Monday, February 26, 2007

Quick Oscar thoughts

Martin Scorsese 1, Three Six Mafia 1

Ellen did an okay job, but I would love to see a Will Ferrell/John C. Reilly combo host next year's Oscars.

Had Eddie Murphy won, he would've become the first former SNL cast member to win an Oscar. He joins Murray, Aykroyd, McKean, Cusack, Downey, Quaid and George Coe among the losing SNL nominees.

The movie I liked the most out of the nominees actually won Best Picture. That NEVER happens for me.

How unstoppable would a Gore/Obama ticket be in 2008? They could dig up Ronald Reagan (or just re-enact the last two years of his presidency) and even he would bow to their might.

Melissa Etheridge and her partner have four kids? David Crosby's got sperm like a mofo.

Peter O'Toole is now the losingest actor in Oscar history, with an 0-for-8 record. It matches his blood-alcohol level, which is a constant 0.8

Jack Nicholson stealing my haircut was both scary and awesome at the same time. I think he was stating that since he played the Joker, he could've played Lex Luthor equally well.

Clint introducing Ennio Morricone was like a bad sketch come to life. There' s a reason why Clint always played the strong, silent type.

The only result that really angered me was Children of Men not winning cinematography.

Next year, cut down on the bloody montages, lose the artistic dance troupe and have all five best picture clips cued up and ready to go in the first hour.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


First, a great stat for you. Tiger Woods got knocked out of the match play event this week, thus ending his bid to break Byron Nelson's PGA record of 11 consecutive tournaments won (which, if I ever write that 'most unbreakable records in sports' post, will be prominently featured).

So Tiger's win streak ended at 'only' seven tournaments. Here's the stat: of the 63 other players in the match play tournament (who, by the way, are the #2-#64 ranked golfers in the world), only seven of them have more than seven career PGA Tour victories.

This is another reason why Tiger Woods pwns us all.

In a case of being careful about one wishes for, I have the first pick in an upcoming fantasy baseball draft. The obvious choice is Albert Pujols. He's generally acknowledged to be the best hitter in the league, Yahoo ranks him first in its preseason player rankings, basically every fantasy baseball magazine and online guide has him going first or second in their mock drafts.

Here's the problem: Pujols has a few red flags surrounding him. He missed 19 games last season, though since it was his first career stint on the DL and his numbers remained sick after his return, it's not a big problem. It remains to be seen how Pujols will respond to winning a World Series last season, since some guys lose the desire after winning a ring. Also, Pujols is kind of a dick. Nowhere near a Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens, but over the last year, there has been an undercurrent of jerkiness to his behaviour. He whined about how he should've won the MVP award over Ryan Howard because Howard's team didn't make the playoffs --- awfully sour grapes from a guy who just won a World Series and, like, just won the MVP last season. During last year's playoffs, Pujols also opined that Tom Glavine, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, wasn't much of a pitcher.

Methinks that the universe may deal out some karma for this behaviour at some point, possibly in the form of a hamstring injury that never fully heals. I hate hamstring injuries -- they are death to a fantasy player. When one of your guys pulls a hammy, it invariably leads to 2-3 days of him being out of the lineup for observation, which hurts you since the guy isn't DL'ed yet, so you have to stick him on the bench. Then, there's the DL stint, which can last anywhere from two weeks (though it's almost always longer) to two months, followed by the athlete invariably needing at least a week to return to form, if at all. It's even worse if it's a speed guy who gets hurt, since that's a lot of valuable stolen bases down the drain.

Aside from this karma bullshit, there is another practical reason for not picking Pujols first overall. The way this league is set up, you have two catchers, one starter at each infield position plus a corner infielder and middle infielder, one utility spot and five outfielders. Ergo, whomever can amass the most quality outfielders usually wins, unless their pitching is just garbage. This makes me want to just grab as many outfielders as I can, perhaps even to the extent of spending my first 10 picks on nothing but OFs, catchers and pitchers and letting the chips fall where they may with the other positions.

The trouble here is, there is no outfielder I could take and definitively say that "Yes, this guy will have as good or better a season than Pujols." The only outfielder with a comparable ceiling is Soriano, but he's going into Chicago this season and that is always a crapshoot. Cubs history is filled with players who "should've" been great in Wrigley but fallen victim to the Cubbie Curse. The only pitcher who deserves the #1 spot ahead of Pujols is Johan Santana, but hitters give you more overall value than pitchers.

Having #1 in a baseball draft is often a curse. The last few years, A-Rod has been the consensus #1 in most leagues because of his great numbers and the fact that he's played at third base and shortstop, and it's a lot harder to find a great power hitter at those positions than at first or the outfield. But A-Rod's time has come and gone, though he's still an easy top-ten selection as long as your league doesn't count playoff stats. Drafting is easier in other fantasy sports. If you have the #1 pick in your fantasy football league and don't take a premier running back (in this case, LT), you're a stone-cold idiot. Sidney Crosby will be at the top of every NHL fantasy draft for at least the next decade. In basketball, you either take the best center in the league (since it's a scarce position), or one of the one-man-team guys like Kobe, LeBron or Arenas. If you play fantasy golf and don't take Tiger in as many eligible tournaments as possible, you're crazy. You may also have social problems because you're in a fantasy golf league --- in a related story, I've played fantasy golf for the last five years.

I can't believe I've written six paragraphs debating this when there's a 95 percent chance I'll take Pujols anyway, because he's done nothing but put up crazy Ted Williams numbers in his career. I'm overthinking this way too much. This is probably why, in this particular league, I've finished 14th and 16th out of 16 teams in two years. I'm the Pittsburgh Pirates of this league. How did I get a job writing about baseball, again?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Markademy Awards

This is one of those posts that may be obsolete as soon as I write it. I haven't seen Dreamgirls, Letters from Iwo Jima, Last King of Scotland or most of the foreign film entries, and thus my personal knowledge of 2006's best movies is incomplete. I could see The Lives of Others a week from now, totally love it, and thus this whole post will be as useless as a comb is to Britney Spears (unless she is brushing her vagina to make it look nice for its next public appearance). Kudos to myself for passing up an obvious 'pubic appearance' joke!

But, since the Oscars are under a week away and my evenings are pretty booked until then, I have no choice. The only film I'm going to see this week is....sigh.....Ghost Rider. I'm pretty sure I can cross that one off the 2007 list already.

This is one of those rare years when every nominee has a legitimate shot at winning. I'd say Letters from Iwo Jima and the Queen are the longest shots, because both of those films weren't necessary acclaimed for themselves as they were for a dominant personality (Clint and Helen Mirren, respectively). Babel is the favourite that nobody talks about, but that doesn't mean it's an underdog --- it's the leader in nominations among the best pic nominees. I literally mean that it has nobody talking about it. It might carry some more weight out in Hollywood, but (in spite of Pitt in the cast) it hardly carries the pop-cult appeal of Little Miss Sunshine or the Departed. Gonzalez Inarritu has even had a bit of his own buzz muted by the fact that Alfonso Cuaron and Guillermo Del Toro (his fellow 'three amigos,' as some idiotic media outlets have dubbed them) seem to have a lot more people talking about their films. Babel could either clean house or go home with nothing on Oscar night; it might become the first Best Picture in decades to win just the Best Pic award and nothing else. I still think it's between Little Miss Sunshine and Departed, with Departed winning because it had big names, was a popular success and it seems like it's just Scorsese's year.

Here are my nominees: Children of Men, The Departed, Pan's Labyrinth, A Prairie Home Companion, The Prestige. I actually had a post earlier this year about what a poor movie year 2006 was shaping up to be, but this is an outstanding collection of films. These were the five that impressed me the most, and passed my 'gobsmack' test. Namely, during the end credits, I was left sitting in my seat for a moment, rather gobsmacked at the quality I had just witnessed and fighting the urge to stand and yell at the projectionist to play it again.

It's tough to pick just one, but I'd have to go with The Prestige. Congrats to Christopher Nolan for directing back-to-back Markademy Award winners after 2005's Batman Begins. I wouldn't have thought it possible for Nolan to craft a film equal to Memento in structural complexity and general wtf-is-going-on-ness, but here you have it.

Just in case, you're curious, here's a list of past Markademy Award winners
2005- Batman Begins......The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Good Night and Good Luck, Match Point, Sin City
2004- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind......Closer, The Incredibles, Kill Bill Volume Two, Spider-Man II
2003- Love Actually.....Finding Nemo, Kill Bill Volume One, Mystic River, 21 Grams
2002- Talk To Her.....About Schmidt, Adaptation, Catch Me If You Can, Minority Report
2001- Amelie......Black Hawk Down, Gosford Park, Memento, Moulin Rouge
2000- High Fidelity......Almost Famous, Best in Show, Traffic, Unbreakable

Odds are that Forest Whitaker will add to his bagful of critics' awards, though I think there's still a nagging feeling that some voters might think "We're giving an Oscar to Forest Whitaker for a little-seen foreign film? Really?" Sure, PS Hoffman won last year and he's not exactly your typical leading man, but at least he has been in some high-profile films in recent years. The Academy might not want to reward a character actor in two straight years. This might toss some votes the way of Leo DiCaprio, in what would be one of those double-honour Oscars (he's nominated for Blood Diamond, but if he wins, it would really be for both BD and the Departed). Another contender is Peter O'Toole, who might get the pity vote because he's racked up so many nominations without a win. Will Smith and Ryan Gosling have no shot, though the bright side is we'll get to see Rachel McAdams look hot on the red carpet.

The Departed is one of those movies that suffers from too much good acting. It's got three leads in Jack, Leo and Matt, and five meaty supporting performances from Marky Mark, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, Vera Farmiga and Ray Winstone. When the 'worst' performance is given by Martin Sheen, you know your cast is firing on all cylinders. It's for this reason that the Departed was largely shut out of the Oscar balloting, which is why the Oscars really needs a 'best ensemble' award. My best actor award goes to the most underrated leading man in Hollywood, Matt Damon....who, oddly enough, was never given any buzz for his role. What's not to like about Matt Damon? Picks good roles, has a nice mix of box office hits and artsier films, seems like he has a good sense of humour, and only a couple of poor performances (Bagger Vance, Good Shepherd) that I can think of.

Helen Mirren. Next.

Yeah, I can get behind Helen Mirren winning. I really need to see Little Children, though, since I have a habit of loving Kate Winslet in everything. Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett both rocked it pretty hard in Notes on a Scandal, though Blanchett was inexplicably nominated in the supporting category for her lead role.

This is one of those bellweather awards that pop up from time to time. Eddie Murphy is the heavy favourite and he'll probably win (Norbit notwithstanding). But if Alan Arkin pulls the upset, you know that it's Little Miss Sunshine's night. Conversely, if Marky Mark wins, it's the Departed's night. Djimon Hounsou and Jackie Earle Haley are along for the ride.

Well, I haven't seen Dreamgirls, so Eddie is out. What the heck, I'll do a full ballot for this one.
* Paul Giamatti, for The Illusionist. Pig Vomit was the one thing keeping the poor man's Prestige in the good category. Illusionist and Prestige inexplicably opened within a few weeks of each last fall, and the box office confusion of two period pieces about magicians sunk them both. Prestige was much, much, better, but Illusionist had Giamatti valiantly carrying the ball.
* Greg Kinnear, for Little Miss Sunshine. Given that he started out as a talk show host, Kinnear's film career has gone much better than anyone expected.
* Jack Nicholson, for the Departed. Yeah, he's "playing Jack again" to some extent, but this is the first time in a while I've felt some actual menace from a Jack villain. Even when he was in the Shining or Batman, you never saw homicidal madman Jack Torrence or homicidal madman the Joker: you saw Jack being awesome.
* John C. Reilly, for A Prairie Home Companion and Talladega Nights. Reilly got his only actual nomination for being good in several roles in 2002, so I'm awarding him again for a combo deal in 2006.
* Michael Sheen, for the Queen. Imagine if someone had to play George W. Bush in a film and wasn't allowed to make it a caricature. This was Sheen's role as Tony Blair in the Queen. Playing a real-life contemporary figure without devolving into parody isn't easy, but Sheen nailed it.

And the winner is Jack, of course.

Jennifer Hudson. Next.....though if Abigail Breslin wins, then that's enough of a bellweather that they might as well give LMS the trophy on the spot.

* Penelope Cruz's breasts, in Volver. You might think I'm being crude, but the cleavage was so prominent that it even became a plot point. What's a boy to do?
* Lola Duenas, for Volver. The movie wasn't much, but (like many Almodovar films) had some of the best female parts of the year. Duenas was the best of a good bunch.
* Meryl Streep, for A Prairie Home Companion.
* Lily Tomlin, for A Prairie Home Companion. Seriously, are Streep and Tomlin ever not good in anything?
* Maribel Verdu, for Pan's Labyrinth. Excellent, grounded performance in a movie filled with crazy shit.

Scorsese looks like he's finally going to win one, which makes my heart happy. You've got enough Oscars already, Clint. You've got your whole career ahead of you, Gonzalez Inarritu. You still deserve punishment for your overly shaky camera that ruined Bourne Supremacy, Paul Greengrass. Um, you've still got time, Stephen Frears (this guy's filmography, btw, is pretty damn solid....High Fidelity, Mrs. Henderson Presents, Dirty Pretty Things, the Grifters).

Honestly, the best-directed films of the year were Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo Del Toro) and Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron). If this was an actual award show, I'm sure I'd have given Scorsese a few plaudits in the past anyway. The other notches on my ballot go to Chris Nolan and --- get ready --- Mel Gibson, for Apocalypto. I can't imagine what a bitch this movie must've been to direct, but Mel did a bang-up job. Too bad he's a looney.

Monday, February 05, 2007


Time for the ol' blog to get a new look. Perhaps it's the dawning of a new era for me, as now I live in a world where Peyton Manning is a Super Bowl champion. I love how I've railed against this guy in posts for a solid month, and yet he still trumped me in the end. It's almost like I know jack-all about football. Le sigh.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Books, Volver, Peyton, UFC

I haven't posted much recently due to the fact that I've been funnelling my creative juices into novel-writing. I'm working on two is a comic mystery, and the other is a more serious relationshippy kind of book, kind of like a homeless man's Anne Tyler. Writing two things at once is actually kind of helpful for combatting writer's block, especially two books that are different in tones. When I'm in a funny mood, I work on the comedy. When I'm not in a funny mood (or, more accurately, when I'm trying to be funny and failing miserably), I work on the other one. At my current rate, expect both books on the shelves by 2023.


Went to see Volver the other night, and wasn't overly impressed. I loved Pedro Almodovar's Talk To Her, and liked his Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (which is also one of the best titles ever for a movie), but Volver left me a bit cold. You shouldn't be leaving an Almodovar movie with the dominant thought being 'Boy, the lead actress was hot,' like it was a Michael Bay popcorn flick, but that was the case here. The film had a lot of interesting elements to it, but whereas most Almodovar films tie these together for a big crescendo in the end, Volver just kind of piddles out.

I'm disappointed, since I figured this one would be a big contender at next month's Markademy Awards (stay tuned). On the bright side, Penelope Cruz did in fact look hot, so Cruz fans should definitely check this one out. It was also probably her best performance, to boot. If they gave out Oscars based on both acting ability* and attractiveness, Cruz would destroy Helen Mirren.

* = wait, they give out Oscars based on acting ability? coughcoughJuliaRobertsKimBasingerCubaGoodingHaingNgorcoughcough


Emmett asked in the comments section about why I dislike Peyton Manning. I think I went into greater detail about this a few posts ago, but basically I dislike how he seems to choke in big games and has a tendency to turn the blame on others (i.e. Vanderjagt, the NFL rulebook and how it used to 'let' the Patriots secondary get away with stuff when it was really just his crappy passes, his offensive linemen in last year's AFC semi-final) rather than himself. This is compounded by the fact that advertisers, announcers and the NFL in general treat him like a god, when he is pretty A-Rodish in my books.

Frankly, the whole Manning clan seems like a bunch of punks. Archie never won anything in New Orleans, though he seems to have been retconned by the media as a quarterback who could've been a legend who was held back by his crappy team -- maybe this is where Peyton learned his 'blame others' routine. There's Peyton, who hasn't won anything in the NFL or in college, despite being Mr. Everything. Then there's Eli, perhaps the biggest loser of all. He and Archie raised a stink about how Eli didn't want to play in San Diego in his draft year, and thus forced the Chargers to trade the #1 pick to New York. The last laugh ended up being with San Diego, as as the three draft picks they got from New York led to three Pro Bowlers (Nate Kaeding, Phil Rivers and Shawne Merriman), while Eli has struggled mightly in NYC.

I think it was Bill Simmons who came up with the best comparison to the Manning family. They're like the Cushmans in Jerry Maguire -- the hotshot #1 pick quarterback and the domineering father. Except in this case it's two hotshot #1 pick quarterbacks.


I've become a big UFC fan over the last year, and usually their pay per views make me full of giddiness about the onset of violence I'll get to watch. I may be the first person to ever use the word 'giddiness' to describe UFC, but c'est la vie. This Saturday's PPV, however, is perhaps the least excited I've been about a UFC card. Not so unexcited that I won't watch, but this is the most WWE-like UFC card I've seen.

Let me explain: longtime wrestling fans remember WWF Superstars or the WWF Wrestling Challenge on Saturday morning TV back in childhood. Those shows were full of what are known in wresting as 'squash' matches, where an established star wrestler would destroy a 'jobber' to get over his character and establish himself as a tough wrestler. The matches would feature, say, the Undertaker versus some guy in generic tights named Bill Smith or something.

Fast forward a couple of decades to UFC, and essentially the same thing is happening this weekend on PPV. The whole event is centered around the UFC debuts of Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson and Mirko Cro Cop, two top fighters from Japan's PRIDE organization. UFC has big-money matchups up the wazoo planned for these two, and so for their first fights, UFC has scheduled a couple of little-known fighters essentially as job guys. Now, since UFC isn't like pro wrestling and is actually real, the chance exists that one of these guys could step up and score a huge upset. Rampage's opponent, a guy named Marvin Eastman, actually holds a win over Rampage from a few years ago. But what I like about UFC is competitive fights. I'm excited to see guys like Cro Cop and Rampage fight, since I've heard great things about them, but seeing them against glorified jobbers doesn't get my pulse racing. Furthermore, the PPV's main event is (or, was) a title match between middleweight champ Anderson Silva and challenger Travis Lutter, who won his shot by winning the latest season of the Ultimate Fighter reality series. For non-UFC fans, that sounds horrible -- "he won his shot on a reality show" -- but this version of the series featured established fighters who had suffered a setback in their careers, and were fighting to gain a final shot at glory. From this Rocky-esque premise came a series of pretty dull fights and fairly uninteresting winners in Lutter and light-heavyweight division winner Matt Serra. The interest of the other UF series was that up-and-coming fighters were getting their first shots in the UFC, but in this case, you got guys like Lutter and Serra who had already hit their peaks. There is also no chance in hell that these two journeymen can knock off Silva or light-heavy champ Georges St. Pierre, who are two of the best pound for pound fighters in the world.

This event was supposed to feature both TUF title shots, but St. Pierre got hurt and thus his match with Serra has been pushed back a couple of months. Now, Lutter apparently didn't make weight, so his match with Silva will be a non-title affair, which makes it even more pointless. I presume that Lutter has lost his prize by not making weight, so we will be spared the spectacle of Silva destroying Lutter here, and then Lutter demanding a rematch because he was 'guaranteed' a shot. WTF is up with Lutter, anyway? He doesn't make weight? Are you kidding? I had a few classes at Western with a guy on the wrestling team, and he was always saying how he had to make weight for that weekend's tournament. He always made the weight limit, and he wasn't fighting in the title match of a multi-million dollar pay-per-view event. Lutter was a pound and a half over the weight limit, so he had two hours to lose the weight before a secondary weigh-in. Two hours later, he was only a half-pound lighter. So much for being like Rocky. Man, even I can lose two pounds just by going on the bike at the gym for 45 minutes.

Anyway, I'll still watch UFC 67 on Saturday night, but it's not exactly going to be a barn-burner. It's funny that the event is subtitled "All or Nothing," since in terms of fight quality, it'll be a lot closer to nothing. It can only be saved if Jackson comes out in either a lizard, ape or werewolf costume as a tribute to the old arcade game Rampage. That game was awesome.