Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Amateur Dream Analysis

DREAM: It’s the series finale of Game Of Thrones.  It’s a special three-hour episode — for all intents and purposes the movie event of the year as well as the TV event of the year.  The first two hours are amazing, all the spectacle and intrigue that you’d expect from the climax of this epic show. 

As the second hour wraps up, we see Theon Greyjoy entering a castle to confront his hated uncle Euron, who has his sister Yara captive.  The scene then shifts to…a modern luxury apartment building.  There we get Alfie Allen, Pilou Asbaek and Gemma Whelan (Theon, Euron and Yara) all in modern street clothes, still in the midst of a confrontation, but they’re all now just angrily sniping at each other passive-aggressively. 

Needless to say, it’s confusing.  The rest of the episode also takes place in modern times, with all of the characters now facing each other in family and business-related squabbles over a “Westeros Corporation.”  It’s basically like Dallas, except with all of the GoT cast in the lead roles.  The episode ends with the head of the company (CEO Cersei Lannister) agreeing to divvy up shares amongst everyone, leading to an uneasy truce that the financial officer for Jon Snow’s bid (Davos Seaworth, who is now a CPA?) predicts things will eventually break down again.

In the final scene of the show, it’s revealed that the entire dragons-and-war framing was actually a bedtime story told by Samwell Tarly to young Sam Jr. as a way of explaining the corporate machinations and why, ultimately, Sam (an employe of one of the companies) lost his job.  As a result of this, Gilly has left Sam for Jaime Lannister.  The last shot is Gilly hopping into Jamie’s convertible while Sam sadly watches from behind the curtain of his modest two-bedroom home.

: The phrase “break the internet” is thrown around quite a bit, but needless to say, this type of ending for Game Of Thrones would literally cause a riot on message boards.  The showrunners for Dexter, the Sopranos, Seinfeld, How I Met Your Mother and any other of the infamous ’ended poorly’ programs over the years would get together and share a toast over being off the hook as the Worst Ending In TV History.

I think we can assume that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss won’t choose to actually end the show this way.  (I’m not sure even the vast fortune they’ve amassed from the show’s success would protect them from the hordes of angry fans that would want to re-enact the Red Wedding in the event of such an ending.)  What my subconscious may have warning me of, however, is that however GoT does conclude, it’s going to be something of a letdown.  Most shows, no matter how good, don’t end on a perfect high note. 

Frankly, subconscious, I’m not really expecting a five-star finish from Game Of Thrones anyway given how the show has become increasingly shaky now that Benioff and Weiss have gone well beyond the books.  The entire seventh season seemed like ten episodes of story crammed into seven episodes, with way too many far-flung plot machinations.  I’m keeping my expectations firmly in check for how things

Ironically, part of my dream actually may have some basis in reality in regards to the actual finale.  No, not Jaime and Gilly hooking up…despite their shared background of incest, that might be a stretch.  It has long been speculated by GoT and A Song Of Ice And Fire fans that Samwell Tarly is essentially George R.R. Martin’s avatar within the series.  With Sam now becoming a maester and (this past season) learning of the importance of chronicling Westerosi history, the theory has been that the story told by ASOIAF and GoT will be “told” within the narrative by Sam himself.  Of course, this doesn’t make total sense given the number of events that Sam wasn’t there to witness, nor the lack of living survivors to many of these events that Sam couldn’t perhaps interview after the fact.  Then again, I guess Bran the three-eyed raven can help Sam will in the blanks.  Framing devices are cool!

The other “some basis in reality” aspect is another fan theory about the show being allegorical.  In this interpretation, the White Walkers actually succeed in conquering Westeros and killing everyone, in the ultimate overturning of fantasy tropes.  In this allegory, the White Walkers represent climate change, and Martin (and the show) are saying that humanity will be doomed unless it puts aside its petty leadership squabbles and unites against a common foe.  This, needless to say, would be a pretty stunning ending, and one I’m not sure the show would have the guts to pull off.  Maybe Sam, Gilly and little Sam escape on a boat to Braavos as the only survivors, and we still get the Narrator Sam ending of his telling the Braavosi about Westeros’ downfall?  I know GoT loves to shock audiences, but having EVERYONE die and the final scene as the Night’s King sitting on the Iron Throne would be something else even for this show.  Still, better that than the Night’s King recast as, like, “King Knight,” a mysterious bidder from up north planning a hostile takeover of CEO Cersei’s corporation.

Also, place your bets now — what are the chances that the Greyjoys all make it to the finale?  10-1?  20-1?  My pal Dave would hope this scenario happens, since Theon (of all people) is his favourite character.  Words fail me.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Bobby Heenan

One of the single funniest TV personalities of all time, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan was the perfect pro wrestling heel.  He was an unabashed jerk who was "officially" hated since he managed bad guys and talked down to the faces, but secretly beloved by fans because he was so outstandingly good in every aspect of performance.

Nobody was better at playing the arrogant heel and, as a crucial by-product, nobody was better at taking comeuppance for his heelish acts.  Heenan was a master at getting one-upped --- whether it was taking an actual beating in the ring, being dealt some humiliation like having water poured on him or being dressed in a weasel costume, or simply getting verbally owned by Gorilla Monsoon, nobody sold comic exasperation like Bobby Heenan.

His commentary job in the 1992 Royal Rumble is often held up as maybe the single best broadcasting work in wrestling history.  Heenan has to carry the story of his man, Ric Flair, being the #3 entry out of 30 wrestlers and lasting all the way to the end.  The Brain goes from being speechless with rage over Flair's unlucky entry number, to desperate over-confidence, to cheering every time Flair gets any sort of advantage in the match, to openly pleading with other wrestlers in the ring to help Flair out (and then hilariously ripping them for attacking Flair), to openly pleading with God himself to let Flair win, and then to final joy when Flair actually wins the match.  This was a full hour of commentary brilliance that added immeasurably to the already-great action in the ring ---- the 1992 Rumble is probably my favourite match ever. 

My favourite Heenan "performance," however, is slightly lesser-known.  It's the underrated storyline when Randy Savage, in need of a tag team partner for a big match against Ric Flair and Razor Ramon, offers the spot to (of all people) Mr. Perfect, Flair's manager/executive consultant.  Over the course of an entire episode of PrimeTime Wrestling, you see the wheels turn as this seemingly ridiculous proposal from the Macho Man starts to be taken seriously by Perfect, much to Heenan's chagrin.  Everyone, it should be noted, plays their parts really well in these segments --- Vince McMahon, Jim Duggan and Hillbilly Jim stirring the pot, Flair being so egomaniacal that he can't see what's happening until it's too late, Razor being the cocky newcomer with no respect for Perfect's past accomplishments, Savage simply laying out the scenario and Perfect himself as the proud athlete who doesn't feel he's washed up.  But I'd say it's the Brain that really drives things, as he's the one who is unwittingly undermining and insulting Perfect while trying to praise him and laugh off Savage's offer.  It's the perfect example of Bobby "the Brain" outsmarting himself while trying to be the smartest guy in the room.  He just says one word too many, and that's what dooms he, Flair and Razor to somehow losing a chief ally over the course of 30 minutes.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Total Mediocrity!

Happy Emmys night, everyone!  Nichols & May were the best.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Best TV Of The Last Year

This was an interesting year of TV that actually saw my number of shows *drop* from 45 last year to just 42 this year.  Frankly, I think I’m just getting less patient with shows.  In the past I would’ve some programs more episodes or even a full season, whereas now I’m just more apt to cut and run.  I gave Dirk Gently, for instance, four episodes to stop annoying the crap out of me and it never turned, so the hell with it.

There is obviously also a ton of television I haven’t watched, so if you feel there’s a great show that’s missing from this list, it’s 50-50 that I didn’t see it.  (That’s a much nicer way of putting it than saying “why would I watch such obvious garbage?”)

In all cases, I’m citing the most recently-aired season of an ongoing series, which aired between now and mid-September 2016.

42. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
41. Son Of Zorn
40. Legion
39. Family Guy

38. Wet Hot American Summer Reunion
37. Big Little Lies
36. Great News
35. The Defenders
34. Sherlock
33. Modern Family

32. Portlandia
31. Easy
30. Survivor: Game Changers
29. Fargo
28. The Simpsons
27. Westworld
26. The Apprentice UK (s12)

25. Baroness Von Sketch Show
24. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
23. Pitch
22. Ozark
21. Saturday Night Live
20. Amazing Race Canada (s5)
19. Amazing Race Canada (s4)
18. Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen-X
17. Luke Cage
16. The Good Place
15. The Americans
14. Amazing Race USA (s29)
13. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

12. Agents of SHIELD
11. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia
10. People Of Earth
9. Brockmire
8. Black Mirror (note: it feels sort of weird listing this as a 'show' but whatever)
7. Game Of Thrones
6. Orange Is The New Black

5. Master Of None
4. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
3. New Girl
2. Better Call Saul
1. The Leftovers

Thursday, September 07, 2017

NFL Predictions

On a scale of one to Golden State Warriors, the Patriots are pretty predictable Super Bowl champions this year.  Something weird could happen, true, and injuries can always set a team back (Julian Edelman is already gone for the year), but if I had to pick one team to win it all, it'd be New England again.

And hey, I do have to pick a team to win it all!  That's the whole point of this post!

East: Patriots, Dolphins, Bills, Jets
North: Steelers, Bengals, Ravens, Browns
South: Texans, Titans, Jaguars, Colts
West: Chiefs, Broncos, Chargers, Raiders
wild cards: Broncos, Titans

East: Cowboys, Giants, Washington, Eagles
North: Packers, Vikings, Lions, Bears
South: Falcons, Panthers, Saints, Buccaneers
West: Seahawks, Cardinals, Rams, 49ers
wild cards: Giants, Panthers

AFC title game: Patriots over Steelers
NFC title game: Seahawks over Packers

Super Bowl 52: Patriots over Seahawks

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

You're The Best Thing About Me

Back when it looked like "Songs Of Experience" was going to be released in late 2016, Kygo played his remix version of this song during a concert.  So U2 fans have been aware of YTBTAM for over a year now and been awaiting the proper version by the actual band.

The verdict?  It's a great melody, great chorus, great bridge, great rhythm section, Bono sounds good, and the guitar is only half-there.  I would've preferred if the funk guitar/beach rock sound from the first 30 or so seconds had been used throughout the entire track, rather than the Edge kind of just disappearing into effects world.

Also, could the title have simply not been 'The Best Thing'?  What's with U2's tendency to add extra words and clunkier phrasing?

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Count Down

When last we checked in on the Count's Twitter acCount, he had resumed tweeting after an unexplained absence that lasted from May 22-July 6.  It seemed like all was well, and yet we are now nearly a month into yet another hiatus. 

The Count's most recent tweet came on August 11, when his counting reached 1399.  There has been no follow-up.  Since he was about to hit a round number, I was wondering if the Count was merely pausing to create suspense, but no....research of past tweets indicates that in past instances of reaching a round number (the transition from the 1200s to 1300, for instance), he just kept on with the count with nary a pause.

The world stands terrified as we're once again left wondering why the Count has forsaken his count.  I need not remind you that this kindly vampire loves counting more than anything in the world, so something truly shocking must have happened for the Count to cease operations.  And now with TWO shutdowns within the span of three months?  The mystery deepens.

Of note: while the large majority of the Count's tweets carry just the latest number in this countdown, some also contain laughter.  As in, the Count's signature "Ah ah ah!" laugh.  Why did the Count find these particular numbers so amusing?!  Recent tweets that contained laughter corresponded to the numbers 1292, 1307, 1316, 1317, 1318, 1322, 1373, 1377, 1379, 1391 --- can any amateur John Nashes out there find a pattern?

This mystery is driving me...

( •_•)>⌐■-■



Monday, September 04, 2017

How We Remember Bad Movies

Courtesy of my friend Ian.....

"It's amazing that Austin Powers was a major, multi-million dollar film franchise that was released within the last 20 years, but the only enduring reference from those movies is when you're trying to maneuver your car out of a tight spot. If you say 'Shagadelic, baby!', people will laugh at you for being dated as hell, but if you're trying to parallel park and you say, 'Oh, I'm going to have to try an Austin Powers move here,' people instantly know what you're talking about and laugh at the reference."

It’s very true, and a prime example about how you never know what bits of pop culture will stick in people’s memory.  As Ian points out, Austin Powers was actually a good movie* and a big franchise, but it’s stranger than a bad movie somehow retains a spot as a go-to reference.

* = having not seen the original Austin Powers in some years, I’ll stick with teenage Mark’s memories and impressions rather than give into my suspicion that the film has aged hella-poorly.  As in, aged worst than using “hella-“ as a prefix.

To name just a few examples, hence the entire point of this post…

* Junior is still the go-to reference for the idea of a man giving birth
* Jack is still the go-to reference for the idea of someone who looks much older than they actually are, or someone who’s a veritable manchild
* Groovin’ 2 is still a go-to reference whenever someone wants to mock the idea of a goofy or unnecessary sequel, since they just refer to it as “___ 2: Electric Boogaloo”
* Pay It Forward introduced the concept of, well, paying it forward as an act of social kindness
* The Bucket List introduced the concept of, well, a bucket list.
* Master Of Disguise, based on the “turtle turtle!” gimmick in the trailer, is still the go-to reference when you see someone that looks like, or is dressed like, a turtle.
* Sliding Door is still the go-to reference for alternate realities based on one minor decision
* Powder is still a chief go-to reference for bald people.  I was actually recently described in a roast-like fantasy sports messageboard thread as looking like “Sean Patrick Flanery’s character in Powder.”  Dude, just say I look like Powder.  I watch a hundred movies a year; trust me, I’ll get the reference.  ‘Powder’ is even the character’s name.  It’s like saying someone looks like “Tom Hanks’ character in Forrest Gump.”

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Blackout

After months of rumours and (reportedly) some cold feet at this time a year ago, U2's new album is finally coming our way within the next few months.  The band is taking the unique-for-them step of seemingly debuting multiple songs in advance.  We already had "The Little Things That Give You Away" performed live in concert this summer, we have the official first single "The Best Thing" next week and for now we have "The Blackout," available via U2's Facebook page.

It's an interesting melange of Magnificent/Crystal Ballroom/Zoo Station with maybe a drip of The Fly and a smidge of Wire.  The other interesting detail is that...I don't love it?  It's a good song, the chorus is catchy and potentially a grower, though I didn't get the instant wow factor that I get listening to most U2 songs.

What is promising, however, is the overall sound.  There's definitely a polished modern dance/rock sheen of production over the tune, though it is very much a rock song.  The rhythm section is just pounding away (great bass song for Adam Clayton) and the Edge has a bit of the ol' chainsaw guitar sound from Zoo Station working here.  My guess is that Songs Of Experience will be another mixture of U2's different sides rather than a unified sound, though it's good to see the band delving into a big rock sound for at least one track.

There is a 100% chance this will be the opening track on next year's tour, complete with the house lights dropping halfway through the song, a la Elevation during the Elevation Tour.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Conan & Sona

The greatest comedy team of our generation?