Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Pistons choke on Jarmusch's smoke

* Detroit lost the series. I don't see the Pistons recovering from their heartbreaking loss last night. They were one foul away from an insurmountable 2-and-0-and-going-back-home-for-3-more lead. But Larry Brown fucked up. All 20 million people or so watching the game knew Kobe was angling to get off a three with the Lakers trailing by three. And most of 'em figured he'd sink it. So why didn't Brown tell his team to foul? Is it because, as Brown repeats in his drone-like way, his teams play "the right way"?

I've no clue what "playing the right way" means, but the decision itself clearly led to catastrophic consequences for the Pistons. This is a no-brainer: When your team's up by three with 10 seconds left, foul as soon as the ball is inbounded. (Detroit had the chance to foul Shaq on the inbounds, but didn't do it.) When you foul, you leave the trailing team two options: (1) hit the first free throw, then try to grab the rebound off an intentional miss on the second, then score a fg to tie or win. (2) hit both free throws, foul immediately, and hope the other team misses one of two, then score a fg to tie or win. For either option to work, the trailing team has to execute perfectly on a host of variables: free throws, rebound, etc.

The alternative is to overplay the three point line, but that strikes me as a particularly poor option when the other team runs out a guy named Kobe Bryant.

* Salon has an interesting article on the effectiveness of candidates placing fundraising ads on political blogs.

* Kevin Drum, the most consistently informative left-of-center political blogger in recent weeks (as Josh Marshall slacks), posted two noteworthy items yesterday. The first is a comparison of Bush to LBJ -- his argument is that Bush misinterpreted the electoral mood and overstretched Reaganism in the same way LBJ misinterpreted the national mood and overstretched the New Deal. I think he's right on.

The second links to a chart that shows Bush voters to be fatter than Gore voters. Or more precisely, the chart shows that voters from states with high obesity rates voted for Bush disproportionally over Gore.

* Coffee & Cigarettes is, of course, uneven, being a collection of shorts that Jarmusch shot over a sixteen year period. But if you're a fan of Jarmusch (as I am), you'll likely groove to the absurdist deadpan humor and shimmering black & white photography of cool cats downing brew and blowing smoke. Like everyone else, I think three shorts stand out: Coogan & Molina, Blanchett & Blanchett (featuring some amazing work with a stand-in to get those perfectly timed reaction shots down), and RZA, GZA and Bill Murray. Jarmusch is a keen observer of the one-on-one dynamic, and at its best, these vignettes key in on the shifting power dimension of personal interactions: the passive-aggressive demands on time and attention, the celebrity narcissism and self-conscious condescension, the interplay between the summoner and the person summoned, etc. Good stuff.

* Can't really identify anything wrong with Strayed, which, to borrow a bud's line, "pretty much defines 'solid'". But you'll excuse me for expecting a bit more out of the director of Wild Reeds than by-the-numbers ToQ fare[1]. Emmanuelle Beart can play these resolute, resilient women in her sleep. Pretty hot sex scene at the end, but otherwise instantly forgettable.

[1] Pedantic explainer for non-geeks. ToQ = "Tradition of Quality": a school of filmmaking associated with commercial European costume dramas like Jean de Florette, Cyrano de Bergerac, and Bon Voyage. Popularized by the French filmmaker Marcel Pagnol, ToQ emphasizes classical elements such as strong narrative progression, big themes, obvious emotional cues, conventional character arcs, and beautiful scenery. Often described as a "literary" approach to filmmaking.

syn. "middlebrow"; "Landmark movie".