Drivers who deserve the finger

If you have just a half-hour commute to work, then you're in your car fighting traffic about 20 hours a month. That's almost an entire day dealing with other drivers' stupidity, incompetence, and lack of appropriate attention to the world around them.

Below are the worst offenders, those degenerates who deserve the middle finger salute from all of us. You may find yourself on this list. We did.

* Drivers who suddenly merge into your lane without signaling
* Drivers who do signal a lane change and then refuse for some reason to come over even though you're very clearly slowing down to give them a nice big space to merge into
* Drivers whom you allow to merge in front of you and then lack the common courtesy to give you the hand wave of thanks
* Drivers at the front of a line of left turners who become Cathy Cautious and refuse to turn until there isn't another car coming for at least two nautical miles
* Drivers who run extremely stale yellow lights when they really shouldn't, blocking the intersection and thereby preventing you from making a left turn before the light turns red
* Drivers whom you expect to run an extremely stale yellow light, but then at the last minute suddenly don't, thereby preventing you from making a left turn before the light turns red
* Drivers who insist on blocking an entire line of cars in a parking garage because they shortsightedly want to take the spot of the first person they see (who take 15 minutes to put two bags in their trunk - they get the finger too) when you know damn good and well that a few levels up or down is a sea of empty spaces
* Drivers of SUVs who insist on cramming their ridiculous, penis-substitute vehicles into spaces clearly marked "compact"
* Drivers who take up two parking spaces because they so overvalue their stupid little souped-up 1992 Toyota Camry
* Drivers who skip their turn at four-way stops
* Drivers who won't let you merge in one of those situations where doing so is extremely reasonable, like when you're just trying to get out of a garage after a concert or baseball game
* Drivers behind you who honk a fraction of a second after your light turns green
* Drivers who, when they do decide to honk, don't give you a short little friendly toot, but a long, obnoxious blast that goes on for so long the sound bends with the Doppler effect as they zoom around you
* Drivers who are clearly lost, but refuse to pull to the curb and get out of the way, preferring instead to creep along at the pace of pedestrians as they swivel their heads looking for an address or stare at the map in their lap
* Drivers who take an inordinate amount of time paying to get out of a parking garage
* Drivers who block traffic because they're having some utterly pointless conversation with another driver, who's likewise blocking traffic, the both of them apparently unaware of a new device called the telephone
* Drivers who block you because they're not following a clearly posted traffic sign, like "no left turn" which surely doesn't include them, right?

And no list like this would be complete without special finger given to those jackass motorcycle riders who roar down La Brea Avenue with their throttles wide open and revved as loud as possible for that short little 300 yard stretch until they hit another traffic light. Sure did go fast for a second there, huh, Captain America?


"My fellow Americans..."

Artist R. Luke Dubois has used the familiar optometrist's eye-chart to provide an interesting dissection of Presidential State of the Union addresses in a piece he calls "Hindsight is Always 20/20." The more often a word is used in the speech, the bigger the word appears on Dubois' chart. It's genius, the way one can easily see the big topics and themes with which the nation was grappling (or what topics and themes these presidents wanted to grapple).

George Washington's top 3 words: gentleman, provision, fellow
Thomas Jefferson: limits, sum, soon
Andrew Jackson: bank, money, payment
Abraham Lincoln: emancipation, rebellion, proclamation
Teddy Roosevelt: corporations, railroad, wage
Woodrow Wilson: processes, energy, tasks
Herbert Hoover: unemployment, recovery, major
Franklin D. Roosevelt: democratic, unity, allies
Dwight Eisenhower: nuclear, scientific, planning
Richard Nixon: truly, environment, vision
Jimmy Carter: us, 1980s, sector
Ronald Reagan: deficit, let's, bless
Bill Clinton: 21st, got, lot
George W. Bush: terror, iraq, iraqi


And the Oscar goes to...

Here's an interesting one-sheet almanac on Oscar trivia and factoids.

Looking at the past 25 years of Best Pictures (going back to 1983's Gandhi), which ones stand the test of time? Which are truly enduring cinematic classics?

The most deserving Best Picture winners
1. The Silence of the Lambs (1991), obviously
2. Unforgiven (1992), genius
3. Titanic (1997), popcorn filmmaking at its best
4. Platoon (1986), operatic in a good way
5. American Beauty (1999), the whole is far greater than the sum of its familiar parts
6. Chicago (2002), razzle-dazzle fun

The most undeserving and ridiculous Best Picture winners (and who should have won)
1. the insipid Shakespeare in Love (1998) (Saving Private Ryan packed a far stronger and more important punch)
2. the tedious Gandhi (1982) (Tootsie is about as perfect a comedy as you can make, but the Oscars don't reward that kind of thing)
3. how many people have actually seen The Last Emperor (1987)? (Fatal Attraction captured the 1980s zeitgeist, but the best film is probably a toss-up between Moonstruck and Broadcast News, although neither has aged well - guess 1987 wasn't so good a year)
4. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003) (sorry, The Cheese Fry is one of those people who think Lost in Translation is sublime on every level)
5. the bombastic, empty-headed Gladiator (2000) (the most exciting film of the year was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
6. the solid but familiar biopic A Beautiful Mind (2001) (the true cinematic masterpiece was Moulin Rouge)

Who will win this Sunday? Look for a strong showing by No Country for Old Men.


Ding dong, the witch is dead

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

17-14. Scoreboard.

There are no words to accurately describe the immense feeling of elation and satisfaction that comes from watching the wheels come completely off the New England Patriots in the waning minutes of Superbowl XLII. If ever there was an insufferably arrogant team in dire need of some humble-pie humiliation and come-uppance, it was this one. So smug with their false humility, soberly claiming to respect their opponents but so clearly resenting anyone who believed their unbeaten season was anything other than a God-given right. So lucky with miraculous play after miraculous play in the regular season that give them a "W" in the nick of time and preserved that annoying unbeaten streak that so consumed the media. So self-righteous at justifiable suggestions of a blotch on their legacy courtesy some shading dealings from the coaching staff (that the off-season could further taint them with accusations of cheating in Superbowl XXXVI is all the sweeter). And so phony in their self-created image as hard-working Boy Scouts above it all, even though their roster is filled with just as many thugs and dirty players and jackass hotheads and free agent mercenaries as anyone else.

Yes, it's always fun to see the villain defeated. Especially on national television.

So much for 19-0. How's it feel to finally lose a game? Sucks about the timing.


Knee-jerk rewind: "Juno," "Atonement," and "Charlie Wilson's War"

1. Very funny, very satisfying.
2. But its Best Picture nomination is a bit of a reach. This thing gets released in April, no way it gets the Oscar nod (see also: the ignored Zodiac). More proof that Academy voters have inexplicably short attention spans: they nominate films with fall releases. And Hollywood happily obliges them, stacking fall slates with Oscar bait. Hey, that rhymes. Let's make T-shirts.
3. Ellen Page is great, the anti-Lohan, all rough edges and slouchy confidence. Worth a look: the dark thriller Hard Candy in which Page's character takes hostage a possible hostage.
4. An exceptionally strong cast. Jennifer Garner's never been better.
5. The media's fallen in love with screenwriter Diablo Cody, fawning all over her in a way that suggests Cody's completely re-invented the very fabric of cinematic storytelling. It's frankly a little annoying and probably part of the reason for the growing Juno backlash. But the real fascination with Cody is surely the fact that she's an oddball character herself: an ex-exotic dancer and blogger. In any event, Cody gives the film a distinctive point of view and snappy dialogue that's really pops, which is what any good screenwriter should do. Don't be surprised if it takes the Best Original Screenplay Oscar.
6. Bonus points to everyone involved for not letting the Ellen Page/Jason Bateman dynamic get too icky.
7. The last scene's duet of "Anyone Else But You" is infectious in its charm. Just try to resist.

1. The textbook Oscar nominee. Big sweeping story. Period setting. Lush costumes. World War II. Drawing room sex. English accents. Stylish chain smoking. Tragic ending. Doomed romance. The thing practically writes itself.
2. Keira Knightley is surely the hottest anorexic-looking actress working today. Seriously, like, whoa.
3. Some call the ending a cheat, but it's no more a cheat that any other twist movie ending that Changes Everything. If you go with it and try to understand the "why" behind it (hint: look at the movie's title), you'll be fine.
4. Lesson to be learned: if you're going to send a bratty teenaged girl to deliver a letter to her sister, please be sure you give her the right letter.
5. It's most certainly better than the vastly overrated The English Patient.

Charlie Wilson's War
1. Philip Seymour Hoffman steals the movie.
2. It's a lot of fun, thanks mostly to the sharp dialogue and political scheming by "West Wing" auteur Aaron Sorkin. But then you start to realize... there's no conflict. Once Tom Hanks and his cronies decide to fund the mujahadeen in Afghanistan, that's exactly what they do. No hiccups, no detours, no obstacles.
3. Critics have complained that the film takes liberties with the truth. On one hand, hey, it's a movie, not a textbook. Then again, the media culture is slowly but surely blurring the lines between reality and fiction and many in the audience may think this is how it all happened because Tom Hanks says so. But what's the solution? Stay tuned for this argument to get kicked up another notch come fall when Oliver Stone's biopic of George W. Bush may hit theaters.
4. The appeal of Julia Roberts is frankly lost on The Cheese Fry. If you're honest with yourself, digging deep, you'll agree that she's really been interesting in just one film: Erin Brockovich. Her work is typically of the softball popcorn variety that calls for her to just flash that twangy smile. Even Tom Cruise sometimes mixes his Mission Impossibles with his Magnolias. She's kind of dull here as well.
5. Consider it a push. Some concerns, yes, but the running time's only 90 minutes. Get in, make some laughs, score some satirical points, turn Hoffman loose, let Hanks shine, get out.

Were the Democrats serious with that whole John Kerry thing in 2004?

L.A. Weekly's Joe Donnelly offers a fascinating and rather scathing look at the apparent inability of the Democratic Party to nominate a presidential candidate who can win in November. It's only been four years since the John Kerry disaster. The Cheese Fry recently had the misfortune of seeing Kerry on TV. He may be bright and utterly capable, but what an uncharismatic bore. Blech. Donnelly makes the interesting point that Bill Clinton's upset win in 1992 was something of an accident - if the Democratic Party had its way back then, the nominee would have been another smart-but-dull Yankee: Mario Cuomo. No way he beats George H.W. Bush, which would have put us in year 27 of a GOP Reaganite-Bushian monarchy. The mind reels.