Category Archives: Uncategorized

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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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!

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The Week in Silver: “As the Father of Sons…” Edition

Last week, when the tape surfaced from 2005 of Donald Trump bragging to Billy Bush in rather disgusting terms about his behavior with women- from pursuing married women to sharing his tendency to “grab them by the pussy,” much was made of a couple of things: One, it’s probably the killshot that ends Trump’s presidential campaign. And two, many, many people couldn’t interpret Trump’s comments in any way other than pointing out that they have daughters.

A whole lot of denouncements of Trump included the phrase “as the father of daughters,” while many others described potential victims of the crotch grabbing, or sex crimes in general, as “somebody’s daughter,” or “somebody’s sister” or “somebody’s wife.” The more accurate description, I’d say, is simply “somebody.” That such a thing was actually pointed out, on television and other prominent media outlets, by many people is perhaps a sign that political correctness has done more good than harm.

I was as disgusted by Trump’s comments as everyone else, albeit not especially surprised; this isn’t exactly one of those caught-on-tape scandals that exposes someone as the opposite of what they otherwise claimed to be. Trump’s raging misogyny is been glaringly obvious not only since the start of his campaign, but really for his entire 40-some-odd years as a public figure. No one backing away from Trump only after the Billy Bush tapes has any excuse for not realizing that until now.

In reacting to Trump, I’m not able to play the “as the father of daughters” card, as I only have sons. But I have noticed I’ve been paying attention to, and thinking about, issues related to gender, sexism and feminism a whole lot more in the last few years than I ever did before.

Part of the reason is that these issues are out there at the forefront culturally a whole lot in past 4 or 5 years, and part of it is what I’ve been choosing to read. Some of it is the presidential race between a raving woman-hater and the probable first female president of the United States. But a lot of it also has to do with thinking a lot about my sons, and what type of men I wish and hope for them to one day become.

All of this has led me to notice a lot of things that I probably should have a long time earlier: That a lot of things I know and love in life, from the NFL to the movie criticism world to politics, have huge, endemic problems related to toxic masculinity. That way, way too many people in the world tend to reduce everything from sports to business to political campaigns down to who is a “real man” and “tough” and who is “soft” and “a pussy.” And that women go through and deal with things in life on an everyday basis- from workplace sexual harassment to strange men telling them to smile to serious pressures related to weight and body image- that men in most cases have the luxury of not even needing to think about.

Not to be that faux-woke guy who falsely quotes his precocious kids on Twitter, but I have said to my children, on more than one occasion, to watch the behavior of Donald Trump and always do the exact opposite. I know they’re young, and I know there will be many, many discussions in the future about many more difficult issues than that, but it’s a start. And good advice for us all: Don’t act anything like Donald Trump. And don’t vote for him, either.

On to the links, and a big one this week: My first-ever piece for SI.com’s The Cauldron, about the state of the Philadelphia 76ers’ Process Wars, following the departure of Sam Hinkie.

For Splice Today, I reviewed Deepwater Horizon and Masterminds, and then The Birth of a Nation and Girl on the Train.

For Farmdog.tv, I previewed some local screenings of Robert Altman’s The Player. 

At Screenrant:

Virtual reality is coming to The Simpsons.

Tony Almeida will return on the 24 spinoff.

Christopher Nolan is Hollywood’s highest-paid director.

Netflix makes a deal to help with Oscar eligibility of its films. 

Game of Thrones location news.

… and some casting.

They’re already working on a John Wick 3.

And a Bad Moms spinoff called Bad Dads.

And a movie that sounds like a remake of Oz: The Great and Powerful.

The Shooter TV series is coming in November.

And at Blasting News:

On topic of the above: Why Donald Trump’s viciousness towards women will be his undoing. 

If you’re voting for Trump because you think he’ll “put a stop to” your pet peeves, don’t.

SNL may be off to a great start this year, but they won’t “take down” Trump on their own.

Thoughts on the second presidential debate.

Why I don’t believe the killer clowns are real.

No, Kim Kardashian did not fake her robbery.

On the “Junket Censorship Crisis.”

Why it’s wrong to use Jose Fernandez’s death against Colin Kaepernick. 

Shanah tovah to those celebrating, and as always, follow me on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

extrememeasures

The Week in Silver: 20 Years a Critic Edition

Today, September 27, represents the 20th anniversary of the release of Extreme Measures, the Hugh Grant/Gene Hackman medical thriller, directed by Michael Apted, from 1996. This anniversary has gone completely un-remarked upon on movie sites and Film Twitter, and for good reason- it’s a totally forgettable movie with a generic title, which took a half-hearted stab at caring about medical ethics but was otherwise a nondescript flop. If it’s remembered at all, it’s as not one of the better films in the career catalog of its director or either of its stars.

I remember Extreme Measures for another reason: It was the first movie I ever reviewed in print.

It was my freshman year of college at Brandeis, and after taking a stab at writing sports articles for the student newspaper, The Justice and realizing that that entailed writing profiles of track and field competitors and game stories about volleyball, I decided to try the arts section instead, and was made aware for the first time of a wonderful thing called “press screenings.” I went into Boston, saw the screening — at the old Copley Place theater, I think — and reviewed it for the Justice that week (the archive of the actual review is lost to multiple server upgrades and thus to history, although I probably have the paper copy somewhere in either my basement or my parents’.)

It’s been 20 years and I never really stopped. I reviewed another movie and then another, and soon I was an arts columnist and later arts editor of the Justice. As years passed, my movie reviews would appear, in addition to The Justice and my own various blogs, at Hot Movie Ticket, American Dreamer Filmworks, The Trend/Trend Leader, Patch, EntertainmentTell/TechnologyTell, Patch again, Fox 29, Broad Street Review and Splice Today.

Reviewing movies has never been my primary job — there aren’t a lot of people left who can say that it is — but I do consider myself incredibly lucky to be able to do it, and quite an accomplishment that I’ve been able to convince multiple for-profit enterprises, including AOL and News Corp., to pay me money to see and write about movies. I’ve thankfully been able to continue doing this into adulthood, and through marriage and fatherhood as well.

So thank you so much to everyone who’s been reading all this time, or even for part of this time. Here’s to 20 more years, and if I ever get to the point where I’m no longer appreciative that I get to do this, then I’ll stop. But not until then. You can read all of my reviews since 2008-  all the ones with live links, anyway- at my Rotten Tomatoes page.

Speaking of movie reviews: I reviewed Snowden and Bridget Jones’ Baby, as well as Author: The JT Leroy Story and Eight Days a Week, all for Splice Today. The Leroy story includes some quotes from an interview I did with the director.

At Farm Dog Productions, I wrote about the new Raiders! documentary, which showed at two Philly theaters last week. And I also wrote about the recent Blue Velvet anniversary showing.

Going from film to food, I wrote for Broad Street Review about a pair of new books about Jewish food, and an author talk about them at the Gershman Y.

And at Screenrant:

I eulogize director Curtis Hanson, director of L.A. Confidential. 

Another obituary, for Radio Raheem himself, Bill Nunn.

People are going to die on the next Game of Thrones season.

Margot Robbie is hosting the SNL season premiere.

Jared Leto will join the long list of actors playing Andy Warhol in biopics- except this time it’s an actual biopic of Warhol as opposed to one of his associates.

Michael Giacchino is going to score Rogue One.

Preview of the Ice Cube/Charlie Day comedy Fist Fight.

Spike Lee is reviving She’s Gotta Have It for Netflix.

Jack Bauer could return- but only for a movie that will probably never be made.

And at Blasting News:

– No, that “Brock Turner speaking tour” story isn’t true.

– No, this isn’t the end of the birther controversy.

– Why it’s wrong to use the death of Jose Fernandez to attack Colin Kaepernick.

– Why Keith Olbermann’s return is welcome- but he’s not going to singlehandedly defeat Trump.

The West Wing cast isn’t going to either.

As always, follow me on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Clapping for two presidents

The Week in Silver: Turning 38 at the DNC Edition

I celebrated my 38th birthday this week, and marked the occasion by hanging around the Democratic National Convention for much of the week.

I was sadly denied a credential for the convention itself, but was able to spend two days in the city both covering the protests and ancillary events around the convention. And… I loved it. I hadn’t done political reporting in awhile and remembered that I really enjoy it.

Highlights of the week: I met, and was “interviewed” by- Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and his puppeteer, Robert Smigel. I saw all manner of protests on behalf of various causes- with Bernie Sanders and marijuana by far the two most popular. And on Tuesday, I ended up about five feet away from Bernie Sanders himself, who happened to be walking down Arch Street with a small entourage. At that point that small cell of Christian fanatics I had seen the day before seized on him, with one even yelling at him to renounce Judaism.

And then, Friday, I attended a rally for Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine at Temple University. This was a much different vibe from the Bill Clinton rally I covered back in the spring, in which the former president and a heckler yelled at each other; the whole room was with her, with the except of one heckler who called Hillary a murderer. Afterward I got to meet Kaine briefly.

Anyway, on to this week’s links:

– At Broad Street Review, I reviewed the “Politicalfest” exhibit around the convention.

– At Splice Today, I wrote about the protests on the first day.

Then, I reviewed “Jason Bourne” and “Bad Moms”

– At Blasting News, I went in on out-of-town reporters complaining about Philly.

I also took a look at a politician who doesn’t often get his due, Howard Dean:

And why the DNC’s Bradley Cooper controversy was stupid.

– And at Screenrant:

An update on Creed 2.

– A new edit of Arrested Development’s Netflix season.

– The death of Project Greenlight.

– The biggest buzz about of Comic-Con.

– The Bourne trilogy in 90 seconds.

– How the Millennium Falcon almost killed Harrison Ford.

As always, follow me on Twitter, and check out my Facebook page for my videos from the DNC.

The Week in Silver: “Okay, So You’re Brad Pitt” Edition

I’ve decided to start doing weekly roundups of all my published writing here each Friday; if all goes well perhaps I’ll turn it into a newsletter or something.

I plan to be loitering around the DNC and various ancillary events in Philadelphia throughout next week, so if you’re in town reach out and let me know.

Speaking of which, my favorite news story of the week involves two of my favorite journalists in town, both of whom I know slightly: Fox 29’s Steve Keeley confuses Phillymag’s Dan McQuade with a movie star:

Anyway, on to the links:

At Splice Today, because I didn’t see Star Trek Beyond yet, I review three movies: Cafe Society, Equity and Captain Fantastic. Stay tuned next week for Jason Bourne, Bad Moms and Can We Take a Joke? You can read all of my movie reviews at Rotten Tomatoes. 

At Mapquest’s Parachute, a look at the sports stadiums along the Delaware River- including a pretty gorgeous shot I took at the Philadelphia Union match last weekend:

At Blasting News, I wrote several pieces about the slow descent into madness that was the Republican National Convention

– Why you shouldn’t believe “shock polls” and Hillary is actually winning

– Why the theme of the first night was “be very afraid”

– Why the RNC didn’t mention the one true GOP triumph of the last couple of years

– And why “being un-PC” is no excuse for calling for the death of a rival political candidate.

Over at Screenrant, I was busy this week:

– I eulogized the great Garry Marshall:

– Ahead of the 10th anniversary of the movie, 15 things you may not know about Miami Vice:

Game of Thrones Season 7 will have 7 episodes.

– Bojack Horseman got a fourth season on Netflix:

– There will be more Powerpuff Girls, too.

Law & Order: SVU is making a Making a Murderer-inspired episode.

– The trailer for a new documentary about Leonard Nimoy.

– Star Trek 4 will not recast Anton Yelchin. 

The Emoji Movie has cast T.J. Miller:

As always, follow me on Twitter at @StephenSilver.