Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fulham FC = A Pile of Trash

Ha ha, that wacky Billy Badger! What hijinks will he get into next?!

In a related story, Fulham is 19th out of 20 teams in the Premiership. They will almost surely be relegated. The most entertaining thing that has happened to them this season has been their mascot's antics. Unbelievable. And I picked this clown college as my favourite EPL team. God.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Leafs

As a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, I don't know what Tuesday (trade deadline day) will bring. Well, wait, I know one'll bring me laughing and pointing at Sens fans after the Leafs spanked Ottawa 5-0 last night. That's one bright spot in this sorry season for Toronto --- at least the Sens, after a red-hot start, have been mediocre for about two months and thanks to their loose cannon goalie are facing yet another second-round playoff elimination. It never gets old.

On the bright side, Mats Sundin is staying. Fans who knock Sundin for being selfish by not waiving his no-trade clause just amaze me. You can't get any more from a player than what Sundin has given Toronto fans over the last 14 years. Dealing him under the logic that it will make the Maple Leafs a better team is a 50-50 proposition at best. Unload anyone, but don't unload the guy who has played his heart out for almost a decade and a half.* Ditch McCabe, Tucker, Kubina, Blake, Raycroft, etc. I'm sure there's some NHL club out there who's dumb enough to take one of these guys under the pretense that they need 'grit' or 'experience' or whatever excuses GMs use when they acquire a mediocre player because they're too afraid to be knocked for standing pat at the trade deadline.

* = full disclosure: I love Sundin, but the Leafs' 2002-03 final four run that was largely accomplished with him out with a wrist injury (and basically ended as soon as he returned in Game 2 against Carolina) was the greatest hint that maybe Mats is really more of a Ewing Theory type of star player. Blasphemy, I know, but it can't be ignored.

Some fans think Sundin could just accept a deal and then re-sign with the Leafs in the offseason (note: this fact is probably what's keeping a lot of teams from offering anything substantial for him in a deal, which these same fans don't seem to realize). The hell with that --- it's the aforementioned five overpaid slugs who should do the Leafs a favour and leave town. Actually, here's how they could do it. One or two them get shipped to Ottawa, with the Leafs taking back Redden and, oh, say, a bag of pucks in return. Toronto even offers to pay a part of the salaries, if that works under the cap. Ottawa fans rejoice at getting one over on the hated Leafs. Then, in the playoffs, the traded players dog it. I mean, they turn into Phil Housley circa 2003 or Larry Murphy circa 1997. They dog it like they've never dogged it before. Imagine how Kubina plays now, and then try to imagine him if he didn't actually try. It would be ghastly. The Sens are so disgusted that they release the players outright, and then Toronto can re-sign them in the summer (at greatly reduced prices) as conquering heroes. This would take the Leafs-Senators rivalry to new heights. Imagine if, say, new Senator Tucker feigned injury in a key playoff game, but as he left the ice, ripped out a blue towel and started to wave it as he went into the tunnel. Then he punches Spezza in the head on the bench and runs out of the arena, where Carlton the Bear waits with the engine running for a quick getaway. Magic. This is exactly what the NHL needs; to turn into mid-90's WCW wrestling.

As poorly as the Leafs have played this season and in spite of the fact that they don't deserve it whatsoever, they're only about a four-game winning streak away from being right back in the playoff hunt. Toronto has quietly gone 7-4 this month, and of those losses, only the 8-0 shellacking from the Panthers (probably, all things considered, one of the 10 most embarrassing losses in franchise history) and the 5-1 loss to Buffalo were actual cases of the team being outplayed. Would it be possible that this team can somehow gain confidence from not being broken up at the deadline and squeak in as an eight seed? Could it be possible that this season actually was just all Wozniewski's fault? Is the Eastern Conference THAT mediocre? Obviously, what this team needs is not a stopgap playoff appearance to give the impression of success but rather to be blown up almost entirely...and yet...a first-round Toronto/Ottawa or Toronto/Montreal series would be pretty awesome. Hell, against those two, the Leafs might even get into the second round. And really, so many things have gone wrong for the Leafs this year --- editor's note: or the last 40 years --- that aren't they due to have their cake and eat it too? Like, sneak into the playoffs and beat a fierce rival in the first round, THEN hire a brilliant new general manager that totally blows up the team, unloads the bad contracts, has a great draft and sets the team on a new path to greatness?

Cliff Fletcher probably has at least one rabbit in his hat for tomorrow, given his track record, though I have to laugh at the fact that Fletcher (for all of the saviour talk that came out of the TO media about him) isn't actually obligated to do anything. He's only contracted as the GM until the summer. Tomorrow's deadline could pass with no moves, and Cliff could shrug his shoulders and then throw a bag with a dollar sign on it into the back of his golf cart as he drives down the first fairway at Glen Abbey. And then possibly wave a Sens flag --- hey wait! Nooo! Cliff Fletcher has joined the NWO!

Saturday, February 23, 2008


First off, the unseen. I never got out to watch The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Eastern Promises, La Vie En Rose, Rescue Dawn, Zodiac, Into The Wild or Away From Her (and, of course, numerous other films). So if I see one of them years down the road and realize they should've been on this list, I may make some later adjustments.

This is a much shorter list than usual of omitted material. I can't remember a year when there have been more good films released across the board, and even more unusually, more good films that actually ended up being good films that I was interested in seeing. In the best picture category, for instance, this is the first year in memory when I'd be okay with any of the five nominees winning. Even There Will Be Blood (which I was lukewarm about, maybe in the 6/10 range) was still interesting and original enough that it would be good to see with the top prize. I'd much rather see a movie like that win than hack dreck like Beautiful Mind or Gladiator. Uh, if you liked those two, sorry.

It all seems to be shaping up like the Coen Brothers' night. In fact, they might be the second-ever filmmaker (well, in this case, pair of filmmakers) to win four Oscars in the same night. Walt Disney was the first, incidentally, in 1953. Fun trivia point: if the Coens do sweep in Picture, Director, Screenplay and Editing, they technically won't officially be recognized by the Academy as the second-ever to win four Oscars in the same year. They're nominated for the Editing award under their pseudonym of Roderick Jaynes. This also holds true for Cate Blanchett this year, since if she wins for Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Actor, she won't be recognized as the first to win three acting Oscars in the same year since she was nominated under her lesser-known pseudonym, Tommy Lee Jones.

The nearly-foolproof bellweather of the DGA award (and the slightly-lesser but still very predictable Best Picture-Best Director connection) means that even if Juno, Michael Clayton or Blood somehow pulls off an upset win for Best Picture, I think this award is going to the Coens regardless.

Hey, I've got no issues with the Coens winning. They got their first moment in the sun with their well-deserved Oscars for the Fargo script, and now their directing will be justly rewarded. And it will further atonement for the total snub of Big Lebowski in 1998. Seriously, that movie was hosed all-around. John Goodman deserved supporting actor. Jeff Bridges was better than psychopath Roberto Benigni. Julianne Moore was better than Judi Dench's glorified cameo. And say what you will about Steven Spielberg, but recreating D-Day can't be as hard as coaxing a career-best performance from Tara Reid. I mean, she played a slut! Talk about range!

Alterna-ballot: Tim Burton/Sweeney Todd, John Carney/Once and the San Diego Chargers, Sidney Lumet/Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Joe Wright/Atonement

Oh come on, like Javier Bardem is going to lose. He doesn't just stand out amongst other nominees, but he stands out amongst great Coen characters. He goes into the pantheon with Marge Gunderson, Ulysses McGill, Ed Crane, Jerry Lundegaard and pretty much everyone from Lebowski. Nobody's beating him.

Chigurh! Chigurh! Chigurh! (said in the tone of 'Gabbo! Gabbo! Gabbo!' from the Simpsons). Casey Affleck was also pretty good in Jesse James, but let's be honest, his was totally a lead role. He shouldn't even count.

Alterna-ballot: Michael Cera/Juno, Sacha Baron Cohen/Sweeney Todd, Paul Dano/There Will Be Blood, Paul Giamatti/Shoot 'Em Up, Sam Rockwell/The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford

Definitely the toughest category of the night to call. Pretty much everyone has been the favourite at one time or another. It started out looking like Cate Blanchett as the 500-pound gorilla, since she's both the biggest name nominated, a double-nominee and she had the showiest role as Bob Dylan. But then, since the movie went nowhere, things shifted towards Amy Ryan, who won a bunch of critical acclaim and would fit in with the supporting actress category's long tradition of awarding first-time nominees. THEN, some eyes turned to veteran Ruby Dee as sort of a lifetime achievement award. But the latest buzz is that Tilda Swinton might pick it up because a) she was good and b) Michael Clayton is a much-admired film, so the voters will want to give it something. Clooney isn't beating Day-Lewis, Wilkinson isn't beating Bardem and Tony Gilroy likely won't win in either direction or screenplay, so Tilda might be the film's best shot at picking up some gold.

The only one I haven't see is Blanchett, who I like in general, but she also won one of the most undeserving Oscars ever in 2004 for her horseshit impression of Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator. Seriously, it was eye-scratchingly awful. Martin Short must've been sitting at home gnawing his fingernails knowing that he did a much better Kate on SCTV and SNL. So with that in mind, I'm not sure how close she came to Bob Dylan. Fun fact: Blanchett also played Simon Pegg's masked girlfriend who broke up with him in the first 10 minutes of Hot Fuzz. Ruby Dee totally doesn't deserve it for her glorified cameo. Saoirse Ronan was good but not great, though if it came down to an actual fight between the nominees, Ronan would be the heavy favourite. This brings it down to Ryan and Swinton, and I guess I'd tilt it to Tilda.

Alterna-ballot: Jennifer Garner/Juno, Lena Headey/300, Leslie Mann/Knocked Up, Kelly McDonald/No Country For Old Men, Emily Mortimer/Lars and the Real Girl

Daniel Day-Lewis isn't just the massive favourite, he's also I think the first front-runner to have the other four nominees to all be pushing for him to win the award. I really don't see anyone having built anywhere near enough momentum to pull off what would be one of the biggest upsets in Academy history. The best or second-best actor in the world (it's a tough race between him and Meryl Streep) deserves his second Oscar.

Hell, Day-Lewis. And this is coming from a guy who thought TTWB was kind of dull. If it had been a lesser actor than Day-Lewis behind it, it would've been interminable.

Alterna-ballot: Christian Bale/i'm Not There or Rescue Dawn or 3:10 to Yuma, Ryan Gosling/Lars and the Real Girl, Jim Sturgess/Across the Universe,

Blanchett and Linney have no shot, making it a three-horse race between Marion Cotillard, Julie Christie and Ellen Page. Cotillard and Christie have pretty much split most of the critics' awards between them, but here's why neither have stepped up as the outright lead dog. Cotillard delivered her performance in a foreign-language film, and doing a dead-on characterization of Edith Piaf won't stick in the Academy's mind like doing, say, Ray Charles or June Carter since who's heard of Edith Piaf in the last 30 years? Christie is a legend (she was in Doctor Zhivago, for god's sake) but she's not exactly a capital-L legend, plus she already won an Oscar 40 years ago so she doesn't have the lifetime achievement factor working for her. This might be enough for Ellen Page to sneak in for the win. If there's anything the Academy loves, it's awarding a young actress for a breakout role, and Juno is definitely the most North American of the contending roles. My money would still be tentatively on Christie, but it wouldn't shock me at all if Cotillard or even Page took it home.

You've gotta love Laura Linney in spite of her having no chance of winning. Yet my pick here is Ellen Page, just for the novelty of seeing someone go from playing Jim Lahey's daughter on Trailer Park Boys to an Oscar winner.

Alterna-ballot: Bianca/Lars and the Real Girl, Helena Bonham Carter/Sweeney Todd, Samantha Morton/Control, Naomi Watts/Eastern Promises

Roger Deakins has been nominated seven times, including twice this year, and has never taken home the prize. Needless to say, he's way overdue. This, like the Picture category, is also mega-stacked. The great Janusz Kaminski and Robert Elswit also put in great work, and Seamus McGarvey (in most other years) would win just for that already-immortal five-minute tracking shot of Dunkirk in Atonement. It even passed by "couldn't spot the cuts" test that was honed after five years of a film degree. But still, when a guy is nominated twice in one category like Deakins is, he deserves it. He *should* win, but it's possible voters might split the ballots between both nominations and allow someone else to sneak in.

Well, no surprises here, I think 'Falling Slowly' from Once should take this in a walk. The scene with the two of them at the piano in the music store was arguably the scene of the year. I am highly looking forward to Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova performing this one live at the ceremony.

I've only seen Sicko, and it was only okay, but part of me wants to see Michael Moore win and then have his entire speech consist of, "Told ya so!"

Diablo Cody (Juno) is the favourite to win, though I could see Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) or even Brad Bird (Ratatouille) pulling off an upset. Gilroy probably has the better shot, since as mentioned earlier, people seem to like Michael Clayton, but they just don't know where to give it a trophy. Given that Gilroy is the man behind the film, he would seem to be the natural one to reward. Still, Cody has won the lion's share of the critics' awards and once you got your ear acclimated to the nonstop pop culture references, Juno was pretty clever.

The Coens will more than likely win, but it's possible that Christopher Hampton (Atonement's writer) or P.T. Anderson could pull the upset if the voters want to award both of those films somewhere. Anderson has the edge as the lead, uh, upsetter since he's the more recognizable auteur. Then again, Hampton worked the c-word into a classy British drama. That's impressive. I saw the film in an audience aged largely 50+, and you've never heard such gasping as when that flashed across the screen. My heart, however, is with none of these guys, as deserving as they are. When I was 10, I had a massive crush on Sarah Polley, who then was merely the star of Road to Avonlea. It only seems fair that I root her on to an Oscar 16 years later. By the way, this makes it a former Trailer Park Boys star and a former Road to Avonlea star up for Oscars this year. Next year's ceremony will be dominated by Mark McKinney and the guy who plays Davis on Corner Gas.

Like I said before, this is a sick group of nominees. Not a dog in the bunch --- no Munich or Erin Brockovich or Jerry Maguire to bring down the average. An underdog like Crash or Shakespeare In Love occasionally sneaks in, but remember that the favourite almost always wins Best Picture. And No Country is definitely the favourite, having cleaned house almost across the board with the critics and the guilds. It'll give the Coens the BP win they should've won a decade ago for Fargo. Could there be an upset? Well...probably not. You could make an argument that any of the four might pull the upset, but none have that ongoing momentum necessary. If this was a primary season, the other four nominees have won a state or two, but No Country is winning or finishing second in all of them. That's hard to stop. Like, Chigurh-hard.

Now, here's 'my' list of nominees. This is the group that joins this illustrious company (quick poll: which year is your favourite group of films?)

2006- The Prestige......Children of Men, The Departed, Pan's Labyrinth, A Prairie Home Companion
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

Am I a softie or what? With the exception of last two years, I've picked nothing but relationship movies as my top choices. (Ok, Talk To Her is an extremely weird 'relationship movie,' but it fits nonetheless). The streak continues this year since Once takes the 2007 Markademy Award. Simply one of the best romances of all time. Guys, if you rent this one with your ladyfriend, you are guaranteed to get laid. No doubt. When I saw it in theatre, every couple there left holding hands or with arms around waists as the credits were rolling. Of course, I went to see it alone. But I was hugging my popcorn bag extra-tight. And then got a refill on the way out --- does this qualify as cheating on the original popcorn?

Honourable mention: Hot Fuzz (funniest movie of the year by a hair over Walk Hard), No Country For Old Men (might as well mention it one more time), Sweeney Todd (best movie of Burton's career besides Edward Scissorhands), 3:10 to Yuma (despite what I said about Gladiator and Beautiful Mind, Russell Crowe is a hell of an actor, and he and Bale make a great duo).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


I was sitting in front of my TV late Sunday night, eyes half-closed, ready to head for bed if I didn't find something to watch in the next five seconds. Like a gift from the heavens, I suddenly chanced upon a just-beginning Ghostbusters on Spike TV. Hell. Yes. I spent the next 150 minutes happily reliving one of my favourite movies of all time. As a sign of how much I love Ghostbusters, I even gave it the highest honour an internet film user can bestow upon a movie --- a perfect 10 rating on the IMDB. I know, I know, hold your applause until the end of the ceremony. A panel of hand-picked experts (me and five empty chairs) broke down the criteria until it was fully proven that Ghostbusters deserved a place in this highest of pantheons.

The Ghostbusters franchise has given me joy for almost as long as I remember. I watched the cartoon as a five-year-old, and then on a chance trip to a K-Mart, noticed one of the TVs showing four men with proton packs that looked suspiciously like my animated heroes. Wait a second...there was a Ghostbusters MOVIE?? My young mind was blown. My adolescence was geared around Ghostbusters for the next several years --- I had the toys, dressed up as a Ghostbuster for Halloween, and perhaps most publicly, used to play my own Ghostbusters games during recess at grade school using a pair of sticks as props. This seems weird even in hindsight. Let's just say my school didn't have a child psychologist. (Hell, I still have those two sticks to this day. I keep them around as good luck charms. This may seem unusual, but if I said that I got luck from a severed foot from a bunny, nobody would bat an eye).

Rather than simply write a massive post relating everything I love about Ghostbusters, however, I decided to get competitive. You see, there's another 80's classic that earned a perfect IMDB 10 --- the original Back to the Future. Back in early 1990, the third BTTF movie was about to be released, and the hype was off the charts. Having never seen the first two, I naturally wanted to catch up before going to see the trilogy's finale. Wednesday night was the unofficial movie night in my household, as since that night was my mum's Sweet Adelines rehearsal night, my dad usually rented a flick for he, my brother and I to enjoy for some family time. So, one Wednesday, we watched Back to the Future. The next week was Back to the Future II. The next week, hell, I dunno, probably Oliver & Company or some shit, but by this time I was up to speed and was ready for BTTF III in theatres.

Since I came into Back to the Future at a slightly older age, I was more appreciative of things like story and how cleverly the time-travel elements were constructed. Yes, even at age nine I was preparing for a future of writing snarky movie reviews on a blog. But little did I know that I was also planting the seeds for the ultimate showdown between two titans of my childhood. Yes, it's time to truly decide which was the better franchise. Pack a lunch, this is going to be a long (and, since I'm tired and lazy, a grammatical nightmare of a) ride.

Hmm, Murray/Aykroyd/Ramis vs. Fox/Lloyd. Tough call. I'm going to make my first controversial call right off the bat by saying that as great as the Ghostbusters guy were in their roles, they weren't irreplacable. In fact, Bill Murray was actually the second choice as Peter Venkman after John Belushi passed away. Eddie Murphy was the original choice as Winston, which would've taken the movie in a whole different direction. Internet message boards have spent a lot of bandwidth arguing over who could be new 'modern' Ghostbusters, especially when it was rumoured in the late 90's that this was Aykroyd's new idea for a revival of the franchise. Everyone from Jim Carrey to Ben Stiller to Chris Rock to the Frat Pack have been mentioned at one time or another as possible new Ghostbusters. Heck, just look at the current trailers for Be Kind Rewind --- Jack Black and Mos Def as Ghostbusters, no doubt fulfilling childhood dreams of pretending to be Ray and Winston. Try it yourself: cast a new Ghostbusters. You need a sarcastic, perpetually bemused ladies' man (Venkman); a monotone scientific genius (Spengler); a down-to-earth common sense man of the people (Zeddemore); and an enthusiastic combination of the brains and common sense, wrapped in a somewhat little-kid persona (Stantz). I've said for years that there is money to be made in reviving Ghostbusters as a weekly sci-fi/comedy hour-long network show. Have Aykroyd and company make the occasional cameo as the senior advisors, get some writers from the Buffy/Angel/Lost cabal and let it rip. That is ratings gold just waiting to be mined.

But, as I said, you could definitely picture others slipping on the proton packs in a modern-day Ghostbusters remake. But imagine if it was announced tomorrow that they were remaking Back to the Future with, say, Shia LeBeouf as Marty and Michael Richards as Doc Brown. There would be instant derision, and not just because of Richards' stand-up comedy stylings. Michael J. Fox is one of the true underrated comedy actors of recent times, and it took a deft hand to keep Marty from being an unlikable punk. On the face of it, Marty is a) a degenerate student, b)nearly ruins the universe just because he wanted to make a few bets on sports and c) is best friends with a crazy elderly scientist. There are a lot of ways this character could've gone awry. Same with Doc Brown. Remember how Doc got the plutonium to run the DeLorean from some Libyan terrorists? That was a pretty fucking weird subplot that the movie more or less glossed over. I'm surprised Dick Cheney didn't try to co-opt it when trying to promote the Patriot Act. "Terrorists could be anywhere. They were even in the small California town of Hill Valley. Be afraid!"

This is a hard call, especially given the fact that Aykroyd and Ramis get bonus points for actually creating the Ghostbusters franchise itself. This is probably as good a place as any to mention the ongoing tug-of-war that Aykroyd and Ramis have been doing with Bill Murray over the franchise for the last two decades. Aykroyd has been pushing for more movies, more cartoons, more everything, but Murray (who co-owns the character rights) has been steadily shooting down 90 percent of the ideas since he isn't a fan of rehashing old material. He relented once for the cartoon and again for the sequel, but that's been essentially it before the highly-anticipated Ghostbusters video game is released this summer. I can see both men's points. As a GB fan, I obviously would've loved to see more Ghostbusters films and whatnot, but let's remember that Aykroyd's batting average isn't exactly flawless. Blues Brothers 2000? Soul Man? The Coneheads movie? It's quite possible Ghostbusters might've gone down this same road and we'd all be shaking our heads right now in dread at a Ghostbusters VIII in theatres this summer. Murray may be stingy in doling out the GB-related goodness over the years, but it may be for our own good.

EDGE: Back to the Future. Actually, as an example of the 'think of a Ghostbusters cast' idea, how about the all-BTTF Ghostbusters? Michael J. Fox as Peter. Lloyd as Egon. Crispin Glover as Ray. Thomas F. Wilson as Winston. Mary Steenburgen as Dana. Lea Thompson as, uh, Slimer. If you've seen a modern picture of Lea Thompson, she wouldn't even need makeup.

Supporting Cast
Where have you gone, Rick Moranis? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you. He dropped off the face of the earth in the mid-nineties, leaving behind a surprisingly strong legacy. Little Shop of Horrors, Parenthood, Honey I Shrunk The Kids, Spaceballs and a starring role in the greatest sketch comedy cast of all time (boy, there's another post topic for another time) on SCTV. Louis Tully, in all honesty, is one of Moranis' lesser characters, but even still, he has some great moments. In the scene where he's hosting the party in his apartment, he talks more or less nonstop from the beginning of the scene until he's attacked by the demon dog in his bedroom and chased into Central Park. Fun fact: the role of Louis was originally planned to be a lot more uptight, and played by John Candy.

As I mentioned earlier, alternate-universe casting had Eddie Murphy as Winston, which would've made Winston obviously a much bigger character in the movie. That always bugged me when I was a kid. I was familiar with the cartoons before I saw the movie, and all four Ghostbusters are presented on an equal level in the animated version. In the movie, however, it's Peter, Ray and Egon, and then two-thirds of the way in they hire Winston more or less out of nowhere, he gets about six more lines in the whole movie and that's that. One of those lines is the immortal "Ray, if someone asks you if you're a god, you say YES!", but even still, he's a blank slate. In all honesty, he doesn't even need to be in the movie. Poor Ernie Hudson. To this day, he's best known as Winston in Ghostbusters, and yet his was the most extraneous role in the movie.

Sigourney Weaver does yeoman's work as Dana, which is a pretty thankless role all things considered. The far more entertaining female character is Janine, who Annie Potts managed to capture just by the tone of her voice. Ghostbusters is very much a boy's movie, whereas BTTF featured a significant feminine element in the figure of Lorraine McFly. Before she became America's least-favourite sitcom star in Caroline In The City, Lea Thompson could actually bring the goods. It would've been very easy for an actor to go overboard with the "Lorraine is in love with her future son" angle and thus make it gross, but Thompson played it just right. Lorraine is just sweet enough that you can see why George is infatuated with her beyond the fact that she's hot.

And then, of course, there was George McFly. In the annals of Oscar history, there are few snubs more galling than Crispin Glover not being nominated for best supporting actor in 1985. Say what you will about Glover's later career and later insanity, but he absolutely hit this role out of the park. What a truly original characterization. He also made "I can't ask Lorraine to the Enchantment Under The Sea dance..." a running joke years later in my school newspaper office when one of my co-editors was named Lorraine. I don't use the term "feel-good" too often, but the scene where George finally punches Biff in the jaw is one of the true feel-good moments in the movies. That scene is the highlight of the film, and after we get the scene at the dance with Marty being Chuck Berry and George shoving that red-haired guy who looks like Ron Howard on meth, we're already satisfied enough that it makes Marty's actual return to the future somewhat anti-climactic. You could argue that this even extends to the sequels --- those two are just time-travel movies, whereas the original BTTF is a cut above because of the love story.

EDGE: Back to the Future. Again, the supporting characters of BTTF are so key to the plot and so perfectly designed that they linger in the mind a lot more than the Ghostbusters supporting cast. You can do Ghostbusters without Dana, Louis or even Winston or Janine. You can't do BTTF without George and Lorraine.

Biff Tannen is one of the greatest villains in movie history. His exclusion from that AFI 'best heroes and villains' list a few years back is unabashed horseshit. Thomas F. Wilson didn't really do much else in his career, but really, once you've achieved perfection in your first role, there's nowhere else to go but down. It's not enough that Biff was the perfect bully for the 1950's --- he was also a sleazy middle-aged man, a demented alternate-future tycoon, a sneaky senior citizen capable of comprehending a time machine, and a violent outlaw. Each role was slightly tweaked, yet all unmistakably Tannen. Biff-isms like "Hello, McFly!" and screwing up the "make like a tree and leave" joke have entered the cultural zeitgeist for all time. Here's a fun little casting tidbit: go back and watch the first two BTTF movies and pay closer attention to Biff's gang. The guy who always has the match in his mouth? It's none other than walkoff-incitor and Titanic villain Billy Zane! Truly, a stepping stone on his way to becoming the biggest star of the 21st century. Biff and his cronies were such good villains that you didn't really need much else. I guess Marty's bald principal was kind of an ass, but I can't bear a grudge against a bald character. Poor Mr. Strickland. So misunderstood.

The Ghostbusters faced off against not just supernatural foes, but also red tape-wielding civic government. William Atherton and Kurt Fuller (two of the great 'that guy' character actors) were their usual asshole selves as the bureaucrats who went after the Ghostbusters in the two films. Fuller went on to annoy a whole new generation of SNL cast members as Russell in Wayne's World. Vigo, the main villain of Ghostbusters II, is underrated as a nemesis. I once referred to an unattractive woman in a bar as Vigo the Carpathian's sister and it got a laugh, so clearly that wacky painting had some cultural staying power. Of course, everyone remembers the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man and Slimer, but perhaps my perceptions of them are coloured by the fact that they're good guys in the cartoons. Turning into Stay-Puft was the best thing that ever happened to Gozer, who was frankly kind of a dull nemesis for the amount of build-up that she/he/it got. When I was a kid, in fact, I thought that Gozer's initial form was that of an altered Janine, since the actress that played Gozer looked sort of like Annie Potts in a lot of makeup. My theory was that Egon was actually thinking of Janine at that moment (as part of their unresolved sexual tension), and thus this was the first manifestation of Gozer's "think of something and I'll appear as it to destroy you" schtick.

EDGE: Back to the Future. This was another tough call. The Ghostbusters, en masse, have a strong cadre of villains, but what does it say that a whole group of them barely outpoints the singularly awesome Biff? You've gotta go with Thomas F. Wilson...which is also a sentence uttered by the night manager at the Burger King at which Wilson now works when someone experienced is needed to clean out the fryer.

Running Jokes
Back to the Future wins this by a landslide, though it's somewhat unfair since the narrative was specifically constructed to include these running jokes about Marty's life and the people of Hill Valley throughout all three movies. The best Ghostbusters can do in the running gag category are the scenes where Ray and Egon just go off spouting this nonsensical jargon and everyone else just stands there slack-jawed.


Some people could write an entire post about this section alone. The DeLorean vs. the Ecto-1. Damn. Couldn't we just stick a flux capacitor into the Ecto and call it a day?

Sigh. Fine. I'm picking the Ecto-1 in a controversial decision due to one factor: the siren. That car has the most distinctive whining alarm I've ever heard, and yet it is never irritating and somehow oddly fitting. In the scene where the Ghostbusters are leaving City Hall on the way downtown to confront Gozer, if you listen carefully, you can hear the siren perfectly sync up with the opening keyboard riffs of "Saving The Day." That's just magic. Kudos to the sound editors on that one.

Here's the other breaking point. When arguing over cars, the ultimate dispute-ender is to ask yourself which car would you have rather driven to the front of the school in for your senior prom? Both the DeLorean and the Ecto-1 would've caused a total "holy shit" reaction from your fellow classmates, but you see, with the DeLorean, the amazement only starts when you actually pull up. With the Ecto-1's siren, you can hear it coming. People are milling about, admiring each other's tuxes and dresses, when suddenly a mild whining sound echos in the distances. Nobody notices at first, but it persistently gets louder as it approaches the school. Eventually the flashing lights on the top of the car appear on the horizon, and a few eagle-eyed seniors point. A few awed utterances of "Oh my God..." are heard as the car pulls into the drive, followed by wild cheering. If your senior class is particularly witty, they'll bust into a perfectly coordinated "GHOST-busters, GHOST-busters" chant like the crowd gathered in front of Dana's apartment in the movie.

(In a related story, I went to my senior prom in my mother's old Toyota Prelude. Like the Ecto-1, it was white. End transmission. 'Prelude' has to be one of the all-time worst names for a car. Prelude to what? The prelude to you buying a better car?)

EDGE: Ghostbusters

Another category somewhat tilted in BTTF's favour, since the evolution of Hill Valley is a key part of the entire trilogy. The clock tower, the soda shop, the high school, the Twin Pines/Lone Pine Mall --- by the end of the third movie, you feel like you could draw a map of Hill Valley. Not to mention the town's thriving manure industry, given how often Biff ends up in the shit.

Ghostbusters makes good use of New York, which is a feat unto itself given how the city is the setting for roughly 75% of all movies. That fire hall was a great home base, though it was explored in greater detail in the cartoons. The Christmas I got the toy version of the Ghostbusters fire hall was perhaps the best Xmas of my life. I was doing some searching on Wikipedia to double-check some facts for this post, and just to show you that you learn something new every day, I was shocked to discover that Dana's apartment building is an actual place on Central Park West. Even more shocking, I actually walked within a few blocks of it on my trip to New York last summer. If I had known we were so close when we were in Columbus Square, I would've ignored my foot pain and led the group down Central Park West for a pilgrimage. When I'm back in NYC in 2010, this will take top priority. I wonder how the building's residents reacted to their home being so prominently featured on film as a doorway to unspeakable evil. Even more of a question, how the hell did Dana Barrett (a cellist) manage to afford an apartment in such an expensive building?

EDGE: Back to the Future

I've probably seen Ghostbusters more times than any other movie. Between the ages of six and 10, I probably saw that movie (no exaggeration) at least once a week. It was pretty cool of my parents, in hindsight, to let a six-year-old watch a 'grownup' movie, but hey, they made the right call. What would've warped their child more: letting me suffer for years knowing there was a Ghostbusters movie out there but I wasn't allowed to see it until I hit a certain age, or just letting me watch a movie with a few curse words? Speaking of those big swears, here's a funny story. I was so young that I didn't really recognize them as expletives, but felt that from their tone and placement that they sounded funny. So I remember walking upstairs and asking my mother if "s-h-i-t" was a swear word --- I didn't want to actually say it, since if it WAS a swear, then by gosh, I'd have said a swear word, and that was bad news. Even at a young age, I employed crackpot logic. My mom politely informed me that it was, and my response was a simple nod. Man, I was a well-behaved kid.

Anyway, watching the movie that many times didn't dim my enjoyment one bit. I've only seen Ghostbusters a few times over the years, but every time I come across it via channel-surfing (like last Sunday), I've got to drop whatever I'm doing. As for BTTF, I've seen it more over the years due to the fact that TBS aired it at least once a month for about, oh, a solid decade. And again, it's often that whatever I'm doing in an afternoon will have to be put on hold until....ah, wait, there's the tiebreaker.

EDGE: Ghostbusters. See, if I notice Ghostbusters is on, I'm staying for the duration. If BTTF is on, I probably leave after George punches out Biff. 100 percent of the movie trumps 90 percent.

Ok, I actually liked Ghostbusters II. It gets a lot of crap for being a weak sequel, but I thought it lived up to the original pretty well. Vigo was a good villain, the mood slime was an interesting idea, and really, it's hard to fault a film with a climax that involves the Statue of Liberty walking through Manhattan. Pop quiz: Ghostbusters-controlled Statue of Liberty vs. the Cloverfield monster. Who wins?

That said, BTTF gets the nod just because its sequels are more ambitious. The second one pretty inventively wraps itself around the events of the original, although I think I agree with one review I read of the movie that argued you know things are too complex when Doc Brown literally has to map things out on a blackboard. But still, BTTF II was pretty strong and BTTF III was a nice, straight-forward conclusion to the story. People forget this now, but this was the first film series to experiment the "shoot both sequels together and them release them close to each other" style that is seen so often with major film franchises today. BTTF II came out in the summer of 1989, and I think BTTF III was out only about nine months later. They get an A for their efforts, while the next series to try this (the Matrix) gets a D-. The third Matrix film is one of the worst movies I've ever seen. Seriously. It's Batman & Robin bad. I award it no points and may the Architect have mercy on its soul.

Two funny points about Back to the Future III

--- You may remember Doc getting aside a series of color-coded logs that needed to be used to fire the locomotive's engine to get it up to 88 miles per hour. My friends Dave and Jeff went to the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit for a field trip back in their school days, and came across an old steam engine as part of a display. Jeff leans over to Dave and says in a perfect Christopher Lloyd impression, "Marty! Throw on the yellow logs!" It's been a running joke ever since. One of these years I'm going to have to name my fantasy ball team the Yellow Logs.

--- The most unintentionally funny scene in the series comes when Doc is showing Marty his plan by the now-standard process of designing a scale model of the town. What killed me is that everything is labelled. Even the DeLorean is labelled 'time machine.' Does Doc think that Marty won't be able to identify it or something?

Marty: Hey Doc, what's this car here for?
Doc: Marty, that's the DeLorean! That's the time machine that has been at the center of our lives for the past month!
Marty: Ohhhhh, THAT DeLorean.

EDGE: Back to the Future.

Random Pop Culture Appearances
Christopher Lloyd guest-starred on an episode of Spin City playing Fox's political mentor, and I'm sure a few time travel joke were made. Dan Aykroyd, however, showed up as Ray in the live-action Casper movie completely out of nowhere as one of a parade of ghost-hunters who were hired to go after Casper. If I recall correctly from the time I half-heartedly watched that thing on an in-flight movie, Aykroyd's line was "Who ya gonna call? Someone else."

EDGE: Ghostbusters. That's actually a pretty clever idea for a cameo.

There was a short-lived BTTF cartoon that followed Doc Brown and his sons Jules and Verne through the centuries in their souped-up time train. It sucked. This category is really just an excuse to rhapsodize about the greatest Saturday morning cartoon show in history, the Real Ghostbusters. I exaggerate not a whit when I say that my schedule as a youngster entirely revolved around being home in time to see this show. "Hey Mark, isn't your schedule today still dominated around way too much TV?" Shut up, Voice of Reason. Part of the reason I'm so gung-ho about a Ghostbusters live-action series is that the cartoon provides a perfect blueprint for how the stories and characters could be told. In fact, at gunpoint, I'd even take the cartoons over the movies as the perfect example of Ghostbusters stories. The man responsible for this is former series head writer J. Michael Straczynski, who went on to become a heralded comic book writer and creator of the Babylon 5 TV series. So really, the fact that I just slobbered all over myself praising an 80's cartoon is nerdy, but not as nerdy as praising JMS's other work. Yay?

EDGE: Ghostbusters by a country mile.

Back to the Future has one of the best soundtracks of the 1980's. "The Power of Love" and "Back In Time" are two of Huey Lewis' better songs (for more on the work on Huey Lewis, talk to Patrick Bateman), Alan Silvestri's score is instantly memorable and it can be argued that BTTF single-handedly turned 'Earth Angel' from a somewhat-forgotten 50's chestnut into a pantheon song.

Against most mortal films, BTTF would easily win the music category. Unfortunately, even Huey and Silvestri must fall to the power of the best theme song in movie history. Even today, when you're picking up a phone, there's a good chance someone will ask 'Who ya gonna call?', thus leading to the inevitable response. This joke is still running strong after close to 25 years. This isn't the first time I've raved about Ray Parker Jr. on this blog --- remember that clip of Stevie Wonder on Sesame Street I posted a few months back? That's actually Ray Parker Jr. on guitar. Small world. I mentioned those bullshit AFI lists a few categories back, but the one that galled me the most of all the 100 Years...100 Whatevers series was the absolutely inexplicable snub of the Ghostbusters theme from the 100 Songs list. I know, I know, getting angry over arbitrary lists is a fool's errand, but what the hell. This is the worst sin against music committed by the AFI since...well, the last album by the band AFI. There's no better endorsement I can give of the song than mentioning that since I started writing this post, I've listened to Parker's classic about 20 times. In a row. I'm sick.

EDGE: Ray Parker Jr. has it all over Huey Lewis in this category. Uh, perhaps not in real life though, since Lewis sued Parker for plagiarism, claiming that 'Ghostbusters' was too close to Lewis' "I Want A New Drug." How ironic.

Back to the Future wins 6-5. It is truly the greater franchise. But....wait, that's just not true. If you look at the categories, you'll notice that BTTF came out on top in terms of characters, story, etc. but Ghostbusters won all of the extraneous categories that really make up a true 'franchise.' The Back to the Future films stand the test of time, but were so specifically conceived as movies that by the end of BTTF III, you're fully satisfied. That's where Ghostbusters steps up. Perhaps due to Bill Murray saying no, audiences never got their fill of Ghostbusters. The franchise is due for a resurgence as the new video game (written by Ramis and Aykroyd and conceived as, essentially, the Ghostbusters III that never happened) is expected to be one of the major console hits of 2008. I'm not going to lie -- I'm looking forward to once again wielding a proton pack, but instead of using two pieces of wood I found in my school playground, I'll be using a Wii.

So let's call it a draw. Back to the Future, specifically the first film, provides the better movies. Ghostbusters provides a better all-around experience. Whereas BTTF will stand forever as an 80's classic, Ghostbusters can perhaps exist for years to come in whatever forms of media Dan Aykroyd can twist Bill Murray's arm into accepting.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Dr. Z and Sayid Jarrah, international men of mystery

This is a couple of weeks old, but still more than worth reposting. This tale is from my pal Kyle's blog...

Misha on Dr. Z. True story. I'm driving Carrie to her written test at the Ministry of Transportation and Misha (who, I'll pause to note, is married with a child--i.e. a real live grown-up) calls:

Misha: did you hear that Peter King picked the Giants to win the Super Bowl?
Me: was actually Dr. Z that picked them to win, but yeah. Kinda surprising.
Misha: that's what I said. Peter King--"Dr. Z"--picked the Giants.
Me: [long pause] huh?
Misha: Peter King and Dr. Z...they're the same guy.
Me: [longer pause, thinking he's just kidding] huh?
Misha: same guy. Dr. Z is King's alter-ego.
Me: [bursting out laughing] No, it's not.
Misha: [silence]
Me: Dr. Z is Paul Zimmerman. He's been a writer at SI for like thirty years. Peter King is...Peter King. Did you think he was a superhero or something? And didn't you subscribe to the magazine for like fifteen years?
Misha: No, I...but.... [pause, starting to sink in] Christ.
Me: [laughing and laughing, almost having to pull over.]

Classic. This is right up with the time that Misha and I were arguing about Guns n' Roses, and Misha was trying to defend his idol Axl Rose by saying that Chinese Democracy could've been released ten times in the last 15 years, except "since Axl always wants to be on the very cutting edge, by the time he has the songs just how he wants them, popular music has shifted onto something else." Damn you, forever-moving zeitgeist! Slow down long enough for Axl to catch up! I'm not kidding about Misha being a huge GNR fan. I think his wife had to talk him out of naming their first-born son Axl, and 'Rose' was definitely on the table if they had had a girl. I guess it still is if they have another kid, it's still an option. But since they ended up naming their son Jack, people might think that they were just really into Titanic with kids named Jack and Rose. And then Jack might end up sketching nude drawings of his sister, which would be just weird as hell.


Wow, I joked about Lou Bega in my last post, but then I heard Mambo No. 5 in a Toyota Corolla ad. Maybe he really is on the way back.


After last week's Lost, it's official. There's enough material to do a serious Jack Bauer vs. Sayid Jarrah breakdown. We may have to save it since I've already got a massive breakdown saved for tomorrow (stay tuned), but....damn. Sayid is the man. Hitting a perfect seven-iron to the green and then shooting a guy in cold blood? That's James Bond-level stuff right there. Here's the funniest aspect of this fight: in real life, Kiefer Sutherland and Naveen Andrews are both no taller than 5'5. In fiction, it would be an incomparable battle of TV badasses. On a street corner, it would be like seeing two Grade Nines battle over who gets the corner locker.

Speaking of Lost, I recently read one of the best theories I've ever seen about the show's overall mysteries. Check the whole thing out here. It isn't perfect (I don't quite get the whole 'mirror matter' thing, nor do I believe that the smoke monster doesn't have some kind of sentience), but it makes a lot of sense. I think the author is on the right track in predicting that there are multiple ways to the island at different points around the globe, and I LOVE the idea that the twisting LOST logo is actually a clue to the orbit of this 'mirror moon.' Damon Lindelof has been quoted as saying he knows exactly what the last shot of the series will be, and this is actually a pretty good guess as to what that could be. It beats my guess, which was Desmond, Kate, Ben and a polar bear sentenced to a year in jail under good samaritan laws. But hey, the writer's strike is over! We get five more episodes (plus the eight we were already guaranteed) to figure all this crap out! Woo hoo!

Friday, February 15, 2008


I've blogged before about the greatness of the original Mini-Wheats jingle (Miiiinnnniiiii WHEATS WHEATS WHEATS) and the subsequent mediocrity of the follow-up strawberry vanilla Mini-Wheats song. But now the franchise has totally fallen apart. The latest jingle is just Doo-Wah-Diddy-Diddy with different, Mini-Wheat-related lyrics. What a sad day. Has the toothpaste tube of creativity been completely squeezed out by the people at Kellogg's? Manfred Mann is spinning in the grave at seeing his song destroyed like so. Well, maybe not. For one, he's still alive. And second, maybe he loves Mini-Wheats. Maybe their combination is the culmination of a lifelong dream for, er, Mr. Mann.


[SCENE: Lou Bega's apartment. Lou is sitting on his couch eating from a can of Pringles, watching E! The phone rings.]

LOU: Hello?

PRODUCER: Hi there Mr. Bega, I'm a music producer for the new motion picture Fool's Gold. We'd like to use your song 'Tricky Tricky' in the ads for our movie.

LOU: [has Pringle halfway to mouth before freezing in shock]


LOU: I'm here! I'm here! Yeah, sure, you can use it!

PRODUCER: Great, I'll be in touch with your agent about the licensing rights.

LOU: You mean you want to pay me too?!

PRODUCER: Uh, of course.

LOU: Hot damn! [slams phone down] Hey Kenny! Some movie people want my song for a movie! They're going to call you!

VOICE OF KENNY[from outside]: That's great, Lou! Make sure they don't call when I'm at my shift at Burger King!

LOU: I'm back, baby, I'm back!

KENNY: Aw, dammit Lou, you clogged the toilet again! The plumber's bill is being added onto your rent!


Ok, so. Those Special K commercials with the 'vibrant' woman in the red dress, plus the dowdy Asian friend, plus the stereotypical gay guy? That same ad campaign is also used in Quebec, except in French and with different actors. No dubbing. Is this common practice? Can anyone living in and/or from Quebec confirm if there are other Anglo ad campaigns that have been Frenchisized?

There's no follow-up joke here. It's a legitimate question. Not everything on this blog is all whoopie cushions and guffaws.


You know that Kelsey's ad with the woman who looks like Anne Marie DiCicco who's stressed out at work, and she ends her rough day by unwinding at Kelsey's with her gang of friends? Does anyone else create an elaborate backstory between her and the guy in her group who looks like either Shane from Survivor: Exile Island or Brad Roberts from Crash Test Dummies? You know, they're co-workers who have a few too many drinks at Kelsey's and it leads to a one night stand, and then they halfheartedly date for a couple of months just in order to escape the shame and awkwardness that came with their one night of temptation, and even though they both sort of like the other, neither really sees it developing into anything serious, partially because he is still recovering from a painful divorce and she because she's just been jerked around too many times in the past to really believe that true love is possible, and they eventually split up with harsher words than they really meant, and they never speak to each other again outside of bitter small talk at the coffee machine, and thus future staff outings to Kelsey's become so tense that it eventually splits the office into two groups, one that continues to go to Kelsey's, and one that goes to Outback Steakhouse?

No? It's just my buddy Trev then? Alright.


I wonder if Kimmy Gibler from Full House ended up being attractive. Probably not.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day Memories

As a follow-up to my rapturously well-received series of New Year's Eve memories posts (one whole comment!), I felt it was appropriate on this most romantic of days to recount my favourite memories of Valentine's Days past.

2002 --- Umm......

2006 --- Er.....

1999 --- Yeah.....

1987 --- Here's one! Back in kindergarten, we were doing the whole class card-exchange as immortalized in the Simpsons with Lisa giving Ralph the 'Choo-Choo Choose You' card. I, unlike Ralph, received several cards (no more than four of which had to be out of pity), but of my V-Day haul, an incredible EIGHT cards came from one particular girl. This came as quite a shock, given how I had exchanged maybe three words with this girl in my life. No idea what her name was -- I think she lived about a block away from my parents' house, so I guess if I really wanted to, I could ring a few doors, but that would be just fuckin' peculiar this many years later. Of course, I didn't follow up back on the situation when it actually took place but, in all seriousness, what was I suppose to do? Ask her out? We were five years old. I guess I could've asked her to play house with me, but I dunno, that's a big step in a kindergarten relationship. I don't want to put any pressure on her. I don't know where her biological clock was at. You know that line about all you need to know in life, you learned in kindergarten? Well, I never learned what to do when a woman threw herself at me (albeit in a very G-rated way) in kindergarten, and that probably led to the flaming wreckage that has been my romantic life since. *shakes fist* My lawyers are contacting the school board as we speak.

1993 --- Hmmm......

By the way, these graphic graphics came from an article on The funny thing is, there is a 70% chance my friend Jason will actually deliver one of these cards to his girlfriend today and consider it perfectly appropriate. Oh, Jason. You so crazy.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

In A Word, Brilliant

This link seems appropriate on the day that Clemens appears in front of Congress. If you took a drink every time Clemens said "reckon" or "y'all" during the hearing, you'd be dead right now.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Quick Grammies note

Is Amy Winehouse a bigger star than I realize, or have we hit rock bottom with CBS' breathless storyline of "Will the druggie pull herself together in time to perform voluntarily at a meaningless awards show"? I mean, she's a one-hit wonder. Was there this much controversy over Eagle Eye Cherry showing up in 1997? No --- that's because Eagle Eye was a professional! DAMMIT! Why did his star stop shining? His spirit will live forever on the mix CD I burned in high school. Eagle Eye holds a place of honor alongside Dishwalla and the All Saints.

I mean, if Amy Winehouse was hot, at least then the media attention would be understandable. Not excusable, but still. But she looks like five miles of bad road. At least trainwrecks like Britney and Lohan were attractive....once.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Shows About People On Islands

Survivor begins its 16th season tonight, which is a pretty astonishing feat for a show that is apparently only watched by myself. Literally not a single one of my circle of friends still watches -- perhaps they caught a series here or a series there back in the day, but no more. It has gone the way of the dodo. Ironic saying, that. A bird famous solely for being extinct has been immortalized forever.

Anyway, Survivor's ratings are still tremendous, which is why they keep cranking them out. Perhaps in a nod to recapturing some past viewers, however, this latest series carries the gimmick of "fans vs. favourites." The cast is made of ten former players against 10 new players, all of whom are allegedly super-fans. Given that last season's winner (Todd) was also allegedly a super-fan and yet employed some of the most ass-backwards strategy ever seen on the show, I'm wary as to how sharp these newbies will be, but hey, Todd ended up winning, so what do I know?

The ten 'favourites' are all taken from each Survivor series since the last All-Stars, with the exception of one player from Survivor 7 (Pearl Islands), namely Jon "Johnny Fairplay" Dalton. Survivor 10 and Survivor 11 didn't have anyone brought back from either series, but it could be argued that those two were basically a dry run for a fans vs. favourites format anyway --- Stephenie and Bobby Jon from S10* were brought back in S11. Now, it's been my opinion that the original Survivor All-Stars was the worst series in Survivor history. It was dull, it was humourless and things just got uncomfortable. Sue Hawk accusing Richard Hatch of sexual harassment and then leaving the show, Jenna Morasca leaving due to worries over her mother's health, and the fact that because several of the players had developed friendships outside of the show, there were genuinely hurt feelings when someone broke an alliance. Plus, most of the players had devolved into famewhores, which made the show much less interesting than watching a bunch of 'regular folks' (since really, a lot of them are/were famewhores to begin with) cope for the first time. Here is how the producers have tried to solve some of these problems in this latest All-Star series....

* No winners. In the last Survivor All-Stars, the four former winners who returned (Rich Hatch, Tina Wesson, Ethan Zohn and Jenna Morasca) were all gone within the first eight episodes. Tina, in particular, was voted out solely on the basis that she was a former winner, and Rich Hatch was voted out just because everyone wanted the satisfaction of seeing the original Survivor winner finally get bounced from the game. This time, only three of the returning 10 even got as far as the final three.

* Pre-game alliance breaking. Apparently, producers told the players that it was going to a full All-Star season with returning Survivors, then cut 10 of them at the last minute before they got on the plane. This was an attempt to stop some of the game-outside-of-the-game gamesmanship (editor's note: say 'game' a few more times) that occured in the last All-Star series. On that show, it was well-known that Lex, Big Tom and Boston Rob had phoned each other up before the series started and agreed to be an alliance. This is why Lex was legitimately furious at Rob when he broke up their deal on the show in favour of keeping Amber around. It's rare that another player could be as stupid as Lex, but just in case, the producers instituted this little twist just so any pre-game planning could be scuttled before it really began.

Now, I've heard another version of this story that goes like this: Mark Burnett WANTED an all-returning player series, but was unable to get certain popular players like Tom Westman, Yul Kwon or Earl Cole back for another go-around. Facing an "All-Star" series of 20 past players with jobbers replacing some of the biggest names of recent series, Burnett just decided to halve the cast and bring in 10 new faces. If only the NFL would adopt this method for the Pro Bowl. Instead of having a quarter of the top players beg off with, ahem, injuries, bring in a team of college all-stars or the Sasketchewan Roughriders or something.

* Less fame-whoring. Now, that's not to say there won't be some prima donnas out of the returning ten. In fact, I'd guarantee it. There's also sure to be at least a few of the new players who fawn over these returning stars and make fools of themselves, but there's also sure to be a natural rivalry of the new players against the old. Going back to the test case of Survivor 11, Stephenie was able to make it to the final two thanks to building an alliance of people who liked her since she was on the previous show. In the final vote, however, there was a backlash against Steph since the Guatemala players wanted one of 'their own' to win, and thus Steph lost a lopsided vote. Even Bobby Jon voted for new player Danni Boatwright to win. This is why I'm predicting one of the new ten will win Survivor: Micronesia. I don't think there will be a natural yearning amongst the returning players to see an old-timer win, whereas the new players will want to establish themselves.

So that's what I see happening on the new Survivor. There will be blood.

* Does anyone else list the Survivor seasons just by number, and not location? I'll be honest, I forget where a lot of them took place unless the locale was actually unique (China, Guatemala, Amazon, etc.) Also, everytime I write 'Survivor series,' I feel like I should be discussing the pro wrestling event. Maybe that'll be the next Survivor, 18 wrestlers. The Ugandan giant Kamala would have the decided edge, being from the wilderness already.


Lost came back last Thursday, and it was glorious. I'm probably making a mistake in posting about the show just a couple of hours before the next episode and thus costing myself a chance to write about a whole bunch of more new stuff, but what the hell.

Unlike the last two seasons, Lost is jumping into the action right away in the first episode. It's been clearly delineated that Jack's group and Locke's group have differing views about the motives of the people on the freighter (known hereafter as, 'The Freighter People,' possibly in association with the reverse vampires and the Rand Corporation) and so the season will deal with how these two groups conflict with each other. By season, of course, I mean the eight episodes that we'll get to see since the writers' strike ended production on the season, but...well, let's just hope for a goddamn settlement. A recent interview with Jorge Garcia revealed that they haven't yet hit their drop-dead date for when the show wouldn't be able to shoot the remaining eight episodes, so, in the words of Lloyd Christmas, you're telling me there's a chance.

The biggest question coming out of the premiere is who are the Oceanic Six -- namely, the six castaways that we know make it back in the future. Hurley is one. Jack is another. Kate may be another since we saw her in last year's flash-forward finale, but remember, she's a wanted fugitive. She couldn't come back and be hailed as a hero and media celebrity like Jack and Hurley seem to have become. That is, unless, we get a Kate flash-forward about how she beat her murder rap thanks to Oceanic paying for an O.J.-esque team of defense attorneys. So it's possible that more than just six of the survivors make it back, but only six of them become well-known because of it. Another hint in this direction is that mysterious funeral in last year's season finale. As we saw in the newspaper clipping Jack was holding, the deceased was a Jo--- ---antham, and while many logically assumed this person was someone from the Island, there's no mention in what we see of that short article of the dead man/woman being one of the Oceanic Six. So while it could still be a character we already know, it could be someone under an assumed name, possibly like fugitive Kate may be under.

We know that Desmond, Juliet and Ben can't be in the Oceanic Six since they weren't on the plane to begin with. It also can't be the Freighter People played by Rebecca Mader, Ken Leung and Jeremy Davies --- all of whom are in the opening credits, by the way, which means they're considered full cast members and thus will likely be getting flashbacks or flash-forwards this season. So that leaves Sayid, Sun, Jin, Locke, Claire, Sawyer, Michael and Walt. I guess there's Rose and Bernard too, but that would be a little lame. Sayid is a possibility. At least one of Sun and Jin seems like a good possibility, probably Sun having the edge since she needs to get off the Island to have her baby. These two are also good possibilities to be under assumed names, since otherwise Sun's gangster father will be after them. Sawyer may also be under an assumed name, being a wanted con man and all. Michael may be in hiding as well, since we still don't know what his deal was after he sailed off in the S2 finale. He's a good Jo--- ---antham candidate since it's possible he may kill himself out of guilt for his murders of Libby and Ana Lucia. N.B. I loved that Ana Lucia's former partner was the one interrogating Hurley last episode. I love little connections like that. Claire was seen getting onto a helicopter in Desmond's future-flash last season, so theoretically she has the best chance of anyone. Oh, Aaron could also be considered an Oceanic Six contender, but he and Claire are basically a package deal. Having Locke as one of the Oceanic Six (and content about being back home) would be one of the bigger shockers the show could throw at us. Would Locke have regained use of his legs away from the island? Or would he be wheeling around as happy as a modern-day FDR?

I'm just glad the show is finally back on the air and I can get at least eight weeks out of gorging myself at the trough of Lost. Also, feel free to pick through this post after tonight's episode, since I'm guessing at least 40% of what I discussed will be proven decidedly wrong.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Super Bowls & Spice

Um, when I predicted the Patriots by murder, I actually meant 'the Giants will run through the Patriots' offensive line as easily as if Tom Brady was being protected by a murder of crows.'

Chatting with my friend Yvonne tonight, I learned that rather than watch the big game, she instead attended a Spice Girls concert in Toronto. This somewhat surprised me --- who schedules a concert on Super Bowl Sunday? Only a bunch of futbol-minded Brits, that's who. I guess there isn't a ton of crossover between Spice Girls fans and football fans, though Yvonne reported there were a few boyfriends in attendance that "didn't look too pleased." It isn't all bad for those guys. Sure, they're totally whipped, but on the bright side, they now have a fight-ender or sex-getter for all time. Observe...

"Aw, not tonight honey, I have a headache."
"I took you to a Spice Girls concert during the Super Bowl, which ended up being one of the best games ever."
"Hmm, that's true. Ok, ditch the pants."

"You're an ass! You never do anything special for me!"
"What? I took you to a Spice Girls concert during the Super Bowl, which ended up being one of the best games ever!"

This wouldn't end the fight per se, since the girlfriend obviously wouldn't admit she was wrong ("Who cares? It's just a football game!") and would continue arguing for another hour minimum until the guy just apologizes to get it over with. But the guy would win the moral victory. Granted, this is sort of like winning an Intercontinental title match when the heel cheats to get intentionally disqualified and thus retains his title, but still, the moral victory is there. Damn you, Honky Tonk Man!

Today's discussion question: does New York beating New England in the Super Bowl to end their shot at a 19-0 season match or top the Red Sox coming back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS? Compare and contrast.

The bottom line is that the Patriots just aren't....Perfect.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Chigurh vs. Plainview vs. Todd

The "who's the bigger badass" tally is calculated here. Tons of spoilers about all three films here, so be warned.

Personally, I thought Sweeney should've gotten a few bonus points for managing to still look tough while singing half of his dialogue. That takes skill.

The article also omits two of the year's biggest movie bad-asses, the guys from Hot Fuzz. Maybe that's coming in a follow-up article.


Oh yeah, Super Bowl pick. Patriots by murder. My pal Wasko has a far more in-depth preview on his blog.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Spoiler alert: There was blood

Observant fans of this blog will notice the inordinate number of entries that I've posted between the hours of midnight and 4 AM. This is due to terrible sleep habits formed at school after years of late-night essays. Over the last few days, however, I've taken a stand. I'm going to bed early (by my standards) between midnight and 1 AM, and thus I've actually been waking up at a reasonable hour. The downside? Mornings are boring. Seriously, after breakfast and Sportscentre, there's nothing to do until the afternoon. I find myself just sitting around or idly watching TV. Keep in mind that this isn't far removed from what I do later in the day, but at least later in the day there's more interesting shows to watch.

Case in point: I might've stayed up to write a review of There Will Be Blood last night, were I not so exhausted. Part of the blame also falls on the film itself, which lulled me into a state of stupor. I wanted to like it, I really did. Day-Lewis was excellent, the unheralded Paul Dano was excellent, it was well-shot, had an interesting premise and parts of the film were quite tremendous. But it seemed like the whole thing just built and built and never totally paid off. I think PT Anderson has a problem with endings. The overrated Boogie Nights kept on going and going until I wanted to kill myself. Magnolia I enjoyed, but the frog downpour ending was pretty bizarre. Punch-Drunk Love ended properly, I guess, but the movie was atrocious. I'm not sure what kind of coda would've been appropriate for There Will Be Blood, but after even after the film stretches itself out to the limit of patience, the actual ending portion in 1927 seems oddly rushed, in a way. The ending, in and of itself, was pretty awesome --- the whole movie is Day-Lewis verbally and physically owning people, so naturally it saves his biggest triumph for the conclusion. Anderson could've saved Jonny Greenwood the trouble of making a score and just used Sharon, Lois & Bram's "I Am Slowly Going Crazy" given where Plainview eventually ends up. Day-Lewis's Daniel Plainview character is one of the more interesting creations in recent modern performances. I found it funny that he sounded like J. Peterman from Seinfeld; my friend Matt thought he sounded more like Ron Burgundy. I might propose a crossover between the two films, but it would just be disturbing when Plainview threatens to cut Brick's throat.

I've developed a snort laugh. This is terrible. I laugh all the time, and now I'll have to worry about not sounding like a twit when I do so. It only seems to crop up when I'm laughing at a pun or clever turn of phrase, which isn't much of a salve since those are the kinds of jokes I'm most amused by.

You know you watch too much Lost're talking to your mother on the day of the season premiere, and she mentions she's working on a sewing project that involves stitching 48 patterns. 4, 8 --- two of the numbers!