Author Archives: Stephen Silver

Craig Finn: St. Louis Park Interviews Edina

craig_finn_press-1-e1470258303313A couple of weeks ago, I had the good fortune to interview Craig Finn, longtime frontman of The Hold Steady, about his new album and upcoming solo show. The interview was published the other day on PhillyVoice; you can read that here. 

Naturally, I had some questions for Finn about our shared Minnesota heritage, and about the Twins, that wouldn’t fit in a Philadelphia publication; so I’ve added that below:

SS: On the Minnesota thing, I was happy to hear references to Edina and snowbanks and things like that- “the North Stars went South,” that was a good lyric to hear. What do you think about the legacy of Minnesota music? I know Prince passed on last year and there was a lot of talk about that. How do you feel about that, and your place in it?

CF: It’s always a tricky thing, just because I’ve been in New York since 2000 and The Hold Steady started in New York and I kind of got a lot of my notoriety but I continued to sing about Minneapolis, so it confuses some people on some level.

Minneapolis is my hometown, and even though I’ve been in New York 16 years now I still feel not so much like a New Yorker but like someone who grew up in Minneapolis who’s living here. I mean, the music scene in Minneapolis is really strong, and continues to be, especially for a city of its size. Growing up, I was fortunate to catch a time where I saw sort of the trinity of rock bands, The Replacements, Husker Du and Soul Asylum, all at smaller places. So, that was very influential on me. So it seems like now it continues to be a home for great music, and obviously the hip-hop scene in Minneapolis has become a huge thing there and it continues to evolve. I don’t feel as in touch with it as I used to but I continue to be impressed when I do plug in.

SS: I always tell people that all that stuff was going on with The Replacements and Husker Du a few miles from my house when I was growing up but I was like five years old so I didn’t know anything about it. I don’t think I discovered The Replacements’ music until I was in my 20s and living in New York.

CF: I hit right at the right time.

SS: I like to tell people that when I lived in New York in the early 2000s a friend from Minneapolis visited me, we were walking around the Lower East Side and he said “I recognize all these street signs from Lou Reed lyrics.” Then I heard you guys’ music and I heard all the stuff about 494 and Lyndale and all that stuff.

CF: I think a lot of people have told me when they visited Minneapolis for the first time they were like “wow, I already know all these names.”

SS: So what about the Twins? And optimism about this year?

CF: I think they’ll lose less than 103 games. That would be going in the right direction. So that’s about as much optimism… I mean, they haven’t really made any moves, and they don’t seem to be able to deal Dozier. So, I don’t know that we can expect a great turnaround. I think… 90? We just aren’t that good, and I don’t know why we think we’ll be better this year.

SS: Well, they seem to have put smart people in charge, so that’s a step in the right direction.

CF: Smart people have to make some moves, though!

SS: So what do you do to follow the Twins from the road, or even from New York?

CF: The MLB, the app. I’m a pretty big fan of just turning on the audio, the radio. I used, in better years, I got the package, if I was going to be home a lot in the summer, but I don’t know, there’s just no need to plug in to watch them lose this much. I’d rather just listen to the radio if they’re gonna lose all the time.

SS: Do you have any blogs or podcasts you use to follow them?

CF: I read Aaron Gleeman, and I do the Star Trib, those are the big ones. They used to have a good one, I can’t remember her name, she was a woman… I think it was Batgirl.

SS:: Yea, it was Anne Ursu, Batgirl.

CF: Yea, she was great.

SS:: She did the thing with the Legos.

CF: Yea, I remember she was showing Pat Neshek’s delivery with a lego setup.

SS: Yea, I think Pat Neshek signed with the Phillies.

CF: I think he follows me on Twitter.

Note: As you can see in the thankfully restored archives of TechnologyTell, I wrote back in July 2012 about my thoughts on Minnesota music; apologies for using a couple of the same anecdotes both times.

 

 

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The Big List 2016: Ranking Every Movie I Saw

The movie year 2016 is now in the books, and in that year I saw 175 movies that were 2016 releases, a new personal record, beating out last year’s previous record total of 162. Several months of unemployment helped me with the record which, lord willing, will not be broken again in 2017. My reviews, which this year appeared on Fox29.com, Splice Today and Broad Street Review, can all be found on Rotten Tomatoes. My more detailed top ten list is here.

Here’s my personal ranking of all 175 of the movies, as always based on no criteria other than how much I liked them:

    1. La La Land
    2. Everybody Wants Some!!
    3. Moonlight
    4. Manchester By the Sea
    5. The Edge of Seventeen
    6. Hail, Caesar!
    7. Krisha
    8. Tower
    9. Toni Erdmann
    10. I Am Not Your Negro
    11. O.J.: Made in America
    12. Hell or High Water
    13. The Nice Guys
    14. Paterson
    15. Loving
    16. Weiner
    17. Cafe Society
    18. Elle
    19. Fences
    20. The Love Witch
    21. The Lobster
    22. Zootopia
    23. Finding Dory
    24. Silence
    25. Hacksaw Ridge
    26. Hidden Figures
    27. Don’t Think Twice
    28. Creative Control
    29. Sully
    30. Tickled
    31. Kate Plays Christine
    32. De Palma
    33. Do Not Resist
    34. 13th
    35. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
    36. Kubo and the Two Strings
    37. The Witch
    38. War Dogs
    39. Elvis & Nixon
    40. Little Sister
    41. Little Men
    42. The Handmaiden
    43. Mountains May Depart
    44. A Bigger Splash
    45. Moana
    46. Gleason
    47. Nuts!
    48. Author: The J.T. Leroy Story
    49. For The Love of Spock
    50. Cameraperson
    51. The Witness
    52. Nora Ephron: Everything is Copy
    53. Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You
    54. Amanda Knox
    55. Certain Women
    56. Barry
    57. Deadpool
    58. Captain America: Civil War
    59. Doctor Strange
    60. Love & Friendship
    61. Hunt For the Wilderpeople
    62. Jackie
    63. Sausage Party
    64. The Secret Life of Pets
    65. The Angry Birds Movie
    66. The Phenom
    67. The Meddler
    68. The Infiltrator
    69. Midnight Special
    70. White Girl
    71. Pete’s Dragon
    72. The Jungle Book
    73. Allied
    74. Sing Street
    75. Neon Bull
    76. Justin Timberlake and the Tennessee Kids
    77. In Bed With Victoria
    78. Other People
    79. Army of One
    80. Wiener-Dog
    81. Southside With You
    82. Lion
    83. Christine
    84. Arrival
    85. Louder Than Bombs
    86. The Fits
    87. Chevalier
    88. Star Trek: Beyond
    89. Denial
    90. Oasis: Supersonic
    91. Holy Hell
    92. The Beatles: Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years
    93. Becoming Mike Nichols
    94. Miss Sharon Jones
    95. Zero Days
    96. Jim: The James Foley Story
    97. Risen
    98. 10 Cloverfield Lane
    99. Blue Jay
    100. Lost in Paris
    101. News From Planet Mars
    102. Ghostbusters
    103. Mascots
    104. Bridget Jones’s Baby
    105. Bad Moms
    106. Sing
    107. Life, Animated
    108. Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper
    109. Deepwater Horizon
    110. The Accountant
    111. Eye in the Sky
    112. Nocturnal Animals
    113. Indignation
    114. The Invitation
    115. Captain Fantastic
    116. Barbershop: The Next Cut
    117. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
    118. Girl on the Train
    119. Green Room
    120. The Birth of a Nation
    121. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
    122. Hello My Name is Doris
    123. Maggie’s Plan
    124. Eddie the Eagle
    125. The Light Between Oceans
    126. Personal Shopper
    127. Jason Bourne
    128. Rules Don’t Apply
    129. The Other Side
    130. Race
    131. Uncle Kent 2
    132. The BFG
    133. Equity
    134. Tallulah
    135. Demolition
    136. Passengers
    137. Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World
    138. The Conjuring 2
    139. A Monster Calls
    140. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
    141. Trolls
    142. Pee Wee’s Big Holiday
    143. Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures
    144. Knight of Cups
    145. High-Rise
    146. Snowden
    147. Office Christmas Party
    148. Keanu
    149. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
    150. Triple 9
    151. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
    152. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
    153. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
    154. All Governments Lie
    155. Miles Ahead
    156. X-Men: Apocalypse
    157. How to Be Single
    158. The Brothers Grimsby
    159. Suicide Squad
    160. Baden Baden
    161. Masterminds
    162. Can We Take a Joke?
    163. Criminal
    164. Central Intelligence
    165. Special Correspondents
    166. The Eyes of My Mother
    167. The Neon Demon
    168. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
    169. Zoolander 2
    170. London Has Fallen
    171. Dirty Grandpa
    172. Money Monster
    173. Alice Through the Looking Glass
    174. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
    175. Swiss Army Man

Did not see (Reputedly good): 20th Century Women, The Founder, Neruda, Live By Night, American Honey, No Home Movie, Florence Foster Jenkins, The Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened

Did not see (Reputedly bad): Nine Lives, Collateral Beauty, Independence Day: Resurgence, Nina, Mother’s Day, Yoga Hosers, Warcraft, Hillary’s America, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Ben-Hur, Vaxxed

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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!

Hillary Clinton supporters listen to her Philadelphia rally, while sitting on a garbage track, November 8, 2016

The Week in Silver: Life Will Go On Edition

I tend to be an optimist. In life, in sports fandom, and even in political junkiedom. My team loses? We’ll get ‘em next time. Bad day today? Tomorrow is another day. I even remember reacting to George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004 by hoping (correctly, it turned out) that the next Democrat for president would be better than John Kerry.

Even after last Tuesday, my first instinct was to write a column about how there are silver linings in Trump’s victory.

But even so: This is bad. This is really bad. This is former-publisher-of-a-white-nationalist-white-as-top-advisor-to-the-president bad. 17 people ran for president on the Republican side this year- and the worst of them all ended up elected president. Well, second-worst, because I just remembered  Mike Huckabee.

I want to say it’s going to be all right, that GOP infighting will prevent Trump from getting much done, that Obama achievements like Obamacare and the Iran deal will prove too difficult to undo, and that Trump’s presidency will be occasioned primarily by the chief executive slowly, inevitably, destroying himself. That is, I repeat, the best-case scenario.

But I don’t know that I could look a Muslim-American, or an undocumented immigrant, in the eye and tell them that it’s all going to be all right. And I’m certainly not going to get on my high horse and tell people not to protest. Since the election, supporters of one side have protested, supporters of the other have committed a whole bunch of hate crimes. I know which one I find more- what’s the word- deplorable?

America is strong. It has survived tyrants before, and ugly as things get, we’ll survive this one too. Journalists will do great work. So will activists, and so will artists. All deserve our support.

There’s a lot of blame to go around for Tuesday’s result, some small measure of it even belonging to people besides Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. But the important thing now, for people who care about this country, is to fight Trump, and resist him, and ultimately consign Trumpism into what one former president called “history’s unmarked grave of discarded lies.”

***

As I mentioned last time, I started a new job last month with Frank Recruitment Group, and I’m really loving things so far. I especially love the team I’m working with- I know it was a good group by the end of the first week, when I quoted “Avenue Q” and everyone sitting near me got the reference.

I’m the social media and marketing manager for Anderson Frank, which handles recruitment for NetSuite developers, consultants and other professionals. You can help me out by following Anderson Frank on Twitter, liking it on Facebook and adding it on LinkedIn.

You can also read my first two blog posts: One is about NetSuite’s acquisition by Oracle, and the other an earlier preview of SuiteWorld.

Right before I started at FRG, I went up to Brandeis for the conference on the legacy of Lenny Bruce. Here’s my report, for Tablet magazine.

At Splice Today, I reviewed Moonlight Arrival and Loving and Doctor Strange.

For Medium, I wrote about some irresponsible reporting on Teddy Bridgewater’s injury:

At Blasting News:

And at Screenrant:

As always, follow me on Twitter at @StephenSilver. 

 

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The Week in Silver: Back to Work Edition

I’m happy to report the news that I am returning to full-time work next week, in a new role as Social Media and Content Marketing Executive at Frank Recruitment Group. It’s a global recruiting firm, based in the UK and focused on the tech industry, although I’ll be on the web and social media side.

Some people say they hate working in an office, but I love it, and I’ve missed it. I’ve missed the energy and camaraderie of working closely with other people, and I’m excited to do that again starting Monday. I’ll also be right in Center City, at 18th and Market, so I’m free to meet those nearby for lunch. Anything I write that’s customer-facing will be shared here as well.

Luckily, the timing of my new job worked out perfectly, as I was able to attend more of the Philadelphia Film Festival than usual, while later this week I’ll be back at my alma mater, Brandeis, Thursday and Friday for the Comedy and the Constitution: The Legacy of Lenny Bruce” conference. Look for full coverage of both of those in the next week or two. And yes, with the new job I am planning to continue all of my outside writing, movie reviews included.

It was quite a long and at times agonizing job search, ever since I parted ways with Fox 29 back in February. There was the promising job that I went to New York to interview for and found out I didn’t get before I was even out of New Jersey. There was the really great-sounding position that I got all the way to the offer stage with before I was told, at the last minute, that it was unpaid. And there was the one I applied to, before I figured out that it was the publications arm of a cult. But anyway, thank you so much, everyone, for your support during my time out of work.

Here are some links to recent published writing:

Speaking of PFF: I previewed the lineup at Farmdog.tv. Then, I reviewed the wondrous opening film, La La Land, as well as four more films at the festival, at Broad Street Review.

At Splice Today, I reviewed The Accountant, as well as Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.

At Blasting News:

– On the unintentionally hilarious “Wet Works” conspiracy theory, claiming that John Podesta had Justice Antonin Scalia murdered.

– Why your individual pet peeves aren’t to blame for the NFL’s ratings drop.

– Why lawn signs don’t matter.

– Disproving that myth about the “Tim Kaine rally with 30 people.”

And at Screenrant:

A video previewing the return of Twin Peaks. 

Why there shouldn’t be a HIMYM reunion.

The Coen Brothers are working on a movie called Dark Web.

On the marketing of Deadpool.

The last Spider-man, Andrew Garfield, is excited about the new one.

Andrew Lincoln talked about the Walking Dead premiere.

Joe Manganiello says The Batman starts filming in the spring.

And Adam West wants to be in the new movie.

As always, follow me on Twitter at @StephenSilver.