Roger Federer and the Athletes Who Completely Redefined Sports Records

In 2002, Pete Sampras won the US Open and promptly retired from tennis. It made sense. He had failed to reach the quarters in the other Grand Slam tournaments that year, had just turned 31, and had won 14 majors in singles—two more than any male tennis player ever. Surely he could sit back and know his record was secure for a generation or so.

Enter Roger Federer. Exit Sampras legacy.

Federer won his first major in 2003. By 2009, he’d reached 15. With his five-set victory at the Australian Open, King Fed now stands at 20… and at age 36, he shows no signs of stopping. In honor of the endless journey of the Federer Express, here are other athletes who took it to the limit and just kept rolling.

Babe Ruth

Record Before Ruth: 138 Career Home Runs (by Roger Connor)

Ruth’s Final Total: 714. (Broke the mark in 1921 and played until 1935.)

Main Reason for the Revolution: Crushed the conventional wisdom. “The long swingers with their terrible haymakers seldom get the money nowadays,” Hall of Famer Ty Cobb declared. “I stick to the sure system of just meeting the ball with a half-way grip.” He then watched as the Bambino became the highest paid player in the game and won seven World Series to Cobb’s zero.

Don Hutson

Record Before Hutson: 61 Career Receptions (by Dale Burnett)

Hutson’s Final Total: 488. (Broke the record in 1937 and played until 1945.)

Main Reason for the Revolution: Convinced his team to throw the damn ball. Hutson’s career comes with two big qualifiers: he played not only when the NFL was segregated, but mostly while WWII further diluted the talent pool. That doesn’t change the fact this Green Bay icon led the league in 1942 with 1,211 yards, 17 receiving touchdowns, and 74 catches. In each category, he generated more than the next two receivers combined as teams began to recognize maybe there was something to be said for passing. Winner of three NFL championships during his career, the “Alabama Antelope” was in many ways the Babe Ruth of football: he proved the sport’s future lay in going long.

Jack Nicklaus

Record Before Nicklaus: 11 career majors (by Walter Hagen)

Nicklaus’ Final Total: 18. (Broke the mark in 1973 and won the final major in 1986.)

Main Reason for the Revolution: Money. Quite simply, there was more of it. In 1930, Bobby Jones won the U.S. Open and collected $1,000 (a bit over $14,000 today). In what was not a coincidence, Jones retired that same year to become a lawyer at just 28. When Arnold Palmer won in 1960, he earned $14,400 (well over $100,000 today). The money’s only increased since then, with a prize in 2017 of $2.16 million. The result was Nicklaus could not only make a comfortable living golfing but build his career specifically around majors. (From 1970 on, he played in less than 20 PGA events a year.)

Wayne Gretzky

Record Before Gretzky: 1,850 career NHL points/2,358 if World Hockey Association stats included (by Gordie Howe)

Gretzky’s Final Total: 2,857/2,967 with WHA stats. (Broke the mark in 1989 and retired in 1999.)

Main Reason for the Revolution: He simply was the Great One. Gordie Howe is a genuinely mythic figure. He played pro hockey for an astounding 32 seasons, a career so epic that in his WHA days he was on a team with his two adult sons in a league where the MVP trophy was named after him. He was also absurdly tough—the Howe hat trick celebrates a player scoring a goal, getting an assist, and having a fight. Then comes along Wayne, a spindly 6′, 185-pounder, and he does things no one has before or since. Even allowing for playing with the Oilers when they had a frightening amount of talent (including Mark Messier), Gretzky’s numbers read more like typos than a career by a human. Gretzky remains the only person to reach 2,000 points in the NHL—if you cut his career total in half, he would still be in the all-time Top 20. (Do that with the NBA’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and he plummets out of the Top 50.) No one knows quite how this happened, but Edmonton will be forever grateful it did.

Jerry Rice

Record Before Rice: 126 Career Touchdowns (by Jim Brown)

Rice’s Final Total: 207 Touchdowns. (Broke the record in 1994 and played until 2004.)

Main Reason for the Revolution: Did the work. Rice has 33 more touchdowns than the next player on the list (running back Emmitt Smith) and 51 more than the next receiver (Randy Moss). Moss was bigger than Rice (6’4″ and 210 to 6’2″ and 200) and faster (4.25 seconds in the 40 to 4.59 for Rice), plus he played in a more pass-happy era. So why is Rice on the mountaintop? For one, he literally ran up it each day—his training included a daily 2.5-mile uphill run. For another, he mastered tricks other receivers wouldn’t even think to attempt. When I interviewed former All-Pro corner Darrelle Revis, he said every receiver had a tell: they do something that tips you off the ball is about to arrive. Everyone, that is, except Jerry Rice, who somehow trained it out of himself. (Revis had no idea how Rice did this.) And that’s why Hutson was way ahead of his time as a receiver, but Rice seems destined to remain far in front of the NFL forever.

Roger Federer

Record Before Roger: 14 (by Pete Sampras)

Current Total: 20 and counting. (Broke it in 2009 and who knows when this party’s gonna stop?)

Main Reason for the Revolution: Health. Federer has a lot of Grand Slam-related records. Most Wins: 20. Most Finals: 30. Most Consecutive Finals: 10. Most Semifinals: 43. Most Consecutive Semifinals: 23. Most… it goes on like this for awhile. It’s easy to forget his marks include most consecutive Grand Slam appearances (65) and most total Grand Slam appearances (72). And he’s done this as his four biggest rivals fell to pieces: Nadal had to retire mid-match at the Aussie Open, Djokovic struggles with his elbow, Wawrinka battles with his knee, Murray isn’t playing at all. Despite being by far the oldest of the group, there’s only been one serious injury during his career and that didn’t come on the court, but while preparing a bath for his children. (To the rest of tennis: if Federer ever decides to let his kids go dirty, watch out.)

And so the Federer Express keeps rolling, knocking down all challenges to his greatness, even if they’re just theoretical. (Most recently, Fed’s 20th topped Rod Laver’s 19 “majors”: 11 Grand Slams plus another eight of the “Pro” events that existed before the Open Era began in 1968.) Below, witness a shot that would be absurd if attempted while goofing around in practice—naturally, Federer pulls it off at the US Open against Novak Djokovic.

Inside the Hottest Grammys Party

The party doesn’t start until Queen Bey and Jay-Z walk in. Jay-Z is literally on top of the world this week as the leading Grammy nominee. On Saturday, he hosted his annual Roc Nation brunch on the top of the World Trade Center. In the evening, he accepted a Music Industry Icons honor award at the Clive Davis pre-Grammy gala at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel. And at night, the power couple made an appearance at a Catch Roof party, making it one of the hottest parties of the year.

There was no harder door in New York City on Saturday night than at Catch Roof where Diddy was hosting a party. A crowd of fans, party-goers, frequent attendees and promoters of the club were standing outside for hours, hoping to get in.

But the night was reserved only for the luckiest. Catch is a known downtown destination for New Yorkers—a seafood restaurant penthouse that transforms into a nightclub after hours. Compared to other clubs, it’s a pretty small venue—only 3,000-square-feet. The stars filled the house at capacity, so there was no chance for mortals to get in. Such a small space poses a lot of fire hazard threats and the guests were lucky to get out without their hair catching fire from the candles—as has happened to women before on a regular night out.

From the Clive Davis gala, Queen Bey arrived wearing a spectacular, custom-made, long, black Azzi & Osta Couture House black dress and a chic black leather beret, making a fashion statement to remember. The couple arrived at the club accompanied by Mark Birnbaum and Eugene Remm—Catch owners and EMM Group co-founders, once dubbed by Forbes as “New Kings of New York Nightlife.”

Other crème de la crème celebs were spotted at the club, including Diddy’s girlfriend Cassie, Mariah Carey, French Montana, LaLa, Jonathan Cheban, T.I. and many more.

Oceana Luna, a model, said that she’s never been in the same room with so many big-name celebrities before. “Mariah walked right past me and smiled at my friends, and that was something that doesn’t happen every day,” she said.

A guest Jared Goldstein hung out with his wife Rosalind and Kim Kardashian’s BFF Jonathan Cheban. The highlight of the night for Goldstein was unexpectedly running into Diddy coming out from the elevator. “The doors opened and there he was. A pleasant surprise!” he said.

Where did everyone go for an after-party? 1 Oak, obviously.

Mystery Swirls for David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson Over ‘The X-Files’ Future

They want to believe that that the The X-Files can beyond this season after Gillian Anderson’s Special Agent Dana Scully leaves, but the show’s stars admit what comes next is one big mystery.

That fits the premise of the iconic series The X-files of course, and while the search for truth is the very foundation of the entire narrative of the show, the series stars sounded very enigmatic during during a recent set visit by RealClearLife.

Sitting on the FOX lot, the duo that made the series must-watch TV— Anderson and David Duchovny, who played Special Agent Fox Mulder— appeared ready to give some intel on this season of the show…when a surprise plot twist emerged.

Clouding this event was a development in a recently aired episode of the series, one that had Anderson confirming that she wouldn’t return for any future X-Files seasons.

“(Last year’s six-episode season) was dipping our toe back in again and getting to play these wonderful characters again, and I think that that short stack of episodes kind of felt like we were learning how to walk again,” said Anderson. “This (10-episode) season often feels like the pace is up and we are running.”

Anderson elaborated on her decision to forego returning as her character after this season, saying, “I thought that the previous six was going to be it, but that didn’t feel like the right way to end it. It didn’t feel like I would necessarily have been happy if (that) how we said goodbye. Another season sounded more like a good ending to me. So, when I was asked to do another season, I agreed to do another season.”

Any conspiracy theories that she may yet return must be debunked. “It never occurred to me, nor was it discussed or suggested, that it was now a new series,” said Anderson. “So, I said, ‘Yes, I will do this,’ but in my mind, it had always been that it would just be one season.”

Anderson revealed that it’s her drive to do other things that cemented her decision to move on. “It’s been an extraordinary opportunity and an extraordinary character, but there’s lots of other stuff I want to do,” she said, “and I don’t really want to be tied down to months and months of doing any particular one thing that I feel like I’ve done. That’s why.”

But, she wasn’t quite finished as she added, “I like to do many, many different characters, and that’s why I got into the business. I’ve done this now for decades, and it’s time for me to hang up Scully’s hat. It just is.”

When it was suggested that Scully could come back in, say, ten years, the actress said emphatically, “No. No. This is it for me. I’m really serious. I have so much respect for Scully, and I have respect for David, and it’s really sad, but I’m finished, and that’s the end of that.”

As open as Anderson is about her future, Duchovny is being as secretive as the Cigarette-Smoking Man, when it comes to a possible future for The X-Files without his partner. “I will say this and I mean this in all honesty that The X Files is a frame,” said Duchovny. “It’s a show. It happens to have these three actors in it that people have become attached to, but I believe that [the show] as a frame is completely legitimate in any form. So, whether it can go on, who knows.”

Then it was Anderson’s turn to stammer a bit, as she tried to answer an inquiry about whether she was happy with how this season, and possibly the entire series, is wrapping up. She took a lengthy pause before answering: “That is a good question. I’m not quite sure how to answer that question. Good question. Let’s say I’ll think about it.”

The producers did reveal that this season contains an episode that only has approximately 15 or 20 lines of dialogue in the entire hour. On that subject, Anderson had plenty to say. “It’s really interesting, as an actor, to work on something that has no dialogue because you don’t want to end up, like, miming what you would say were you to have dialogue,” she explained, “and so it really was a fascinating challenge to not end up just being Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton in the way that we were communicating to each other.”

Duchovny added, “I think it’s one of our more special episodes that we’ve done in a long time.”

If this truly is the end of the series, it’s also the end of two of the most identifiable characters and one of the most enduring pairings in television history.

“I feel like my relationship to Scully and (Mulder and Scully) has changed so much year after year after year. At the beginning, I had no idea what to expect,” said Anderson. “It was all such a big whirlwind. We became as popular as we became, and it was intense for a period of time. I feel like I every time I’m asked to reflect, I have a completely different and new perspective on what it was and what it meant and a new understanding of what it might have meant for other people.

“This year, I feel like for the first time I truly understood how special and unique the dynamic was between Mulder and Scully.

“It’s taken me a while,” she added with some sarcasm, getting a laugh from the assembled journalists.

“I feel like I’ve developed a whole new appreciation for the uniqueness of what people always ask me about and referred to, (by saying) ‘You (two have) chemistry.’ It’s special.”

Duchovny tends not to think too deeply about the nuts and bolts of what makes the show and their on-screen relationship tick. “It’s just not in my nature,” he said. “I’ve always felt from the beginning, (that) there’s looking at it as a viewer and then there’s the making of it. I keep those two things very distinct because if I start to think of myself as iconic then, I’m f–ed. Then, my performance is s—.”

Legacy and history are subjects for another time.

For now they are both enjoying the moment. “I’m so grateful. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to play somebody as extraordinary, as iconic a character, as Scully,” said  Anderson, “to be in this duo is a very special thing, indeed.”

For his thoughts on that matter, Duchovny said, “I’m good. either way. I’m good, with this being the end. I’m good with it not being the end. I can’t see the future.”

And that’s the truth. Nothing cryptic about it.

‘The X-Files’ airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on FOX.

What to Watch This Weekend: ‘A Simple Plan’

Welcome to Watch This Weekend, where every Friday, Darian Lusk, comedian and writer living large in Brooklyn—will gently recommend something to stream, play or listen to. Follow him on Twitter @eatpraylusk to send suggestions for future installments.

What would you do if you found a duffle bag in the middle of the woods filled with money?

This may sound like a hypothetical question posed by your freshman year philosophy professor, or by Chidi in The Good Place, but it is the premise of a masterful 1998 Sam Raimi film you should watch this weekend.

A Simple Plan, now streaming on Amazon Video, centers on Minnesota family man Hank Mitchell (Bill Paxton), his unemployed, slightly dense brother Jacob (peak 90s Billy Bob Thornton), and their loose cannon, equally dense drinking buddy, Lou. Together on one snowy, quiet night, the trio stumbles upon a crashed plane with a dead pilot and $4 million in Benjamins. It’s definitely not too good to be true.

Jacob and Lou argue that it’s probably drug money anyway. Who could be looking for it? “You work for the American Dream–you don’t steal it,” Hank tells them. Unlike his blue collar counterparts, he is college-educated — and a little holier-than-thou — living by his father’s traditional, white-picket-fence formula for happiness. But even he knows this mantra is more of a bumper sticker than an answer. All of them have lived in the same rural town, on the same track their whole lives. How could they resist?

For Jacob, a lonely, buck-toothed, 38-year-old—Thornton is so great in this, especially in one confrontational, table-turning scene— the duffel bag represents fulfilling his pipe dream of restoring the family farm he and Hank grew up on. It also signifies a way for him to find a wife and maybe even get a first kiss (I mean, give the poor guy a break). Lou sees a future of not owing people money and being able to go hunting/be the loudest guy in the bar in peace. For Hank’s child-carrying wife Sarah, who is roped in right away and let’s just say is very “down to clown” (Bridget Fonda, whose performance I’d describe as “70 percent bangs”), it would mean not having to clip coupons or work at the town library anymore. However, if the crows lurking above them in the snowy woods (it’s kind of an obvious metaphor) represent anything, it’s that evil will take hold.

Sam Raimi (pre-Spiderman, post-Evil Dead) offers uncharacteristically subtle, tasteful direction that is so gently well done that you don’t even notice him — in a great way. His hand gestures to the endless minutiae that is living in a small town where nothing changes, where a fresh coat of snow can absolve a person of their sins. If only temporarily.

That Raimi is an occasional writing partner to the Coen Brothers shines through. There’s lost money, winter, heck — even Billy Bob is in the Fargo universe. It’s a well-made, slept-on film in a year of great films that will pleasantly surprise you. Unless you were expecting a biopic about the band Simple Plan and Tom DeLonge’s alleged contact with aliens. That film, I will make.

What makes the performances in A Simple Plan so good is that these actors are given space to act. Scenes often stretch longer than you expect, with scene-stealing monologues — two by Thornton and one by Fonda —reaching uncomfortable lengths. At the center is the brothers’ relationship: Jacob clearly resents his brother for being not just educated, but well-adjusted and happy. Meanwhile, it feels like the world has forgotten about Jacob. As Hank, Paxton leads the way, frantically trying to contain his frustratingly dumb partners in crime and just keeping a lid on a boiling pot. But it’s Thornton that makes the movie.

As their plans start to unravel, tragically, so does the concept of the American Dream. Was it ever really attainable through this money? Was it ever attainable without it? Raimi portrays these disillusioned, vulnerable, perpetually stuck blue-collar characters expertly. They’ve been failed by this promise. And they are desperate. Is there a loose connection to be made to the events of 2016? Who’s to say? Let’s just enjoy the movie.

Other great things to watch this weekend:

Netflix: A Futile and Stupid Gesture (Added Jan. 26)

You’ve seen a lot of National Lampoon movies, but there’s never been a movie about National Lampoon. This David Wain biopic depicts the hilarious rise of the anarchist Harvard publication with great performances from Will Forte and Domhnall Gleeson cosplaying as Howard Stern (yes!).

HBO: High Maintenance Season 2 (Added Jan. 19)

This comedic web series-turned HBO series about a bicycling drug dealer in New York City began its second season last week. The premiere episode, “Globo,” is a stirring, excellent portrayal of how different people handle an unspecified national tragedy. It sets the bar ambitiously, well, high for this season!

Meet the ‘Typical’ Special Operations Warrior

If some older movies and video games were to be our guide, every special operations fighter in the U.S. military is some shade of a stoic badass who thinks only of the mission and maybe some more deadlifts later.

Of course, the reality is much different, and a fact sheet released by U.S. Special Operations Command reflects that idea by painting a picture of the “typical” special operator. Less Arnold Schwarzenegger, more guy down the street.

According to USSOCOM’s 2018 Factbook, the “typical” special operator…

– Is 29 years old if enlisted, and 34 if an officer

– Is married and has two kids

– Has eight years experience in general purpose forces before joining a special unit

– Has received cultural and language training in addition to having attended “multiple advanced tactical schools”

– Is a former athlete and likely to have a college degree

– “Enjoys games which require problem-solving like chess”

Some other interesting tidbits from the factbook:

– The U.S. Army has the largest special operations force of the military branches, with approximately 33,000 soldiers spread across units from the Special Forces (popularly known as Green Berets) to Rangers to intelligence and support units.

– The Marines have the smallest special operations force, with “nearly 3,000” operators and support staff.

– When it comes to special ops, the U.S. is joined at the hip with the South Korean military. According to the fact book, American Special Operations Command – Korea (SOCKOR) is the “only theater [Special Operations Command] in which U.S. and host nation [special operations forces] are institutionally organized for combined operations.” “If the armistice fails, SOCKOR and [South Korean special operations forces] will combine to establish the Combined Special Operations Component Command Korea (CSOCC-K) under the Combined Forces Command,” it says.

– Special Operations Command – Pacific (SOCPAC) boasts an “area of focus” that “encompasses half of the earth’s surface.” Its mission is to “provide flexible response to contingencies in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. Integral to this capability is our forward-deployed posture and continuous engagement with partners and ally forces, heightening mutual interoperability and our regional expertise.”

Lee Ferran is an Emmy Award-winning investigative journalist and the founder of Code and Dagger, a foreign affairs and national security news website.

Is the Pro Bowl the NFL’s Canary in the Coal Mine?

NFL fans get used to the routine of watching football each Sunday. This makes the completion of the AFC and NFC Championships a little bittersweet: there are no games for two weeks until the Super Bowl.

Or, worse, there’s a Pro Bowl.

Yes, since 2010, what was once an off week now features the NFL’s answer to the All-Star Game. But the numbers don’t lie: this is still when America takes a break from football. In 2017, 46 million viewers watched the NFC Championship and 47.95 watched the AFC title game, while 111.3 million watched the Super Bowl.

Just 7.4 million people tuned in for the 2017 Pro Bowl.

What’s ominous for the NFL is how swiftly the Pro Bowl’s viewership has shrunk. In 2011, 13.4 million people watched. That audience has fallen the last six seasons, totaling a 44 percent plummet. (The NFL as a whole has only been in decline for two seasons: TV ratings dropped 8 percent in 2016 and another 9.7 percent this past season.)

This is how the NFL wound up with the modern Pro Bowl, which attempts to bring together football’s best yet somehow created the worst game possible.

1933: American All-Star Games Begin. While there had been one-off events, baseball was the trailblazer in establishing an ongoing All-Star event. America’s Pastime acted largely out of desperation: both attendance and salaries were plummeting. (This was in the midst of the Great Depression.) The first midseason All-Star Game was essentially an attempt to stop the bleeding. It did the trick. Since the American and National League kept their players separate unless they met in the World Series, there was genuine excitement over a chance to see Lou Gehrig take on screwballer “King Carl” Hubbell. And as he did so often, Babe Ruth rose to the occasion as theatrically as possible by clubbing the first home run in All-Star history.

Indeed, baseball embraced the All-Star Game so fully that from 1959-1962 they inexplicably held two of them each season. (This was determined by everyone to be too much of a good thing and abandoned.)

The NFL quickly got in on the act, albeit with a twist.

1934: Bring on the Kids. This year saw the creation of the College All-Star Football Classic. It pitted the defending NFL champs against a team assembled from top college players who presumably would go on to play in the NFL themselves. (Not all did: 1935 participant Gerald Ford left the gridiron and had to settle for the U.S. presidency.) While the Pro Bowl would come to be a postseason event associated with Hawaii and other warm weather climates, this was a preseason game in Chicago. It proved a massive draw, sometimes luring in over 100,000 attendees.

The NFL became increasingly dominant over the decades, winning the last 12 games. Which made sense. After all, the pros were grown men who were used to playing as a title-winning team, while the College All-Stars had just been thrown together. Yet miracles did happen, as Vince Lombardi’s Packers dropped a game to the youngsters 20-17 in 1963. (Green Bay got revenge by winning the games from 1965-67 by a combined 99-17.)

While the NFL team clearly had the edge, they also had a world of pressure. Lose a normal preseason game and no one cares: lose this one and you let down the rest of the league. Beyond this, NFL players tend to regard the preseason as a chance to get in shape for the games that matter. (Even the ruthless Hall of Fame Steeler defensive tackle “Mean” Joe Greene—who once kicked Hall of Fame Raider center Jim Otto directly in the groin—would remind opponents that the preseason was the time to protect each other’s knees.) The college kids, however, saw this as a chance to show pro teams what they could do.

Ultimately, it was decided the game no longer made sense. The last edition came in 1976. It was a memorable finale, though not in a way the NFL would have liked. Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain had smothered the College All-Stars 24-0 in the third quarter. Could the All-Stars manage a comeback in the fourth? We’ll never know, because a thunderstorm struck and fans responded by rushing the field and ripping down a goal post, ending the game and the series. Really. (About four minutes in, the video below gets weird.)

 

But by this point, another NFL tradition had been established and stays with us to the day. It’s (somewhat) more palatable to players, less so to those expected to watch.

1951: Bring on the Bowl. There’d been earlier attempts, but this was the first time it stuck. The American Conference All-Stars beat the National Conference All-Stars 28-27, with future Hall of Fame QB Otto Graham the MVP. And yes, this does make the Pro Bowl a significantly older football tradition than the Super Bowl, which didn’t begin until 1967. (1951 was a big season for the NFL in general—it was the first time the NFL Championship was televised across the nation, thanks to the DuMont Network.)

Quickly, two things became clear:

Football’s Truly a Team Game. The NFL’s violence can overshadow the fact that—when played at its best—it’s a chance to see 11 players function as a single entity, adapting and adjusting to account for the 11 players on the other side. This isn’t a happy accident: it takes a lot of practice and sheer repetition to make the pieces fit together. Each Pro Bowl team features 44 players. They begin practicing on Wednesday January 24 for a game that happens on Sunday January 28, meaning they have days to achieve what normally requires months.

The result is play that is often less sublime than silly, as even the NFL appears to acknowledge.

No One Wants to Get Hurt During an Exhibition. While football doesn’t have a moment as notorious as Pete Rose colliding into Ray Fosse at the 1970 All-Star Game, there may be one more tragic. Robert Edwards lived the ultimate nightmare scenario for a player. Having rushed for 1,115 yards as a rookie for the Patriots, he blew out his knee at the 1999 Pro Bowl. Wait, it gets worse—this happened before the actual Pro Bowl. Edwards participated in a beach four-on-four flag football game and tore his ACL, MCL, and PCL. He didn’t return to the NFL until 2002 for what proved to be his final season.

Was what happened to Edwards a fluke? Absolutely. But fluke injuries happen in football—every time you step on the field there’s risk. (Even celebrating can be dangerous.)

 

Cincinnati’s Tyler Eifert experienced a less devastating setback during the 2016 Pro Bowl when his ankle required surgery. Even so, he has since said of the Pro Bowl: “I’d like to make it, but I’m not going to go if I got asked.” (Eifert has not been asked again—indeed, he has only started two regular season games since his injury.)

Richie Incognito may have best articulated the Pro Bowler approach: “You really can’t ask guys to come out here and fly around at full speed when we’ve been off for the last two or three weeks. And some guys are just coming down here after conference championship games.”

It goes without saying that, by holding the game before the Super Bowl, the NFL guaranteed no one from the NFC or AFC Champs will ever again play in it. (Unless Coach Belichick suddenly tells Tom Brady: “Super Bowl, Schmuper Bowl. Have a great Pro Bowl and, since you’re in Orlando anyway, make sure you pick me up a Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts T-shirt.”)

Today, there’s a new financial reality to face as well:

Playing in the Pro Bowl Doesn’t Make Monetary Sense. In 1980, the average NFL salary was still only $78,657. Now the average NFL salary is over $2 million. Matthew Stafford earned $27 million in 2017, making him one of 15 players to earn over $20 million for the season. (Not counting endorsements.) Do players like being picked as Pro Bowlers? Absolutely—for most of them a selection triggers a bonus, which depending on the contract can easily run into the six figures. But what do they get for actually traveling there and taking part?

Answer: $34,000. That jumps to $67,000 if their team wins. Stafford earns $1,687,500 per game. Does it make sense for him to take that pay cut to play in a game that doesn’t benefit the team actually paying his bills? (Happily, Detroit’s QB has thus far been sparing having to confront that question by virtue of missing the Pro Bowl entirely.)

The end result? In 2017, 35 players declined to take part in the Pro Bowl for a variety of reasons—it’s the NFL’s equivalent of jury duty.

How does the NFL make the Pro Bowl a game players want to play?

One suggestion—limit it to those who need the scratch. NFL practice squad players do one thing: practice. They aren’t eligible to play until they’re on a team’s official NFL roster. (Indeed, spending too much time on actual rosters makes you ineligible for the practice squad.)

These players are eager to please, desperate for game action, and with a minimum salary of $7,200 per week still in the tax bracket where 34 grand (plus a win bonus!) is reason for genuine excitement.

In 2019, let’s rebrand the “Pro Bowl” as the “Practice Squad Bowl.” People still won’t watch, but at least this NFL property can fade away affordably.

Inside the World of Male Social Media Influencers

“If you are an influencer people give you more attention,” says The Spruce Boy, a male lifestyle and fashion influencer in India, with over 21 thousand followers on Instagram. The actor/blogger considers himself a public figure, which “makes you more popular than being a normal person,” a valuable commodity in the acting and fashion industry. But what’s it really like to be a male influencer?


An influencer, for those unfamiliar with exactly what one is, produces native content—a marketing term for paid content, made to align with your brand. You do have a brand, don’t you? Today, who you are is inextricably tied to your brand, an elusive melange of self-importance and connectivity that leads to success.

Forbes predicted that 2017 will be a breakthrough year for influencers. Indeed, the prediction came to fruition, as traditional advertising like TV commercials have ceased to excite consumers as they have in the past. Now everyone’s scrolling through their social feeds several times a day. In fact, you probably troll Instagram when you’re watching television, proving that influencer marketing is making commercials obsolete.

When you think of influencers, the names Kylie, Kim and the rest of the Kardashian-Jenner family come to mind. Indeed, these are people who you see on television and on your social feed; they seem to be everywhere. Along with the products they’re selling. But the influencer space is not only reserved for women. In fact, as the influencer bubble continues to grow, you’re going to see a lot more influencers—and don’t expect them to look like Kardashians.

AJ Silverman, CEO of influencer advertising platform Quantum Sponsor, a platform that connects brands and influencers, is not targeting supermodels or reality stars—he’s targeting regular Joes and Janes. He calls the “nano influencer.” He uses the term to describe someone with less than 10,000 social media followers and hopes it will be the next big thing in influencer marketing. And guess what? About 60 percent of the nano influencers he’s signed on are male. “Men like an opportunity to make money. [Being an influencer] shows their hustle. It shows they’re willing to do what it takes to grow their audience.” Hustle, money, power—these have all been traditionally gender-biased toward men—so it’s no surprise that men are entering the influencer sphere, to claim a slice of the pie. True, Silverman says that his male influencers are more into the street fashion than haute couture, more into fitness than makeup, and extremely tech savvy and up on the latest apps. As men enter the influencer space, they might first turn towards traditional staples of masculinity like muscles, money and machismo. However, gender fluidity is becoming a staple of millennial identity, slowly chipping away at traditional gender stereotypes. “Why wouldn’t a man not want to wear makeup to cover a pimple?” asks Silverman.

As for pay, the number of followers you have determines how much cash you can generate. Generally, influencers are paid $1,000 per 100,000 Instagram followers and $2,000 per 100,000 YouTube followers, according to Digiday. Influencer campaigns on Snapchat start at $500 for 1,000 to 5,000 views in a 24-hour period. Rates vary based on how loyal and engaged an influencer’s audience is. True celebrities can demand top dollar. Kim Kardashian reportedly earns more than $250,000 per Instagram photo.

Anyone can type in their Instagram handle into Silverman’s Quantum Sponsor model and see how much they can bring in for an Instagram post as a nano influencer. (For example, The Spruce Boy would earn about $15 for a post, according to Quantum.)

Is the world of influencers one where there is no gender wage gap? Quite possibly. Still, Quantum Sponsor targets nano influencers. In the big leagues of influencer marketing, expect to find a market comparable to modeling, where female models out-earn male models by leaps and bounds.

So what does it take to be a successful male influencer? “You have to know your audience. Post consistently and at peak hours, and interact with your audience,” says Reuben Wood of digital talent firm SOM Agency, who has more than 93,000 Instagram followers.

Engagement is what drives influencer marketing, that and the celebrity endorsements. But as the influencer space continues to grow, you will begin to see that engagement will overtake celebrity status or that is Silverman’s prediction. For Wood, engagement is the fun part of being an influencer. “I enjoy the connection I have with my followers and interacting with new people every day.”

Having an authentic approach to connectivity is a key component of successful influencer marketing. Take the account of yoga instructor Jimmy Wheeler, who qualifies as a nano influencer with about 8,000 followers. As an outdoors enthusiast, the stunning backdrops of Bozeman, Montana complement this yogi’s poses, in photographs that are works of art (taken by his girlfriend, who is indeed a photographer). As a yogi, he talks about his journey to finding yoga at  “a very low point in my life. I can honestly say the practice changed my life.” Instagram was a natural platform for Wheeler to share his “journey,” and help change the notion that yoga is just for women. “I wanted to share my passion for yoga and encourage others to find a yoga practice or deepen their own journey. I am grateful for the Instagram platform in which I am able to do so,” Wheeler says. The clean, cohesive and professional imagery of his account gives it a narrative, which is valuable from a marketing perspective. As for being an influencer, he says it’s important to portray a “realistic lifestyle.”


Whether Kim and Kylie portray a realistic version of their lives is hard to say. On social media, it’s tempting to curate a filtered #LivingMyBestLife version of yourself because of the attention, admiration and, for some, money. However, if you can influence people by just being you, imagine how powerful that must feel.

David Koresh’s 51 Days of Hell in Waco

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the FBI were in the wrong. They wielded man- and firepower like a caveman swings a club.

David Koresh was a dangerous man, possibly a psychopath. Children from the compound reported he was also a sexual predator.

When it comes to discussing the 51-day standoff in 1993 between the feds and Koresh’s Branch Davidian sect in Waco, Texas, you can say the government was wrong and Koresh was a monster and both will be true.

To be fair to the Paramount Network, whose Waco TV series premiered Wednesday night, the show hasn’t completed its six-episode run. But interviews of Drew and John Erick Dowdle—the brothers who brought the series to life—make it clear they are presenting a sympathetic portrait of both Koresh (Taylor Kitsch) and members of his isolated religious compound.

While members of the Branch Davidians do deserve a huge measure of compassion and sympathy, it’s much more difficult to excuse depicting Koresh as a doomed good guy facing the government’s might.

And it seems clear the Dowdles do see Koresh in a sympathetic light. Speaking of reading the book upon which much of their series is based— Waco: A Survivor’s Story, by ex-Branch Davidian David Thibodeau—Drew Dowdle told Newsweek that “part of the fascination” for he and his brother was that “here was this severely abused kid, with a stutter and dyslexia, who grew up to be a religious leader. That is incredible.”

In the book, Dowdle said, Koresh is revealed by his former follower as “not the evil maniac hell bent on murder that the media created. He had a sense of humor, his sermons were quirky, he played guitar and performed in local bars.”

Another infamous cult leader was also known for his guitar and songwriting abilities: Charles Manson.

Okay, Manson may be an unfair or even inaccurate comparison. There’s a better example to come.

The Branch Davidian compound.

There is no doubt that the government deserved most of the criticism leveled after Waco. The final gun battle that ended with the compound in flames and 76 dead began in confusion, and everything after was chaos. As Harvard professor Alan A. Stone, M.D wrote in 1993, the feds’ “overwhelming show of force was not working in the way the tacticians supposed. It did not provoke the Branch Davidians to surrender, but it may have provoked David Koresh to order the mass-suicide.”

So yes, the government essentially triggered this small apocalypse.

But let’s remember what Koresh was really like.

Like many extremely charismatic leaders, Koresh likely was a stone-cold psychopath. Any emphasis on his good qualities ignores the fact that a hallmark of completely antisocial personalities is their ability to cruelly play with the lives around them—and often do it with a great deal of charm.

Writing for Time in 2001, Richard Lacayo noted  Koresh’s “creamy charm and a cold-blooded willingness to manipulate those drawn to him.” He quoted UCLA professor Louis West, who emphasized that a psychopath often “quickly wins people’s trust and is uncannily adept at manipulating and conning people.”

There was plenty of evidence this was Koresh to a T.

The most striking element of the way Koresh used and abused his followers was his sexual dominance.

David Karesh.

A 1993 article in the New York Times titled “Growing Up Under Koresh: Cult Children Tell of Abuses” goes right to the heart of the argument for Koresh as a man lacking in conscience or morality in one paragraph. His treatment of children under his care said everything:

“David Koresh told them to call their parents ‘dogs’; only he was to be referred to as their father. Girls as young as 11 were given a plastic Star of David, signifying that they had “the light” and were ready to have sex with the cult leader. A team of therapists said these were some of the things that 19 of the 21 surviving children of the Branch Davidian cult had told them about their lives inside the compound.” (Emphasis added.)

This is a fact about Koresh that recurs in multiple accounts of life in the Branch Davidian compound. It came from statements given by children ages 4 to 11 while in the care of the Texas Children’s Hospital—children released by Koresh in the early days of the standoff.

It’s impossible to read of David Koresh giving 11-year-old girls “permission” to sleep with him and feel any sympathy for the man. It’s an added cruelty to his victims to discount such acts by whitewashing him as an antihero on an “incredible” journey.

Branch Davidians, some of them from other countries, came to put their trust in Koresh as a messiah. Everyone who remained in the isolated Waco compound believed he was their guiding light. They deserve sympathy and empathy.

Just like the 900 or more members of the People’s Temple in Jonestown, Guyana were victims worthy of compassion. They truly thought their megalomaniacal messiah Jim Jones would lead them to salvation.

What was the difference between Koresh and Jones? It was just a matter of scale. Even the ultimate triggers for both men to commit mass murder-suicide were similar. For Jones, it was an inspection by California congressman Leo Ryan with a national news team in tow. Jones knew more scrutiny would come, and he might lose members of his flock.

For Koresh, the armored vehicles and agents in military gear both fulfilled a delusion of Armageddon and presented an ultimate threat to his control.

His end was the same as Jones’.

The government made every mistake possible in the Waco standoff. The ATF and FBI held an iron hand balled into a fist and then triggered their own worst-case scenario.

But when you’re watching handsome Taylor Kitsch embody David Koresh as some laughing pocket messiah on Waco, remember that the real man molested children who depended on him. He took everything he could from those with him, wielding their need for faith and belonging like a gun to keep them under control. He was in every way the opposite of a hero.

From Hygge to Còsagach, Coziness Takes a Luxury Turn

For the past few years, there have been new and confusing and sometimes baffling words sneaking into the pop culture vernacular (fleek anyone?) with hygge topping many lists.

From books to clothes to food to home furnishings hygge (pronounced hoo-geh), the Danish concept of cozy has slowly been seeping into our lives. But what exactly is hygge anyway, and why has it grabbed hold onto our collective psyche?

Many of us first encountered hygge in a December 2016 article in The New York Times titled “Move Over, Marie Kondo: Make Room for the Hygge Hordes.” It was slightly tongue in cheek piece simultaneously laying out the rules of hygge, while poking fun at our ability to briefly embrace singular concepts from other cultures. It also seemed to open up oceans of marketing possibilities as hygge became the It girl of the PR world.

But let’s back up for a minute to the appeal behind the world and concept. Hygge is a Danish word encompassing the feeling of cozy contentment one feels tucked near the crackling fire with a mug of hot chocolate or a perfect glass of wine on a snowy day. Unlike its close German counterpart gemutlichkeit  — which isn’t reliant on seasons to sum up a moment of happiness or cheer– hygge is tied to specific feelings experienced or shared with good friends when it’s cold outside but toasty inside.

Lest you think this feeling of all being right with the world is limited to very specific regions, VisitScotland recently shared their own version of branded cozy with the world in the form of Còsagach, “a Gaelic word with several interrelated meanings,” according to Michael McCuish, VisitScotland’s PR manager for North America.  McCuish cites Am Faclair Beag “which incorporates Edward Dwelly authoritative dictionary of Scottish Gaelic” for providing several definitions of the word ranging from “pertaining to or abounding in small holes/crevices” to “spongy” (oy) to “snug, cozy.”

McCuish explained that in searching for the right word to sum up their own campaign, it was important to recognize “The rich history and cultural importance of Gaelic.” Two words and concepts in particular “Còsagach along with “coorie in” (from the Scottish for nestle or snuggle) were determined to be suitable descriptors which may inspire tourism businesses to embrace and promote the wonderful offering they provide to visitors.” Since coorie in sounds vaguely smutty, I think còsagach was a wise choice indeed.

In a way, it almost feels like Scotland seems determined to out-hygge the Danes. McCuish waxed rhapsodic by explaining “Scotland is a country where còsagach can be achieved in all seasons, but it’s winter when it comes into its own. It’s no secret that Scotland can have, at times, rather harsh and ferocious weather. In the winter when the storms rage and the waves crash against the rocks, there is nothing more satisfying than being curled up in front of the fire, and listening to the weather outside.”

It’s worth noting that neither hygge nor còsagach are considered solitary states, but rather are presented as best shared with friends. In the case of còsagach, McCuish believes “going to a cozy pub and relaxing in a friendly setting, induces feelings of warmth and snugness while enjoying the locally sourced comfort food such as haggis, not forgetting the range of quality craft beers, gins and not forgetting aged single malt whiskeys.” Having spent a fair share of time in Scotland over the years, I can tell you it’s okay to skip the haggis part.

But coziness isn’t limited by language or region, and these days you’re as likely to see hygge and còsagach used to market everything from smart lighting to baby onesies.

A warm fireplace is definitely hygge. (Kyrgies.)

Barclay Saul and Steven Anderson are respectively president and CEO and co-founders of Kyrgies, handcrafted indoor wool shoes described on the site as “hygge house shoes.” Despite being inspired by the craft and people of Kyrgyzstan, on the website their mission states the hygge vibe since “Kyrgies is on a mission to bring comfort, coziness and hygge to your home.”

When asked if the people of Kyrgyzstan share a hygge ethos or if it was matter of coasting on a trend, the two explained “The Kyrgyz people are traditionally nomads, following the seasons with their flocks of sheep. Everything they have including their homes and clothes were made out of wool felt. For a life that hard, that labor intensive, wool felt gives them a sense of comfort and coziness. When you’re a nomad, particularly when your home is a yurt, you want to feel warm when the day is over.” The slippers are an extension of the desired feeling “Kyrgies are part of a tradition that has brought peace of mind and comfort to the Kyrgyz people for literally thousands of years.” And now a brand that creates cozy yurts for your feet are available to the rest of us.

It would seem as though literal nomads and digital nomads need hygge equally, even if they call it by a different name. When I asked the founders of Kyrgies why they thought being cozy is a desired state of being just now, they explained that “Because we are constantly inundated with information, blinking lights, notifications from our phones, our computers, our cars, our TV’s. It’s very hard to focus on any one thing anymore. People want an escape from the stress of constant stimulation. Cozy implies a feeling of peacefulness, and it’s very hard to find that peace in 2018.”

For many, that feeling of peacefulness is something created at home, with the right lighting or off time clothing.

Let’s face it, despite its Danish makeover, being cozy was once synonymous with looking like a slob. And while deep level relaxation once involved sweats and sneakers, the athleisure movement means that even on our off time, most of us can easily upgrade our at home hygge game. “After a long day at work, volunteering, exercising – people are looking for comfortable styles to wear at home,” said Victoria Vandagriff, president of leisure wear manufacturer Delta Galil Women’s division.

Once upon a time, wearing sweats in public meant you were in some way admitting you’ve pretty much given up on life. Vandagriff doesn’t quite see it that way though “Folks are not wearing sweatpants in public because they are lazy, they are wearing exercise clothes or athleisure styles because they are concerned with their health and fitness.”

Sloungewear (Delta Galil).

In the past few years, hygge style has evolved from couch potato couture to everyday dressing. According to Vandagriff, dressing this way embodies a lifestyle. “It’s a modern approach to living healthy, eating right and fitting exercise into their daily routine. Social media has had a large impact on growing this movement. With ecommerce and ‘like to buy’ options from every brand – online, stylish, and innovative fitness wear is available to everyone regardless of where they live. The innovations in fabric have allowed for new designs that are modern and appropriate for many lifestyle situations that have become more casual. Men and women are living busy and engaged lifestyles; this allows them the ease to go from work, to the gym, yoga or meditation studio fashionably.”

The changing trend is especially true for men. “In men’s loungewear the trend is no longer #streettosleep but now, it’s #boardroomtobedroom” David Rozschild,  creative director for the men’s division of Delta Galil who count Lacoste among their brands. He added, “We call it the #sloungewear effect.”

 

Hygge and its newer offshoots keep striking a cord. But then again, so did the yoga craze that came before.

Kyrgies Saul and Anderson don’t think the two are all that different “Yoga culture is about observing your breath, centering yourself, canceling the noise that surrounds us all every day. Hygge shares precisely those characteristics.”

And one of the reasons we love all these concepts of coziness is because at their core they share the same ideals Saul and Anderson put it this way: “The idea is to stop your mind from racing all the time. Put down the phone. Inhale and exhale.”

Are Oscar Nominations Overcompensating for Hollywood’s Bad Behavior?

For masochists who rose by 5:30 a.m. yesterday to be greeted by the chirpy duo of Andy Serkis and Tiffany Haddish – the stars of War for the Planet of the Apes and Girls Trip, respectively, both longshots for nominations they didn’t receive – the vibe of the 90th Academy Award nominations announcements was OVERCOMPENSATION. Smiles strained as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences demonstrated its commitment to be inclusive of women and people of color (and, I guess, motion caption artists). Credit to the new and marginally more diverse Academy: they’re trying, they’re really trying.

Some major indicators of this swing toward inclusiveness were manifest in the success of two films by first-time directors Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele. Both received director nominations supported by their respective films – Lady Bird and Get Out – making the list of nine nominees for Best Picture. Both these directors will now be able to command a bigger quote with Oscar-nominee attached to their names. And the hope is that, as they continue their careers boosted by this honor, the pair will open doors to other women and people of color (and, hey, folks with senses of humor).

The Academy overlooked Dee Rees, an experienced gay woman of color whose brilliant ensemble period piece on Southern race relations, Mudbound, failed to gain traction in the top nine – although Rees did receive recognition in the adapted screenplay category with her co-writer Virgil Williams. And, notably, her cinematographer, Rachel Morrison, became the first woman to get a nomination in that category. Ever. Shout-out also to Mary J. Blige for her supporting nod in a transformative role as a strong-as-oak matriarch.

The other indicator that the times are changing is the softness of what should have been considered one of the year’s gold-plated dramas – Steven Spielberg’s up-with-journalism drama The Post about the fight to publish the Pentagon Papers co-starring A+++-listers Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. While The Post wastes a slot in the top nine, the perennially nominated, three-time winner Spielberg didn’t even get his usual Spielberg director nom.

While Streep got the fifth spot in the Best Actress category, it’s unlikely she’ll triumph over Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) or Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water). Streep is no longer unbeatable and Hanks, who I predicted would be nominated for Best Actor, sacrificed his slot to the brilliant Denzel Washington in the otherwise un-nominated Roman J. Israel Esq. and/or Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya. Sorry, James Franco, but it may just be that the field is overcrowded or your #metoo scandal has scratched your nomination for The Disaster Artist.

The nominations (included below in full) demonstrate strength for the three frontrunners – The Shape of Water with 13 nominations, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk with 8 (but none in acting categories) and Three Billboards with 7. Billboards showed relative weakness by failing to earn a director nom for Martin McDonagh (go figure!) in one of the day’s biggest snubs, recognizing him only for Original Screenplay. But, with the Screen Actors Guild Best Ensemble Award and the Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival in the rearview mirror, and three acting nominations (Best Actress and the two Supporting Actors Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson), this might not be a total death sentence for the movie’s Best Picture hopes. The backlash about its empathetic treatment of Rockwell’s violent white policeman, who defenestrates a gay character on camera and has allegedly tortured a black prisoner off, does not seem to have impacted it on nomination day.

One film that has come out incredibly strong is Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Phantom Thread starring perennial winner Daniel Day-Lewis in what he claims to be his last role. The film got a muscular six nominations for Best Director, Best Actor, Lesley Manville as Best Supporting Actress as well as Best Original Music Score and Best Costume Design. It’s a stunning achievement but I confess to being repulsed by the first hour’s lesson in the artist grooming his much younger muse despite the plot’s ultimate, allegedly female-forward, twist.

However, when the Best Picture winner is ultimately chosen favorites with female-driven narratives like The Shape of Water or Three Billboards, or even the longshot Lady Bird, will likely short-circuit the male-dominated contenders such as Dunkirk and The Darkest Hour. For poor Nolan, who seemed to be favored for Best Director by making a popular and sweeping war movie, and having the air of ‘he’s overdue,’ in this year that favors inclusion when nothing is as inevitable as it once seemed he may have to wait even longer for his honors.

What we can say definitively is that 2018 is a watershed year at the Oscars, a time of change and reckoning if not complete transformation. The nominations reflect this shift and my primary hope is that the pendulum does not swing too far, rewarding movies that are P.C. rather than perfection (the idea of which is, in itself, subjective). The Oscars ultimately reflect the films that are in the production pipeline – and, as we are seeing currently at the Sundance Film Festival – there is a rise of films directed by women and people of color.

The proof of real and lasting change will unfold in the future; for now, we’ve seen real progress reflected in the nominations for the 90th Annual Academy Awards. Jimmy Kimmel will host the ceremony that will be broadcast live Sunday, March 4th on ABC.

The Full List of Nominees

Best Picture
Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

Best Director
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Jordan Peele, Get Out

 Best Actor
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel Esq. 

Best Actress
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Meryl Streep, The Post 

Supporting Actor
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

Supporting Actress
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird 

Adapted Screenplay
Call Me by Your Name
The Disaster Artist
Logan
Molly’s Game
Mudbound

 Best Original Screenplay
The Big Sick
Get Out
Lady Bird
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards

Animated Feature
The Boss Baby
The Breadwinner
Coco
Ferdinand
Loving Vincent

Foreign Language Film
A Fantastic Woman
The Insult
Loveless
Of Body and Soul
The Square 

Best Documentary
Abacus
Faces Places
Icarus
Last Men in Aleppo
Strong Island

 Best Cinematography
Blade Runner 2049, Roger Deakins
Darkest Hour, Bruno Delbonnel
Dunkirk, Hoyte van Hoytema
Mudbound, Rachel Morrison
The Shape of Water, Dan Laustsen

Best Costume Design
Beauty and the Beast
Darkest Hour
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Victoria and Abdul

Film Editing
Baby Driver
Dunkirk
I, Tonya
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards

 Makeup and Hairstyling
Darkest Hour
Victoria and Abdul
Wonder

Original Score
Dunkirk
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Three Billboards 

Original Song
“Mighty River,” Mudbound
“Mystery of Love,” Call Me by Your Name
“Remember Me,” Coco
“Stand Up for Something,” Marshall
“This Is Me,” The Greatest Showman 

Production Design
Beauty and the Beast
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water

 Sound Editing
Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi 

Sound Mixing
Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Visual Effects
Blade Runner 2049
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Kong Skull Island
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War for the Planet of the Apes

Documentary (Short Subject)
Edith+Eddie, Laura Checkoway, Thomas Lee Wright
Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405, Frank Stiefel
Heroin(e), Elaine McMillion Sheldon, Kerrin Sheldon
Knife Skills, Thomas Lennon
Traffic Stop, Kate Davis, David Heilbroner 

Short Film (Animated)
Dear Basketball, Glen Keane, Kobe Bryant
Garden Party, Victor Caire, Gabriel Grapperon
Lou, Dave Mullins, Dana Murray
Negative Space, Max Porter, Ru Kuwahata
Revolting Rhymes, Jakob Schuh, Jan Lachauer

Short Film (Live Action)
DeKalb Elementary, Reed Van Dyk
The Eleven O’Clock, Derin Seale, Josh Lawson
My Nephew Emmett, Kevin Wilson, Jr.
The Silent Child, Chris Overton, Rachel Shenton
Watu Wote/All of Us, Katja Benrath, Tobias Rosen

 

Wyatt Tee Walker, MLK Jr.’s Top Strategist and Civil Rights Leader, Dead at 88

The Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker, who was chief of staff to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a key strategist behind civil rights protests in the 1960s, died early on Tuesday at his home in Chester, Va. He was 88. His death was announced by the Rev. Al Sharpton, according to the New York Times. Dr. Walker was the first board chairman of the National Action Network, Sharpton’s organization.

For six decades, Dr. Walker preached against intolerance and racial inequality from pulpits in the South, in New York City, and in five of the world’s seven continents. In 1994, he helped supervise South Africa’s first fully representative elections, when Nelson Mandela’s rise to power brought the end of the apartheid regime. His work as a civil rights advocate began in 1953. He met Dr. King while they were both students at the historically black Virginia Union University in Richmond. Dr. Walker joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1961 when it was still just beginning, and served until 1964 as its executive director. Dr. Walker helped circulate “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” one of the most important documents of the civil rights movement, and helped coordinate the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

“I was fully committed to nonviolence, and I believe with all my heart that for the civil rights movement to prove itself, its nonviolent actions had to work in Birmingham,” Dr. Walker said during an interview with The New York Times in 2006. “If it wasn’t for Birmingham, there wouldn’t have been a Selma march, there wouldn’t have been a 1965 civil rights bill. Birmingham was the birthplace and affirmation of the nonviolent movement in America.”

For 37 years, Dr. Walker was a prominent community figure as the pastor at Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem and from 1965 to 1975 he was a special assistant on urban affair to Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York. He was also a strong advocate of affordable housing and better schools in the low income neighborhoods of Upper Manhattan. He was on the front lines in the fight against drug trafficking and addiction in Harlem.

In one of his last interviews, Walker and his wife of 67 years, Theresa Ann, spoke to RealClearLife’s Steve Klinsky about their memories of the civil rights movement — from experiences in jail to the untold story of the landmark Letter From a Birmingham Jail to how King’s death still reverberates in race relations a year ago. Watch the videos below.

Lana Del Rey/Radiohead Dispute Shows Why Major Labels Fail

Let’s talk about this Lana Del Rey/Radiohead mishegas.

By now you probably know that Ms. Del Rey has released a track called “Get Free,” which sounds strikingly like “Creep,” a song recorded by Radiohead back in the day when Radiohead actually wrote and recorded objects recognizable as actual songs.

How does a major recording artist who really ought to know better release a song that sounds exactly like another well-known song?

I know how this happened. I really do. It’s the same damn reason that you are force-fed soul-numbing Target-aisle pop music all day.

Before I explain further, let’s do a wee fact-check: Lest we forget, Radiohead themselves were (successfully) sued for “Creep” due to it’s pronounced resemblance to “The Air That I Breathe,” which was a big hit for the Hollies in 1974. By the way, the Hollies didn’t write “The Air That I Breathe.” It was a cover of a song written by Albert Hammond and Mike Hazelwood, and originally recorded (two years before the Hollies’ version) by Hammond.

Now let’s move on and explain how Lana Del Rey can co-write, demo, record, mix, and release a song that sounds virtually identical to another very popular song.

(By the way, Ms. Del Rey’s real name is Elizabeth Woolridge Grant, which sounds like the name of a recent Swarthmore grad who beat you out for that internship you wanted because her Dad went to Cornell with the guy who runs the company.)

“Get Free” was the product of three writers and three producers, not to mention a little village of people who work for the record company and the publishers. Probably around a thousand people heard “Get Free” before it was released (that’s not an exaggeration), and virtually all of ‘em knew the thing sounded exactly like “Creep” (these people are sniveling, arrogant, and cowardly, but not stupid). Yet not one of these check-cashing chimps who spend more on sushi in a single day then you make in a week raised a single wasabi-stained finger and said, “So, listen, Lana, how should I put this…well…I have heard that exact melody before.”

(Lana and her sushi-flinging shaven apes could have at least chosen to rip off a song that everyone didn’t know. I mean, people do that all the time. Heck, give a listen to “Airplane Song,” a fairly obscure ditty from 1967 by The Royal Guardsman. Really, listen to it. The Beatles did, and lifted it lock, stock, and barrel for “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.” The Fabs knew the first rule of plagiarism: When you steal, steal from someone who is less famous than you.)

Here’s the reason none of those people spoke up:

Each and every one of them imagined their boss phoning them and saying, “Lana’s manager just called. Did you really freaking accuse Lana Del Rey of stealing a song?!?”

Every single person in that whole chain of cretins played out the scenario in their head and thought, “Heck, I don’t want to be the guy/girl who gets that phone call. Nuh-uh, not me. I’m keeping my mouth shut. I’ll just wander out in the hallway and take a good look at that Keurig machine. They’ve got a really fancy one here. Oooh! Trader Joes Columbian French Roast!”

Everyone at a Major Label is terrified of losing their jobs. Utter f-cking terror. And the surest way to lose your job at a Major Label is to get noticed. I’m going to repeat this because it is an essential point: The surest way to lose your job at a Major Record Label is to get noticed. And the surest way to get noticed is to do something/anything proactive, and that includes pointing out an issue with a major artist (no matter how legitimate that matter is), because remember, dammit, major artists have big-time lawyers and managers, each of whom have your boss on speed dial.

This is how you keep your job at a Major Record Label:

* Never actually do anything, therefore never making yourselves a target of anyone’s ambition;

* Never actually do anything, therefore never risk linking your name to anything that might fail;

* Never actually do anything, and therefore never risk that the lawyer or manager of a popular artist will pick up a phone and complain about you to your boss.

If you don’t do a goddamn thing, you will likely keep your job. Ironically, that’s how you survive in an industry that should thrive on encouraging and nurturing creativity.

Seriously, man, I know people (very decent people, too, by the way — cowardice is not necessarily a reflection of character) who have been at labels for twenty-five years, and there’s not one single thing they can point to and say, “Hey, I did that. I am proud of that.”

Sometimes a 401(k) is more important than pride. 

There is a reason you are subjected to utterly crappy music that does not speak for you, to you, or with you, and which seems so distant from the anger and energy and activism and attitude you wished and dreamed rock music would be. Remember the music your older brothers and sisters told you about? Remember, you used to think, ‘That will be mine one day, too!’ But instead, you are utterly surrounded by pop designed only to be heard inside of H&M and rattle the tinted windows of the car in the lane next to you. Where, friends, is your rock’n’roll dream?

Today’s Major Label music is manufactured by the Agents of Fear. On the rare occasions when a Major Label employee does take action, they are seeking the absolute quickest line between their office and immediate success (which generally means throwing something insanely obvious out there that sounds just like the other insanely obvious things out there). The idea of taking even the slightest chance, expressing some foresight or imagination, or investing anything in the future of pop culture has been utterly discarded.

This is no longer the industry of dreams. It is the industry of terror and the lowest possible expectations.

This is exemplified by what you hear on the radio but it is also perfectly characterized by the fact that Lana Del Rey can, at rather enormous expense, record and mix and release a song that so clearly sounds exactly like someone else’s song, and no one, not one single person in the entire chain of frightened people, said, “Uh, I’ve heard that song before.”

Every artist you have ever loved, every artist that has warmed your heart, every artist who has given you inspiration or courage, every artist who provided a model for your own identity or stirred your quest for individuality, was signed to a record label by someone who took a risk. Really. Whether it’s R.E.M. or Metallica and everything in between, they got a record deal because someone stuck their neck out, either a little or a lot.

That culture is dead, I mean absolutely dead.

The chance of a major label signing an act that matters to you, your friends, or your children is less than zero. I said matters to you, not distracts you. The labels will continue to fling lots and lots of distracting monkey poo out there.

Every corrupt system is a circuit. It requires you – the consumer, the listener, the voter, etcetera – to complete it. This is a start: don’t just abandon it – it is very likely you already have – but abandon it loudly. Abandon it with dollars, even if it’s only a few. Spend actual money on independent music, on the CDs and vinyl and downloads and especially t-shirts of the bands you love. And remind people that music of volume, grace, passion, and attitude is alive, no matter what anyone else says.

Thank you to Jack Rabid for first alerting me to the Hammond/Hazlewood stuff, and for being a great inspiration and legendary champion of independent music.