Daniel Carlson

About movies, mostly.

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Month: December 2009

I’m Completely Out Of Drinking References, So Just Make Up Your Own

This was a great little bar:
The New Guy Visits: Ernie’s on Banks

The Searchers

Here are the latest keyword searches that led people here. Some of them make sense. Some of them, I don’t know what to say.
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Review: It’s Complicated

Spoiler alert: It’s not that good.
Click here for the review.

“Life Day” Was Your Dad’s “Midichlorians”

Over at the Houston Press’ Hair Balls blog (no, I don’t know why they call it that), I take a moment to reflect on the best and worst Christmas specials ever made. Feel free to berate me for any glaring omissions.
The Best and Worst Christmas Specials of All Time

Now’s As Good As Any To Start Drinking

In which I deal with skeevy guys, a moonlighting stripper, and the racism of born of white liberal guilt:
The New Guy Visits: Buffalo Fred’s Ice House

Funny How? I Mean, Funny Like A Clown? I Amuse You?

Over at Pajiba, we continue our countdown of the best movies of the decade within certain genres; later this week, we’ll unveil our overall top 10. This time, it’s my turn, with The Ten Best Comedies of the Aughts.

You Can’t Yell Out “I Need This, I Need This” As You Pin Down An Employee On Your Lap

Maybe not as great as “Christmas Party,” but still pretty good.
“The Office” 6×13: “Secret Santa”

Nobody Liked My “Absinthe Makes The Heart Grow Fonder” Joke

Ugh. This was my first time drinking absinthe, and my last. Nice place, though:
The New Guy Visits: Absinthe Brasserie

You Get What You Need

A great wrap for the first 13 episodes, and a packed set-up for the rest of the season. I’m already looking forward to the show’s return in April.
“Glee” 1×13: “Sectionals”

Incidentally, this is how bad the crop is with the local Fox affiliate. The show’s masked in widescreen so people like me, with old-school tube TVs, can see the whole thing. But the Fox network here broadcasts it in full-frame. You can actually see it snap from widescreen to full-frame at the beginning of the episode, so the sides of the picture are cut off. Every week. It happens with other shows, too, but I don’t watch Fox that often. This is annoying, and I know that I’m probably one of the few who notice it, but I don’t like having to watch a show where people have conversations with characters who have been cut almost entirely out of the frame. I guess I’ll have to wait until I get the DVDs to really experience the show. Thanks, Fox 26, for sucking so consistently:

Review: Brothers

Decent little melodrama.
Click here for the review.

Buy Me A Drink, Sing Me A Song, Take Me As I Come ‘Cause I Can’t Stay Long

My latest bar excursion for 29-95 took me to a great little dive that’s sadly closing soon:
The New Guy Visits: Roll-N Saloon

Things Can Get Real Adult Real Fast

This week’s “The Office” was one of those episodes you don’t enjoy, you just try and survive. I barely did:
“The Office” 6×11: “Scott’s Tots”

Even Though It’s Breaking

Finally! Tons of plot and action, and one of the best musical numbers in weeks:
“Glee” 1×12: “Mattress”

Watching Grammar: “The West Wing: In the Shadow of Two Gunmen”

[I have no idea how many posts I’ll do in this series, or how often I’ll write one, but I just couldn’t resist creating it.]
I love movies and TV. I have a pretty healthy respect for language. I don’t think those two should be mutually exclusive. From time to time, though, I notice weird grammatical quirks that I can’t ignore.
“In the Shadow of Two Gunmen” is the two-hour opener of the second season of “The West Wing,” and as I’ve said, it’s a wonderful episode. There’s a scene in the second half where Josh is waiting in the airport to fly home for his father’s funeral when Jed Bartlet, still just a presidential contender, shows up to comfort him. It’s a moving scene, but there’s a moment that always jars me:

You want me to go with you?
Go with me?
Maybe you want some company on the plane. I could get a ticket and come with you.
Governor! California. You have to go the ballroom and give a victory speech in primetime and go to California.
I guess you’re right.
[laughing] You guess I’m right? Listen to me, Governor, if you don’t lose this election, it isn’t going to be because you didn’t try hard enough. But it was nice of you to ask. Thank you.

The emphasis is mine. Creator Aaron Sorkin is a gifted writer, but he’s no stranger to grammatical slip-ups that masquerade as teachable moments. (Josh’s lecture about the proper use of “an historical” instead of “a historical,” which is actually kind of wrong, comes to mind.) I don’t wanna get into double negatives and litotes; I just think we should untangle the sentence to see what it actually says.
First, let’s just flip the negative in the first half and see what happens. The new sentence would be, “If you lose this election, it isn’t going to be because you didn’t try hard enough.” The joking implication here would be that if Bartlet loses, he’ll have to share some of the blame. No one will be able to accuse him of not trying hard to lose; this is what Josh would be saying if this were his dialogue. This meaning seems to fit with the tone of the scene and Josh’s gentle admonition to Bartlet, who is on the verge of flaking out on his acceptance speech just to see Josh off at the airport. This new sentence would have Josh jokingly telling Bartlet that Bartlet’s doing a solid job at throwing the game, and that if he loses the election, well, it won’t be because he didn’t try, meaning it will partially be because he did try.
But that’s not what Sorkin wrote. He wrote, “If you don’t lose this election, it isn’t going to be because you didn’t try hard enough.” (Again, emphasis mine.) That reverses the meaning of the first half of the sentence, making it in effect: “If you win this election, it isn’t going to be because you didn’t try hard enough.” Which would make sense from an electoral perspective, I guess — if Bartlet wins, it will indeed be in part because of the effort he put forth — but it’s not at all the meaning Josh and Sorkin need. Josh is kindly telling the president to get it together, that his behavior runs the risk of losing the election. Bartlet’s appearance at the airport has Josh half-worried that Bartlet will blow the acceptance speech and the nomination; it wouldn’t make sense for him to weirdly commend Bartlet on his work so far in a convoluted way.
The sentence, as written and spoken, is wrong. For it to make grammatical sense, and for it to click with the tone of the episode and scene, it should be: “If you lose this election, it isn’t going to be because you didn’t try hard enough.” Oh well.