The Rundown is a weekly column that highlights some of the biggest, weirdest, and most notable events of the week in entertainment. The number of items will vary, as will the subject matter. It will not always make a ton of sense. Some items might not even be about entertainment, to be honest. The important thing is that it’s Friday and we are here to have some fun.
ITEM NUMBER ONE — Don’t do it!
A few months ago, toward the end of 2018, Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo revealed that they were about halfway through the editing process and that the film was coming in around three hours long. This week, in comments given to Collider, the Russo brothers said the film is still right around that length, give or take a minute or two on either side:
We’re still doing work to it. We’re not done with it. Again, this is a culmination film of 22 movies, it’s a lot of storytelling to work into it. Emotion is an intrinsic part of that to us. When you have to tell a really complicated story and you want strong emotional moments with the characters, it just requires a certain amount of real estate. This one, in particular, feels like three hours worth of real estate.”
And that’s … I don’t know, fair? It’s not entirely unfair, at least. Infinity War checked in 20 minutes short of three hours and still left a lot of ground to cover. This is their last crack at this story and they have about 75 characters with distinct-ish character arcs, many of which involve separate individual lucrative franchises. There’s a lot of business to be done here and a lot at stake. I can see the temptation to just take the extra time to do it right. But I still really, really hope this movie is not three hours long.
I have two areas of concern here.
The first is my long-held and often-stated belief that nothing should last longer than two hours. Sporting events, awards ceremonies, most weddings, all would be better if we kept them under 120 minutes. It’s especially true of action movies, though, and especially true of the in-theater experience of watching an action movie. Three hours is a long time, man. Add in the drive to the theater and 20-30 minutes of trailers and that’s most of a Saturday afternoon. If you watch it at home, at least then you have the option to pause to run to the kitchen or bathroom or split the movie into chunks. You can create your own intermission. I know I can get fidgety around 100 minutes. I could use a breather.
Now, I know I’ve already lost this fight, in general, and I am admittedly a hypocrite about it. I saw all 160 minutes of Infinity War in the theater. Mission: Impossible — Fallout was 147 minutes and I adored it. I’m just an old man shouting at the clouds at this point. I intend to keep shouting (good for the lungs, if nothing else), but I know it’s pointless. This part of the battle has already been lost.
The second reason is the bigger one, though. Once we do this, once we all agree that a three-hour action movie is a thing we’ll accept, I don’t know if we can go back. There’s been a kind of boundary there at that length, only to be crossed by auteurs making sweeping epic passion projects. Titanic, Godfather Part II, Lawrence of Arabia. Even the third Lord of the Rings, the only other recent action-y, big budget movie to dance with the line, had the decency to win an Academy Award in an attempt to justify its length. But if we do this… let me put it this way: Michael Bay made Transformers movies that clocked in north of two and a half hours. Do you understand? Transformers movies. It gets a lot harder to send him back into the editing room — I’m picturing a live tiger sitting next to him — to make cuts when he can use “Ahhh but Avengers…” as a justification.
We need to look at the big picture, people. We need to acknowledge the slippery slope we’re on here. Avengers: Endgame is going to make multiple billions of dollars no matter how long it is because its built-in audience is locked and loaded and invested. But once it does that, once a three-hour action movie becomes a money-shoveling blockbuster, it’s all over. Do you want to live in a world where every summer blockbuster is three hours long? Think about that, please. Because I do not. Not even a little. This is a matter of principle. A line must be drawn. I’m trying to save us all and no one is listening to me.
I feel like Al Gore over here.
ITEM NUMBER TWO — R.I.P. Oreo
Speaking of The Avengers movies and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in general, it is with a heavy heart that I deliver this news: Oreo, the real-life raccoon whose likeness was used as the inspiration for Rocket from the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, has passed away.
I am only kind of joking — 15-20 percent, max — when I say that Oreo should be in the In Memoriam tribute at this year’s Oscars.
ITEM NUMBER THREE — The murderous air conditioners are back
Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to announce that air conditioners are murdering television characters again. A few years ago, in 2017, this had become kind of a trend and it delighted me to no end. Chidi on The Good Place was killed by a falling air conditioner. Scoot McNairy’s dirtbag character on Fargo was killed by a falling air conditioner that was kicked out of an upper-floor window by Ewan McGregor and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, in character as a grifter named Nikki Swango. If we’re willing to stretch things a bit (we are), Kevin Garvey, Sr. fell off a roof on The Leftovers while fixing a cooling unit and he landed on — and killed — an Aboriginal tribal leader named Christopher Sunday. I wrote about all of this at the time and our art mastermind, Ralph Ordaz, made the terrifying image at the top of this blurb for me. I will go to great lengths to share it with people.
Luckily, this time I have a real reason. Netflix’s Russian Doll, a good show you should watch, did the thing, too. Here, look:
I won’t dive too far into the circumstances behind this particular scene. I don’t want to spoil anything any more than I have if you haven’t seen the show yet. I will say this, though: I hope this means we’re all doing this again. I hope a whole bunch of shows kill off characters with falling air conditioners in 2019. Better Call Saul, Big Bang Theory, The Handmaid’s Tale. Hell, I don’t know exactly how we can make it happen, possibly with time travel or some sort of black magic, but I hope someone on Game of Thrones gets crushed by one. Let’s go all out. Let’s really do this.
No one laugh if I get killed by a falling air conditioner in real life this summer.
ITEM NUMBER FOUR — Vanessa Bayer is the greatest
This is a clip from Late Night with Seth Meyers. It is over three years old and it is not tied to an anniversary or any relevant timely event. The only reasons I’m sharing it with you now are:
- Because I remembered it recently
- Because Vanessa Bayer is the best
Sorry for spoiling her appearance in this clip. There’s not much of a way around to if I’m going to make the points I very much intend to make. I just love the clip a lot and want you to love it, too.
It’s the absurdity of it, really. Bill Hader is there to promote Trainwreck, a real movie he is really in, and about halfway through his guest spot he starts telling a funny story about Vanessa Bayer getting high in Amsterdam with them and getting lost. But then, as he’s telling it, Vanessa Bayer shows up in the studio still “high” and proceeds to get angry at him for leaving him there. What follows is a few minutes of nonsense speak (“We all put our pants on one pants a time” kills me in each watch) and giggling and it makes me so happy.
This could have flopped if Bayer didn’t fully commit. But she did and it didn’t and instead, we have a delightful little clip that I watch a few times a year and am now sharing for real reason other than because I want to. I stand by it.
ITEM NUMBER FIVE — BOBAN
This is allegedly a column that covers television and movies, which makes it hard for me to hammer in references to my beloved Philadelphia 76ers. Luckily (for me, not so much for you, sorry), the Sixers orchestrated a trade this week that landed them a 7’3 center named Boban Marjanovic and Boban — which my phone now autocorrects to “BOBAN” — has a role in the upcoming third John Wick film. He plays an assassin. You can see him briefly in the trailer, kicking John Wick in the sternum with his massive foot and then getting a library book smashed into his Adam’s apple.
This is very important to me. My favorite basketball team traded for a charismatic giant who knows Keanu Reeves. He apparently gets killed by John Wick via a book to the throat. He is already my favorite Sixers player since Allen Iverson and, yes, I now want Allen Iverson to join one of my other favorites movie franchises. I’ll take back everything I said about Avengers: Endgame if they figure out a way to squeeze him in there. Make it four hours long. See what I care. Just give Iverson a blaster.
If you have questions about television, movies, food, local news, weather, or, like, whatever you want, shoot them to me at email@example.com and put “RUNDOWN” in the subject line. I am the first writer to ever answer reader mail in a column. Do not look up this last part.
You speak frequently about how The Accountant was a movie that was made to play on basic cable. I don’t disagree, but I don’t know that you’ve ever laid out your formula for what makes a perfect basic cable movie. What elements need a movie have to be the perfect fodder for TNT, AMC, etc? Also, do you have a top 5 list of basic cable movies?
This is a terrific question. The Accountant — the 2016 film that stars Ben Affleck as an assassin with high-functioning autism and a cover identity as, you guessed it, an accountant — is a perfect basic cable movie. I knew this back when it was on premium cable and I couldn’t stop watching it, and my theory was confirmed a few weeks ago when it came to TNT. Ask me how many more times I’ve seen it since that happened. My evasiveness in giving you a straight answer should tell you everything you need to know.
But why? And how? I’ve been thinking about this here and there since this question came in and I still don’t have a great answer. Part of it is just an “I can’t define it but I know it when I see it” thing, which is both true and a tremendous cop-out. It’s tricky, though. There’s no perfect formula. The only requirement is that it has to be aggressively rewatchable. And preferably an easy watch. Something you can see on the cable guide some rainy Sunday afternoon and be like “Yeah, I can watch that again” multiple times a year. One that doesn’t lose much with a cable television cuss-and-nudity-free edit. Pulp Fiction is a great movie. It is a terrible basic cable movie.
Ideally, a good basic cable movie comes in around a B+. Good enough to keep your attention in spurts but not so great that it challenges you in any big way. There are exceptions to this, of course, because it’s all more of an art than a science. The best basic cable movie in history is The Fugitive, which is a solid A-/A movie. A Few Good Men is a great basic cable movie and that’s somewhere above a B+ just for Nicholson’s rant at the end. Fast Five is the most basic cable of the Fast & Furious franchise and it’s also the best one.
Sports movies are also great basic cable movies. Remember the Titans, Blue Chips, Any Given Sunday. Anything where a team faces long odds and an internal struggle but pulls it together in the end. Heist movies work, too, even ones that aren’t very good. The Thomas Crown Affair is a legendary basic cable movie but I’ve also seen After the Sunset — the one where Pierce Brosnan and Salma Hayek steal a diamond in the Bahamas — half a dozen times.
This isn’t a great answer. I think, actually, my top five list will help clear things up more than my attempted explanation. Let’s just skip to that.
1. The Fugitive
2. Any other Harrison Ford movie
3. Any Denzel Washington movie
4. The Thomas Crown Affair (Brosnan/Russo version)
Your mileage may vary. Some of you are probably upset I don’t have The Shawshank Redemption on here. That’s fine. You can make your own list and put it on there. In fact, you can put it on in the background while you make your list. That’s the whole point of a good basic cable movie.
AND NOW, THE NEWS
We have a Canadian bitcoin mystery on our hands. From CNBC:
About 180 million Canadian dollars ($137.21 million) in cryptocurrencies have been frozen in the user accounts of Canadian digital platform Quadriga after the founder, the only person with the password to gain access, died suddenly in December.
I am not entirely proud to say that I am obsessed with this story. The details go something like this: The company’s founder, a 30-year-old man, died from complications from Crohn’s disease while doing volunteer work in India and his widow and staff announced that they have no way to access the nine figures worth of other people’s cryptocurrency he controlled. You will not be surprised to hear that these people are handling it… poorly. There are accusations of faked deaths being tossed about and very normals demands like “show us the body” being made. It is an unmitigated fiasco and I will read everything anyone writes about it.
Now, let me be clear about this next thing I’m going to say. I’m not saying I think this guy faked his own death and disappeared with $100 million worth of people’s bitcoins. I’m not saying I think he’s somewhere on a small island that doesn’t believe in extradition, sipping an umbrella drink while lounging in a hammock outside his scenic villa. I’m not saying he acquired a fake passport and all the locals think he’s a retired hedge fund type named, like, Percy Orlando. I would never say that without any evidence.
What I am saying, though, is that this would be a great plot for a movie. And a great plot for the sequel to The Accountant. Some investors — sweet old people whose grandson convinced them to put their retirement funds in crypto — show up at Affleck’s office with a sad story about losing everything and suspicions of foul play. Affleck is intrigued. He looks into it all, following the money and the trail. There are two, maybe three montages of him crunching numbers. I’ll go as high as four.
Then, he finds the guy and storms his heavily-guarded tropical compound. A solid half-hour of headshots and rappelling off of roofs. Maybe a car chase. Finally, he catches him and makes him give up the key and bingo bango grandma and grandpa get their money back with interest.
I would watch that movie on basic cable right now.