Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sweet Sweet Fantasy Baby

This post is mostly about fantasy sports, but I guess I should add a token note about Mariah Carey just for those who saw this title come up on their blogroll and say "Oh, cool, Mark's talkin' 'bout Mariah!" Here's the problem: I have no opinion on Mariah Carey whatsoever. She's a total blank slate to me. I'm not what you would call a fan of her music, though she's generally inoffensive and she has a few genuinely good songs. One of her recent videos featured Jack McBrayer from 30 Rock, so that's certainly a plus. Never saw Glitter, so I guess that's another plus since had I seen it, that would've likely been another minus. And, last but not least, she's pretty easy on the eyes. I enjoyed her "only wear jeans or jean shorts" era in 1995. I suspect that in future years her looks will totally go to pot under the influence of botox and whatnot, but hey, it was fun while it lasted. In short, Mariah Carey is a person that I have heard of.

As longtime readers know, I'm quite a fan of fantasy sports. In fact, in the last calendar year, I participated in....okay, well, I should preface this by saying that fantasy sports really doesn't take a lot of time. I mean, check your teams every day, generally be aware, update your rosters, etc. These are the essentials of fantasy, and it costs me maybe 10 minutes of my day, so it's not a huge time commitment.

Just wanted to add in that preface given that as of Sunday, I had 18 active fantasy teams on the go. It sounds like a lot, but really, not a big time commitment. I have a life, I swear. It isn't as bad as it sounds. Why does this paragraph sound like it was cribbed from an episode of Intervention? Fortunately, given the ends of both baseball and golf season, I'm down to just 12 leagues. And really, given that some of those are survival football, it's really more like five leagues. That's reasonable, isn't it? Isn't it?

Given that the end of September is the closest thing to a down period there is in fantasy sports with the end of baseball and golf, hockey and basketball still to come and football of course just once per week, it was high time for a fantasy report. Or, basically, just 2000 words of me venting. Since there are few things less interesting than listening about someone else's fantasy teams, consider this the necessary evil for avoiding talking about them in several other posts over the course of the summer. I promise I'll make this entertaining, I swear. If you play fantasy sports yourself, you can probably consider this a cautionary tale.

FANTASY BASEBALL
Might as well start with the big one first. I played in four leagues, two played in head-to-head formats, two under Rotisserie formats. The results? Second of 12, fourth of 16, fifth of 14 and 10th of 12. A lot of close calls and for yet another year, no trophies. I'm basically like the Blue Jays.

The second place came in the league I'm most energetic about, the legendary 'The Guys' league I've been in in some form or another for the last decade with some of my closest friends. We've had a core of 5-6 people who have been in virtually every one, with a rotating cast of characters filling the other 6-7 spots over the years and it's been incredibly competitive. One person has won four times, another has 1.5 titles (we had a tie one year, which was pretty incredible and statistically unlikely), but there has been a different champion in each of the last five seasons. How many have I won, you ask? Zero. So I've gone from being the Blue Jays to being the Cubs. This year....good lord, I came agonizingly close. I led the league for most of the season, always stayed in the 120-130 point range of our 7X7 points system, but could only watch in horror in August when my pal Jeff roared past me like a bat out of hell. Jeff's team's problem was that it wasn't generating a lot of offense, but that changed in August when pretty much everyone on his team suddenly hit like a demon for the entire month. This included unlikely studs like Melvin Mora, Jhonny Peralta and career years from Aubrey Huff and Ryan Ludwick. Combine that with a pitching staff that included Halladay, Lee and Sheets, and that's a good recipe for success.

My attempt at a late-season comeback was thwarted by the fact that my seemingly ace pitching staff (Webb, Zambrano, Lackey, Hamels) largely pitched like garbage for most of September. My other two starters (Gil Meche and Brett Myers) saw relatively few starts given that I was well over my innings limit, which bit me since those two were probably my best pitchers over the last two months. Perhaps my whole season could be summed up by the fact that I had Zambrano on the bench for his no-hitter, as I was worried about his health after he missed a couple of starts. The next weekend, I started Zambrano and Myers for their next turns and they combined to post a 22.50 ERA for the day. Jesus wept.

So I'll congratulate Jeff through gritted teeth, and next year I'll try again to break on through. Should I ever actually win this league, the subsequent post will be so full of bragging that you'll probably all hate me and stop reading the blog. But it'll be worth it.

I've spent three graphs on that single league, which gives you an example of how much emphasis I put on it. My other major triumph was the fourth place, which came in a head-to-head league that is as competitive as it is filled with trash-talk, so there's definite bragging rights involved in wins and losses. Finishing as a semi-finalist was still pretty satisfying given that my team was both ravaged by injuries and that given the rag-taggedness of my roster, I took pleasure in the fact that I kept winning despite having, on paper, a brutal team. Yadier Molina! Mark Reynolds! Fred Lewis! Alexi Casilla! Not exactly your standard accomplished fantasy team, but hey, it worked.

The 10th place was due to a remarkably stupid deal I made in May that involved my dealing A-Rod, Brian Roberts and Lincecum for Webb, Chase "At Least My First Two Months Were Good" Utley and....ugh, Edwin Encarnacion. Needless to say, that one didn't work out so well. My other head-to-head was actually a little aggravating, as I can't help but think that were it not for one slow week in the first playoff round, I would've won easily. It took me about four months to really get my roster together, but once it was assembled, it was a veritable All-Star team with the likes of Adrian Gonzalez, Manny, Markakis and a rotation where my top three starters were Lincecum, Halladay and Peavy. My dream team caught fire in the last few weeks to get into the playoffs, where I was knocked out in the first round, and then I had to sit and watch as my guys all went on another tear for the last part of the season. Ah, what might have been....


FANTASY GOLF
You might think there's nothing lamer in the world than fantasy golf. You might be right. How it works is that you pick eight golfers per week, and can only 'start' four at a time, as they're split up into groups of A-listers (Tiger, Phil, Vijay, etc.), B-listers and C-listers. You can only start a golfer up to 10 times all year, otherwise known as the "Strategize About The Best Times To Use Tiger Woods" rule. The added twist for me is that I played in an elimination league where the three worst scores every week were up on a short list, and then the players all had to vote for one to be eliminated, ala Survivor. I only appeared on this list of doom once all year....but unfortunately, that became a point against me, as my opponents played the "he's so good that we might not have this chance again" card and I was voted out. Son of a bitch. Given that Survivor refuses to have a Canadian edition, this will be the closest I'll get to fulfilling my dream of being the next Earl Cole. Maybe I'll have to settle for being the next Yau Man, a.k.a. the player everyone was too afraid to face in the finals. By the way, how far over everyone's head are these Survivor references going? Five feet? Ten?


FANTASY PREMIER LEAGUE
It's played under a salary cap format, so you have $100 to sign a full starting XI. So you can get Ronaldo, Lampard, Rooney all on your team, but then you're only left with about 25 bucks left for eight other guys. I switch my roster on a week-to-week basis based on fitness, quality of opposition, who's in his manager's favor, etc. but I think the only thing I really know about this game is that you basically have to have a goalkeeper who played for Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool or Man U. Without it, you just won't get the wins on a regular basis.


SURVIVAL FOOTBALL
Also known as a 'suicide pool' for those who are less PC. How it works is you pick one team to win their game in any given week of NFL football. Sounds easy, right? Well, the catch is you can only pick one given team once. So if you pick New England as your sure thing in the first week, you can't use them again for the rest of the year. Given this rule and the number of upsets in the NFL, it's rare that a Survival League lasts longer than eight or nine weeks. I was in one last year where it took 13 weeks to decide a winner...and even then, both guys went out in the same week, so it was a tie. Bad way to end things.

Anyway, given the ups and downs of this format, I went whole hog. I joined eight leagues and made a different pick in each one, so no single upset would torpedo me across the board. How has the strategy worked? Well, after four weeks I'm still alive in....er, one of them. Yikes. Thanks for nothing, Colts, Patriots, Broncos, Seahawks and Chargers. You can all go to hell.


PICK'EM FOOTBALL
You pick every game per week, either against the spread or just picking straight wins and losses but with 'confidence points.' So, if you think one team will definitely beat another, they get 16 points. For a slightly lesser sure thing, 15 points, and all the way down under you wager just one point on a tossup game. I'm faring pretty well in my confidence point league (ninth out of 35) and I'm winning my spread league. So, theoretically, I should actually be putting some cash down on these games in real life. Could it be that I'm a gambling savant that just has yet to be discovered? I have a feeling I'll end up like that football prognosticator from the Simpsons. "Well folks, when you're right 52 percent of the time, you're wrong 48 percent of the time."


FANTASY FOOTBALL
After four weeks, I have a combined 1-7 record over two leagues. Fuck's sakes. Part of it is bad luck, as I've faced some teams who have had big weeks, but mostly it's my own stupidity. In one league I drafted Rudi Johnson as my #2 running back. In the other, I continually leave guys on the bench during big games. Is it too late for a do-over? Is there such thing as a midseason league in football? I guess that would be pretty lame to claim a fantasy title over just seven weeks of action, but at this point, as you can tell, I would take it.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Random Nonsense

--- It is strangely great that when you get a 404 error at Wikipedia, it includes a hyperlink to the actual Wiki entry about 404 errors.


--- I claim to be well-read, but it's a lie. For instance, I was on the streetcar the other day and saw the words 'Spandau Ballet' scrawled across the back of a chair. The name triggered a vague recollection in my head, as I knew I'd heard the name before, but made the not-illogical leap that it was an actual ballet organization. Not knowing anything about the world of ballet, it seemed a reasonable inference. Thinking it was hilarious that some punk would rebelliously scrawl the name of an international ballet company as graffiti, I was going to write up a little blog bit about it here, but just checked Google to get a bit more info on this Spandau operation. Well, colour me badd, but it turns out that 'Spandau Ballet' is not a ballet at all, but rather a British rock band from the 1980's. So, in conclusion, knowing lots of random bits of information means nothing if you can't use it in the proper context.


--- Richie Ashburn holds the Philadelphia Phillies' all-time record for career singles, with 1811. See? That fact means nothing! I'm useless!


--- Jamie Lee Curtis is theoretically really cool. Good actress, has a good sense of humour about herself, seems level-headed enough to speak out against the nonsense of Botox, is married to Christopher Guest and she starred in my favourite movie of all time, A Fish Called Wanda.* What's not to like? Well, I'll tell ya what's not to like --- she's in this Beverly Hills Chihuahua movie, which has to be some kind of ironic in-joke akin to Snakes On A Plane. Surely no movie could be that bad. Come on, Jamie Lee! You can do better than this! Even better is the fact that her character's name is Aunt Viv, which makes me think that halfway through the movie Curtis will be suddenly replaced by another actress.

* = A quick search has revealed that the word 'Wanda' has never been mentioned on this blog, so I guess this revelation may be news to some of you. That's right, A Fish Called Wanda, #1 on my personal IMDB. A perfect comedy. Hysterically funny. Cleese, great. Curtis, great. Palin, great. (Michael Palin, not Sarah Palin, who I believe was the star of A Moose Called Wanda, an animated film about a moose living in Nome who looks over to Russia and sees an invading fleet of destroyers, but the moose saves the day by not reading a newspaper. I dunno, I skimmed the summary on the back of the box.) The underrated hero of the film Maria Aitkin, great. And then, of course, Kevin Kline, who isn't just great, but gives arguably the funniest performance I've ever seen in any movie. It's right up there with Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove and William H. Macy in Fargo. The fact that Kline actually won an Oscar for his role so fills me with joy that I wish Wanda had come out a decade later, so I could've fully enjoyed the moment.


--- Poll results! As you can see, we're back to the 'Worst Best Picture' challenge after the baseball jersey decision was made.

The previous two movie polls, btw, covered the 1970's and 1960's. The winners (or, really, losers) of the 1970's poll were Deer Hunter and Patton, each with two votes. Patton I've never seen, but Deer Hunter was a worthy pick. What a brutal movie. The first half-hour is just about coma-inducing, and then it just gets progressively dumber and dumber. Also getting votes from the 1970's bunch were Annie Hall and Rocky, thus forcing me to conclude that two of my readers don't have souls.

As for the 1960's, the big winner was Oliver, with two votes. West Side Story, Tom Jones, Sound of Music and Midnight Cowboy each picked up a single vote each. Not surprisingly, as we're getting further back in time, the number of voters is decreasing, as people simply aren't familiar with as many of these films. I suspect we're getting a lot of "hmm, I've never heard of seven of these movies, and of the three I actually have heard of, they were all good. So I guess I can't vote." For more apathy like this, stay tuned for the Canadian federal election.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Favourite Books of the 1990's

....not MY favourite books of the 90's, mind you, but rather Kyle's. I'm pretty sure our two blogs will one day merge like those two planes at the beginning of Dr. Strangelove. Anyway, for such a lengthy and in-depth post about literature, I wouldn't limit myself to a mere comment. It required an all-out post-length response.

a) 'The Death of Superman' is, for my money, probably the best large-scale comics story in recent years, arguably of all time. I loved, LOVED the editorial set-up of the Superman comics in the late 80's/early 90's....basically, all four titles were interconnected, with the separate writers free to do their own thing in individual issues, but it all tied together in larger story arcs. The writers, artists and DC editorial team got together every year to basically plan out the next 12 months' worth of comics. This is so simple, so creatively engaging and yet still with such an eye towards keeping the Superman mythos into actual mythos that it couldn't be done in modern comics, which have basically devolved into each series becoming a series of mini-series with a different creative team coming in roughly every two years. Could more have been done with the 'Death'? Yeah, probably, though obviously DC didn't want Superman to be 'dead' for too long. Was it a bit over-extended? Possibly, but not until the very end of the story, i.e. Superman, Superboy and Steel attacking the Cyborg's Coast City fortress....and even then, that was maybe too long by, say, an issue. The storyline had so many elements to it that the greater length was actually necessary, unlike most modern comic storylines that stretch three issues of story into nine issues just to justify a collected release. (Note: Mark's upcoming novel, 'Why Modern Comics Suck' will be in stores on November 31.)

b) I read 'A Good Walk Spoiled' not in one or two sittings, or even in sittings at all. I read it chapter-by-chapter in my old golf club's pro shop over the span of maybe a year. After a round I would go into the shop, read a chapter, put it back on the shelf and then rejoin my parents and brother for a bite in the grill room. I'm not sure why I didn't just break down and buy the book, or at least find it in a library. The experience prepared me for my current habit of hanging out at Chapters.

c) To be honest, John Irving should've stopped writing AWFOY after the first third. That opening segment is arguably the best thing he's ever written and would've been a perfectly satisfactory 240-odd page novella. The rest of the novel is good, but after the fantastic opening, feels sort of tacked on. Imagine going to a Pearl Jam concert where the first 14 songs were (insert your favourite PJ tracks here), and then the next 14 songs were the entire Riot Act album. Never actually saw Door In The Floor, though apparently the great Jeff Bridges turned in a performance that got some mild Oscar buzz. Is there a more underrated actor over the last 30, hell, 40 years than Jeff Bridges?

d) Say what you will about Michael Crichton, but the man does his homework. Nobody writes more convincing-sounding (if not necessarily convincing) technobabble than he does. The original JP novel is absolutely fantastic, and miles better than the movie, though the film still holds up fairly well today. Crichton is pretty hit-and-miss, but the hits are tremendous. Airframe and Sphere were great novels. I remember devouring Disclosure during a single bus ride to Pontiac for a Packers-Lions game in 1997....I should probably note that I'm a semi-speed reader, and that this bus ride was close to four hours long thanks to stops and border delays. Timeline, which you loved, wasn't high on my list.

e) I've somehow never read any Tom Wolfe. The only thing I know about the man is his penchant for dressing like Colonel Sanders, and the fact that he and John Irving openly despise each other. Apparently this is the American literary equivalent of the feud between 50 Cent and the Game.

f) The only time I've ever spent five hours on the toilet was last Boxing Day, when a chicken dinner at Bernie's in Byron and several glasses of water and orange juice at the pub afterwards left me sick for two full days. It was not a winner-winner chicken dinner. Okay, it wasn't five consecutive hours, since that would be just weird, but it had to have been pretty close to that over the 48-hour span. Then again, I was delirious, so my recollection isn't the best. There sure was a lot of vomit, though. Anyway, I probably could've spent this time reading The Fifties.

g) Geez, my Facebook message was your first alert to Wallace's death? Yikes, I apologize. It was more of a condolence, if anything, I didn't mean to send a shock through your system. It was still better than my alternate idea, which was "Argh, the 49ers upset the Seahawks! I'm out of my NFL suicide pool! Fortunately, in my American author suicide pool...."

Wow, that was tasteless, even for me. Um....calm yourself with the delightfully droll fact that I started the 'g' entry with the word 'geez.' They sound alike!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Emmy Recap (Mark and Kyle Team Up!)

Team Up #4: Kyle and Mark Discuss the Emmys

Mark: So yeah, Emmy madness! What was the ratio of Emmy-watching to football-watching on Sunday night?

Kyle: Hmmm...probably about 3 to 1. We had it on ABC when the Emmys were running and then I flipped it to NBC during the breaks...but I was following the game play-for-play online like a psycho (fantasy implications and all). You?

Mark: Surprisingly close to half-and-half. The Packers kept on disgusting me with their play-calling, so I flipped over to discover Howie Mandel disgusting me with his inane patter. Then I flipped back to more bad football. It was a yo-yo of discontentment on Sunday night.


Kyle: Yeah...that was an odd game. They seemed very tight (and not in the cool way when kids say it). It was Carrie, Ryan, and I here and, throughout both events, I kept muttering, "oh...Mark isn't going to be happy." Then Lost lost and I think I just blurted out "poor Mark!"

Kyle: ...so they both may or may not think I'm obsessed with you...


Mark: Wait, you're NOT obsessed with me?

Kyle: (Officially: it's a healthy fixation. Unofficially: well, you know...)

Mark: You know what, though? As much as I was pulling for Lost to win, at least I was consoled by the fact that a) it has a Best Drama trophy already (hmm, almost wrote 'Best Dharma' there) and b) at least Lost lost to a good show.


Kyle: Good points. Would've been nice but, ultimately, I was pulling for Mad Men (and anti-pulling for Damages).

Mark: Yeah, if it lost to Mad Men or Dexter, no big problem. If it lost to Boston Legal or House, well, that would've been galling, but at least my parents would've been happy. But if Damages had won....to quote my friend Matt, there would've been shit on the Academy's floors. Is Damages really that bad? I've never actually seen it.

Kyle: I mean, it's ok (barely). But, really, it's like a decent legal thriller that lasts for 11 hours. Would you watch a director's cut of Fracture that was that long? It's incredibly shallow, and, even if I weren't going to law school I think I could figure out that their tactics are blatantly ridiculous.

Mark: So really, we should be celebrating its defeat. Huzzah! *clinks glass* I guess this leads us into the first talking point, 'biggest disappointment.' As I said, I had made my peace with a potential Lost loss, but Michael Emerson losing just really pissed me off.

Kyle: Actually, this is the one place where Damages is pretty strong, with two worthy candidates. Ivanek was deserving -- note: not MOST deserving...that was clearly Emerson -- and, how shall I put this: he probably won't be eligible next year.


Mark: I was shocked both since Emerson lost but also by the fact that Ivanek won....he wasn't on the radar at all. But I guess in hindsight it wasn't surprising given that he's been on pretty much every show on TV at some point, so he's built up a lot of goodwill.

Kyle: If I'd been in any Emmy pool, I would've allotted no more than 5 points out of 100 to Emerson. I just thought he had no chance (if not Ivanek, then Danson). Remember, these are the same people that didn't think Henry Ian Cusick made the top five. For "the Constant." The best Lost episode ever. Which featured only him and one other character.

Mark: A fair point. Though Terry O'Quinn won in a semi-upset last year, so I figured they'd want to give at least some token nod to Lost given how it got screwed in every other category.

Kyle: Hmmm...true.

Kyle: I have three big disappointments: 1. Jeremy Piven winning Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy again. As Sepinwall noted: he was given NOTHING to do last season (which was completely terrible). NPH or Rainn Wilson (who, if I'm not mistaken, has never won) were both far more deserving.

Mark: Agreed (more on this later in the 'most deserved/undeserved' topic).


Kyle: 2. (this one you'll dispute) The Amazing Race winning Best Competitive Reality Show AGAIN. Did you know that they've given this award out SIX times and it's gone to TAR every year? Top Chef--perennially underrated--was a better choice.

Mark: It is somewhat absurd that TAR has won every single time, but given that it was the only one I watched of the nominees, I can only applaud the Academy's wise choice in this case.

Kyle: Grrrr.

Kyle: And 3. the hosting. My God, the hosting! Those first five minutes (post-Oprah...hell: including Oprah) were among the most painful minutes I've ever spent watching television. I cannot for the life of me fathom how no one (Kimmel, evidently, aside) figured out that doing an opening monologue about nothing was a disastrous idea. It almost ruined the whole night. The crowd was stunned into silence for about half an hour. It'd be like Conan's warm-up guy coming out at 12:20, taking a dump on the stage, giving the crowd the finger, and walking off.

Mark: A commenter on TWOP put it best....'they could've gotten the five nominees from any other category and they would've done a better job than these five. Including the tech categories.'

Kyle: lol...initially, I actually thought it was a send-up of bad hosting, but, no, they were actually trying.

Mark: I actually think Tom Bergeron would've done a solid job if it was just him as a solo act. Maybe Probst too. But the other three....ye gods. Though then we wouldn't have gotten to hear Heidi Klum introduce Boreanaz as star of 'The Bones.' Between that and being stuck with Lauren Conrad as a presenter, it was Angel's worse night since Buffy sent him to hell.

Kyle: I was out paying the pizza guy, so I missed it, but I was following the EW liveblog and couldn't stop laughing. The Bones! They should actually change the title to that.

Mark: That's actually the working title of my pilot script about a skeleton who solves crimes. I'm hoping to get Calista Flockhart. (rimshot)

Kyle: Nicely done. btw, how big of a fuck you to viewers (or possibly to Hills fans) was it to have LC give out the two writing awards of the night?

Mark: It would be sort of awesome if the MTV cameras followed her there, so we can get a Hills episode about 'LC's Emmy experience.' If a scene shows up of, say, Paul Giamatti shaking her hand that ends up on the Hills, I think the universe would explode.

Kyle: Confused Hills viewer: "Is that her grandfather?"

Kyle: At least Probst acknowledged that it was their fault the show was running long.


Mark: It was great how it took about five minutes for the hosts' performance to become a running joke. I think it was Piven who got things rolling in his speech.

Kyle: I'm just stunned that they got through rehearsal. Had to have been a case where they didn't even practice it and just said "ah...we're quick on our feet. We'll be fine." But no, they weren't. And they broke the only rule I remember from being a radio co-host: "don't talk when someone else is talking. It sounds awful." Howie, Howie, Howie...

Mark: That was a career-ending performance from Mandel. If that group of hosts was Voltron, he was the head.

Kyle: [frantically wikipediaing "Voltron"]

Mark: Best/worst presenter?

Kyle: Best: Gervais. He may have saved the show with the Carell bit. His Golden Globe speech when he was the unexpected winner for the original Office remains my all-time favorite. ("I'm from Britain. You may remember us. We used to rule the world before you did.")

Mark: No arguments here...Gervais should host the show next year, no question about it. How awesome would Gervais be at a roast? My god, he would be legendary.


Kyle: Stewart and Colbert were solid, but I wasn't blown away by the prune bit.

Mark: Honorable mention to Sally Field, as she and Tom Hanks temporarily reliving Forrest Gump was pretty cute.

Kyle: That was adorable.

Mark: Oh! And NPH and Kristen Chenoweth. Maybe they could host the show next year. If NPH and Chenoweth were to host, it would raise their profiles and give them a better shot at winning, too. I wonder what their bit was that got cut?


Kyle: I'm almost certain they were going to sing something. Ever seen NPH belt out "Confrontation" with Jason Segel on some random talk show? Awesome.

Mark: Here's the clip!





Mark: Have faith! I choose to blame any problems from last season on the strike.

Kyle: Let's hope. But I hate the whole Barney/Robyn thing, which is apparently unavoidable.

Kyle: Lots of bit-cutting sniping last night, eh? Someone else mentioned it. Maybe they should have steered clear of those (Conan's aside) painful "hey, we're on the set of [insert famous show here]. How cool is this?" segments.


Mark: Yeah, it seemed like they had the idea to do a big blowout for the 60th anniversary, but then were told at the last minute to get it to three hours or else. Those tributes to, like, seven randomly selected great shows were pretty pointless. [Note: all but one coming from show's from the 90s or the 00s--way to give the shaft to every other program than The Mary Tyler Moore Show released prior to 1985, Emmy Producers!]


Kyle: And who the hell picked those scenes? The Desperate Housewives one, in particular, went nowhere and was painfully dull...they even bricked the West Wing one, which seems almost impossible. "Here's a scene were President Bartlett pontificates about assassinating some random terrorist"--the hell?

Mark: As the last DH fan on the planet, that was horrifying. To quote the Itchy & Scratchy boss when meeting Abe Simpson.....God, you're so old!

Kyle: As for "worst presenter," I dunno...I hate (coughEmmywinnercough) Kathy Griffin...and much of the Rickles stuff was intensely uncomfortable (especially when he later won and came back all "aww shucks. I'm so damn lucky!"). That might be my pick...but mostly everyone else was forgettable.

Mark: I actually enjoyed that bit. Griffin wisely just kept out of it and let Rickles do his thing. So we've agreed, next year's five hosts should be NPH, Chenoweth, Gervais, Rickles and Carell.

Kyle: Again, not the biggest Rickles fan. Could he come as Mr. Potato Head? Anyone (professional hosts aside) that really got on your nerves?

Mark: The Laugh-In thing was technically a presenter, right? That was painful. Laugh-In is quite probably the most dated show of all time.

Kyle: As it was happening: I actually called home to ask my mom "is that what Laugh-In was really like?" My God! Horrifying!!

Mark: Okay, best speech. I'd have to go with Cranston. He seemed genuinely touched to have won.


Kyle: That was very heartfelt. As was, surprisingly, Colbert's speech. I dug Tom Hanks (esp. the stuff about the election of 1800), but was totally distracted by his (the consensus at our place was ladies') glasses.

Mark:
Hanks: Oh shit, I forgot my glasses!
Rita: I don't have mine either. Just ask the guy next to you if you can borrow his.
Hanks: Good idea. Excuse me, sir....
Ron Jaworski [Note: The Polish Rifle!]: Overheard you Tom, here you go!


Kyle: hehe...I liked Smothers too...though he seemed a bit rusty.

Mark: Smothers was good. Now THEIR show isn't dated at all. I remember watching it as a kid and howling at them and this one great deadpan stand-up comic they had. Man, I should look that up on YouTube....

Mark: It was odd, Dick Smothers was there, but....didn't get an Emmy? Did he not write? He already had one? He wanted to give his brother a moment in the sun for all those years of Mom liking Dick best?


Kyle: Yeah, I wondered about that too. I think (though I haven't bothered to verify any of this) that Tommy was the one that was considered radioactive at the time, but Dick was safe, so he probably got his at the time.


Mark: Makes sense. Seems odd that a guy named 'Dick Smothers' could be considered the normal one, but there you go.


Kyle: But my favorite was (again) Tina Fey...the one where she thanked her parents.


Mark: Yeah, Fey was 3-for-3 on good speeches. She is truly awesome. Was there really a 'worst' speech?

Kyle: Probably not. Piven came across as a smug fuck, most likely because...he's a smug fuck, but his dig towards the hosts was deserved.

Mark: Worst part of the speeches was that literally everyone got played off by the orchestra after about 10 seconds.

Kyle: Agreed. The pacing was horrible. Totally hypocritical of the Emmys to let big wheels like Hanks and Close talk about politics, but if some no name director wins, they just cut him off altogether.


Mark: Perhaps they're fans of irony. "It's important that we live in a country where freedom of express.." CLICK.

Kyle: lol. How annoyed would you be if you were an award winner, got played off, and then came back to your seat to watch them throw it to a gratuitous commercial during that interminable "best reality host" segment? I would've been like that guy that went after Noel Gallagher...

Mark: Heh. You would know his moves, too.
Mark: Biggest shock?


Kyle: Cranston, definitely. Loaded category and he manages to come away with it? That was stunning. You should watch Breaking Bad, by the way. The first season is only six eps.

Mark: That was the biggest surprise award-wise, for sure. And yes, it's on my list of shows to get to. I just finished S2 of Dexter, so I'm getting there. The biggest shock for me was "Huh, how about that, the guy who wrote Recount is named Danny Strong. Odd that there's two guys with that name in Holl....OH MAN, THAT'S JONATHAN FROM BUFFY!!"


Kyle: Oh, right...I meant to tell you about that. I remember reading about it in Time and thinking I was in the episode where he's the biggest star in the world.

Kyle: Minor shocks: Matthew Weiner winning Best Writing For A Drama Series, not for "The Wheel" (the brilliant season finale), but for "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (the great, but not nearly as memorable series premiere). Also: Damages got Best Ensemble over Mad Men during the Creative Emmys--how is that even possible??


Mark: I'd have to check this, but I would wager that pilots more often than not win the writing awards. It's easier for new viewers to judge the pilot since the whole point of a first episode is to introduce the conflict and characters. They might not have appreciated the nuances and payoffs of The Wheel.

Kyle: Hmmm...that actually kind of makes sense. Though, as a rule, applying logic to award shows is a bad idea.

Mark: True. Most deserved/undeserved win? (We've sort of covered this already, I guess).

Kyle: The big ones were good for the most part: MM, 30 Rock, Fey, Baldwin.

Mark: I'd throw in Colbert Report winning the writing award as well. Long overdue....though this might ruin Colbert's running joke about being screwed at the Emmys.

Kyle: Nice one! He can still fall back on losing to Rickles for Best Variety Host. He's now lost to Manilow, Tony Bennett, and Don Rickles. Seems unfair to put a season's worth of work from Colbert or Stewart up against a one-off performance. Can't they just get rid of the token golden oldie in that category, since they invariably win? I mean give them a new category, not, like, kill them or anything...

Mark: Whatever, Kyle. You've wanted Tony Bennett dead for years.

Kyle: [darts eyes around furtively] I don't have the foggiest idea what you're talking about...

Mark: It's the dog with the shifty eyes!

Mark: Most disappointing win was Piven, agreed. That's his third Emmy. That puts him in the ballpark of David Hyde Pierce, John Larroquette, etc. and that's just not right.

Kyle: Speaking of Laroquette, did you know that OMNI is now showing Night Court re-runs? I can't decide if it's aged poorly or not. Larroquette blatantly ogling prostitutes he's ostensibly supposed to be prosecuting is still pretty hilarious.

Mark: Ooh, I'll have to check those out. I loved Night Court. If I could somehow borrow your height (editor's note: Kyle is 6'6"), I'd go as Bull for Halloween.

Kyle: That's a good idea!
You: "hey, everyone, I'm TV's Richard Moll!"
Everyone: "huh?"


Mark: Hmm, you're right. I'd better go with my backup idea....Evan Handler.

Kyle: "Hey, everyone, I say less than 100 words in the SATC movie and spend a disturbingly high proportion of my on-screen time shirtless and on top of Charlotte!"

Mark: So to complete the costume, I need to get in bed with Kristen Davis? Well, if you insist....

Kyle: Careful, she might try to drink you.

Mark: ***Mark's response here was removed in the spirit of keeping this chat from getting an NC-17 rating***

Kyle: Yeah, I really teed that one up for you, didn't I?

Mark: I would've drilled it, then ran off the tee box riding my club like Boo Weekley.

Kyle: Gah...I'm too bitter to even discuss the Ryder Cup.

Mark: Never underestimate the power of Sergio to find new ways to gag. Prediction: Monty is the captain in 2010 and Europe has it clinched by Saturday evening

Kyle: 1. Did you think Europe had a chance at any point on Sunday? (I just wasn't feeling it for the Euros this time. They looked flat on Sunday.) 2. Faldo's getting killed by the British press, but I'm not sure what else he could've done.

Mark: 1. Yeah, absolutely. Wasn't it 10-9 at one point? It was just then that the three close matches in progress all went America's way. 2. It's ironic that the slam-dunk captain's pick (Casey) played poorly, while the question mark (Poulter) was probably the best player of the weekend. But still, not picking Clarke was a critical mistake.

Kyle: Picking Clarke was probably a no-brainer, but I like Poulter over Monty. Eventually, you need to start looking to the future, otherwise, when Monty breaks a hip in 2012, all the youngsters would be totally untested. (Also: Poulter went 4-1).

Kyle: Still want to know how poorly Clarke played aside from those two tournament wins NOT to qualify for the team. Also: the course was way too easy. Wasn't it slightly suspicious that Holmes (who, if I'm not mistaken, ordinarily puts like Happy Gilmore) was routinely dropping 30-footers?

Mark: Still say it was an ego thing. Faldo wanted to be the sole veteran leader of the team, hence no Clarke. Valhalla has never been known for its difficulty. Though, really, they generally stay away from the real monster courses for the Ryder. I guess they figure the pressure is tough enough on the players.


Kyle: Both good points. Wait, what were we talking about again?

Mark: Pretty sure this was a Ryder Cup chat, but.....oh wait, the Emmys. We've got to pull this together, lest we end up as badly off-track as last night's broadcast.

Kyle: Zing! Do we have anything left? Lightning round?

Mark: Best/worst overall category and any other WTF moments, but we could just wrap those into a lightning round.

Kyle: I think we both agree that Best Actor in a Drama Series was the powerhouse of the night. Worst?


Mark: Dramatic actress seemed weak, though that's just because I don't watch any of those shows. Supporting actress in a comedy was pretty ridiculous.

Kyle: TOTALLY. Jean Smart? Really??

Mark: The only acceptable winner there was Chenoweth. No doubt.

Kyle: The whole category was screwed up, though: Poehler over Wiig from SNL, Holland Taylor, Vanessa Williams, etc.

Kyle: Best Miniseries should've been done by acclimation, instead of: John Adams and three piles of garbage (2.75, actually, as the first hour of Andromeda Strain was kinda cool).


Mark: Battlestar and the Wire both finally get token writing nods, and of course neither win.

Kyle: For a split second, I thought the Wire might come through. Oddly, I was rooting against it, both because the nominated episode (the series finale) wasn't especially mind-blowing and because, since it didn't win, I can still trot out the fact that According to Jim has won more Emmys (one) than the Wire, one of five greatest shows in TV history. Yay, bitterness!

Mark: It's weird, the Oscars usually uses the writing awards to recognize the "you're probably the best, but you're too quirky to officially award" nominee. But the Emmys never do.

Kyle: Hence Flight of the Conchords getting snubbed...although it's hard to argue with Fey's win...or even the other 30 Rock script ("Rosemary's Baby"--"I'm assuming that a Halderman reference.")


Mark: If only MILF Island had been nominated.

Kyle: Have you heard the rumor that they were supposed to give Best Song out last night, but buried it during the Creative Broadcast because there were rumblings that "I'm Fucking Matt Damon" would win?

Mark: Wow, I didn't even know they had a 'best song' category.


Kyle: Yup. It was Damon, FoTC twice (Most Beautiful Girl and Inner City Pressure), something from MADtv (still on the air, evidently!), and something I'd never heard of.


Mark: To the interweb! I have to find this just so I can make sure that Dick In A Box got its just reward two years ago. What won?

Kyle says: (It did.) And Damon won. Apparently Silverman gave a somewhat heartbreaking speech...

Mark: Well good.
*dusts off hands triumphantly*
Hopefully Marshall's song about slapping Barney was also considered.


Kyle: There's a site called "The Envelope" which lists what people submitted and what was shortlisted. Not sure about Slapsgiving.
Kyle: What about Groban's medley? Thumbs up or down? And, either way, what do you wish had been included that wasn't?


Mark: I only caught bits and pieces of it, so I don't know what did or didn't get it. Pretty sure the Emmys did this exact same thing 10 years ago, but with Jason Alexander and a barbershop quartet doing the songs. But I've got to say, Groban busting out the Cartman voice for the South Park song was pretty gold.


Kyle: Three omissions: Charles in Charge, Doogie Howser M.D., Office (UK). I'd totally forgotten about the Alexander thing. I actually found it quite winning. I think they should do it every year.

Mark: It's one of those bits that would totally sink or swim depending on the performer. Good thing Groban has a sense of humour.
Mark: Checking that Envelope list now....Lost won the Emmy for sound-mixing. Slow clap.


Kyle: Phew. That ties them with Entourage and Masterpiece Theatre for '08. (sad face emoticon)

Mark: Well, I think we've run through everything we wanted to say. Kyle, as always, a pleasure.


Kyle: Stealing my line! Likewise...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Good Commercial/Bad Commercial

GOOD: Bud Light. The 'Budd Light' character is one of those marketing ideas that seems so obvious that you wonder why the company hasn't introduced it until now. Perhaps this was Bud Light's fail-safe idea to bust out during a creative drought while they come up with more witty ways to show how guys like to drink beer and watch sports. Pop quiz: is there a wider gap between quality of ads and quality of product than Bud Light? Their commercials are almost always hilarious, yet their beer tastes like piss. I don't even like beer, but even I can tell that Bud Light is a solid step below your average brew.


BAD: Conservative Party of Canada. These new campaign ads reach a new depth in hilariously poor image construction. First of all, "we're better off with Harper" is the actual campaign slogan. Seriously. Their first option, "Stephen Harper...Meh, He's Alright, I Guess," was rejected when they couldn't come to a consensus on how many H's to put in 'meh.' Secondly, whoever came up with the idea to dress Harper in a sweater-vest like some kind of cracked-out Mr. Rogers and have him creepily smile at the camera...well, that person is no Josh Lyman. I think my favourite is the one where Harper's talking about playing cards with his kids. I keep getting this mental image of Harper's young daughter beating him at War, followed by Harper angrily flipping the table and stalking off, possibly blaming the loss on Stephane Dion. Later that evening, Harper's daughter is convinced to throw the next game to her father thanks to a a briefcase full of money delivered by those two guys who tried to bribe Chuck Cadman.


GOOD: Telus Mobility. Like the Bud Light ads, this is also more of a lifetime achievement award. Bonus kudos comes from my mother, who loves the nonstop array of catchy songs. Plus, those animals ain't getting any less cute. I have a vague recollection of someone telling me that they know the person who wrangles the animals for these ads. I'm using 'wrangle' in the showbiz sense, meaning this person finds the animals and arranges for them to appear in the commercials. I don't mean wrangle in the sense that they're out in the wild tossing lassos around ferrets.


BAD: The Rogers kids and 'The Ten.' Okay, so, you all know those Rogers ads with those five kids, right? It's my belief that Rogers basically stole the whole concept of this group from Scooby Doo* --- the dorky guy is Fred, the blonde chick is Daphne, the brunette is Velma, and the two interchangeable hipster guys are Scooby and Shaggy. Anyway, the commercial that really rocketed them to infamy was the ad from last year where they're all sitting around the one guy's room as he's packing for school, and it turns out the fifth person in his Five is his mother. (Thus leading to the blond chick's "Aww, it's your MOMMY!" line that became like nails on a chalkboard pretty damn quickly). So, Rogers recently re-released that ad to promote the fact that your Five is now your Ten. It's literally the exact same ad, just with a very obvious (and lame) voiceover replacing the word 'Five' with 'Ten.' Seriously, the shoddiness of this voiceover is just one step removed from the editing job done to finish Milhouse's scenes in the Radioactive Man movie. Also, using the 'Five' ad makes less narrative sense in this wild new 'Ten' world. Should the blonde really be all that touched that this dude included his four closest friends amongst his top ten phone contacts? Seems like a no-brainer to me. Frankly, the fact that she was surprised they were all in his Five is a stretch. It would've been great if Rogers had just edited five more friends into the commercial just to fill out the Ten. They could just be standing in the background or something. Then again, given the quality of that voiceover, I wouldn't trust the Rogers ad team to crop something on PhotoStop at this point.

* = I think I also once wrote a newspaper column about the parallels between Scooby Doo and the O.C. Mischa Barton was Daphne, Adam Brody is Shaggy, Rachel Bilson is (a far more attractive version of) Velma, the brooding guy is Fred, and Peter Gallagher's eyebrows were roughly as thick as the coat of a great dane, so he was Scooby.


GOOD: The Napa Autoparts' mechanics imitating what the engine problems sound like. Somewhere, the guy from Police Academy is on the phone with his agent, yelling at him for not getting an audition for this gig. Isn't it great that it's been almost 25 years since Police Academy came out, and yet people still get a reference to 'the guy from Police Academy' while talking about people making funny noises? The actor's name, btw, is Michael Winslow, thus making it impossible that he never made a cameo on Family Matters as, like, Carl's nephew. What's the over/under on the number of times in Winslow's life that he's been sitting in front of a mirror practicing his sounds, before suddenly stopping and weeping over the direction that his life has taken? I'd put it at 700.


BAD: Lauren, the NHL.com blogger, talking about NHL 09. "The best parts about hockey are the stories." Good call, Lauren. The stories certainly are the best parts about hockey, right after the part about the players skating around the ice attempting to shoot a puck into a net in an exciting athletic competition. (Editor's note: strike the word 'exciting' if it's the Minnesota Wild.) This ad is edited in a way that would make the Rogers sound editing crew applaud. It's a bunch of shots from the game cross-cut with random bullshit like a typewriter, screaming woman and a mother reading a book to a little kid, which I guess enforces the 'story' element. Lauren is superimposed over everything, making awkward comments and hand motions that are, theoretically, supposed to be in time with the game images we're seeing. Total budget for this commercial: $8.42. Who the hell is this Lauren clown, anyway? A quick jaunt over to NHL.com reveals that her last (poorly-written) blog post came in April. Way to keep up the pace, Lauren. That's okay though, surely nothing exciting happens in hockey in May or June. Also of note, NHL.com has two 'celebrity' bloggers covering each conference. One is some soap opera actor. The other is...wait, good god, that's David Boreanaz's music! Yes, that's right, Angel himself checked in talking about the Philadelphia Flyers' playoff run. Philly is apparently Boreanaz's favourite team, which explains Bobby Clarke's cameo on Buffy as a vampire who clipped Buffy in the knee from behind and then ran and hid behind a group of stronger, tougher vampires. I love how EA Sports produces an ad centered around the game's 'drama' and, instead of picking one of two actual actors from the NHL.com blogosphere who can reinforce this point, instead picks Lauren, who has the charisma of a bag of wet sand. Though Lauren's cue card-tastic acting ability isn't even close to the funniest moment of this commercial. That honour goes to the game clip that shows Kyle Wellwood laying someone out with a monster check. What the hell? I guess we can look forward to an MLB 2010 commercial featuring Prince Fielder hitting stand-up triples, Jamie Moyer striking guys out with a 103-mph heater and Alex Rios properly running bases.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tonight's opening SNL sketch

...or, at least, how I see it going down.

[INT. Lorne Michaels' office. Lorne is sitting behind his desk, with Amy Poehler, Casey Wilson and Kristen Wiig sitting in front of it. The women are all dressed in the same outfits --- brown wigs, glasses, business-casual dresses, etc.]

LORNE: Well, I know you've all been wondering who will get to do the Sarah Palin impression, so I'll get right to it. You all put together very impressive presentations. Casey, I particularly enjoyed the way you shot, killed, cooked and ate that moose. But in the end, the impression goes to Kristen.

[Kristen does a little fist-pump. Amy shakes her hand. Casey looks a bit taken aback.]

CASEY: But....I killed a moose! Do you know how hard it is to bring down a whole moose? I wasn't even using a rifle! I was using a BB gun!

LORNE: That's nice Casey, and that mooseburger did taste great. But what it came down to is that Kristen has more executive experience.

AMY: Uh, excuse me, Lorne, actually, I have more experience than Kristen, I've been on the show for eight years.

LORNE: Oh, in your case Amy, we couldn't have you doing the Sarah Palin impression AND the Hillary Clinton impression. That would ruin our plans for the mud wrestling sketch later tonight.

AMY: Fair enough.

LORNE: Kristen, congratulations, I know you'll do a great job. And just think, if McCain/Palin wins the election, you could be doing this impression for eight years.

KRISTEN: So what you're saying is I'd have job security for eight years?

LORNE: Well, not exact....

KRISTEN: Total....job....security.... [she starts to laugh maniacally. Red lighting floods the stage to emulate the flames of hell. Ominous organ music plays. This goes on for about 10 seconds, then stops.]

LORNE: So...um....have a good show. Oh, and on your way out, send in the other audition candidates.

[KRISTEN, AMY and CASEY all exit. A whole cadre of people enters the room. At least a dozen women dressed like Sarah Palin, a cowboy, Abe Lincoln, a guy in a bear suit, three ballerinas, a spaceman and finally, DARRELL HAMMOND and TINA FEY.]

LORNE: I'd ask you all to sit down but we don't have enough chairs. First of all, the ballerinas, cowboys and spaceman, the lack of effort shown in costuming was disappointing. Abe Lincoln, your costume is impressive, but you came as the wrong Republican.

[Lincoln takes off his hat and frustratedly punches through it.]

LORNE: Bear, you just couldn't quite get the voice right.

[Bear growls and holds his head, distressed.]

LORNE: As for you, Tina, you're not on the show anymore.

TINA: But I look *exactly* like her! Come on! I never got to do impressions when I was on the show! Pleasseeeee!

LORNE: Fine. Let's hear it again.

TINA (in a Groucho Marx voice): Nyah, it sure it nice to be here. I just swam here all the way from Alaska. It's easy to swim when you don't have any Anchorage. Or Juneau. Juneau, Juneau, hey, Juneau I'm running for vice-president? First female VP ever. Dick Cheney's already given me some tips. He's a real straight-shooter, that guy, except on a duck hunt. Hoy-oo!

LORNE: Terrible. And Darrell, as for you, I'm not even sure what you're doing here.

DARRELL: Lorne, I have a long history of doing the political impersonations on this show. My Sarah Palin was carefully pieced together from weeks of analyzing footage, her interviews, studying her vocal patterns and mannerisms, the way she moves, the curve of her lips, every single inch of her body...

LORNE: Darrell, were you wearing pants while doing this research?

DARRELL: No. I was dressed like Sarah at the time.

LORNE: I see. Look, everyone, you did fine jobs, but the impression has already been spoken for. I'm very sorry, but I don't have any more time to see anyone else's audition.

[BARACK OBAMA, the real one, enters.]

OBAMA: Do you have time for just one more?

LORNE: Senator, for the last time, the position has been filled.

OBAMA: Oh, I see, I see. So, you've got a female, brunette woman running for vice-president. And so you get a female, brunette actress to play her. You know what that sounds like to me? More of the same!

EVERYONE ELSE: Yeah!

LORNE: But Senator, you have no background in comedy.

OBAMA: I was a community organizer in Chicago. The Republicans seemed to find that funny.

LORNE: I'm sorry, Senator Obama. While you certainly have a lot of charisma, we're looking for someone who can play the role with the kind of satirical accuracy that stands up over a long period of time. For important impersonations, we don't want to simply find a random person in the cast and stretch credibility.

[FRED ARMISEN enters dressed as Obama.]

FRED: Hey Lorne, sorry for bugging you about this for, like, the millionth time, but is it pronounced Bar-ock, or Bar-ack?

OBAMA: It's actually Bar-ock.

FRED: Oh, thanks. And you are...?

OBAMA: I'm live from New York, it's Saturday night!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Having a TIFF

So the great TIFF experiment was a rousing failure. First of all, tickets to every one of the five films on my list were sold out, with the exception of Zack & Miri Make A Porno. I could've bought said ticket to the special screening that probably been present for a panel discussion and Q&A with Kevin Smith and company, but the ticket cost $40. Considering that I could probably see this movie for $4 at the Rainbow in a few months, I decided that the extra bonus of the Q&A probably wasn't worth it. Besides, all my questions for Kevin Smith would probably just be asking him if Jon "Giant Spider" Peters actually is that crazy.

Ergo, the rush line it was. Given my work schedule this week, only one film really fit into my wheelhouse, and that was Synecdoche, New York (or, as most people called it, Charlie Kaufman's Movie, since nobody could pronounce Synecdoche. Sin-Eck-Dah-Key, right?). Plan one was the rush line on Tuesday night's screening down at the Winter Garden at Yonge-Queen. I was told to be there at least a couple of hours before the film started, and sure enough, even by the time I got there early, the line was already stretched around the corner down Queen. So I got a bag of Kernels from the Eaton Centre to pass the time and patiently chewed my way through the next two hours. I struck up a nice chat with the two women in front of and behind me in line, respectively. The woman behind me was from New York state and was attending the festival on her vacation from work. My innocent question of 'So, what have you seen so far?' ended up making me feel like quite a douchebag, as she promptly whipped out a duotang containing her elaborately-planned schedule of movies. She was averaging about five films a day, and was still standing in line for Synecdoche since she wasn't able to score tickets in her original order. In the face of such hardcore fandom, I was shamefully forced to admit that it was my first festival in three years in Toronto, and I'm even a film student to boot. Sigh. Anyway, my hopes were kept up by the fact that even though our line was quite long, it contained both people waiting for Synecdoche and for Che, which was starting a half-hour later. I theorized that we could split some of the Che people out into their movie and then we'd have plenty of opportunity to get into Synecdoche.

Sadly, it was all for naught. At around 9 PM, with only about 10 people left in front of me in line, the volunteers came out and said that the theatre was full. It was disappointing. My first TIFF experience was three hours in a line and no hours sitting in a theatre. On the bright side, I got to stand out in the fresh air of.....uh, Queen Street and inhale car fumes for three hours. Toughens up the lungs. My second chance to see Synecdoche came Thursday morning, but I totally overslept and couldn't make it down there in time.

But next year it'll be different. (Note: I have experience with this sentence given my time as a Maple Leafs fan.) Next year I'll plan ahead, get tickets in advance and possibly hit up some of my friends who work at publicity companies that have access to gala passes. In exchange, I can get them....uh.....Blue Jays tickets! *crickets chirping* Okay, I'll work something out. My backup plan, if all else fails, is just to hang around Yorkdale and see if I can arrange a chance run-in with some major star, who will take pity on me after they read the printed copy of this blog post and I'll be freely passing around. This major star will hook me up with tickets to every show I desire, and then perhaps even hire me as their personal assistant. The rest of the story will then come close to the events of My Favorite Year.

-----------------------------------------------------------

The 1980's 'Worst Best Picture' poll is complete, and we have our first tie of the competition. Both Out of Africa and Driving Miss Daisy scored three votes, and thus I'll either have a one-off playoff to determine which advances, or hell, both movies are pretty mediocre, I might just advance them both to the final Group Of Death. DMD is notable in Oscar history for two reasons: it is just the third movie ever to win Best Pic without its director (Bruce Beresford) getting even a nomination for best director, and b) Dan Aykroyd* got his one and only Oscar nomination for the picture. Canada, representing! Anyway, the rest of the vote broke down as follows: Amadeus and Platoon** with two votes each, and there was one vote apiece for Terms Of Endearment and Gandhi.

Whereas the best pictures of the 1980's were a weak crop, the best pictures of the 1970's were arguably the strongest group in Oscar history. Definitely a few all-time classics to be found in this decade. BTW, I changed the poll title to 'worst of these movies,' since I thought that 'worst best picture' was perhaps a bit misleading. It's a poll based solely on quality of the film --- not quality of the Academy's decision. Anyway, vote!

* = Okay, this story is almost assuredly bullcrap, but it's too good to not be repeated. A friend of a friend of mine was once in downtown Toronto with a buddy of his, and the two were taking a cab home from the clubs. While on the ride, they realize that they're out of money and can't pay, thus they decided to just dash. So when the cab stops, the two of them just take off. Now, somehow, the cab catches up with them and corners them, which strikes me as the most implausible portion of the story, but stay with me. Anyway, just as the driver is swearing violent restitution and the two guys are worried, who should ride up on a motorcycle with a twentysomething blond riding sidecar but Dan Aykroyd? He hops off the bike, asks what the problem is, and that's when one of the kids says, "Hey, Dan Aykroyd! You know my dad!" Apparently the guy's dad is a caterer or trucker or sound techie or something, but anyway has worked on a few of Aykroyd's movies. Aykroyd says, "Oh yes, how's your dad doing? Tell him I said hi." Anyway, Aykroyd pays off the cab driver, and then says "Now you two have a good night. I need to go take care of a bit of business," as he nods towards the young blond. Aykroyd then drives away into the night like Spadina Ave's answer to Ghost Rider. There is not a word of truth to be found anywhere here, but man, if only it was true.

** = Story number two! For a project in Grade 12 English class, we had to show a clip from a film and discuss it in front of the class. I think my clip was from Citizen Kane, but no matter, that's not where the joke comes in. My buddy Trev, usually a pretty level-headed chap, decides to show the clip from Platoon of the soldiers destroying the Vietnamese village. This five-minute clip featured an old woman being shot in the head, Johnny Drama beating a boy to death and roughly 5400 uses of the f-bomb. It was a bit intense for a high school English class. Our teacher (who, for the record, was pretty laid-back and probably the best teacher I've ever had at any level of education), found it a bit much and had a few bemusedly sarcastic comments for Trev afterwards. This incident was second only to the time that we were supposed to present and analyze a poem to the class, and one guy went up there with a Tupac rap.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Spider-Man: The Musical

My religious views are generally agnostic, but sometimes I wonder if we're looking in the wrong places for the proof of God's existence. For example, the Spider-Man musical. Oh yes, that's correct. A Spider-Man musical. I can only glean from this information that there is a God, and he is basically Mr. Mxyzptlk. And I must be his answer to Superman as a target of his divine jokes.*

A Spider-Man musical. It's true. It's in production as we speak and it should be launched by the fall of 2009 on Broadway. It's being directed by Julie Taymor, who did the stage version of the Lion King, not to mention the films Across the Universe, Frida and the Anthony Hopkins version of Titus Andronicus, Now, the fact that there is a Spidey musical isn't altogether shocking. Given that musicals are made about virtually everything nowadays in order to prop up the struggling Broadway coffers, it's inevitable that superheroes made the leap (no Spidey pun intended) to the stage. Heck, I remember back in high school, my drama teacher actually had a musical written about Batman, based largely around the 1960's show. Apparently his attempt to get it made was, somewhat unsurprisingly, squashed by DC Comics. He should've really fought back --- if only Hamlet 2 had come out a decade earlier for inspiration.

What truly elevates this Spidey musical from 'interesting bit to pop culture' into 'a cosmic jest directed at me from a trickster god' is the fact that the music is being written by (of all people) Bono and the Edge. I am dead serious. Apparently they have 16-18 songs put together and are ready for inclusion. This was how Bono and Taymor met, incidentally, and how Bono ended up in Across the Universe. Apparently there will be a proper cast release of the music, but U2 will be putting our their own version of the musical's songs in either late 2009 or early 2010.

This is just too much. My favorite band (well, half of it) is writing the music for a show about my favorite superhero. Are you kidding me? My brain is on the verge of exploding. Now here's the rub...obviously I will be going to see this show if it ever comes to Toronto, but I'm already really, really worried it's going to be bad. Like, it'll just be cheesy as hell. I'm sure it'll be visually interesting with catchy songs and a good 'show,' but as a Spidey fan I'm afraid I'll be watching it with the same barely-concealed horror that a Fantastic Four fan must've felt watching the Jessica Alba movie, and as a U2 fan, I'm concerned at the fact that Bono & Edge are moving into the 'writing songs for musicals' stage of their careers. I mean, has that ever worked out for any major pop stars? Billy Joel's musical was a disaster. So was Paul Simon's. I guess Elton John has done okay on Broadway, but even still, it's not like Aida is one of the big highlights of his career.

There are some definite pros and cons here. Pro: a new U2 album's worth of material from this, so combined with their next studio record, it means we'll be getting TWO new releases from U2 in the next 18 months. Con: Bono and Edge writing the score probably was the reason for the delay in the studio record in the first place. Pro: hey, a Spidey musical, that's cool. Con: if it sucks, it might cause a bit of a backlash which might hurt the next two Spider-Man movies. Raimi, Maguire, Dunst, etc. have all signed on to do two more, which hopefully isn't stretching it too thin, but we'll see what Raimi can cook up next. Pro: Taymor is one of the cream of the crop when it comes to big-budget musical direction. Con: The casting sides. Arachne the mystical spider? Norman Osborn is a Ted Turner knockoff? The Spider-Geek chorus? Uh oh.

I will say this, however. If they're doing a Spider-Man musical, they absolutely, positively MUST have found room for the original Spider-Man cartoon theme song. I think I'd pay just to hear Bono do a cover of this. Also, I'd like to see a song about Mysterio to the tune of either the Foodland jingle ('Good things grow-oh oh/In On-tario!') or Ontario anthem ('A place to stand, a place to grow, Ontari-ari-ari-ohhh'). Or wait, forget Mysterio or the Goblin, the villain should be Electro just because his name is already so lyrical. His signature number could be a reworked version of U2's song 'Electric Co' with a tacked-on chorus of "Hello hello/I am a villain called Electro/I'm a hood you wish you didn't know/Now let me/Find something/I can steeeealllll.....steeeeeEEEEEEEalll....."


* = You can read more about this theory in my upcoming book The Mxyzptlk Delusion. Or, my upcoming children's novel, Are You There Mxy? It's Me, Teragram. It's about the first time I had my period. Though, as it turns out, I was eating at an Italian restaurant and merely spilled some marinara sauce in my lap. Come to think of this, this makes my entire chapter titled "Calzones: A Handy Makeshift Tampon" entirely inaccurate. Rewrites!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

TIFF plans

In three years of living in Toronto, I have never once attended anything being screened for the Toronto International Film Festival. I know...it doesn't make any sense. It would be like if Tiger Woods moved next door to the greatest miniature golf course in the world* and was never once compelled to challenge Michael Jordan to a high-stakes game of rolling it through the windmill.

But this year, I'm biting the bullet and attending as many of the films I'm interested in seeing as I possibly can. Now, I won't be able to see *all* of them (I mean, TIFF is half-over already), but a few of the ones on my list are still playing in the next week. You've got....

--- Synecdoche, New York. Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut. I know literally nothing about it other than Phillip Seymour Hoffman is in it, but if Kaufman is involved, it's got to be awesomely awesome. If you've ever wondered why I don't professionally write film reviews, the use of phrases like 'awesomely awesome' is high on the list.

--- The Wrestler, Darren Aronofsky's serious (I'm serious) look at pro wrestling (seriously). The unbelievably craggy-faced Mickey Rourke apparently delivers a performance that's getting Oscar buzz as a washed-up old wrestler looking for one last big match. I've always thought the inherent backstage drama and seedy underbelly of wrestling made it a great topic for a movie, and I'm glad someone like Aronofsky is approaching the subject with a dollop of seriousness. Even better, looking at the cast list, the main villain of the film is being played an old WCW wrestler, Ernest 'The Cat' Miller! Good lord! I remember this guy from watching wrestling back in the day; his gimmick was originally that of a karate expert, but then changed to a James Brown wannabe who used to win matches by kicking guys with his loaded red 'dancing shoes.' I wish I could make this up.

--- Zack & Miri Make A Porno. Kevin Smith's latest work, about two friends (Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks) who decide to....spoiler alert....make a porno. I'm hoping for an upgrade over Clerks II, though this film already has an advantage given that Rogen and Banks are actual actors, and not just Smith's buddies.

--- Me & Orson Welles, Richard Linklater's film about....well, I'm actually not sure what it's about. I just know Linklater's directing and it involves Orson Welles in some way. Fun fact: remember Vincent D'Onofrio's cameo as Welles in Ed Wood? D'Onofrio was a dead ringer for Welles but he couldn't get the voice down, so the voice was actually provided by noted voice actor Maurice LaMarche, best known for his role as The Brain in Pinky & The Brain.

--- It Might Get Loud, a documentary about three great guitarists. Well, two great guitarists (Edge, Jack White) and Jimmy Page. Sorry Jimmy, but c'mon, you're really going to let Leona Lewis push you around at the Olympic closing ceremonies? Fuck that. The old Jimmy Page would've turned the amp up to 11 and cranked out a searing solo that would've brought everyone in the Bird's Nest to tears, while Lewis stamped her feet in a snit like Veruca Salt. Not the band Veruca Salt; one might think they'd be on Page's side of this rivalry.

So that's five films to see, and just over a week to see them. And this week also includes work commitments, personal commitments, etc. Can Mark complete his quest? Tune in next week to find out, same Mark-time, same Mark-channel. Also, uh, how does one actually get tickets to these shows? I told you, I'm really a newbie at this.


* = Everyone knows the greatest mini-golf course of all time was, in fact, located at Masonville Mall in London in the mid-90's. It was phenomenal. Each hole was designed to mirror an actual classic golf hole from around the world, complete with actual water, sand, and varying kinds of turf to simulate fairways, greens and even rough. You had the coffin bunkers from Oakmont, the "Principal's Nose" par three from St. Andrews, Amen Corner from Augusta; it was like a dream golf vacation in one simple swing. And brother, was it ever goddamn tough. This was no fly-by-night operation where you're bouncing your shots off the concrete border around the holes. You had to calculate your shots like you were an actual player, taking into account the sand, water, taunts from people standing around the course watching and sipping their Orange Julius drinks, etc. It started out relatively easy, to lure you into the web, but by the end you were a weeping, broken mess.

For those Western students who are more familiar with the modern Masonville, the course was located on the south wing of the mall, approximately laid out around the corner where the Shoppers Drug Mart, Hysel's Music Store and I believe a clothing store are currently located --- the mall's been refurbished enough that the layout is hard to exactly place. The course was removed, of course, since Masonville felt that valuable retail space was being wasted. I call bullshit on that one. What other mall can boast about a world-class putter golf course? Masonville needed to think outside the box. These are the kinds of gimmicks that the Galleria should be employing --- lord knows there's enough free space. And the place is so empty that it actually sounds like your average golf gallery anyway. I'll bring all of this up when I run for mayor of London. Ball's in your court, Anne Marie.

Friday, September 05, 2008

A Plethora Of Stuff

Eagle-eyed readers will notice that I changed my name (well, at least my Blogger user name...this isn't a Chad Johnson situation here) to Question Mark. There is no logical reason for this other than the fact that since I changed my profile picture from Plastic Man to the Riddler, the 'Question Mark' name sounds a bit more appropriate. In a related story, I'm talking about changing my profile picture from one comic-book character to another and yet am still a grown man. Yikes.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Ian Parker wrote a tremendous profile of Alec Baldwin in the current New Yorker. It's unfortunate that Baldwin takes so little pride or satisfaction in starring on one of the funniest shows on TV --- this explains those rumours of him trying to get out of his contract after the first season. I thought it was just because he was dickishly trying to get back into movies to capitalize on his good publicity, but apparently Baldwin just isn't a big fan of TV in the first place. It's also unfortunate that he's so down on My Name Is Earl; am I truly the only person in the world who finds the show funny? I tend to agree with Marci Klein's sentiment that Baldwin is the best SNL host of all time. Pop quiz, hotshot: make a dream SNL casts made up solely of hosts who weren't previous cast members. I'd go with Baldwin, Tom Hanks, Lily Tomlin, John Goodman, Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, Drew Barrymore, Justin Timberlake and Buck Henry.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Results of the latest poll are in, and Titanic was judged to be the worst Best Picture of the 1990's with six votes, narrowly edging out the five votes that went to Shakespeare In Love. Once again, I find myself shaking my head at these results. Titanic was actually quite good --- it was long, it was hyped, it had that damn Celine Dion song, but let's be honest, it's actually a hell of a movie. And the Shakespeare in Love votes trouble my soul. I can only attribute this to bad feelings surrounding the fact that SIL beat Saving Private Ryan in 1998, which to this day is still the ultimate apples vs. oranges pick in Oscar history. Get over it, people. It's not like Private Ryan lost to Beautiful Mind or something. I'd rank Shakespeare in Love easily in the upper half of the decade's Oscar winners. Other votes went to English Patient (two), Dances With Wolves (two, including my vote) and Braveheart with one.

The new poll is up concerning the Best Pictures of the 1980's, and I've got to say, the 1980's has to be pretty much the worst Oscar decade ever. I mean, seriously, that is not a strong list of movies. I'd say the best of the bunch are Platoon, Rain Man and maybe Chariots of Fire, but even those at 4-out-of-5 movies, not true classics. Have I gotten you appropriately fired up for this poll yet? And that's not even counting the post-poll discussion when I mock everyone's picks. Enjoy!

---------------------------------------------------------------------


"Hey Mark, didn't you promise last month to post a funny Muppets-related thing every week?"

Uh, yeah.

"And you haven't posted anything about the Muppets, Sesame Street or even Fraggle Rock since then."

Well, you see, I've been busy....

"But you've made lots of posts since."

Uh....um....er....

"Just another broken promise, eh?"





".....wow. Well, that sure showed me."

----------------------------------------------------------------------

UFC picks!

* Chuck Liddell over Rashad Evans by destruction. This fight has had a long history. It was originally supposed to be Chuck vs. Shogun Rua in June, but Rua got hurt. So the Chuck-Evans fight was signed in its stead....except then Chuck got hurt. Now it's finally taking place and the added time won't do anything to escape the fact that Rashad is going to get a hellacious beatdown. I really don't see how Evans can win this fight unless Liddell is still hurting from his hamstring injury. Liddell by KO in either the first or second round, thus setting up the mega-huge Liddell vs. Forrest Griffin main event for the December PPV. If Evans pulls the upset, he might very get the Griffin fight in a TUF winner vs. TUF winner championship bout, though it would be pretty funny to see Rashad freaking Evans get a title shot in the deepest division in MMA. If Liddell loses, boy, I dunno. Maybe he'd fight Shogun, or maybe they'd be a superfight against Anderson Silva. Wow....maybe I should be rooting for Chuck to lose if that fight could be arranged.

* Rich Franklin over Matt Hammill, decision. Franklin has yet to give a clear answer on whether his move back up to 205 pounds is permanent or if he's just going to take the occasional LHW fight to keep his options open. Ergo, it's not really clear what this fight will do for Franklin even if he wins, so it's kind of an oddity. I'd expect Franklin to win, though Hamill is rather dangerous on his feet and can wrestle with the best of them. I don't think this is going to be a very exciting fight to watch, frankly, but Rich can right it out to a decision victory. A win here might very well set up a major Franklin vs. Dan Henderson fight for the UFC event in December or the event on Super Bowl weekend. By the way, how sick will the UFC's winter events be?? You've got Couture vs. Lesnar and Rampage vs. Wanderlei Silva in November, Nogueira vs. Mir and (probably) Liddell vs. Griffin in December, and then it's been heavily rumoured that the Georges St. Pierre/BJ Penn fight is happening on Super Bowl weekend with either Franklin-Henderson or maybe an Anderson Silva fight on the undercard. That's three straight PPVs with major main and co-main events. Yay violence!

* Dan Henderson over Rousimar Palhares, TKO, second round. Most fighters would be cut after three straight losses, but one would think the UFC would cut Henderson a break if he's upset by Palhares. Hendo lost a close decision to Rampage Jackson last year, then actually won a round against Anderson Silva before being decimated last March. Henderson seems like the kind of no-nonsense guy who doesn't take well to being backed into a corner, so I expect him to come out like a house of fire against Palhares. Hendo has the clear advantage standing and can outwrestle Palhares, though he'll have to be careful Palhares doesn't catch him in a submission. Palhares is a real talent in the MW division and he'll be winning a lot of fights in the near future, but for now, Henderson is too much for him to handle. Should Palhares win, however, I'd expect a matchup against fellow high-caliber Brazilian Demian Maia with the winner getting a crack at Silva.

* Martin Kampmann over Nate Marquardt, TKO, second round. Since the card is titled 'Breakthrough' and every fight features an up-and-comer against an established star, I might as well pick at least one underdog. Poor ol' Marquardt is like a poor man's version of Rich Franklin --- he's a solid middleweight who will get nowhere in the division given that he's already lost badly to Anderson Silva and probably won't be considered for another shot anytime soon. To top it all off, Marquardt got hosed in his last fight, a weirdly-scored loss to Thales Leites in which Marquardt dominated the bout but was docked points for two questionable violations and thus lost by decision. So it's possible Nate will come into the fight looking for blood, but unfortunately, he's running into the somewhat awesome and unbeaten-since-2004 Kampmann. If the Hitman wins here, he extends his record in the UFC to 5-0 and likely gets the next shot at Anderson Silva.

* Dong Hyun Kim over Matt Brown, knockout, round two. This fight gets bumped up to the main card after Karo Parisyan's fight was called off due to Karo getting some kind of injury the day before the fight; my guess is a sore labia. Brown made a strong accounting for himself on the last season of Ultimate Fighter and came off as both a tough fighter and a nice guy. Too bad he's going to get dummied by Kim. Or, as I like to call him, the Undefeated Dong. Kim is a big part of UFC's plan to market in Southeastern Asia, so this is pretty much just a showcase fight for him.

* Kurt Pellegrino over Thiago Taveres. A pretty middling bout between two guys who might well be fighting for their continued existence in the UFC. Pellegrino is a gatekeeper fighter who isn't nearly as cool as his 'Batman' nickname would suggest. If Pellegrino is Batman, then Tavares is Two-Face --- he was looking like a real up-and-comer at this time last year, but has since gone 1-2, with his only win being a horribly dull decision last winter. I guess I'll pick Pellegrino because it seems fitting that a guy nicknamed Batman should win in the wake of Dark Knight's success.

* Jason Macdonald over Jason Lambert, submission, R1. The Athlete is back! Macdonald just lost last month to Maia, but when Jason Day went down with an injury, Macdonald manned up and took another fight on short notice. Nails. He will rewarded for his efforts with a win over the mediocre Lambert, who I've never been particularly impressed with. It's possible Lambert could step up his game by moving down to MW, but unfortunately Macdonald's ginger self is going to kick his ass.

* Ryo Chonan over Roan Carneiro, decision. Ugh. Chonan's only reason for employment in the UFC is his highlight-reel submission win over (of all people) Anderson Silva a few years ago in PRIDE. That was the mixed martial arts equivalent of Mark Whiten hitting four homers in one game. I don't like either of these fighters and frankly, neither should be in the UFC. Ah, negativity.

* Tim Boetsch over Mike Patt, knockout, round one. Boetsch looked good in his first fight and then terrible in his second, though his excuse was that he got winded training in the thin air of Denver. I'd normally scoff at such an excuse, but then again I've never heard of Mike Patt, so I'm picking Boetsch anyway. Maybe Tim is related to Rudy Boetsch, the crusty old man from the first season of Survivor. That guy was awesome.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Help get Tom Cheek into the Hall of Fame

Here's how it works....the Ford Frick Award is awarded annually to a baseball broadcaster who is judged to made a great impact on both his home market and the game itself. Ten finalists are considered by a blue-ribbon committee and the winner of the award is officially inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The top three vote-getters in this poll will get guaranteed placement on the ballot, so this is where you all come in. Spread the word to Blue Jays fans far and wide to vote for the legendary Tom Cheek (and hell, Jerry Howarth is on the ballot too, he is certainly more than worthy of some recognition too) in order to continue the quest to get these great Jays voices their rightful places in the Hall.

Here is where you can vote. You can vote once per day, so make it a regular stop in order to stuff your Cheeks...wait, that didn't quite sound right, but you get the drift.

Touch 'em all, gang, you'll never fill out a bigger ballot.