Monthly Archives: December 2016

The Week in Silver: Goodbye 2016 Edition

2016? Let’s just say I’ve had better years. And I don’t only mean that for Trump is President/Prince is Dead reasons.

Maybe someday I’ll write about it in more detail, but as the year began I had a job for which I was spectacularly unsuited, wasn’t very good at, and was very unhappy in.

Then in February I lost that job. I’ve been unemployed a few times as an adult- when you choose journalism as a career, that kind of goes with the territory- but this time was a little different. I started out relieved, since no longer having to go to an office that felt like walking death had its advantages. But that wore off pretty quickly, and before long I was pretty miserable in a whole other way. Call it a combination of boredom, career frustration, and the feeling that I was letting my family down.

Oh, and then my car got crashed into, with me in it, right after I parked in my driveway. My neighbor had neglected to pull the parking brake, so his car rolled down the hill into mine. No injuries, thankfully, but the car was totaled, and it freaked me out more than a little, especially when Anton Yelchin was killed a few weeks later under similar circumstances.

Luckily, in the fall things got better- I finally got a new job, slightly outside the field of pure journalism, but one that’s hugely satisfying, creatively rewarding, and with a group of people that I genuinely enjoy working with every day. (You can see my FRG work at the Anderson Frank blog, and at its Twitter account.)

In recent weeks, I’ve also had time to do some new side writing. I’m happy to be writing two pieces a week for Family Focus Media, publisher of Main Line Parent and Philadelphia Family magazines, on such fun topics as a roundup of local Star Wars events and a preview of the Home Alone performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra.

And I’m also now doing some writing for Philly Voice. In my first piece I broke a pretty big local arts story, about talks to bring Hamilton to Philadelphia and in my second, I interviewed Wing Bowl champion-turned-convicted-drug-dealer-turned-author Bill “El Wingador” Simmons.

(Other notable recent writings- I reviewed Rogue One, as well as a selection of holiday releases and also shared my top ten movies of the year, all for Splice Today.)

So at the end of the year, I can take stock, and be the happiest I’ve been, probably since the end of my eight-year run at Napco in the summer of 2015. My family is happy and healthy. My wife is honestly the greatest. My kids are thriving and do new things that wow me every single day. I am continuously blessed to have so many friends and family in my life, and I’m enjoying a wonderful vacation in California. I finally have a job I enjoy going to every day, I did a whole lot of writing in 2016 in which I can take pride.

For 2017? Onward and upward. I have but three new years’ resolutions: I’m going to get this physical fitness thing figured out, I’m going to spend a lot less time staring at my phone when my kids are around, and I’m going to stop writing for content farms.

Happy holidays, and happy new year, everyone!

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All I Want for Hanukkah (repost)

The following post appeared on TechnologyTell’s Entertainment section on December 7, 2012. With Hanukkah a day away, and due to much of the TechnologyTell archive appearing  to have disappeared from the Internet in the last couple of days, I reproduce it here: 

Essay: All I Want For Hanukkah is A Great Hanukkah Movie

Saturday marks the first night of Hanukkah. After eating latkes, lighting candles and giving the kids their presents, I plan to sit down in the living room with my family to watch a classic Hanukkah movie.

Except that last part is impossible. Because there aren’t any. 

Yes, that’s right. Despite Jewish people not exactly being underrepresented among the ranks of Hollywood decision-makers in the last hundred years or so, there is not a single classic movie associated with Hanukkah. And that really needs to change.

This list of  the top ten Hanukkah movies is comprised mostly of obscure TV specials and forgettable direct-to-video affairs. The only ones that were released in theaters are “The Hebrew Hammer”- which is only partially about Hanukkah- and Adam Sandler’s “Eight Crazy Nights,” a little-seen animated movie adaptation of Sandler’s famous “Hanukkah Song.” Neither is anything close to a holiday classic.

While it’s not the most religiously significant holiday on the Jewish calendar, the Hanukkah story is one of heroism, adventure and miracles- just about the most cinematic thing I can imagine. However, cinema has been slow to embrace the Maccabees.

Why not a Maccabees movie? Steven Spielberg never felt like this was a project worth pursuing?  Harvey Weinstein has been running movie studios for more than two decades- why didn’t he ever make a Maccabees/Hanukkah film? It would fit right in with the recent “Munich”/”Defiance”/”Inglorious Basterds” mini-genre of “Jews kicking ass.”

Such a film would also become a point of cultural pride for young Jews the world over, while also serving as a holiday television staple. After all, the last time Hollywood made an epic motion picture about the biblical origin of a Jewish holiday- 1956’s “The Ten Commandments”- it remained a TV staple for six decades.

Of course, there was a plan in place, just last spring in fact, for a movie about the Maccabees, from a director who’s an Oscar winner, a proven box office draw, and even had directed a previous religious epic. But unfortunately, I’m not sure such a film would become the point of Jewish pride I have in mind, were Mel Gibson’s name attached to it.

Then again, the news of Gibson’s departure from the Maccabees project led to both a memorable Ebook from collaborator Joe Eszterhas and to one of the best tweets of the year, from Doran Simmons:

So come on, Hollywood, get on this. Imagine the tie-in opportunities: Commemorative dreidels! Hannukkah gelt! A video game, in which the goal is to make the oil burn for eight days!

My two boys’ gentile friends will always have “A Christmas Story.” I want my kids to have a constantly looping holiday classic of their own.

My 20 Favorite Things I Wrote in 2016

A personal ranking of my favorite published writings this year:

1. “The Ga-ga Saga”- Tablet. A piece 30 years in the making, as I trace the question of where, exactly, the summer camp sport of Ga-ga came from.

2. “Phillies Fans Cheered Chase Utley- and There’s Nothing Soft About It”– CSNPhilly. I defend the majority of Philly fans against the sports radio hordes who demanded they boo longtime a longtime Phillies hero when he came back to town with the Dodgers.

3. “Sam Hinkie is Gone- But the Hinkie Wars Rage On” (The Cauldron)– My overview of the Hinkie wars, post-Sam Hinkie- and I still can’t believe my byline appeared on SI.com.  

4. “Protesting Clinton’s Crime Record” (Splice Today) My report from the campaign rally when former President Bill Clinton and an activist yelled at each other- the coverage of which led to the back and side of my head appearing on multiple network newscasts as well as Ava Duvernay’s acclaimed documentary 13th.  

5. “Brandeis University Hosts Historic Lenny Bruce Conference” (Tablet) I returned to my alma mater to report on the most cursing-and-Yiddish-filled academic conference in recent history.  

6. “Bernie or Bust at the DNC” (Splice Today) On a ridiculously hot day I reported from the streets outside the Democratic National Convention, where I saw everything from a 90-foot joint to a Christian cult that chased Bernie Sanders into the Philadelphia Convention Center, and also met Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.  

7. “Politicalfest DNC Exhibitions” (Broad Street Review) Also at the DNC, I reported on a series of political exhibits, and drew from them a valuable lesson about the meaning of politics. 

8. “PC Isn’t Strangling Comedy” (Splice Today). I reviewed the anti-PC documentary Can We Take a Joke, and objected in full its premise.  

9. “It’s Always Sunny in La La Land” (Broad Street Review). I reviewed my favorite movie of the year, as it opened the Philadelphia Film Festival.

10. “Kimmel Center in Talks For Philly Run of Hamilton” (Philly Voice) In my first Philly Voice piece I broke the story that everyone’s favorite revolutionary musical may be heading to town.

11. “20 Years a Critic” (this blog) My commemoration of my 20th anniversary as a film critic

12. “My Family’s Bridge to Brooklyn” (Tablet) I tell the story of my family’s decades-long relationship with the long-defunct TV series Brooklyn Bridge; for this story I interviewed Happy Days’ Marion Ross.

13. “No, Tim Kaine Did Not Hold a Rally With Only 30 People” (Blasting News.) I wrote a lot of debunkings of silly campaign stories this year; this was probably the one that the most people read.

14. “Batman v. Superman is a Disaster” (Splice Today) I went all the way to San Francisco to see one of the worst superhero movies ever made.

15. “Fans Petition to Shut Down Rotten Tomatoes Over DC Movie Reviews” (Screenrant) And not because I’m on the take from Disney or Marvel…

16. “Midnight For Midtown II: Scenes From a Restaurant’s Final Day” (The Lightning Strike) I reported from the final day in business for Philadelphia’s Midtown II Diner.

17. “A New Low: The Gross Tabloid Attack on Malia Obama” (Blasting News.) Defending the right of the First Daughter to go to Lollapalooza.

18. “No, Jon Stewart Couldn’t Have Stopped Donald Trump” (Medium) There were lot of bad conservative talking points this year; here’s a rebuttal to a pretty dumb liberal one

19. “Pederson Will Be Eagles Coach” (Fox29) There’s not a lot about my brief, unhappy tenure in local TV news that I look back on with pride, but I did help the station become the first in town with the news of the new Eagles coach.

20.  Prince, Music Legend and Oscar Winner, Dies at 57” (Screenrant); “My Thoughts on Prince” (this blog.) Prince was so important that I wrote two different obits of him.

Thanks for reading, everyone!