Friday, February 20, 2009

Pumpstradamus 2009 Predictions - A Multimedia Extravaganza

Welcome to our annual Pre Oscar column… which includes our annual visit with Pumpstradams and his predictions for 2009!

Last Monday I went to see a President’s Day Matinee and as I left the theater, I realized that I had just seen an incredible movie.

While “Titanic” took a tragic ship accident and worked a story around it… Slumdog Millionaire takes the story of a young man appearing on India’s version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” and turns it into the story of the tragic life of one of its contestants. I will never again wonder why so many Indians move to Central NJ after seeing this movie and how horrific life can be for so many young kids growing up there.

The movie has some odd twists… no spoilers here, but the closing credits were similar to the style we saw in “Mamma Mia”… and it didn’t really make a lot of sense for such a serious movie. Maybe this is how all the Indian Bollywood movies are made? Also, some plot developments near the end were just a bit hard to believe, but then again look at the mashugas Lost fed us this week…. I guess I can suspend some disbelief… But despite that, Jamal the main character, had been through so much during his tortured young life that you really feel that something good has to happen to this poor fellow.

The movie is told partly in flashback… Jamal the main character runs through the questions on Millionaire, but after he was won a ton o' money, that day's episode has run out of time, and Jamal is invited to come back to finish his game on the next episode. Usually, they run the credits, the contestant chats with Regis or Meredith, and they then proceed to tape the next episode. But that is not the case in India!

Suspicion starts to brew that this uneducated young man from the slums would be smart enough to get so many questions right... even though he needed an early lifeline for a relatively easy question. The police sense some monkey business, and call Jamal in to Jack Bauer-esquely question him about how he was able to get so many questions right. As part of the interrogation, they rewatch the show that was just completed (and aired live), Jamal reveals that the questions were not that hard for him because virtually every answer reminded him of a difficult chapter of his nightmarish younger days.

Interestingly enough, a woman from my town recently went on Jeopardy and the day after I saw Slumdog, I ran into her at Shop Rite. I was going to ask her how she knew all the answers but then I decided… maybe not. I didn’t know if I wanted to hear any more horrible stories.

The director Danny Boyle successfully weaves three time lines into the movie as we see the story during the actual show, the interrogation, and Jamal's childhood. We watch the shocking story as he crawls out of a very full outhouse to meet an anticipated visitor while totally covered in years of his neighbors crap. We also watch how he and other children are exploited by "loving adult rescuers" who resort to torture to give these kids a so-called better life. While most kids his age grow up striving for high scores on video games, Jamal obsesses over other kids who were not able to get a better life like he did... not that his life was so spectacular.

There are many situations where this movie's harsh realism is like taking a punch to the gut. Overall however, it is one of the best movies I have seen in years, and hopefully the Academy will recognize this on Sunday Night. On a scale of 1 to 4 bladders meaning how less likely you would be to leave in the middle to go to the bathroom – Slumdog Millionaire is a 4 bladder movie!

Pumpy’s Oscar picks are in the podcast… here are mine.

Supporting Actress - Penelope Cruz
Supporting Actor – Heath Ledger.. but I really think that Robert Downey Jr.s amazing performance in Tropic Thunder would have made this race closer if Ledger was still alive.
Actress - Meryl Streep
Actor – Sean Penn
Director – Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire
Movie – Slumdog Millionaire… possibly the best movie since Schindlers List in ’94! (notwithstanding Superbad)

Now time for the videos!

A couple of weeks ago, we posted the Do A Dish video I did in college. I hope you got to see it because today Pumpy flexes his acting chops with our own version of… Do A Dish! (The original 1988 Do a Dish was taken down from You Tube temporarily… we will repost it here on NWOW upon its return)

And now with a special nod to the now defunct Shea Stadium… here is Pumpstradamus with his 2009 predictions!

Next Week: The movie club returns with “American Psycho”!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"Where Do You Get Your News?" Revisited

Back on March 21, 2006.... in the early days of this fine blog which today marks its 175th column, we did a column about different ways to get your news. Now, with all this fantastic technology, we have a lot of ways to get the latest news AND inform others about what is going on…. I thought it would be a good idea to revisit the entire concept by taking a look a Paul Harvey-esque look at news and comment, and also where we may or may not be getting it in 2009.

A Rod has been the biggest story on the news this past week. And it’s not a moment too late for Michael Phelps whose Olympic heroics took a little bit of a beating when some weisenheimer with a camera snapped a pic of him partaking in some marijuana related activities. Of course in the era of TMZ and Facebook, the pic found its way to the internet and now Phelps has been suspended for 3 months of non Olympic swimming activity that few people pay attention to… Worst of all Kellogg’s yanked away his endorsement deal.. And this just in to the NWOW Newsroom – The local dime bags sold in stores have now ended their affiliation with Tony the Tiger. You’ll have to find something else to make you feel Grrrrreat!.

As much as I like the Mets and don’t care much for the Yankees… I am just steroided out. All this talk about A-Rod not going to the Hall of Fame is a bunch of malarkey. Everybody watched Barry Bonds break Hank Aaron’s record and just used that bad guy Bonds milestone as a marker till the Good Guy A-Rod would take the record for himself and heal all of baseball’s problems. But, was it really A-Rod’s job to undo Bonds damage?

That scenario came to a crashing halt when the alleged stalker Selena Roberts broke the story… and made me realize that its time to cancel satellite radio and spend the subscription moola on MLB Network instead. And while there is definitely something morally wrong about steroids, players were not subjected to suspensions back then, and the test results were all to be kept secret. The fact that it was revealed actually is a crime by the health professionals who by law must keep this information confidential.

For one thing, I watch sports for escape-ism and I am getting tired of all these scandals. When I go to the movies, I go for the escape there too and I really don’t need to hear that the director and leading man didn’t get along and that 2 of the actors were hooking up during filming even though their spouses were at home. I just want to be entertained and not be distracted by all the craziness behind the scenes. If I want distractions, I'll watch Billy Walsh flip out while filming Medellin only to resurface on 24 as an alleged bad FBI agent when the bad agent is really Janene Garofalo's character.

Of course steroids enhance a player’s body to give the modern player an unfair edge that players in the olden days did not have. Modern athletes have a lot of “good” advantages too… such as advanced training techniques to heal injuries, Tommy John surgery, excellent medical advancements, and better medical technology that helps them heal much better than the players of decades ago. And while steroids makes baseball players stronger… how much does that strength really contribute? Were Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens mediocre players before they started taking the stuff? Obviously, the added strength gave them more homeruns and more strikeouts… but Bonds still had to hit the ball and Clemens needed to have accurate pitch location to get their desired results. Clemens, Bonds, A-Rod and all these other “cheaters” enhanced their stats… but even without any supplements, I get the feeling none of these guys woulda been playing for The Bad News Bears.

By the way a quick sports prediction that you will read here first to bridge the dog days between the end of football and the beginning of baseball..(Pitchers and catchers are thisclose!!)…. For the Final Four my Feb prediction is UConn, Oklahoma, Duke and North Carolina. And that is for the NCAA Men’s AND Women’s Tournaments!

Also in the news is the Sully New York Love Tour – I’m watching the hero pilot on Letterman right now.. and his amazing gentle crash into the icy Hudson is THE perfect example of how my news reading has changed in the interactive era of the internet. My Facebook friend Sue has a view of the Hudson from her window and suddenly updated her profile status that fateful day with the stunning announcement that she sees a plane in the River! From there, she started providing updates from an eyewitness perspective… and speculated on how many people must have been killed.

Luckily she was wrong, and journalistically, nobody would have said they were sure there were dead people… but Facebookers are not expected to be journalists so you need to take what you read there with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, it was confirmed shortly after that announcement that thankfully everybody got off that plane virtually unharmed.

The other day, Mayor Bloomberg gave the plane’s crew a key to the city… I am wondering if they might build a statue for Sully at La Guardia. But then again, wouldn’t that attract…. Birds?

The other big news story is Octo-Mom - This is the story that baffles me and I have gone back and forth on this. At first I was mortified that a single mother was going to try to raise 14 kids and use taxpayer money to do so. Then I did a 180 when I heard she won a $165,000 settlement after she was injured on the job. Okay, I thought… she has a six figure settlement, and with 14 kids to spend it on… it decreases the odds that her Palestinian father will send donations to Hamas. I wonder if DAS and his liberal fans are reading today’s column….

But again, I have changed my mind. I didn’t see Ann Curry’s Dateline NBC Tuesday night… but I read about the interview and it turns out this woman is collecting food stamps… which means the taxpayers are supporting her irresponsible decision…. because her six figure settlement went to pay for the fertility treatments. And you wonder, that if Curry got the exclusive for Dateline… is this going to be the beginning of regular vists with Octo-Mom and her Baker’s Dozen + 1? Every year Curry visits the McCaughey Septuplets and you can see how incredibly difficult it is for those parents with their septuplets. But Curry's chat was no lovefest... she lobbed some difficult questions towards Octo Mom expressing the general disgust that even the liberals have towards her. And you oughta see the letters to the editor in the LA papers!

I think Octo Mom needs to get herself a caffeine advertising campaign… perhaps a commercial for Folgers with its Yiddish “best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup”. (IN Yiddish cup = head) And to think it was such a big deal when New Jersey had the Kienast Quintuplets back in the 1970s!! Can you believe those 5 little pishers who were featured annually in the Star Ledger amazingly will turn 39 on Feb. 24th??

And speaking of the Ledger… this goes me to my next point.. WHERE we get the news. The internet has kicked the newspaper industry in the guts and even though the NY Papers seem to be doing ok… The Star Ledger has not. I grew up learning to read the comics in the Ledger and at this point, the comics are the only reason I still get the paper.

Budget cuts have killed the paper and now it is a shadow of its former self. The sports section used to be fantastic but they got rid of the beat writers for the Rangers and Knicks and over the last several months phased out their regular Sunday columnists who wrote excellent columns about Baseball, The NFL, NBA and NHL. Oddly enough, the paper kept a Tuesday Soccer column!

And while the paper’s price has gone up, the quality has gone down. Sections are being merged, and a week ago Monday, the Today section was condensed to 4 pages and stuck in the back of the Sports…. Last Monday it was back in its usual spot. It’s bad enough Parade is about to sink with the death of James Brady…. one less reason to get the Sunday paper….but there have been other changes too including the decision to cut out half the channels from the TV listings. Apparently a lot of people complained because they restored a number of channels a few days later. The paper has made a lot of other subtle editorial changes too over the last few months that most of us probably didn’t even notice.

Another issue with the Ledger is it has no internet identity. Its website is which it shares with other NJ papers. That’s not good enough in this day and age… every paper locally has its own website and the Ledger needs to do likewise so they can maintain a marketing platform to maintain an identity for its advertisers and readers. The only “Star Ledger” site I have seen was a site set up in December to add a Christmas tip for the paper boy. I went on that site several times before the holidays and it was always down!! Maybe it is time for them to break away from the other papers and create its own web presence, so it can continue to have a “Star Ledger-y” presence.
ADDENDUM: I just found out that the Ledger has cut all of its baseball writers and instead will be using baseball coverage from The Daily News baseball writers instead. (The Daily News will use the Ledger writers for The Devils and Nets). I guess it's too early to react to that change... although its great news if you like the Daily News reporters... but bad news for the News' circulation if that's the reason you buy the paper! But at least local baseball teams will continue to have reporters covering them for the Ledger.
But its not just the papers getting hammered…. The TV stations have gotten hit too. Channel 11’s owners filed for bankruptcy…. Channel 4 cans approximately 4 on air staffers each month including the very attractive Sunday anchor Carol Anne Riddell….and Channel 2 got rid of all of its regular sports casters except for Samantha Ryan who years go used to do updates for Joe Beningo on the overnights on WFAN. Then when you realize that Channel 2’s nightly anchormen Chris Wragge and Steve Bartelstein used to be sportscasters you start to see that the local sportscaster might be headed to oblivion. Channel 4 already has its sports reports sponsored by Verizon Fios which gets its own little song and lingo on screen.

Now I feel like I have reached a fork in the road.. I’m about to break up with my newspaper.. and I already have started reading the NY Post on Sundays… Now my loyalty to Channel 4 may be dwindling too… I’ve started watching some Channel 7 at 5pm… (on the rare occasions that I’m home at that time) and I’m watching Channels 2 and 7 on the weekends… even though Channel 4’s Saturday anchor Melissa Russo has been looking a lot better lately… Decisions Decisions.. where will I get my news??

When it comes to the future of newspapers and TV News… its all about the advertising money. In these crazy economic times, its very important for businesses to spend money on advertising especially in this tough economy. This is the perfect time for businesses to take the bull by the horns and ramp up their marketing and advertising. And that is why I really don’t understand why all these critics are complaining that Citi should remove their name from Citi Field even though the TARP bailout money is not paying for the stadium naming rights. In reality, if Citi spends money on stadium naming rights, … it is just going to create more awareness about Citi.. assuming we still have sportscasters and sports columnists. ….Ultimately, Citi Field will create more product awareness and bring in more business... and isn’t that what the bailout is all about??? To bring in more money!

I just wonder if a rain delay at the Mets new Stadium will mean that they will roll out the TARP...


I should have posted this last week. I think Lost and Heroes fans will get a kick out of this...