Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Best Posts Of 2012


As fate would have it, this happens to be both the wrap-up of the year in posting and also the 900th overall post in Polivision history.  Double landmark!  What does it mean?!  Well for one, it means that milestones are getting easier to predict here on the blog, as I've (somewhat unwittingly) kept up an average of 11 posts per month since November 2011.  That's the key to any successful blog, isn't it, regular content.  You can log onto this site every single day…uh….well, every single three days or so….and always find a new post to sink your teeth into.  Or just read, since biting a computer screen is painful.

Here are my favourite posts of 2012.  If your favourite isn't on the list, it means your opinion isn't worth shit.

December 10: Breaking down the best times of the year to break up with someone.  It's odd that 'break up' and 'break down' can both be negative things.  'Breaking sideways' isn't really a term, but I'd imagine it's like breaking even, right?  Or being a student at Breaker High.

December 7: I take joy in the public humiliation of others by analyzing GIFs of Oscar nominees reacting to the announcement of the winner.  I shouldn't talk; if I'm ever nominated for an Oscar and lose, I'll just start spitting like some type of angry camel.

November 27: My review of Cloud Atlas.  While it isn't the *best* film I've seen all year, it's one of the few that inspired me to actually devote an entire post to its existence.  Let this be a lesson, film studio PR people who undoubtedly have this blog bookmarked: if you cast Jim Broadbent, I will always give you free publicity.

November 24: My list of Bruce Springsteen's 79 best songs.  Since its writing, I've stumbled upon about a half-dozen other tunes that realistically should've been included, at least in the bottom 40 or whatnot.  C'est la vie.  I take solace in the fact that this wasn't nearly the most egregious Springsteen-related mistake made all year, New York Times.  "Springstein"?  Really?!

November 7: Rupert from Survivor runs for Congress!  This topic was endlessly funny to me.  I hope he just growled at his opponents during the debates rather than answer questions.

November 1: Ranting about the board game Clue.  See, as much as I have trouble with Clue's structure, I still enjoy playing it.  Don't get me started on fucking Cranium, an atrocity of a game that I'll only play again if I've suffered damage to my actual cranium.

October 30: I get in a huff about those little write-ups that the Yahoo fantasy football engine generates about your results.  Oddly, after I wrote this post, my team went on a hot streak and got into the playoffs, where I promptly lost in the first round to my brother.  Ugh, of all people.  He was 3-0 against me this season, the bastard.  Well, ok, not actually a bastard, I have it on good authority that that insult is just incorrect.

October 25: As a celebration of my 31st birthday, I listed the 31 most notable people who share my October 24th date.  Yep, it's sad that Jonas "The Monster" Gustavsson still counts as one of the most notable, but what can I say, I live in southern Ontario.

October 12: Kind of a random edition of the 'Random Nonsense' series except it includes probably my favourite one-liner of the year.  You'll know it when you see it, since we share a hive mind.  Resistance is futile.

October 11: Suggestions for the new series of Heritage Moment commercials.  NONE were selected, dammit, not even the one about Robin Sparkles.  What horseshit.

October 4
August 30
July 2
April 18
March 6: The first five instalments of my Shakespeare re-read series.  Hilariously, my intent was to re-read and review all 38 plays in 2012 alone, and I ended up re-reading and writing about….five of them.  For shame.  Reading these over again, the Othello entry on July 2 was clearly the one where I had the most (any?) interesting things to say, which isn't a surprise given that Othello was my clear favourite of the five I've read thus far.  Stay tuned to the series in 2013 when I try to reach the freaking double-digit barrier.

September 25: My rant about the fiasco that was the NFL's use of replacement referees, plus the story of my friend Ian becoming a Seahawks fan.  Given how good the Shawks have been playing lately, Ian may have jumped onto the bandwagon at literally the best possible moment.  CAW CAW CAW!  (Though I hope Green Bay beats them by 30 points if they meet again in the playoffs.)

September 19: I meet exactly zero famous people during TIFF so I'm forced to blog about seeing people who kinda resemble celebrities.  If Mary Hart ever found herself going this, she would consider it rock bottom.

September 11: I rank the 44 best cast members in Saturday Night Live history.  With just a few months of hindsight, I really want to bump Bill Hader up at least five more slots.

September 5: My NFL season preview.  In case you ever doubted I was an idiot, I picked the Raiders and the Bills to both make the playoffs.

August 25: Writing about Bruce Springsteen's phenomenal concert in Toronto last summer.  I literally can't praise this show highly enough.  Take an angelic choir, multiply it by 50, add denim and that's still not quite enough.

August 16: My (borderline thumbs down) review of "Take This Waltz," which ended up being one of the more popular posts of the year in terms of page views.  Just one comment, though, which I'd love to believe was Sarah Polley, thus bringing us a step closer to dating.

August 10: A tribute to my old Toyota Echo, which finally shuffled off this mortal coil after 12 years on the road.  Not to disrespect the memory of my beloved old Echo, but my new car is way, way, way, way, way better.  (Saying 'way' six times would've been disrespectful.)

August 5: A tribute to terrible Canadiens goalie Andre "Red Light" Racicot, owner of the greatest sports nickname of all time.

August 1: I get all inspired by the Sight & Sound critics' list and come up with what I think are the ten greatest films of all time.  Snow Dogs was 11th.

July 31: I analyze a dream I had about two friends cheating on each other and things get surprisingly deep.  Yes, "deep" is the word I'll use instead of "overwrought."

July 19: My 'best of the year in TV' recap post known as the Alterna-Emmys.  Also, I don't think I commented on the actual Emmys this year but holy crap were they bad.  Almost nothing but repeat winners who didn't need more Emmys (Bowen, Stonestreet, Paul) ahead of non-recognized co-stars, Amy Poehler lost again and fucking Jon Cryer got another Emmy.  Jon Cryer, for god's sake.  I just have to ask, how nice is this guy?  The conventional wisdom is that his past Emmys came as somewhat of a reward since he's supposedly a great guy and had to put up with Charlie Sheen's nonsense, but what's the reason now?  Angus Jones reveals himself as a nutter so it's Emmy time again for Cryer?

July 16: "So why DON'T celebrities endorse condoms?", was the question never asked until this very post.

June 27: The third part of my TV year in review (the first two parts are linked within the open sentence).  Not to spoil next year's list too soon, but let's just say that Homeland is not going to be cracking the "elite" section in 2013.  If you saw the last three episodes, you know why.

June 12: The list of Simpsons lines I use on a near-daily basis.  It already has one addendum and, as the opening goes, "this is going to be the most-edited post I've ever written, since I will no doubt be adding omissions until possibly the day I die."  How fun!

June 8: A breakdown of the Megan Draper character and what she brought to the table during the most recent season of Mad Men.  It's a pretty good piece, if I do say so myself, though I don't mind admitting that it was at least 50 percent inspired by the fact that Jessica Pare is absurdly gorgeous.  Credibility!

May 29: A celebration of 30 Rock's terrific sixth season, and I really could repeat everything for its subsequent seventh (and final) year.  I am going to severely miss this show when it's gone.

May 21: Kristen Wiig leaves SNL, everyone associated with the show treats it like the queen is abdicating her throne, and I simply don't get the fuss.  As I stated a bunch of times in the post, I even liked Kristen Wiig, but really, has SNL missed a beat without her this season?  Seems like Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon (who I always keep calling "Kate Middleton") have stepped into the "lead female" void pretty easily.

May 19: While we're on an SNL bent, here are my choices as the 15 best Digital Shorts from the Lonely Island guys, complete with links to most of the videos.

May 16: One of those "Survivor winner analysis" posts that are interesting to exactly nobody outside of very hardcore Survivor fans.  On the bright side, I had plenty to write about here since Kim Spradlin played one of the best games of any…..I'll stop.  You don't care.  I saw you yawn, don't try to hide it.

May 6
May 2: Previewing the year's summer movies.  I've gotta say, I only ended up seeing around half of these since I simply put up a better guard against wasting my money seeing movies that I knew would top out at 'meh' at best.  For instance, I was very keen on Bourne Legacy in the post but when push came to shove, I felt I could skip it without feeling like I'd missed anything.

April 29: One of my more brilliant advertising ideas, one that would've both promoted a local road race and also spoke out against racism.  (I'm making it sound like this was actually a legitimate and good idea…it wasn't.  This post is really stupid.  Arr, I don't know what I'm doin')

April 26: The origin of the legendary Lea Thompson Joke.

April 11: Holy crap, even more Saturday Night Live-related content, as I break down Taran Killam's viral video of him re-enacting Robyn's "Call Your Girlfriend" video.  One of these years I need to break down and just attend an SNL broadcast.  What are the odds that I'll go through the ticket lottery, somehow get tickets, fly all the way to New York and then the host ends up being, like, Dog the Bounty Hunter?

March 2
March 5
March 13
March 21
March 28
March 30: I spent basically the entire month of March to breaking down a "Wire March Madness" tournament that analyzed the characters and the show.  This whole project ended up being a lot more time-consuming than originally conceived, but it really made me happy since a) I beat Grantland's half-assed Wire tournament to the punch and b) I just really enjoy talking about this amazing show.  Also, as if there wasn't enough Wire stuff on Polivision in March, I also linked to this hilarious Lance Reddick Funny Or Die video.

February 23: The 2011 Markademy Awards.  I'm not sure yet how 2012 will break down but it *feels* at this moment like there have been a lot more good films out this year than last.  And that's even with my skipping Bourne Legacy, which I'm certain will end up winning 16 actual Oscars and forcing the Academy to re-design the Oscar statue in Jeremy Renner's likeness.

February 18: My "Joe Flacco sucks" post that is still as accurate today as it was 10 months ago.  Some of the specific names I've ranked ahead of Flacco (Rivers?  Vick?  Stafford?) may look silly now, but just slot RG3, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck in their place.

February 15: I list the 83 best Beatles songs of all time.  Judged on the merit of 'music I listened to while writing and researching the post,' this may have been my favourite entry of all time.  Second was my post ranking the best Antonin Dvorak concertos (link not available).

February 14: "The obligatory half-assed Valentine's Day post," complete with the grim-sounding title of "V'Alonetine's Day."  Geez, I wasn't that down in the dumps, past self.  And things are looking up for me now, I went out with a girl on an internet date and afterwards she promptly deleted her account!  Of course, I had no way of contacting her outside that account….uh….aw nuts, this February's post actually will be grim.

February 1: A look back at my two "these actors should be more famous" lists to see if, in fact, they'd gotten more famous.  Maybe 2013 will be Harriet Sansom Harris' year.

January 15: Recapping/venting about the Packers' frustrating-as-fuck playoff loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants, who also beat the crap out of Green Bay during this most recent season.  I am hoping against hope that NY loses this weekend and misses the postseason since they are one of two teams (San Francisco the other) that I would be terrified to see the Packers play en route to the Super Bowl. No other teams particularly scare me --- not the Broncos, not the Patriots, especially not the Texans (my backhanded preseason SB pick!) and Falcons, and not the Seahawks unless the Pack somehow end up playing them in Seattle.  This all being said, watch Green Bay get upset in the first round by, like, the Bears or some nonsense.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Metric

Following in the footsteps of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in 2009 and Talking Heads in 2007, Metric became this year's established band who I 'discovered,' really enjoyed their music and jumped on the bandwagon.  Of course, I did this literally just a couple of weeks after Metric had played concerts in both London and Toronto, so I'll have to wait until their next tour to properly christen my fandom with a live show.  Not that this is a deal breaker…it's not like I'm holding my breath to see Talking Heads live, for instance.

So yeah, Metric.  They've always been a band that's been around for me, as in I knew of them and some of their bigger songs, yet it took me until last month to actually purchase one of their records.  "Live It Out" had a few good tracks but overall didn't really grasp my attention, and yet just when it seemed as if my fandom would die on the vine, I listened to "Synthetica" (their latest disc) and that was that.  It's arguably my favourite album of 2012, which admittedly sounds more impressive than it really is, given that I listened to maybe six new records in their entirety this year and generally am very late to the party on new music.  Stay tuned to my blog in 2016 when I wax rhapsodic about, like, A$AP Rocky or someone.

Now having listened to four of Metric's five studio recordings, perhaps what intrigues me most about the band is that they seem to be getting better.  "Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?" was very raw and seemed almost a work in progress besides the singles; "Live It Out" was more polished but much of the same thing; "Fantasies" was a big step forward and good from start to finish, plus it may be this generation's "Fully Completely" in that I swear two-thirds of the songs are already staples of Canadian rock radio; finally, "Synthetica" takes the next leap and is a legit great album.  Besides missing the tour, the only downside of becoming a Metric fan at this specific moment in time is that it'll be another two years before I can enjoy a new disc.  Oh well, it's not like I don't have any experience in waiting excruciatingly long for my favourite bands to release new music.  Sigh.

Obligatory "Emily Haines is very attractive" statement.  Also, is it just me, or does Haines look a lot like the actress who played Harry Anderson's wife on the old Dave's World sitcom in the early 1990's?  On second thought, including "is it just me" in that sentence is very redundant.

Perhaps the question is why didn't I become a Metric fan sooner, since back in my college radio days, "Dead Disco" was a staple of the legendary (?), mega-popular (??), widely listened-to (?!?!) morning show I used to host with my buddy Dave.  You see, we had to play a certain number of songs by Canadian artists due to Cancon regulations, so as I recall, we just randomly picked OWUWAYN (then a new disc) off the rack and picked the first title that struck our fancy.  The weird thing is, Dave hated the song --- he just thought it was a funny gimmick that we kept playing a song that we hated every week, and thus could openly trash on the air.  I actually liked the song but played along with the bit for comedy's sake.  So in hindsight, perhaps it was Dave's peer pressure that cost me years of enjoyment of Metric's music.  Go to hell, Dave.

New Year's Resolution to get through 2012 without ending a post by telling a friend to go to hell: failed.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Law & Order, By The Numbers

Matthew Belinkie of the Overthinking It website has lived up to that page's credo and delivered a breakdown of verdicts from all 20 seasons of the original Law & Order series.  (Plus a followup where he examines how the show's verdicts correlate to real life.)  Interesting stuff, especially if you're a fan of the old L&O series like me.  For instance, recently watching Firefly for the first time, I got WAY too excited when Richard Brooks guest-starred as a villain in an episode.  So weird seeing Paul Robinette waving a gun around and acting all bad-ass....well, not that Robinette wasn't a bad-ass in a prosecutorial kind of way, but he usually didn't beat up defendants with martial arts moves.

While we're on the topic of vintage Law & Order....my ultimate cast is Briscoe and Logan as the cops, Van Buren as the lieutenant, Claire Kincaid as the ADA, Adam Schiff as the DA and (in an upset) Ben Stone as the executive ADA.  Stone takes it over McCoy simply because I got a little sick of McCoy's plot/reality-bending maneuvers to win trials as the series went on.  Stone's four years on the show allowed him to get out way before the writing went to hell in the middle seasons.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Survivor Ratings: Denise

 A Survivor's player real-life job is usually not a great hint as to how the person will perform in the game, but every once in a while, a Survivor will have a job that makes them an automatic favourite.  Probably the best example is Brian Heidik being a used-car salesman --- now, CBS left out his softcore porn past to just focus on the car dealing, but even still, when you have a game based on manipulation, outwitting and literally selling a product (yourself) to a jury at the end, a car salesman definitely stands out as a major threat.  Sure enough, Heidik took the title in such a blowout fashion that he's still considered as one of the very best Survivors ever.

In Denise Stapley's case, here's another glaring hint: sex therapist.  Maybe not so much specifically the sex part, but a trained therapist is just about perfectly suited for 39 days of dealing with egos, personal relationships and hurt feelings.  I had her pegged as one of the top contenders from the very beginning, with the caveat that she could definitely go all the way if she could survive the first few weeks and avoid the "vote out the older woman first to keep the tribe strong" trend that so ofter prematurely knocks out older women in the game.  As it happened, while Denise was definitely a target early on, the fact that she more than held her own in challenges and in camp work kept the target far off her back.

"Occupation" is not one of my categories for rating Survivor winners, however, so let's rank Denise's performance using the standard determining trio....

How She Won: This was the "Tina Strategy" played to a tee, even to the point of it being a 40ish woman paired with an athletic, likeable 20-something guy.  As Tina did with Colby (and Earl did with Yau Man, to use another example), the winner formed an alliance with one very clearly strong and well-liked player so that most obvious threat "led" the alliance while the other lurked in the background.  Though I call it the Tina Strategy, Denise/Malcolm really played out like Earl/Yau, even to the point where the big threat was voted out at F4, clearing the path for the winner to coast to victory.  Malcolm undoubtedly played a big role in getting Denise to where she was in the game, but the reverse was also true --- had Malcolm stuck with the pretty but useless Angie, I highly doubt he would've made it as far as the final four, as he was just too obvious a threat.  The fact that Malcolm and Denise were both seen as clear winners (a fact being mentioned amongst the others themselves as far back as the final eight or final nine) kept the heat off both of their backs, plus Mal's hidden idol also obviously played a factor. 

It's very unfair, however, to just type Denise as Malcolm's partner in crime.  As I mentioned earlier, Denise's work ethic and ability in challenges made her a very valuable asset to her teammates.  She also quickly won over Penner/Jeff/Carter when she got switched to the Kalabaw tribe, as Denise could've been seen as an obvious 6-1 elimination as a new player in an established tribe, but instead became the swing vote between the two factions in camp.  And, as Denise stressed herself in her very strong jury speech, she survived going to every single tribal council in the game and was on the block all but the one time she'd won immunity.  It was a straight 39 days of dodging bullets and Denise escaped without a scratch.

Skillset: I've already mentioned Denise's physical ability (you can definitely rank her as one of the very best 40+ women in Survivor history at challenges) and willingness to work around camp, and it also bears mentioning that Denise just came off as a thoroughly likeable, dependable person.  As so many players fail to realize, Not Being A Jerk can go a long way in the game.

There was also a bit of a Sandra-esque quality to Denise's gameplay, specifically as it relates to Abi-Maria.  In short, everyone hated Abi but she seemed to focus on Denise as her particular tormentor because Denise laid out her dislike for Abi in a very logical and detached way at tribal council.  (I'll note that for all we know, everyone might've heavily beefed about Abi but Denise's criticisms were the only ones that were included in the final cut of the episodes.)  It set up the Abi vs. Denise schism, and while some players might've found Denise's "appeasement" as a therapist's trick to curry favour, the fact that she was so blunt about Abi also established Denise as not willing to sugarcoat things if asked a direct question.  She also repeated her criticisms of Abi during the jury questioning, and even won Abi's vote to boot.  It was low-level reminiscent of how Sandra was typed as a very brash and outspoken player, yet she because she just publicly focused her dislike on the universally-hated Russell and Jonny Fairplay, Sandra earned more respect as the "voice of the tribe."

At least the way that it was shown to the TV viewers, Denise shutting down Abi in such a clinical way at tribal council may have earned her similar respect amongst her peers.  This is a case where Denise's therapy background really helped her out, not to mention the umpteen times we saw her acting like a calm voice of reason when hustling votes.  Best example might've been in the final episode when she's buttering Skupin up like crazy to get him off of his crazy "me and Malcolm as the two final warriors" idea (though frankly, I think Skupin was more influenced by Lisa's steadfast insistence on voting Malcolm out).

Could She Do It Again?:
As I've noted with other female players, Denise could go far in a second Survivor outing simply by dint of the fact that women are generally seen as lesser threats in any returning player scenario.  In fact, I'll repeat my prediction: if Denise returned and lasted through the first few votes, she'd again be a threat to make it to the final tribal council.  She might have to latch onto another strong player to avoid being seen as the big threat she is, but it's a workable strategy.  Man, now I'm having a vision of Denise teaming up with Tina and Earl in some future Survivor Champions League season and simultaneously allying and trying to subtly lay the seeds to oust the other in a real battle for both victory and naming rights to the Tina Strategy.

My overall rankings are in need of updating since I don't have Kim and Sophie in the original post (I'll wait until May to include them, plus Denise and the S26 winner) but to quickly summarize the rankings, it's a top four of Sandra, Parvati, Brian and Kim, then another tier that includes Tina, Earl, Chris, Sophie and Richard.  I'll wait for the re-edit to specifically name Denise's place, but I'd put her right there in that second tier, narrowly ahead of Tom and Yul since Denise had to struggle a bit more to get her win without the help of a super-idol or totally incompetent opponents.  Hell, Denise was even on the totally incompetent tribe yet and Malcolm lasted all the way to the final four.  I'm not sure Denise's win was quite so dramatic given that her main opponents weren't exactly a murderers' row (Pete and Abi were idiots, Skupin was mostly an idiot and was always wishy-washy and Lisa only seemed to clue in after her brother showed up), but she was still a very strong Survivor winner.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Random Nonsense

"We'll tonight thank god it's them instead of youuuuuuuuu!"

Listening to "Do They Know It's Christmas" on the radio the other day, it occurred to me for the thousandth time that Bono's lyric makes no sense at all.  His line is arguably the most memorable of the song, given that a) it's the lyrical climax, b) Bono really puts a lot of oomph into the delivery and c) Bono is one of the few in Band Aid who is still famous and even kind of relevant 28 years later.

Here are the full lyrics to the song, basically summarized as such: "Christmas is a great time of year but things aren't nearly as merry in Africa, so keep them in your thoughts and donate some money to provide food, while you're at it."  Perfectly lovely sentiment.  And then, right in the middle, here's Bono essentially throwing that sentiment under the bus by saying, in effect, "hey, better them than us, eh?"

Three theories…

1) The discordant line was meant to essentially sum up the western view of African suffering.  This is pretty dark for an Xmas song, but that's the point --- it's the jolt line in the middle of this celebrity charity sing-along.

2) I'm misinterpreting the line entirely and its intent is really the equivalent of "tonight thank god FOR them instead of you," as in, Band Aid are taking a moment to focus on the unfortunates rather than the happy one-percenters in the western world.  Bono is notorious for forgetting or altering lyrics (even to his own songs that he's been singing for 25-odd years) so perhaps he replaced the "it's" for the "for" and it just wasn't noticed during the recording process because…

3) …everyone was so drunk and/or high during the session that Bob Geldof just let the whole thing slide.  And then once the song was released they had to stick to it, to the point that Bono returned to sing the same line during the 20th anniversary version re-recorded with modern stars* in 2004.

* = Ok, well, modern "stars."  Not a lot of names jump out on that 2004 list as people who are still relevant even eight years later; it seems like most of the famous names (Paul McCartney, Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood) stuck to the instrumentation, possibly so they could avoid having to sing a bizarre lyrics that people are still writing blog posts about years later.  Then again, the 1984 version featured the likes of members of Shalamar, Ultravox, Heaven 17 and Status Quo, so it wasn't quite as star-studded as one remembers.

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In the spirit of year-end lists, Uproxx has the top 20 memes of 2012.  I'm proud that Toronto's very own IKEA Monkey snuck on there just under the wire.

Lawyer Dog, Falling Bear, Sophisticated Cat, Go Home You're Drunk and Skeptical Third World Kid are all pretty amazing, but my favourite is clearly Inappropriate Timing Bill Clinton simply because that picture is so funny just by itself.  The expression on Obama's face is priceless…"ah geez, not this guy again."

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And, here's the commercial of the year, as voted on by Adweek Magazine.  In a world where Hansel & Gretel has been re-imagined as an action franchise, there is a 100 percent chance that someone is writing a gritty adaptation of Three Little Pigs at this very moment.  Ian McShane can, nay MUST, play the big bad wolf.



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So the city of Toronto, in its infinite wisdom, decided to remove the bike lane from Jarvis Street after complaints that the street needed the extra fifth lane to accommodate extra traffic.  And of course, the other day I found myself driving up a very slow-moving Jarvis Street, presuming it was just a busy day until I hit the cause of the holdup in the right lane….one lone cyclist, who couldn't get fully over on the right side of the street due to parked cars.*

Smart move, Toronto.  This was surely worth the thousands of dollars and months of construction.  You sure showed those cyclists, all of whom will continue to bike up and down Jarvis since, y'know, they might live or work on Jarvis.  It could also be argued that if you're worried about clogging up traffic on Jarvis, then shutting down vehicular lanes to build or remove bike lanes every couple of years is fucking nonsensical but hey, what do I know?

* = There's a special place in hell for idiots who illegally park their cars during rush hour.  Many is the time when traffic is jammed up on a major street because one clown has a lane blocked because he chose to park between the hours of 4-6pm.  I propose a law that would instantly solve this problem.…if you see someone illegally parked and blocking a major road during rush hour, you should have virtual carte blanche to do whatever you want to their vehicle.  Take a leak on the door handle?  Go for it.  Key the side?  Perfectly fine.  Slash the tires?  Well, that would actually block traffic for even longer because then they'd have to call a tow truck, but still, I like the cut of your gib. 

No driver would make the mistake more than once of leaving their car illegally parked if they knew it could be beset upon by an angry mob.  Yup, I see no possible downside in instituting virtual martial law on vehicles.  None whatsoever!  What lawsuits?  *dusts off hands triumphantly*


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And no, I'm not done talking about driving.  I've discovered I'm a superb reverse-side parallel parker.  I recently found myself on a one-way street having to parallel park on the left side of the road, and while my parallel parking skills are probably slightly above-average overall (*pats self on back*), such a maneuver is still a tricky bit of business for us North Americans.

However, not only did I pull off a thoroughly tremendous parallel park, a guy on the street CONGRATULATED ME WHEN IT WAS OVER.  I kid you not.  The guy was standing at the parking meter and watching my progress, and he actually said "very nice job" after I got out of the car.  Not a hint of sarcasm in his voice, either.  Blanche Dubois was right, you can always depend on the kindness of strangers.

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I see a clip like this (described by Film Drunk as "the most Christopher Walken scene of all time") and it makes me think of my friend Dave, a.k.a. the aficionado of terrible action movies.  This is exactly the type of scene that Dave would have watched 20 years ago and quoted incessantly ever since.  "I never forget a face, especially if I've sat on it."



Sunday, December 16, 2012

Other People's Writing

For balance, I should probably also write a "worst Grantland articles" post someday.  It might just be the basketball play breakdowns (too wonky for me), that weird running diary about Paris St. Germain's season (like, who cares?) and Brian Phillips' interminable tennis columns, but even still, into every website a little rain must fall.  Until that day comes, though, I'll just stick to the good stuff.

* Steve Marsh looks at Adrian Peterson's incredible comeback season.  I won't lie, my favourite part was how Marsh spends half the column talking about how awesome it is to visit Lambeau Field and be a Packers fan.  #BucketList

* Michael Weinreb's looks at Joe Dudek, a Division III football star and Sports Illustrated's semi-protest vote pick as the Heisman Trophy winner in 1985.  Dudek didn't win the Heisman, as Bo Jackson was the 100 percent obvious choice for the award.  I get what SI was trying to do in promoting Dudek, but let's be real, it was 1980's Bo Jackson.  He should've won every award, including somehow a Selke Trophy.

* Robert Mays attends a live reading of the Ghostbusters script, performed by the likes of Seth Rogen, Kristen Bell and Rainn Wilson.  I WANT TO GO TO THERE

* Rembert Browne has 17 outstanding reasons why the New Orleans Hornets are making a great move by changing their nickname to 'the Pelicans.'  I'm totally on board with this idea since I'm 100 percent in favour of teams having location-specific zany nicknames.  To wit, my proposal to have the Wild renamed the Minnesota Mighty Ducks.  If Minnesota did that and kept those cool jerseys, I'd switch teams in a heartbeat.

* More from Browne, as he both rhapsodizes about the NFL RedZone channel and then visits the RedZone studios to see the process in action.  I've got to be honest, I've surfed over to RedZone a few times and it's just a bit overwhelming.  It's too much action at once.  My tiny brain can't yet comprehend what I'm seeing; I'm like Dave Bowman at the end of 2001.

* Oral history time!  Jonathan Abrams has the story of the 1980's Houston Rockets, who were apparently a lot closer to being a dynasty than their one NBA Finals appearance would suggest.  If I ever buy a Raptors jersey, it will be a Hakeem Olajuwon throwback.  I forget who made this observation (Bill Simmons?) but Houston took Olajuwon with the first pick in the 1984 draft, and the Dream went on to become one of the 10-15 best players ever and led the Rockets to two championships….and yet it's a testament to Michael Jordan's greatness that you can strongly argue that the Rockets made a bad choice in picking Olajuwon ahead of Jordan in that draft.  That said, I don't think the Rockets have quite as many regrets about that draft as much as, say, the Trail Blazers.  Sam Bowie.  Wow.

* Also from Abrams, a week with the Memphis Grizzlies and coach Lionel Hollins.  Remember when the Grizzlies played in Vancouver?  That seems like a million years ago.

* Caleb Hannan covers how school bands are adjusting to quicker offenses in American college football.  This is a classic example of a story idea that is outside-the-box and yet makes total, "oh yeah, I guess that would be an obvious problem for those bands" as soon as you hear it.  I wish this store had been twice as long.

* Vijith Assar ranks the James Bond movie theme songs.  Can't say I agree with his list ('Nobody Does It Better' seems like the clear #1 to me, 'Another Way To Die' isn't nearly as bad as Assar thinks, and Chris Cornell at #3?  WTF?) but if nothing else, it's great to have all the Bond songs linked on one page.  Even when you look at this list and see the wide variance of artists who've done Bond themes, Garbage still stands out as an odd choice, if an inspired one.

* Ben Austen's history of the Buffalo Bills, their fans and the relationship between the two.  If you're a Bills fan, you will be crying by the end of the piece, for a number of different reasons.  Honestly, just keep this team in Buffalo --- it would be the final insult to move this team to couldn't-care-less Toronto and away from the upstate NY fans who live and die with their lousy Bills.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The 'Ockey Sweater (lockout version)

Our friends at This Hour Has 22 Minutes have this modern take on the Canadian classic.  A quick note on the original: didn't it seem odd that the story didn't really have an ending?  The kid gets his Leafs jersey, he's being picked on by all sides, and yet there's no final conclusion to this whole tale of woe.  Unless the punch line was the fact that in 1946 (when the story was set), the Leafs went on to win their first of three straight Stanley Cups, and the Canadiens didn't win another Cup until 1953.  So essentially, the kid's friends would've considered his acquisition of the Leafs sweater to have been the jinx that haunted the Habs, and probably beat the crap out of him on numerous occasions over those six years and/or drove his entire family out of town in shame.  Ha ha, what a beloved story of childhood!


Monday, December 10, 2012

Happy Breakup Day!

According to the ultra-scientific method of counting Facebook status updates*, more breakups occur today (December 10) than on any other day of the year.  In fact, this entire first half of December seems to be the peak time for breakups over the entire year.  If your significant other sends you a 'we need to talk' text message, it would behoove you to just ignore it until you get into the safe zone known as the week before Christmas.

* = and maybe not even that, given how I'm only finding this out via a picture posted up by a friend of mine on, you guessed it, Facebook.  After all, who's the poor schmuck who is actually reading everyone's statuses to calculate this?  (My guess: a bitter Eduardo Saverin.)  So what I'm saying is, this could all be entirely false and I'm just actively spreading misinformation here.  Deal with it.

Even if this is all nonsense, however, the graphs seem to adhere to common sense.  There's a big spike around Valentine's Day (as couples surrounded by images of love realize that they themselves are not actually in love) and then in the spring, when a number of factors combine to ruin relationships...

* March Madness, i.e. "You're seriously just watching college basketball for four straight days?!  Get a life."

* The end-of-semester crunch for college students plus upcoming exams, i.e. "I'm going to be doing nothing but studying for the next six weeks and then it'll be summer, so let's just break up now."

* The Day Of Days, i.e. "So many beautiful people around, why bother limiting myself?"

* Actual spring break, i.e. "My significant other isn't coming to Cabo/Daytona Beach/Cancun/etc. with the rest of us and I want to get laid, so let's break up," OR "My significant other is going to Cabo/Daytona Beach/Cancun/etc. while I'm stuck here, so let's break up because they're obviously going to cheat on me, and I'd prefer to lay someone else here."

* "Spring Cleaning," as the graphic puts it.  So basically a combination of all of these things, plus maybe just a sense of renewal after one spends a day cleaning the junk out of one's house, i.e. "Hey partner, you're human garbage, I'm putting this relationship out by the curb."

It's also not hard to see why December has the consistently bigger spike.  The end-of-semester exams are again a factor, plus the "I want to get laid during the holidays and my significant other isn't around, so I want to be single" reason still applies.  But Christmas is absolutely the big motivating factor in December for two main reasons.

Firstly, it's that time of year when everyone spends time with their family and loved ones, so if you're in a relationship with someone that you're on the fence about, the Xmas season can be a real eye-opener to make you realize that they're not an actual capital-L, capital-O Loved One.  Let's not ignore the role that bringing a significant other home to meet the family plays in many a breakup; how many couples have split because someone feels they're "not ready" to have their partner over for Christmas, while the other is, "are you fucking kidding me?  We've been dating for four years and we have two kids, I think we're ready."  (Ok, maybe a bit of dramatic license here, but you get the picture.)

Secondly, Pearl Harbor.  "The anniversary of this grim attack really makes me think about things that are special to….WE'RE BREAKING UP!  BOOM!  GOTCHA!  You never saw it coming, just like at Pearl Harbor!"

Ok, not really.  The actual secondly, finances.  A friend of mine who shall remain nameless (since his now-wife is a FB friend and may read this) used to always plot to remain single from December-February as a way of saving on Christmas and Valentine's Day presents.  Just to add to the white trashiness, on two different occasions, this guy broke up with a girlfriend in late November/early December and then got back together with her once V-Day had passed, so he could continue the relationship but save himself a few bucks in the process.  I think we all knew he really loved his future wife when he actually stayed in the relationship through December-February.  It's kind of sweet, in a douchey way..."Hey baby, I love you so much that I won't contrive a breakup and will actually get you something during the two major gift-giving holidays."  Hallmark, take note, you just found your new line of cards.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Friday, December 07, 2012

Reaction Shots

Ok, so this collection of GIFs showing the reactions of Oscar winners and losers?  Awesome.  I wish Blogger allowed GIF imbedding so I could recreate the whole thing here but just click the link, it's priceless.  Every time I see it, I find another little masterpiece of passive-aggression.  A few of the many, many highlights…

* Burt Reynolds' sarcastic slow clap that quickly turns into a real clap.  It's possible Burt only just realized he had cameras on him…

* ….just as Sally Kirkland did in the funniest GIF of the bunch, quickly plastering on the phoniest possible smile.

* Liza Minnelli somehow fainting while a) sitting and b) still remaining conscious.  Perhaps she was just having an ill-timed Case Of The Dizzies.

* Everything from the Ellen Burstyn row, from Gena Rowlands seemingly mouthing "oh shit," Faye Dunaway's snarky "knew it!", Diahann Carroll's open-mouthed shock and Valerie Perrine's even more open-mouthed shock that momentarily transforms her into Gilda Radner.  Was Ellen Burstyn's win that big a surprise at the time?  Seems like a pretty well-regarded performance.

* Holly Hunter apparently having a seizure of joy when her Piano castmate Anna Paquin wins, topped only by Paquin herself jumping out of her air in total shock while wearing the silliest outfit possible.  Also a weird reminder that Anna Paquin actually won an Oscar, which is hard to believe if you've ever watched an episode of Tru Blood.

* Meryl Streep truly is the greatest actress of our time not only for her countless amazing performances, but also her wide range of varied yet no less enthusiastic reactions to losing Oscars.

* Bill Murray with the curt nod, not even trying to hide his disappointment over losing.  For his next film, Murray should play a character named Curt Nod.

* Thomas Haden Church really overdoing it with the a-ha nod, to the point that it looks like either took some strong smelling salts or is trying to demonstrate a seated version of the Undertaker's zombie sit-up.  For his next film, Church should play a character named A-Ha Nod.

* The a-ha nod is a particular favourite and easy to overdo, as evidenced by Felicity Huffman and Melissa Leo, the latter of whom obviously muttered several obscenities under her breath.  Another variation is Anne Hathaway's "yes!" nod, which I'm sorry, is not believable in the slightest.  Someone needs to sit down with Hathaway and tell her what things she just can't pull off, like her Claire Danes impression and that short haircut.

* Talia Shire's look of outright disgust over Faye Dunaway's victory.  Forget the passive, this was just aggression.

* Minnie Driver CANNOT BELIEVE (in a nice way) that Kim Basinger won an Oscar.  I think that's everyone's reaction.

* Forget the reactions, just the string of faces alone in the Eileen Heckart row.  This should be saved for a Tumblr page called "Only In The 1970's."

* This isn't a reaction, but the one year (the Sissy Spacek win) when the Oscar telecast director zoomed out from the shots of the losers.  The effect basically says they had their moment and now WOOP, it's gone.  They've been sucked down into the void of mediocrity, leaving Spacek as the sole survivor.  It's also disappointing that the Oscar telecast director didn't order 15 gallons of blood dropped on Spacek as she was making her speech.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Movie Reviews

When you have Steven Spielberg behind the camera and arguably the greatest living actor playing arguably the greatest U.S. president, that's a hard combination to screw up.  And, in fact, Lincoln is not a screwed-up movie.  It's the definition of a solid motion picture, illustrating the story of Abraham Lincoln and the passage of the 13th Amendment, and basically becoming a staple that will be shown for decades to come by history teachers who can't be bothered to fill out a lesson plan for that day.

Now, parse this endorsement.  "Not screwed-up," "solid" and "classroom staple" don't exactly compare to the more outward raves that the film has received, since while this is a thoroughly professional (there's another buzzword) motion picture, it's not a great one.  It's hanging around in the bottom half of Spielberg's all-time top ten, and while that's not exactly shabby company, it's lacking the spark that defines Spielberg's best work.

Lincoln is like a really good episode of West Wing combined with a really well-cast (and extended) Canadian Heritage Minute and maybe a pinch of this song.  While I have no doubt that the story was both painstakingly researched yet also exaggerated for dramatic effect, it just didn't move me as either historical document or as a creatively-licensed look into what Lincoln the man was "really" like.  While I'm by no means an expert on Lincoln, was he really the homily-spouting awesome guy that Day-Lewis portrays?  It almost seems too easy.  I'm not saying that DDL played Abe as a caricature or anything, but when you literally have characters throw up their hands in mock outrage that Lincoln is launching into another of his homespun allegories, you might want to dial back the monologues a bit.

This is one of those cases where I can't help but let Oscar punditry influence my views, since I feel like I'll be unfairly critical of Lincoln in comparison to other, superior, pictures it's nominated against.  There's a good chance that it'll win Best Picture, Day-Lewis Best Actor, Tommy Lee Jones as supporting actor and even Sally Field as supporting actress (if she can upset the Anne Hathaway buzzsaw), and yet if any of those results go down, I can't help but feel that something great should've beaten something very good, be it the movie itself or any of these fine performances.  Also, while I'm mentioning the acting, I should mention the murderers' row of excellent TV actors who fill out the supporting roles.  Any film that gives quality parts to Walton Goggins, Lee Pace and scores of other notables is okay in my book.

To use presidential comparisons, the critics want to hail Lincoln as Lincoln, whereas it's probably only William McKinley.  I swear I'm not just lazily tossing out the name of another assassinated president, I did the research, people.  Or, rather, Kyle did the research.

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Flight and Smashed make good companion pieces, though I wouldn't suggest actually watching them back-to-back unless you never want to drink again.  For all the (deserved) praise that Denzel Washington is getting for his performance, Mary Elizabeth Winstead treads a lot of the same ground and in my view does an equally terrific job in portraying a person who is struggling to adjust to their alcoholism, with the key difference being that Winstead's character at least acknowledges the problem early, while Denzel is traveling down the Egyptian river. 

Because Winstead's early realization allows her to tackle her obstacles for most of the film, it seems like she weirdly has the more-fraught journey, whereas Denzel has the somewhat larger concern of a plane crash, six victims, televised hearings and the media spotlight weighing down upon him.  That's a lot heavier than Winstead's comparably lighter issues of dealing with her also-alcoholic but amiable husband (the great Aaron Paul), the lies she uses to cover her drinking at her teaching job and the SUPER FUCKING AWKWARD situation that arises with her co-worker and fellow AA member.  I'm not going to spoil things too much, but it's a major Yikes Moment made even Yikesier (not a word) by the fact that the character is played by Nick Offerman.  You will never look at Ron Swanson the same way again.

Ok, so maybe these problems aren't a hill of beans, and they seem larger in comparison to what Denzel's Whip Whitaker faces in Flight since Whip himself seems so unconcerned.  That's his trick to dealing with both life and his substance abuse --- just stay calm, keep your head down and hope that somehow everything will work itself out, and for most of his life, that's worked.  Don Cheadle doesn't have much to do in the movie besides remind Whitaker of how much trouble he's in, and yet that's exactly what Whip drastically needs, a constant alarm to get him to finally wake up.

Denzel plays the role as if he's half-aware of his drinking problem (he's coherent enough to try to cover it up) and half in denial, and if you're half in denial about alcoholism, you're basically all the way in denial.  It's one of his best performances, a role so good that I didn't even think once about Jay Pharaoh's legendary impression on SNL that underlined and highlighted all of Denzel's usual ticks for the world to see.  We're safe, Denzel won't become a caricature like Robert De Niro has over the last 15 years.  Speaking of which….    

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You've basically got three levels of "hey, look at this acting!" in The Silver Linings Playbook.  First you have Bradley Cooper, who is terrific here and gives a performance that, frankly, I thought was beyond him.  Second you have Jennifer Lawrence, who is as good as the Oscar pundits have been saying she is in the picture, which is why she's the Best Actress frontrunner.  Between this and Winter's Bone (and even more commercial stuff like Hunger Games and the new X-Men movies), we can officially confirm Lawrence as a capital-M major talent. 

And finally, you have Robert De Niro, busting out his first truly good performance in….holy crap, so, I looked this up on IMDB and I'd have to say it's been 15 years.  De Niro's been okay --- Ronin, City By The Sea, the "Meet The…" series and the Analyze series --- in some films just playing versions of his usual persona, but it's been a lot of phoned-in work.  To use the SNL example I mentioned about Denzel Washington, it's like De Niro saw Colin Quinn's impression of him on the show and thought, "hey, if I've been typed as a monosyllabic tough guy, can I just do that for a while?  Man, this is easy!"  In Playbook, however, ol' Bobby D actually restructures the De Niro persona as a guy who has to act tough as a way of coping with his feelings of being trapped by his OCD.  Hopefully this is the start of one final run of great roles for De Niro in his elder statesman years.  (Also, let's throw a bone to longtime character John Ortiz, who's very good in his role as Pat's almost-as-equally-disturbed buddy.)

The acting carries a solid but oddly-structured script across the finish line of the Very Good Movie race.  It's a drama with some quirky moments for about 80 percent of the movie, then it takes a weirdly comic turn towards the ending.  I honestly think the only reason is still kinda works is because of the fact that it's set in Philadelphia.  A certain FX sitcom has mined 7+ years of comedy out of the stereotype of the quick-to-anger and thickheaded Philadelphian, so now when you set a film about anger issues in Philly and expect it to be funny, it's automatically believable thanks to the groundwork laid by Charlie, Mac, Dennis, Dee and Frank. 

And, OF COURSE these bipolar/obsessive compulsive guys with anger issues are Eagles fans.  You don't need to be a sports fan to enjoy Playbook or understand that these guys are all nuts for following a team this closely, but there are lots of little references that will add to a sports fan's enjoyment of the picture.  For instance, football fans remember the famous season-ending Cowboys/Eagles game that serves as one of the movie's dramatic climaxes.  Maybe the real losers here are Bills, Browns, Vikings, Lions, Chiefs, Jets and Bengals fans, who don't even get movies about their tortured fandom.  Not too late to jump on the Green Bay bandwagon, guys.

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I realize that Expendables 2 came out months ago, but doesn't discussing it long after it lost what little relevance it had fit with the movie's overall theme?  It's just a big, dumb, goofy action movie that takes itself maybe two percent seriously and it's wonderful to just turn your brain off for two hours to laugh and groan at the nonsense on the screen.

About that two percent of seriousness….I was somewhat let down by the first Expendables film since I went in expecting a winking homage to old-school action movies, yet what I got was basically just an old-school action movie played mostly straight.  The sequel, however, definitely has tongue planted firmly in cheek.  Van Damme plays the villain and his character is literally named "Vilain."  Chuck Norris shows up and starts quoting Chuck Norris facts.  Every involving Willis and Schwarzenegger in the airport was gloriously absurd.  So there was lots of comedy, but it was intentional comedy, which again was slightly disappointing since the beauty of those shitty old 80's action movies was that they were chockfull of unintentional comedy.

That's why it was so heartening to note that the funniest scene in the movie was, hands-down, the shot of Sly Stallone "running" into the airplane hanger.  I use the quote marks since the 66-year-old Stallone didn't run as much as he staggered quickly.  He ran like a man whose leg was caught in a bear trap.  It was beyond hilarious and I'm almost certain that it was included when the editors and director realized how funny it was.  Sly co-wrote the script, and frankly, that kind of subtle joke is beyond him --- he'll poke fun at himself and his co-stars in the dialogue, but adding a scene where he runs like a man in a full body cast was probably not in the cards.