Lars Predicts that Predictions are Predictably Wrong

Larstradamus thinks crystal balls should be used for duck pin bowling.

Every winter about this time we’re flooded with predictions for the new year. I’m often approached by the various publications for which I write to make a few of my own. Most of the time I respectfully decline. In my other job as an historian I’ve enough trouble figuring what already happened, let alone what will occur down the road. I can, however, tell you that history reveals that there are precious few Nostradamuses (Nostradami?) out there. In fact, Nostradamus was no Nostradamus; he was just an old codger living in the 16th century and eking out a living as a druggist. He made a series of prophecies that were roughly as specific as the daily horoscope, which is to say you can twist them any way you wish.

I’ve read the latest prognostication that the world is about to end, either in May of 2011 when the Rapture occurs, or early in 2012 when the Mayan calendar runs out. Okay, so here’s my prediction: neither will occur. If they do, sue me. There are only three guaranteed predictions. The first is that in any given calendar year a bunch of people will be born and a bunch will die. Second, fewer famous people will die than non-famous ones, but there will be more good people among the non-celebrated departed. Third, most predictions made for 2011 will prove wrong to the point of stupid. The one or two who guessed right will go on cable TV and set up a 900 number, but they’re not seers; they were just lucky (and selectively crafty in hiding what they got wrong.)

2011 has already featured tons of political and economic forecasts. Pay no attention to any of them unless you just want a belly laugh. Obama has no chance of winning reelection in 2012, right? Sure--that’s what they said about Bill Clinton in 1995, just before he beat old Bob Dole like a hyperactive child with an empty oatmeal tub. Twenty months in political time in an eternity. And for heaven’s sake ignore all economic forecasts as if they were Biblical-proportion plagues of grasshoppers. You could take every economist from the past twenty years who accurately forecast the state of American finance, stuff them in your penny jar, and still have room for coins.

Take it from old Larstradamus, who predicts that the hot fashion item for 2012 will be egg applied liberally onto the faces of those who predicted what 2011 would bring.


Best Films of 2010 (No Matter What Oscar Says)

Hollywood won't honor this film, but you should!

The Oscar nominations will be out soon. Ho hum. Chances are you won’t have seen several of the films nominated for Best Picture. That’s because they only need to have been released in New York or Los Angeles within the calendar year to be nominated and won’t actually make it to your town until some time this spring. Keep this in mind as you look over this list of Best Films for 2010--some of these are movies considered 2009 releases, but we count them as 2010 entries because we happen to live in the parts of America that lie between Tribeca and Sunset Strip. Those in blue link to a longer review.

1. Winter’s Bone. Will not win any Oscars--it has no stars, was made on a shoestring, and is deeply disturbing. It’s also head and shoulders above anything coming out of Hollywood in ’10.

2. White Ribbon--This take on hysteria in one German village during early-twentieth-century is a searing portrait of what made Nazism possible. Utterly brilliant and I offer no rebuttal to anyone who ranks it as number one.

3. A Single Man--Colin Firth got jobbed for not winning Best Actor last year for his portrayal of a gay professor whose lover’s death plunges him into reckless despair.

4. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus--Terry Gilliam’s latest is a surrealistic update of the classic tale of bargaining with Satan to gain immortality. Heath Ledger’s last film is equal parts wacky and creepy.

5. MicMacs--Jean-Pierre Jeunet (“Amelie”) matches Gilliam in humor and surrealistic weirdness. What if we collected life’s lovable outcasts, orchestrated them, and let them take revenge on their tormentors?

6. Logorama--Winner of last year’s Short Animation Oscar, this 16-minute film is among the most subversive you’re likely to view. A witty and devastating look at a dystopian future in which America has become so thoroughly corporatized that its logos come to life.

7. The Social Network--This (barely) fictionalized look at Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg is almost as creepy as The Silence of the Lambs and you may come to see Hannibal Lecter as more honest!

8. The Grocer’s Son--A sweet French film that was made in 2007 but didn’t find its way here until last year. A young man discovers his humanity amidst a cast of rural eccentrics, lonely hearts, and elders.

9. The King’s Speech--Colin Firth may collect the Oscar this year for his portrayal of the stammering and never-wanted-to-be-a-King George VI. Geoffrey Rush steals the show, though.

10. Fair Game--Need another reason to despise George Bush? Check out this dramatization of the outing of spy Valerie Plame, the victim of a Bush vendetta against her husband.