Box office breather. It was another slow weekend at the box office. The top 12 movies grossed less than $100 million, 10 percent less than the same weekend the year before, and 20 percent behind the previous weekend. The mediocre Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2 was No. 1, bringing in $35 million. The top 44 movies of the week, (according to Box Office Mojo), included only five new releases. Hollywood is clearly keeping its powder dry for the holiday season.
Breaking good. The offerings of the small screen were somewhat better, highlighted by the series finale of Breaking Bad last night. Make no mistake, this show is not for the queasy. There’s plenty of violence, and the language pushes the television envelope. That said, it’s been one of the best shows on television for the past few years, a brilliant portrayal of the doctrine of original sin. Along the way, it has a lot to say about family, community, love, hate, and modern American culture generally. And last night’s final episode provided a degree of satisfaction by meting out justice to the bad guys in ways that was oddly appropriate to their sins. And, by the way, for those troubled by the violence, consider this: Nine major characters die in Hamlet, and Shakespeare’s bloodiest play, Titus Andronicus, “offs” 14 characters, two of them baked into pies and eaten. Top that, Vince Gilligan.
The boys of October. The regular season of major league baseball comes to an end this week, and the playoffs begin. It did not end as many thought it would back in April. The Washington Nationals, the best team in baseball on paper, did not make the playoffs. Oakland, the smallest market in the American League West, will once again play into the off-season. In fact, for Moneyball fans, it’s possible that this year’s edition of the Oakland A’s is even more representative of Billy Bean’s data-driven strategy than the 2001 team that motivated the Michael Lewis book and subsequent movie. In a couple of noteworthy footnotes to this year’s season: After a very slow start, my favorite pitcher, R.A. Dickey, finished the year with a respectable won-loss record of 14-13. And 41-year-old Yankee Andy Pettitte finished his career with a beautiful five-hit complete game against his hometown Houston Astros. He was the oldest starting pitcher in the major leagues this year, finishing with a record of 11-11. Thanks to Saturday’s win, in 18 major league seasons he never had a losing record. His career record is 256-153 with a 3.85 earned run average. He was particularly strong in the postseason, where he racked up 19 wins. These numbers should put him in the Hall of Fame, though Hall voters in recent years have been hard on drug users. Pettitte admitted in 2008 he had used performance-enhancing drugs in 2002 to recover from an injury. But most consider his use minimal, his apology sincere, and his post-2002 career completely drug-free. All of that could hold him in good stead when he’s eligible for the Hall in five years.
The religion of peace strikes again. According to AFP and other news agencies, Boko Haram gunmen on Sunday opened fire in a college dormitory in northeast Nigeria as the students slept, killing 40 in the latest massacre blamed on the Islamist insurgents. The students were part of the College of Agriculture in the town of Gujba in Yobe state, the area governor said in a statement. The Boko Haram terrorists were apparently themselves students at the school. The office of Yobe Governor Ibrahim Gaidam said that in addition to the 40 dead, the gunmen injured four others.