Directed by a 28 year old Steven Spielberg, Jaws is a gripping, multi-faceted masterwork. This thriller/cult classic features resonant, memorable work by Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss, and a mesmerizing, iconic performance by Robert Shaw. Also involved is a 20+ (25!) foot-long shark. One of the most perfectly realized films of the 20th century.
The 1996 film Fargo, a Coen Brothers masterwork, presents the story and precipitous moral/psychological decline of Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy), the misadventures of the bungling kidnappers (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) whose “help” he enlists, and the dogged attempts of Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) to make sense of it all. Macy’s performance is mind-boggling, Buscemi and Stormare are brilliant, and McDormand carried away an Oscar for her finely-nuanced portrayal. Carter Burwell composed the memorable theme.
2020 featured a sensational, stomach-churning final for the men’s US Open trophy. Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem battled for over 4 hours, each getting excruciatingly close to the crown. Jangly nerves, cramps, and courage played as large a role as each player’s formidable arsenal of shotmaking weaponry. The Austrian finally prevailed by the slimmest of margins in the final set tiebreaker. A heartbreaking pill for Zverev to somehow swallow, and the first major championship for Dominic Thiem, who had * just* enough will at the finish to outlast his friend.
The final of the 2020 US Open featured everything one could desire in a championship match: high level of play; swings in momentum; and commendable bravery from both players. Naomi Osaka emerged the victor in an epic struggle with Victoria Azarenka, claiming her 3rd major trophy in the process. Both players exhibited tremendous desire, not to mention wondrous shotmaking. It will be a long-remembered match for the championship level on both sides of the net. Osaka’s wicked groundstrokes, formidable serve, and grace under pressure eventually prevailed.
24 year old Daniil Medvedev, the world’s 5th ranked player, plays a fascinating game of tennis. Though 6’6″, he plays mostly from the backcourt, where he is utterly ruthless. Ceaseless probing, penetrating groundstrokes, hit mostly flat, help him gain control of the point, and he is not one prone to relinquishing it. A formidable competitor, Medvedev plays controlled offense superbly, has a very effective serve, and has excellent foot speed. He seems destined to be at or near the top of the men’s game for many years.
Robin Zander, Tom Peterrson, Bun E. Carlos, and Rick Nielsen made copious amounts of aural nirvana, particularly in the late 70s, as Cheap Trick. The concerts in Budokan were recorded in 1978, but not released in the US until demand became so frenzied that Epic had little choice. Intended solely as a Japanese album, the LP jettisoned the band into the realms of world domination. This was preceded by Heaven Tonight, the band’s greatest studio achievement. Several pieces from this classic are captured here performed live at various venues. Cheap Trick’s highs were nothing short of vertiginous.
Unquestionably one of the titanic figures of 20th century music, Thelonious Monk composed and performed mountains of material that now has classic status, but during his initial heyday in the 40’s, it was often dismissed as too quirky, too dissonant, too…weird. Well, Monk’s work is indeed all of those things, but in just the right amount. There is an uncanny air of ineffable mystery that permeates his playing that is striking. His style is angular, uses silence beautifully, and is deeply personal and idiosyncratic. Although hugely influential, no one has ever sounded remotely like him.
The inimitable magic of Steph Curry, which for him is a mere bagatelle. Curry is without a doubt one of the greatest long range shooters ever, possesses magical ball handling skills, is an electric passer, and is a potent scorer from anywhere on the court. The 2 time league MVP holds a number of NBA records, including highest free throw percentage for a career, most points in an overtime period, most 3 point shots made in a season…the list goes on. Steph is the only player ever to lead the league in scoring while achieving the 50-40-90 shooting trifecta. The 6’3″ guard has revolutionized the way the game is played, and is a joy to watch.
The immortal Triple Crown winner Secretariat is generally considered to be the greatest thoroughbred racehorse ever, along with Man o’ War. After winning Horse of the Year as a 2 year old, a rare feat, he took part in the triple Crown races as a 3 year old. He swept them, running the fastest Derby, Preakness, and Belmont of all time in the process. Sham, a very fine horse, who finished behind the big chestnut colt in the Derby and Preakness, ran the *second* fastest time ever in both. Secretariat set a *world* record in the 1 1/2 mile Belmont, besting the old mark by a simply unreal 2 3/5 seconds. His winning margin was an absurd 31 lengths.
Later in the season, he took part in the Marlboro Cup, which featured his stablemate Riva Ridge, a champion 4 year old. Secretariat prevailed easily, and ended up setting yet another world record for the distance, at 1:45 2/5 seconds. Truly the stuff of myth and legend.
Homeric valor, unfathomable resolve, and titanic talent were exhibited by both champions in this unforgettable battle.