Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Wire-ner

Given the number of white people who read my blog, it is perhaps no surprise that The Wire was the winner of the decades-long 'Best HBO Show' poll series. The final match was still very close, as the Wire collected seven votes to eke out Band Of Brothers' five votes and Curb Your Enthusiasm's four.

Given that this poll was in some ways a veiled attempt to decide which series I should watch next, The Wire will now be at the top of my must-view list along with various movies and the kazillion other shows I watch. But don't worry, it's in the queue. We have top men working on it right now. Top. Men.

*cue camera shot of Mark metaphorically putting The Wire in a crate, then rolling it through a giant warehouse full of crates*

With this poll FINALLY over, we can now move onto the more pressing matter of who the biggest bad-ass on TV is. The field has been narrowed to five: 24's Jack Bauer, LOST's Sayid Jarrah, Corner Gas' Emma Leroy, The Office's Dwight Schrute and a beer-chasing Homer Simpson. Be sure to answer carefully, let you get on the bad side of one of these bad mutha 'uckas.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Answering Spam E-Mail

From: Mr. Frank

My dear friend, I am a European and I would like to invest in your country in any profitable and reliable investment that you can manage as my investment manager or partner me in as my partner. Please e-mail me on - frankingx@msn.com so that we can talk better on any investment you know is more profitable in your country.

Dear Mr. Frank,

While I'm flattered that you regard me as a focal point for international banking advice, I'm not sure that I am necessarily the best person to serve as your gateway to the Canadian investment industry. While I would love to partner with you as your partner, I'm afraid any future business meetings we might share would devolve into the two of us staring blankly across from each other at a local diner, while you gesticulate wildly and I struggle to understand your rudimentary English. Communication is the key to any good partnership. Also, not to sound too unpatriotic here, I'm not sure that this is necessarily the best time to be looking for a key investment in Canada. The economy is, ah, not great. The only Canadian industry that's thriving in these turbulent times is our sex act business. (p.s. this link is family-friendly, unlike any other link on the internet that involves the words 'sex act'). If you're looking for any investment tip at all....um....er.....go with apple sauce. There's money to be made there. I know I certainly eat a lot of it. So yeah, put your money in apple sauce and you'll be the richest man in whatever European country you're from.


Your pal, Mark


From: (unknown address)

Dear Sir/Madam,
We are please to bring to your notice that your email just won £500,000 Pounds in our just concluded 10th anniversary give-away promo. No purchases of tickets was required.Participants for this promo were randomly selected from worldwide range of web searchers who use the Google search engine(Googler) and other Google ancillary services. For more info/how to claim your prize,send your winning Ticket number:00869575733664,CGPN:7-22-71-00-66-12,Serial
numbers:BTD/8070447706/06,Lucky numbers:12-12-23-35-40-41(12) and personal details to the processing agent

Processing agent:Mr Francis Henson
Wish you goodluck as you spend your fortune,
Thank you for using Google.

Dear random Google dude,

WOOOOOOO!!!! I won!!!!!! A half-million pounds! Eat it, other search engines! I knew I was right to use Google's engine (which, apparently, is called Googler....who knew?) all along!

I think I'll take my new fortune and invest it in Lycos. It's time for a comeback!


Your pal, Mark



You shall be remembered this month

God does not call a people He is not prepared for. YOU came to the internet at this time, to check your mail, but God is removing the Vail of obscurity through the message you are reading now. Jesus said to Martha whose brother Lazarus was dead in John chapter 11 vs.25-26....'I am the resurrection and the life''. He that believeth in me, though He were dead, yet shall He live, though He was dead, your case might be completely closed, you might have come to the dead line of your dead end. No hope, no peace, no name, shame is looming, the battle is getting hotter and tougher. No matter how bad the case may be before you finish reading this mail, a drastic, sporadic, eminent change would have taken place. Jesus is visiting you via this message and I have been sent by God as a messenger and that message is ''you have getting your victory Now.

Delay is not denial, what is delayed most time comes out more glorious. This time you are receiving double honor for every shame. Every one that has laughed at you is coming to celebrate with you.

God is never slow, God is never late. It is better to be slow and sure than to be fast and fall. God might not be too early but He can never be late.

Do not look for help else where look up to God because God is our very present help in times of trouble. Psalms 46 vs.10.You will have a song even in the midnight, which is characterized by weeping. Sorrow might endure for a night but joy comes in the morning psalms 30 vs.5. When the lord turned again the captivity of Zion we were like them that dreamed. Psalms 126 vs. 1. You are stepping into your long awaited dream land. I mean to say before this year is over, you can still celebrate. People will gather in your house with gladness of heart because the testimonies that you shall be experiencing.

It might appear that God has forgotten you and everybody else has, but God is remembering you with incredible speed and restoration in Jesus Precious Name. One day Abraham, a father of nation after receiving a promise from God about Isaac his son waited until 25 years, but God remembered him.

Naman in 2 kings chapter 5 was a great man but He was a leper, everything about you seems to be going well but just one question is bugging you. You don't have the answer, you don't know what else to do. But the lord that knows all is answering you now. Just as Namans story changed, your story is changing today.

Everybody needs a man to help Him at some time but

Man can fail you but God cannot fail you. God has visited you via this medium and each day in the month December shall be days to be much remembered, As the lord lives amazing testimonies, something turning suddenly is happening to you, a change is coming your way suddenly. Your status is changing speedingly.You are long overdue for a miraculous breakthrough. But there is what qualifies you for Gods visitation and breakthrough and I will be sharing with you 2 Non Negotiable Qualification for Gods visitation and breakthrough.

The first is FAITH; Faith is not just believing God, faith is essentially behaving God by obeying His word completely to become what God has said. You have been set to be the Head and not the tail, every blessing in God delivers at the level of your faith. Matthew 9 vs.29. You need more faith for more blessings. You are not in your highest point in life you are still on your way to your high places. You will not miss your steps, get back to the bible, that is where the answer is, get inspirational, motivational books to boost your faith and begin to congratulate people around you that are celebrating. You are about to be the next one to celebrate. God has made an utter end to your present challenge. You are coming out of every ugly predicament. stand up from where you are sitting in a moment and move around in joy, praising God things have just turned around for you.

The second Non Negotiable qualification for Gods visitation is SACRIFICE; sacrificial giving of money or material to God through a man of God or a prophet you believe in, in any form, can speeding the hands of God to remember you. The bible says in 2nd chronicles 20 vs. 20 say; believe in the lord your God so shall you be established believe also in His prophet so shall you prosper. Matthew 10 vs. 41 says He that receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward.Prophets and Men of God are Gods prophetic gate way to a fulfilled and ever flourishing life. You can live in abundance even when there is scarcity by just connecting to a prophet sacrificially. The widow of Zarephat gave her last meal to prophet Elijah in 2nd kings chapter 18 And she became a major distributor of oil without any capital. The secret of every star in the kingdom is sacrifice.

Solomon gave thousands of sheep, cattle as sacrifice to God and that same night God visited Him God is visiting you tonight. And When God visits the impossible becomes possible. Is there any impossibility in your life, It shall become possible by tomorrow. God did not only visit Solomon but asked him what He wanted, your utmost desires shall be fulfilled in Jesus Precious Name.

If you have tried everything and nothing seems to work then give a sacrifice. It must pain you to move God, David said ''I will not offer unto God anything that costs me nothing, 2nd Samuel 24 vs.24

Things will never be slow for you in Jesus precious Name.Amen.These two keys; FAITH AND SACRIFICE IS MORE THAN ENOUGH TO MOVE GOD.YOU ARE BLESSED IN JESUS NAME.REJOICE.

Dear Reverend,



Your pal, Mark


From: Dell Award Promo

We are delighted to inform you that you are one of the THREE LUCKY WINNERS whose e-mail address won the sum payout of 1,000,000.00 pounds.(One Milion Pounds Sterlings Only) in the DELL ELECTRONICS SEASONAL AWARD 2008.

Please be informed that all participants were selected through a computer ballot system drawn from over 30,000 company and 50,000,000 individual email addresses and names from all over the world. To file in for your claims, contact our claim's agent with your information as provided below:

Mr. Brown J. Williams

Full Names:......Country:....... Tel:......Marital
Status.........Sex.......Age:.... Occupation:.... Nationality:.......
Residential Address: .........How Do You Wish To Receive Your Funds? 1. Cheque Delivery by Courier 2.Direct Bank Transfer

Mrs Maureen Graham
(Information Officer)

Dear Mrs. Graham,

Wow, another contest win! Two in one day! I'm the luckiest man on the face of the earth! (That's right, eat it, Lou Gehrig.) I'd better get cracking on that claim!

Full names: H.R. Pennypacker

Country: Liechtenstein

Tel: Us!

Marital Status: Single. So you know anyone? I'm ever so lonely.

Sex: As I said, ever so lonely.

Age: 87

Occupation: E-mail claim filler-outer

Nationality: Liechtensteinian, or Liechtensteiner

Residential Address: 24 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario

How do you wish to receive your funds?: I'd like cheque delivery, but not by courier. I'd like it either by carrier pigeon, or by retired tennis great Jim Courier.

Now, send me that cash! Between this and the Google money, I'll have more pounds than Michael Vick's backyard. Dude, I'll be buying a Dell!


Your pal, Mark


From: (unknown sender)

Increase your penis size by six inches today!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! CLICK HERE

Dear Unknown Sender,

Wow, hundreds of thousands of pounds and a bigger dick! What a great day for e-mail! Of course, the 'CLICK HERE' didn't actually lead to a link, it was just written in plain text. So....uh, I guess the ball is in your court. Please get back to me soon, since I was planning to buy a new jockstrap soon and it would be a real annoyance if I bought said strap and then had to exchange it after using your product. You'd be surprised how few sporting goods stores are willing to take back a used jockstrap.


Your pal, Mark

p.s. I actually received this e-mail three times. Was this just a clerical error, or will your product add six inches with every usage? If it's the latter, well, honestly, that just seems a bit much. The thing doesn't need to snake around like the LOST smoke monster. In the words of Victoria Beckham, anything more than a handful is a waste.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

It Is The Poll That Never Ends...

....it just goes on and on my friend. Some people (i.e. me) started posting it not knowing what it is, it is the poll that never ends....

That's right, the 'best HBO show' poll is still rolling. The championship round resulted in a three-way tie between Band Of Brothers, Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Wire. Ergo, we're down to one final brouhaha between these three very different shows to determine who the true HBO champion actually is.

Voting is open here until Saturday, so hurry up and let your voice be heard. If you don't vote, I'll either a) send Leon to your house to get all up in your ass, b) send the Easy Company after you or c) tell Stringer Bell that you're trying to rip him off. Either way, it won't be pretty.


Not to be outdone, the Thunder Treats blog is getting into the action with its own series of polls to determine the winner of their annual Cougar Madness tournament. It's down to the final 16, so here's my take on the remaining field. (p.s. Attention female readers, I am genuinely curious to hear about who women think is the best-looking of the bunch. Since lord knows I have no idea how women think.)

* Mary Louise Parker. Not unattractive by any means, but I suspect she's gotten this far due to weak opponents (Vanna White? Shannon Tweed?) and residual popularity from Weeds. If this bracket is held in 2001, I would've voted against her solely because of her poorly-written West Wing character.

* Lucy Liu. Has gotten incredible mileage out of being the hottest well-known Asian actress in Hollywood over the last decade. Her fame will be noted for all eternity thanks to Andre 3000 name-dropping her in 'Hey Ya.' She would probably be my pick from this side of the bracket.

* Bridget Moynahan. If the blog owner had a sense of humour, he'd rig the vote so that Moynahan made it to the finals only to lose to, say, Michael Strahan's ex-wife. Or Kate Mara, if we pretended that she was about 10 years older.

* Elle McPherson. I'm guessing she's probably held up pretty well since her SI Swimsuit Issue days, but I think she's here by benefit of relatively weak opposition (Nicole 'Who?' Sheridan and Michelle Pfeiffer).

* Halle Berry. Probably the overall favourite to capture the title. In a way, her fame actually kind of prevents her from an upset defeat. Berry has been considered one of the best-looking women in the world for a solid decade now, so you figure there may be a bit of backlash or perhaps just a temptation to vote for someone else just for the sake of fresh blood. But then you actually realize, "Hey wait, Halle Berry still looks as good as ever...damn, she really is gorgeous." She'll be hard to take down.

* Kate Walsh. Nothing against Kate Walsh, but....really? Her? In the final 16? Berry is going to run through her like a hot knife through butter.

* Jane Seymour. I'm not sure she should be in this tournament. She's 58 years old, thus putting her a bit outside the accepted age range for cougars, which is generally considered to be from 35-50, with a possible five-year extension granted up to 55. Fifty-eight, in the words of the holy hand grenade scripture, is RIGHT OUT. That said, Seymour would be a heavy favourite in the 55-70 division.

* Courteney Cox. I've long been a Cox supporter (hmm, that sounds odd) ever since her Ace Ventura days, though I dunno, she's gotten increasingly brittle over the years. But let me make a bold prediction: if you collected these same 16 women 20 years from now, I'd bet that Cox would look the best of the bunch.

* Carla Gugino. A very underrated dark horse. Fun fact: the last two times I've seen Gugino in a movie, she's been taking it doggy-style from Robert De Niro and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, respectively.

* Teri Hatcher. Whoa whoa whoa, flag on the play. Teri Hatcher?! Seriously? In the sweet sixteen? This is the same woman who won the 'TV star who looks the worst in HD' award, and that was two years ago! She is the prime reason I've avoided watching Housewives in hi-def, since I keep fearing that her face will suddenly resemble a Nazi who just opened the Ark of the Covenant. I find it hard to believe that she knocked off both Vanessa Williams and Kristin Chenoweth to get this far. Hopefully Gugino lays the smack down.

* Diane Lane. Another major favourite. Lane's biggest asset is the fact that since she only really broke into major fame in 2002 at age 37, she's been working the cougar thing for as long as she's been in the public eye. She's even the namesake of Bill Simmons' Diane Lane All-Stars of hot actresses over the age of 40.

* Debbe Dunning. Never heard of her prior to a Googling, but it turns out she was the redheaded 'tool girl' on Home Improvement. I guess I could Google her again to find out what she looks like now, but meh, I've already lost interest.

* Jennifer Aniston. Just another slap in the face for poor Jen. While Angelina Jolie is routinely a high seed in any internet hot chick bracket, Aniston is relegated to the NIT that is Cougar Madness. Couldn't these brackets have been arranged so that an Aniston-Cox matchup was a possibility?

* Famke Janssen. My pick to win. Everyone loves Famke Janssen. The fact that she's beaten Daisy Fuentes and Selma Hayek on the way to the Sweet Sixteen is a testament to her popularity. I just saw her in Taken, and she looks as hot as ever. (btw, I'm looking forward to Taken 2, which will feature Liam Neeson running roughshod over the Mount Tremblant medical staff.)

* Monica Booblucci....er, Bellucci, pardon me. She can't win, if for no other reason than it would be really weird to have Mary Magdalene win a 'hot cougar' tournament. I mean, how hot could she be if she couldn't even seduce Jesus?

* Sela Ward. Meh. To clarify, that's 'meh' in the sense of 'not too impressive within the context of a celebrity cougar tournament,' not in the sense of 'she isn't very attractive.'


And, just to answer something that Kyle brought up in the comments the other day....let's compare the career numbers of these two starting pitchers.

Pitcher #1: 216-146 (.597 winning percentage), career 3.46 ERA, career 127 ERA+, 436 starts, 83 CG, 3261 innings, 3116 strikeouts, 4.38 career strikeout-to-walk ratio, 1.137 career WHIP, three Cy Young runner-up placements, three World Series rings, and in the postseason, an 11-2 record and 2.23 ERA over 19 starts.

Pitcher #2: 254-186 (.577 winning percentage), career 3.90 ERA, career 105 ERA+, 527 starts, 175 CG, 3824 innings, 2478 strikeouts, 1.78 career strikeout-to-wak ratio, 1.296 career WHIP, placed third twice in Cy Young voting, three World Series rings, and in the postseason, a 7-4 record and 3.80 ERA over 13 starts.

Seems like the first pitcher is pretty clearly better, doesn't it? There really isn't anything that Pitcher #2 can point to as an edge except durability, and even that is tempered by the fact that Pitcher #1 spend the first few years of his career as a reliever. As you may have guessed, the first pitcher is the recently-retired Curt Schilling, who will almost certainly go into the Hall of Fame, and he'd tentatively get my vote if I had one. The second pitcher is Kyle's hero, Jack Morris, who I wouldn't vote into the Hall of Fame under any circumstances.

The fact of the matter is, it's hard to spin Morris' 105 career ERA+ when discussing his HOF case. That's his fatal flaw. I'm not saying that ERA+ is a perfect stat, but in gauging how good a player was in relation to his era (which is, in my opinion, the only way you can really judge ballplayers in a historical context), it's a pretty good way to determine who was better than who. I'd reckon that 105 would be one of the worst ERA-pluses of any pitcher in the entire Hall of Fame. Morris was a good pitcher for a long time who played for some very good teams, but there just wasn't anything overtly unique about him that would require immortality in Cooperstown. One game (Game 7 of the 1991 World Series) doth not a HOF career make.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Friendly Neighbourhood Fireman

First it was 9/11, and now this. I'll just go ahead and say it --- firemen are awesome.

Here's the link to the original story. Why did they include a picture of a non-related guy (surfing, no less) dressed as Spider-Man?

BANGKOK (AFP) – A Thai fireman turned superhero when he dressed up as comic-book character Spider-Man to coax a frightened eight-year-old from a balcony, police said Tuesday.

Teachers at a special needs school in Bangkok alerted authorities on Monday when an autistic pupil, scared of attending his first day at school, sat out on the third-floor ledge and refused to come inside, a police sergeant told AFP.

Despite teachers' efforts to beckon the boy inside, he refused to budge until his mother mentioned her son's love of superheroes, prompting fireman Sonchai Yoosabai to take a novel approach to the problem.

The rescuer dashed back to his fire station and made a quick change into a Spider-Man costume before returning to the boy, he said.

"I told him Spider-Man is here to rescue you, no monsters are going to attack you and I told him to walk slowly towards me as running could be dangerous," Somchai told local television.

The young boy immediately stood up and walked into his rescuer's arms, police said.

Somchai said he keeps the Spider-Man costume and an outfit of Japanese television character Ultraman at the station in order to liven up school fire drills.

Monday, March 23, 2009

BBC Book List Meme

So according to the British Broadcasting Corporation, the average person will have read only six of these 100 classic pieces of literature. Now, I think we all know that I'm a pretty advanced reader.....in fact, back in the eighth grade, my pal Dave and I read a different book than the rest of the class did for our homeroom reading project, and I began my oral report on said book with, "Now, Dave and I read a different novel since we're at a higher reading level than the rest of you." Way to win over the crowd, jerk. That was almost as bad as my opening line at that War Amps fundraiser ("I just flew here all the way from London, and boy are my perfectly-functioning, non-prosthetic arms tired!")

Anyway, onto the book list.

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
One! Well, now, I guess to be technical, one-third. I got through Fellowship of the Ring before I put it away and just relied on the movies for my Middle Earth knowledge. Has anyone tried to actually read these books before? They're friggin' interminable.

2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
I believe there's a copy at my parents' house (my mother got it after seeing the BBC miniseries), but I've never read it.

3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman

4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling

6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Four! Also holds the title of Best Book I Was Assigned To Read In High School. The worst book? 'The Edible Woman', by Margaret Atwood. I'd say the book was crap, but then again I think I'd rather go through my own stool with a magnifying glass than read that one again.

7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
Saw the cartoons, had the pajamas, even once got stuck in a rabbit's hole in search of sweet honey, but never read the actual book. I guess I should clarify that last one...it wasn't an actual rabbit's hole, it was the front door of the condo owned by my meth dealer, Rabbit. And I wasn't looking for honey, I was looking for meth. Oddly enough, there was a talking piglet in a sweater in both instances (ok, so I was looking for MORE meth).

8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell

9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
Six! The Chronic-WHAT-cles of Narnia!

10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
No dice!

11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
Seven! How fitting is it that one of my favourite books puts me officially above average? Take that, BBC!

12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
No, though the Kate Bush song is oddly captivating.

13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
Well, we've officially hit the first book on the list that I've never even heard of, let alone never read.

14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
Nope! Fun fact: the Oscar-winning Best Picture adaptation of this novel was directed by Alfred Hitchcock. So even though the Master never won a best director Oscar himself, at least one of his films got the big prize. Partial credit?

15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
Eight! There are two kinds of people in this world: those who think Holden Caulfield is an icon of disaffected youth, and those who think he's a whiny douchebag. I'm in the latter group.

16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame

17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
No, though I did read a very interesting essay once about how this was the best title in the history of literature.

18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
This was a book? I thought it was just a terrible Nick Cage vehicle.

20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
Once I set aside a month of my life to read it, I'll get back to you.

21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell

22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling

Yes, yes and yes! Ten, eleven, twelve! Or, in the words of Sesame Street, one two three FOUR FIVE, six seven eight NINE TEN, eleven twelve.

25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien

26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy

27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
Not yet. By the way, has anyone ever made a movie about the life of George Eliot/Mary Anne Evans? How is it that we've seen biopics about every Tom, Dick and Austen author but not one about the author with arguably one of the most interesting personal stories of them all?

28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving

29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
Fourteen! A real laugh riot, this book. I'm pretty sure Tom Joad's spirit was reincarnated in the Littlest Hobo.

30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
Fifteen! I'm also about at a 15 on a scale of 1-10 for the upcoming Tim Burton adaptation. Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat? Crispin Glover as the Knave of Hearts? Anne Hathaway as the White Queen? Depp as the Mad Hatter? Alan fucking Rickman as the caterpillar?! Good lord!

31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
Nope. I'm told it's a dull story...all Tracy ever has to say is MEEP MEEP

32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
No! Who would want to read a book about the Chicago Cubs?

33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
Still no!

34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
C'est ne pas.

35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl

36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson

37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute

38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
Afraid not!

39. Dune, Frank Herbert

40. Emma, Jane Austen
Fine, I've never read any Jane Austen! Are you happy now, BBC? Quit harping on me!

41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
Seventeen! If I hadn't, I think I would've been kicked out of Canada.

42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
Sadly, no.

43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald

44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
Technically no, though I've read an abridged version in French class and I've read a Stephen Fry novel that was a modern update of the story. If I'm giving myself a full one for one-third of LOTR, I'll even things out by sticking to my 'no' vote here.

45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
No, I'm holding out until I read the original 'Brideshead' before I get to the sequel.....*pause for laughter*.....*just hearing crickets*....okay, moving on

46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
Nineteen! Kind of an odd novel in the sense that though it was only about 150 pages long, I felt it could've been even shorter. Really runs out of steam about two-thirds in or so.

47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
No, though I did once write a short story called 'Far From The Maddening Crowd' about two snooty rich people in balcony seats at a theatre. I really need to look through my old high school work sometime. I'll do that just as I can convert the original files from.....Lotus WordPro?! Oh shit.

49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
Never heard of it.

50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
Again, never heard of it.

51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
Hey, I've heard of this one! And seen a theatrical version! Buuuuut, no book.

52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
Twenty-one! As part of a class project in high school English class, we had to act out a scene from the novel. To the surprise to no one reading this, I was cast as Lenny.

53. The Stand, Stephen King
If you can believe it, I have never read a Stephen King novel. The only King works I've read are his book on writing and his LOST columns for Entertainment Weekly.

54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
No dice

55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
Gimme an N, N! Gimme an O, O!

56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
No, even though I appropriated the title for my own nickname, the Big Fuckin' Gangsta.

57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome

58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
Twenty-two! Though I read this when I was very, very young and remember virtually nothing about it aside from the fact that it features a black horse.

59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
Nope! Wasn't this the name of a Darkwing Duck villain?

60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky

61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman

62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden

63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
Lou Nega sings 'Mambo No. 5'!

65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
Surprisingly, astounding, impossibly, I've never read any Terry Pratchett books.

66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
We seem to be hitting a dry patch here. No!

67. The Magus, John Fowles

68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett

Uh oh, now we're getting knee-deep into the Pratchett. No and no.

70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
Twenty-three! The streak is broken!

71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
No, but I have seen the 2006 film adaptation, which is fucked-up with a capital F. Truly one of the most bizarre films I've ever seen, and I'm honestly not sure if that's an endorsement or not.

72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
Nah nah nah nah, nah nah nah nah nah, get a job

73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
Argh! No! How many times do I have to tell you?!

74. Matilda, Roald Dahl

75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
N to the izzo!

76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt

77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
All signs point to no!

78. Ulysses, James Joyce
No, and honestly, it just seems too daunting. If I wanted to listen to an Irishman ramble, I'll find the YouTube clip of one of the human rights speeches Bono made prior to singing 'One' during the Vertigo Tour.

79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
This list seems to be dancing around the Dickens works I actually have read --- Oliver Twist, Hard Times and the aforementioned Christmas Carol. Of all the Dickens novels I haven't read, I think I'd like to get to Our Mutual Friend first. Why? Because it's the book that Desmond from LOST is saving to be the last one he reads before he dies. Fun fact: this is apparently based on a real-life statement from John Irving.

80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson

81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
Nope! Fun fact: did you know Roald Dahl was a WWII Wing Commander, a fully-credited Flying Ace and an MI6 spy? Holy cow. Does this mean Veruca Salt was an allegory for the Luftwaffe?

82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
Well, I never captured the book as it ran wild on the shelf, so NOPE.

83. Holes, Louis Sachar
More like 'No-les'

84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
Never read the book. If you have a gormenghast growing anywhere on your person, for the love of god, call your doctor.

85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy

86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
The land of Noh!

87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
Twenty-five! Okay, I feel better, I've gotten at least a quarter of the list. BNW is one of those novels I read once, then proceeded to cite in roughly 40 percent of my school essays. It's a real all-purpose book --- the Swiss army knife of classic lit, if you will.

88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons

89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
Was it anything like Fifth Business? Fifth Business, btw, probably ranks second on the 'Best Assigned Book In High School' list. I've never gotten around to reading the rest of the Deptford Trilogy....god, yet another thing to get to on my reading list. When will I ever sleep?

90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
I'm saving this one for my next major car trip across the USA. That is, unless I get sidetracked by my usual reading material for such road trips --- Onion books and back issues of Sports Illustrated.

91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
Twenty-six! I must admit, I enjoyed the novel, but....the movie really does streamline things very nicely. Puzo's novel includes roughly a short story's worth of backstory for every character, including I believe the plumber who originally installed the toilet that Michael hides the gun in.

92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
I would've read it, but Stephen Colbert has warned me about bears.

93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett

94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

95. Katherine, Anya Seton
Not me!

96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
Uh, seriously, BBC? A Jeffrey Archer book makes your list of classic literature? What next, Danielle Steel? Dan Brown? Margaret Atwood's Edible Woman?

97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
Never read it, but honestly, that title is hilarious. I want to write a new version of this novel taking just the title. Sample dialogue: "I have cholera." "I love you."

98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
Nope. I realize that Jacqueline Wilson has about five novels on this list, yet I've never heard of any of them, or of her. If I have any more room in my library basket once I get through with all the Pratchett, I'll toss in some Jackie Wilson. I suspect her love will take me higher and higher.

99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
Uh, seriously, BBC? Boy, my joking suggestions from the Jeffrey Archer entry weren't far off.

100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie
And finally, no. Though Rushdie was able to write this one without a bounty being put on his head, so it's got that going for it. That makes the final tally 26 out of 100 books for me, thus making me roughly 4.3333333 repeater times as great as the average reader. I will let this survey puff up my ego as I get back to my latest reading venture, the label on my Diet Pepsi can. Who was the murderer? Aspertame? What a twist!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Out-Of-Context Texts In My Phone Inbox

"Msg me when u get 2 London. Were u able 2 arrange the cow?"

"I was going to be Rockets the candy [for Halloween], but it requires effort."

"Yahoo box score attendance tonight?"

"I'm so sorry Mark, I left London @4, thought I had a ton of time"
"Mark, where is gate 10?"

(Ok, this one requires a bit of context just because almost a year later, I still can't wrap my head around it. My pal Jeff thought he could leave London at 4 PM on a Friday and be in Toronto by 6:30. C'est impossible! Then, to top it all off, Jeff asks me where Gate 10 at the Rogers Centre is, in spite of that fact that Jeff has been to the RC dozens of times in his life. I feel like I can take these shots at Jeff this week since he and his wife had a kid this week, so he's still on too much of a high to be affected by my petty barbs. Congrats to Jeff, and let's just hope he planned his route to the hospital better than he planned his route to Toronto.)


"Even u fight better than Bisping"

"Fuck you all AND the horse (bus) you rode in on."

"I am about to begin the life-altering experience that is Ghost Rider. 'I'm the only one that can walk in both worlds.' Wish me luck!"

"Crisis -- Luis Terrero now plays for the Charlotte Knights. Mah gawd!"

"Some fan was so pissed over an interception he threw his jersey down in the stands. I heart this game."

"Hurk is the devil!"

"I've never even really met her. I just like her supposed sexual frankness."

"Watch out Mark, Lilly's on a spree! Protect your nose!"

Thursday, March 19, 2009

March Madness Picks

As I'm sitting here watching the first wave of waves, I realize that I forgot to actually post my NCAA basketball picks in advance. I'm in three bet-hedging Yahoo pools where I picked virtually everyone to cover my ass, so here's the stamped-it, no-erases, black-ball-beats-'em-all picks that I would actually state are my preferences. Expect these to be largely incorrect by around, oh, 5 PM on Thursday given that I know little about college basketball. My general rules in filing out my bracket is solely based around the concept that the Big East is really good, and the Big 10 and SEC are pretty poor. (Though, in one Yahoo pool, I hedged my bets by reversing this idea and ended up with Michigan State as my national champs.)

If you use these picks to guide your own bracket....well, that's just not a smart move. I'm really bad at these.

Pittsburgh over E. Tennessee
Oklahoma State over Tennessee (basically, this is a bad bracket quadrant if you're from the Volunteer State).
Wisconsin over Florida State (the guy in the picture, two-time Oscar winner Fredric March, is a Wisconsin grad)
Xavier over Portland St.
UCLA over VCU (I love that the Score's only tidbit for this game was 'Barack Obama picked VCU to pull the upset')
Villanova over American
Texas over Minnesota
Duke over Binghampton

North Carolina over Radford
Butler over LSU (oops)
West Kentucky over Illinois
Gonzaga over Akron
Temple over Arizona State
Syracuse over Stone Cold Stephen F. Austin
Michigan over Clemson (it's been 11 years since Michigan was in the tourney?? Good lord. I'll toss them a bone.)
Oklahoma over Morgan State

Connecticut over Chattanooga (hey, 'UConn's coach is at death's door' wasn't in my scouting report!)
BYU over Texas A&M (oops part two)
Northern Iowa over Purdue
Washington over Mississippi State
Marquette over Utah State (go Marquette! My favourite team! GOLDEN EAGLES TAKE THE FIELD...DAH DAH DAH DAH NEVER YIELD)
Cornell over Missouri (my one big reach...I figure Andy Bernard has had a rough go of it recently with Angela's infidelity, so he's due for some good news. btw, I have no doubt that in OfficeWorld, Andy has Cornell winning the tournament, as he sacrifices his chances of winning the office pool in the name of school pride)
Maryland over California
Memphis over CSU-Northridge (geez Memphis, way to scare me)

Louisville over Morehead State
Siena over Ohio State
Utah over Arizona
Wake Forest over Cleveland State
Kansas over North Dakota State
West Virginia over Dayton
USC over Boston College
Michigan State over Robert Morris (man, what a dull bracket...no sick coaches, Office characters or Marquette to liven things up)

Pitt over OK State
Xavier over Wisconsin
Villanova over UCLA
Duke over Texas (this is a real toss-up for guys named Duke who live in Texas)
North Carolina over Butler
Gonzaga over Western Kentucky
Syracuse over Temple
Oklahoma over Michigan
UConn over BYU
Washington over Northern Iowa
Marquette over Cornell (sorry Andy)
Memphis over Maryland
Louisville over Siena
Wake Forest over Utah
Kansas over West Virginia
USC over Michigan State (upset!!!!!)

Pitt over Xavier
Villanova over Duke
North Carolina over Gonzaga (boy did I ever want to pick the Zags here)
Syracuse over Oklahoma
Washington over UConn
Marquette over Memphis (if Marquette loses in the first round, which is entirely possible, I am really fucked)
Louisville over Wake Forest
Kansas over USC

Pitt over Villanova
North Carolina over Syracuse
Washington over Marquette (I'm putting a lot of faith in the West being the upset bracket. Note to bracket-makers: if you're going to make one crazy E8 pick, don't make your second-crazier E8 pick from the same region. Your odds aren't good.)
Louisville over Kansas

Pitt over North Carolina
Louisville over Washington

Pitt over Louisville (for the second straight major sporting event, the Pittsburgh team beats the Cardinals team. CBS ponies up to get Springsteen to play at halftime, though they insist that he includes a cover of "One Shining Moment')

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Kyle and Mark's Best Movies Of Our Lives, Part III

The Best Movies of Our Lives: Part Three (1992-1997)

previously: 1979-1985, 1986-1991

Kyle's Picks

To borrow a line from "Bartlet for America" ("I would like our ten-minute breaks to be closer to fifteen minutes than they are to a half-hour"), I'm going to try not to stray quite so far from the three-sentence maximum for non-winners.

Mark: Don't worry, I go over three sentences as often as a judge that's tough on crime.

1992: A Few Good Men: ok, so, as much as I love this movie, I think I have enough distance from it now to say: is Cruise's plan at the end not colossally stupid? Even though the film holds up after many (many, many) late night viewings, I think I'd like the ending just a little bit more if he had some sort of backup plan (aside from crying and running out of the courtroom) should the Jessup thing fail. Anyway, it's a great movie (wish I'd seen the play), and making it my pick allows me to link to a classic Bill Simmons column (back when he was funny, as opposed to just whatever the hell it is he's doing now) where he uses quotes from AFGM to summarize the 2001 NBA season (part one and part two).

Mark: Excellent selection, it made my runners-up list. I think it was established that Cruise was flying by the seat of his pants and that if he hadn't hit a home run with that final gambit with Jessup that he was going to lose the case anyway, so why not go for broke? [Kyle: you mean, aside from being court-martialled?] It was basically the exact opposite of what happened with Marcia Clark, Christopher Darden and the infamous phrase "Hey, let's have him try on the glove."

Other nominees...

A League of Their Own
(switch with AFGM?): torn here, since this could really be my #1. I'd argue/have argued that it's the 3rd* best sports movie ever. I like this film so much that I even included a reference to it in my personal statement to U of T Law (the part where Geena Davis tries to quit the team because it's too hard to play and maintain a family and Tom Hanks fires back “It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The ‘hard’ is what makes it great.”) Awesome.

= ok, technically I put it at #2 back in June '08, but that seems pretty indefensible now (it's not better than Friday Night Lights).

Reservoir Dogs:
better than Pulp? The older I get, the more I lean towards yes. It's certainly not as showy, but it's a tighter movie.

The Player:
my first Altman movie. Aside from the opening shot (the long tracking shot with--in signature Altman fashion--numerous overlapping conversations), this is probably rather more run-of-the-mill than I'd like to remember, but Robbins really carries it through.

Glengarry Glen Ross: maybe the meanest movie of my lifetime (or Kids, though GGGR has the distinction of, you know, actually being good). Few films have ever done as good a job as this one at conveying sheer desperation (the way they coveted those leads still makes be shudder). I'd be remiss, of course, if I didn't mention that Jack Lemon's portrayal of Shelley Levene is said to be the basis for Gil Gunderson from The Simpsons (my favorite character).

movie from 1992 that I really should've seen by now: Malcolm X or Last of the Mohicans

Mark: Have you ever noticed that a lot of 'best sports movie ever' lists omit A League Of Their Own, or at most mention it with a "Pfft, Madonna and Rosie O'Donnell playing baseball? Shyeah right!" type of comment? I think some people are just biased against women's sports in any incarnation.

Dude, c'mon, Reservoir Dogs better than Pulp Fiction? I don't think so. They're playing on two different levels.

I'll end this Oreo of criticism with a final layer of tasty cookie agreeability by saying that I really, really need to see Glengarry Glen Ross. Something tells me I'll love it. My favourite GGR reference was an old SNL skit with Alec Baldwin as a tyrannical head elf in Santa's workshop whose motto was 'Always Be Cobbling.' Also notable for the fact that Baldwin slips up and says 'closing' at one point, thus causing the elves (yes, one of them was Jimmy Fallon) to crack up.

Kyle: ok, now that I've seen my Reservoir Dogs > Pulp Fiction in print, I'm regretting it. If forced to stand by it, I'll say that nothing in RD is unecessary (no Butch's French girlfriend, no Gimpesque "wtf?" moment) and that it builds relentlessly to a pretty kick-ass climax. Yeah, ok...not very convincing (though I disagree entirely that the two are on completely different levels).

1993: Dave: maybe my sleeper pick of the series (or '94). A part-time POTUS lookalike secretly becoming the actual President when the real President falls ill, Kevin Kline at his charming best, Sigourney Weaver at her absolute friskiest, Frank Langella as a first-rate foil, and Charles fucking Grodin? Seriously, what's not to like here? How this only rates a 6.8 (I know, I know, I'm too invested in these ratings) on imdb is beyond me. This is a terrific movie. Of particular note is the scene where Dave single-handedly (some might say preposterously) balances the budget so that the First Lady's childcare initiative can be saved. I love that scene.

Mark: OH HELL YES. I thank you for giving Dave this recognition. It killed me to leave it off my 1993 list since it's such a good comedy and Kevin Kline is a personal hero of mine. I like this pick so much that I'll overlook the fact that you referred to Sigourney Weaver as 'frisky.'

Other nominees...

The Fugitive: one of the all-time "it's on TV so I need to watch it from whichever point it's at and see it all the way through to the end." This movie never stops being awesome.

Groundhog Day: not a lot to say that hasn't already been said (is this your pick for '93? I'm guessing yes), so I'll ask this: how much time do you think goes by in the movie? Before you answer, remember that Phil Connors learns how to play the jazz piano professionally, speak fluent French...and claims to have died every way imaginable. (If you've heard this before and know the answer, pretend my question was "if you didn't already know, how long would you estimate that Phil was trapped on February 2nd?")

In the Name of the Father:
this is all DDL (not sure if I can name another actor in the movie without looking it up) and he's flat out tremendous here. (Oh, turns out Emma Thompson was in it, too. My bad.) Is there a better secretly awesome director than Jim Sheridan? Here are some of the movies he's directed (see if you can spot the one that doesn't seem to belong but was, indeed, directed by him): My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father, The Boxer, In America, and Get Rich or Die Tryin'.

a very good film that, if I'm not mistaken, I have not seen more than three consecutive of since the night it was released sixteen years ago (which is somewhat anomalous compared to...pretty much every other movie I've listed). Notable for inspiring Eric Mayr and I to refer to every dingy movie theatre (Huron Market Place) as the Mustang Theatre (and don't even get me started on the Mustang Drive-In). Good (by which, I of course mean: immature) times.

movie from 1993 that I really should've seen by now:
Schindler's List (inexcusable, I know.)

Mark: Well, we need to get together and having a Schindler's List viewing party some night. I'll bring the popcorn, which I'm sure will be left cold and uneaten after the first five minutes. I should've put Philadelphia and ITNOTF on my 'must-see' list, though I agree that Sheridan is a tremendously underrated director. Gratuitous U2 mention: they have a new song on the soundtrack of Sheridan's upcoming film Brothers.

Now, Phil's time in Punxatawney...apparently, in an early draft, Harold Ramis planned to leave him there for thousands of years, but that was scaled back a bit. I'd guess four years at a minimum; one year being a jerk, one year trying to kill himself and at least two years learning piano/French and being a nice guy.

Kyle: yeah, Ramis's original plan was 10,000 years. It's actually supposed to be 10 in the movie, though they're really isn't any empirical evidence one way or the other.

*1994 (5+ movies): Quiz Show: a bit of a shocker, I'm sure. I went back and forth with this and Shawshank, but I ultimately selected Quiz Show. Why? (Seriously: why, Kyle?) Well...I was going to go off on a rant about how it was prescient in terms of predicting the baseball drug scandal (interesting...but a bit of a stretch), but I think what really gets me about this movie is that it's a great story, simply told, with outstanding performances by Ralph Fiennes, John Turturro, Rob Morrow, and Paul Scofield (the only one of the lot to get an acting nomination for this). Redford could've used the Twenty One corruption as a jumping off point for America's loss of innocence and blah blah blah, but wisely elected to focus his attention on how this affected the contestants, dirty or otherwise. Van Doren's downfall, when it comes, is incredibly moving, largely because Fiennes, in his understated way, infuses the character with so much sadness that you can't help but pity him (even though you know you shouldn't). A great movie...easily one of the most underrated of the decade.

Mark: Wow, Quiz Show? Seriously? I toyed with the idea of making 1994 a ten-movie year, but Quiz Show was nowhere near my radar screen। It had an interesting premise, but managed to make it just about as dull as possible. It doesn't help that I'm not a fan of Redford as a director. How the hell did NEITHER of us pick Shawshank?!

Other nominees...

The Shawshank Redemption: your #1 pick, I think. This is veryclose to being my #1, (it's elevated considerably by a jaw-droppingly good final thirty minutes) but, for whatever reason, I feel like I appreciate Quiz Show more.

Dumb and Dumber: This is now fifteen years old and, off the top of my head, I can only think of seven movies that have come out since that are (arguably) as funny (or funnier): The 40-Year Old Virgin, Superbad, Step-Brothers, Anchorman, Best in Show, Toy Story, and There's Something About Mary. That's pretty impressive. Lines I still use from this movie: "tell her I have a rapist's wit"; "SAMONSITE. I was way off!"; "The first time I set eyes on [insert name], I just got that old fashioned feeling where I'd do anything to bone her"; "just go man": "Harry, your hands are freezing" (and basically anything from the double glove scene). Good times.

Clerks: I'm told that this has aged remarkably poorly, but I'm too afraid to confirm this. I don't even think I care, because, at least in 1994, this was sheer genius. (Randall's CCCP hockey jersey is probably 95% responsible for me finally getting a similar T-shirt three weeks ago.)

Pulp Fiction: don't really have anything to say here. It's obviously a terrific film. Having watched it not too long ago, it's interesting how completely extraneous Bruce Willis's subplot is. Feels far more like padding than I realized at the time.

Forrest Gump: manipulative? Oh my, yes! But, hell, I still love it. Four points: (1) originally, the part was offered to Travolta (though the timing doesn't make a ton of sense, since this would've been more or less concurrent with him being cast in Pulp, i.e. his comeback role); (2) the film is approximately 50,000 times better than the book (trust me--Forrest is actually an astronaut for part of the book...awful); (3) It's become slightly tougher for me to enjoy this movie after Tony Kornheiser pointed out that it's Republican propaganda, in that the movie is an indictment of all the liberal excesses of the 60s and 70s. Think about it. (4) I feel like, for whatever reason (increase in moviegoer sophistication? Growing societal cynicism?), if this movie were released today, it simply wouldn't catch on. (Case in point: Benjamin Button, FG's nearest analog, has met with decidedly mixed reviews.)

Hoop Dreams:
winner of the coveted "Best Documentary never to be nominated for Best Documentary at the Oscars" award (largely by virtue of me not being able to name another one). This is a pretty great movie, even if it's overlong (I'd like to think that I enjoy basketball more than 999 out of every 1,000 people, but even I was ready to claw my own eyes out during minute fifteen of the uncomfortably serious third act one-on-one game between Arthur and his dad).

Speed: only a 7.2 on imdb, which is a bit surprising. After all, what's not to like here? Some good trivia: (1) Sandra Bullock's part was originally offered to Ellen DeGeneres; and (2) from imdb: "A Fox producer realized they might have a movie hit in their hands when he noticed that, during test screenings, audience members would walk backwards when they needed to go to the bathroom so they would miss as little as possible." Nice.

Having seen this on the A Channel at 4 in the morning not that long ago, here's a question (and I'm more than a little ashamed it took ten or so viewings for me to pick up on this): can you fathom why the bus needed to jump the freeway, when the police escort simply took an earlier exit? Fairly massive plot hole, no?

The Madness of King George: pretty underrated. Have you seen thisMark?

movie from 1994 that I really should've seen by now:
Heavenly Creatures

Mark: Ooh, Heavenly Creatures, good one. Never seen it (same with Madness of King George). 'Clerks' has actually been redeemed a bit by 'Clerks II.' The sequel lowered the bar so much that when you go back to watch the original, you're thinking, hey, this is still a pretty good flick. My guess on the Speed plot hole is that Bullock simply missed the exit; she was under a lot of stress, so it's not hard to imagine that she isn't 100 percent up on the condition of every L.A. freeway. I didn't know that about Degeneres. 'Speed' already gets enough unwarranted guff just for the Keanu/over-the-top Dennis Hopper combination; adding Ellen to the mix would've made this movie seem like a joke to modern audiences that had never seen it.

Re: Forrest Gump. 4) The difference between FG and Button is that FG obviously had a sense of humour about itself, whereas Button took itself so seriously that it squeezed the wonder out of the film. 3) From what I know of Hanks and Zemeckis' politics, I find it hard to believe that they'd make 'Republican propaganda.' The Vietnam War and Lt. Dan's pro-military attitude are criticized too. 2) You're right about the book. Its awfulness is only topped by the even worse sequel, "Gump & Co." which involves plots like Forrest coming up with New Coke. 1) That's an interesting casting tidbit about Travolta. He made the right call in going with Pulp Fiction, since 'Gump' seems like one of those movies that would've been a total disaster with anyone but Tom Hanks as the lead.

Kyle: yeah, Clerks II was a bit of a gong show, with the biggest plot hole by far being: why in the world would someone as cool as Rosario Dawson's character (who is basically just Rosario Dawson, I think) want to have anything to do with Brian O'Halloran's Dante? This makes Speed look like a real-time documentary by comparison. This, coupled with a not-very-good Dogma, a lousy Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and an only ok Zak and Miri Make a Porno really makes me wonder why Kevin Smith is still spoken of so reverentially in many circles. I mean, I dig those Evenings with Kevin Smith, too, but come on...anyway, this is probably a conversation for another time.

Mark: See, I actually like J&SB second-best of Smith's movies, but if his ceiling has currently been lowered to 'zany showbiz comedy,' it might be time to move onto something else.

1995: Toy Story: I think it really says something that, in a year that has maybe the strongest top five of the decade (no doubt you'll dispute that, but, I mean Braveheart is #6...that's solid) it took me approximately 0.3 seconds to make Toy Story my #1. RT and I were discussing this earlier in the week and we agreed that this movie, with its high concept pitch (what if all your toys were real?) has no business being as engaging as it is (this was followed by several uncharitable comments directed towards Randy Newman), but it works. This is a wonderful, wonderful film, with lots of laughs (all of Woody's catchphrases, though "someone's poisoned the watering hole" remains a favorite of mine; the stuff with the toy soldiers; and anything involving Buzz thinking that he's actually the Buzz Lightyear), but lots of heart too (if you don't well up a bit when Woody gets cast aside for the new toy or when Woody reunites with Andy at the end, then I respectfully suggest that you yourself are made of slightly toxic plastic--and not the kind that comes to life when no one is watching). Or, you know, you just haven't seen it, but that's just so laughable that I'm chastising myself for even mentioning it. Right? Right??

Mark: No complaints from me, though I have a bombshell about Toy Story that I'll save for my own list. I'll just add here that the Hanks/Allen voice casting was inspired and that I'd really love to know exactly what Joss Whedon's contributions to the script were.

Other nominees...

The Usual Suspects: I know, I know, you don't like it at all. And short of you feeling that the ending pretty much negates everything that came before it--which was (and remains) Ebert's position....he gave the movie 2 out of 4 stars, and a thumbs down--which is an argument I'm not unreceptive to, I profess to being totally mystified. (Interestingly, a script-writing book I've been reading--Good Scripts, Bad Scripts by Thomas Pope--calls TUS "a good screenplay that could've been great," lamenting that there's too much tell and not enough show--mainly Fenster and Edie's deaths--a complaint I don't exactly buy, since the reasons for this should, I think, be pretty fucking clear in hindsight. I'll also note that this is the same book that rips into The Abyss for the unforgivable sin of killing off the villain in the second act, which...whatever.) Anyway, I'll allow you to voice your concerns about the movie before I unload on you.

Apollo 13: this has been on AMC and History Channel incessantly of late (not that I'm complaining). Just a ridiculously compelling film (I'm particularly fond of the scene where they gather up the engineers and get them to devise a solution for cartridge that won't fit, using only things on the ship). Of particular note is that I watched this on opening day with my buddy Eric Mayr, who was absolutely terrified that they were all going to die, prompting me to observe that the screenplay was based on Jim Lovell's book, so...

Se7en: Re-watched this recently, and, my God, is it ever dark. The Usual Suspects and The Sixth Sense appear to have the twist ending market cornered, but, frankly, this deserves to be in the coversation. (I'm particularly fond of the film's final line: "Ernest Hemingway once wrote, 'The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.' I agree with the second part.") It also marks the last time Kevin Spacey didn't let his ego get in the way of a project.

12 Monkeys: harrowing. Bruce Willis has never been better. (Brad Pitt, too.) I especially enjoyed Gilliam's handling of the time-travelling aspect, which resisted pat answers and confronted paradoxes head-on (we'll call that the anti-Timeline).

movie from 1995 that I really should've seen by now: Babe

Mark: Oh shit, I forgot about Babe. Probably wouldn't have made my top five, but it certainly deserved at least a mention. And, in terms of an overall strong top five, I might have to go with 1993 or 1994 over 1995.

But enough about that, let's get down to bashing The Usual Suspects! I don't *hate* it per se, since I'd only hate a movie that I never found compelling. TUS works perfectly well the first time you watch it and it's an effective twist in that sense. My problem is, if you watch the film a second time, then suddenly 75% of the movie is completely pointless. There's probably a post-modern argument in there somewhere about how it's ironic that I'm complaining about watching a movie featuring a character telling a made-up story while realizing that I'm voluntarily watching a made-up film, but man, don't sell me that bulljive. A truly great twist leaves you wanting to watch the movie again so you can see the clues left pointing towards the denouement and essentially get a whole new viewing experience out of it. TUS just doesn't provide that at all since the Byrne/Baldwin/Del Toro/Pollack segments are now completely fictional. The mark of a truly great movie is its ability to stand the test of time, and TUS doesn't even make it to the second showing.

Kyle: Alas, I don't particularly disagree with any of this (see my comments for 1997).

1996 (I'm taking six here, but not counting it as one of my bonus years, since I inadvertently forgot my initial favorite for '96, and went with Guffman): Swingers: wow...completely my bad for leaving this one out. Watched it not too long ago and I'm pleased to report that it's as entertaining as ever. (Seriously, no supporting actor nomination for Vince Vaughn here? That's a travesty. And that he hasn't done anything remotely Oscar-worthy since isn't a valid argument.) Swingers is probably the definitive pre-drink movie...and since I can't really talk about this movie without effusively praising it (seriously, it's not pleasant), I'll limit to myself to the following observation: Mikey: big loser or biggest loser in cinema history? Those are your only choices. Count the number of cringe moments: (1) everything that happens to him at the blackjack table; (2) the way he orders his scotch at the casino; (3) "we're not in Kansas anymore"; (4) "I'll have the pancakes in the Age of Enlightenment"; (5) busting in on Tre and his new lady friend in the trailer to check his messages; (6) rebuffed by the girl who asks what kind of car he drives at the house party; (7) embarrassed by the girl he's hitting on in the bar later that night when it turns out he tried to apply for a job at her Starbucks two weeks earlier; and (8) miraculously gets her number, only to blow any chance he has with her the second he gets home when he leaves six messages on her answering machine (arguably the most uncomfortable non-sexual scene in movie history). The only remotely cool thing he does is swing dance with Heather Graham (hey, remember Heather Graham? She was kind of awesome for a while there...), and even that, based on what we've seen in the preceding 80 minutes, isn't completely enjoyable, since you assume he'll somehow botch that too. It really is a tour-de-force performance by Favreau.

Mark: Solid choice. And thankfully, I've done only about three or four of those things on Mikey's list. Favreau's had an interesting career; Swingers, two very memorable TV guest stints (as Eric the Clown on Seinfeld and his run as Monica's billionaire-turned-UFC fighter boyfriend on Friends) and now suddenly A-list director. It's certainly more interesting than Vaughn's huge initial success at basically playing himself here, then being in nothing but garbage for six years, then suddenly deciding to stick to playing himself and starring in a bunch of huge comedies.

Other nominees...

Waiting for Guffman (1997--played at BFF in August and TIFF in September): sure, it's not on par with Best in Show (few things are), but it's undeniably (I said undeniably, Mark) hilarious. Of particular note is Fred Willard with the towel wrapped around his neck after performing (a bit I use as often as I can), Fred Willard recreating the end of the '61 World Series (a deleted scene, I believe) with Catherine O'Hara (his wife) as an unwilling (and utterly dejected) participant, and Corky's Remains of the Day lunchboxes. I think Misha and I watched this once a week for all of 1998.

Fargo: a lot to love here (Macy and McDormand, in particular).

Mission Impossible: an unfairly maligned series, in my opinion (except for the excrable MI:2, which is justifiably criticized). The original M:I is pretty kick ass. The thing that bothered (and bothers) me the most is that this was bagged on for being too hard to follow. Really?? I can only assume that Thief would make your head explode.

Jerry Maguire:
everything up to Cush's betrayal of Jerry is pretty terrific, then it's slow for an hour or so, then it picks up right at the end (though as Simmons pointed out in one of his podcasts, given that Jerry was in Arizona for a Monday night game, waited around for Rod afterwards, went to the airport, flew back to L.A., then drove or taxied it back to Zellweger's place, there's really no conceivable way that his tearful speech could've taken place any earlier than 3 a.m., which means: world's longest Women's Book Club meeting prior to that. And I'll add: no way that a recently jilted Zellweger isn't totally hammered on wine coolers by the time Jerry ambles in)

When We Were Kings:
next to Hoop Dreams, probably the best sports documentary of all-time (and I'll save you the trouble, Mark: the 1992 and 1993 Blue Jays Year in Review tapes do not count.) I'm endlessly fascinated by what a colossal douche Ali was back in the day (although everyone has collectively agreed never to mention this again).

Movie from 1996 I probably should've seen by now: The English Patient

Mark: I didn't realize Waiting for Guffman premiered at TIFF the year prior. Whatever the release date, it's impossible that I haven't seen this yet. Can we watch it after our Schindler's List night? I have a feeling we might need a pick-me-up.

There was a fascinating article a few years ago in SI about the long-lasting rivalry between Ali and Joe Frazier, and how to this day Frazier still holds a grudge against Ali for some of the great one's pre-fight trash talk (calling Frazier an Uncle Tom and other race-based taunts). That's the weird dichotomy of Muhammad Ali --- people forget that he was probably the most hated athlete in the world for most of the 60's and early 70's. I'm not sure there's even a modern-day comparison since so few sports have a truly worldwide profile, but imagine that you time-travel to 2030 and discover that Terrell Owens is being awarded a Congressional Medal Of Honor. That's how much of a turn Ali made in his latter years.

Jerry Maguire wins my Worst Movie The Other Guy Picked award for 1992-97. The two bright spots are provided by the whole Kush storyline (which should've been a movie of its own) and a career-best performance from Zellweger, who tries her best to salvage the love story. Just so I'm not throwing Cruise totally under the bus in 1996, yes, I did like Mission Impossible. Interestingly enough, apparently most of the original cast of the TV show (particularly Peter Graves) hate the movie due to the Jim Phelps heel turn.

p.s. My whole list is invalid since I didn't include the 92-93 Blue Jays videos. "Maldonado...OVER EVERYTHING!!!"

Kyle: No joke, I totally got a chill when you referenced that Maldonado sound-bite--amazing sequence. If we ever end up ranking...92 Blue Jays ranks right up there with the 89' Pistons and '84 Tigers video...and I fucking hated that store-bought championship team. That Owens reference kind of freaks me out.

I dunno, is Jerry Maguire really that bad? It's far from perfect, but I think the agency stuff brings something new to the table.

1997: The Game: man, I just love this movie. Unlike other twist movies, which tend to recede from view on subsequent viewings (even with The Usual Suspects, a movie I love, when I re-watch, I can't shake the feeling during the first 95 minutes of the movie that "you know, this really isn't how things actually went down...and we're never going to find out exactly how it did"), The Game holds up quite nicely, which is no small part due to Michael Douglas's fantastic work as Nicholas van Orton. His performance is so visceral--initially bemused, then intrigued, then somewhat worried, then panic-stricken, followed by demoralized, and closing with batshit insane--that you really have to hand it to him. Every time I re-watch The Game, I can't help but think: "well, how could he possibly not think he's been royally fucked over?"

As for those that bag on the ending for being implausible: (1) it's, at best, the 9th or 10th most implausible thing that happens in the movie; and (2) fuck right off. This movie is thrilling as hell, so you'd damn well better be willing to cut it some slack in its final moments.

Right down to the film's final music cue (Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit," cued at the absolute perfect moment), I adore this film.

Mark: Oops, Jerry Maguire might have to give the award back. I'm one of the people that was totally deflated by the ending, since it was humming along as a perfectly good thriller until that terrible, stupid, non-sensical finale. Obligatory SPOILER ALERT for anyone who hasn't seen it, but the fact that Nicholas was literally driven to (what he thought was) suicide makes the happy ending absurd. He was DRIVEN TO THE EDGE OF DESPAIR, and yet after he sees his brother alive, he is able to shake it all off and is partying it up five minutes later? Bullshit. Being involved in a 'Game' like that would put anyone into a rubber room. Also, the Game-makers took a big risk that he would land directly onto that greenhouse; if Douglas had jumped off a different section of the roof and dropped 15 stories to the pavement, I certainly hope that Sean Penn would've been given a refund.

Kyle: again, the conspiracy is so all encompassing that they can patch in to the TV signal in Van Orton's home, drain his bank accounts, stage a car crash where it appears as though he might drown, nearly drive him insane, bury him in a Mexican graveyard, and lead him to believe that he has inadvertently murdered his own brother, and your beef is that he might've tried to face-plant off a different part of the roof? If you accept everything else, can't we just assume that they had safety nets wrapped around the outside of the building? Or that they would've tranqued him before he jumped? However, I do agree that him being in a party mood immediately after the reveal instead of being, say, hopelessly traumatized is a bit tough to stomach (awkward cocktail party conversation: "so....you try to kill yourself twenty minutes ago, eh? Douglas: [sheepishly] "um...yeah."). Question: how much would you say his bill for the Game is? I'm putting it at $5,000,000 (remember, however, that Conrad is supposed to pay the whole thing and that Nicholas only offers to split it after seeing the total--I'm going to call bullshit on the two of them going halfsies...no way is Connie that flush.)

Other nominees...

Good Will Hunting:
a near-great movie "written" by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck that's very nearly submarined by two especially (Robin Williams explaining Will's van Gogh comment--t --and the "it's not your fault" scene, which, despite being the movie's emotional centre, is awkward and goes on for too long). This also marks the last time I ever found Minnie Driver even remotely tolerable.

cliched? Check. Totally lacking in nuance? Check. Overlong? Check. But damned if the last 70 minutes aren't totally captivating. Curious to see if you'll include this (be prepared for me to call you disingenuous if you don't).

L.A. Confidential:
not unlike The Princess Bride, this is movie I feel somewhat guilty about, in that I feel strongly about it, but not nearly as strongly as some others. It's great, but certainly not perfect (coughBaysingercough). Fun fact: this is the first DVD I ever owned (...and I actually had it for two weeks before I even got a DVD player).

Boogie Nights:
a much better movie than I gave it credit for at the time (I liked it, but found the Goodfellas-esque transition from successful Dirk to hopelessly coked-out Dirk in the span of a smash cut to be a little jarring). But I caught it about a month ago and? Awesome. The ten minute montage beginning with humble Dirk cleaning up at his first Adult Movie Awards, him beginning to enjoy his fame, him cleaning up again at the AMAs, the camera sweeping around the room before stopping on Dirk, whereupon he says "thank you" and walks way, is flat-out dazzling, and probably one of the coolest sequences I've ever seen in a movie.

The Sweet Hereafter*: "everything was strange and new. Everything was strange and new." A haunting, wonderful film. Still not totally sure why Sarah Polley isn't a huuuuge star. (By choice?)

* = which was, hilariously and totally inexplicably, referenced on an episode of American Dad a couple of Sundays ago. Weird.

Movie from 1997 that I really should've seen by now: Amistad.

Mark: I hope your buddy Eric Mayr didn't get too worked up during the last hour of Titanic. "OH NO! They hit an iceberg?! How will they salvage the ship??" I'm not the biggest fan of Boogie Nights, though I feel maybe I need to give that one a second look since P.T. Anderson's films lend well to repeat viewings. Poor Affleck, Damon and William Goldman have sworn up and down that there was no script doctoring involved, but I guess that legend will never die. It is pretty funny to read about Damon/Affleck's original pitch of Good Will Hunting as a techno-thriller.

Now, since you brought it up, and this is a bit off-topic but....American Dad: most underrated show on TV right now? It is right up there in the 30 Rock/Office/Conchords ballpark as the funniest show on TV. It's by far the funniest animated show on the air, if nothing else.

Kyle: I want to believe Affleck and Damon (well, at least Damon), I really do. But, seriously, look at their writing credits on imdb. I mean: come on. It's unbelievably fishy (though Gone Baby Gone was, in fairness, pretty good....which begs the question: who did Affleck trick into writing that one for him?).

You're bang on about American Dad. It's just terrific. (Steve has been a revelation this year.)

Mark: I don't find it so impossible to believe that Affleck is incapable of coming up with one good script every decade. It's not as if GWH was a particularly out-there plot or anything, and Gone Baby Gone was an adaptation. That said, I'm not naive enough to believe that they wrote each and every word of the script themselves. I truly believe that a Mitchell Report-esque impact could be made if someone released a list of every movie that had at least a 50-percent ghostwritten script. There's probably at least 10 films on our lists alone that were probably heavily the work of someone other than the credited writers.

(Hey, these entries weren't shorter at all!)

Mark's Picks

1992....Unforgiven: The anti-Western that stands as arguably the best Western ever, or at least the best Western (no pun intended) directed by someone besides John Ford. If there has ever been an actor who knows how to be a bad-ass, it's Clint Eastwood, and it's fantastic how the whole point of the film is that William Munny doesn't want to partake in his past murderous ways, and yet when he finally does, it's completely satisfying to the viewer. This is in part because Gene Hackman plays such a loathsome villain that my god, you just want to grab a gun and shoot your TV screen a la Elvis. Just a great movie all-around. p.s. What got into the Academy between 1991-1993? They had a three-year stretch of picking the consensus audience and critical darling for Best Picture every year: Silence Of The Lambs, Unforgiven and Schindler's List. That might be the best 'no complaints' stretch in Oscar history.


A Few Good Men: Impulsively rewatchable, which is rare for a complex courtroom drama. As much as the Cruise/Nicholson "you can't handle the truth!" scene has been parodied over the years, it still hasn't lost a bit of impact. Reservoir Dogs was a strong contender for the runners-up list, but AFGM strenuously objected to being omitted, so I had to keep it on.

A League Of Their Own: Hands-down one of the best baseball movies ever. Career high points for Geena Davis and Lori Petty, one of Tom Hanks' best roles and certainly his funniest, and also notable for being the last time Madonna was tolerable in a movie and the last time that Rosie O'Donnell was tolerable, full stop.

Noises Off: This is a personal favourite that isn't too well-known. It's the film version of the classic Michael Frayn theatrical farce about a group of actors whose own attempt to put on a farce is beset by backstage drama. The first part of the story shows you the 'proper' version of the play-within-the-play, and then you see it twice more as it gradually degenerates into chaos. Most pundits think the film version was crap, but the movie cast is terrific (Carol Burnett, Michael Caine, John Ritter, Julie Hagerty, Christopher Reeve) and unlike the play, the movie actually has an ending that ties it together a bit better.

Wayne's World: I'm sad to report that this film that gotten ever-so-slightly dated. Well, maybe a bit more than ever-so-slightly, but still, it was such a titan of comedy in my youth that it would be wrong to omit it from the list. The Stan Mikita doughnut shop might be the greatest in-joke for Canadians in movie history. And....

"A gun rack? I don't even own A gun, let alone many guns that would necessitate an entire rack."
"Wayne, if you're not careful, you're going to lose me."
"I lost you two months ago! We broke up! Are you mental? Get the net!"

Most notable movie(s) I haven't seen: Bob Roberts, The Crying Game, The Player, Glengarry Glen Ross. Yikes, this would be a lot of people's top four for the year. I need to get to a video store.

Kyle: dunno...I've always felt that Unforgiven was ponderous. Hackman and Eastwood are, indeed, excellent, but it really seems to plod along. I've actually seen it several times--since this is one of those movies that I know I'm supposed to love, but I don't, and, somewhat sadistically, this intrigues me--and I never cease to be amazed at how inert it is. That said, it's been a few years, so maybe it's time for me to cue it up again. But enough about me bashing your pick...

So glad you're on board with A League of Their Own. I agree, it's criminally underrated. Hasn't seen Noises Off, but this is like the third or fourth time I've heard you talk it up, so maybe I should make a point of renting it. As for Wayne's World, you're right, it--like virtually the entire Mike Myers catalogue (with the possible exception of So I Married An Axe-Murderer)--has aged remarkably poorly, to the point where I'm actually kind of embarrassed I ever enjoyed W'sW and the Austin Powers series (and this is coming from someone who watches Teen Wolf routinely still to this day, so obviously I have no shame). Care to comment on this phenomenon? (Jim Carrey is, of course, totally guilty of this as well, but at least we can point to Dumb & Dumber as a comedy for the ages.) In many ways, it's far more troubling (or, at least, more confounding) than, say, a Dane Cook-type, who, so far as I know, has never (and will never) be even remotely amusing.

Mark: Try this one on for size...Mike Myers is the comedy version of Joe Carter. Both were Canadian legends in the early 1990's, but as time has gone by, their work has aged poorly (in Carter's case, thanks to the OPS+ statistical measurement). The difference, of course, is that aside from a forgettable stint doing colour commentary on Jays game, Carter has stayed a fond memory for Jays fans. Myers, however, made the Love Guru, and is currently serving 10-15 years in the Kingston Pen.

Kyle: solid.

1993.....Short Cuts: After Robert Altman burst back into prominence with The Player in 1992, he followed it up with arguably the best possible example of the Altman-esque style. Interlocking plotlines, over 20 major characters, a phenomenal cast (good performances from everyone from Jack Lemmon and Julianne Moore to Huey Lewis and Lyle Lovett) and a movie so layered that I've seen it three times and still couldn't really give you a proper rundown of how the story unfolds. Only Altman could keep this many balls in the air and still deliver such a great movie. And, as an added bonus, Julianne Moore's vagina! (Insert joke about 'Short Cuts' and her personal grooming here.)


Dazed & Confused: I think it's a Hollywood law that every 20 years, someone has to make a really great 'teenagers driving around, hanging out' period piece. 1973 had American Graffiti, a.k.a. the best movie George Lucas ever made. 1993 had D&C, a.k.a. probably Richard Linklater's best movie and one of the all-time great movies for picking out future stars in small roles. I look forward to the next great coming-of-age driving movie in 2013, presumably directed by me and based on the time in 2000 that my crew went driving down Richmond Street trying to figure out what to do, and my drunken friend Eric started pointing and laughing at the rough-looking guys in the car next to us when we were stopped at a red light. I didn't realize my mother's old Toyota Prelude could move that quickly.

The Fugitive: Hands-down the best 'TV show-to-movie' adaptation of all time. Just a gripping, smart and well-made thriller from start-to-finish, which makes me wonder why director Andrew Davis hasn't made anything else even in the ballpark of 'Fugitive' in the rest of his career. Favourite random Fugitive tidbit: Mick Foley's mandible claw finishing move was invented by the real-life Richard Kimble, Dr. Sam Sheppard, who was briefly a pro wrestler after his medical career was ruined by the controversy surrounding his wife's murder.

Groundhog Day: You could air this movie 50 years from now and it wouldn't seem dated at all. Not just a great high-concept comedy, but a high-concept so, uh, high that it has entered popular language to describe any repetitive situation. As great as the script it, however, I have a feeling that only Bill Murray could have properly pulled off the Phil Connors character as well.

The Sandlot:
A tough pick over such other 1993 classics as Dave, Jurassic Park, Rudy, Remains Of The Day and Falling Down, but I could hardly ignore one of my favourite baseball movies ever. No truth to the rumour that the Monster in Lost was inspired by 'the Beast.'

Most notable movie(s) I haven't seen: Schindler's List. Yeah, I know. In my defense, I did try to see it in theatres, but I ended up making out with my girlfriend and was ratted out by Wayne Knight.

Kyle: Hmmm...I'm lukewarm towards Short Cuts, too. You're bang on about all the moving parts, but I feel it doesn't amount to anything coherent and/or interesting. (Which, carrying the metaphor well beyond its usefulness, I guess makes Short Cuts the Contrabulous Fabtraption of Professor Horatio Hufnagel).

Good call with your remaining picks (Sandlot = inspired choice...and only partly because it forced you to snub the--to my mind--very overrated Jurassic Park). I'd argue that Clerks, released at approximately the same time as Dazed & Confused, is a pretty good contemporary hanging out and driving around movie (although admittedly light on the latter requirement).

1994.....Pulp Fiction: Along with A Fish Called Wanda, Pulp Fiction is my favourite movie of all time. A line I once read in a review of PF is the best way to sum up the film's appeal: it would be just as entertaining to listen to as an audio book as it would be to watch on the silver screen. To use a cliche, the dialogue crackles off the page. It's funny, dramatic, tense, poignant or (in the case of Christopher Walken's monologue) all four at once. Like Short Cuts, it's the kind of movie where you can watch it a number of times and still never totally remember which scene or little gem of dialogue is coming next. Just an all-around masterpiece of directing, writing and casting. Hell, I'm so in love with this movie that I even like the actress who played Bruce Willis' girlfriend and then apparently dropped off the face of the earth. The way she says 'potbelly' is very cute.


Dumb And Dumber: To this day, I'm not sure I've ever laughed harder at a scene as I did when Lauren Holly playfully tosses some snow at Jeff Daniels, who responds by whipping a snowball into her face from about three feet away. Daniels even narrows his eyes when he's initially hit. I think it was the eye-narrowing (or the scene with the blind kid's parrot) that put D&D ahead of Ed Wood and Maverick for the last 1994 spot.

The Shawshank Redemption: Well, duh. The Academy followed up its three-great-Best-Pictures-in-a-row streak by being surprisingly on the ball in recognizing 'Shawshank' way before the general public did. The warden is the greatest in a long line of asshole characters played by the great Bob Gunton.

Speed: Or, as Homer called it, 'The Bus That Wouldn't Slow Down.' One of the best pure action movies ever made. I wonder how many hostages were shot by law enforcement officials in the wake of Speed's success?

Trois Couleurs: A bit of an explanation is needed for this one since it's technically three films in one. Polish director Krzysztof "Unplayable Scrabble Rack" Kieslowski released three films ("Blue," "White," and "Red") that work just fine as stand-alone stories but also intertwine into a truly epic overall movie experience. 'Blue' came out in 1993, but since the other two parts were released in 1994, I'm slotting Trois Couleurs into the 1994 category. This trilogy was so good that Kieslowski didn't just announce his retirement after its completion, but he fucking died in 1996 just to reinforce the point. OK, well, he may have been writing scripts at the time of his death, but still, back me up here.

Most notable movie(s) I haven't seen: Four Weddings And A Funeral, Bullets Over Broadway,

Kyle: see, now, when you teased your '94 pick as your (co-)all-time favorite, I guessed that you were a Shawshank man. Pulp, eh? Interesting. You don't seem to talk about it all that much. I like it quite a bit (and absolutely loved it at the time--fun fact: Eric Mayr and I went to see it a the old Westmount theatre, i.e. before it made it's way into the mall, and, since it was rated R, we were convinced that, being fifteen and sixteen, there was a strong chance they were going to ID us (ignoring the fact that I've only ever seen this happen once--and not to me--in the literally hundreds of times I've gone to the movies), so we decked ourselves out in UWO gear. Idiots.), but it's not a movie that I feel compelled to watch all that often anymore. Maybe it has something to do with my disappointment with Tarantino's career arc post-Pulp, maybe it's because I feel it's revealed to me all it's going to reveal, I dunno. If you told me fifteen years ago that Pulp Fiction would almost be an afterthought to me, I'd be stunned, but here we are.

The snowball scene is unbelievable (Daniels is fantastic there, but full credit to Lauren Holly, who really sells it with that horrified look she throws him after she's been hit, only to burst out laughing a second or two later). Still need to see the Colors trilogy.

Oh, man, you haven't seen Four Weddings and a Funeral? It's worth seeing for the single worst line (and single worst line reading) in history alone ("is it raining? I hadn't noticed"), which, in maybe the biggest upset in movie history, was deemed to be only the third cheesiest movie line in history (you can probably guess the other two) in a 2004 poll.

Mark: I love that Eric Mayr is now officially the Bob Sacamano of our list. That's an interesting tidbit about FWAAF --- I would've expected more from a Richard Curtis script. And that snowball scene just gets better after that, since just when you think that Holly laughing will end things, Daniels is still pissed and then proceeds to chase/tackle her down the hill. (p.s. This scene was a lot less funny in real life 15 years later when Chris Brown re-enacted it with Rihanna.)

1995.....Dead Man Walking: A very well-made film that almost necessitates a post-movie discussion. I like that the film doesn't try to point the viewer in any one direction in regards to the death penalty or whether or not Matthew is 'evil.' It merely presents the viewpoints of Matthew, his family, Sister Helen, the police and the victims' parents and lets us choose. Fun casting notes: An unrecognizable R. Lee Ermey seemingly channeling the look of Jerry Lewis as the dead girl's father, plus a couple of great 'before they were famous' roles for Jack Black (as Sean Penn's brother) and Peter Saarsgaard (as the dead boy).


The American President: Also known as Aaron Sorkin's dress rehearsal for The West Wing. I still have to remind myself that it's Michael Douglas who's the president in the scenes when it's he and Sheen playing pool. This was the 'fifth entry' on the 1995 list, edging out Get Shorty, Clueless, Se7en and Tommy Boy.

Apollo 13: Just an all-around great piece of filmmaking. Could've and should've been the Oscar winner in 1995, as it was clearly the best the nominees, but the inexplicable Ron Howard snub just seemed to kill its momentum dead and opened the door for the overrated Braveheart.

Heat: On the list of great bank robberies in movie history, the 'Heat' heist is right up there with Bonnie & Clyde, Inside Man, Quick Change and Ernest Goes To Jail. A great movie only slightly marred by the fact that a) the atrocious 'Righteous Kill' really takes the shine off of a De Niro/Pacino pairing, and b) pretty much every line of Pacino's dialogue in 'Heat' has been turned into a running joke by my pal Dave. Then again, it's hard to not laugh as a line like "Cause she's got a great ass, and you've got your head all the way up it!"

Toy Story: Not to detract from this movie's quality, since it is a legit classic, but....check this out. Holy crap. Jim Henson 1, Disney/Pixar 0.

Most notable movie(s) I haven't seen: Twelve Monkeys and Casino, though from what I've heard about the movie, the fact that I've seen Goodfellas is good enough.

Kyle: Somewhat amazingly, I haven't seen Dead Man Walking, so I can't comment. Didn't even realize that Peter Saarsgaard was in it (he's terrific--can they please get him to host SNL again? That Cat Fancy-fabulist sketch, which many people, having not seen it, have more or less accused me of making up, was sheer genius). The only pick I really object to is Heat--a movie that, as long as I can remember, has been lavishly praised for reasons beyond comprehension. Aside from the score (fanfuckingtastic) and the heist scene, I simply do not understand the hype. The thing that bothers me the most is that the film's most objectionable element (Pacino and De Niro facing off) is invariably hailed as the film's high point. You allude to the stilted dialogue above, but I feel like I need to excerpt whole chunks of it to reinforce my point:
Vincent Hanna: You know, we are sitting here, you and I, like a couple of regular fellas. You do what you do, and I do what I gotta do. And now that we've been face to face, if I'm there and I gotta put you away, I won't like it. But I tell you, if it's between you and some poor bastard whose wife you're gonna turn into a widow, brother, you are going down.

Neil McCauley: There is a flip side to that coin. What if you do got me boxed in and I gotta put you down? Cause no matter what, you will not get in my way. We've been face to face, yeah. But I will not hesitate. Not for a second.

Me: [groaning]
I'm like 90% convinced that the Homer-George Bush "trouble...for you" back and forth is based on this. As for you: why so down on Braveheart?

The Toy Story thing: wow. Hello, lawsuit.

Mark: 1. Saarsgard is in it for about a minute and doesn't really have any coherent lines, so it's not exactly his big break. It never made sense to me how people could hear a friend relate some funny bit they heard on TV and then respond with "Oh, you're making that up!" Why would they? What's to be gained by giving credit to a TV show for your own material? Why not just tell the joke yourself?

2. Pacino and De Niro are like cosmetics tainted with Smilex gas. They're fine when used apart from each other, but when combined, they're toxic. If they ever re-team for another film, let's hope they're again separated by 40 years like in Godfather II.

3. Braveheart is overrated in the context of an Oscar-winning Best Picture. It's a perfectly good movie on its own, but a Best Picture? Nyet.

4. Not to be morbid, but do you think Pixar waited until Henson was dead to get working on Toy Story since they figured that nobody else would notice?

1996.....Fargo: This was the no-brainer selection of the list, since as much as I love Pulp Fiction, at least Shawshank and Trois Couleurs were in the ballpark for 1994. 'Fargo' is as close as the Coens have come to a perfect movie. There's something for everyone to love --- heck, even my grandmother would like Fargo. She'd enjoy the Canadian-ness of the humour, in spite of the film being made by Americans and set in Minnesota. Ironically, upon the film's initial release, it seemed as if the only people who didn't like it were a small but vocal segment of hardcore Coen fans who claimed the movie was a case of the Coens selling out to mainstream Hollywood. WTF? I don't recall a lot of crime comedies set in Minnesota and featuring guys being fed to wood chippers flooding the multiplexes back in 1996, but my memory is fogging up in my old age. The film was also responsible for one of my favourite film class essay titles ever, when I claimed that Fargo was 'film blanche' (as opposed to film noir). Is it sad that my creative peak came on an 83-percent paper in 2004? Pop quiz: Cuba Gooding Jr. over William H. Macy for best supporting actor in 1996...worst decision in Oscar history? I mean, you could make the argument that Macy's role wasn't actually a supporting role so he shouldn't have been in the category anyway, but Jesus Christ man, there is no way any sober person could possibly look at both roles and give Cuba the thumbs-up.


Hamlet: Kenneth Branagh is one of the hammiest actors going, but his Shakespearian adaptations are as good as they come. This might well be the definitive film version of 'Hamlet' that has ever been made, and it has some of the best set design and art direction you've ever seen, to boot. I love that Branagh was actually nominated for a best adapted screenplay Oscar in spite of the fact that the movie was a 99.8% direct adaptation of Shakespeare's original text. Will Private Ryan fanboys try to claim that the 1998 Best Picture race was actually just a case of a makeup Oscar?

Kingpin: My other three runners-up were pretty clear choices, but 'Kingpin' beat out a number of other good-but-in-some-way-flawed movies (Birdcage, Swingers, Scream, Star Trek: First Contact, Lilies and Trainspotting) for the fifth position. What put Kingpin ahead of these other films? Bill Murray as Big Ern McCracken. Literally every moment he's on-screen is pure gold.

Lone Star: A fantastic, mostly-forgotten film noir/mystery directed by John Sayles and starring Chris Cooper, Kris Kristofferson and Frances McDormand (wow, nice year for Frances). It's the rare film mystery where you can't guess the solution in the first 20 minutes. Hell, you don't even know what the real mystery really is in the first 20 minutes.

The Rock: Hey look, it's Michael Bay's first good movie! Even a broken clock is right twice a day, folks! It's two hours of Nicolas Cage overacting, Sean Connery delivering saucy line after saucy line, and a whole bunch of stuff being blown up. It is awesome. (N.B. Could I have picked a more diverse quintet of films for my 1996 entries?)

Most notable movie(s) I haven't seen: The English Patient, also the most recent Best Picture winner that I haven't seen. I would've seen it long before now were it not for the threatening e-mail I received from Elaine Benes.

Kyle: Fargo is terrific, though I must admit that it was almost ruined for me by the two ladies that sat directly behind me in the theatre that thought Frances McDormand's accent was so hilarious that they laughed at every single thing she said...for two hours. Painful. Thankfully, I caught it on video later...and adored it. The only other snub that comes to mind is Halle Berry's ridiculous performance in Monster's Ball eclipsing Naomi Watts's work in Mulholland Drive (the single best acting performance I've ever seen)...oh, wait, Naomi Watts wasn't nominated for Mulholland Drive. [Bashes head against monitor]

Great call with Hamlet--I'm still not sure how they managed to film that hall of mirrors sequence without us seeing a camera anywhere. It still seems impossible to me. Kingpin, in retrospect, has no business being as funny as it is (how many artifical hand jokes can you make?), but it works every time. Murray's facial expressions during the climactic final match (complete with his hair getting progressively out of control) are timeless. Lone Star (which I really liked) and The Rock (which, aside from the car chase, I did not) in the same sentence, eh? Diverse indeed.

Mark: Note to self, rent Mulholland Drive before we do the 2000 list.

1997.....Jackie Brown: I'm not sure why one gets such relatively little respect or remembrance among Tarantino fans. It's arguably the best display of Tarantino as a filmmaker, as he deftly adapted an Elmore Leonard novel (something that's only been successfully done a few times in Hollywood history) and yet still managed to put his own personal touch on the project. It gets bonus points for reviving the careers of Pam "Inexplicably not nominated for an Oscar" Grier and Robert Forster, and for having one of the more kick-ass soundtracks of recent years.


Chasing Amy: Subtitled in recent years as 'The One Kevin Smith Movie That Isn't Suddenly Dated As Hell.' Kudos to Smith for building up Silent Bob's first big speech over three movies, and then having it pay off as well as it did. Is there a reason why Joey Lauren Adams never became a bigger star? Besides the voice, that is?

L.A. Confidential: As you may have guessed by now, I'm something of a sucker for a good film noir, mystery or crime thriller. Given that L.A.C. is all three, it was a natural inclusion.

Titanic: The movie so big that it had a backlash against it before it even opened, and then its popularity was a backlash against the backlash, and then it became cool to mock its popularity, so there was a backlash against the backlash against the backlash. BUT, over time, I think people finally realize it as being a great movie, so there's Backlash #4. Whew. And that's not even counting the one-man backlash my buddy Trevor has against the film, as he never saw it during its initial release and has subsequently refused to ever watch it.

Wag The Dog: I am 75% convinced that the entire George W. Bush administration was merely an elaborate sequel to this movie. WTD currently holds a notable place in film history as being the last great movie for both Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman.

Most notable movie(s) I haven't seen: Waiting For Guffman. This might be the most inexplicable omission on the entire list. I mean, you could maybe excuse "Schindler's List" on the logic that it's a pretty heavy movie to just casually rent one night or to flip on TV....but what reason is there for not seeing Waiting For Guffman?

Kyle: I haven't agreed with all your picks thus far, but this is the first one I've legitimately hated, because the best thing (by far) about Jackie Brown is the poster. (OK, Forster was pretty good, too. And Bridget Fonda looked great in it.) I just didn't think they're was much to this one, with Tarantino resorting to old techniques (notably: Rashomon-style multiple perspectives), with seriously diminishing returns. Case in point: there's a scene (I think it takes place in the mall parking lot) that QT decides is important enough that we re-visit it three times (well, three times total, so I guess we re-visit it twice), yet we learn absolutely nothing new from these different looks. I found (and find) this infuriating, as it showy for the sake of being showy.

I recall being massively letdown by WTD at the time, but I only watched it the one time, so perhaps I should give it a second chance. No qualms with the other three picks.

wow...Guffman is (as noted) so up your alley, too.

Mark: I enjoy how we're getting into some serious disagreements as we get deeper into the list. We're turning into Siskel & Ebert, except alive and able to speak. [Kyle: (too afraid to say anything)] I think you're exaggerating the 'multiple perspectives' angle, since to my recollection that's the only time it happens in the film. I think it was QT's way of mirroring the fact that Leonard often jumps between different characters' perspectives within scenes in his books, though it's less noticeable there since it's just a jump from one seven-line paragraph to another, not a whole scene change.

Kyle: (1) sorry, the multiple perspective thing only comes up once (didn't mean to imply otherwise), but it's absolutely as unnecessary as I suggested. (2) As for feuding, to quote Mr. Burns: "Well, Simpson, I must say, once you've been through something like that with a person, you never want to see that person again" (you're Simpson in this anecdote, Mark).

Next up: 1998-2003