Saturday, April 30, 2011


1. I'm not a fan of Sofia Coppola's movies, given that they generally eschew characterization, plot and originality in favour of the always-nebulous "style," which is like, 17th on the list of things I'm concerned about in a film. (In fairness, I haven't seen Virgin Suicides, which many feel is her best film.) "Somewhere," following the pattern, looks great is interestingly shot by Harris Savides, but it's as shallow as its characters. The idle rich aren't nearly as interesting as Coppola thinks they are -- or, specifically, idle rich actors not played by Bill Murray aren't as interesting as she thinks they are. The problem with 'Somewhere' is that Stephen Dorff (not a bad actor in his own right) is playing his Johnny Marco character as such a blank slate that it goes beyond the point of the film, which is that this guy is a blank slate. Actually seeing this point played out for 110 minutes gets pretty dang dry.

2. Directing/sequencing was a bad idea to put the stripper twins' two dance routines and then Cleo's skating routine so close to each other. Yeah, I get the idea was to contrast them, but three elongated performances more or less all in a row really gets the film off to a slow start.

3. Who was Johnny's buddy that randomly shows up and seemingly has more charisma than anyone in the film?

4. Dorff and Elle Fanning had great father/daughter chemistry, so much so that I may have missed the point that their relationship was also supposed to be hollow. For instance, the scene where he has the hotel musician sing Cleo to sleep to a cover of Elvis Presley's "Teddy Bear." I thought that was just delightful, and a case of when Johnny's celebrity could provide his daughter with a unique experience. The movie's ending, however, seems to imply otherwise. I feel like Coppola's argument would be that Johnny should be singing lullabies himself, rather than farming the task out to a relative stranger. Likewise, Johnny's "I'm worthless" breakdown on the phone with Cleo's mother. I took it as Johnny realizing that he's only a real person with his daughter, but given how that scene followed a sign of some pretty shoddy parenting (Cleo breaks down in tears over her mom and Johnny's only reaction is to take her to Vegas), I feel I missed the point. This and stuff like Johnny's string of one-night stands certainly underscore the fact that Johnny ain't winning any Father Of The Year trophies, but Dorff and Fanning share so much joy in each other's presence that either it clouds the film's argument, or I'm just a terrible film analyst, and we all know that certainly can't be the case! *coughs*

5. The ending was laughable. Like, really, really bad. If I'd liked the rest of the movie, the ending was bad enough that it would've instantly ruined things. SPOILER ALERT -- Johnny is disgusted with himself and his life, so he checks out of his posh hotel, starts driving out into the country, parks his Ferrari by the side of a dirt road, gets out and just strolls away grinning. End of movie. The "he's giving up his Hollywood lifestyle!" idea could not have been underlined in a lazier, more obvious fashion. This ending failed on both a metaphorical and literal level; if Johnny really wanted to make a change, he could've just donated his car to charity. Or he could've given the car to a lovable tramp, with hilarious consequences.

6. The only highlight of 'Somewhere' was the fact that I saw it in Toronto's awesome Royal Theatre. This place is fantastic. It's a classic, old-school cinemahouse that's been around since the 30's. I highly recommend seeing a film at the Royal whenever you can, even if it's a self-indulgent movie directed by nepotism's poster child. Cheers to the Royal! Jeers to 'Somewhere' and this rusty tailgate!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

UFC 129 Predictions

* Vladimir Matyushenko over Jason Brilz, decision
We start with a complaint, since I've got to wonder why this fight is on the main card. This is bound to be a ground-control/stand-against-the-cage affair that promises to be uninteresting at best, dull at the worst. (Prove me wrong, guys!) There is no reason why this should be on the PPV card while a guaranteed slugfest like Diaz/MacDonald or a submission war like Roberts/Patrick is relegated to the pre-show. This is Brilz's first match since he was jobbed out in a decision to Rogerio Nogueira last May, so I'll use his long layoff as an excuse to pick the Janitor.

* Jose Aldo over Mark Hominick, TKO, R2
I had a chance to meet Mark Hominick last week, shake his hand and wish him luck on his upcoming title shot. While my wishes were genuine (he's a London boy, after all), I couldn't help but think in my head, "Brother, you are in for a world of hurt." Jose Aldo is 24 and already getting buzz as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. The phrase 'young Anderson Silva' has been tossed around. It's an interesting mirror to the main event --- whereas GSP is the overwhelming favourite AND he has the hometown advantage, Hominick is the overwhelming underdog BUT he has the hometown advantage. And, for as good as Aldo is, he wouldn't be the first allegedly-unbeatable fighter that's been proven to be human. So even though I'm picking Aldo just cuz, a Hominick victory wouldn't be a total stunner.

* Lyoto Machida over Randy Couture, KO, R2
Hey, speaking of allegedly-unbeatable fighters, here's Lyoto Machida! After 'winning' over Shogun Rua in a very dicey decision, getting KTFO by Rua in the rematch and then losing a controversial decision of his own to Rampage Jackson, Machida is in bad need of a victory here. There is no reason in the world he should lose to Randy Couture, a man 15 years his senior and a guy who really doesn't bring anything to the table that really threatens Machida. Couture's best chance is if he can hold Machida against the cage for two rounds and then survive the third to win a decision, but while Rampage did this last November, Rampage also had the chin to survive a couple of big shots from Machida. I'm not sure Couture has the same. Couture has announced that this will be his last fight (pause here for a grain of salt) and it would be admittedly pretty incredible if he could go a winner after pulling off one more huge upset. I just don't think it'll happen.

* Ben Henderson over Mark Bocek, submission, R3
This is one of the darkhorses for Fight Of The Night honours. Two really good submission guys, going toe-to-toe, and it's a good measuring post to see just how good Ben Henderson is. When last we saw Bendo, he getting a jawful of Anthony Pettis' foot in perhaps the best MMA highlight of all time. Now we can see how good this guy is against UFC competition and a tough guy like Bocek, one of those classic gatekeeper-type fighters. Maybe I'm just feeling sympathy for Henderson to rebound and be something more than Anthony Pettis' victim, but I think he has enough to overcome Bocek and his hometown cheering section.

* Georges St. Pierre over Jake Shields, decision
Shields winning would be probably the biggest letdown of all time, in anything. Yes, this includes the Great Depression. Millions of unemployed, starving people and a massive economic collapse < a guy losing a prizefight. Fortunately, GSP is awesome and I genuinely can't see any way that Shields can win this. St. Pierre is the better striker, wrestler, submission artist and French-speaker, though that fourth thing probably won't come into play. Shields has no chance. He *deserves* a title shot since he's won his last 15 fights (in both the middleweight and welterweight divisions) and hasn't lost since 2004, but it's a sign of just how dominant GSP is that despite Shields' impressive record, nobody is giving him a snowball's chance in hell.

The interesting next step will be what comes next for St. Pierre. Anderson Silva is scheduled to defend the MW belt in Rio in August against Yushin Okami, so once Silva takes him out, that technically clears the path for the much-rumoured GSP/Silva superfight. Since Georges has said that he needs time to properly put on weight to move up a division, would he take most of the year off and aim for a Silva fight on Super Bowl weekend in February, or could GSP face, say, Nick Diaz in August? That'd still give him six months to bulk up in prep for Anderson. GSP has pretty much cleaned his division out so it's not like there's any real threat looming (even Diaz is just the king of the minor leagues), and as much as I'd like to see him fight regularly, I can certainly understand his wanting to be in prime form if he's going to try to knock off the unstoppable Anderson Silva. We'll see.

* Jake Ellenberger over Sean Pierson, decision
* John Makdessi over Kyle Watson, decision
* Charlie Valencia over Ivan Menjivar, decision
* Daniel Roberts over Claude Patrick, submission, R3
* Jason MacDonald over Ryan Jensen, submission, R2
* Rory MacDonald over Nate Diaz, decision
* Pablo Garza over Yves Jabouin, KO, R3

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bill Murray, Golfing

It's only April, but I'm not sure if any sports story from 2011 will top Bill Murray winning....hey wait a second, the PACKERS WON THE SUPER BOWL!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Restart. It's only April, but other than THE PACKERS WINNING THE SUPER BOWL, I'm not sure if any sports story will top Bill Murray winning the Pebble Beach Pro-Am last February. For non-golf fans, the Pebble Beach tournament pairs together a pro with an amateur player (a celebrity or a business mogul) for three rounds, with the top 25 or so pairs making it to the final round on Sunday. The pros are playing their own individual tournament alongside this, and their scores are added to those of the amateur partners (with some handicap stuff factored in, I believe) with the lowest score winning the team event.

And this year, Bill Murray actually won. Murray has been a highlight of the Pebble Beach tournament for years, due to his unique combination of both intensely caring and respecting the sport of golf and completely not giving a shit what people think of him. He'll do stuff like buying ice cream bars for his entire gallery, or dance with fans in sand traps, and some of the stick-in-the-mud pros have actually asked to not be grouped with Murray for fear of being distracted by these antics. One pro, though, actually requested Murray as a partner -- D.A. Points, a youngster from Illinois, who grew up a huge Murray fan and embraced the challenge of playing alongside him.

As it happened, they were a perfect match. Points had the week of his life and picked up his first PGA Tour victory. Murray, a very solid golfer but never really a threat in this tournament, played some spectacular golf himself and even played a role in Points' victory, with his jokes helping keep Points calm down the stretch. Murray, ever the class act, deflected attention during the post-round interviews, preferring to keep the focus on Points winning his first event.

In short, Bill Murray = awesome guy. This has been a very long preamble to a link about 30 very entertaining pictures of Murray on the golf course. These could all be stills from a Wes Anderson movie set -- you know a guy is a legendary comedian when even a picture of him just standing there looks funny.

Some of the highlights....

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Out-Of-Context Texts In My Phone Inbox, Volume XIV

Texts! Anonymous! Brevity!

"I want our team name to be 'The Frogurt Is Also Cursed.' "

"You MET Harry Crane !?!"

"Fuck yeah!"

"Finally getting around to watching The Other Guys. Pretty fucking funny. Good call."

"Hey -- no trivia tonight. I bailed and Jen and Jon soon followed."

"Yeah, I answered but didn't hear anything. But no!! Sadly neither of those days work. Beyond insanely busy lately."

"Fam in front of us left if you need to snake a seat."


"In cab!!! Getting Ryan"

"Hey, just leaving my place, be there a bit after 7. Gladstone has food, right?"

"My co-workers can't join the league because of the settings. I sent you a note on Facebook."

"That's amazing!"

"Your buddy in?"

"For tonight?"

"Ju around today, mang?"

"Yeah, apparently it's not a great idea to take four courses and work full time? Going on vacay May 1, back after that with only ft work. So then."


"Amazing, be there soon"

"A fight just broke out in my section. Stay classy, home opener."

"You back in London for Easter?"

"Ok....up a goal and a man with 20 or so to exactly will City blow this? Own goal? Cheap penalty? Two injury time goals? So many options!!"

"Word. See you on the Google then."

"I don't know you"

"K. Will try to get there as early as I can"

"Hey, got a message from you on my answering machine. I was just wondering if it was news? i.e. recent?"

"WE WON!!!"

"Video chat then? If yes then just text with a time (EST) that works for you."

"Hey, are yous up for trivia tomorrow?"

"Fucking bus -- two minutes"

"I mean box office"

"Rodriguez from VCU = Mexican Dave Lee"

"Hey. I'm in. Hang tight. I'm on my way. From the office."

"Purple Monkey Dishwasher II: Hitler's Revenge....Again"

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Royal Weeding

"What is a wedding? Webster's Dictionary defines a wedding as 'the process of removing weeds from one's garden.' " -- Homer Simpson

With less than a week away until the royal wedding, it's starting to look like I'm not getting an invite. I just don't understand it. Could the prince have been using E-vite instead of a formal letter through the post? E-vites generally get slotted into my junk mail, so it's possible it was missed that way, but come on, I've seen "The King's Speech." We all know the royal family has a long tradition of being afraid of technology. King George was afraid of a radio, and Prince William is probably terrified of computers. He saw the Terminator films as a young lad and believed them to be true. Given how it was "SkyNet Day" just last week (i.e. the day in the Terminator mythos when SkyNet gains sentience and launches a nuclear assault on humanity), perhaps William thought the machines' attack would actually happen, hence his late scheduling of the wedding. "What's that Kate? You won't sleep with me until we're engaged? Hmm...okay, then let's get engaged! Yeah, that's the ticket! And we'll have the wedding anytime after April 21, 2011. Heh heh, it's the perfect crime! No, there isn't any particular reason I'm tenting my fingers."

But anyway, the royal wedding. I'm apparently not going. This pisses me off. Firstly, as a member of the extended Commonwealth, don't I have a right to be in attendance? Some might argue that no venue could possibly hold every person in the world that lives in a Commonwealth country, but to this I say Maple Leaf Gardens is available. Secondly, I was expecting an invite due to my personal history with Prince William. That's right, this has all been an elaborate preamble to some AMATEUR DREAM ANALYSIS!!!!!!!!1111

DREAM: I'm at the Tower of London, touring around the place with my mother. Who else should happen to be at the Tower that day but Prince William himself, accompanied by a couple of bodyguards as he joins our tour group like a garden-variety commoner. Suddenly, our group is taken hostage by a pack of apparent domestic terrorists, bent on taking the prince hostage within the Tower itself. The bodyguards are quickly dispatched (not sure if they were killed or what) but all 12-15 of us in this tour group are led at gunpoint into a side room and left to ourselves.

Immediately the prince stands up and apologizes for all of us getting mixed up in this situation, and then pulls a gun from under his jacket. "Fortunately, I have military training." He then produces a second gun that he tosses I should note, everyone else in this tour group is either north of 60 years old or south of 10 years old. "Do you know how to use a pistol?" "Uh, sure?" The prince then leads us out the door of the room, carefully looking out for the terrorists as we creep down a hallway. The tour group makes it to a door at the end of the hall, and we're surprised to learn that this door leads us right outside the Tower area and into a throng of concerned citizens and gawkers, since news of the hostage situation is all over the BBC. Our escape is greeted with a big cheer, and after firing a few celebratory rounds in the air (WTF?), Prince William gives me a hearty handshake and my mother asks for his autograph.

ANALYSIS: Okay, for starters, yes, this seems like a spec script that's missing both a second and third act. I'm glad Hans Gruber and his crew didn't just up and leave halfway through Die Hard, allowing Holly McClane to just escort her co-workers down the elevator and out the front door, or else that movie would've sucked. I mean, the terrorists just LEAVE? Where'd they go? Did MI-5 send in a team of assassins to slaughter them elsewhere in the Tower, and the MI-5 gang just forgot about actually rescuing the hostages, one of whom was the heir to the throne? Did the terrorists celebrate their successful hostage-taking by cracking over a case of beer and drunkenly forgetting the rest of their plan? Or maybe there was no second step to the plan -- they got the prince and some civilians into a room, and suddenly realized they had no demands or a way to get out alive. (Step one: kidnap the prince. Step two: ???? Step three: profit!) Also, I should mention that these terrorists were also just your garden-variety caucasian British blokes, so my subconscious is very politically-correct. Maybe they were Guy Ritchie gangsters; that would explain the lack of follow-through, since none of those guys' plans ever go right.

I have, in fact, actually been to the Tower of London. My mother and I indeed visited the place together while on vacation in England in 2004. The 'Tower' isn't really a tower, but rather a fort-type of enclosure, and it's well worth a visit if you're ever in London (though, we were out of there in, like, maybe two hours tops). I had a good enough time that I certainly didn't think about how the afternoon could be spiced up by a random kidnapping.

Also from real life: my mother loves autographs. In the late 1980's, while in the Dallas airport with her Sweet Adelines group, she noticed a group of very tall men making their way through the terminal. She asked one of the guys if they belonged to a basketball team, and yes, in fact, they did. This fellow was even nice enough to sign her program. The player? LARRY BIRD. My mum is no big basketball fan, but this was the late-80's! How could you not immediately recognize Larry Bird?! I think this one takes the cake, though there was also the time my family were all in an elevator in a Toronto hotel....(I've told this story before)...

[My mother] is also the woman who, on an elevator ride with a long-haired degenerate and a young boy who was clearly excited by the presence of this degenerate, asked "Excuse me, are you someone famous? Could you sign my autograph book?" The long-hair grunted and signed, and then got off on the next floor. The excited kid then yelled "You didn't know who that was? That was the Renegade!" Crickets chirped. After we got off the elevator, my mother asked the front desk if anyone famous was staying at the hotel, and in fact, the star of the Renegade TV series, Lorenzo Lamas, was checked in.

So yeah, whether you're Larry Bird, Lorenzo Lamas or anyone else on the celebrity fame ladder, you'll get hit up for an autograph. The prince of the Britons is no exception. Surely my mother could have waited for longer than five minutes from safety before bugging this surely somewhat-traumatized prince for a signature, but that's not how she rolls. There's nothing really wrong about this, per se, it's just a never-ending source of amusement.

Since the whole point of this post is about why I'm not going to the royal wedding, I should probably get around to the presence of Prince William in this dream. While I'm admittedly an anglophile, I don't have anything but a general historical interest in the royal family and the history of the British monarchy. If I could be guaranteed that the real-life kings and queens were as awesome as Shakespeare's versions of them, I might be more keen. I mean, Richard III wasn't even actually a hunchback! Come on, historical fact! Throw me a bone here! Frankly, I think this is less a psychological insight into my brain than it is a reflection of all these goddamn TV ads I've been seeing about the wedding. I even like Tracey Ullman, but I have to see her blasted CTV "I'm your guide to the royal wedding!" commercial again, I'm going to lose it.

So, here are the lessons my subconscious is telling me...

1) my greatest flaw as a writer is my consistent inability to come up with decent endings to stories
2) I want to be a hero, but don't really want to do anything too risky to achieve that status. So, basically, carrying a gun through an empty hallway and never having to use it is the perfect scenario
3) even fictional versions of my mother have no qualms about asking for an autograph in a possibly inappropriate moment
4) CTV, always on the cutting edge of pop culture, hires a comedienne who hasn't had a hit in at least 10 years
5) Prince William and I would apparently get along great if we ever met, which is all the more reason I should be invited to this wedding. I'd work my way up to groomsman status in no time. Odds are I can even parlay this into a dukedom, or perhaps even a lordship.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The 30-Day Movie Challenge, Part 1

The "30 Day Movie Challenge" is a Facebook meme that requires you to answer 30 film-related questions, one per day, all in the form of posting a picture from said film on your FB wall or within a photo album. Instead, I will disregard the format of this meme and simply answer the questions in straight-up text style in groups of five, since my search for blog content is neverending. Hmm, is that a hint that The Neverending Story will be an entry? Stay tuned!

(Credit to one of my ex-film and english profs, Chris Lockett, for passing this meme along.)

1. Current Favourite Movie
Pulp Fiction. This title basically ping-pongs between two choices (the other I'll surely cover later in this series), and since I've seen Pulp Fiction more recently, it gets to wear the belt for the time being. Fun side note: I was inspired to watch PF again thanks to the recent homage on an episode of 'Community.'

2. Favourite Cartoon Movie
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Okay, so it's not *entirely* a cartoon, but come on. Any film that features Mickey Mouse trading quips with Bugs Bunny, plus Donald and Daffy Duck trying to one-up each other in a piano bar surely qualifies. Also...Judge Doom's "transformation" (for lack of a better term) was one of the scariest scenes of my childhood. "Remember me, Eddie? When I killed your brother I talked just....LIKE.....THISSSSSSS!"

3. Last Movie You Saw In Theatres
Your Highness. Sigh. Well, in my defense, it was a slow afternoon, and I had a free movie owed to me via my SCENE card. It was also recommended by my friend Dave, but about five minutes into the previews, I suddenly remembered that Dave is the guy I've often described as the Aficionado Of Shitty Movies. Anyway, 'Your Highness' wasn't entirely terrible, but for a spoof of medieval adventure movies, most of the film is played pretty straight. Virtually all of the comedy comes from Danny McBride, so if you find him funny, you'll like the movie, but while I'm a McBride fan from the hilarious Eastbound & Down, even my pro-McBride stance wasn't enough for me.

4. A Movie From Your Childhood
Fantasia. I'll take a page from Chris' book and cite a film that isn't one of my childhood favourites, per se, but rather just one that brings back a strong childhood memory. 'Fantasia' gets the nod since I saw it about a half-dozen times as a kid, and every time I watched it, I couldn't help but think that it was THE MOST BORING FUCKING MOVIE EVER MADE. It taught me that a cartoon could be bad. I saw it again for a high school music class and wondered if seeing it with more mature eyes would finally make me realize its innovative mixture of classical music and anim NOPE, STILL BORING AS SIN.

5. Favourite Musical
Singin' In The Rain. Nuff said.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

NBA Playoff Picks

Since the NBA didn't launch a half-witted marketing gimmick this year, I'm forced to base these predictions based nothing more than my own basketball knowledge. Ergo, these won't possibly be correct.

* Spurs over Grizzlies, in six
My buddy Trev is a Spurs fan, and I was thinking a framed Tim Duncan jersey would be a cool birthday gift. One problem -- Trev isn't *that* big of a Spurs fan. He doesn't actively seek out their games, wear their gear, use 'GinobiliDawg' as his e-mail password, etc. And a framed Duncan jersey would cost a fair bit of scratch. Is it worth it? I mean, it is Tim Duncan, arguably the most fascinating athlete of the last 15 years. He's just so NORMAL. It's awesome. If you had to pick any pro athlete to babysit your kids, Duncan is pretty much the only choice, right? Anyway, San Antonio will win this series.

* Thunder over Nuggets, in five
Doesn't "Thunder Nuggets" sound like it should be some sort of euphemism for sex, or vomit, or both? It seems like Denver's euphoric post-Carmelo run has run out of gas, which leaves up against a team that's just straight-up better. Oklahoma City gets the nod here.

* Mavericks over Trail Blazers, in seven
Crazy tidbit from a recent Bill Simmons NBA playoffs podcast: the Mavericks and Lakers haven't met in the playoffs since 1988. Even though these two teams have been West powerhouses for over a decade, they've inexplicably never hooked up in the postseason. This almost seems impossible. Frankly, I think this streak should end just for probability's sake. A lot of people are picking Portland as a trendy upset, but with the NFL season in jeopardy, the poor folks in Dallas need some kind of a pick-me-up.

* Lakers over Hornets, in four
Here's why I never really got into the NBA all that much: the underdogs never win. Basketball, more than any other sport, can be dominated by one or two teams for long stretches. In every other sport, crazy playoff upsets happen all the time, but in the NBA, you only see a genuinely big upset maybe once per decade, and even then, it isn't a BIG upset. I bring this up since unless Kobe, Gasol, Bynum, Odom and Phil Jackson all suffer a Springfield Nuclear Power Plant softball team-esque series of calamities, the Hornets don't have a goddamn chance in this series. If you're a New Orleans fan, there is no way you can fool yourself into thinking your team has a shot. This isn't true in other sports -- hell, I'm just a couple of weeks removed from thinking the Maple Leafs had a chance at the #8 seed and a first-round upset of the Capitals. I had it all laid out in my head, basically James Reimer was going to turn into Patrick Roy circa 1986....

* Heat over 76ers, in five
...and he'd just go nuts in the playoffs. Ovechkin would choke again, and after the Leafs shocked the Caps, they'd take out the Bruins (with Phil Kessel scoring the winner in every game), upset the Penguins in the conference finals and then deal the Canucks yet another Finals heartbreak and capture the most improbable Stanley Cup of all time. This was a perfectly legit fantasy! All it needed was the Leafs to be a much better hockey team than they actually were. Anyway, I kept rambling on about this nonsense since here's anther no-hoper of a series. As fun as it would be to see the Heat just completely immolate in a pressure game, it ain't happening here.

* Celtics over Knicks, in six
The LeBron James free agent sweepstakes ended up being pretty much entirely obnoxious, but the second-most obnoxious moment (after The Decision itself) was the insistence from the New York media that LeBron somehow owed it to himself and to the league to try and "bring the Knicks back to glory." Um, sorry, the Knicks are a lousy franchise. Two titles, none since 1973. A decade of pure incompetence under James Dolan and Isiah Thomas. A brief revival in the 90's based on the single most unattractive brand of basketball known to man, and easily stopped by a team with actual talent (i.e. the Bulls). And...that's it. The Knicks are the Golden State Warriors with better marketing. Screw the Knicks. Let's hope Boston sweeps them.

* Bulls over Pacers, in five
Also from that Simmons podcast...apparently Derrick Rose recently gave an interview where he said that he was creeped out by clowns. This has spawned a brief movement by some Pacers fans to show up at games 3 and 4 dressed as, you guessed it, creepy clowns. I'm hoping for 18,000 Hoosiers all showing up in It or Joker outfits, simply because it would be the most interesting moment in Pacers history. I'll even give the Pacers a win because during one of those games in Indianapolis, Rose will just collapse at midcourt, muttering "Can't sleep, clown'll eat me" over and over.

* Magic over Hawks, in five
This is also the series where you find the clear demarcation line between the Western and Eastern conferences. If Atlanta was in the West, do they even make the bracket? Hell, the Magic might even have a tough time, since Dwight 'Force Of Nature' Howard can only do so much.

* Thunder over Spurs, in seven
OOOOOHH, well, this is where it gets interesting. Young vs. old, model franchise of the present vs. model franchise of the last 15 years, point guard who cheated on Eva Longoria vs. point guard who to my knowledge has never dated a Desperate Housewives cast member, power forward you'd trust your kids with vs. power forward who you wouldn't leave your kids with since he's a stranger but he still seems like a nice dude.....this series has it all. Spurs run out of gas, Thunder take it. "ThunderSpurs" sounds like a really lame country-western bar.

* Lakers over Mavericks, in six
Well, here's the long-awaited L.A./Dallas series! Now the Mavs can choke to a whole new opponent! Let's take a moment to discuss Kobe Bryant. Over the last two years, the Lakers' title wins have been Kobe's way of showing LeBron that he's still the top dog in the NBA. But now, Kobe is just so competitive that he can't even let LeBron enjoy the niche as the NBA's most disliked player. No, Kobe just had to toss in a homophobic slur and manage to trump James yet again. Oh, that Bryant!

* Celtics over Heat, in six
There's been a lot made from Boston fans about how trading Kendrick Perkins robbed the Celtics of their necessary toughness and forced the team to rely on the Magical Injured O'Neals at center. This is all probably true, and it's why I don't think Boston will win the title. (Also: the team is a combined 8895 years old.) But even without Perkins, the Celtics still have enough grit to deal out some humiliation to these upstarts that thought they could win a championship with three guys. Or, two guys and Chris Bosh. I'm not sure how the 10-day contract rule applies in the NBA playoffs, but is it possible for the Celtics to sign Delonte West for this series just so West can sit on the bench and wave at LeBron? Or, if West tore tights with Gloria James' face spray-painted on them, like Ravishing Rick Rude in his feud with Jake "The Snake Roberts." The NBA is pretty much to WWE anyway, why not embrace it?

* Bulls over Magic, in six
Dwight Howard is basically the new-age David Robinson -- great center, but kinda limited and too darn nice of a guy to carry a team to a title. Now, the good thing about this comparison is that as we saw with San Antonio, there is an easy solution. All the Magic have to do is draft a guy that ends up being the best power forward of all time. Simple as that! Surely a player like that will still be available with, like, the 20th pick or whatever Orlando has. While I mentioned the draft, I'm predicting the Raptors will win the lottery simply because the 2011 draft is supposed to be terrible. The last time the draft was this bad was in 2006...when Toronto also had the first pick and took Andrea Bargnani. Ugh. The Raptors are cursed.

* Lakers over Thunder, in six
You have no idea how much I want to take Oklahoma City here, but it's the Lakers. Remember what I said earlier about how upsets don't happen in the NBA? San Antonio may be the #1 seed, but everyone knows the path through the West goes through L.A. By now I've learned to just not pick against these guys. Phil Jackson will think up something, Kobe will go nuts, Kobe will have an awful game and Gasol will pick up the slack, the ghost of George Mikan will go all Paranormal Activity on Kevin Durant....something will happen, and the Lakers will win. Again.

* Bulls over Celtics, in seven
The seeds for this one were planted in 2009 when these two teams had that surprising, awesome, war of a seven-game series in the first round that Boston narrowly won. Now the Bulls are older, a bit more mature, and Derrick Rose has "bloomed" (original joke!) into one of the best players in the NBA. Boston, meanwhile, is a bit older, a bit more beaten-up, and they have that aforementioned lack of depth at center. The Celtics give it all they have, but in the end, Chicago firmly establishes itself as the new power in the East.

* Bulls over Lakers, in seven
Ok, well, remember what I said about the Lakers always winning? Even my black heart can't go all the way and pick Los Angeles to win another soul-deadening NBA championship. Maybe if Kobe hadn't been a moron and busted out the F-bomb last week I could've picked them, but nope, screw the Lakers. Chicago continues its quietly great recent sports history and wins another title, on the 20-year anniversary of Michael Jordan's first championship...when the Bulls beat the Lakers in the finals. Ah, poetry.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

SNL's Celebrity Jeopardy Sketches -- All Of Them

NBC usually cracks down on Saturday Night Live material being shown online, but an exception has been made for Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's Funny Or Die website, which has posted all of the legendary 'Celebrity Jeopardy' sketches. (Splitsider has helpfully archived all of them here.)

I've posted the Sean Connery/Hilary Swank/Keanu Reeves sketch here since at the moment, it's the one I found the funniest. Had I made this post even 10 minutes later, my opinion might change. There is no wrong answer.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Stanley Cup Picks

Check out my predictions from the start of the season. Not too shabby! Uh, aside from picking New Jersey to be second in the East. And picking the Leafs to make the playoffs. And picking the Avalanche and Flames for the West bracket. But the rest was all super! Surely that means you can bet your child's college education on these predictions! And if they end up being wrong, well, don't worry. Between you and me, I always thought your kid was a little slow. You can still get him into Brock.

My preseason pick of Pittsburgh over Vancouver is still alive and well, but what's the fun in that? Besides, I made that choice before Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin had their respective brain and knee explode. So, I'm going to predict this year's Stanley Cup winner in the most well-reasoned, logical, hockey skill-based way I predicting the winners based on NHL Guardian fights.

* Blackhawks over Canucks
The Blackhawk is basically Iron Man and he can control wind. The Canuck is kinda, sorta like Aquaman, and he can control rain and has a shape-shifting cloak. Yeah, I've got to take Iron Man in this one. The Canuck might be able to summon whales to help him, but I'm guessing a whale might not stand up to, like, a guided missile. Plus, the Blackhawk can just blow the rain right back at him. Now, I know you're stunned to think of the Canucks coming up short in the playoffs, but let's be honest, their Guardian deserves it for ripping his name off from another superhero. The REAL Captain Canuck shows up to give the Blackhawk an assist, leaving the Canuck crying in his latte.

* Red Wings over Coyotes, The Coyote can summon cactus quills and actual coyotes from within his coat. So let's see, the quills will just bounce off The Red Wing's armour while the coyotes will be literal road kill against a guy who's basically a human motorcycle. Possible x-factor: the Coyote can "conjure up the spirits of the earth and his ancestors in order to get advice as well as to get help when needed." This could be a good thing since the Red Wing is "not much for reacting and improvising is not his strength" (why would you publicize that?), but would the Coyote's mystical powers be of much help? His ancestors wouldn't offer much beyond OH SHIT, RUN FROM THE GIANT CAR/PLANE GUY! and the spirits of the earth have been trying for years to eradicate Detroit, with no success.

* Predators over Ducks
Kind of a weak matchup here, since neither The Predator (or, 'Pred' to his buddies) or The Duck are exactly the roughest of the Guardian crew. Presuming this fight takes place on neutral ground (i.e. not near water), you've got a guy in a duck-themed bio suit against a giant titanium cat-man hybrid with claws that can cut through steel. So yeah, goodbye steel bio suit. Also, don't sleep on the Predator's power of being able to spit radioactive plasma. Nobody wants to wake up to a wad of plasma in their eye.

* Kings over Sharks
Tough fight. The King is armed with a force field-generating shield, an earthquake-inducing sword, and has almost certainly fucked Drew Barrymore. The Shark can mentally control computer technology, has superhuman senses, has a gang of sharks to help him fight, and HAS THE HEAD OF A SHARK HIMSELF. You can see this battle played out daily at your local high school if a drama kid ever takes on a computer studies kid. Who wins? The King, naturally. "Mark, is this related to your taking five years of high school drama class?" No! It's also because of the fact that I've spent my life trying and failing to get this "Mark The Shark" nickname off the ground. Screw you, Sharks. Screw you, Sharks. You're no match for the King and his earthquakes and Hollywood buddies and Alexei Ponikarovsky!

* Lightning over Penguins
Electrical powers and being able to move at the speed of light easily trumps "a set of Penguin-like wings attached to his arms" Yeahhh, this one is a blowout. Seriously, the Penguin will literally get blown out of his own skeleton thanks to 100,000 volts of electricity.

* Capitals over Rangers
This one is also over pretty quickly. The Capital possesses the power of shape-shifting, so he simply morphs himself to resemble Joe Namath. The Ranger is starstruck, leaving an opening for the Capital to get close and unleash a sonic scream right in the Ranger's (probably cauliflowered) ear. Alternate strategy: the Capital uses his power of languages to bust out some, I dunno, Czech. Since the Ranger "loves meeting people from other parts of the world," he goes to say hello and inquire about hotel rooms in Prague, then it's sonic scream time, baby.

* Bruins over Canadiens
Ah, this one is interesting. Given The Canadien's "power absorption", you'd think he'd be the clear favourite in any matchup, right? Well, this is where The Bruin's weak-ass powerset is actually a boon. The Canadien copies Bruin's power, but then is overwhelmed by the sheer wall of stench that hits his nostrils due to the Bruin's super-sense of smell. Remember, the Canadien is French -- he'd be taken aback by a slightly-off wine, so he's certainly not up to handling the odour of everything in the vicinity, times 100. The Bruin, meanwhile, gets himself a boost by the Canadien's "power augmentation" ability that allows him to enhance his fellow Guardians' abilities. This seems like kind of a crappy, self-defeating power for the Canadien, sort of like how insisting that your head coach be French-Canadian prevents you from hiring the best person for the job. But hey, this is just a battle of comic book heroes. Nobody would put such a dumb, self-imposed impediment on themselves in real life!

* Flyers over Sabres
So rather than being some kind of swashbuckling swordsman, The Sabre is a guy made of water. I've read enough of Spider-Man's adventures against Hydro-Man back in the day to realize that the best way to beat a guy made of water is with electricity. So, The Flyer can use mind control to keep Sabre in place for a few minutes, perhaps by asking him to recount the unfairness of Brett Hull's crease goal in the 1999 Cup Finals. While Sabre is belly-aching, the Flyer simply uses his telekinetic powers to detach the nearest electrical wire and bring it on over to give the Sabre a nasty zap. Then the Flyer shares a hearty laugh with his "pet titanium eagle," which I presume is named Bernie.

* Kings over Predators
Titanium claws and radioactive spittle? No problem against a guy who has a forcefield. The King starts up an earthquake that leaves the Predator unconscious, or perhaps just dazedly singing a Vince Gill song. The King laughs and then heads out clubbing with Scarlett Johansson. By this point, I'm basically just pretending the King is Stephen Dorff's character from "Somewhere."

* Blackhawks over Red Wings
Ooh, another upset. Both guys have basically the same powerset, except the Blackhawk has that added bonus of controlling the wind. When in doubt, always give the edge to a guy with weather powers. A badly-timed breeze can mess up someone's day. Like one time in grade school when I was looking over my big six-page presentation about fossils when a sudden gust blew my project out of my hands and I had to scamper around the schoolyard, grabbing at stray pages while the other kids pointed and laughed. If you'll excuse me, I need to phone my therapist, Dr.....WIND! *plot twist*

* Lightning over Capitals
Having never seen the movie 'Bird On A Wire,' I presume it doesn't actually involve a scene of a bird getting fried to death by sitting on an exposed electrical wire. We'll make up for that oversight by having the Lightning just fry up ol' Beaky, creating a delightful chicken smell over the greater Washington area. Speaking able to speak, say, Slovakian doesn't help much when you're facing a living electric spark.

* Flyers over Bruins
Thanks to the Bruin's sense of smell, he'll be able to realize just how screwed he actually is. Having a "petrifying roar" doesn't help much against a guy who can just fly out of range of said roar. Hell, Bernie The Titanium Eagle stands a decent chance against the Bruin on his own. (And shouldn't the Capital be pissed that it's the Flyer, not him, who gets an eagle sidekick?) The Bruin takes a sound beating, and then retires to become an air cargo pilot in a remake of TaleSpin.

* Blackhawks over Kings
Once again, the wind power. Blackhawk stays in the air to avoid the King's latest earthquake, but thanks to the shield/forcefield, Blackhawk can't lay a hand on his cocky adversary. Finally, Blackhawk reaches into his bag of tricks and fires up a gust of wind that either blows the toupee off the King's head or merely presses his skin so firmly against his face that it undoes his Botox and reveals that the youthful King is actually as wrinkled as a modern-day Josh Brolin. Scandalized, the King shrieks and runs away to the nearest salon.

* Lightning over Flyers
This is an interesting battle of mental powers against physical powers, since the Flyer's power of suggestion could be a big weapon against his much more powerful foe. However, if I remember my comics correctly, having electrical powers also gives you some degree of resistance against mental coercion, since the brain runs on electrical impulses (or some such comic-book science gobbledlygook). So while the Flyer tries to convince the Lightning to take a break, relax and agree that Bobby Clarke was a good general manager, the Lightning ain't gonna fall for it.

* Lightning over Blackhawks
And finally, here we are. The Stanley Cup final. I've gone this far in championing the incredibly-powerful Lightning, so why stop here. A little bit of a breeze won't stop the Lightning from sending a few thousands volts through the Blackhawk and ending his surprisingly strong defense of the championship. The Lightning wins the Cup and gets bragging rights in the Guardians' fortress until next spring. Bonus prediction! If Tampa Bay actually does manage to win the Stanley Cup, then I will literally kick myself for not putting a few bucks down on this ridiculous prognostication method.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Hot! Live! Music! (Aborted U2 Album Edition)

So surprise surprise, U2 isn't releasing anything in the next couple of months, which means in all likelihood the band's next album won't be out until 2012 at the absolute earliest, with 2013 as the more realistic option. I swear, if I ever meet Julie Taymor in person, I'm going to straight-up snub her. Like, overtly turn my shoulder and begin speaking loudly to someone else. That'll show her! I may even toss in a 'talk to the hand' gesture.

Since an actual record is apparently off the books, the best we can hope for is an EP of the new songs the band has debuted on tour within the last year. Or, if this EP doesn't happen, then you can just keep this post bookmarked, since here are all the new tunes in all their YouTubed glory. Seven songs...more than enough for a cool EP. Come on, U2! Do it! Do it! Put out new material! It won't kill you.

Return Of The Stingray Guitar
An instrumental that actually opened several concerts on the 360 Tour, I dunno if ROTSG is just an abbreviated part of a longer song, or if this is the whole thing. If it's the whole thing, then fair play, I can see why it wouldn't make an album. This isn't to be confused with the song "Return Of The Sting Guitar," which is about Adam Clayton's quest to return a borrowed bass to the lead singer of the Police. (That joke was terrible.)

North Star
Yeah, I've actually noted this song already in a Hot Live Music post, but you know what, it fits this post's theme. So shut up. If this is put on album, I hope there's a bonus track of Bono and Edge re-enacting the legendary Skinner/Chalmers aurora borealis routine from the Simpsons. I'd pay full album prices to hear that alone.

Every Breaking Wave
This was the reported lead single for the rumoured "Songs Of Ascent" project. I'm not sure if I see EBW as a big lead single type of tune, but still, it's lovely. It'd be a nice departure for U2 to so with a mid-tempo song as a first single after a string of Get On Your Boots/Vertigo/Beautiful Day/Discotheque/Numb/The Fly/Desire. Oh well, I guess the streak stands since we aren't getting a NEW GODDAMN ALBUM...easy, easy, big fella...

U2 wrote this song specifically for the 2010 Glastonbury Festival, which they ended up not attending due to Bono's exploding back. (Or, "spinus erupticus," in medical terms.) But don't fret, U2 are scheduled to make their Glastonbury debut at this year's festival, which should be fucking great. It would hilarious if they omitted this song from their setlist, but still, that's how U2 rolls.

Ah, Mercy. This track has a long and proud history. It was a last-minute cut from How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb since the band felt it they already had one big "U2-sounding" anthem on the record in City Of Blinding Lights. I'd argue that having multiple U2-sounding anthems isn't a bad thing when you're, you know, U2. Anyway, the original version ended up leaking and everyone was pretty much blown away that this gem wasn't considered record-worthy. I dunno what U2 was thinking during those sessions. Stick Levitate, Fast Cars and this in place of Miracle Drug, Man And A Woman and Crumbs From Your Table, and HTDAAB is suddenly a top-tier album. Anyway, the band at least hasn't forgotten about 'Mercy,' and debuted a new version on tour that....well, to be frank, it isn't as good as the original, but still, certainly good enough to merit a proper release. In fact, it actually did get released on U2's Wide Awake In Europe EP, which was a three-song vinyl recording put out last year for Record Store Day. See, come on U2, you've already had one recent EP, do another, fuller one!

Ok, so this one hasn't actually been played live, but it's still a *new* song, sort of. It appeared on the soundtrack of the movie 'Brothers' and was originally going to be on No Line On The Horizon, but was apparently a last-minute cut, over Brian Eno's objections. I'm with Eno --- this song is fantastic. Hell, with a bit of editing, it could've been a great first single. It couldn't possibly have been a worse choice than Get On Your Boots.

Boy Falls From The Sky
And we end things with an actual piece from that accused Spidey musical, performed live I believe just twice by U2 themselves. Not a bad song, though the main guitar riff sounds more than a little like the riff from "Dirty Day." Man, how quality are these IEM recordings? They make a live performance sound studio-ready. If only the technology could be applied to, say, an entire Broadway musical. Then perhaps I wouldn't have to write this post and we'd all HAVE A NEW U2 RECORD IN OUR GRUBBY LITTLE PAWS. Le sigh.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Go Leafs Go

You know, I'm not even upset. I haven't written about the Maple Leafs much this season, partly due to a Packers-induced joy coma, but also due to two warring feelings --- at first, there was simply nothing to write about, but once the Leafs hit their post-All Star Break hot streak, I didn't want to be a jinx with a "hey, the Leafs rock!" kind of blog. But, now that their near-impossible crack at a playoff spot has officially ended, I can officially get into how fun this team was to watch, particularly over the last few months. While it stinks that Leafs fans will have to face yet another postseason-less spring and more taunts from fans of ig'nant other Canadian franchises, no Toronto fan can be mad about how this season developed. Nobody expected a Leafs playoff berth this year, only progress, and progress has indeed been made.

In fact, what the hell, I'll make the prediction now -- the Leafs end their playoff drought next season. I will *finally* get to truly enjoy some playoff hockey for the first time since I graduated from university. (God, it's been so, so long.) If Toronto makes the tournament next year, it'll cut off their stretch of non-playoff seasons at six. Senators fans, you're at one right now and your team is a garbage pile. See you in 2017, when I'll be laughing and laughing.

James Reimer, Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, Clarke MacArthur, Dion Phaneuf, Joffrey Lupul, Keith Aulie, Luke Schenn, Nazem Kadri, Carl Gunnarsson and even the much-maligned Phil Kessel. A lot of NHL teams would like to have this core group of players on board. This isn't to say that a Stanley Cup is around the corner, but Toronto's cupboard is a lot less bare than it seemed seven months ago. It's a group that can score, hit, work hard and play with anyone. A full season with this bunch (provided Reimer doesn't turn into a Jim Carey-shaped pumpkin next year) is something to look forward to in 2011-12.

Keep this post bookmarked for next October when the Leafs start 0-6 and I'm calling for Ron Wilson's head. Again.