Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Another Movie You Might Not Know

The latest addition to my Movies You Might Not Know list...

To my knowledge, "Rob The Mob," never came out in theaters. I wouldn't have heard of it if it weren't recommended by my colleague Colin Jeffrey. It's based on a true story from 1991, when the John Gotti trial had all of New York mesmerized. Every detail that played out in court was amplified by the city's newspapers and newscasts. 

One day, a guy named Tommy, fresh out of jail for robbing a flower shop, goes to the Gotti courtroom to listen to the testimony of Sammy "The Bull" Gravano. Gravano mentions the social clubs where mob guys hang out, and says that none of them are ever armed because "guns and wise guys are not a good combination."

That gives Tommy an idea -- rob the unarmed guys in those clubs and take whatever cash and jewelry they have on them. His girlfriend, Rosie, is his getaway driver, and it goes so well they do it a second time, and a third. Along the way, they not only piss off the mob, but attract the attention of the FBI and a newspaper columnist who wants to tell their story.

I won't give away any more of the plot, but I'll tell you that it works because of the cast. Tommy and Rosie are played by two actors I'd never seen before, Michael Pitt and Nina Arianda -- she is terrific, very reminiscent of Drea de Matteo as Michael Imperioli's girlfriend on "The Sopranos." The supporting cast includes Andy Garcia, Griffin Dunne, Frank Whaley, Michael Rispoli, Burt Young, and Ray Romano as the columnist.

I don't know why "Rob The Mob" didn't get a full theatrical release earlier this year, but it's on DVD now and worth your time.

Monday, September 15, 2014

At Least They Got The Colors Right

Bob Robinson e-mails:

In your post about violence in the NFL, you asked “What’s the right color for domestic violence?” My initial reaction was “black and purple,” then realized how appropriate the colors of the Baltimore Ravens uniforms are.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

NFL's Violent Offenders

I've been an NFL fan since I was a little kid. When I was 10, I read Jerry Kramer's "Instant Replay," which turned me into a Green Bay Packers fan. That year, I also read George Plimpton's "Paper Lion," which didn't turn me into a Detroit Lions fan.

My father took my brother and me to NY Jets training camp at Hofstra University during the summer a few times. My first NFL game was watching the NY Giants host the Dallas Cowboys from the cheap obstructed-view seats (all we could afford) at the old Yankee Stadium. I worked in Washington during the Redskins' glory days and covered them by taking my morning show to San Diego and later Minneapolis when they won Super Bowls 22 and 26. The year I arrived in St. Louis, Kurt Warner led the Greatest Show On Turf to a Rams Super Bowl victory. Fantastic memories.

I watch NFL games because I love the sport, but in recent years, there's been a bitter taste in my mouth. I have done several radio shows about how the league has screwed its employees by denying a connection between the concussions on the field and the devastating brain injuries that shortened players' lives. I've talked about how NFL cheerleaders are treated like unpaid interns despite the demands the teams put on them for little (or no) salaries. I've talked about Dan Snyder's arrogant resistance to changing the Redskins' racist name.

Then there was this week, with the controversies over Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, and Adrian Peterson. They're all talented football players, and we know that the bigger the star, the easier the treatment. Top-level athletes are coddled from high school through college and into the professional ranks. Many of them breeze through schools without getting a real education, and they get away with all sorts of nasty stuff in everyday life because they're too valuable to keep off the field or court.

These three are but a small sample of the men in the NFL and other professional sports leagues who are a menace to society -- while simultaneously reflective of the epidemic of violence that gets played out in far too many homes across America -- and it's time to change the tradition of looking the other way as long as they throw, catch, and run well.

ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown devoted most of its first hour to the topic this morning, with some good commentary, including a mother's perspective from veteran sportscaster Hannah Storm and this emotional plea from former Viking receiver Cris Carter:

The question shouldn't be, "Will Roger Goodell keep his job?" The question should be, "Can the NFL become a leader in awareness of domestic violence and change its culture?" It already devotes part of its season to promoting breast cancer awareness, with players and officials wearing pink shoes, penalty flags, and towels. What's the right color for domestic violence?
I'm still tuning in to NFL games on TV, but I have a new perspective on what -- and who -- I'm watching. I hope that I'm not alone in this and, as Hannah Storm mentioned, I wonder what's going through the minds of the women who make up some 45% of the league's fan base. 
I wonder why a league that's so good at policing the players on the field hasn't figured out how to keep them in line off of it. These aren't action that can be disciplined with a 15-yard penalty. The punishments will have to be a lot tougher for players who can't restrict their violence to those hours when they're playing the game.
Previously on Harris Online...

Middle-Aged And Oscar-Less

A few nights ago, movie industry analyst Scott Feinberg (who I follow on Twitter) asked, "Can you think of an Oscar-less actress aged 65 or under with a better body of work than Julianne Moore, who is 53?" The tweet first caught my eye because I read it wrong, leaving out the words "of work," which makes it a completely different question.

But when I re-read it, I started thinking about who might qualify, and I came up with Annette Benning and Sigourney Weaver, with Michelle Pfeiffer a possible third. Then I asked my colleague Colin Jeffery, who added Laura Linney and Joan Allen. I finished by adding the woman who I once hoped would be my first ex-wife, Ellen Barkin.

Can you think of any others who deserve to be on the list?

FYI, Julianne Moore has been Oscar-nominated four times for "The Hours," "Far From Heaven," "Boogie Nights," and "The End Of An Affair." Quick story about the latter. I hosted the St. Louis premiere of that movie when it was released in 1999, but it was so boring I walked out about halfway through (something I'd only done one other time, during Paul McCartney's terrible "Give My Regards To Broad Street" in 1984).

I thought I'd been discreet while leaving, but the next morning, on the air, I got calls from two listeners to whom I had given tickets to the premiere. They both thanked me for walking out, because they'd hated the movie, too, and were sitting there wondering whether they could bolt for the exit. So when I split, they followed -- and told me several other people did, too.

Show Me Why She Should Wait

This week, Missouri's GOP-dominated legislature overrode Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of a bill mandating a 72-hour waiting period before a woman can have an abortion. They want her to take some time to think about this very important life decision -- as if she hadn't thought about it before going to the doctor for the first visit. It's yet another attempt to dissuade women from having control over their own bodies.

The compassionate conservatives in Jefferson City did not include an exception for rape and incest. Yes, Ms. Rape Victim, not only is your doctor mandated by law to counsel you on how bad abortion is, but you're then going to have to spend three more days thinking about whether you want to keep the child that was forced upon you by a violent felon. Sure hope your health insurance covers another doctor's office visit, not to mention the cost of the procedure, and the expense of having to travel who-knows-how-many miles across the state to find a place that still performs abortions.

By the way, there's no waiting period to buy a gun in Missouri. You want to shoot someone right now? Here, have a deadly weapon. You want to undo a mistake that will lead to an unwanted child? Sorry, you'll have to come back later this week.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Re-Writing The National Anthem

Two hundred years ago today, Francis Scott Key wrote the poem "Defence of Fort M'Henry" [sic], which would later be put to music and renamed "The Star Spangled Banner." It became our national anthem in 1931. If you ever wonder why the USA is constantly going to war, think about how our national song celebrates a military battle, rather than freedom.

In the early 1970s, comedian Albert Brooks thought it was time to let the American people write a new national anthem. Watch the results here.

The History of Saturday Night Live

A dozen years ago, James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales published the definitive book about "Saturday Night Live," entitled "Live From New York." It was an oral history of the show, as told by its performers, producers, and writers.

Now, as "SNL" is about to embark on its 40th season, Miller has revised and updated the book with interviews with the people who have worked on the show since then. Both the original and new version are fascinating reads, so I invited Miller to join me on KTRS to discuss:
  • how these 12 years were different from the 27 that preceded them;
  • what role Lorne Michaels has in the production of "SNL," considering he's now also overseeing "The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon" and "Late Night with Seth Meyers";
  • why Conan O'Brien didn't want Lorne involved during his brief stint as "Tonight Show" host;
  • why "SNL" depends so much on recurring characters;
  • the addition of Michael Che as Weekend Update co-anchor;
  • whether Weekend Update has lost its relevance in the era of "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report";
  • the impact of Tina Fey and other women on the show's recent history;
  • why "SNL" has so many cast members, considering they can't possibly all get airtime.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Harris Challenge 9/12/14

This week's Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- includes trivia categories "TV's Highest Paid Actors," "Guys Who Classic Rocked," and "Not Having A Good Week."  Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Knuckleheads In The News® 9/12/14

My latest batch of Knuckleheads In The News® stories include flags to wave while crossing the street, another sleepy burglar, and some badly-disposed-of marijuana.  Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Friday, September 12, 2014

KTRS Today

Today on my KTRS show (3-6pm CT), I'll talk with Jim Miller about the revised and updated version of his "SNL" oral history, "Live From New York." Also, Colin Jeffery and I will review "The Drop" and other movies, plus you'll have another chance to play my Harris Challenge (the most fun you can have with your radio on), and I'll compile a brand new batch of Knuckleheads In The News®. You can listen over the air, via the station's free smartphone app or via