The “How I Met Your Mother” Finale

It should really go without saying but there are spoilers for the “How I Met Your Mother” finale here.

So here’s the story of “How I Met Your Mother.” It was a good show, then it was a very good show, then it was a decent show that used to be good and still occasionally had its moments, then it was a fairly average show with moments, sure, but they were few and far between and then, finally, it was a pretty mediocre show building toward a finale that had to get a few very specific things right and otherwise avoid doing a few very specific things wrong.

It didn’t work in the end. The final twist foreshadowed a month earlier and the twist that followed that were massive, desultory failures, missteps preordained without care or consideration for what was to come between plan and execution and the kinds of things that are likely to forever skew how some audience members will remember the show.

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New trailer for “Godzilla”

A lot of remakes and reboots are seemingly made for some alternate universe, a timespace filled with people who have no interest in what made the original “RoboCop” so good, people who don’t care about the themes or the underlying subtext and just want to see a shiny robotic police officer throwing around bad guys. These films are moot. They are unnecessary, rendered obsolete before they even exist, offering nothing more than a brief diversion and a chance to be reminded of a better, more worthwhile outing.

Yet sometimes these remakes or reboots are worthwhile endeavors. Sometimes you wind up with a “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” a movie that should have been bad and could have been bad and shoulda/coulda checked off every box on the Lazy Blockbuster Remake list, but instead the director and the writers and the actors and the special effects people made something better, truer, more humane and deeply felt, something that honored the original in its way but was mostly a fully-realized story about a fully-drawn character told in a wonderfully clear, fulfilling way.

All of which comes to mind when watching the trailer for “Godzilla,”  another movie starring the oversized nuclear-boosted lizard, yet also a movie that looks like it builds actual tension and story and characters; a blockbuster movie that follows and evokes the cheesy monster-fight movies some of us watched as kids (or, more horrifyingly, a terrible remake starring Matthew Broderick), yet also a blockbuster movie that stars Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Straitharn and Elizabeth Olsen (with the involvement of these people earning this movie a hefty dose of trust before we even saw Frame One). A movie, in other words, rather than a movie-shaped mechanism that exists only to squeeze a few dollars out of a preexisting concept or name. The new “Godzilla” looks like an actual movie, which it doesn’t actually need to be, and which makes its tangible promise all the more remarkable:

The Oscar nominations are here

Eight quick thoughts about today’s Oscar nominations:

The Best Picture Lineup Is What We Expected (Plus “Philomena”)

A person could have made a reasonable case for any of this year’s nine Best Picture nominees. You have your frontrunners (“American Hustle,” “12 Years a Slave”), your high-quality runners-up (“Gravity,” “Her,” “Nebraska”), your prestige film from an acclaimed filmmaker (“Captain Phillips,” “The Wolf of Wall Street”), your wild card powered by widely-acclaimed acting performances (“Dallas Buyers Club”) and…apparently, another one of those in “Philomena.” The last two are fairly similar in those regards, even if they are wildly different movies. For “Dallas Buyers Club,” we now have a Best Picture nominee starring Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner and Jared Leto, because it’s 2014 and nothing has to make sense. “Philomena” has some prestige behind it — Judi Dench’s sneezes are award-worthy, while director Stephen Frears was also nominated for “The Grifters” and “The Queen.” But it was co-written and produced by Steve Coogan. Steve Coogan! Alan Partridge has two Oscar nominations now! Continue reading


I mean, I get the actual why, I understand that there are very likely people involved who want to tell this story, I can grok the basic desire to perhaps bring this book to life, I can comprehend the fact that individuals involved in this project are perhaps fans of the author in question, I acknowledge that Jason Segel is an actor people will pay money to watch as he acts in things, I can even wrap my head around the fact that it’s just a movie and does nothing to alter the things that have been written by (or about) the author in question and so being even remotely miffed about it is an unnecessary indulgence. Still, I will read that Jason Segel will play David Foster Wallace (in a movie based on David Lipsky’s book “Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself“) and I will return only to wondering why.

Beloved People To Host Show

You can watch the Golden Globes with a slightly less all-encompassing feeling of emptiness for the next two years, because Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will host the show in 2014 and 2015. In case you forgot, because maybe you watched the Golden Globes and within minutes of the show every single detail had slipped your mind, but they hosted this year’s ceremony and were predictably great.

This has been your annual “Who is hosting the next Golden Globes?” update (note: this feature will be discontinued next year, probably).

The Annotated “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold”

Q: Not that there’s a great place to ask this, but what did Sinatra smell like? This is the sort of detail that rarely ends up in a profile.

A: I don’t know. I didn’t write about it and I didn’t think about it.

Gay Talese’s “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” is accurately considered one of the greatest celebrity profiles ever written as well as a sterling example of literary journalism. Elon Green went through the story with Talese for Nieman Storyboard, finding out a lot of interesting tidbits about how Talese wrote the thing.

There are some really good Talese quotes, like this one: “I never thought it was new journalism. It was writing short stories with real names. But it’s not very interesting to put it that way.” And this: “It’s nonfiction. It’s fact-reporting. It’s beautiful.” And there’s great stuff about how Talese felt about Sinatra (a controlling guy, but understandably so, says Talese), how he picked the Sinatra songs to quote, where he got certain information and all sorts of other angles.

I highly recommend reading it.

And, just in case you missed it, Green and Sebastian Junger annotated “The Storm” over the summer. It was also pretty great.

The NFL spent decades campaigning against scientific research

League of Denial,” a new book written by ESPN investigative reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru, says the league “conducted a two-decade campaign to deny a growing body of scientific research that showed a link between playing football and brain damage.”

Here’s Don Van Natta Jr.’s summary of the book:

The book, “League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth,” reports that the NFL used its power and resources to discredit independent scientists and their work; that the league cited research data that minimized the dangers of concussions while emphasizing the league’s own flawed research; and that league executives employed an aggressive public relations strategy designed to keep the public unaware of what league executives really knew about the effects of playing the game

The book shares its title with a Frontline documentary premiering next week. ESPN was supposed to collaborate with Frontline on the documentary, but about six weeks ago the sports behemoth abruptly dropped out of the project.

That came a week after four NFL and ESPN muckety-mucks, including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and ESPN president John Skipper, attended a lunch where the NFL made clear its displeasure with the documentary. ESPN pays the NFL $1.9 billion a year for the rights to “Monday Night Football,” among other things.

The league reached a settlement in August with former players suing over concussions (the lawsuits had accused the league of hiding the known risks of concussions). The settlement was worth $765 million, or about $170,000 per player; the NFL made more than $9 billion in profit last year.

You can read excerpts from “League of Denial” at ESPN and Sports Illustrated. The documentary premieres on Tuesday, Oct. 8, at 9 p.m.