apologize.

So, what a year.  And yet out of the ash heap of 1976 arose new and exciting forms of music.  Stevie Wonder would reinvent R&B for a mainstream audience; Bruce Springsteen would breathe new life into rock; we’d see the birth of Punk and the emergence of New Wave rock stars like Blondie, Elvis Costello, the Talking Heads.  When Disco finally died whole new genres of exciting music were left standing.

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The One Great Song of 1976

Lest you think 1976 was a total loss, there was one terrific song in the year’s top 100.  Sitting way down there at number 72 was “I’m Easy,” the Keith Carradine song from the movie “Nashville.”  In the movie, which takes a sardonic look at American society through the lens of the Country music industry, Carradine plays a manipulative, womanizing folk singer.  It says something about 70’s taste that a gaunt, grungy, hollowed-eye guy like that would be considered such a sex symbol.  In the movie he sings this song to attract the middle class Lily Tomlin character, although three other women that he’s already slept with think he’s singing to THEM.  It’s a soulful sensitive song that actually does manage to seduce Tomlin, although she quickly sees through him. It’s still on my all-time top 20 after all these years and somehow it came out in 1976.

 

westworld

Is it fair to pop off about a television show you’ve never seen?  Must you remain silent at the water cooler when your colleagues are discussing a series that has never graced your TV screen?

In a world with 500 scripted TV shows and countless reality series, this is more than an academic question.  No one has the time to watch more than a sliver of contemporary TV content, but chatter about TV is everywhere — and who wants to miss out on the fun conversations?

The extravagant lead-up to the debut of HBO’s “Westworld” and my subsequent aversion to it got me thinking about this.  Initially intrigued by the premise of an adult theme park in the form of an old West town populated with humanoid robots, I was soon repulsed by warnings that the misogynistic male visitors raped, tortured and killed the female robots. I watched exactly one-minute of the series premiere before deciding, nope, don’t want to watch robot rape.  And yet a lot of people were talking about it.

But not watching the series hasn’t stopped me from having a strong opinion about it.  I know the show has intellectual and artistic ambitions and is ultimately supposed to be a meditation on artificial intelligence and the definition of humanity.  And I gather that the violence perpetrated by the flesh-and-blood characters raises questions about whether humans are really all that great in the first place.

So based on watching just one minute of the show, my official opinion is this: All the intellectualizing in the world doesn’t justify the soul-deadening depiction of brutality that is central to the show.  I just don’t want to become inured to violence by watching too much of it on TV.

Is that a valid opinion?  I don’t know for sure, because, you know, I’ve never actually watched the show.  The point is that I have a fairly well-informed opinion in the first place.

The reason I’m confident in my judgment is that when a new series makes a play to be a cultural event, a whole buzz-making industry swings into action.  First comes the in-network promos, teasing the show months ahead of time. Then come the traditional media ads, followed by the online ads.  Multi-episode screeners are mailed to the critics, who dutifully write reviews, first in legacy print publications and then online.

Then the podcasts begin – just about every critic has one, and if the show is important enough, it will get chewed over on dozens of them.  There will be tweets while the show is airing, and about a week or two later the thumb-sucking opinion pieces will start. maybe there will be one in the New York Times Arts section, followed by a commentary on that piece in Slate.  And if the network is really lucky, the show runner will be interviewed on “Fresh Air.”

In other words, if you’re interested in TV, you cannot escape knowing a lot about shows you don’t watch.

And once the buzz-making machine starts, there will be in-person discussions at work, at dinner parties, and family gatherings, when people desperate to find a connection start asking what each other TV shows they watch.

At this point you can either 1) interrogate the people who are watching the show and ask what they think, in order to make your opinions more fact-based, or 2) you can throw caution to the wind and start telling everyone else what YOU think, while carefully avoiding the fact that you don’t even watch the show.  I’ve followed both strategies, and found that you can definitely get away with faking it, because there’s a chance that your interlocutor is faking it too.

How many people have opined about “Downton Abbey” even though they gave up during the first season?  These folks probably have something to say about whether it was good idea to kill off Cousin Matthew regardless of whether they watched that episode.  Similarly, leading up to the “Mad Men” series finale, everyone seemed to have a point of view about whether Don Draper should die at the end.

This strategy doesn’t work for just scripted shows.  I’ve watched not a second of a “Real Housewives” episode, nor learned to tell the Kardashians apart — but I’m more than happy to weigh in on the merits of those shows. It’s not strictly ethical, but it’s not that different from commenting on “Fifty Shades of Grey” without cracking the book.

There are worse sins in the world than stealing other people’s opinions (maybe we should call it “plagiar-pining”).  You could, for example pretend to have read “Moby Dick” in your book group.  Somehow literary fakery seems worse than telling people what you think of Rick Perry’s performance on “Dancing With The Stars” without the concomitant viewing.

So I say, what the heck?  Jump into the conversation. But don’t lie outright about watching something you haven’t seen.  There are so many other ways to fake it.  Just act like a politician.

The older I get the more out-of-step I feel with the film industry.  In a year of kiddie animation and cinematic super heroes, I saw only two of the year’s top twenty grossing movies and most of the movies I did see were at independent art houses.  It was never my intention to be at odds with popular taste but it does seem that the movie business is primarily focused on audiences who are not old enough to vote. Consequently, there were months and months when there was nothing worth going to see, followed by a crazy rush to catch everything good in December.

Of course there were a few decent mainstream “adult” movies that were aimed at a general audience but most of them fell immediately out of circulation.  Maybe adults have gotten so out of the habit of going to the movies that they no longer bother.  In any event, 2016 was a pretty disappointing year.  Here’s what I saw, ranked from best to worst.

l. Moonlight

A beautiful and mesmerizing story of a poor, sensitive, black, gay kid named Chiron growing up in the Miami projects.    This feels like something you’ve never seen before, not only because of the unsparing depiction of life among the desperately poor but because of cinematography choices that seem almost documentary-style, with a lingering camera and a lack of narrative dialogue. The story is told in three stages of Chiron’s life, depicted by three actors ranging in age from youth to teen to adult.  After two years of #OscarSoWhite, this once had a good win the Academy Award and it still deserves to.

2. Manchester By The Sea

This is as bleak, unsparing, and visually arresting as “Moonlight,” but without any attempt to pretty-up a tragedy with a hint of a happy ending.  Every time you think this movie’s going to give us a conventional feel-good twist it pulls back.  To that end, it feels more like real life than anything I’ve seen in a long time.  You feel like this is exactly what would happen when an already grieving uncle returns to his hometown after his brother’s death and is unexpectedly informed that he’s to be his nephew’s guardian.  Life will go on, but it will be a struggle.

3.  La La Land

Yet another startlingly original movie — a musical set in contemporary LA.  Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are barely adequate singers and dancers but you don’t really care because the cinematography is so luscious.  But don’t expect a feel-good experience.  In the end this is an exploration of art, ambition and love. You can succeed at two of those things but not all three.

4. Rogue One

Boy I was surprised that this was as good as it was — a very worthy addition to the Star Wars canon. It’s about the most perfect prequel ever, ending exactly at the moment when the original Star Wars movie (now called “A New Hope”) begins.  The story is a little confusing but not impossible to follow, for once.   The absence of Jedi mumbo jumbo is a relief too — it’s just straight action.

5. Everybody Wants Some

Finally, an intelligent feel-good movie.  Richard Linklater’s homage to his college baseball career, seen through the prism of a freshman jock’s first weekend on campus.  He checks into the baseball team house, meets his crazy teammates, has escapades and meets a nice girl.  Very funny, textured and warm. If only my freshman year had been like this.

6. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

I seem to be one of the few people who loved this movie.  Ostensibly a comedy starring Tina Fey and Billy Bob Thorton about a neophyte journalist embedded in Afghanistan, it’s also an eye-opening account of what our troops are experiencing over there.

7. Arrival

In a year of depressing movies, this one ranks way up there.  Amy Adams is a sad linguist who is called on to translate messages from aliens who have materialized at various locations around the world.  A quasi-intellectual film featuring hard thinking on linguistics and time traveling.

8. Hell or High Water

Jeff Bridges has come a long way since “The Last Picture Show” but he’s still wandering the wilds of small town Texas.  He’s after a couple of bank robbers who are trying to accumulate enough cash to pay off their predatory mortgage.  Again with the bleak world view!  Funny bantering, though, and some serious disquisitions on how to live your life when fate and society seem stacked against you.

9. The Edge of Seventeen

Seventeen-year-old Nadine has been (wait for it) depressed since her father died four years ago.  Wallowing in her own grief, she loses it when her best friend starts dating her brother.  Woody Harrelson is her cynical history teacher whose complete indifference actually increases his attractiveness as a life-adviser.

10. Captain Fantastic

A family of survivalists goes on a road trip to attend their mother’s funeral, with the usual conflicts between the all-modern and all-natural lifestyles.  Their brilliant but didactic father (Viggo Mortensen) is an intellectual bully who has tried to create a new Eden in the woods but is just this side of crazy.

11. Hail Caesar

The Coen Brothers make a pretty funny but not very weighty spoof of Hollywood in the 1950s.  The plot revolved around a studio fixer named Eddie Mannix (a real person btw) who’s trying to decide whether to take a legitimate job outside the business.  Basically everyone in the movie is a moron, which is funny as far as it goes.

12. The Nice Guys

Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are incompetent detectives in 1970’s LA.  The movie is hilarious until it turns into a convoluted story of conspiracy involving smog and catalytic converters (I’m not kidding).    If you took the first half of The Big Lebowski and combined it with the second half of Chinatown you’d have this movie.

13. Weiner

A behind the scenes and very candid look at Anthony Weiner’s mayoral campaign.  It’s only fitting that this narcissist would trip up the 2016 campaign.  Why kind of man would expose his wife to the prying eyes of a documentary when he knows he’s been sexting with women under the nom-de-plume Carlos Danger?  This is your classic train wreck from which you cannot avert your eyes.

14. Love and Friendship

Who knew there were Jane Austen novels yet to be mined by movie-makers?  Love and Friendship is based on the unpublished novel “Lady Susan,” written when Austen was still a teenager.  Hilarious and deeply cynical about the way the sexes manipulate each other, the movie is populated with dupes, rogues, brazen adulteresses, wide-eyed innocents and even a few honest gentlemen.  Fun.

15. Sully

Sully’s plane goes up, hits some geese and miraculously goes down on the Hudson River with no loss of life.  You may have heard the story.  Clint Eastwood does an admirable job of expanding the narrative of this five-minute flight into a two-hour movie, screwing around a little bit with the truth of the post-crash investigation.  Oh well, it’s only a movie.  Tom Hanks is the only actor who could have played Sully.

16. Eight Days a Week

A documentary about the touring history of the Beatles.  This is well-covered ground but as amazing as ever.

17. Fantastic Beasts

Perfectly serviceable Harry Potter prequel that I might have liked better if I could understand more than half the dialogue.  The film-making is imaginative but I had trouble caring a lot about the main characters.

18. Sausage Party

An atheist allegory in which processed food items worship humans as gods, not knowing that their ultimate resting place is in someone’s digestive track.  This bleak message is supposed to be made more palatable by the extreme coarseness of the animated food characters.  And it is funny to see food sex.  This is not a movie to which you would bring your confirmation class.

19. Absolutely Fabulous (The Movie)

Loved the TV show in the 90s.  Very hilarious.  And the movie is fun too for a while, but it’s hard to maintain that antic quality over a full-length feature.

20. Cafe Society

Late stage Woody Allen. This is a lot like La La Land without the songs, dances, handsome lead actor and brilliant cinematography.  An ambitious young man and an ambitious young woman fall in love in 1940s Hollywood and face the usual complications.  The movie is well-enough made but you feel that Woody Allen has explored all these themes already. (By the way, I saw 24 movies last year and four of them were set in Hollywood.)

21. Ghostbusters

The most ridiculous controversy of the year was the eruption over whether redoing Ghostbusters with a female cast defamed the spirit of the original movie.  So then the female movie critics got on their high horse and said it was better than it really was, and the sexist pigs said it was worse than it was, when in reality it was just kind of meh.  Let’s face it, the original wasn’t that great to begin with. This was not an all-female remake of Citizen Kane.

22. Magnificent Seven

Another unnecessary remake.  It was fine.  Your average western.  Can’t remember much about it now.

23. The BTG

Steven Spielberg and Raul Dahl make a very strange pairing, although they’re both obsessed with childhood.  A little orphan girl gets abducted by a lonely giant and gives meaning and purpose to said giant’s life.  Technically beautiful and even charming, but a little languorous.

24. Office Christmas Party

This had a dynamite cast (Jason Bateman, Jennifer Anniston, T.J. Miller, Kate McKinnon, etc.) and a crazy antic quality, but it never lifted off to the realm of pure comedic genius.  Nice try, though.

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I’m Quentin’s son, Gary, and on behalf of my mother and sister Thalia, I’d like to thank everyone for attending today. The support we’ve received from my Father’s friends and community has been a blessing. I hesitate to mention anyone by name because the list would be endless, but I would particularly like to thank the Checklicks, who got my father to the hospital when he was stricken with his blot clot. We’re especially grateful to this church, which has more than fulfilled its mission of Christian fellowship and compassion this past week. In times like these I feel sorry for people who don’t belong to churches.

As I’ve thought about my father’s time on earth there is one theme that keeps recurring. He wouldn’t have put it exactly like this, but my father would have agreed that of the three things that abideth – faith, hope and love – the greatest of these is love. We Holmeses come from the Yankee branch of the WASP tree so that is a word that is never spoken aloud. But I see now that his whole life was motivated by love – love for his friends, love for his community, love for his church, love for his country, and love for his family.

I doubt that there’s anyone in this room who wasn’t touched at one time or another by his personal kindness or acts of generosity. He was the kind of person who literally could not do enough for you. If you needed a ride he’d take you to your appointment and then insist on driving you the next day whether you needed it or not.   Or if you admired one of his lightship baskets, he’d weave one to your own specifications and then ask if he could make another for your spouse. He was remarkably outgoing and yet somehow also reserved. For an extrovert he didn’t really like the spotlight and always wanted to listen more than he talked.

A lifetime of helpfulness and generosity is not what you would have predicted for the youthful Quentin Holmes. Before he was a man’s man he was a boy’s boy, combining Tom Sawyer’s mischievousness with Huck Finn’s wildness. He was the kind of kid who, when he was kicked out of class for misbehaving, would proceed to set the school’s rain gutters on fire to see what would happen. He was never malicious but this kind of behavior did not endear him to his stern, rules-bound parents. Today he would have been diagnosed with ADD, but 80 years ago he was a bit of a black sheep.

He was always a wise guy. He’d later joke that he picked up my mother in a bowling alley. Like all good jokes, this has a grain of truth. When he was in the seventh grade, his parents bought land on Nantucket for raising gladiolas, and in the summer the family would be on the island working the fields. My father wandered into the local bowling alley one night and there was my mother and her friend making pocket money setting up pins. Remember this was seventh grade, so he only came up to my mother’s shoulder but that didn’t stop him from flirting. He wouldn’t tell them his name so they called him Butch all summer. When the summer was over, he returned to Brockton and my parents became pen pals, reconnecting in person every summer when the Holmes family returned. But it was after the Holmeses moved to the island full-time that the romance really bloomed.

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My parents were classic high school sweethearts and graduated together – two out of 22 graduates in Nantucket High School class of 1950. My father went off for a year of agricultural school at UMass and my mother went to business school in Boston and they married in the fall of 1951.   He was barely 20 and she was 19.   They were so young but they became professionals at being married and we celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary back on Nantucket last October. It really was a love match, even after all these years, because each of my parents dedicated their lives to making the other one happy.

My father’s dream had been to open a dairy on Nantucket and he did so, selling eggs and milk locally. After a few years he realized he couldn’t compete with larger off-island dairies, so he closed the operation, loaded the cows onto the ferry and moved the family, first to East Bridgewater and eventually to Brockton.

Five years later he’s 30 years old, working in the warehouse of Star Market, with a wife who’s a bookkeeper in a shoe factory, two kids in elementary school, a mortgage and probably some debt related to the dairy. It’s at this point that his life becomes a classic American success story. My Aunt Jean and my Uncle Jimmy have just bought a swimming pool and my Uncle Jimmy remarks that he has no one to service the pool and that maybe this is an area my father should explore. So he takes $100, buys a drum of chlorine and some pool cleaning tools and starts a side business.   Eventually he quits his job at the warehouse to do this fulltime. The service business leads to a store where they sell equipment and supplies and that eventually leads to Swim Incorporated, which sells and installs pools.

And here’s where I’d like to do a commercial for the American small businessman. Southeastern Massachusetts is dotted with pools that my father installed – pools where kids learned to swim, the site of thousands of pool parties, graduation parties, squealing kids and a lot of fun. My father also put more people through college than most billionaire philanthropists. Swim Inc. hired 10-15 college guys each summer to install those pools – and those were good decent-paying jobs too that helped cover tuition. My father later became an active volunteer at too many charitable organizations to mention here, but I think his main contribution to society was that business.

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My father was a successful businessman because he worked hard. In all time I was growing up, I never remember either of my parents watching TV for pleasure and the only movie we attended as a family was The Sound Of Music. In the winter, when the pool business was closed he worked in an ice rink, plowed snow, and eventually opened a Christmas shop.

In his mid-fifties, my parents sold the company and retired, expecting to live off the proceeds of the sale. Unfortunately the new owners mismanaged the business and reneged on their debt to my parents. So in the early 1990s, when my father was in his early 60s, they founded a second pool business, Pool ‘n Play, which they ran for a dozen years before turning it over to their employees. And even then my father didn’t retire. In his 70s he started a pool service company on Nantucket, first alone, then with my cousin Dwight, who now owns that business.

Obviously my father was a person of great energy but the professional side of his life only tells half the story. He was a gregarious and social as anyone I’ve ever known. He and my mother had a wide circle of friends – everyone from truck drivers to judges, and electricians to psychologists. And as they got older their friends got younger. Our house was always filled with people and New Years Eve was a special night. Even into the last week of his life my parents maintained a whirlwind social calendar of dominos, Christmas parties and family dinners.

My parents made friends everywhere – in Brockton, in West Bridgewater, down here in Falmouth.   They were close friends with other swimming pool company owners that they met at conventions, and they were the center of an active social scene at their condo complex in Florida. My father went to coffee every morning with an evolving group of guys and after he retired for good he took up Nantucket basket making and made a whole new group of friends there. He would not stop making friends – he knew everyone at the Hyannis ferry to Nantucket, at the hospital where he drove cancer patients to appointments. He was active in the church here – always a ray of sunshine to his fellow parishioners.   And he had a special soft spot for kids – neighbor kids, grand-nephews and nieces, kids of all kinds. He went to their high school concerts, their volleyball games, their eagle scout ceremonies and took so much pleasure seeing them grow up.

Among all the things he cared about, his biggest priority was his family. He was a devoted son, always attentive to his aging parents. He dearly loved his brothers and sisters and was especially close to my Aunt Jean. He cared deeply about the lives of my cousins and was a mentor and surrogate father to several of them.

As a father he was ahead of his time, not distant and remote like other Dads back then. He was always on the floor wrestling with us or playing with us in the backyard. He never had much free time but he always made sure we took a family vacation in the fall.   Later when I played soccer in high school he would frequently be on the sidelines, one of only two or three parents cheering us on. And he was immensely supportive of my sister and me all in all of our endeavors. Playing golf with Thalia was one of his favorite things. And over the years the two of them because closer because they shared many interests and a similar personality.

My father believe that only two people walked on water. One was our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the other was his grandson. “Doting” is not a strong enough word to describe how he acted around Christian. Here’s just one example. My son and I graduated from the same college but it wasn’t until his grandson attended that my father started to wear the school hat. And then he’d never take it off.

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To wrap up, I remember a moment when I was a little boy and was crying because I’d just learned about death and the inevitability of loss.   My father took me in his arms and said that when it was my turn, he’d be up in heaven waiting for me and that when he saw me approaching he’d nudge his friends and say, “Here comes my boy.” It comforted me then and it comforts me now.

Bye Dad, we love you.