Wordplay

[Amazon Link] [4.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

Let's see: (a) I don't watch many documentaries; (b) this documentary is about crossword puzzles, which I'm not that interested in; it revolves around Will Shortz, who works for (c) the New York Times (feh) and (d) Commie National Public Radio (blech); it features interviews with (e) Bill Clinton (ack), (f) Daniel Okrent (bleagh), (g) Jon Stewart (tedious), and (h) Mike Mussina (boooooo…).

But, guess what, it was really quite good, a nice windup to the year. All those objectionable folks are quite bearable as long as you keep them talking about crossword puzzles. And Will Shortz, despite his poor choice of employers, is funny and extremely likeable.

The event at the center of the movie is the 2005 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. A few of the top contenders are interviewed in depth; what's striking, aside from their unusual talent, is their mutual respect, self-deprecating humor, verbal cleverness, and (for lack of a better word) normalcy.


Last Modified 2012-10-21 7:09 AM EDT

Miami Vice

[Amazon Link] [3.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

I wasn't a fan of the old TV show, but remember enough to do comparisons. Movie Sonny: chubbier than TV Sonny. Movie Rico: not quite as chubby as TV Rico. Movie Castillo: whoa, much chubbier than TV Castillo! Movie and TV music: Phil Collins, "In the Air Tonight."

Other than that: it's Michael Mann, so you know the cinematography will be stunning. And (other than the dirty words, graphic violence, and occasional nekkid women), it seems more like a TV show than a movie. You're already supposed to know and care about the heroes, so no time is spent in characterization. It's long on moodiness and attitude, short on plot explication; we know that there's some sort of drug dealing going on, and the undercover Crockett and Tibbs are performing some sort of vital task in the whole process, involving "product" and "loads" and "go-fast boats", all of which prevents Crockett from shaving.

Three stars is probably generous, but including gratuitous Phil Collins music gets the filmmakers some extra credit. That's bravery.


Last Modified 2012-10-21 7:05 AM EDT

URLs du Last Jour of 2006

  • We don't do Current Events much here at Pun Salad, because if (frankly) you need this blog to tell you that James Brown, Gerald Ford, and Saddam Hussein recently shuffled off the mortal coil, well, maybe you should widen your web browsing habits.

    However, we do try to provide pointers to where you can get something better than mere trivial knowledge of current events: the understanding of underlying trends, a sense of proportion, under-reported happenings, and—dare I say it?—yes, I guess I do—uncommon wisdom.

    In that spirit, I bring you: Dave Barry's Year in Review.

    … there are many things about 2006 that we will not want to remember. This was the year in which the members of the United States Congress, who do not bother to read the actual bills they pass, spent weeks poring over instant messages sent by a pervert. This was the year in which the vice president of the United States shot a lawyer, which turned out to be totally legal in Texas. This was the year in which there came to be essentially no difference between the treatment of maximum-security-prison inmates and the treatment of commercial-airline passengers.

    This was the year in which -- as clearly foretold in the Bible as a sign of the Apocalypse -- Howie Mandel got a hit TV show.

    See? You don't really need to keep on top of that current-events stuff, as long as you can wait until the end of the year to find out what Dave says.

  • And in the "I'm From The Government, And I'm Here To Kill You" Department: Don't undergo kidney dialysis in New York. One of the nanniest of all nanny states nannies some of its residents to death. Gosh, how could that happen?

  • And if you're in need of a New Year's Resolution, Joel Achenbach proposes a pretty good one: Be more like 007 in 2007.

See you next year, folks. Hope it's a happy one for you and yours.


Last Modified 2006-12-31 9:02 PM EST