I told you last year: I like movies.

Anyway, it's now 2019 and the Academy Awards are upon us, so I thought I would, once again, offer my list of the top twenty-five films of 2018.

A couple of notes: I have seen all the Best Picture nominees except one (“Vice”), and there are a couple of other 2018 movies I wanted to see, but didn’t get the chance (“If Beale Street Could Talk,” for example). Also, I didn’t include one documentary that would have possibly made my top ten — “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling” — because it was not released in theaters.

Bonus: at the end, I’ll give you the five worst movies I saw in 2018.

(UPDATE: I saw “Free Solo” and “At Eternity’s Gate” after compiling this list, so I updated to include both, which means there are actually 27 films on this Top 25 list. Deal with it.)

Here we go…

  1. Roma

  2. Isle of Dogs

  3. The Favourite

  4. First Man

  5. The Incredibles 2

  6. Free Solo

  7. Crazy Rich Asians

  8. Eighth Grade

  9. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

  10. A Quiet Place

  11. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

  12. Can You Ever Forgive Me?

  13. Three Identical Strangers

  14. A Star Is Born

  15. At Eternity’s Gate

  16. First Reformed

  17. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

  18. Mary Poppins Returns

  19. Green Book

  20. Unsane

  21. Bohemian Rhapsody

  22. Christopher Robin

  23. Paddington 2

  24. Private Life

  25. Mission Impossible: Fallout

  26. Uncle Drew

  27. BlackkKlansman

Honorable Mention: Juliet, Naked, Game Night, The Mule, Black Panther, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead

As a bonus feature, here are the five worst movies that I saw in 2018, beginning with the worst film of the year. (Although, to be fair, I didn’t see very many films I would actually classify as “bad.” Only the first two below had no redeeming qualities, IMO.)

  1. Aquaman

  2. A Simple Favor

  3. Annihilation

  4. Tomb Raider

  5. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Dishonorable Mention (2018 movies I saw that didn’t make either the best or worst list; all were rated 3 stars out of 5 by me): Ant-Man and the Wasp, Avengers: Infinity War, Ready Player One

My top 25 films of 2017 (and the 5 worst)

I like movies. 

According to my profile at Letterboxd, which is a great resource for amassing such data if you are a geek like me, I have logged more than 1700 films by 932 directors. This isn't a comprehensive list -- I have a good memory, but I can't remember every movie I may have watched when I was 15 -- but it's probably somewhere in the neighborhood.

Also according to my stats at Letterboxd, I watched...well, I watched a lot of films in the calendar year 2017. I wasn't writing a book this year (go pre-order The Big 50!), so I had more late nights available for movies and I tried out FilmStruck for the first time, and was quickly hooked. Also, I finally made a push to see some films that I had somehow missed over the years, finishing out all the titles on AFI's top 100 list.

Anyway, it's now 2018 and the Academy Awards are upon us, so I thought I'd offer my list of the top twenty films of 2017. Only titles that Letterbox classifies as having been released in 2017 are included here, so it's not necessarily going to match up with awards-season lists of eligible movies. But it's close enough.

One last note: there are still a handful of 2017 titles that I want to see, but haven't yet (for example, Phantom Thread). I'll get around to those soon, hopefully.

Enough of the preliminaries. Let's get to the rankings...

1. Lady Bird (The only 2017 movie that I rated 5 stars out of 5.)

2. A Ghost Story

3. The Florida Project

4. Baby Driver

5. Get Out

6. Dunkirk

7. Wind River

8. Mommy Dead and Dearest

9. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

10. The Shape of Water

11. Wonderstruck

12. Lady Macbeth

13. Good Time

14. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

15. Mother!

16. The Beguiled

17. Marjorie Prime

18. Wonder Woman

19. Logan Lucky

20. Disgraced

21. It

22. Thor: Ragnarok

23: Darkest Hour

24. Mudbound

25. I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore

Notable films that I saw, but did not make the Top 25 (in the order that I rank them):

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2  |  Star Wars: The Last Jedi  |  Murder on the Orient Express  |  Battle of the Sexes  |  Justice League  |  Logan  |  American Made  |  The Lego Batman Movie  |  Strong Island


As a bonus feature, here are the five worst movies that I saw in 2017, beginning with the worst film of the year, which was almost impossible to watch:

1. Okja

2. Hostiles

3. Suburbicon

4. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

5. Spider Man: Homecoming

Some thoughts on Tom Petty

I heard the news about Tom Petty at the end of the work day today. After listening to his music for the rest of the evening, I decided to ramble on a bit over on twitter. (That's what twitter is for, after all.)

Anyway, the Reds season ended yesterday and I don't have a game to write about tonight. I don't even have a game to watch! (Such a strange feeling.) So I thought I'd expand a bit on my earlier ramble, for posterity's sake.

As I sit here writing this, Tom Petty's music videos are playing on my television, via YouTube. I still remember the first time I saw one of his videos. I think I was 14 years old when I saw "I Won't Back Down" on MTV.

I literally remember standing in my bedroom, looking at the television as this video came on. I remember distinctly thinking two things:

"This song is awesome!"

"Who is this old guy?"

I had never heard of him. Now, Petty was only 38 or 39 when that video came out, so he wasn't old (or at least, that's what I keep telling myself these days). But he seemed old at the time. Shortly thereafter, a buddy clued me in: "Dude, Tom Petty is a certified rock star."

Every guy needs an older brother, if for no other reason than to teach him about music. I didn't have that older brother -- I do have three younger brothers -- to teach me, so I had never heard of him. I was mostly into the stuff my friends were into.

I could tell you everything you wanted to know about A Tribe Called Quest or Run-DMC or Eric B & Rakim, but I didn't know Tom Petty from Tom Lawless. So "I Won't Back Down" was a revelation. I had listened to plenty of what I thought was rock and roll, but was mostly just pop music on the radio. It was fine, but it never moved me. I mean, Duran Duran is okay, I guess.

But I had never heard anything like "I Won't Back Down." And that distinctive Tom Petty voice! 

So I immediately decided I liked this guy. Of course, that was the day when the radio was the only way to hear music -- that was a long time ago; yes, I'm the old guy, I know -- and I didn't own any Tom Petty albums, so the next thing I heard of his was the following single off that "Full Moon Fever" album: "Running Down A Dream," with that great animated video.

After that was "Free Fallin'"...and it seemed like that song was everywhere for months and months and months. I was completely hooked. For the rest of my life.

A couple of years later, during the summer before my senior year of high school, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released their next album, "Into the Great Wide Open." I bought that cassette and wore it out in the tape deck of my burgundy Chevy Cavalier (I loved that car, even though it once died on me in downtown DC, during rush hour).

Then, when I was in college, that Greatest Hits album came out. I got that one on CD, even though I had all the earlier albums on cassette by that point. I had to have it, once again because of a video: "Mary Jane's Last Dance." Remember that video, with Kim Basinger? Incredible.

In the late 1990s, I was living in the Washington, D.C. area while attending law school (Hoya Saxa). A roommate had tickets to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers live, and I jumped at the chance to finally see Petty in concert. We walked into the venue -- an outdoor amphitheatre now called Jiffy Lube Live or some nonsense -- and made our way to our seats. Second row, center. I couldn't believe it.

And Petty didn't disappoint. I'll never forget him leaning over and taking that big "Mad Hatter" hat out of a trunk in the middle of the stage. He placed it on his head with a wink and a grin, then launched into "Don't Come Around Here No More" with as much energy and enthusiasm as he could muster. The crowd responded in kind.

That show is still the best concert I've ever seen, and I've seen quite a few of them over the years.

In the last fifteen years, life got in the way a little bit. I still listened to Petty all the time, but kids and family and work and life conspired to keep me away from any of the band's live shows. When they announced the 40th Anniversary tour this summer, however, there was no chance I was going to miss the opportunity. After all, Petty had said this was the band's last tour. It was now or never.

So we got tickets to the show at US Bank Arena in Cincinnati, and it was fantastic. I never expected that the band would still be so great. They hadn't lost a single step.

At the end of July, our family took a trip with another family to New York City. After we arrived, we saw that the band was playing in Queens later in the week. The other couple wondered if we'd like to go see them, even though they weren't on our pre-planned and completely packed agenda. After all, they said, they hadn't seen Petty live before. There was no question: of course we wanted to. So we got tickets from some fly-by-night outfit that required we download a sketchy app to access our digital tickets, hopped on the subway, and headed out to Forest Hills Stadium. (I was pretty sure that app wasn't going to work, but we surprisingly got into the venue.)

It was another great show, but the best part was that my kids were with us, getting an opportunity to experience Tom Petty live. They went in a bit disinterested. They came out certified fans. My daughter wanted a t-shirt, and started learning to play "Free Fallin'" on the guitar when we returned home. My son played nothing but Tom Petty music in his headphones for a week thereafter.

Now, I don't get emotional about anything related to celebrities. (If you know me, you'd probably say that I get emotional about very little.) Still, it's sad that Tom Petty may be gone. I came to him after he was already well on his way to legend status, but Petty has been the soundtrack to most of my life. If he's gone...well, at least the music remains. I'm playing it tonight, and I'll play it tomorrow. It'll continue to be my soundtrack.

Tom Petty was just a great rock and roll star, that's all.

Let's go ahead and give "The Isle of Dogs" the 2018 Best Picture Oscar, okay?

The latest trailer for Wes Anderson's "The Isle of Dogs" was released today. It's classic Wes Anderson -- and if you know me, you know that's a legitimate compliment. (Even if you don't know me, it's a legitimate compliment.)

I don't have much to say about the trailer -- it's just a trailer, after all. Except for this: it's already pretty clear that "The Isle of Dogs" will be the best film of 2018, and no film will even be close.

Or maybe not. But it does look good. Here's the trailer:


A new website...and "The Big 50" is now available for pre-order

So, I moved my personal website and blog over to Squarespace. Still not sure what I think about it, but I needed to get away from my old hosting provider for a...well, a host of reasons.

giphy.gif book is now available for pre-order at Amazon: The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds, by Chris Garber and me. Order it now, and have it delivered on the day that it's released to the public: April 15, 2018 from Triumph Books.


Some predictions, for the sake of posterity

Because I am eager to publish my ridiculous predictions, in order to make it easier for you to mock me at some point in the future, I offer this: 1. The current version of the University of Virginia men's basketball team will be better than either the 2014 or 2015 squads. And that's saying something, because both those teams were regular season ACC champs, and top-two seeds in the NCAA tournament.

2. Darius Thompson, who started tonight in his first game for UVa (after transferring from Tennessee), will be better than Justin Anderson by the time it's all over. You may remember Anderson as the Virginia Cavalier who was selected in the first round of the most recent NBA draft.

3.UVa coach Tony Bennett will run for Virginia governor in 2017 and win in a landslide.

4. I will forget about the dumpster fire that is known as "Virginia Football" sooner this year than ever before.

On Kevin Gregg

On Opening Day, Reds manager Bryan Price appeared to anoint Kevin Gregg as the 8th inning setup guy for the Reds. That may or may not change (and may have already changed), but it was a curious decision from the beginning. After all, Gregg was a non-roster invite to spring training, and hadn't particularly distinguished himself. Let's just say that most informed observers were skeptical of the decision to depend on Gregg in high-leverage situations or, indeed, in any situation at all. But he's a Former Closer (TM), and a veteran, so Price was inclined to trust him. After two outings now, Gregg has been ineffective, to say the least.

For whatever reason, I thought I'd go look to see what the 2015 edition of Baseball Prospectus (go purchase it) had to say about Gregg. He didn't merit a full entry in this year's book, but they did mention him. It wasn't encouraging:

Kevin Gregg's career deserves a tombstone, and the epitaph might read: "More career saves than Brian Wilson. He probably never should have been a closer."

Only a matter of time before the Reds dump this guy and bring Sam LeCure back to town, I hope. Please?


I love watching the athletic programs of my undergraduate alma mater, the University of Virginia. One of the small joys in my life, generally. But if UVa disbanded their (American) football program tomorrow, I wouldn't shed a single tear. Generally, I watch one football game per week: the UVa game. It's no wonder I don't enjoy football any more. The Cavaliers just lost to the worst Virginia Tech team in two decades. What an embarrassment.

Kudos to the Hokies. Enjoy your bowl game.

I'm so glad that it's basketball season.

On writing, part 2

From "TransAtlantic," by Colum McCann:

The elaborate search for a word, like the turning of a chain handle on a well. Dropping the bucket down the mineshaft of the mind. Taking up empty bucket after empty bucket until, finally, at an unexpected moment, it caught hard and had a sudden weight and she raised the word, then delved down into the emptiness once more.

Perfect. Simply perfect.

On writing

This is from David Mitchell's brilliant novel Black Swan Green. A perfect description.

I felt giddy with importance that my words'd captured the attention of this exotic woman. Fear, too. If you show someone something you've written, you give them a sharpened stake, lie down in your coffin, and say, "When you're ready."

MLB managers need to play more video games

I love this:

When Brayan Pena is managing the Reds on his PlayStation, he doesn't care what inning it is, when he needs a big out, he calls on Aroldis Chapman.

"When you've got a guy like that throwing 100 mph, why not?" Pena said laughing, before adding he only calls fastballs for Chapman in those situations on the PlayStation.

I've been complaining for years that Reds managers won't use Chapman in the most high-leverage situations, preferring instead to save him for the typical ninth-inning appearance. (I've also been complaining for years that Chapman is a closer instead of a starter, but let me save that rant for another day). Frankly, Chapman is criminally under-used.

If Pena can figure out the best way to use your best pitcher because of a video game, perhaps we need to chip in and send Reds manager Bryan Price a Playstation 4. I'll pay for the copy of MLB 14: The Show myself.

"Sweet mother of Joey Votto, no!"

That's probably as deceiving a headline as I'll ever write. Sorry about that. It is, however, an exact quote from one of my brothers, Jordan, who has lived and worked in China for nearly a decade. The quote comes from an interview he gave (part 1, part 2) that mostly touches on the respective education systems of China and America, about which Jordan knows more than any one person should.

Mostly, I'm posting the link to this interview because he gives a bit of a glimpse into where he (we) came from, and how he got where he is. I am struck by his description, since his story tracks pretty closely with mine...up until the point he deferred graduate school and decided to do something interesting and exciting. I did not defer graduate school, even though I had a job opportunity to do something that I really wanted to do (that's another story for another time). No, I went on to law school and did everything that was expected of me. And the rest is history, as they say.

Anyway, I'm proud of my little brother. When he moves to Sydney, I'll be sure to visit.

On LeBron James

I don't write about basketball very often. Never, really. I guess I write about UVa hoops occasionally, but that's generally less about basketball than it is about my alma mater, if that makes sense. Today, I'm thinking about basketball, and the reason I'm thinking about basketball is that LeBron James is returning to Cleveland.

This LeBron free agent drama has been fascinating to watch, but I can't say I've been following it closely. Mostly, I've been keeping up with the latest news via Twitter, but that's as far as it has gone. Now that the decision has been made, I can't get over how good this story is. So many interesting angles, and it concludes with the return of the prodigal son to the Sixth City.

I don't care about the Cleveland Cavaliers. Never have. Growing up, I picked a favorite team almost at random, since there were no NBA franchises within spitting distance of my home. I chose the 76ers, almost exclusively because Julius Erving played for them. You might remember Dr. J. Even on the downside of his career, he appealed to an 8-year old boy.

Over the years, the Sixers haven't exactly been the model NBA franchise, but they have allowed me to watch and admire the talents of Erving, Charles Barkley (surprisingly, I can't find an image online of the Barkley poster that adorned my wall as a teenager), and Allen Iverson. If the Cavaliers had had some dynamic player back then (sorry, Ron Brewer), I suppose it's possible that I would have decided to root for Cleveland. I think my son is about to do exactly that. And I'm okay with that.

I like superstars. In every sport. Part of the joy I get from watching sports -- and between the Reds and UVa, sometimes joy is difficult to come by -- is from watching the greatest players in the game ply their trade. I never joined the chorus of criticism of Barry Bonds back in the day; instead, I was mesmerized by his baseball talent. In soccer, Luis Suarez bites everyone in his way and is a bit of a lunatic, in general, but he's a genius on the pitch and I'll watch him every chance I get.

LeBron doesn't fit into that same mold, but he has certainly been (unfairly) cast in the role of a villain since "The Decision." I'm not going to try to make the case that the way James made the decision to take his "talents to South Beach" was anything less than a PR disaster, but it has been absurd to see how everyone decided they hated LeBron James all of a sudden. For the last four years, most everyone has reveled in the LeBron jokes and rooted against him at every turn.

For his part, LeBron just won some MVPs and some championships and cemented his place in basketball history. He also became as a billion-dollar industry. His move back to Cleveland enhances that brand name to an almost unimaginable degree. I think the days of LeBron as villain are over; he's now going to be a hero and a global icon on a scale that we haven't seen since Michael Jordan.

It will be amusing to see NBA fans who were previously hostile to LBJ twist and turn to praise him for "coming home." Not me. I've always been in awe of his talent, whether they were displayed in the midwest or South Beach. I'll watch more Cleveland games this year than ever before probably, and I'll never watch the Heat as often or with as much interest. That's because LeBron is the greatest player on earth and I'm not ashamed to follow him wherever he goes. I love watching the greats.

Michael Jordan was never my favorite player (Erving/Barkley, remember?), but there is something that I used to say about MJ that applies to LeBron, as well. Every single time I watched MJ play, he did something that made my jaw drop. Maybe it was a crossover, or a pass, or a dunk, but you always got your money's worth with MJ. Same with LeBron. I don't think I can say that about any other basketball player in my lifetime. Other than Spencer Hawes, perhaps.

I'm very interested in the unorthodox rebuilding job that GM Sam Hinkie is doing in Philadelphia. Can't wait to see how that turns out, and I'll keep watching the Sixers while the building process continues. After Cleveland drafted UVa great Joe Harris a couple of weeks ago, I figured I'd be watching more Cavaliers basketball this year than before. That's a certainty now.

I Told You So -- UVa edition

I don't know very much about sports, but this is one prediction that I nailed. Back on November 8, here's what I tweeted:

Today, Virginia earned a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since...the Sampson years. They put together the best record (28-6) of any Cavalier squad since...the Sampson years. After winning the regular season ACC title, Virginia won the ACC Tournament for the first time since...well, since 1976, which was even before Sampson enrolled at the University.

This has been such a fun team to watch. They play the best defense in the country, and they have a disciplined, efficient, and unselfish offense. Now I have to decide whether to head down to Raleigh next weekend to watch the Hoos, or if I want to take the chance that Virginia will make it to the second weekend of the tournament. If that happens, maybe I can figure out a way to make it up to New York and Madison Square Garden for the Sweet Sixteen.

Better yet, this is only the beginning of some great things for the Virginia program. Tony Bennett has built something special. Hope the University opens up the checkbook and makes Bennett "coach for life."

Two Minute Review: Blue Jasmine

Over on Twitter, I gave my quick and dirty assessment of Woody Allen's latest film:

Permit me to elaborate. As I've mentioned before in these pages, I'm a committed admirer of Allen's work. His films over the last fifteen years have been uneven, at best, but there are some beauties sprinkled in there. Match Point and Vicky Cristina Barcelona are fabulous, and 2011's Midnight in Paris compares favorably to anything you'll see from his peers.

The flip side of that coin is that Allen has written and directed some stinkers -- You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, anyone? -- but the best thing about Woody is that you only have to wait a year, and he'll have another movie for you to pick over.

Which brings us to Blue Jasmine, starring Cate Blanchett as the title character. Jasmine is a Manhattan socialite who has her world tossed asunder when her husband (ably played by Alec Baldwin) is sent to prison for his role in various financial shenanigans. Broke, and broken, Jasmine moves to San Francisco to live with her working class sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins).

Allen moves the narrative forward in very focused fashion, skilfully weaving flashbacks of Jasmine's previous life (relaxing in the Hamptons, for example) with her struggles to adjust to her new life. It is well-written, with all the hallmarks of an Allen comedy, including very strong performances by an ensemble cast. No performance is stronger than Cate Blanchett's.

Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if Blanchett were to win her second Academy Award next month. (No, I'm not really stepping out on a limb there. Blanchett just won the Golden Globe for this role.) She is engaging from the time she makes her first appearance on screen, seated on an inbound flight to San Francisco, as she bores the woman next to her with a barely-uninterrupted commentary on everything that has gone wrong with her life. Blanchett's Jasmine is never particularly likable, but somehow, she becomes eminently sympathetic throughout the course of the movie. If not a direct homage, the film was clearly inspired by A Streetcar Named Desire. More than once, I saw Vivien Leigh's Blanche DuBois in Jasmine.

The most surprising performance, as you may have heard, came from Andrew Dice Clay, as Ginger's ex-husband. Clay is legitimately good here, even if he didn't utter a single nursery rhyme in the entire film. Also good was Louis CK, as a seemingly-sweet guy who woos Ginger.

My only quibble is that some of the working-class dialogue didn't seem to ring particularly true, but that's a small criticism. Blue Jasmine is well-executed, and is a worthy addition to the Woody Allen filmography. By almost any measure, Allen remains near the top of his game, a formidable filmmaker still, after nearly five decades in the game.

Two Minute Review: "Orange Is the New Black"

I'm not a TV critic (yet), and I don't even play one on, well, TV. But this is my site, so indulge me, please. I don't think it's spoiler-y, but if you are worried about that sort of thing, you may want to stop now. The Netflix original series "Orange Is the New Black" was released last July, and I finally got around to watching the 13-episode first season over the last couple of weeks. I do have some criticisms, but let's make one thing clear from the outset: "Orange Is the New Black" is an outstanding show, nearly as good as anything else on television. I just wish it were on HBO.

There is much to love about "Orange." It's the story of a privileged woman -- Piper, played by Taylor Schilling -- who is engaged to be married and starting her own company, when she is charged with crimes committed when she was young and in love with a drug runner. Ultimately, she accepts a plea, and the story begins as she is incarcerated.

It's a brilliant idea for a series, based on Piper Kerman's memoir of the same name. In most respects, it is well-executed. The ensemble cast is filled with great characters, most of whom are nuanced and interesting. Series creator Jenji Kohan displays a deft touch in slowly revealing each character's backstory, and our view of several of the characters (notably Crazy Eyes and Mr. Healy) changes completely within the arc of one season.

There are notable exceptions, however. Two characters -- Natalie Figueroa, a prison administrator, and Mendez, a correctional officer -- are ludicrously over-the-top. "Orange" is a dramedy, so sometimes these characters are played for laughs, but their behavior is so exaggerated that it can be distracting. Often, it's like these two characters were pulled straight out of an Adam Sandler movie. I'm love Billy Madison as much as the next guy, but that's not a compliment.

Jenji Kohan probably should have toned that down, but subtlety doesn't seem to be in her arsenal. To wit: listen to the music that plays whenever Daya (an inmate) and Bennett (a C.O.) are together. It's ridiculous, and worthy of a 1980s Afterschool Special. And they play it Every. Single. Time. Before "Orange," Kohan was known primarily for the Showtime series "Weeds." I've never seen a single episode of "Weeds," so I can't compare, but I have real questions about some of the creative decisions on this show. (Also, I could do without the Jason Biggs-inspired American Pie inside jokes.) That's why I mentioned HBO above; in the best HBO original dramas, these little wrinkles have all been ironed out. (Then again, it's still the first season for "Orange" so there is time.)

When looking at the big picture, however, those are very small quibbles. In most respects, Kohan has put together a captivating portrait of life inside a women's prison. Piper is a fascinating character study, but she is arguably the least compelling personality on the show. Taystee Jefferson may be my favorite character, but the entire group of inmates -- Alex, Yoga Jones, track star Janae Watson, Sister Ingalls, Big Boo, and especially the Bible-toting meth-head Pennsatucky -- are each engaging in their own way. I'm not sure how Kohan was able to make each of them a fully-formed character in only 13 episodes (the flashbacks to life before prison helped), but it works.

I was happy to be able to watch the entire season over two weeks, one episode a night, thanks to the Netflix model of distribution, but "Orange" is a series that would have benefited from the traditional model. At the end of each episode, I didn't like the idea of waiting until the following night to see what would happen next (alas, my wife goes to sleep early, and she was just as engaged with the series as I). Imagine waiting a full week to see how Piper was going to resolve whatever issues were still lingering from the episode before. It's a series that could have built even more buzz than it actually did by giving each episode some water cooler time.

Either way, I am definitely looking forward to the second season, especially after the eye-popping cliffhanger at the end of season one's final episode. "Orange" isn't as good as "Mad Men" or "Sherlock," but it's just a cut below. Which means that it's better than most everything else on television (or whatever delivery device you prefer).

Yep, that pretty much covers it

Yesterday, a 12-year-old told me this:

The only thing I know about judges is that they sit up there and yell at people to be quiet. I know there must be more to it, but I don't know what it is.

That's a pretty good job description, actually.


Yes, Georgetown exited the NCAA tournament early once again this year. I'm so sick of this.

No, really. Why?

For Georgetown, Friday night's upset win was just the latest in a string of disappointments for the program since John Thompson III took the Hoyas to the Final Four six years ago.

No fan base has endured more heartbreak and embarrassment than this one. Here's the rundown on how G'town's had good-to-really-good regular seasons end in flameout since the 2008 NCAA tournament.

Read the rundown, if you wish. I've lived it.

Can someone explain this? There's only one constant: coach John Thompson III.

Somedays, I wish I had just gone to Duke Law, rather than Georgetown.


Okay, that's silly talk.

Ten Second Movie Review: Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity (1944)Director: Billy Wilder Writers: Wilder and Raymond Chandler Stars: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson

In the late 1990s, the American Film Institute released a list they called "100 Years...100 Movies." Ostensibly, it ranked the top 100 feature-length American movies, and at the time, I thought it would be a fun project to watch all 100.

Here we are, fifteen years later, and I'm still working on that. (At some point, I'll figure out how many I have remaining, but it can't be very many.) Recently, I was able to mark Double Indemnity -- AFI #38* -- off my personal checklist. In one word: masterful.

The plotline actually seems pedestrian: "An insurance rep lets himself be talked into a murder/insurance fraud scheme that arouses an insurance investigator's suspicions." Fred MacMurray (of My Three Sons fame) stars as Walter Neff, a successful insurance agent who runs into Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck, in an Oscar-nominated performance) in the ordinary course of business. Dietrichson is married to a less-than-successful oil executive, one thing leads to another and -- this always happens, doesn't it? -- murder and insurance fraud are committed. Dietrichson and Neff conspire to murder her husband and cover up their deed.

The actual criminal act occurs somewhat early in the film, and most of the film consists of the tension created when Neff's boss, an insurance analyst played by the always-entertaining Edward G. Robinson, becomes suspicious and launches an investigation. No, that doesn't sound high-concept, does it? You'll be surprised. For instance, the viewer can never really be sure why these two team up to commit this act. Passion? I don't know; at times, we aren't even sure Dietrichson and Neff like each other (and, in fact, Dietrichson admits as much later in the movie). For the money? They don't show much interest in it.

I have some theories, but I've already exceeded my allotted ten seconds. Suffice to say that many questions remain unanswered after my first viewing, but the film still worked brilliantly.

Double Indemnity is classic film noir, from the stylish cinematography, the superb use of black and white, and the snappy dialogue penned mostly by detective novelist Raymond Chandler. Oh, the dialogue. Chandler had me with the opening line of the film:

I killed him for money -- and for a woman. I didn't get the money. And I didn't get the woman.

I love it.

Billy Wilder has always been one of my favorite directors. (I love Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, The Seven Year Itch, and Sabrina, in particular.) Double Indemnity, one of his earliest works, is unlike anything he did after. Add it to the pantheon. It's good.

I'm really kicking myself for not making time to watch Double Indemnity before now. Rest assured, however: I will watch this one again. Five stars out of five.

*In 2007, AFI released an updated list. Double Indemnity must have aged well; a decade after the original list, AFI ranked it nine spots higher at #29.